Cuitat Vella/Barri Gotic
Walking walking walking
Today we started out on Rambla Poblenou, to use the free wifi and grab free wireless from 100 Montaditos and pastries from Boheme again. Kate got a thing called an “angel hair squash” pastry, which had extruded strings of sugar and… agar? No idea what it was made of but it had a texture sort of like spaghetti squash, hence the name, inside a fluffy pastry. More mini palmeras, mini chocolate croissants, and a mini chocolate muffin that turned out to have nuts in it like a brownie, tided us over until we could make our way via public transit to the Gothic Quarter/Old City/Cuitat Vella/Barri Gotic, which we planned to walk through on the way to the giant food market we’ve heard so much about and La Rambla, which is the big walking street with lots of shops and cafes, much bigger than our local Rambla Poblenou.
We wandered the old city for a bit. Because of the festival of Merce going on, we saw some folk-dancing performances, and went into an old church. They have concerts at this church almost every night at 9pm it looks like, and I would really like to see the 4 Guitars, but it looks like the nights with concerts are all nights we have dinner reservations already–drat. We may try to see a classical guitar concert at the Museu de la Musica after Sagrada Familia tomorrow.
Eventually we made it across the old city and to the giant food market, Mercat de la Boqueria. It is a lot like the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, or the big one in Toronto (St. Lawrence market? the one near the convention center and across from the hotel we stayed in at Worldcon), but here there are more actual food ingredients shops (raw meat, fish, vegetables) than prepared foods than either of those two. Ostrich eggs, lamb heads, fruits, exotic mushrooms, vegetables, seafood, all on sale and display.
One of the first places we came to sold a cone of Iberico ham for take-away, and so I happily snacked on hammy bliss while we wove our way through the place. We also picked up fresh squeezed fruit drinks. Many stalls sell brightly colored fruit nectars and juices in take-away cups, everything from dragonfruit (pitaya) and kiwi to pineapple, orange, melon, you name it. The orange here seems to be blood orange because everywhere we’ve ben it’s very red. corwin had orange, I had dragonfruit (which is magenta), and Kate had pineapple coconut.
We had free tastes of olives and cheeses. I bought three cod fritters on a stick with a bonus fish croquette on top. We saw shops that had small eating counters that offered to cook anything you bought. Great business plan!
We bought exotic fruit jellies from a stand that sold nothing but exotic fruit jellies. We saw the largest oysters I’ve ever seen, though we didn’t end up eating any.
Eventually we decided we wanted to sit down and eat, so we got in line to sit at Kiosk Universal, one of the large grill stands near the southeast entrance. We had a huge plate of assorted grilled mushrooms, another of grilled mixed vegetables (peppers, eggplants, carrots), and ordered a plate of scallops and a plate of razor clams. If you’ve never seen a razor clam, it looks like a straight razor. Except instead of a blade inside, there is the best clam you’ve ever had. The scallops were amazingly good, too.
After that we decided we wanted to have some coffee and find a restroom. Barcelona has no shortage of cafes, so we went to see if we could find one that also had free Wifi. Not even a block from the market we found one that attracted us with its fantastic art nouveau storefront.
Turned out to be the shop of a crazed pastry and chocolate genius named Christian Escriba, who as far as we could tell was like the Ferran Adria (El Bulli) of pastry. We had a dessert called “La Rambla” that was a tiny piece of orange sponge cake, surrounded by a healthy thick layer of chocolate mousse, covered in a dark ganache so glossy that you can see reflections in it! (See my Instagram or Twitter feed for all the photos of that if you can’t wait until I get home and make a proper Picasa album. If I get around to it.)
While corwin and Kate had two “iced coffee” each (a shot of espresso and a cup of ice, perfect) I had chocolate with violet in it. They spritzed the cup with a violet spray and the sugar crystals were also violet flavored. I was instructed to stir it well.
When we went into the place it was empty, but after we’d been sitting there 15 minutes or so, it filled up. I don’t know if we started a trend or if it was just closer to merienda time. (Merienda means snacktime, like tea time, in the Philippines. I can’t remember if Spain still observes merienda or not…)
Oh yeah, and for posting a TripAdvisor review of the place, while using their free wifi, they gave us a few free bonbons to eat, including chocolate-covered mint leaves and one that had a pistachio, almond, and another nut on the top. (corwin ate the other nut and I don’t remember.)
Once we were refreshed and everyone had checked their social media/email we moved on to our next stop. Confession: I’m now writing this entry on the morning of day 4 and I can’t remember what else we did on day 2. Oh wait, now I remember. We wandered back through the Barri Gotic to get to the Picasso Museum. Kate bought a scarf and I bought a watermelon popsicle from a stand selling 50 different flavors of fresh frozen fruit. You could even get it dipped in chocolate, which seemed like overkill to me, plus it couldn’t top the chocolate I just had at Escribá. However when we got to the Museu Picasso we found the line to buy tickets to get into the museum was 30-45 minutes long.
We weren’t in any mood to wait in line, so we continued our wander, all the way up to Casa Batllo, which was closed! It was one of three days a year they close early. corwin was quite disappointed by this and worried we were going to run out of time before the end of the vacation to see all the things in Barcelona he wants to see. But we wandered around the corner from there to another little rambla and found another nice tapas place to eat some solid food and then he felt better.
From there we walked back down to the Metro and back to the hotel to get changed for dinner. We took a cab to dinner because by then it was getting late. Our destination was Roca Moo, the Barcelona outpost of the Roca brothers, this one run by head chef Felip Lluria (I better check the spelling of his name because I’m writing it from memory).
The tl; dr of the meal is this: it was a fantastic gastronomic experience on par with the best high-end foodie gourmet we’ve eaten, with lots of “wow” moments. Kate said it was the best meal she’s ever had. I rate it below the meal at Moto in Chicago, but probably in the top ten.
Actually, I probably have to make a separate post about the meal. Check my instagram for the full slide show. I didn’t feel the least bit bad about photographing the food and then in the gaps between course posting the photos. Because everyone else in the restaurant was doing it.