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January 30, 2013

Barcelona – A Culinary Wonderland

The Catalonia region of Spain has undergone a culinary revolution with its innovative molecular cuisine, so when my sister and I decided to go on an epicurean adventure we knew we had to go to Spain. It was her first time visiting this fascinating country and I was excited to share this experience with her. 
 

We began our journey in the seaside capital of Catalonia – Barcelona – one of the most dynamic cities in the world fusing centuries of culture with an avant-garde approach to food, style, art and architecture. One walk down the Passeig de Gràcia to look at the Modernista/Art Nouveau buildings designed by famous architects like Antoni Gaudi and you will know what I am referring to.

Barcelona has a flavor all its own. It is a foodie’s dream destination with world famous chefs like Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arzak and Carmen Ruscalleda who have literally given new meaning to the term Culinary Arts, and while there we made sure to take full advantage of this culinary wonderland with visits to some of the city's most renowned eateries.

We began our adventure with a stroll down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most vibrant and lively promenade, for a delicious seafood lunch at KIOSKO UNIVERSAL (n.691) at La Boqueria Market. This famous food market is the place where Catalan people shop, eat, and embody the meaning of living-well, something the Spanish excel at. Kiosko Universal is where world famous chefs like Mario Batali come to eat when they’re in town. The fish is the freshest available and it’s cooked to perfection. Everything from exotic spices, to decadent chocolates, to fresh fruits, to homemade breads can be found at La Boqueria. It is a colorful, flavorful, and aromatic feast for the senses!  
 

So, how do you top that? With dinner reservations (worth their weight in gold) to Chefs Ferran and Albert Adria's new tapas bar TICKETS! Here we experienced dish after dish of culinary bliss. It is clear that these two artists know no limits to gastronomic creativity; a belief supported by our server, the lovely Maria, who passionately described each course as if explaining a science experiment, which is in fact the discipline behind Spain's revolutionary take on food. After all, award-winning chef Ferran Adria is the genius behind El Bulli fame, and Tickets has done a masterful job of applying the molecular gastronomy of El Bulli to simpler dishes with continued emphasis on freshness, colour and flavour. And though every course was simply sublime, we must give honorable mention to the razor clams, the spherical olives, the egg with truffle, and the watermelon infused with gin – phenomenal! 16 courses and 3 desserts later, my sister agrees - Spain is a paradise for your palate!
 

The next day we visited the city’s most renowned sites; La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and Park Güell, as well as the medieval Jewish and Gothic Quarter located in the centre of the old city of Barcelona. La Barri Gótic as they call it in Spain is full of character and personality. I love sitting at the cafés here and people watching, especially at night when the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia takes on a mystical appearance.  


We decided to lunch at a local tapas bar bustling with energy where the selection was endless and the flavors simply delicious. Few things are as synonymous with Spanish culture as tapas and I’ve had the privilege of enjoying many during my visits to Spain. Though tapas aren’t a typical Catalan tradition, overtime it has become popular and there is a large selection of tapas restaurants in Barcelona too. Some of my favorites are: EL VASO DE ORO, MAITEA, QUIMET I QUIMET, and BAR RAMÓN.
 

Dinner that evening was at the 170 year old restaurant 7 PORTES located on Barcelona’s waterfront to enjoy, in my opinion, the best paella in all of Catalonia – the Paella Paralleda. This was my second visit to this classic Barcelona eatery and they did not disappoint. The food was as delicious as I remembered and the old-world ambiance was a perfect backdrop to such a classic dish.
 

After a long stroll through the streets of Barcelona, we ended our evening with drinks on the rooftop patio of our hotel, the HOTEL PULITZER. Their rooftop garden patio is not only beautiful with stunning views, but they also serve the most delicious Cherry Mojitos. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we loved our stay at the Hotel Pulitzer. The hotel is simply stunning with its cosmopolitan décor and professional staff. They took care of reservations, ordering cabs, anything we requested was met with a friendly smile. Keep in mind that the hotel is also located next to Plaza Cataluña, where the city's two most cosmopolitan avenues begin: Paseo de Gracia and Las Ramblas. Location! Location! Location!  
 

On our final day we decided to sit back and enjoy the city on board an open-top, double-decker bus. The Hop-on Hop-off Tour is located at Plaza Cataluña and is a relaxing way to explore the city. Spend as much or as little time at places of interest before jumping aboard for the next stop - the choice is yours!

I wanted our final meal in Barcelona to be a tribute to the greatness of Catalan cuisine, so I chose SENYOR PARELLADA where the food is not only delicious and fresh, but the décor a real showstopper. The restaurant boasts black & white checkered floors and lemon yellow and blue dining rooms that are in distinct contrast to the XIX Century facade. We couldn’t have been happier with our restaurant choice. What better way to end a culinary holiday than on a delectable note!