La cuina de Catalunya: tapas recommendations from Barcelona Wine Bar.

Outside Taller de Tapas, L’Argenteria, en El Born

Ever since I started seriously reading through Andrew Coleman’s Catalan Cuisine a few years ago with its gentle rejection of the tapas culture found elsewhere in Spain, the quasi-misnomer of Barcelona Wine Bar here in CT (and now Atlanta!) has kind of bugged me. If tapas aren’t a big thing in Catalunya, then why name a tapas place after its capital city? Fortunately, Andy and Sasha answer that question within the first pages of their cookbook:

We chose the name Barcelona because, while we planned to offer an authentic tapas experience, we wanted to feature a wide-ranging selection of Mediterranean food and wine. Spain’s Barcelona is a cosmopolitan, pan-European city that reflects this outlook.

It’s true: you do see a very wide variety of options in the city of Barcelona, but it’s very easy to get the tapas experience if that’s what you happen to be craving. And frankly, when it’s in the mid-80s and it’s humid and you’re definitely a little parched because there aren’t enough 1.5L bottles of agua sin gas to properly hydrate anyone, tapas are really the best alternative. And if you’re going to go for tapas, why not follow the advice from the best place to get them on the East Coast?

One of the Taller de Tapas cases.

So I had this list of places to go in my trusty little Moleskine thanks to Barcelona Wine Bar’s fabulous guide to Catalunya and Barcelona in particular, and I was pleased that we made it to two of them, though it would have been three had Tapas 24 been open on Sunday like we’d wanted. That list would have been higher had we gotten to La Boqueria a little earlier on Saturday morning, but I needed my daily fix of pan amb tomaquet and jamon iberico.

Pimento de Padron, pan amb tomaquet

Chorizo simmered in Asturian cider.

Taller de Tapas was our first proper meal in the city, and the location in El Born was the perfect spot to take a break after a busy late morning/early afternoon of wandering down Las Ramblas and through the Barri Gòtic. They have a few locations across the city–notably one on Las Ramblas that I’m pretty sure is featured in a late scene in Vicky Cristina Barcelona–and it’s kind of a perfect place to get one’s feet wet when dining in the city. The menu is fairly extensive and the portions generous; we couldn’t even make it through our entire plate of fried Padron peppers, but that could have been more due to the fact that we had found another American couple to talk to and therefore were wrapped up in conversation.

Baby cuttlefish on the grill.

Croquetas de baccalao/cod croquettes

Sticking primarily to dishes that would not be easy to either enjoy either at home or at a Stateside restaurant, we ate our fill of chorizo gently braised in an Asturian cider, fluffy cod fritters (baccalao is easy enough to find, but it’s a pain to have to rehydrate and make at home), and gently grilled baby cuttlefish. The cuttlefish had to be my favorite: grilled to perfection, each one had just enough golden caramelization while still remaining tender and succulent.

When we did manage to scare up some stools at La Boqueria, it was at Bar Central. While not quite at a frenetic a pace as it was on Saturday, the place was still hopping on Tuesday morning and we considered ourselves lucky that we were able to get anything at all. Michael took one look at the seafood ceviche and his mind was made up; mine was a little more complicated because they kept saying they were out of things like eggs. (To this, I wonder–why keep them up on your erasable menu? I guess this is the charm of eating at these booths.) When our cook behind the counter finally suggested some gambes al ajo, it was pretty hard to say no. They already smelled amazing.

Gambes al ajo

The shrimp were so simply done–olive oil, garlic, a little pimentón–and just what I wanted. They provided a little bread which we both used to sop up the remaining sauce, though I’m pretty sure I would have tipped the dish directly in my mouth if I had no other option. I didn’t get a bite of Michael’s dish as I wasn’t in the mood for chilled seafood at 11 in the morning, but from what he told me, every last bite was fantastic.

The only downside (and I use that word loosely) to Barcelona’s guide is that it’s almost impossible to go to all of the places they recommend in one trip, especially if you’re not staying in the city proper the entire time. But that just provides more reasons to return as soon as we can, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t already planning our next trip there as we speak.

In the meantime, however, this blog will become very Barcelona-centric as I reminisce over our trip and  we explore the delights in Catalan cuisine.

  1. I also keep a Moleskine in my bag. But mine has useless reminders, like “pick up toilet paper,” or “plant basil seeds.” I am definitely doing it wrong.

    Every time I come back from a fun trip, I eat from that region for the next month. After New Orleans in May, I cooked out of John Besh’s book for a month. Actually, that’s not true… I’m STILL cooking out of it because I love it.

    In August, we skipped to Hawaii, so then I spent a few weeks making Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian food.

    Then just last weekend, we were in Portand, OR, so NOW I’m also making dishes out of a cookbook I picked up there that included recipes from all the local chefs.

    I guess my point is, it’s fun to go somewhere, get inspired, and “eat their way.”

    I have not yet been to Barcelona (high up on our hit list), so in the meantime, I’ll wait to hear more about it from you!


    • Oh, I have several Moleskines that I keep in my bag–this was a new blank one that M gifted me at Christmas. I wanted to have the Barcelona city guide before we went there as it comes complete with maps and such, but it’s out of print and I could only find one on our last full day in the city. I’m now using it to catalog where we went for our next trip over there.

      I’ve relegated my more mundane notes to my phone and the Evernote app as it provides the option of creating checklists, which I adore.

      I’m trying not to go overboard on Catalan food just yet, because it’s going to get serious as the days get short and I will long for a culinary escape. M also just got back from a trip to England so we’re trying to stay away from very rich dishes as he had enough of those while over there.

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