The Endless Road Trip: Barcelona
ES guest Tom Bolton joins us today to share his top 10 fave bites in one of the world’s best food towns…
As a port city on the Mediterranean coast, just a stone’s throw from France, Barcelona is amongst the most important culinary centres in Europe. The Catalan cuisine here is a unique fusion of flavors, combining not only the region’s rich mar i muntanya (sea and mountain) resources, but also tastes from nearby Italy, Africa, Portugal, and Greece. So no matter the time of day or part of the city you happen to find yourself in, there is always a wealth of edible delight around the corner.
(Food market, Las Ramblas – Credit)
So…what to eat? Check out my top 10 favorite Barcelona bites.
A delicious salad that makes for a perfect lunch on a hot day. The dish consists of raw shredded cod with tomato, onion, and bell pepper, and is often garnished with pieces of hard boiled egg. The texture of the shredded fish is particularly distinctive – as one cafe owner kindly explained, the name of the dish is derived from the Catalan word esqueixar, which means “to shred.”
(Esqueixada de Bacalla – Credit)
This dish is often served as a side to accompany grilled meats, but don’t be afraid to try it as a main course! A surprisingly filling meal, escalivada is prepared by grilling and smoking a variety of vegetables on the glowing coals of a wood fire. A hearty and filling dish, it commonly includes aubergine, sweet red peppers, onion, tomatoes, and garlic.
Escalivada with garlic and parsley – Credit
Don’t be squeamish, this is the Catalan take on escargot! As with escalivada, this dish is widely available as both a main course and a side dish. The snails are cooked in garlic and vinegar on a coal fire, and are often served with a very spicy sauce. A true Catalan delicacy, this is a specialty that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Cargols a la llauna – Credit
A traditional Catalan stew that dates back over half a millennium, this dish is generally served in two or even three courses. The soup or broth is served with pasta as a starter, followed by the meat and vegetables as a main course (or even several main courses!) The meat you will usually find in this delicious soup is a pilota, a large spiced meatball.
Pot of Escudella – Credit
Another dish with a rich culinary heritage. A seasoned Catalan sausage filled with an assortment of nuts, truffles, spices, blood, egg, and rice, you will find street vendors selling these in much the same manner as Bratwursts in Germany. Although often boiled in soups, we recommend trying it barbequed.
Grilled Butifarra – Credit
My personal favorite, a truly rustic and filling dish. Barbequed baby spring leeks with romesco sauce, and yes, they taste as delicious as they look!
Calcots (barbequed baby leeks) – Credit
When it is finally time for desert, often sometime around midnight, be sure to make room for these not-to-miss Barcelona specialties:
7. Crema Catalana
A rich custard dish with a hard caramel top, not unlike the French dish crème brulee. The main difference is that this Barcelonean dish is flavored with cinnamon and lemon zest, giving it a slightly lighter and more festive edge. It is also seared with an iron broiler rather than a blowtorch (as seen below).
Crema Catalana – Credit
8. Mel I Mato
Soft and unsalted goats cheese with honey and often toasted walnuts. Not as easy to find as Crema Catalana, but a unique and distinctive dish that is worth hunting down!
Mel I Mato – Credit
Undoubtedly my favorite Barcelonean dessert! The traditional dessert of the All Saints holiday, panellets are small, spherical sweets made with almonds, sugar and eggs. The most popular (and delicious variety) are adorned with pine nuts. Do not miss!
Panellets – Credit
10. End of the Day
For those who plan to do a bit of cooking on their trip (and for anyone else interested in the local food, really), be sure to spend an afternoon shopping at the La Boqueria market in the Cuitat Villa district. It has been around since 1217, and stands today as one of the most impressive and diverse food markets in Europe––some say the world.
Afterward, it is highly recommended that you pick up a bottle of cava (the Catalan take on champagne) at a local wine shop on the way back to your room. Pour a nightcap with your travel companion, unwind after the day’s excitement, and toast the prospect of tomorrow being yet another exquisite day of gastronomic gallivanting!
Cava – Credit
Tom is an ardent food lover and seasoned traveler of Europe. Always in search of new flavors and authentic cuisine, he recently discovered the culinary delights of Catalan and Barcelona. He blogs for HouseTrip.com.