Just one day before my birthday and after almost eighteen hours of traveling (considering my two stops and five hours waiting in London airport) I had arrived to Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain, where our new culinary journey begins.
When I was considering how to start this new post, one of the pictures of my own gallery from:“Mercat de La Boquería” (La Boquería food market) in “paseo de Las Ramblas” (Las Ramblas street), called out its name. What a better way to start posting about Barcelona than the epic of its culinary world!. I love visiting markets as they are a reflecion of the life of cities and towns.
In the heart of the city, the market of “La Boquería” has always aroused the admiration of visitors and artists. I heard once that this market was called “the Cathedral of the Senses” and since then I could not wait to let my senses get the whole experience.
The modern history of this market dates back to 1830s, when traders who sold in the centre of La Rambla were obligated to move to a new square that had been built where there had been the convent of the discalced Carmelites, the church of Sant Josep and the site of the convent of Jerusalem. Now, if you look closely at the picture of the sign of the Mercat, you will understand the meaning of the words: Sant Josep
Installed in simple stands in the open air and using the pile up fruit and vegetable boxes to place their scales, we are reminded that behind each piece of fruit or vegetable there is a human gesture, and effort linked to nature, the land and the whims of the weather.
It is true that Barcelona is renowned for Modernisme or Catalan Art Noviveau, a widly original style of architecture that flourished in the late 19th and earl 20th centuries. Best known are the stunning works of Antoni Gaudí and so many talented Modernista architects that had painted their mark in this city. But, Barcelona is also known for its gastronomy repertory.
With its rise as a foodie capital in the past decade, this city of Catalunya, now rivals San Sebastián as one of the top eating cities in Europe. And that, my friends, is enough reason to justify my stay in this city.
In addition to haute cuisine restaurants, pastry shops and chef-driven tapas bars by world-known Chefs and restauranters like: Ferrán and Albert Adriá, Joan Roca, Antonio Escribá, Oriol Balaguer, etc, there are scores of both old-school and innovative colmados (grocery stores), chocolatiers and wine shops.
This is not your typical fruit stand. At “Mercat de la Boquería”, my friend José, is so happy to show his colorful repertory of exotic fruits
lychee, rambutan, passion fruit, star fruit… if you can name it, you will find it at this market!
At this food stand or “puesto”, I went nuts!… look at these assortment of macadamia, walnuts, almonds…
“Torrons” (nougat), dry fruit, chocolate and more nuts!…
“Mercat de la Boquería” (Boquería Market), is Europe’s largest food market and a gastronomy paradise. This Catalan classic is the foundation of Barcelona’s fascination with food and a must see for all foodies and chefs. Nowadays, it has more than 300 stalls and several small bar/restaurants stocked with eye-popping displays of salted fish, exotic fruits, wild mushrooms (ceps and bolets), artisanal chocolates, candies, spices, nuts and much more. It is a place to see and smell an amazingly lively gastronomic scene: a colorful bounty that is a testament to the fertile region and Catalan’s desire for the freshest and tastiest foodstuffs available.
All that seeing and smelling of great food at “La Boquería” had worked my appettite. It is time for a snack or “tapa”!
“Tapas” or “Pintxos” as it is called in The Basque country is a way for Spaniards to avoid drinking with an empty stomach. That being said, the most common beverage consumed with tapas is probably “cerveza” or beer. You usually order it by the glass or “caña”.
These little plates like: pimientos (baked stuffed piquillo peppers), tortilla española (thick potato omelet), albóndigas (pork mini meatballs that are so tasty enough to almost convert a vegetarian like me), jamón serrano (air-dried mountain ham always accompanied by bread and sliced so thin that you can almost see through), patatas bravas (fried potatoes smothered in piquant, bright-orange paprika-garlic sauce called aioli that have become a national standard), etc, make up the unofficial fourth meal of the day and are best enjoyed in tapas bars before 10 pm dinner hour. Yes, my beloved Americans friends, I said it: 10 pm dinner time!… My stomach clock (if there is any) is still trying to get used to this eating time habits!