Barcelona is a city where I wish to live! I visited the Catalan Capitol for the first time in 1989, and since that journey, it was love at first sight, or better at first bite. Sun, sea, historical monuments and delicious food: I wouldn’t have it any other way! This city is magic, and I try to go back there whenever it’s possible. Here a short list of the best Catalan dishes and where I ate them during my last visit in Barcelona: enjoy!
EATING IN BARCELONA
Barcelona has a glutton reputation, and the Catalan people enjoy every single minute around the table. A journey into the Catalan cuisine have to start with a light breakfast: just toasted bread with fresh tomatoes, or sweet Churros, drinking coffee. The lunch is the main meal, traditionally can last up to two hours! Dinner is consumed very late, commonly around 9 or 10 PM and sometimes later! Dinner starts (and often ends) with Tapas: small plates served along with vermouth or wine.
Barcelona is packed of great restaurant, but the locals like enjoy food into the market as well, particularly tapas and quick cooked seafood. The most famous market in town is La Boqueria, located on the Ramblas: it wort a visit, believe me!
Tapas is more than a word used to indicate appetizing food served in small portions: It is an invitations to share and enjoy food and drinks with friends!
The term Tapas descent from the old habit of cover the glass of wine with a slice of bread and ham to protect it from the flies and dust.
Wandering around the streets of Barcelona, you will see plenty of Tapas Bars with counters chock-full of different food options.
The most popular Tapas are:
• Patatas Bravas: potatoes pan-fried then seasoned with vinegar, and paprika, and tomato sauce.
• Tortilla: a thick Spanish frittata filled with onions and potatoes, and sometimes with vegetables like spinach or asparagus.
• Pulpo a la Gallega: boiled octopus, thinly sliced and seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika.
• Carne Mechada: slow cooked pork or beef stew diced in small pieces.
Among the several Tapas Bar, one of my favorites is the Cerveselia Catalana
PA AMB TOMAQUET (Bread and Tomatoes)
Pa Amb Tomaquet are slices of bread brushed with a half fresh tomato, and finally seasoned with salt and olive oil, and occasionally dried oregano. This appetizer is the first course served in all the Catalan restaurants, often without asking. It is so popular that one evening at dinner I dared refuse it, and the waiter looked at me a little bit offended!
NAVAJAS (Spanish Razor Clams)
Among the delicious seafood served in Barcelona, you want to try the Navjas, Mediterranean razor claim simply sauteed along with olive oil, garlic and fresh parsley: a simple and unforgettable dish! I found this delish wandering through the stalls of the Mercat la Boqueria at the Clemen’s. This tiny restaurant without tables serves delicious tapas and seafood small plates since 1969: just sit at the counter and order!
ARROZ NEGRO (Cattlefish Ink Rice)
Even if it is not really a Catalan recipe, Paella is a must-to-try if you are visiting Spain. The Arroz Negro (black rice in Spanish) is a particular version of Paella, prepared with cuttlefish ink and often with squid, clams, and shrimp. Contrary to what its color inspire, in this dish there is really the natural taste of the sea! One of the best places where order Arroz Negro is the El Rey de la Gamba, in the historic Barceloneta district.
GAMBA ROJA (Red Shrimp)
If you liked Navajas, do not miss Red Shrimp! This delicious crustacean is a milestone into the Catalan cuisine, and prepared pan-fried, grilled, or boiled. Red Shrimp are traditionally served head-on as a proof of their freshness. The best gambas rojas I ate has been either in El Raco del Mariner and in La Paradeta: a local chain where you can choose the seafood directly from their stall!
CALCOTS (Catalan Grilled Scallions)
Calcots are another must-to-try of Catalan cuisine. These big Scallions are served from November to March in several restaurants of Barcelona as an appetizer or aside grilled meats. If you desire to taste Calcots, prepare yourself to get dirty: the first layer of the scallion is totally charred, but the heart is so sweet and delish! El Jardin de l’Apat, near the Parc Guell, is one of the best places where try Calcots on, served on a traditional roof tile as the tradition wants, along with gloves and a bib to save your clothes!
BOTIFARRA AMB MONGETES (Catalan Sausage with Spanish white beans)
If you love sausages, you want to try Botifarras, the traditional Catalan pork sausages! The origin of this sausage is ancient and probably descends to the Roman Lucanica. The white Botifarra is commonly boiled or grilled and served with Mongetes, a Spanish kind of white beans.
CONEJO A LA JUMILLANA (Fried Rabbit)
Yes, rabbit! I know, for many of you, eat rabbit might sound weird, but In Spain is very common and traditional! Rabbit is served stewed, fried or roasted with potatoes, or olives and shallots. Taberna Can Margarit, serve a delicious pan-fried rabbit, and the place is one of the most quaint restaurants in town!
CREMA CREMADA (Catalan Burnt Cream)
Crema Cremada, is the most famous Catalan dessert, do not miss it! It’s also called Crema de Sant Josep, or just Crema. The custard is made with yolks and cornstarch and flavored with cinnamon and lemon zests. Finally, the crust is doused in sugar and burned with a special spiral iron. Crema Cremada is a good reason to have a dinner at Can Culletes, the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, open since 1786.
OTHER TRADICIONAL DELIGHT
If you are still hungry, among the many Catalan dishes, try also
• Boquerones: white anchovies marinated in vinegar
• Jamon Serrano and Iberico: the most famous Spanish cured hams
• Fideuà: paella with Spanish spaghetti instead rice
• Peus de porc a la brasa: grilled pigs feet
• Canelos: cannelloni stuffed with cheese and spinach
• Matò amb Miel: Catalan cheese with honey