Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(Port Eats: Barcelona, Part 1)

Pizza in a Cone (which we did not eat).
I have a million and one great things to say regarding Barcelona, but not surprisingly, I'm going to start with a favorite topic of mine: food. There's no need for me to be mysterious about this one; Barcelona has some of the best food I have ever tasted. I'm dividing this one into two parts, since I could probably go on about the city's culinary treats forever. Read on about our lunch and breakfast experiences in Barcelona.

Jamón ibérico Flauta

Lunch is typically the largest meal of the day in Barcelona, as well as other European cities. It was our first day in the city and we were a bit jet-lagged, so we opted for something light. Jamón ibérico is all the rage in Spain, and we couldn't wait to get our hands on some. A type of cured ham made up of at least 75% Black Iberian Pig, Iberean ham is truly a treat. The pigs are fattened on barley and maze for several weeks, and then are allowed to eat naturally when they're in the pasture. The highest quality ham comes from pigs who dine only on acorns during their time in the pasture. The curing process for the delicious meat takes at least a year, while some producers allow their process to go on for 48 months.This stuff is expensive, and not widely available; a pound of Jamón ibérico will run you more than $75 a pound if purchased in a quality restaurant. 

J chows down on the good stuff.

So how was it? A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We got our flautas from a restaurant called Cafe Viena, a seriously charming little establishment where Spanish is definitely required (if they spoke English, they certainly didn't let us in on it). Ordering is simple, however, and we got our two yummy sandwiches as well as some french fries and a Fanta each. Not to get too off topic, but Fanta in Spain is awesome. I'm a huge orange soda fan, and their version does not disappoint. It's much less syrupy than the American version, tasting more like a juice with carbonation (something akin to Orangina without the pulp). Anyway, back to the meat. Flauta means flute, and it refers to the small baguette that the ham is served on. It's served perfectly, with a crispy outside and a soft, chewy inside. A small amount of tomato spread is layered on just to make it moist, and a somewhat small but sufficient amount of Iberian Ham is then added. The ham is somewhat like prosciutto, but I assure you, it's even better. You just have to taste it!

Spain's delicious version of Fanta.

I'll skip over our dinner and go straight to breakfast (no worries, I'm prepared to tell you all about Barcelona's tapas in Part 2!) 

We had breakfast at a place called El Racó de la Moreneta, which was across the street from our hotel. Also a charming little place, we were pleased to see another group of tourists (who were discussing their upcoming cruise, the same as ours) dining there as well. Again using only Spanish (sometimes I was afraid to speak English, more often than not speaking Spanish made me terribly nervous), we ordered two pastries and dos cafe con leches. Really, we just pointed at the pastries that we wanted, and said, "dos." 

cafe con leche

The pastries were quite tasty; flaky and a bit messy, with a delicious chocolate filling in the center. Of course, seeing the chocolate sprinkles on the outside I automatically had to have that one. I don't think that either one of us finished our pastries; we probably should have gotten two different kinds for a variety. Oh well, there will be a next time! Now to the cafe con leche, or cappucino. Barcelona's coffee is strong. If you're not a big fan of coffee, I certainly couldn't recommend it. I, however, thought that it was delicious, refreshing, and gave me the boost of energy I so desperately needed that day (and to think, this was just the beginning!)
One other thing to note about dining in Barcelona. We as Americans are typically used to eating fairly quickly, paying our check, and going about our way. In Spain (and throughout Europe as we learned throughout the trip), you really have to ask for your check, they don't just bring it to you. Even then, it takes a while. Be respectful, this is how they do things. Most diners will spend a fair amount of time just enjoying their surroundings and the company of those dining with them. Since we were tourists, there was still a lot to see that day before we boarded the cruise ship. I finally summoned up the courage to use some of my Spanish, but it took a while. Our server brought us our check, and directed us to pay at the cash register up front. It was an easy process, but it probably took 20 minutes to get her attention to bring the check. Just something to take note of when you're dining; if you're in a hurry, get your breakfast to go (or for take away, as they call it). 

Stay tuned for more on tapas in Barcelona, coming soon! 

Happy eating!

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