Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted in Spain
I will not have lived in vain.
Hola! It's been a while! Did you miss me? Even if you do, I bet you won't recognize me coz' I have been busy stuffing my face on 3 different continents in the past 2 weeks. While the food in Hong Kong and Atlanta was amazing, I decided the end of my hiatus should be celebrated with a bang--- my trip to Catalonia. I started in Barcelona and ate my way through Costa Brava (the rugged northeastern coast of Spain) like a larva migrans through the skin, culminating in an epic pilgrimage to El Bulli.
Along the way, I consumed so much yumminess that I am only a few kilograms away (a nod to my European counterparts and the metric system, which is used by everyone else in the world, except...) from being eligible for bariatric surgeries. My cranial nerves I, VII, IX and X were maximally stimulated to the limits of their refractory periods. And my orgasms, food orgasms that is, were sufficiently climatic, prolonged and frequent enough that Jenna Jameson came up to me asking "How did you do that, Mr. Fantastic?"
Special shoutout to Wilson L., Siddique S., Philip S. and Elsy L., my fellow food-crazed gourmand, for making this trip of a lifetime possible, enjoyable and memorable.
Due to the sheer amount of calories involved, my Catalonia trip will be presented in a series of blog posts:
2. Alkimia (Michelin 1 Star, in Barcelona)
3. El Celler de Can Roca (Michelin 3 Star, in Girona)
4. Botic (Michelin 1 Star, near Girona)
5. Costa Brava
6. El Bulli (Michelin 3 Star, in Roses)
So here we go, Barcelona!
Since this was my 2nd time visiting Barcelona, I spent most of the day in the Barri Gotic area, also called the Old City where Barcelona's Gothic past came to life. After marveling at the intricate interior of the Barcelona Cathedral, I descended into the Roman ruins excavated under what is now the Museo de Historia de la Ciutat de Barcelona. Emerging from underground, I proceeded to bask in the ambiance of the remarkably preserved Medieval square Placa del Rei and wander in the narrow Gothic streets, until I stumbled upon Placa de Sant Jaume which is home to Barcelona's two most important government buildings--- the Palau de la Generalitat (seat of the Catalan government) and the Ajuntament (city hall). The majestic Placa de Sant Jaume quickly gave way to charming cobbled stone streets as I continued West on my way to La Rambla, when a lively farmer's market in front of Esglesia de Santa Maria del Pi caught my attention. While lively and busy, the farmer's market was no match for the gigantic Mercat de La Boqueria situated a few blocks away on the rumbling La Rambla. Having feasted on the freshest seafood possible in the Market, I kicked back at Cafe de l'Opera, a prime location on La Rambla, and rounded up the day at Placa Reial for yet more people-watching.
The 19th-century main facade of the Barcelona Cathedral, dating from 1298 AD. Unfortunately, it was under restoration.
The Barcelona skyline from the top of the Cathedral.
Basking in Gothic glory in Placa del Rei.
Barri Gotic was a labyrinth of narrow, charming pedestrian streets.
The Italianate facade of the Palau de la Generalitat (seat of the Catalan government) in Placa de Sant Jaume.
Local farmers selling artisanal cheese and honey, among other produce, with Esglesia de Santa Maria del Pi in the background.
Barcelona is rife with exquisitely decorated facades.
Sweets and candies.
My beloved blue fin tuna. It is not everyday that you get to stare a blue fin tuna straight in its eyes.
Sting-rays for dinner? I am down!
These are barnacles. Yes, you heard me right and you can actually eat them. If you are dying to find out what they taste like, stay tuned for my "Botic" post.
Assorted cured meats.
Aw... aren't they cute?
Iberico ham. The options were mind-boggling.
I couldn't resist the temptation, so I bought two slices, which were cut on the spot.
Well, I picked the most expensive kind I could find: €168.70/ kg . It was produced in D.O. Extremadura from acorn-fed pigs and aged for 4 years.
These two translucent slices cost me €6.75! The flavor was super concentrated yet not overwhelming. Though aged for 4 years, the meat still retained its moisture. The level of saltiness was perfect- I ate the two slices by themselves and I didn't need to chase them with water or melon afterwards. The €6.75 was well spent!
Inside the market, there were several bar-like eateries, where they cooked up the freshest ingredients available that day.
All I needed to do was to pick, point and eat.
I decided to try the monkfish since the first words that came to my mind were "cheap," ""mushy texture" and "yuck." I wanted to see if I would be pleasantly surprised... and I was! The monkfish steak was nearly an inch thick with a turgid texture similar to that of scallops. The cook lightly seasoned it with salt, pepper, herbs and lemon juice, and grilled it. The freshness was immediately palpable on first bite.
The rumbling La Rambla never ceases to be interesting.
Cafe de l'Opera occupies a prime location on La Rambla, where people-watching doesn't get any better.
La Rambla was lined with street performers, a lot of them with elaborate costumes and props. I think I saw this same performer 5 years ago. I felt bad for him for a minute, but then I realized he probably makes more money than a resident does.
Placa Reial was lined with bars and restaurants.
The statue of Columbus. Sunset in Barcelona.