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, Barcelona

(Food market, Las Ramblas – Credit)

So…what to eat? Check out my top 10 favorite Barcelona bites.

1. Esqueixada

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)

2. Escalivada

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

3. Cargols

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

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Endless Road Trip Boston: Ye Olde Union Oyster House

On our Sam Adams tour, we heard references to the Union Oyster house several times during the two hours we were there. One memorable reference was to their food, while the other was to a beer that they brew only to serve at that one location. So obviously, our post-brewery eating agenda was set.

Of course, what’s a trip to Boston without a little history?!  The Union Oyster House claims to fame because of its food, yes, but also its history. It’s the oldest restaurant (in continuous service) in the United States. The restaurant has seated members of the Union Army, those damn Red Coats (I’m sure), presidents and politician, including plenty of those Kennedys. Apparently JFK had a favorite booth upstairs that is now dedicated to him—“The Kennedy Booth.”

It’s also more in more demand than we thought…with a three-hour wait, we had reservations at 10:00 P.M. It was also worth it…

Oyster House Clam Chowder

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Endless Road Trip Seattle: Curry to Thai for

I’ve saved the best for last. The best thing I miss about Seattle, the best restaurant memories from my years of college in the University District, the best Thai food I’ve ever had. Yes, I’m that passionate about it. Thai Tom is my favorite restaurant in Seattle even though it’s a cash-only hole-in-the-wall with hit-or-miss service, multiple health department warnings, an undeniably intense spice level, legions of whiny Yelp detractors, and often a long wait on the dirty sidewalk of the Ave.

It’s fine, I’ll call out all those detriments. I challenge you to take one bite of Thai Tom’s curry and disagree with my ardent assessment of their amazing food. After your wait, after cramming into a wobbly wooden table or a crowded corner spot in front of the open-kitchen wok, after agonizing over which dish to order off their hand-painted wooden panel menus, after hungrily watching the sweaty chefs pouring piping-hot, incredibly fresh sauces over snowy balls of rice in glass troughs and praying that order is yours… once you’re endured that, the first bite (and every subsequent bite) is worth enduring the Thai Tom process. The food is heaven.

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Endless Road Trip Seattle: Now That’s a Spicy Cocktail

I’m kind of fickle when it comes to spicy stuff. Sometimes I love it (5-star Thai curries, chipotle peppers, Cholula on my scrambled eggs) and sometimes it’s just too much for me (stirfry drenched in red chili paste, jalapeños on my nachos, super hot BBQ sauce). Where do I draw the line and why? Who knows? I like what I like, and that’s that.

Here’s something spicy that I really like: the spicy tequila cocktails at Poquito’s. I’ve written about this hip and delicious restaurant/bar before, back when I lived in Seattle, and they keep finding ways to make me happy. One particular thing I keep coming back to is the La Fiona: their boozy, fruity, and yep — very spicy — cocktail concoction made of passionfruit puréehabañero-infused tequila, and agave nectar, complete with a chipotle-sugar rim.

While it’s offered as a cocktail, I usually order the La Fiona as a shot (left). And then I don’t even shoot it, but gingerly sip. Why? Well, as the menu warns us, this drink is “Extra spicy! Order at your own risk!” and they aren’t kidding. Sometimes I like to do a little one-two punch and get my La Fiona shot alongside another milder drink such as their delicious Fresa margarita made with strawberry-infused tequila (right).

I’ll be the first to admit that Seattle isn’t exactly known for its Mexican scene, but I promise a visit to the Poquitos bar can change that. Mouth-burningly spicy, tropical and tangy thanks to the passionfruit, and a bit smoky and sweet thanks to its rim, the La Fiona is a complex party of flavors in your mouth (and liver). Pair it with some of Poquitos’ incredibly fresh, made-to-order guacamole and crispy tortilla chips, or perhaps their luxurious ceviche, and enjoy.

Poquitos / 1000 E. Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122 / 11:30a-2:30a

Also on The Endless Road Trip: Seattle
1. The Most Powerful, Brouwerful Hour
2. Clucking Great Fried Chicken
3. Porky Passion at Paseo
4. Hipster Hangover Brunch

Endless Road Trip Seattle: Hipster Hangover Brunch

I bet by this point in my Seattle journey you’re like “she must be done talking about grease-laden brunch foods.” But, my friends, you are sadly mistaken.

Smith is an ultra-hipster tavern featuring rustic, seasonal pub fare and a relatively small yet lovingly curated, unique beer list. A cavernous bar featuring taxidermy and slightly creepy portraits of old men with beards, it may seem like a strange choice for the first meal of the day, but I had been dreaming about their gastropub grub every morning of my trip. Trust me, feeling like you’re chillin’ on the set of a Portlandia sketch is worth it for this brunch.

My old apartment in Capitol Hill was a short three-block walk from Smith, so my body had been used to their piping hot mugs of Stumptown coffee, their creamy, salty sweet potato fries dipped in rich aioli, and their beefy breakfast entrees on a very regular basis.

The number one stunner, though, is Smith’s breakfast sandwich. This is no run-of-the-mill McMuffin knock-off. It might just be the heartiest and best hangover meal in Seattle: fatty, thick shreds of brisket topped with a runny fried egg, fried green tomatoes, hot mustard, and melted gruyêre cheese, all piled onto a warm, buttery potato bun. Rob ordered it and to this very day he won’t stop waxing poetic about how delicious it was; this is a Texan appraising brisket, so no small praise.

Smith / 332 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102 / 4pm-2am Mon-Fri / 10am-2am Sat-Sun

Also on The Endless Road Trip: Seattle
1. The Most Powerful, Brouwerful Hour
2. Clucking Great Fried Chicken
3. Porky Passion at Paseo


Endless Road Trip Seattle: Clucking Great Fried Chicken

Most people think of salmon as Seattle’s prime protein, and while it’s true that seafood is a Northwest mainstay, this city can cook up some fried meat just as well as any southern hotspot. Thanks to Oprah, Seattle has been lauded for Ezell’s chicken, but I have a different go-to for fried bird: Skillet Diner in Capitol Hill. Famous for their cult hit bacon jam, Skillet started out as a small food trailer that became so popular they were able to afford a brick-and-mortar place in Capitol Hill; prime real estate.

Skillet’s burger and grilled cheese are amazing, but to me, nothing beats their fowl. I’m most fond of the fried chicken sandwich on fresh potato bread with pickled and charred jalapeño aioli and kale. It’s served with another Skillet signature, their ridiculous poutine, a giant pile of fries smothered in a gratuitous amount of herbed cheddar sauce:

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Endless Road Trip Seattle: The Most Powerful, Brouwerful Hour

As loyal ES readers may remember, earlier this year I moved to Austin, Texas from my longtime home of Seattle. Last month I went back home for a visit, and I made it a point to be a food tourist in my hometown and revisit my favorite food and drink experiences of the Emerald City.

Seattle has a pretty intense happy hour culture. Seriously — every bar, restaurant, and coffee shop has some sort of drink or food special going on in the early evening. Why? Probably because it’s so dreary and unappealing outside most of the time, businesses need to drag people out of their cozy apartments by any means possible.

One of my favorite happy hours in Seattle technically isn’t a happy hour at all; it’s Power Hour at Brouwers, an amazingly stocked Belgian beer hall in the pleasantly funky Fremont neighborhood. With 64 beers on draft (almost all local or regional craft brews) and over 300 beers available by the bottle, this place is heaven for beer lovers, especially those seeking out hard-to-find European varieties.

Not only is Brouwers’ booze selection great, but they have a solid food menu. These are no average happy hour bar bites; we’re talking freshly baked pretzels with beer-cheese sauce, Belgian-style mussels, frites with spicy, creamy Dragon Sauce.

Brouwers is also home to some of my favorite sliders ever: Carbonade SlidersBelgian-braised Kobe beef with bacon and St. Bernardus beer, topped with the aforementioned beer-cheese sauce on a brioche bun. Richest baby sandwiches ever?! Maybe, and perfect when washed down with a strong, sweet ale.

Power Hour can be enjoyed from 3-6pm any day of the week, either inside Brouwers’ cavernous, castle-like inside or their serene outdoor patio. Happy hour pricing or not, this little taste of old Europe is worth a trip outside, rain or shine.

Brouwer’s Cafe / 400 N. 35th St, Seattle, WA 98103 / 11am-2am daily

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