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May 26, 2011 08:42 PM

Catalonia/Basque Food Extravaganza - Trip Review

Well, took me a while to get around to this. But posting a trip report as promised. 9 days, 4 in Barcelona, 1 in Bilbao, and 4 in San Sebastian. I will try to post at least 1 update a day detailing a day at a time. I don't take notes or pictures (think it ruins the experience), so I am going off memory and the copies of the menus we were given at each place (Spain is good about that btw). It will cover (among others) Tickets, Celler de Can Roca, Etxebarri, Akelare, Arzak, and Mugaritz.
Thanks so much to everyone for giving me tips for this trip. It was unforgettable. Hope you all can use this to help you.


Went for breakfast after we landed and dropped off our bags. Very busy at 8:30am. Had to elbow our way into one corner of the bar. Chock full of locals. Two Cafe Con Leches to drink. Time to eat:
1. Chiperones in their own ink with fried eggs.
Briney, great texture of the chiperones and the egg yolk blending with the ink. Mopped up with fresh crusty bread.
2. Sauteed mushrooms with caremelized foie
A large pile of wild mushrooms simply sauteed on the plancha. Great variety, but to me a little underseasoned. My wife disagreed. Maybe the Chiperones threw me off. The mushrooms were topped with a fried egg (seems to come on everything) and a nice slice of foie, coated with sugar and caramelized to make a nice crisp crust. Rich and delicious.

Had an early dinner there (by Spanish standards), to get to bed and beat jet lag. Ended up walking there from the bottom of Las Ramblas. Not really in the prettiest side of town. Kind of a long walk. Got there 10 mins early but they were still closed. Stood outside with some other people and some guy in a suit with his bald head fully tattooed talking to himself. :) Kind of unnerving. But once they let us in all the fun started. Multiple bars making all the different tapas. Only one bar actually has seats at them though, and we got to sit at it. You get the famous "tweezers" they use as utensils at elBulli, and this is what you will use most of the night. Our server Manel offered to take our interests and tailor a tasting of around 13-15 dishes to give us a full "Tickets/elBulli" experience. Since we missed elBulli we told him to go all out. And he did. Such a great personality. Loved talking with us about the dishes. This is easily the best place to eat in the city in my opinion. Not to be missed. At one point Albert came behind the bar we were at and supervised a plating. Very neat to see him in person. Here are the dishes:
1. Olives
The famous spherified and cured olives. Brought in a jar, placed onto the special spoon and slid into your mouth. Perfect burst and full olive flavor flooding your mouth. I've eaten a lot of encapsulated items before but this was on a totally other level. Flawlessly done.
2. Watermelon "impregnated" with Sangria, served as a cocktail.
Cubes of watermelon that have been filled with Sangria. Refreshing. Garnished with small mint leaves that give a nice aroma when in your mouth.
3. Jamon de Toro
Thin slices of fatty tuna belly brushed with Iberico Ham fat. Interesting surf and turf flavor. The dominant flavor seemed to be whatever you were thinking of at the time. Think of ham and it tasted more of ham than tuna. Think of tuna and it tasted more of tuna. Interesting. But slices were so think they broke apart very easy trying to pick up.
4. Mini endives in Vinagrette
Manel explained that these particular mini endives only exists in one small part of spain and they entire crop is used by only elBulli and Tickets. They were small, crisp little endives with tart citrus dressing. They had been marinated in milk which came through once you but fully into them. Good.
5. White asparagus with black truffle and iberico ham crust
Thick pieces of juicy white asparagus with some kind of truffle aioli and specks of crisp ham. Flavor was great. But it was very difficult to eat. They did not give a knife and fork and eating it took some finesse. We had to bit all the way through and we got a lot of juice on our hand. Manel explained that Spanish people are more used to eating with fingers, and suggested using the tweezers. It helped. But not much.
6. Air Baguette with Jamon Iberico
A mini baguette, totally hollow in the middle, wrapped in terrific Iberico ham. The fat just melts and the baguette crumbles to nothing in you mouth. Best eaten in one bite.
7. Oyster "with it's Pearls"
A large, juicy oyster, served in the half shell with a tart vinegar and "pearls" of small encapsulated spanish olive oil.
8. Moilete (bread) with dewlap
This was some kind of soft, warm roll of bread, very thin and buttery. Inside was slices of pork belly. Not crispy. But tender and full pork flavor. I don't see how this matches the description. But that's what it was.
9. White Anchovies in Vinegar with Tomato consomme jelly
This was a star of the night: two thick fresh anchovies on a crisp cracker. In the middle was a slice of jelly that tasted of pure tomato. Topped with small flowers. This was made right in front of us and must have been popular because they made lots of them. My wife has never really liked anchovies so I had to convince her to try. She took one bite, closed her eyes, and said "Wow."
10. Liquid Ravioli with Payoyo cheese from Cadiz
Encapsulated cheese, topped with a small crouton and a little olive oil. Nice salty cheese. Good burst again, but not as smooth as the olives. A little thicker given the cheese.
11. Spanish grilled lobster in light pickling
A bisected lobster, grilled and sprinkled with pimenton. The pickling makes it super juicy and slightly tart. The tail meat was buttery-rich. But the treat came from the small pool of brain soup that we spooned out. Really really good.
12. Confit potatoes with pork rib sauce and boiled iberian ham
Confited in olive oil till super-tender. Served with pieces of ham and a sauce made from the ribs of the iberico pig.
13. Cold-Hot Chocolate fritters
Out of sight! These were small deep fried fritters, and when you popped them in your mouth to bite you got a rush of liquid chocolate, hot on one side and cold on the other. The sugar rush was much needed and the temperature contrasts snapped us to attention.
14. Almond tepid cake
Amazing again. You can tell Albert is a major player at Tickets because the sweet world is solid. A small almond cake that collapsed into a pool of molten almond custard in the center when you touched it with the spoon. On the side was a apricot sorbet. Manel asked how it was. We replied "supernatural." We counted each others bites to make sure we got equal amounts. :)
15. Tickets cotton candy tree
Exactly what it says it is. A trimmed tree, leafless, with a variety of cotton candy placed on the tree like clouds, suspended in front of you. Peach, blueberry, passion fruit, raspberry, and other flavors. Essentially the fun here is in the presentation, total strangers were snapping our picture and talking to us. But that's not to say the taste wasn't there. Good cotton candy.

That was about it. Washed it down with 2 glasses of cava each. Walked to see the Magic Fountain and then took a taxi back to the hotel to collapse and get rested.

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  1. DAY TWO

    I'll start off saying this was a Sunday. Which I've come to learn is a tough time eating out. We went to Montjuic and then to Barcelonetta beach. A LOT of tourist trap places open that we tried to avoid. We tried to go to Vaso de Oro (recommended by CWers). But it was packed to the gills and we couldn't even get inside. We headed back to the beach and started to get hot, impatient, and hungry. We walked past a place on the beach and them someone wheeled a just caught shark into the kitchen. We thought "good as any" and pulled up a seat outside. Turns out it was restaurant Salamanca. We ordered a seafood platter for 2 (60 euros). And a jug of Sangria. The waiter suggested a plate of ham to start so we did. It was decent ham. Not stellar.
    The platter came out and looked very good. Really fresh. Hake, turbot, prawns, langoustine, clams, etc. All simply cooked. Good. Some boiled potatoes thrown in there too. Not the greatest meal ever. But it was nice to have some fresh seafood on the beach. There were some downsides though, a lot of the prawns had the tracts in place and had a faintly dirty taste. Also, when we were done the waiter asked us to please pay before he left for the day and made sure to comment that tip wasn't included. That left kind of a bad taste in our mouth, so to say.
    All in all, a good seafood platter. Cold sangria and the beach. Kind of a tourist-hive. But we spotted locals there too. Will we go back? No.

    After we were done we soon came to realize we were so full that we couldn't eat anything else that day. Luckily we had no plans. So we skipped dinner altogether and didn't feel hungry once.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Heeney


      No notes and pictures? You must have a cranium the size of an elephant's, to store all THAT information!

      I'm glad I just had b'fast before reading; I can't imagine what kind of damage I would have done to my kitchen (or my diet) if I had read on an empty stomach.

      Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to Tickets too. Down in Barceloneta, there are just so many tourist traps. I remember walking past a dozen restaurants on Joan de Borbo, all with big posters advertising similar food. We were looking for Kaiku and no one seemed to know the restaurant or the location of its street address. True gluttons, we had also been to El Vaso de Oro right before and witnessed a classic piece of Anglophobic waiter humour. An English-speaking person called up to ask for reservations. (reservations? to El Vaso de Oro? ha ha ha) The waiter said they had a bad connection and banged the receiver on the bar counter a number of times before hanging up. The person immediately called back and another waiter played the same trick on the caller. I guess the waiters figured that if someone knew so little about El Vaso de Oro to think that it would take reservations, well, then they didn't need to be there. Meanwhile, we stood nearby, enjoying our foie, solomillo and pimentons.

      Eventually, with much perserverence, we did find Kaiku and had a very nice arroz de chef, dish of uni fritters etc.

      1. re: Aleta

        Uni fritters?!?! I think I just blacked out for a second. :)
        Its good I have menus from a lot of these places to jog the memory. Some later reports may be spotty due to not having a copy of the menu. But all the best places should be detailed. I need to get it all on CH soon before it starts to slip. :)

        1. re: Heeney

          Seriously! Uni fritters! Not for the faint of heart or people on Lipitor. :-P Very delicious.

    2. Absolutely salivating report. Thank you.
      Two things:
      - In France (dunno about Spain), it is actually proper etiquette to eat asparagus with one's fingers. It is common to see elegant European diners in 2- and 3-star places using their fingers to eat asparagus, even though flatware is provided, probably to reassure American diners.
      - "prawns had the tracts in place". Another common phenomenon in many seafood restos in Spain and France and italy. No biggie. I even remember ions ago dining at Set Portes, my then boyfriend, American carefully removed the tract and waiters were - good-naturedly - laughing at him.
      - Agree that the waiter who pressured you to pay early and reminded you to tip do not show much class. Sounds like a waiter who is too used to serving tourists whom he counts on never seeing again.
      Looking forward to your future instalments...

      1. Can you please share how much your evening at Tickets was? We have reservations for next month and cannot WAIT!!
        Thanks for sharing!

        4 Replies
        1. re: CEfromLA

          All in all it was 170 euros including the cava for both of us.
          Word of caution, if you are paying with a card and the currency isn't euros...they will convert to your currency ($ for us) at a bad rate and charge a small fee. I asked to pay in Euros and they said "it is in euros, it just shows dollars on the ticket." But when I checked my account was in dollars and at their bad rate.
          Annoying, but it ended up being only an extra $10 or so. So I didnt let it bother me. It was worth far more than that anyway.
          So, be insistent to pay in euros. Just my tip.

          1. re: Heeney

            That's the darned Dynamic Currency Conversion system at work. Glad you brought you up, Heeney. Technically, you are supposed to be able to insist that you want the bill in Euros. This applies especially at the ATMs when you are withdrawing cash. I will be on the lookout for it too. I guess last summer, I didn't bother to check.

            CE, have a look at Erica's trip report for a breakdown of prices at Tickets.

            1. re: Aleta

              Of everywhere we went the only 3 places I had that problem were Tickets, Salamanca, and 41 Degrees (review to come soon).
              Also, the menu on the official Tickets website is very close to what you get handed to you at the bar. And it even lists the prices.

              1. re: Heeney

                Actually the prices were removed from the Tickets online menu some time ago.

        2. DAY 3

          For lunch this day we went to Tapas, 24. For some reason I see it around the web as Tapa C24/Tapac24/TapaC24. But I didn't see that name anywhere at the actual restaurant. It was always Tapas, 24. So I will call it that.

          This was a smaller, packed room. With people lining up to get in. You head down a small set of stairs as the whole thing is below street level, except for what appear to be a small set of tables in the street. We got there just before it really picked up so we got there just as two seats opened at the bar. So we snagged them. Was very lively and fun. You can see into the kitchen where they make the tapas. There is a standard menu on a baggie that contains your utensils and napkin. They also have a specials menu on a chalkboard that they move around. Oddly, they take the menus away once you order so you don't really get to look over them to decide if you want to order more later. You can obviously, but you need to either just know it or ask for the menu again. Here is what we shared:
          1. "Bikini"
          A simple and excellent grilled ham and cheese. The cheese was nice and gooey with iberico ham and flakes of black truffles. The bread was thin slices, nice and crusty on the outside.
          2. "McFoie"
          This is apparently a staple at the place. It's a simple beef burger. Smallish patty that comes in a thin bun that has been grilled on the outside. Notice I say "in" because it appears somehow that the top bun connects to the bottom bun, so that halved burger appears to sit inside the bun like a pita pocket. There was no foie in the burger at all, it is served on the side on a small tub as a quenelle of some kind of mousse. You them spread it on the burger and enjoy. It was good. But I felt that the burger had such a powerfully "beefy" taste that it overpowered everything else, including the foie. That was a shame because when I tasted the foie mousse on its own it was very good.
          3. Something I can't remember
          I've been racking my brain. Bugs me. But can't pin on what it was.
          4. Tortilla of potato and chorizo
          This was a small individual tortilla. Cut inside and it's very molten, a rush of egg and chorizo pieces oozes out. A solid tortilla.
          5. Arroz Negro and cuttlefish
          The waiter suggested we get this. And it was good. But I wish we hadn't. Because it was a large pan of rice that eventually got a little boring and I we were getting to full to try others. It was a well made cast iron pan of rice cooked with cuttlefish ink. There were some small ribbons of cuttlefish in the center but I would have liked more.
          6. Orange Juice
          My wife saw this and had a glass. Big piles of fresh oranges squeezed right behind the bar. Had a taste: very refreshing without being too sugary naturally. Spain has the best oranges (sorry Florida)!
          7. Pastry and Catalan creme
          This was on a tray in front of us and we had to try it. Flakey puff pastry with powdered sugar, filled with a thick catalan cream. Nice.
          8. Chocolate, salt, bread, and olive oil
          Their take on classic catalan dessert. Quenelles of chocolate ganache, topped with small rounds of toasted bread, salted lightly, and drizzled with fruity olive oil. Everyone says this (but it's true)…it just works. I will do this all the time at home now. Simple and very satisfying.

          Dinner that night was at our Hotel (OMM). And their 1 star restaurant MOO. In my previous posts I had been advised to switch this since Can Roca was the next day. But we kept it for sentimental reasons (way back it was our first experience with Avant Garde cuisine and we liked it, plus it was nice to eat and go back to our room).
          Well, the chowhounders were right. We should have gone with something else. Now, I'm not going to say this is a bad review. Only that it was hard for me to write this because I forgot our copy of the menu and it was very hard for me to remember what we had. Though I remembered Tapas,24 well enough without a menu. I guess you could say that it was "forgettable." But I did remember, just not many details. So here it is:
          1. Opening snacks
          Really don't remember what they were.
          2. Russian Salad
          This was a deconstructed russian salad, with various components and then a kind of soup poured at the table. It was good.
          3. Prawn ravioli with carrot
          There was coconut taste in there too. I can't seem to remember the carrots too well.
          4. Cherries with Foie and Coffee
          This however, I do remember! :) 4 glazes cherries hollowed and stuffed with foie gras parfait. Served in top of a thin line of a sticky sauce composed of coffee. Very very good. Could easily have been dessert.
          5. Sole with mediterranean flavors
          This I remember because I was expecting it at Can Roca the next day. It was almost the same dish, though with less finesse. The fish had a nice char to it but it was flaked a little in the middle so visually it was a little off when they laid it in front of me. The sauces were good. Though you'll soon read how Celler was far superior.
          6. Pigeon
          It was a kind of pigeon hash with vegetables. OK.
          7. Cheese with apple and fennel
          Kind of straightforward. Hard to remember.
          8. Can't remember this dish. Something with flowers.
          9. Souffle and fruits
          A good souffle.

          Anyway, as you can see this wasn't as stellar as we had hoped. I think since we had Tickets first and then Celler right after, it was in a tough spot. Plus, the place seemed kind of half-full. And we were seating off in a corner someplace that was a little too dark, almost near the bar that separates the restaurant from the lobby. At any rate, having experienced Can Roca the next day, we will pass on Moo next time we come to Barcelona. On a positive note though, the wine pairings at Moo were superb.

          Our journey to Celler de Can Roca however…was nightmarish. More on that later…

          3 Replies
          1. re: Heeney

            Yes the name of the place is Tapaç24 not Tapas 24. I believe it's a play on words - a way to spell the Castilian word "tapas" in Catalan. The actual Catalan word for tapas is tapes with the "e" sounding like an "a".


            1. re: SnackHappy

              Odd. All I saw anywhere in the restaurant, the sign, the menu, the bill...said Tapas,24.
              Which is strange because the website says tapac. But the place itself says Tapas.

              1. re: Heeney

                Oh, poop. I just remembered what the play on words is. It's a play on Comerç24. Tapaç24. And I knew that, too. I just had forgotten it.

          2. DAY 4


            This was our last day in Catalonia. We slept in a little later than planned. But headed down a few blocks to the Passeig de Gracia station to catch the train to Girona. The plan was to ride the train. Nap on the way. Wander the old town in Girona. Then just walk the 10 minute walk Google maps estimated from the Cathedral to El Celler de Can Roca.
            We ended up at the station and asked then for return tickets. They were cheaper than I thought and they were on the regional lines. No big deal to me. An extra 10 minutes. We waited at the underground station, a little too hot and we were a little too dressy. I wore a button down dress shirt and some black pants. Wife was dressed in a skirt with a t shirt and black cardigan. Finally the regional train pulled in and….HOLY &*#^! It was a short and small train. Rolled right past us and everyone starts running like refugees to get on. We jumped into the back carriage and there was nowhere to sit. OK we thought, wait till some people get off at their stops.
            Well, that sure didn't happen. More people got on at every stop, and to add to that there was no air whatsoever in the train. So after about an hour and 20 minutes we are standing like sardines in a tin while 3 women with strollers try to get aboard and crush everyone into unbearable yoga positions so we can fit. Sweat dripping, behind schedule, back aching, and gasping for a breeze every time the door would open. Unbearable. Trying to remember how many more stops. NOT. FUN. AT. ALL. Didn't even have attractive scenery passing us on the ride.
            Well, finally got there and sat down to get our bodies back in order. Two people in their late twenties feeling like a couple in their late seventies.
            Took off and headed to the Call. Wow! Gorgeous. But packed to the gills with tour groups. Plus, it was the hottest day of our trip to Spain. Easily pushing 80 degrees F. But it was nice to walk around and see the sights. Didn't have time to wait to get inside the Cathedral with the crowds though. Still kind of sad about that. So then we walk to Can Roca. FYI google, your walk time is WAY OFF. Took more like 25 mins instead of 10 and we did not get lost of walk slow. Hot as all get out. Still not recovered from riding the train. And honestly, after seeing how beautiful the old town of Girona is. The area you walk through to reach Can Roca isn't all that scenic.
            But, we made it, happy as can be to see the sign. We walked in, gave our names, and both headed to the bathrooms to freshen up. The trip there didn't go as planned. Would the meal live up to expectations?
            Yes, it did. And in no time we were relaxed and having a great time. A testament to the place.
            The dining room is a modern triangle layout with a courtyard that has shutters that can be lowered electronically to help shield sunlight. We sat in the shade though so no shutters blocked our view of the nice courtyard. The kitchen it located in the adjoining old home it was very nice. We spotted Joan Roca and he greeted us and seemed very laid back and nice. Spotted him later picking through a pantry for some stuff. Very funny.
            OK. On to the good stuff:

            1. Caramelized Olive
            A small tree is laid on the table and hidden in the leaves, hanging from the branches are some caramelized olives, 2 each. Pluck them off their metal hangers and pop them in your gaping maw. So, so good. Olive flavor with a crisp shell. I could swear I tasted anchovy in there too.
            2. Mushroom bombon
            Perfectly shaped like a mushroom. The outside had the look and texture of white chocolate. But tasted of St Georges Mushroom. Bite it and it floods your mouth with St George Mushroom puree. Very good.
            3. Anchovy bones
            Anchovy spine fried with something like tempura batter. Served with fried seaweed and served on a net. The texture of the fried bones was good and you got all the anchovy flavor without any of the flesh. But the star was actually the seaweed. Crispy, like perfect sushi nor. The wife commented that she wished we could just by bags of those back home to snack on on the couch. :)
            4. Chicken Cracker
            This was a large, thin sandwich of yellow cracker that tasted of Chicken skin. The filling was something that escapes me.
            5. Ring Calamar adaptation
            A small canapé-looking bite of calamari, more dehydrated calamari wrapped around other fried ingredients from the traditional presentation. Good.
            6. Vegetable salad
            This is on my menu but I cannot remember it. There were a lot of one-bite canapes delivered quickly.
            7. St. George's Mushroom Brioche
            This may be the reason I can't remember #6. This was a small brioche bun that looked like a steamed chinese pork bun. They forgot to tell us to eat in one bite so I went to bite in half and whoops, a thick creamy filling spills out the other end. Caught it with my hand though. It was a creamy truffled st george mushroom cream again. Got it all back into my mouth and wow, so good. The texture was exactly like a pork bun but the filling was excellent.
            8. Escalivada with anchovies and smoke of ember.
            On to the first course with silverware. Brought tableside, inside a smoked dome. Lift the dome. I wafted some smoke to me but I didn't need to, there was a lot. Charcoal grilled eggplant, pepper, onion, and tomato. Very tender and tasted great. The broth that sat at the bottom though was a bit oversmoked for me. Overpowered the vegetables.
            9. Artichoke, Foie Gras, orange and truffled oil
            A bowl brought with fried artichoke and orange. A dark rich soup of foie gras, with truffle oil. Do I even need to say it was good? It goes without saying. Silence at out table for a solid minute after they took the bowl away. Probably because we were so sad it was gone.
            10. Charcoal-grilled king prawn with acidulated mushrooms juice
            Good tail meat, but we started with the head. We would soon find ourselves sucking a lot of prawn heads on this trip. This was near the very top. The sauce went well with the tail meat.
            11. Onion soup, crespia walnuts and comte cheese
            Classic french flavors, poured tableside. The walnuts were a great touch and the cheese melted nicely.
            12. Sole, olive oil and Mediterranean flavors
            A repeat from last nights dinner. This one was how it should be done though. No char on the fish this time. Perfectly white and tasty. The colors on the sauces were more vibrant and better texture. Fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nut. This also had an added olive oil sauce with what looked like an air bubble at the end, but it was a caramel fake-bubble. Great way to eat the fish. Each bite was like a new dish.
            13. Baby Squids and Onion Rocks
            Small squids with a pile of tiny black rocks, just bigger than sand, of onion. A nice frothy sauce too. Excellent. This was one of my wifes favorites.
            14. Red Mullet with suquet and lard
            Barely cooked red mullet with a skin that almost unnaturally shiney. Flawless. The suquet is a catalan seafood stew and it was served as a broth with 3 small green lard-based dumplings. Very herbal. Nice.
            15. Steak Tartare with Mustard Ice Cream
            Best tartare I've ever had, hands down. A long flat slate of tartare of veal, spiced tomato, capers, pickles and lemon, pillows of hazelnut praline, meat béarnaise sauce, sherry coated raisins (nice), chives, sichuan pepper, pimenton and curry, mustard leaves and the mustard ice cream. Oh, the ice cream. Everyone here know "dipping dots"? Well, mustard dippin dots. Incredible. This was a masterwork. I want it right now. It was also paired with a Pardas Rosat '07 Vi de Taula. Quite possibly my new favorite red wine. Wow.
            16. Lamb with mint and peas
            Neck of lamb, strong good flavor. Crisp skin cracker on top. Bright green peas and pea puree. Another puree that I think was parsnip. Can't remember. Hearty. Soulful.
            17. Green colourology
            Small quenelle of cheese, baked green meringues of something I can't place. Chartreuse candy. Color was outstanding. And interesting advance from the peas of the last dish. Good flow to the meal.
            18. Lemon distillated sorbet
            Quick background here: Jordi Roca likes to take classic perfumes and create dishes with the same aroma as them. Eternity, obsession, etc. This time he flipped it, designed a dessert from scratch, and had a perfumer create a perfume with the same smell as the dessert, presented tableside on a small paper cone. Fresh lemon, bergamot, other very clean, bright smells. The dish tasted just like I described. Clean, floral. Very nice. My wife commented that to the waiter that she had to buy a bottle. It really was a perfect ladies perfume. They were happy to sell her a small bottle for 50 euros. I thought our water said 15, but his English was weak. Regardless, it was the ultimate souvenir. They explained that they only make enough for the season, and then it's gone forever. So she said she is only wearing in it very special occasions. Interesting that the nicest perfume I smelled should come from a restaurant! :)
            19. Vanilla, Caramel, Liquorice, dried and caramelized black olives
            The last full dessert course. Nice plating. Dark colors of the olives. Strong vanilla flavor. I was a fan. Wife was not. Just not her taste.
            20. Sweets
            Chocolate and cocoa bean, vanilla and coconut, peach, honey and rose, melon and orange blossom. All very good.

            4.5 hours later (that's a record for us) it was time to pay the check and take a taxi to the station. Made the regional train with 3 mins to spare. On the ride back we got a seat, but it was still cramped and hot as all get out. We didn't care though. Great great meal. Worth all the pain and anguish it took to get there.

            41 DEGREES

            Made in back to Barcelona around 5:30. Went back to the hotel for a shower and a rest. Those trains were rough. Then, still pretty full but wanting to send off Barcelona on a great note, we went to 41 Degrees, the Adrias cocktail bar. To get inside you actually have to go past the rope at Tickets, walk through Tickets (Manel spotted us and said hi. Such a great place and staff). And they open a curtain to the bar. We could sit at the bar or a table so we took a table. We each had two drinks. My wife had a Mai Tai and some Cava and I had an Old Fashioned and a Gin and Tonic. The cocktails are not really innovative. Just perfectly made and very good. We asked the waiter to create a tasting of "snacks" for us based on the elBulli classics. I honestly don't remember them all (though I remember loving every single one). Maybe it was the 13 wine pairings at Can Roca and the 2 cocktails, or the fact I didn't have a menu, or the fact I saw Ferran Adria (that's right, more on that in a second), but I can't list them all (maybe 10 total is what we had):
            Liquid Olives (a repeat from Tickets, so glad we had it again)
            Parmesan Ice Cream Sandwiches
            Crunchy seaweed and quinoa
            cone of spicy tuna
            much more, including 2 small desserts
            Halfway though the snacks I am talking to the wife and she stops looking at me, jaw drops open. I say "what is it?" She won't say. This annoys me a little. I say "tell me". She mouths silently "it's Ferran Adria". I nearly snap my neck looking around and lo and behold. It's the master himself. Talking to people at the bar with his famous speech style. Fast, a lisp, wild eyed.
            I turn back around to not look crazy but keep sneaking glances. Then he disappears behind the curtain into Tickets.
            "Well," I say, "we just saw Ferran Adria. How about that?"
            We may have missed our shot at elBulli, but we certainly got close enough to make us feel ok about it.
            Finish up, pay, taxi back to the hotel to get packed and get some sleep before our 9am flight to the Basque country.

            Barcelona, check. On to Bilbao.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Heeney

              Wow!! All I can say is wow!
              Love the food report...I'm counting the days until I can make reservations for September !!
              Do u remember how much the food and specially the cocktails were at tickets??
              Prices would really help me out...even if u don't remember exactly
              Thanks for your wonderful report I can tell u had a wonderful time
              And to see the master himself well, that's the cherry on top!

              1. re: yesilovestotravel

                Do you mean 41? that's where the cocktails were.
                We had almost the entire snack menu (maybe 10-12) and 2 sweets and 2 cocktails each and it was around 100 euros for the 2 of us. Cocktails seem to be priced at 8-12 euros each.
                I'll try to start including prices. In my report.
                Tapas/Tapac 24 was around 60euros for the two of us. Moo was 140pp with an included wine pairing. Can Roca was 145pp plus 65pp for Joseps paired wines (a must).
                Can Roca was the most expensive meal we had the entire trip.

                1. re: Heeney

                  Thanks Heeney!
                  I read that the cocktails at 41degrees are very well made and they take their time in preparing them...
                  What are some of the cocktails highlights?
                  I can't wait to go myself in September, until then I can only salivate when I read the reports!!

                  1. re: yesilovestotravel

                    Well, we only had 3 that I can talk about:
                    An old fashioned: made with orange bitters and garnished with a single piece of orange rind. Came in a tumbler with a single block of perfectly clear ice. The ice had "41" carved inside it. A nice touch.
                    A Mai-Tai: my wifes. Tasted perfect and served with crushed ice. Just what you'd want in a hammock on the beach.
                    A gin and tonic: they have a whole menu of Gins and then one of tonics. Customer mixes and matches. I had Junipero gin and asked them to pick a tonic. Comes in a large red-wine glass. Good. But I'd pick a different specialty cocktail next time.