Barcelona, Spain was the destination for Portland Food Adventures in September as 16 adventurous diners joined Chef Jose Chesa of Ataula for a week of unique dining. What sets this trip apart from an ordinary tour is that Chef Jose is a native of Barcelona and we would dine at places where he knew the chefs – from a Michelin-starred restaurant in the countryside to tapas bars in the old town and modernist delights. He would do the ordering and we would enjoy group dining with plenty of wine and spirits.
I arrived a day early, following my walk of the Camino de Santiago. Fresh from that solo walk through nature with spiritual contemplation, I was plunged into the hub bub of Barcelona. I walked with PFA owner/tour director/everything PFA Chris Angelus to one of his favorite tapas bars, Bar Canete in the Raval area of the old city. Our server set the tone for the Barcelona experience, F*** Your Diet!
And so we dived right into decadence. Chris and I shared tapas and racions of shrimp, mushroom omelet, steak topped with foie gras and desserts. Bar Canete was one of the destinations recommended by chefs in Portland to Chris on his personal trip in 2014. This inspired the idea of an international Portland Food Adventure.
If you weren’t one of our lucky group, don’t despair, Portland Food Adventures plans to return in 2016, plus journey to San Sebastian.
You can review more photos from the trip on Instagram with the hashtag #PFABarcelona
The group stayed at hotel H1 Urquinaona Plaza. This is a lovely modern hotel with a great garden at ground floor and a rooftop bar with lap pool. It had speedy WiFi, too. While it was centrally located for walking or taking the metro to our dining locations, it wasn’t in a quaint section of town.
In the morning we went on a walk with the other early arrivals to La Boqueria on Las Ramblas. This is a very popular market, and many guidebooks suggest skipping it due to that popularity with tourists. But going early we had a great experience at Barcentral with Chef Jose ordering.
Arranged in front of our faces at the counter was very fresh seafood, some of which was still alive. Chef Jose made sure we experienced sardines and other fresh seafood like a true Barcelona native. I never have seafood for breakfast, so this was quite a change.
Touring the market, I enjoyed getting one of the juices/smoothies arrayed everywhere with interesting fruit combinations. Seafood of enormous variety and Spain’s famous hams were on display.
Following breakfast, I used my Rick Steves guidebook to wander through the old town Barri Gòtic quarter (east of La Rambla).
This area includes the Jewish Quarter, with narrow streets mostly reserved for pedestrians. With the Rick Steves guide in hand and on my iPhone, I was able to find the hidden gems he always leads you to. The Roman gates of the old city walls with aqueduct, the bar where Picasso enjoyed drinking, a random Picasso mural, and the peaceful geese swimming in a fountain at the cathedral were great.