Suculent – Day 1 PFA International Barcelona

Our first official day of the Portland Food Adventures International Barcelona tour was Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. We first met up as a full group at the garden bar of our hotel, H1 Urquinaona Plaza and had a drink and introductions.
(Previous: Arrival and pre-day in Barcelona)

Most of us had met at previous pre-PFA functions, which included a recruitment tapas afternoon at Jose’s restaurant, Ataula and another pre-tour dinner at Lardo.  We had printed notebooks provided which listed our destinations and times each day, including a map and metro stops. We could walk to the restaurant as a group or take the metro or cab.

Suculent Casa de Menjars
Suculent Casa de Menjars

Our destination for the first night was Suculent Casa de Menjars, in the El Raval district of the old city. We strolled down Las Ramblas and over to Suculent. They needed a little extra time to prepare the upstairs room for our group and we cooled our heels at tables in the plaza nearby. Chef Jose grabbed a notepad and took our drink orders and had them filled by a nearby bar. We had a merry time waiting for our table.

Chef Jose Chesa gets our drink orders
Chef Jose Chesa gets our drink orders

Once inside, we went on a jaunt through and up and around to a private room up under the rafters. This was a fun way to have the space to ourselves for dinner. The wine flowed freely, both cava and red wine.

Wendy at Suculent
Wendy at Suculent

The courses started coming and seemingly never stopped. In general we each got a tapa-sized portion of each, just a couple of bites.

Suculent serves contemporary Catalan tavern-style food. It is elevated by chef, Carlos Abellan, who worked at El Bulli for 15 years.  His  Comerç 24 in the El Born area of the old city has a Michelin star. The focus was, as typical, on the freshest ingredients. A few modernist touches went into the preparation.

Suculent - Cod fish on cracker with sweet olive tapenade
Suculent – Cod fish on cracker with sweet olive tapenade

Cod fish on cracker with sweet olive tapenade

Suculent - Oxtail and mushroom croquette
Suculent – Oxtail and mushroom croquette

Oxtail and mushroom croquette – this was one of my favorite bites.

Suculent - Pickled mackerel
Suculent – Pickled mackerel

Pickled mackerel

Suculent - Red shrimp with avocado
Suculent – Red shrimp with avocado

Red shrimp with avocado

Suculent - Tomato - tongue- tuna - almonds
Suculent – Tomato – tongue- tuna – almonds

Tomato – tongue- tuna -almonds

Suculent - Smoked sardines, ajo blanco, trout roe
Suculent – Smoked sardines, ajo blanco, trout roe

Smoked sardines, ajo blanco, trout roe

Suculent - Beef tongue lettuce wrap
Suculent – Beef tongue lettuce wrap
Suculent - Red tuna steak with pine nut sauce
Suculent – Red tuna steak with pine nut sauce
Suculent - Eel and red pepper
Suculent – Eel and red pepper
Suculent -  Pulpo with garbanzos
Suculent – Pulpo with garbanzos

This octopus and garbanzos combo reminded me of a dish we had for breakfast at BarCentral.

Suculent - Calf's Tail
Suculent – Calf’s Tail

By now, we were quite ready for the desserts.

Suculent - Portland Food Adventure Group
Suculent – Portland Food Adventure Group
Suculent - Figs
Suculent – Figs
Suculent - cheesecake muscatel with lime
Suculent – cheesecake muscatel with lime
Suculent - Dessert
Suculent – Dessert

Dinner started around 7:30 pm and lasted until 11 pm.  We needed the 35 minute walk back to the hotel wear off some of the food and wine.  Taxis were readily available for those who wanted to ride back.

Next: Tapas on Day 2 for lunch and dinner

Portland Food Adventures International – Barcelona 2015

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!

F*** Your Diet
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.

Wendy at Bar Canete Steak with Foie Gras
Wendy at Bar Canete Steak with Foie Gras

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.

Mercat La Boqueria
Mercat La Boqueria

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.

Chef Jose Chesa at La Boqueria
Chef Jose Chesa at La Boqueria
Barcentral in La Boqueria
Barcentral in La Boqueria

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.

Seafood ready to cook at Barcentral in La Boqueria
Seafood ready to cook at Barcentral in La Boqueria

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.

Next post: We dive into PFA International Barcelona as the full group arrives and have dinner at Suculent