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Nov 17, 2008 10:34 AM

Barcelona: What Have I Missed?

I'm beginning the last week of a three-week trip to Barcelona. I need some advice on what I need to eat to properly finish this trip.

I made my culinary choices by mining this board. Here's the main things I've had / where I visited so far:

[Sorry for all this background, but it puts my questions into necessary context.]

* Tapas: Santa Ciudad Condal, Caterina Cuines (at the tapas bar, not in the restaurant), Taller de Tapas, Paco Meralgo.
- ham croquettes
- montadillos of various types: hamburguesa, eggplant (= aubergine) (with and without anchovies), sausage ("de butiffaras con judios de ganxe"), foie gras.
- cuttlefish (sepia) both fried ("Andaluz style) and grilled (much better grilled I think)
- grilled razor clams (oh so simple yet delicious)
- suquet de dorada (traditional Catalan fish stew)
- salt cod salad
- grilled vegetables, with or without Romesco
- roasted vegetables (escalivada, sometimes on toast with anchovies)
- mushrooms sauteed in or marinated in olive oil and garlic
- patatas bravas (not really my thing; I prefer both ordinary roasted potatoes and French fries to this)
- pimientos de padron
- chorizos ("de Navarra") cooked in cider
- veal with mushrooms
- crema cataluna
= Incidentally, although all these places were respectable, and I've been to them most at least twice each, my vote is for Ciudad Condal. However, I'm willing to (and have, for most) return to any of them.
* Avant garde: I tried Comerc 24 (and definitely enjoyed it).
* Paella (at 7 Portes) (very good).
* Arros negre (black rice) (at Merendero de la Mari) (good, just like any quality seafood paella).
* Snails (at Los Caracoles) (liked and glad I tried them, but wouldn't order them again)
* I tried the Origens 99.9% near the Sagrada Familia. I don't know what category this food falls into, but I had:
- fried bacon & garlic salad ("Amanida dels “Traginers de Bràfim”)
- broad beans, peas, sausage, and green spring garlic
- duck with pears
- rice pudding
= Incidentally, I was generally disappointed with Origens 99.9%. The food was merely decent. (I'm not sure, however, if this is because I don't like the type of food or because it was executed poorly. It just didn't excite me.)
* I had a pretty tasty shwarma from one of the many places on Rambla de Raval.
* I've also eaten countless croissants (plain, chocolate, cream filled=canya), sandwiches / bocadillos (pernil, york, longaniza, with and without cheeses), and tomato bread (pa amb tomaquet / pan con tomate).
* Horchata / orxata. I tried this at a specialist shop "Orxateria Caferteria Brest" (at least that's what the sign says) in L'Eixample (right) at the intersection of Passeig de San Joan and c/ Valencia, one block south of the Diagonal. I definitely prefer this version to the Mexican rice-based version. It's so much lighter and more refreshing.

I have some questions for the Barcelona gurus on this board:

(1) I still want to try "mel i mato" (cheese and honey) dessert. I think I saw it on the menu one place I visited, but I can't remember where. Do you know where I can try it?

(2) I still haven't had a tortilla espanola. I've seen them everywhere. Most of the time they looked like they were cooked hours ago, somewhat sad. Where can I get one that will definitively be fresh/good?

(3) This isn't a question: Churros is on my list. I plan to get them freshly made from either a place on c/ Petritxol or Churreria Laietana, at Via Laietana 46.

(4) What local specialties (dishes or even simply ingredients (e.g., types of seafood, cured meats, vegetables)) have I missed?

(5) Or, worse yet, is there a type of cuisine special to this region that I've missed?
- It's not clear to me that I've hit "traditional Catalan". Have I? The places most often mentioned on this board for traditional Catalan are 7 Portes., Goliard (though its web page makes me think tits modern takes on traditional dishes), and Senyor Parellada (which generally doesn't get very good reviews). If you think I haven't covered this category of food, where should I go and, importantly, what should I order? (I dine alone, so I can't simply go with a group and try most of a menu.)
- Are pintxos different enough from tapas that I need go out of my way to try them? i.e., should I make a trip to Taktika Berri, which is easily the joint most well-regarded on this board for pintxos? If so, what should I order?
- any other type of cuisine I've omitted?


P.S. I tried a very good dessert at Escriba on Las Ramblas. It tasted like something soaked in honey and coated with roasted pine nuts. Does anyone know the name of this?

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  1. Although I haven't done much breakfast in the city, I recommend you go to Tapac 24 and order some of their fried to order churros and a tortilla espanola. Both are very tasty and you can knock two things off your list.

    For avant garde, go to Cinc Sentits, another very highly Chow recommended place. IMHO, far superior to Comerc 24 (with the exception of ambience/decor). Get the tasting menu (great value compared to comerc 24).

    1 Reply
    1. re: apfk88

      Regarding Tapac 24: what a great tip! I went there for breakfast today and had their omelette of a day, basically a tortilla espanola with chorizo and onions in addition to potatoes. I loved that, when it appear, it was a single, 5-inch diameter circle, clearly made fresh for me. Nothing like those huge tortilla espanolas that I see with slices cut out of them.

      It wonderfully hot and gooey on the inside. It was topped with one of those French white cream sauces, which added flavor but wasn't necessary because the egg-potato-onion-sausage worked so well together already. Furthermore, the potatoes didn't make it heavy, as I was worried would happen.

      I may have to return before I leave. It's a great alternative to all these bread products people seem to have for breakfast.

      By the way, I had a mango-passionfruit-yogurt drink while I was there. It was similarly good. I thought I'd left behind respectable smoothies when I boarded the plane out of California. Happily, I guess I was wrong.

      (Incidentally, I wasn't hungry enough to order churros in addition to the omelette. Another time.)

    2. From reading your lists, you've eaten a good sample of traditional Catalan cooking...suquet, aros negra, snails, duck with pears, sausage and beans, snail, etc.
      You might try Quimet y Quimet, a tapas bar (stand up only) in Poblet Sec. It does not have a kitchen so most of the tapas use high quality canned seafood that Spain is so famous for. They also have a good selection of cured meat and cheeses. Should have mel i mato. Also great wines by the glass.
      Cheese Me is a interesting cheese restaurant in the El Born area that offers cheese tastings. Try Foxos or Cardoner for good inexpensive traditional food. They might not be the height of cooking but that is what everyday food is like.
      Pintxos are different enough from tapas and definitely worth a go. There are so many pinxtos places in central Barcelona that one doesn't have to go out of the way to Taktika Berri (it is excellent, especially for the bacalla). Lots of pinxtos places around Gracia and in El Born. Also if you have not eaten Jamon Iberico, visit Jamonisimo.
      Can't think of the name of the honey soaked dessert in Escriba, is it a flat sheet of pastry brushed with honey and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts? Also try some traditional Catalan sweets such as panellets and ametllats.
      There should be great wild mushrooms available right now.
      If you can spare an afternoon, make a reservation for lunch at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, a wonderful medieval city and easy to reach by train.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Thanks for the detailed reply! I'll give Quimet y Quimet a try for mel i mato (and more).

        Given your feedback, I'll definitely make sure to try some pintxos.

        I can't believe I forgot about Iberian ham! Is there a place to get a respectable sandwich (or other appropriate form) that's not deep in L'Eixample? (I currently have no reason to be in that part of town.) (I've heard mixed reviews of Viena.)

        Do you have the address of Foxos? I found Cardoner. I plan to keep them in mind if a need basic, standard meal.

        Researching your dessert suggestions, it appears what I had and liked so much at Escriba was actually a panellet. (Yes, it was a sphere, about the size of a golf ball, covered with pine nuts.) As for ametllats, do you have a suggestion on where to find them? (Also, is that the right spelling? I can't find much on the web about them.)

        1. re: Mark P

          Do give pinxtos a try. Avoid the big brassy places on the beginning of Passage de Gracia but places that are off the side streets are mostly decent. They are one or two bite things usually in on toothpicks or croutons mostly under 1E, an inexpensive and fun way to try new things.
          Viena makes decent sandwich and nothing more…just one of those NYTime induced frenzy. Just about any good tapas places will serve jamon Iberico but it is fairly expensive, at least 15E for a racion which is a bit much to eat for one person. I would just buy a small amount at any good deli (lots in the Boqueria or at the Mercado Sant Antoni). Quimet y Quimet should have some. Also visit the food emporium, Colmado Quilez on the corner of c/Arago and Rambla de Catalunya.
          Foxos is on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes between c/Agricultura and c/Cantabria, at around number 1100.
          Ameltllat is the correct Catalan spelling for the almond merinque cookies. Also try bunuelos. They are available at most good bakeries such as Escriba. By the way, Escriba is just about as good a bakery as there is in Barcelona. Pasteleria Brunells on c/Princesa, near the corner of c/Montcada for excellent traditional cookies plus lots of atmosphere; another good bakery on the end of c/Llibreteria before via Laietana.
          Few other traditional Catalan food might consider trying: escalivada, a ratatouille like mixture made with grilled eggplants, peppers and onions; romesco, a ground nut sauce serve with grilled food and as a dressing for salads; fideus.

          1. re: PBSF

            I tried my first ameltllats, from Pasteleria Brunells as you suggest (which incidentally writes the name as "atmetllat" -- not that that makes it any easier to Google). Are they really supposed to be hard, almost crunchy, and dry? If so, I'm not a fan.

            I walked by the address I have for Cardoner: c/Ample 46. The restaurant there is named Chardonnay. Is this the restaurant you're talking about? The menu is half tapas and half regular dishes, which are in the 15-25 euro range. It didn't seem any more like "inexpensive traditional food" than that can be said about many other restaurants in Old Town.

            As for my quest for mel i mato:
            - Quimet & Quimet: not on the menu.
            - CheeseMe: not on the menu.
            - Senyor Parellada: not on photograph of the menu I found online. I tried to walk by in person to check (as with the other two), but at 19:45 on a Thursday it was closed? How odd.
            Any other ideas on where to get this dessert? Or, given how few places seem to serve it, should it have never been on my "things to eat when in Barcelona" list in the first place?

            1. re: Mark P

              Ametllats/atmetllats are hard cookies made from ground almonds and egg whites, similiar to the popular Italian amaretti de Saronno that came wrapped in pairs in big red square cans. Sorry that they are not to your liking; you might prefer the soft chewry type.
              Cardoner is the restaurant on c/Ample 46 that you strolled by. I've only taken lunches there where the menu is pretty tradtional: bacalla salad, different tortillas, egg dishes, steak with fried potatoes, roast chicken samfaina and fideus. I have not been there in a couple of years but hopefully it hasn't changed.
              Sorry that I cannot be more help on finding mel i mato. It is something that I don't look for in restaurants. I've only had it at friend's house with mato drizzled with honey and some chopped nuts. Am not sure I would tell someone to go look long and hard for it. When am I traveling in Europe, I always like to try very fresh cheeses because they are almost never imported or if they are, they arrive already past "fresh".
              A little strange about Senyor Parellada; it is open just about 365 days a year. 19:45 might be a little early even for a restaurant that gets a large share of visitors. Most restaurants do not open until 21.00, 20.30 at the earliest. If you have another chance, give it a try since it does have a large menu (posted on the door) of decent food, a bustling crowd and very affordable. Make sure you get a reservation in the main downstair room where the action is. The upstair balcony is plain and claustrophobic. An earlier poster recommended the escudella which I've had. It is only ok; I found the broth a little bland and long cooking meat too fatty and I like fat. I've had good sardines, duck with cepes, the botifarra. I've not seen mel i mato on their menu, unless it is on a separate dessert sheet which I've never had.
              Another poster recommend Cerveseria Catalana which i frequent when I am with friends. It is always packed at night, enormous in size with a menu that has just about every tapas, pinxtos and racions of food. I find the food is hit and miss. Because it has such a partying atmospshere, I feel a little out of place when I there by myself.

        2. re: PBSF

          I second the Jamonisimo recommendation. Def worth a visit. Make sure you get the salamunca jamon taken from the punta (near the hip joint of the leg, I believe). Best ham of my life.

        3. Hi there! I live in Barcelona and I'm a fan of Senyor Parellada, both for price-value and for offering a nice range of Catalan food. You will probably be able to find mel i mató on the menu, and I would recommend trying the escudella (a hearty soup that is two courses in one, the meats boiled in the soup, and the soup itself). It's a dish usually eaten around Christmas time. And I recommend Granja Pallaresa on c/ Petritxol for hot chocolate, xurros, and their airy magdalenas.

          1. Reading your comments, I think you may be looking at the wrong sort of restaurant. Don't get me wrong - I've recently spent a year working as a chef at Comerç 24 and I was dining at Cinq Sentits on Tuesday night just hours before Jordi Artal won his first Michelin star. But there are some great places in Barcelona that fill the gap between this level of cuisine and the ordinary tapas bar. I'd highly recommend Cervesería Catalana at Carrer de Mallorca 236, just off La Ramblas (nearest metro Provença). A fraction of the price of fine dining restaurants, to expose you to many of the Catalan dishes you've named. And their tortilla Español definitely wasn't cooked days ago and microwaved. The only problem is - be prepared to queue. You turn up, give your name and numbers and they ask you to return after a certain time. Be there, or they'll give your table to someone else. I took my parents there last Saturday night and we all had a great time.

            1. Just a follow-up to those who may be reading this thread later:

              Calcots, a type of green onion, didn't make my "to eat" list because I thought they were only available in the spring. (Catalan is famous for serving this vegetable grilled.) Well, I discovered that El Glop has them this time of year (fall). The most interesting feature about the dish is how you eat it: pulling the tender white insides of the green onion out of the charred outer leaves/sleeve.