Archive | March, 2012

Day 6 El Quim: Busy-ness, as usual, and no business tomorrow

28 Mar

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So, I shucked 10 Kilos of fava beans today for a very traditional dish that incorporates a special blood sausage, the elbow of a pig, and fresh mint.  I forgot the name of it, but will post it when I remember.  One of my highlights of today was seeing new friends again that Carnet and I met yesterday at lunch.  Mary and family from Chicago came into lunch today before they headed to the Joan Miro museo. They are a model family – nice son, smart mom and dad, and mom is gorgeous! She is 10 years older than me but looks younger than me.  They are very interested in food and we talked a lot about it, as well as their vacation with their son who is studying in Paris at the moment but knows Spanish. I love it when people bond over food and new friendships develop out of that!  

This will be a very short “work” week for me. I took yesterday off, as it was Carnet’s last day in town for possibly 2 months.  Then, tomorrow, apparently there is going to be a nationwide strike. So, Quim is closing in solidarity.  I’m not sure how widespread the strike will be and if it will impact all forms of public transportation, but I’ll be curious to see and hear how it all goes.  Just in case, I bought enough food for tomorrow and right now I’m making chicken soup with lots of fresh ginger, garlic and cilantro root.  I had a hankering for the Chinese/Thai soup that Carnet learned from his grandmother.  Mine won’t even be close to how good hers, and Carnet’s is, as I’m omitting the Thai chilies due to continued stomach yelling. But the smells are already wafting into my bedroom and I’m just as excited.

It was another gorgeous and 65 degrees F day in Barcelona.  If it’s the same tomorrow, I’m going to walk to the beach – maybe 3-4 miles away. The mediterranean water is too cold to jump in at this point, but if I get hot, I know a delicious sorbet place on the way 😉

Tangent: the picture at top is one of the courses we ate at Lolita Monday night.  Remind anyone of Hawaii? Seared ahi tuna, rare inside, topped with a light ponzu and a fresh tomato fondue of sorts.  Delicious!  Our last course was chicken that was rolled in potato chips and then deep fried.  That is a child’s dream right there.

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Days 4 and 5 at Quim’s; Monday at Alimentaria; Monday night at Lolita

27 Mar

And, so there is Team Quim (except we’re missing Marcos; he didn’t work that day). From left to right: Ricardo (in back), Christian, Yuri (Quim’s son), Quim, Joan, me, Jordi (standing), and Antonio (kneeling down).

This team has loads of fun.  So unlike most kitchens in the U.S., this team has stayed with Quim for years – some since they were in their teens, which means 10+ years. They are family.  Quim treats them well, they laugh a lot, and they work their butts off.  One day I hope to run a kitchen in which my staff would walk the plank with me, as well, if necessary.  Quim’s staff – family – is all in!

So, Carnet was onto something 20 years ago when he “invented” a sandwich at our favorite Italian deli in Oakland – the artichoke and quiche sandwich.  This is breakfast in Catalonia – tortilla inside toasted bread = bocadillo.  A tortilla, of course, is a frittata of sorts.   On Thursday, Quim made me a breakfast bocadillo.  Get ready for this: seared foie, grilled asparagus, tomato rubbed on the inside of one piece of sesame baguette, aoli rubbed on the inside of the second piece of baguette, a boneless pork chop, all toasted.   It was crazy good.  Foie for breakfast?  Me…. eating foie at all?  It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.  Ridiculously rich.

Speaking of grilling, they do the most amazing things in a very small space at El Quim. They use 1/2 the grill (as the other half is used for pan storage), they use 3 gas burners max (most of the time 2) as the others are used for storage, 1 convection oven,  and 1 regular oven.  This is all in the main kitchen area that is roughly 5×8 feet. No lie.  In the main kitchen there are usually 6-7 people, total: 4-5 cooks and 2 servers, depending upon the day.  And, I add one more to that equation.  In the El Petit Quim area, which was an addition Quim added on not too long ago, there is another 1-2 people, but usually just Ricardo and occasionally Marcos.  The Petit Quim area is about 2 1/2 feet wide by 6 feet long.  This area is home to desserts, the coffee bar, other cold appetizers, and the area where Ricardo makes the sauces and desserts.

Thursday (Day 4), I hung out with Ricardo and Marcos and learned to make salsa brava (to put on the patatas bravas) and I cut and cut and cut vegetables for the vegetable and lobster crudo salad.  It was delicious.  Think carrots, zucchini, mango, and mushrooms – all raw – cut in uniform tile shapes, about 1/4 of the size of my pinky nail.  That all got mixed with lobster and then topped with vinegar, salt and pepper.

I managed to nick off just a bit of my pinky after a few hours of chopping, but it has recovered nicely.   I can’t say the same for my stomach. I finally had to break down and take some antibiotics.  My system is not used to the different bacterias in the food here, yet.  3 days of crazy stomach purges and it was time to take drastic measures.  The great thing about that is I went to the bathroom so much that one of the bathroom attendants made me my own key.  I wonder what she must have thought of me.  Crazy American!

More pics:

Papa and son.  Both of them are incredibly sweet, and very different than one another; Quim is outgoing and gregarious; Yuri if pensive and reserved. But, both love cooking and smiling, and are very intelligent.

Yuri and me.

On Saturday, my love came back into town. He is amazing. He was awake for over 48 hours and he wanted to go out to dinner when he arrived – probably just to please me. So, we walked about 100 yards into the cute little courtyard of my neighborhood in which there are 4 restaurants, Fo Bar (favorite cafe), microbrewery, and a bar with a pool table. We sat outside, as it was such a gorgeous night, and ordered a bottle of ribera del duero, a craprese salad (homemade mozzarella and tomatoes – yummmm), squid ink pasta with some sort of squash sauce that was outrageously delicious, tiramisu and lim sorbet with cava poured over it. I didn’t think Spanish-Italian food could be that good. Really nice fusion of the two.

Sunday, we went to Parque Guell, and then back to the apartment for a 4 hour nap, since Carnet had barely slept and my stomach was giving me a lot of trouble.

Monday, we met Quim and Yuri at the entrance of the boqueria. Quim drove us to a food and wine expo called Alimentaria, in which we walked around several great halls full of food and beverage distributors with other Quim folks and friends. We sampled several yummy things, including too much wine. Here’s Carnet’s tag (he’s now officially part of Quim’s marketing team, according to the forms we filled out. I lost my tag, but I was a “cocinera” – cook – for Quim).

Here’s the food and wine expo crew, minus Yuri who had had enough about 3 hours into it (we were there for 6 hours).

And, Carnet loving being amongst all the jamon:

We were way too tipsy from the small samples of food and the overly generous samples of cava and ribera del duero, so we asked Quim where we should eat. He suggested a friend’s place, called Lolita. It’s also an Albert Adria restaurant, if I’m not mistaken. It was Inopia, but then it closed and re-opened as Lolita. So, 10 courses plus dessert and a bottle of cava later, we were stuffed and so ready for bed. Unfortunately, Carnet had the “meat sweats” and couldn’t sleep. I’m rooting for him to get some sleep tonight, although we ate another extravagant meal at Quim’s today for lunch. You would think I was the princess of Spain the way Quim spoils me. He’s says it’s because I’m working in the kitchen for no money. Really? I think I’m doing more eating of his profits than anything else. Indeed, I might be the princesa of El Quim.

Day 3: El Quim

22 Mar

Now that I have several hundred artichokes under my belt, I fully plan to put the fried artichokes on my menu of the restaurant I’ll one day open.  Think chips, except artichoke slices AND WAY BETTER. 

I now feel part of the team.  The jokes are flying and although my attempt at humor in Spanish is often lost on most everyone because my humor doesn’t translate that well, I still laugh at my own jokes.  For instance, “Everybody in the pool”, didn’t translate as funny when I said it in Spanish (Toda en la piscina). I was trying to ask if all the meatballs were going into the oil and I made a diving motion.  No matter. I laughed.

Quim’s joke of the day:  Rachel, want to see a Spanish iPhone?  Me: – Looking quizzical because I think I’m not understanding what he says i.e. is there a specific iPhone for Spain?  Quim then holds up an old cell phone with no internet capability, and to it he has taped a fresh apple.  Funny.

Besides all the jokes and fun we have, I am learning things.  I learned to make their spicy romesco-style sauce and their mojito sorbet today.  Ricardo was charged with showing me and there is almost no common language between us.  No matter, I shook my head a lot, as hand gestures and pointing were about 90% of what I needed to understand.  

I am also doubling as a waiter.  Whenever an English-speaking customer comes in, I hear a “Rachel”.  Then, I come from behind the counter and go to the bar to speak with them.  All the guys can see over the bar, but I can’t so much due to my height (also funny).  I helped several people from the U.S. today, as well as a group from Thailand, one from Japan, and another one from China.  Then, I’ve had several people speak to me in French and one couple spoke to me in Portuguese.  When I said I didn’t understand, then they all spoke in English and said that I looked French, and then Portuguese, respectively.   It’s kind of nice to “blend” over here (even if I do blow it once I open up my mouth).   I’ve had a few people tell me I speak Spanish like I’m from California.  Huh.  Even though my Spanish is still not where I want it to be, Quim asked me to translate to an English-speaking couple today.  He was talking to me in Spanish and then I translated in English.  It was a very proud 30 seconds for me.

With the leftover seaweed Quim got for me, he made us a seafood and seaweed risotto for lunch.  It was outrageously delicious. Super creative. With that, he paired a Ribera del Duero, which is a red wine from central Spain. Then, he spoiled me with a gorgeous chocolate cake from the best chocolate shop in Spain – Escriba.  I am getting fat.

I am going to take Bee Leng’s suggestion and make a pesto with the remaining seaweed.  At the grocery store tonight, I actually saw something similar!  It was tomato and roasted red pepper based, with onion, garlic and seaweed.  Thanks, Bee Leng, for the suggestion. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to make shoyu chicken, rice, and wok vegetables for Diana and her kids.  She’s going to pick me up on her scooter and then we’re going to scoot to her barrio.  Lots of people drive scooters here, since parking is so expensive in Barcelona, proper. In fact, there’s very little parking since the town is so old, as are most of the magnificent buildings, and that means there are only a few underground parking lots and no parking structures. There’s no room for them.  It’s rather lovely.

Off to try to rescue my white – I mean horrendously dirty and greasy not-so-white-anymore – chef’s jackets.  I bought an eco-friendly spot remover made in France. Hoping it works!  Stay tuned for some pics. I’ll remember to take some in the next few days.

 

 

Day 2: El Quim

21 Mar

Today was another fun day of staging.  Quim’s son, Yuri, is very gracious, and he’s teaching me how to make certain dishes.  He told me that whenever the asparagus with bacon, or the calamari, or the mixed seafood plates were ordered, that I’d make them.  This was excellent, since they were all grilling items.  I love their food – so simple, fresh seafood, lots of olive oil, piping hot grills and pans, just a few sauces, lots of garlic and cava.  You don’t need much more than that when you’re using top shelf ingredients.

And, of course Quim spoiled me again with a ridiculous lunch.  He treated me to a really special fish, the skin of which was delectable.  We also had gambas con cava, traditional tomato bread, clams, artichoke omelette, cheesecake with passionfruit, a very special flower tea, and a phenomenal white wine.  The white was called “Fenomenal”, and it was a 2011 rueda.  I’m going to go hunting for this one soon.  It was spectacular with the seafood lunch, as well as with dessert.  I asked Quim what his favorite beverage is and he said cava because it can go with anything – 1st course, 2nd, course, dessert, after dinner, prior to dinner, anytime, really!  I agree.  That may be my new favorite beverage while I’m in Spain.

Quim also asked one of his friends to get me some fresh seaweed, so his friend called on Albert Adria from Tickets, and he got me 3 kinds of fresh seaweed because I was terrible at explaining what type I wanted.  I actually went for the largest of the 3, although the other two smaller ones looked more similar to the ones used in poke in Hawaii.  The larger one was less salty.  So, with that seaweed – alga, en espanol – I made ahi poke for everyone.  Some of the cooks really liked it, while others were a little suspect.  Sesame oil, raw ahi tuna, seaweed, onions and salt?  I can see how that might seem a little weird in Spain. I think I’ll show them a Lebanese lamb dish – kibbeh – next.  That will also be weird, as every butcher in Spain I ask  if he can grind lamb, gives me a very strange look like,” why would you want to grind it?”  No matter, I’m doing it.

I’ll have to think about what else to make with the remaining alga, as I feel badly there is so much of it and Quim and his friend went out of their way to get it for me.  Suggestions?  Write me.

1st day of staging at El Quim de la Boqueria

20 Mar

After 3 weeks of touring and having a blast, I started staging this morning at 7:30 a.m. at a place called El Quim de la Boqueria. Quim, the owner, is awesome, and pretty famous. All the restaurateurs in Barcelona come to his place to eat, and Quim travels around the world to work with other chefs. Most recently, he was in Singapore, and in May he’s off to Hong Kong with his son, who also works with him. You can read more about his journey to Singapore on his Facebook page, if you friend it at elquimdelaboqueria. His blog is at http://elquimdelaboqueria.cat/.

So, what did I do besides eat 5000 calories of their delicious food?  I met several other chef-owners of tiendas, a chocolate shop, and restaurants in Barcelona.   I met the owner of the best seafood shop in the market after I already bought atun (fresh tuna) from him this morning, unwittingly (other than it looked amazingly fresh).

I turned artichokes, made sofrito, cut several pounds of mushrooms, played with roasted vegetables, fried some eggs, plated a few seafood platos, talked to a few of the English-speaking patrons, got in the way a lot, tried to help with dishes, worked on my Spanish while teaching Quim some English, smiled a lot, and had an all around grande time.   The restaurant was hopping from 9 a.m. straight through until 4:00 with people lining up behind the seated and eating patrons, patiently waiting for their turn to dive into the delectable food.   I was the 9th person in the small kitchen, and all the 8 others were moving at lightning speed the entire time.  Most kitchens have some up time and some down time.  Not El Quim on a Monday.  It was all very exciting.

Some of the dishes that are his most popular:  the omelets, of course; his foie hamburger; gambas con cava (large shrimp with cava); fried artichokes; bacalao con crema (which was the cod of the day, made with a cream sauce – how very French/Catalan- and a balsamic glaze);  his seafood a la plancha (grilled); pulpo (his baby octopus); his squid.  Most everything is served with either a fresh salad or grilled vegetables, especially tomatoes, as tomatoes are a staple here.  And, there are so many versions of fried eggs with different seafood.  I love the way they fry eggs. Think:  a vat of combo oil (olive and vegetable) smoking hot, 2 eggs dropped in, and 1 minute later you have puffy, crunchy whites yet still oozy yolk eggs.

Even though I didn’t cook many dishes, I still managed to destroy my chef’s jacket and pants on day 1.  Things are moving so fast and food is flying everywhere.  I loved it!  I feel right at home, literally like I’m in my own kitchen throwing food on myself.

On my behalf, Quim asked a friend if he could get some seaweed, as Quim wants to learn different dishes from me (imagine that!).  So, my first dish is going to ahi poke, since their ahi here is really beautiful.  I managed to find all other ingredients I need for the poke, so I can’t wait to see what type of seaweed I’m getting.  It was rather hard for me to explain what I wanted in my limited Spanish-seaweed vocal – alga, verde, pequeno (algae/seaweed, green, small). Then, next week I’m going to attempt to show Quim how to make Thai curry.  My awesome husband brought kaffir lime leaves, Thai curry and coconut milk to me, as these items are not to be found here.  Should be interesting.

And, as an update to my sassy, prior blog post, EasyJet found my backpack – yeah!  So, all is well in my fantastic world, again 🙂

4 days in London: Gorgeous buildings, terrible Indian-ish food, and the best steak known to woman

18 Mar

*Warning: I am in a sassy mood, so this post will be sassy. Read at your own risk.*

On Thursday, I stepped off the plane to a gorgeous day in London. I made my way from Gatwick to the hotel where I met C. We walked over to his office and I dropped him off before walking around the river Thames for 1.5 hours. It was a terrific day for walking and sight seeing. Below is a pic of one of the many statues around the Thames.

That evening, we were so looking forward to some delicious, spicy Indian food. London supposedly has some amazing Indian food and we were all about it. Except that, we had horrible Indian food. Someone recommended The Cinnamon Club, which is a highly acclaimed Indian restaurant. I don’t want to make this too much of a negative post, so suffice it to say that this was one of the worst meals I’ve had in a very long time, especially for the price. Even my adorable and very mellow husband lost it.

Because I can’t let it go, I’ll provide a few lowlights: we never saw our waiter again after he took our order, our first course came before our drinks, many of the hot courses were actually cold (not even warm), some of the courses were clearly pre-made earlier in the day so they were dry and old, and it took so long for the sommelier to get to us that we talked ourselves out of ordering a bottle of wine. All that for a very high price. Disappointed! So, if you want good Indian in London, steer clear of The Cinnamon Club.

But, tomorrow (Friday) was another day! Even though the weather turned gross-London weather – cold, drizzly, and dark – I was not deterred. I set out through the park for a marvelous day of sight seeing. First stop – Buckingham Palace. Lately, I have had the uncanny knack for choosing my sightseeing days with 10,000 school children doing the same. Instead of trying to elbow my way up to the gates of the palace through 10 kids deep, I decided to act like a lady and just walk away. So, I took a picture of this angel, away from the scary mob of children.

Second stop – the Supreme Court. You can’t take the lawyer of the girl 😉

This building was spectacular inside. The chambers were all elegantly appointed, with high ceilings and stain-glassed windows. Court wasn’t in session on Friday, but I was able to roam the building and the rooms. I was thinking that I missed my calling, especially since the black robes with ornate gold decorations that the justices where on special occasions are rockin’. And, my color is black, so there’s that. The pics below are of a courtroom window and “The Robe”.

Did you know that the UK revamped their high court in 2005? Prior to that time, the UK’s highest court of appeals was formed by the Lords of Appeal in the Ordinary – the “Law Lords” – appointed by the Queen. In 2005, the Constitutional Reform Act provided for the establishment of the Supreme Court to achieve a “clear separation between our senior judges and Parliament.” Well, would you look at that. Separation of powers IS a good idea.

After eating some bad yogurt in the SC cafeteria, I walked over to Westminster Abbey. I’m not one for churches, but this beast is quite something. I really wanted to touch everything and climb up the walls to get a closer look at the magnificent ceilings throughout. But, I decided that was a bad idea, since there were about 20 guards and 200 other tourists. And, pictures are not allowed, so the only picture I took was the one of the cloisters, which wasn’t all that impressive in comparison.

My description of the inside of Westminster Abbey wouldn’t do it justice, since it had its beginnings in 960. There are so many people buried inside, to my surprise the likes of Chaucer (a hilarious fellow, who Paul Bettany did a very funny rendition of in A Knight’s Tale), Newton, and supposedly Darwin, although I’m finding it hard to believe the church would want Darwin buried there since I’m pretty sure his theories (as well as Newton’s) – science, right?- were heresy in the eyes of the church at the time (and, unfortunately, evolution still is to many people, bless their blinded souls).   After 1.5 hours, it was time to go.  I thoroughly enjoyed this remarkable place and I didn’t burn up, so this day was getting better and better.

Off to the National Gallery I went.  This building is also a marvel with countless, gorgeous galleries inside.  Some of my favorite paintings in this gallery were by Gaugin, Manet, Cezanne, Pisarro, and Luis Melendez, an 18th century Spanish painter whose still life paintings of simple things such as jugs of olives, oranges, boxes of membrillo (quince paste) and walnuts, struck me.  I think maybe it was the oranges, yellows, and his use of light. I really wanted to steal one of his paintings, but then I didn’t want to go to prison.

After 2 hours and viewing at least a couple of hundred paintings, I was tired.  Perhaps my spicy tofu banh mi had worn off, or perhaps I was still too cold, but whatever the reason, I decided the cure for my tired brain was cream tea.  I couldn’t resist the scone, organic clotted cream (yes, organic), and strawberry preserves (picture at top). I had never had clotted cream so I decided to be English and try.  MMMM, to me it was an artery clogging, combo of marscapone and cream cheese.  The amount of clotted cream on the plate screamed “run” to me, so I only ate a bit of it.  Plus, I wanted to save myself for dinner with my love.

And, what a dinner it was!  Prior to Friday night’s dinner, my impression of English cuisine was the same as Kevin Kline’s in A Fish Called Wanda – “The English contribution to world cuisine – the chip.”  Oh, and bangers and mash.  I did not give the English one ounce of credit within the culinary world.  But, Goodman’s, how you changed my mind. That Scottish, grass-fed, 500 g, perfectly cooked, bone-in ribeye was THE BEST STEAK I have ever eaten (yes, I am shouting because it was and who would have ever thought I would shout over steak?). Carnet agreed. We were in love with it so much, we wanted to go back and have it again the next night.  Alas, that wasn’t in the cards.   But, if you want the best steak London has to offer, go to Goodman steak house.  The sides are also expertly prepared (they did not kill the vegetables or over-salt them; they were also perfect) and the sticky toffee pudding really is to die for.

Saturday night was a fun night with B and M.  They took us to a very old restaurant and we had some nice food. I couldn’t help comparing it with the  night before, so it was just okay. Except the rhubarb tart was amazing.  The headache from too much wine today, was not.

Thanks, C, for a marvelous 4 days in London!  Too bad EasyJet lost my small backpack they made me check because my purse wouldn’t fit inside it.  How is that one decides to employ a blind man at the baggage counter?   Seriously, I’m pretty positive the guy was blind. His eyes were moving in different directions and only up, and there was a haze over them. I had this bad feeling in my gut when he didn’t touch or look at my bag but instead told me to place it on the conveyer and then asked if I had a tag on it when the huge, white BCN tag on it was 1/2 the size of the backpack, and then proceeded to ask where it was going to, where I was going to, and where I was from (why the last question mattered, I wasn’t sure).  No matter, it’s just my only backpack, my only pair of running shoes (and expensive!), my only and favorite running shorts, my only dress, my only hat and mittens, and the 6 items Carnet specifically brought to me from home. Thanks, EasyJet. I guess there’s a reason you tout yourself as a discount airline.

But, tomorrow is another day!

Montserrat… one drink at that altitude and you are done.

14 Mar

Today through my expert navigating skills, Rachel and I went to Montserrat, a mountain with a monastery about an hour by train out of Barcelona.  We really had no idea what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.  We had to take a cable car up, which was made by the krauts in the 1930’s so I wasn’t too worried about it breaking.

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(view from the top)

We got to the top, and just started to explore.  We found a trail head and decided to take a hike, turned about to be about 2 hours in total, but we got to a nice vista and enjoyed our croissant ham and cheese sandwiches that we purchased earlier from our local shop in the barrio.  

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(navigating during the hike)

After surviving our hike, we enjoyed a nice cold beer while doing some good people watching, our favorites were some German high school kids by far.  There were also some locals selling a variety of cheeses, honey, and other trinkets if you are interested in that sort of stuff.  Highly recommend going if you have the chance, I know i’ll be back!

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Being a tourist or being “local”? Hard to tell

10 Mar

Yesterday was another gorgeous spring day in Barcelona, so I decided to put on my very U.S.-looking running shoes (sea foam green and orange) and head out to see some sights.  So, I packed my lunch with some llonganissa slices (excellent cured meat – hard salami like), manchego and an apple that I purchased from our local butcher up the street, who’s 90-ish year old father sits on a chair in the store facing out, every day I walk past.  I think he’s like the guard dog.  I was pretty sure I was going to get some kind of food poisoning, as the butcher was using the meat slicer for everything – raw meat, cheese and xarcuterie –  without cleaning it in between.  Same with the knife that she used on my cheese, right after I saw her cut a chunk of raw meat for someone else. Yikes. I was pretty sure that kind of cross-contamination was going to give me food poisoning, but no matter.  I have a short memory for these things that makes me want to live dangerously again and again 😉

So, off I went. First stop: Parc Guell.  If you’re familiar with this park, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs and lengthy pictures. In the early 1900s, the park was originally designed, unsuccessfully, as a commercial housing site.   That didn’t take, so  it was converted to a park, with lovely walking trails and Gaudi’s signature style dispersed throughout.  When I look at his creations in this park, it reminds me of being in a fairy tale – mosaics; dragons; lots of lovely, curvy, intensley colorful designs.   A few pics are below (and one at top).

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I walked around for about 2 hours. There are also trails (forestal) far away and up from the hundreds (literally, hundreds) of school children under age 6 with whom I was mingling, or rather trying to run away from.  So, I decided to walk through those trails, and on many of those, it was just me.  Nice views of the city:

Ahhh, very pleasant on such a sunny and magnificent day.   There were other school groups of older kids, as well, and I wondered whether it was bring your school to Park Guell day?  No matter, after 2 hours of walking, it was time to rip into my lunch. I sat on the winding, mosaic-laden bench, below.  Spectacular.  Sitting there, contemplating art, eating my local lunch, and basking in the sun.  Ahhhhh.  The bonus was my lunch stayed put.  No problems whatsoever.  All in all a very successful outing.

So, off I go to what I think will be a place far less filled with school children  – Fundació Joan Miró.   When I first went to Barcelona 20+ some years ago, I fell in love with Joan Miró.  I was there during semana santa and there were Miró posters all over the city.   A 2 sentence history lesson for those who haven’t heard of him: Born in Barcelona in 1893, he became a very famous surrealist painter, whose paintings and scuptures were influenced by his home, wars, and the politics of the ages and places he lived.  He is said to have had significant influences on American abstract expressionist artists, as his works were often show in New York.

I love his early, more colorful paintings that reflect his home:  The Farm, The Farmer’s Meal, House with Palm Tree.  But, I think the ones I like the most (and I’m guessing they are the most popular)  are his 1940-1941 constellation works, especially The Morning Star,  Toward the Rainbow, and a few of his women and bird-themed paintings.

I wanted to take pictures, but I saw a German guy get in trouble for doing it, so I decided to follow the rules.  I spent about 1.5 hours in the galleries, and then went on the long walk back.  The Fundacio is in a barrio of the city called Montjuic. It was a good walk up the hill, past the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, and through a couple of different gardens/parks (Jardins de Joan Maragall and Jardins de Laribal). I fully enjoyed all the walking on such a gorgeous day.

Then, even though I thought I was done walking for the day, Senior Bravo decided to get us lost AGAIN (for the second time ) trying to find a particular tapas bar I wanted to go to.  Because Carnet said I am horrible with maps (and I may concede on occasion I tend to go the opposite way even when using GPS), I let Mark map the 2 prior dinners.  That boy is worse than I am with maps!  The good thing about getting lost is that you see more and you really work up an appetite.  However, I get annoyed easily when I’m hungry, so he had to deal with that.

We finally made it to the tapas bar and it was too packed to even get inside. People were spilling onto the sidewalk, so we decided to pass and walk up the street to another place whose name I cannot remember. In the bar it had this funky, almost terrarium like floor that had glass over it and underneath the glass there was a sea of greens and green-blues.   That was cool.

My food was excellent!  I had a salad with goat brie, nuts, raisins, lambs lettuce, apples and a sweet balsamic reduction, grilled asparagus with albahaca sauce (fresh basil, oil, and garlic – sort of like a pesto), and what they called mountain lamb in rosemary.   I had no idea what mountain lamb was, but I’m adventurous so I thought I’d give it a go. I was just praying to the food gods it wasn’t something like rocky mountain oysters.  It wasn’t!  It was actually this beautiful cut of lamb that had obviously been braised for hours, as it was super tender and the sauce they put on top of it was heaven. I have no idea what was in the sauce (I should have asked! – duhh) but I will definitely go back there when I need a lamb fix.  Here are the pics, below.

Today, Mark and I are suppose to go to a microbrew festival, but my cold is getting a bigger grip on me than I had hoped, so I’m going to rest at the apartment all day and stay away from other people and alcohol.  Plus, I just bought tickets to go see C in London next week, so I have to get better quickly!

This pic’s for you Carnsi:

A trip to Sant Celoni yesterday and to my Spanish “disneyland” today

8 Mar

The last few days I have been trying to figure out different neighborhoods in Barcelona. They’re not neighborhoods like I’m used to in San Fran, that are usually known for something. Some are, like around the hospital clinic metro stop, there’s a medical school and hospital, and around the universitat metro, there’s a university. But, other ones are harder to figure out and get a feel for. Maybe it’s just that I associate neighborhoods in San Francisco with a certain type of cuisine e.g. North Beach with Italian, Mission with Mexican/Central American, Chinatown – self-evident.

No matter, I’m finding cute little places that I love in all different neighborhoods. In ours, for example, we have a cute microbrew pub. The beers are good and the place has a nice, funky vibe to it. The pictures are below:

Back room:

Woman pouring microbrews:

Evolution of a beer drinker:

Mark and I also have a favorite cafe we frequent for cafe con leche. It’s called Fo Bar. It’s a hipster hangout as near as we can figure and I think the barrista gets a kick out of us. I cleaned up his bar today because it was messy and I’m a bit of a clean freak when I sit down to eat somewhere. I don’t want someone else’s food and spilled beverage in the spot I’m about to be served. The barrista eyed me and then mock wiped it up after I did. But, he makes a mean cappuccino and I tip, which is unusual in Spain, so I think we’re going to be friends (kidding).

Off La Rambla on Doctor Dou (yes, correct spelling of the street), my favorite lunch spot is a cafe called Dostrece. For 10 Euros, you get 3 courses and either a beer or a big glass of wine. They have large, delicious and very fresh salads, some interesting main courses, and decent desserts. If it’s a big meal in the middle of the day that you’re after, Dostrece is a cute and somewhat healthy place to eat, with some awesome bread and a roasted red bell pepper oil, garlic, and fresh herb dip to go along with it. MMMMMMMM.

Before lunch at Dostrece today, I found my disneyland of Barcelona. It’s called Biospace. It’s a big health food store with natural and organic sundries such as toothpaste, soap, body lotion, etc. As much as I’m digging the Xarcuterie and Catalan food in Barcelona, I just need to eat some tofu and organic veggies once in a while. I was very excited about the neti pot I found, as well as the biodynamic wine section. Of course, I broke down and bought 2 bottles of red, but they were pretty cheap – around 5 and 7 euros, respectively. Now, the true test is whether they taste good. I wandered around Biospace for about an hour just taking in all the different types of organic foods they carry, and I think I feel better after just being in there for a while – haha. For anyone in Barcelona looking for a health food store with a pretty varied selection of food and sundries, Biospace at Career de Valencia, 86 is for you. The nearest metro stop is Hospital Clinic. Oh, and then I wandered into a medical school by accident. It was nice, and so were the people. I’m thinking about applying after I’m done being a chef 😉

Yesterday, I dragged Mark on a train ride about 45 minutes-1 hour north (depending on the train you get) to a small town called Sant Celoni. I had an interview there to do a stage at a place called Can Fabes. See http://www.canfabes.com/. I couldn’t find much information on the town from my 15 minute internet research and the travel book I have doesn’t even mention it, so I’m not really sure what it’s known for other than this extraordinary restaurant focusing on biodynamic and seasonal food, located in a gorgeous old building. Oh wait, that’s not true. Wikipedia says, “The town has an important chemical industry, which is also a major source of local pollution and environmental risks.” Wonderful. But, it does have a lovely old church (pictured below), a 3 Michelin star restaurant called Can Fabes, and Monteny National Park, which we couldn’t find in our aimless walking since the office of tourism in the town was closed when we arrived.

I was offered the stage (I’m super excited about this one!), but it depends on a few things I’m still trying to work out. The pollution situation does concern me a bit. I’m hoping Sant Celoni is not the Hinkley, CA of Catalonia. I’m no Erin Brockovich, but I also don’t want to be drinking any contaminated water.

Church in Sant Celoni:

Sr.Bravo (Mark’s pen name) did a guest post two days ago, and I’m following up on the dinner he wrote about, by posting some pictures of the food we ate.

My first course: artichokes with jamon iberico:

Mark’s first course: clams with white beans

Our second course: We each had one of these dishes – grilled sea bass

Very down home, tasty Catalan food!

Ipar-Txoko

6 Mar

Tonight Rachel and I ate at a Catalan restaurant and it was delicious, but the service was something out of Eastern Europe.  After our long journey of navigating the streets of Barcelona and Rachel almost killing me in the process, our waitress, which I nick named “Svetlana” started by asking if we had a reservation in a rude tone(the restaurant was empty) and then proceeded to be nasty when we picked a table.  

Then to my surprise, a nice older man came out and read us what would be available to order.  Through the accent and long list, I just ordered what I remembered and hoped for the best.  I got the white beans with clams,  and Rachel got the artichokes with ham, both delicious.  For the main course we split a 1 kilo sea bass which was grilled flesh side down, served with poached potatoes and a marinated roasted bell pepper.  To top it off we got some chocolate truffles and some coffee.  A delicious, simple meal that I will definitely remember.  My burps taste like gyros so maybe I can make a combination of those things and start a new rage.