Barcelona

Modernist architecture - The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau


An example of Modernist architecture – The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

My daughter and I took a long overdue Mother-Daughter vacation this summer to Barcelona. It was a brief trip, only two and a half days, but enough to whet our appetite for a return trip in the not too distant future.

Barcelona Street

Typical Street in Barcelona

We arrived early on a Thursday, checked the bags at the hotel and went in search of coffee. Sitting outside at a café, I was struck by the chalkboard menu on the sidewalk. I couldn’t possibly have forgotten that much Spanish, which I took in high school and college that I couldn’t remember the days of the week. Still in a fog from the time difference, I finally realized we were in Catalonia and that Barcelona is the capital and there is a mix of Catalan and Spanish in language, culture and food.

Pan Amb Tomaquet or tomato bread is a Catalan specialty and offered everywhere. Fortunately it’s easy to replicate.

Tomato Bread

Select a thin crusty bread and slice it lengthwise to expose the inside with all its cracks and crevices then cut into individual serving pieces, about three to four inches in length. It’s optional to toast the bread, but well worth it. Pop the cut pieces into a toaster or toaster oven until fragrant. Or, place briefly over a hot grill for a smokier version. Split a clove of garlic in half and gently rub across the warm inside of the bread. Cut a very ripe tomato in half vertically, poke out the seeds and rub all over the bread; a fleshy plum tomato works especially well. Garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Most importantly, don’t turn your back on these because they’ll be gone before you have a chance to grab one!

We stopped into a chain called Tapas Tapas for lunch one day and weren’t disappointed. We ordered several dishes and shared.

Beef with Garlic

Beef with Garlic

 

Skewered Octopus

Other tapas we tried included breaded Camembert with a tomato sauce.

Tapas - Camembert

Chicken satay.

Tapas - Chicken Satay

And, tangy Andalusian gazpacho with breadcrumbs for a thicker texture.

Tapas - Andalusian Gazpacho

I am a big fan of the hop-on hop-off bus tours, especially when it’s a first visit to a new city. You get to see and learn a lot in a short time. The option of getting off and exploring something that piques your curiosity and then hopping on a later bus eases the mind about timing or finding transportation. Our time was short and we rode the orange line our first afternoon, which toured the western side of Barcelona starting at Rambla Catalunya, comparable to Fifth Avenue in NYC. This tour took us past the Olympic game arenas, many, many beautiful landmarks and museums. The next day we took the tour to the west with magnificent views of the crystal blue water, sandy beaches and more amazing architecture.

On the last day, we each had our own special request. I wanted to spend the morning at La Boqueria and Margot wanted to spend the afternoon at the beach; excellent choices and a perfect way to end our visit.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, is a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district.

La Boqueria

This is the oldest European covered, open-air market with an abundance of options including butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable merchants, cheese vendors, and a specialty of the region and its cuisine, wild mushrooms, to name a few. There are numerous places to eat along the perimeter and within the market. We started the morning with a couple of Illy espressos with a dash of cream each, pretty daring for a girl who barely has a cup of decaf coffee in the morning, but it’s so intoxicating in aroma and flavor that it’s irresistible.

Illy Espresso

We circled around the long aisles for a couple of hours. I was ruing the fact that I had no kitchen to take numerous purchases back to and spend the rest of the day cooking and eating.

The season for fruits and vegetables is so much longer in warm climates. I was envious of the plethora of vibrant and ripe fruit.

La Boqueria -

La Boqueria - Cherries

La Boqueria - donut peaches

The presentation of the fruits and vegetables surpassed anything I’ve ever seen before. While everything was eye appealing on its own, what a difference the little flourishes of some vendors made.

La Boqueria - fruit display

This egg vendor really went to town with her display. All the eggs are snuggled in straw nests. Try and decide which kind of egg you’re going to buy!

La Boqueria - Eggs

Emu and ostrich eggs nestled in straw.

You rarely see white asparagus in the States, something we just never acquired a taste for. But it is sought after in Europe and considered quite the delicacy.

La Boqueria - white asparagus

Barcelona is a coastal town and seafood plays a major role in their cuisine. There were many fish mongers at the market, all with pristine displays of a wide variety of whole fish and filets, shrimp, lobster, octopus, cuttle fish, snails and more.

La Boqueria - Fish Monger

These prawns were so fresh; I imagined sautéing them in butter and garlic.

La Boqueria - Jumbo Prawns

If you’re a fan of bacalao, this is the place to be!

La Boqueria - salted fish

There are equally as many fresh meat, game, cured meat and poultry vendors.

La Boqueria - Meat Counter

This poultry vendor had one of the smallest cases, but she was flocked by many shoppers waiting to make a purchase. Always a sign of excellence.

La Boqueria - Poultry

Oodles of fine cheeses that would pair nicely with

La Boqueria - cheese vendor

any one of these sausages

La Boqueria - dried sausages

some thinly sliced jamon iberico (don’t you love the way they package this prized ham!),

La Boqueria - Jamon Iberico

La Boqueria – Jamon Iberico

or a selection from this olive bar.

La Boqueria - Olives

La Boqueria is a one-stop shopping experience. There didn’t seem to be an ingredient you’d need that you couldn’t find here, including spices, and

La Boqueria - Spices

fresh and dried wild mushrooms, a specialty of the region.

La Boqueria - dried mushrooms

Check out this candy vendor. This is better than any penny candy store I remember as a kid.

La Boqueria - Candy Stall

and how cute are these….

La Boqueria - Candy Stall

Margot topped off her visit with a coconut mango smoothie. I think she’s enjoying it! What do you think?

La Boqueria - mango coconut smoothie

The Beach

Next we were off to the W Hotel. Located on the beachfront of the Barceloneta boardwalk, the somewhat controversial hotel is designed to look like a sail, all steel and glass. It’s the modern construction and size that some take offense to. I liked it and thought it’s location suited the design.

W Hotel Barcelona

We weren’t guests of the hotel, but there are many restaurants along the beachfront and a beach bar, where we spent a few “happy” hours!

Barcaloneta walkway and "happy" hour.

Around 6pm, the beach was pretty empty and we went for a stroll. The sand is a little gritty and gave us a soothing foot massage with each step. You can see that Margot was very pleased with her choice for the afternoon!

Barceloneta Beachfront

It was a fast and fabulous few days and I do look forward to a return visit to spend time at some of the museums, restaurants and, of course, La Boqueria. I’m contemplating an apartment with a kitchen!!

Beef with Garlic
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 to 6
Garlic has a high sugar content and burns quickly; start the oil and garlic in a cold pan over medium to low heat and stir occasionally to brown evenly. The garlic chips can be made in advance, but be sure to save the garlic infused oil to cook the meat. The optimal size for the filet mignon is about one-half pound each. Cut the meat in half lengthwise and then into four pieces.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1-pound filet mignon cut into 1-ounce pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Freshly ground pepper
  2. Place the oil and garlic in a large sauté pan and keep a lowish flame. Stir occasionally to evenly brown the garlic.
  3. In the meantime, season the meat with salt and pepper on all sides.
  4. Remove the garlic chips with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  5. Turn up the heat to medium-high and sear the meat until nicely brown, about 2 minutes on the first side and a minute more on another side for medium rare.
  6. Place the meat on a serving dish and sprinkle the garlic chops over the meat.

 

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