The first thing we did after obtaining the keys of our totally fantastic service apartment, which is conveniently located, clean, smartly renovated & empowered with working airconditioner as promised in their website, was to go straight to Mercato Boqueria. Since it was a Monday many stalls were closed. Pinotxo bar was open but at 2.30 p.m. it had run out of many items, and being a Monday meant many seafood items were not available. Still, the wait for a counter place was long, 30 minutes to be precise, time in which to deduce how to order the dishes that looked good and to munch on fresh peaches, pears and cherries bought from neighbouring stalls.
Everything we ate were delicious: sauteed chickpeas, grilled peppers, croquettes of creamy cheese and ham, roasted cod with mushroom & shallot marmalade, tiny lamb chops and gazpacho. Fellow diners mostly tourists but there were some locals too.
Chickpeas close up: a humble bean sauteed with bits of garlic, shallots and I'm not sure what else, delicious and meaty tasting.
Passageways between buildings are shadowed and cool, to catch scenes of everyday life and tourist wanderings.
Then off to the shops along Passeig de Gracia for visiting some Gaudi landmarks and the wonderful shops along and alongside this beautiful avenue. In between a glass of pure orange juice, as in oranges go in one end of the machine and juice comes out the other end, and a small apple cupcake for tea and out again to do more shopping. Diesel, Loewe, Adolfo Dominguez etc etc. The shops closes at 8.30 pm which was when we headed to a tapas bar for some fresh potato tortilla and iberico jambon. Costa Gallega at 71 Passeig de Gracia was not really that good but it was convenient and I was tired. Walked all the way back to Placa Antonio Lopez, showered and watched telly. Spain is doing well in sports this year, first the Euro Cup, then Wimbledon.
Woke up early. Made tea with the water from the tap as husband says the water is potable but was not sure, the tea was very salty. Stopped by Bar Salvador at Canvis Nous 8 for some excellent coffee. Here I understand what wine on tap means.
Shopping along El Born is fantastic. All things chic and stylish but not as expensive as Passeig de Gracia. Many eateries in this neighbourhood. Bubo for fancy chocolates. Sagardi has a tapas bar featuring beautifully made sandwiches. They operate on an honour system: the waiter will ask for the toothpick at the end of the meal to count the tab. At 11.30 am the food looked pristine and tempting so we made a breakfast of a good selection. Surprise hits included an open faced one topped with a snowy pile of fake crab dressed in garlicky mayonaisse, as well as one topped with seafoody cream stuffed peppers. Ham sandwiches were not so good, Bellota Bellota in Paris has so spoiled us.
My favourite item was this simple tuna dressed in olive oil and scatterings of chopped onions. The Spanish just have such a way with canned fish don't they?
More shopping before we give in to more eating. Taller de Tapas is considered an upmarket tapas restaurant but it wasn't so bad, prices were relatively kind considering what we put up with in Paris and the food was faultless. I steered clear of expensive dishes (foie gras, lobsters etc) and stuck with the basics. We polished off everything.
The asparagus was sitting on the counter, we saw them trimming and cooking our dish from beginning to end. Spanish food really is WYSIWYG, no sauces, no trimmings, no fanfare.But they use too much salt. Later we bought bottled water to drink because the tap water is so salty it made my fingers swollen.
Creme caramel. There was a time when I visited Madrid, it was 1992. I ate churros in the morning, paella and creme caramel in the afternoon, tortillas and sangria for tea and garlic chicken alternating with green salad for dinners. Those were the days before internet and the redundancy of guide books.
Completely satiated, but with enough energy to explore all of the area. There is a lovely internet cafe in one of its winding passages to catch up on emails and twitterings, then more shopping and a dulce de leche gelato from Tomo II before ducking into a hairdresser's to escape the unrelenting heat and to have the hair washed and curled. As soon as I emerged into the heat, the curls deflated. Oh well.
On the way home we stopped at Vila Viniteca to get some fresh fruits but the selection looked sad. Inside though, they have an amazing selection of charcuterie and even more amazing one of cheeses. We bought some ham, and foraged among the neighbourhood grocers for some flat peaches, scoring also some freshly made potato samosas which were cheap and delicious. After a much needed shower we settled ourselves on the sofa and watched telly in airconditioned comfort while the sun beat in through the windows warming our DIY tapas.
At 7.30 p.m. it was safe to venture out again, to Port Vell with its many boats bobbing in the water and the smell of seafood cooking and salty breezes gently blowing. Doesn't the light look Turner-ish?
At Barceloneta beach a nude cyclist whizzed past me and we saw a tilting sculpture by Rebecca Horn.
We were not really hungry but still wanted to eat some seafood. Settled randomly for Barceloneta because it looked like a place where the locals entertain their visitors. It was huge but still, we had no reservations and the gatekeeper tried to fob us off with a table at a secluded end next to the toilet. We decided to wait and after 20 minutes we were shown to a balcony table, much better. Husband ordered a sparkling rosé to drink, the colour was like sparkling jewels and it was very easy to drink. Starter of fried calamari was excellent, but not so were main dishes of arroz negro (salty, and I don't mean the saltiness you'd expect from seafood) and shrimps sauteed with peppers (overcooked).
For dessert we tried Creme Catalane which is similar to but not exactly like creme brulée. For one, it is more runny. Two it is more eggy and three is is so much richer. Four, it was served cold. Not an altogether bad way to end our second day in Barcelona.
In next post, we are joined by a very famous food blogger. The pace intensifies and we experience more highs and some lows of the local gastronomic scene.