Barcelona, a City Tasting Tour
Over a platter of cold cuts including butifura d'ou, chorizo and the ubiquitous pan con tomate (tomato bread), we assimilate the last few hours of food adventures in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona in the region of Catalonia is rich in culinary traditions, of which the locals are understandably fiercely proud. For a food lover, this city is a must.
We start the morning with a pastry at La Colmena in the Barri Gòtic, a bakery at least 100 years old. I buy coca de llardons (sweet bread with pig fat), a sweet and salty Catalan bread with pine nuts for later and candies that the bakery has been making for generations. Flavours include rosemary, pine and herbal - I send some of these in care packages to friends. I have a school-girl giggle about the cookie called pets de monja, or nun's farts.
Speaking of nuns, nearby Caelum is a beautifully laid out coffee shop with a large variety of sweet goods and alcohol made by nuns and monks. The panellet or marzipan coated with pine nuts is a speciality.
Former Scot Katherine McLaughlin opened Formatgeria la Seu, a small shop specialising in the best Spanish cheeses, in 2000. Book for a cheese tasting and whatever you do, don't forget to enquire about the ice cream. We buy some of the best, creamy sweet-savoury cow and goat's milk ice creams I've had to date
CHOCOLATE & CHURRO WARS
While we're sitting at La Palleressa waiting for our churros and the thick molten hot chocolate we learn about family feuds and loyalties over one of two hot chocolate shops. Lovers have been known to dissolve ties over opposing loyalties. Hot chocolate is, after all, a serious matter.
After a walk around the neighbourhood, buying presents of egg-rich tourron (nougat) at Casa Columina, we're ready for wine and tapas, and we head towards El Xampanyet. It's busy, with barely any elbow room. We order a lunch-time spread of boquerones (marinated anchovies), peppers stuffed with cheese, artichoke flatbreads, marinated salmon and slices of tortilla - the Spanish potato omlette. The meal ends with my favourite Catalan dessert, xuixos (named after a sneeze), a deep-fried doughnut with a light custard filling.
BREAD & CAKES
I visit Bubo, the cake and coffee shop in el Born to buy chocolates and to sample the chocolate cake it's so famous for. Forn Baluart makes some of the best bread in the city and is located in Barceloneta. Escriba fuses both family history (the business started in 1906) with pure fantasy. Staring at the displays of exquisite chocolate stilettos and handbags in the window, it's no wonder that Escriba was tasked with making Ferran Adria's wedding in 2002.
OTHER AWESOME EATS & DRINKS
I tracked down master pâtissier Oriol Balaguer and learn that his hazelnut chocolate with popping candy is a extremely popular in Japan. I walk out of the chocolate lab with boxes of posh chocolates embedded with popping candy, tempted to eat it all on the street. La Cova Fumada (the smoking cave) has a hefty, old door but even so, it's easy to miss. You can't make a booking but it's a quirky spot, 5 minutes from Barceloneta beach for a drink and snacks. Yes, you'll get out alive. Monvinic is a stylish wine bar, with very knowledgable staff and a local and international wine menu. Pair your wines by the glass with delicious by pricey morsels. Another favourite is Cal Pep where portions are large and service rapid.