Almost two weeks ago I took the Acela up to New York for a work event, and while most of the trip was extremely packed with meetings and activities, I was able to squeeze in a little time to both revisit some favorite places and cross some others off my “restaurants to visit” list in the city. The first thing I did after dropping off my bags in my hotel room was to hit up Fairway to both stock up on vinegars as well as get some room essentials that would not require me to use the well-stocked but extremely expensive minibar in my room. I then had the very difficult decision to make as to where to get dinner, but with the weather being kind of gloomy I stuck with places within easy walking distance: the main course was the steak frites at Les Halles on Park Ave, and then for a nightcap I treated myself to some oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar which was conveniently located off the lobby of my hotel. Read More
Remember back in December when I said that it felt like vermouth was having a bit of a moment? Well, a little more research into the subject has proven me correct, as the last few years were in fact a big year for vermouth to make a comeback in Barcelona and beyond, and as recently as a few weeks ago a whole book on the subject was published. Written in part by the director of Cuina magazine, it popped up on my Facebook feed shortly thereafter and almost immediately I decided I wanted to check it out, despite the fact that my Catalan is extremely rudimentary and that it wasn’t easy to find a store–even Amazon’s Spanish site!–to send it to me here in the States. After running into a few dead ends, I finally reached out to the publisher Ara Llibres to see if I could buy it directly from them, and they kindly offered to send me a copy to review instead. I would be completely lying if I didn’t say how excited I was to get that package from Barcelona a few days ago. Read More
In poking around my blog’s archives, I found a post from 2009 documenting some tapas Michael and I made with our dear friend L to go along with a viewing of Vicky Cristina Barcelona later that evening. I cringe when I look at it now: awful photos and rather inane (and inaccurate!) commentary dominate it, and I barely wrote about the movie itself. I remember having a plan to go see it in the theater and then going to Barcelona Wine Bar when it came out, but weddings (including our own) and unexpected unemployment kind of put the brakes on that plan. Eventually I got the DVD, and then downloaded the soundtrack…and somewhere between seemingly endless drives around New Haven while listening to the soundtrack and a few more rewatches when we moved to New York, I came to the realization that I couldn’t quite quit this movie despite identifying several irritating quirks as well as having a general unease in enjoying anything Woody Allen makes. Read More
If you’ve lived in New York for any stretch of time, you understand the dynamics of crowds all too well: the tourist presses in Midtown and down Broadway in Soho, the dSLR-wielding would-be photographers swarming Union Square on a Saturday morning, the crush of commuters on a weeknight 4 train. I live with eight million other people, you think, so naturally I’m ready for any crowd, anywhere.
Visiting El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (otherwise known as simply La Boqueria) on a Saturday is an excellent way to test that theory. I’ve spent weeks now trying to come up with some sort of analogy to what the Boqueria experience is like, but the problem is there really isn’t a pure analogue. Fairway is a full-fledged brick and mortar store, the Greenmarket feels positively airy in comparison, and Eataly is…well, we’ll get back to Eataly in a bit. In the meantime, let me try to give you an idea of what it’s like to wander around this massive market.
<<begin second-person narrative>> Read More
It seemed like a good idea at the time to relish the beginning of fall on the beach in Caldes d’Estrac, swimming in the Mediterranean’s surprisingly strong current, and tucking into a delicious lunch at a tiny seaside restaurant. We had been teased with a quasi-sunny day the previous Friday, but clouds intervened before we were able to stay outside for long (not that it stopped me from at least getting a momentary dip in the sea) and so when that Monday dawned bright and sunny, there was naught else to do but go to the sea, armed with chairs and towels and books. I spent most of my time in the Mediterranean, either swimming or standing strong against the intense tide to collect seaglass, shells, and pieces of clay tile.
In retrospect, I think this was a bit of a mistake because I am now sure that this was the day that ruined the rest of the fall season for me and Michael. It doesn’t help that since we touched down in JFK that following Wednesday we’ve had more than our fair share of lousy weather (see: frankenstorm and then nor’easter), but even on our nicer days I’ve been yearning to go back to the little bar in front of Kalima and eat tapas, drink beer, and watch the sea while bathed in sunshine.
Our lunch that day was very simple: a starter of some anchovies and olive oil and bread, and then gambes a la planxa for me and pintxos moruns for Michael. I had been looking forward to getting those whole shrimp since we booked our tickets, but it wasn’t surprising when Michael went with some pork with a side of papas fritas; while we enjoyed at least a few meat dishes at every place we went to, the portions were not large and often they were cured, so when he had an opportunity to enjoy some fresh meat to himself, he took it. Read More
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? Read More
We came home from Barcelona and Caldes d’Estrac Wednesday afternoon after a long, but thankfully uneventful flight, and I am now in the process of going through the 600+ photos I took between the new camera and my cell phone. It was a restorative trip; swimming in the Mediterranean was as relaxing as wandering through city streets, and having the opportunity to not only see FC Barcelona play in Camp Nou, but to join in the roar of wild excitement, is not something that will be easy to forget as I listen to subsequent games on Radio Barca.
There are so many stories to tell and so many new things to cook as a result of this trip, but as I’m slowly making my way through it all, I wanted to at least give you a glimpse of what we saw, and what better image to share first than one of The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria? If Fairway is my NYC food heaven, then La Boqueria is my food market nirvana.
More to come soon…