Nestled beyond the glamour of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou, and beautiful beaches, is the Catalan neighborhood of Gracia. Although part of Spain in every way, you’ll see Catalan flags, hear Catalan spoken, and yes, eat Catalan food. This neighborhood in itself is like visiting another country. The cuisine however is grounded in Spanish tradition with just enough style and flare to set it apart from it’s more popular cousin. Devour Barcelona invited me to experience their morning food tour and I’m happy to report they didn’t disappoint. From eccentric and engaging restaurateurs to delicious and filling dishes, guest got their monies worth and then some. No stereotypical Spanish dishes here. Truly a unique experience. Check out our experience below.
Grilled botifarra sandwich with Cava
Family restaurant started in 1961 by current owners mother, Can Tosca is the perfect introduction to the Gracia neighborhood food scene. This Catalonian decorated eatery offers of light Spanish dishes which won’t only quell you hunger but might get you a bit tipsy as well. Botifarra is a loosely packed pork sausage serve on bread with a light olive oil and tomato sauce. It’s not as spicy as I like my sausages but has plenty of flavor. Our Botifarra was served with a Cava. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine. In the US we tend to drink this only on New Years Eve. In Spain, lunch time.
Seleccio d’Olives I Conserves Gloria
Olive and Salt Cod Skewer
Located inside Mercat de L’Abaceria Central market. The surprise pairing of Olives and Salted Cod caught me a bit off guard. I’m not a big fish fan but the marinated olives added great flavor. Largely drowning out the fish flavor while the saltiness accented the Olives. This stand was formerly run by the current owners in-laws and named after the husband. While the husband socialized and relaxed all day, his wife Gloria ran the stand. Hence why the new owner changed the name to Gloria’s. To honor her.
We learned that Spain has 262 types of Olive native to the country. Spain is the world’s leading producer of Olives which is why the Olive has long been such a staple in not only their cuisine, but their global economic position since the Middle Ages. Olives are a must try while in Barcelona and this is an excellent place to start.
La Trobabda del Gourmet
Spanish and Catalan Cheeses were on full display here. We started with an interesting pairing. Membrillo, and cheese. Each tasted great separate but not good together. I think this comes down to personal taste but I wasn’t alone in my dislike. I was first introduced to Membrillo by my host family in Santiago,Chile. It’s a jelly/jam like spread made out of different types of fruit. I can see the appeal but prefer Mebrillo and cheese to stay separate.
You can also try Manchego cheese here. Named the Best Cheese in the World 2012, this is a must try for cheese lovers. Now I’m an aged Cheddar man myself. Manchego didn’t win me over but I can understand the appeal when properly paired. It has a sweet flavor with a kind of buttery texture.
Olives are like oranges. Great olives make great olive oil. It stands to reason that the country which produces the largest quantity of Olives in the world and some of the best would also produce the best Olive Oil. Spain produces 45% of the worlds Olive Oil. This industry is heavily regulated in Spain to carry the label of extra virgin. A distinction we have manipulated and bastardized in the west. It was recently reported that 70% of the worlds “extra virgin” Olive Oil is fake. Something I didn’t know until we had this tasting. Much of what we have in the west is something called Lampante Oil. Lampante oil is bad Olive Oil treated with a small amount of quality extra virgin. It’s just fat and has none of the health benefits we want from Olive Oil. Not to mention the taste. After tasting several TRUE extra virgin olive oils, we tasted a Lampante oil. Disgusting. And THIS is exactly what I would buy at home and think was good. Side by side there is no comparison.
I also learned a bit about preservation. Oil should be stored in dark place. Not near heat like a stove which I’ve commonly done. Shelf life of good oil is around a year. The purer the oil, the shorter the shelf life. When purchasing oil be careful when reading Extra Virgin.
Quick tip, if you read the worlds “Olive-Pomace Oil” walk away. It’s trash.
This place has an inspiring story. The owner is a former engineer whom lost his job when the economy crashed. Instead of continuing in the field he followed a life long dream to own a restaurant. He found out that L’Anxoveta was going out of business and the staff would all be let go. So he came in, bought the restaurant, hired the old staff back, and revitalized the menu into what it is today. A vibrant blend of Catalonian and Spanish cuisine.
We tried the delicious Bomba. A potato and ground meat croquette with Brava sauce and aioli. It reminds me of the Turkish Icli Kofte or Kibbeh. The Brava sauce adds a light spice which isn’t usually found in Spanish cuisine. You’ll also get to make your own pa amb tomaquet. A relatively simple dish. Hard bread, garlic, and soft tomato. You rub the bread with fresh garlic to your liking then the tomato and enjoy. Simplicity is usually the way to go. You also get to choose between a Cana or a glass of Penedes wine. Cana is basically a draft beer. I was told that Spaniards drink more Cana than wine. Kind of blows my mind.
My favorite Spanish dish of this visit was the Bomba.
Handmade Syrian pastries
Mustafa is a Syrian immigrant who has enjoyed great success in Barcelona. He’s been in business over 30 years and caters many of the best restaurants in the city. The pastries reminded me of the high sugar content of Turkish pastries, clearly because of the Turkey/Syria proximity. Mustafa’s kitchen was working in full swing once we arrived, churning out trays upon trays of fresh and delicious pastries for shipping and individual sale.
Definitely a place to get your sugar rush. Try the Baklava. Not as sweet as I expected with a great nutty texture.
Bodega Ca’L Pep
Local Perruchi red Vermouth with fuet and pickeled anchovies
This place was old school. With naked women and Spanish pop culture spread throughout. You can feel the authenticity of this place not only through the décor but the other patrons who seem to have been coming here for decades.
A fitting introduction to the moonshine of wine. Vermouth. I assure you. No matter how seasoned of a drinker you are this highly alcoholic and cheap wine will pack a bit of a kick. No James Bond mix here folks. This was straight up diabetes sweet. And a bit think I might add.
The vermouth is paired with Fuet, a dried Catalan pork sausage, and pickled anchovies. I really didn’t understand this pairing. The sweetness of the Vermouth didn’t mesh well with the saltiness of the Fuet and Anchovies for me. BUT each on its own definitely had an appeal that I would try again.
La Botigueta del bon Menjar
Escalivada and Romesco “pintxo”. Homemade meatballs in a bean and pea gravy
WOW. Let me start by saying owner and chef Jose is a genius. His pairings are delicious and well-conceived. Contender for my favorite stop. Simply delicious. The only thing that kept this from taking my top spot was the Romesco sauce. It was a bit too salty for my taste but didn’t seem to bother others. It really was on the edge of being perfect and too salty. Personal taste thing.
I also tried some little chicken wings he had in the shop hiding. YES I LOVE CHICKEN!!!! He gave me a piece and I fell in love. Served at room temperature it reminded me of home-style hangover food. That day old chicken you grab from the fridge after a long night of drinks. Perfect. Go see Jose and what dishes he’s dreamt up.
Mini cremat and coffee/tea
Your last stop is another Pastieria. This however is more of what you may have come to expect. Teas, coffee, cakes, and pies. But they have one little star which changed my perception of my favorite French dessert, Crème Brulee. Pastieria Ideal serves mini Cremat’s. The Cremat was invented before Crème Brulee and is believed to be the inspiration behind it. It’s basically a Crème Brulee muffin. Sorry Barcelona. I’m a Crème Brulee mark. Viva La Resistance.
Devour Barcelona offers excellent value and expertise in their tour. The truly great thing about them is not only will they walk you through an amazing part of Barcelona, ALSO giving you the neighborhoods history, but afterwards give you a map of other amazing eateries around the city to try. This combo walking tour/food tour is not to be missed and I have a hard time believing anyone can leave this tour not excited to dive head first into the Barcelona Food Scene Happy eating.
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