Category Archives: Travel

Tapas for Day 2 of Barcelona with Portland Food Adventures

I didn’t rouse early for Day 2 of our Portland Food Adventure Barcelona tour. The plan was for us to break into two groups to have a tapas lunch at Quimet & Quimet at noon or at 1:15 pm.

Penny and I walked to Q&Q, which was  in the El Poble Sec area, about a 40 minute walk from our hotel. This was the day of the La Merce Festival and many other eateries were closed. We wisely arrived at Quimet & Quimet to be first in when it opened.

Chef Jose Chesa take our orders at Quimet & Quimet
Chef Jose Chesa take our orders at Quimet & Quimet

Q&Q is a tiny tapas bar (as is typical for a tapas bar).  It often makes top 10 lists for tapas bars in Barcelona. There are a small number of cafe tables to stand at to eat. They specialize in montadito, little open-faced sandwiches with amazing toppings, many of which use their own conservas – preserved or pickled items. My liver was going to have a lot of work to do to process all of this. They are a wine shop that specializes in vermut, different types of vermouth.

What makes this Portland Food Adventure international great is that our Chef Jose Chesa of Portland’s Ataula, a native of Barcelona, was able to order for us. That took away the intimidation factor and also ensured we got a variety of items. Left to myself, I certainly wouldn’t have ordered some of the more esoteric but delightful ones. Also, we shared plates so we could enjoy a small bite of each rather than having to just try one or two.

Here are the amazing montaditos we enjoyed:

Quimet & Quimet - white asparagus with salmon
Quimet & Quimet – white asparagus with salmon
Quimet & Quimet - foie pate with black salt
Quimet & Quimet – foie pate with black salt
Quimet & Quimet - tuna belly, red pepper
Quimet & Quimet – tuna belly, red pepper
Quimet & Quimet - Salmon, cream cheese, truffles
Quimet & Quimet – Salmon, cream cheese, truffles
Quimet & Quimet - Caviar and cheese
Quimet & Quimet – Caviar and cheese
Quimet & Quimet - Sardine and sea urchin
Quimet & Quimet – Sardine and sea urchin
Quimet & Quimet - Anchovy, red pepper, olive
Quimet & Quimet – Anchovy, red pepper, olive

I made my way back to the hotel and enjoyed some of the street muscians playing. Plus, the rooftop bar of the hotel had a lovely view out over the city and comfy seating.

View from Hotel H1 in Barcelona
View from Hotel H1 in Barcelona
Street musicians in Barcelona
Street musicians in Barcelona

Our dinner would also be tapas, and rather than split into two groups we were able to get seating for all of us in one go, although a few had to sit at a separate bar.

Lolita Taperia
Lolita Taperia

Lolita Taperia is in the upscale L’Eixample district. Owner Joan Martínez transformed a classic bar into a fun and trendy place. Several of the tapas and plates are plays on American fast food, such as hamburgers, chicken fingers and ribs.

Again, we were saved by Chef Jose Chesa ordering for us.  If I had come here on my own, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the variety of dishes.

Lolita Taperia Group
Lolita Taperia Group
Lolita - house-cured pork shoulder and soda bread
Lolita – house-cured pork shoulder and soda bread

Chef Jose laments that he can’t get the same flour in the US to make the soda bread. I have to admit that while I like the bread, I want some garlic salt added to the tomato topping. Sacrilege, I know, but next time I go to Spain, I’m taking some with me.

Lolita - salt cod with tomato
Lolita – salt cod with tomato
Lolita - tuna escabeche
Lolita – tuna escabeche

This tuna escabeche was fantastic, and I also loved drinking up the broth from the mussels, which had a peppery punch to it that wasn’t typical for Spain.

Lolita - Mussels
Lolita – Mussels
Lolita - fresh anchovies, deep-fried
Lolita – fresh anchovies, deep-fried

Chef Jose always ordered “little fishies” for us. I will never be a fan, but I appreciate the love others have for them.

Lolita - Eggplant with molasses
Lolita – Eggplant with molasses

The eggplant with molasses was super.

Lolita - chicken nuggets with curry mustard
Lolita – chicken nuggets with curry mustard

Not your McDonald’s variety of chicken nuggets.

Lolita - rabbit ribs with aoli
Lolita – rabbit ribs with aoli

Chef Jose said you can’t get these in the US, the rabbits aren’t the right size.

Lolita - hamburger with steak, green pepper and cheese
Lolita – hamburger with steak, green pepper and cheese

The bun needed some work, it crumbled. But the steak sandwich was super.

Lolita - borracho rum cake and mango with lime and honey
Lolita – borracho rum cake and mango with lime and honey

I longingly hoped my dining companions would be too full and leave me an extra one of these.

Dinner lasted from 7 until 9:30 pm, so we were able to leave before the real Barcelona diners were ready for dinner. It was a nice walk back to the hotel. Many of our group then went out dancing, but I had a scary bout of almost fainting at Q&Q earlier in the day and I thought it wise to go to bed.

Next: Day 3 trip to Michelin-starred Can Jubany

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