Monday, February 16, 2009

Trip to Spain--Part1

There are only 2 downsides to Spain, as far as I am concerned: everyone smokes (even the babies and the dogs) and free wi-fi is hard to come by. Everything else was fantastic! Dave, my most excellent and handsome travel partner has half the pictures, so I'll add those as I get them.

We landed Sunday morning, checked in, took a nap, and wandered off into the Gothic Quarter in search of libations. Finding Placa Reial we settled on the touristy but reliable and beautiful Taxidermista--Dali and Miro's old hangout. Here we started a week-long habit of ridiculous eating: Dave had Foie Gras with citrus confit, and I had Bacalao (fried salt cod) with the most delicious white beans ever. Al dente and more like quinoa or pearled barley in texture. The name might have been ____ Ganchet? Since we also had a bottle of Xarel.lo (it was breakfast so we stuck with a white) I can't read my handwriting. It also started a bizzarre trend of bad music soundtrack for our vacation. The Tina Turner, Beatles and Saturday night Fever were just the beginning, capped off by Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" in the taxi back to the airport. *shudder* After a few hours of wandering we found a delightful local market with an amazing cheese selection, where I purchased the first of many items I would later sneak past customs.

All that walking left us thirsty, so we popped into VildsVin Antiga Taverna in search of flinty Sherry. A few glasses of salty Fino later we were ready for another nap and a shower. Life is hard. For dinner that night we stumbled upon PLA (named after the chef Josep Pla). Beautiful and typical of many restaurants in the old city, it was a glass fronted modern space carved out of a 15th century stone building. Super friendly waitstaff (who were kind with my stabbing attempts at speaking Catalan), interesting graphic/art video projections on the wall above us, and a delightful menu. Everything from kangaroo carpaccio starter to yogurt honey mousse with pinenuts dessert. Accompanying all the deliciousness was the heartiest rose (rosat in Catalan) I've ever had. It was from Monsant: "Poigenc" Syrah. Full, spicy, with dark fruit notes and a hint of candied orange on the finish. Perfect with Dave's plank smoked salmon and grilled ramps. I was feeling much better at that point (I'd had a 48 hour flu with 102 degree temperature the day before we left), so of course we had to hit the cordials: Badalonci (sp?--handwriting is a lost art) Anisette and Galician Porta del Mino Orujo Herbes (kind of like a Spanish grappa infused with citrus, rosemary, oregano and fennel). Needless to say I was instantly hooked and added it to my list of smuggleables. Side Barcelona Portishead is considered dinner music.

The next morning, in a fit of Facebook withdrawl, we blew the transformer and most of the fuses in the room. Classic. The guys at reception loved us by the end of our stay. Silly Americans that we are, we tried to get coffee to "go" so as to not waste time getting to the Boqueria Market. Doesn't exist. Sit down and drink a cafe amb let (cafe con leche) for goodness sake! We got to the market and WHOA. At this point it's Europe's largest, as well my personal foodie fantasy. Since we had to eat, we pulled up barstools at the boisterous Pinotxo Bar. The lively old gentleman behind the bar practically pinched my cheek when I hit him with my well calculated, "Bon Dia!" and asked, all in Catalan (oops--it's not like I SPEAK it?!) what we wanted to eat. There was no menu. We looked around and he points to me and asks if I like verduras and something else that I figured out was chick peas. I nodded. He asked Dave, "carne?" Dave nodded. What showed up was a classic Catalunyan breakfast (though admittedly more traditional for people who do physical labor rather than sell wine all day): Dues Birras (2 beers), carxofes (boiled and grilled artichokes) and salted potatoes, and Cua del Toro (12 hour braised bull's tail. Yup. For breakfast. Booyah!

Next post: market photos.