Archive for the ‘Barcelona’Category

Relicatessen: heavenly products for earthly delights

Relicatessen stall at La Boqueria in Barcelona

Relicatessen in Barcelona solved a problem for us. When we’re in Spain for any extended period, we enjoy seeking out the cookies, sweets, and other foodstuffs from the country’s 38 monasteries and convents that make products for sale. Often that means placing money on a revolving window (called a retorno) and getting a box of cookies, a jar of jam, or a pot of honey in return.

Francisco Vera of Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaBut we’re not always in a town with a cloistered order that makes products for sale. Thank god (so to speak) that Francisco Vera opened Relicatessen (www.relicatessen.com) three years ago in stall 988 in the Mercat Sant Josep, better known as La Boqueria. Located right on La Rambla in a Modernista-style iron frame shed, the Boqueria is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Vera sells the edible products of 11 of the country’s monasteries and nunneries along with some other gourmet items, such as olive oil and saffron.

To get to Vera’s stall, you’ll walk past heaping pyramids of fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated cases of big cuts of meat, cured mountain hams hanging from above, and vast swathes of crushed ice with fish so fresh that their eyes gleam clear and bright.

Temptations from on high


Marmalades at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaVera sells 36 different marmalades, including the signature Spanish bitter orange. The religious order at Monastario de Santa María de Huerta in Soría crafts some of the more sophisticated flavors, such as pear, cinnamon, and cardamom or the combination of kiwi, lemon, and tequila.

There are honeys from the mountains and honeys from fields of anise or groves of madroño trees (strawberry trees). There is dulce de leche “bottled in silence.” The Convento Purísima Concepción makes dulce de membrillo (a quince preserve that’s delicious with Manchego cheese) and Turrón de la Abuela (nougat studded with roasted almonds) that claims to be just like Spanish grandmothers make it. The Monjas Jerónimas Constantina infuse their vinegars with a range of flavors, not least among them mint, rosemary, and garlic.

Yemas at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaThe most popular treats, Vera says, are polvorones, almond shortbread sables made by the Carmelitas Descalzas and Yemas de Santa Clara, candied egg yolks. Legend says that the nuns invented this way of preserving yolks in the late medieval period, when the egg whites were used to clarify wine. The products are so heartfelt that they make nice gifts that also help preserve the vanishing religious vocations. Pressed for his favorite among the many temptations, Vera admits to being most fond of the really good chocolates made by the Monjas Jerónimas.

01

10 2017

Utiel Requena wines conjure tastes of northeast Spain

La Vinya del Senyor in Barcelona
We’re convinced that there is nothing like taste to evoke memories of place. A sip of wine will call back the flavor of the food, the sun on our faces, the wobbly leg of the cafe table, and the street life around us. We’re just starting to taste several wines from the Utiel Requena region in the northwest corner of the autonomous region of Valencia. As we taste, we’re reliving trips to Catalunya, Aragón, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. In addition to speaking variants of Catalan, these regions feature cuisines that pair very well with the Bobal wines of Utiel Requena. We’ll be enjoying them with some of our favorite dishes.

As shown in this photo just below, D.O. Utiel Requena sits in the rain shadow of mountains, so the region is dry and perfectly suited to organic growing. Most of the producers do grow organically, and they concentrate on the Bobal grape. That’s an indigenous red varietal found almost nowhere else—a great local grape for the cuisine. Historically, Bobal was overcropped and used for blending with wine from other Spanish regions. In the last generation, though, producers have taken advantage of the old vines—most on their own rootstock—to make wines with fabulous concentration and well-defined character.

Vineyards in Utiel Requena

A Bobal rosé—in this case Tarantas—makes a great complement to one of our favorite bar foods, coca, which is pizza-like flatbread topped primarily with red peppers. The lightly sparkling wine made entirely from Bobal has a strawberry nose and tangy red-currant and melon flavors in the mouth. The producer of Tarantas wines is Bodegas Iranzo (www.bodegasiranzo.com), a family concern that has been making wine in the region since 1335! The pronounced fruit of the rosé brings out the herbaceous quality of the pepper while emphasizing the caramel notes from cooking.

Barcelona’s best patio


We first tasted coca at an outdoor cafe table at La Vinya del Senyor, the wine bar that shares a plaza with the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Pat wrote about it in her new book 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go. The photo at the top of this post shows some folks having a good time—and a bottle of wine (of course).

Funded and even partially built by the people of the neighborhood, Santa Maria del Mar (at right) was consecrated in 1384 and remains a perfect example of Catalan Gothic style. Its serene interior and popular appeal make it a favorite for society weddings. We spent a magical evening watching a bride and groom enter the church single and leave as a couple. They lingered in the plaza, surrounded by their boisterous friends, a group of street musicians, and a churlish taxi driver blasting his horn as he tried to no avail to break up the revelry.

We’re not the only ones who are in love with this wine bar. In her cookbook The New Spanish Table, Anya von Bremzen sings the praises of the bar’s coca. We have adapted her recipe below.

coca mallorquina with Tarantas rosé from Utiel Requena

COCA MALLORQUINA


Von Bremzen’s version is more purist, eschewing the cheese that makes a coca seem more like a pizza. But we like the small specks of jamón serrano and creaminess of melted Mahon, a Mallorcan semisoft cheese. The defining characteristic is the topping of slightly caramelized sweet red peppers. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, but be sure to oil the pan and oil the surface of the dough. If you don’t have a favorite home recipe, see ours here: hungrytravelers.com/black-truffle-pizza-tricks.

Ingredients


olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, shaved thin
2 cups of strips from roasted and peeled sweet red peppers
peel of lemon, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 lb. pizza dough
2 ounces jamón serrano, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
4 ounces Mahon cheese, grated

Directions


Set oven at 450°F.

Drizzle olive oil to cover base of heavy frying pan. Add garlic and fry until crisp. (This gives garlic flavor to the oil.) Remove garlic. Add peppers, lemon peel, and sugar. Sauté until peppers start to caramelize on surface. Add lemon juice and continue cooking until evaporated.

Spread dough on oiled pan (14-inch round or 11×17 sheet). Spread pepper mix evenly. Distribute pieces of crisp garlic evenly. Sprinkle with jamón, capers, and cheese.

Cook 8-10 minutes until crust begins to crisp.

17

05 2017

Watermelon gazpacho around the world

Miradoro viewIt’s finally watermelon season in our part of the world, which gives us an excuse to resurrect a recipe we received too late to try last fall. It was for a fantastic watermelon gazpacho we ate at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley wine region of British Columbia.

During this summer’s research for the Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, we were surprised to find watermelon gazpacho on almost all the best menus in both cities. So now that we’re home writing and local icebox watermelons are at the farmers’ markets, we tried the Miradoro recipe from executive chef Jeff Van Geest. It is terrific. Here it is, tweaked for our small watermelons. (It tastes just as good without the incredible vineyard view.) For other recipes from Van Geest, click here.

WATERMELON GAZPACHO

Make about 6 cups
watermelon gazpacho
Ingredients
1 small or 1/2 large watermelon, seeds removed
1 small to medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch mint (a fistful)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (also a fistful)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions
1. Roughly chop the watermelon, and finely chop garlic, onion, mint, and parsley.
2. Add olive oil and vinegar and toss. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to meld.
3. Pulse in a food processor or with immersion blender until gazpacho is desired texture. (Van Geest makes his version very smooth.)
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

29

08 2013

Sea salt from Costa Brava brings home tastes of Spain

Sal costaWhen we shop for groceries overseas, we like to bring home salt. We never realized how acrid American table salt can be (and how bland kosher salt is) until we started using salt from other places. It’s obvious that gray sea salt from the flats of Brittany or Normandy would have a distinct flavor, and we often use such salts for cooking. But our favorite, hands down, is simple supermarket sea salt from Catalunya, specifically the Sal Costa brand, which sells for less than two euros a kilo. Unfortunately, Spain has succumbed to the American penchant for adulterating food by putting in “healthy” additives, so the finely ground Sal Costa sea salt for table use has added fluoride. Like the iodine in American salt, the additives make the salt bitter. Fortunately, Sal Costa does not mess with its granular salt intended for baking fish. (The recipe is on the package: Pack a whole fish in a kilo of salt. Roast in 425F/220C oven for 30 minutes.) We keep some of the “roasting salt” on the back of the stove to add to pasta water and we fill a couple of salt grinders with it for other cooking and table use. It adds the perfect Spanish coastal flavor to a paella or a tortilla española. For other recipes (in Spanish), see Sal Costa’s own home page: www.salcosta.com.

21

08 2013

Where to eat in Barcelona: Mercat Princesa

Slicing ham in BarcelonaTucked into an out-of-the-way corner of El Born in Barcelona, Mercat Princesa {www.mercatprincesa.com) is the food court to end all food courts. Sixteen small vendors have transformed a nondescript medieval building into a welcoming space with great food at bargain prices. The building dates from the 14th century, and its courtyard has been glassed over to create a central dining space. Just 16 seats ring the area, though plans are afoot to expand into the basement for another 40.

We’d been looking at and eating in restaurants all over Barcelona as we researched Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, due out in November. And apart from the city food markets like La Boqueria and Mercat Santa Caterina, we hadn’t found anything like this little venture.

The offerings are a microcosm of casual Barcelona food. The Bravas Mercat stall sells fried potatoes with eight sauce variants (bravas, aioli, wasabi, etc.). A Nespresso coffee bar also prepares hot chocolate and churros. An oyster bar also cooks mussels and prawns. The charcuterie specialist (pictured above) serves plates of cheese or plates of Iberian ham. Right next to him a sushi chef prepares sashimi to order. A noodle bar has everything from Vietnamese soups to Catalan fideùs — a paella-like dish made with noodles. One bar just does different rice dishes. Pepe Fritz specializes in deep-fried Andalucían fish dishes. The Vins & Cocktails stall sells beer and wine. There’s even a pastry and ice cream case in case you find room for dessert.

The Mercat Princesa is at Carrer Flassaders, 21 (tel: 93-268-15-18, www.mercatprincesa.com). It’s open every day from 9 a.m. until midnight (until 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday). Nearest Metro stop is Jaume I.

15

08 2013