We returned to La Boqueria to its demo kitchen on Day 6 of the Barcelona trip with Portland Food Adventures. We enjoyed a 6-hour cooking class/demonstration with Chef Oliver Pena Luque. He is has been/is/will be chef at the restaurants in Albert Adria’s modernist cuisine empire. Past was 41 Degrees, now he is at Tickets Bar where we would dine the next day, and he should be opening the new Enigma in the future.
We were up close and personal for the demonstration. As a lab professional, I appreciate the chemistry as well as the artistry of modernist techniques. But beyond making beautiful and playful transformations, I love real flavors.
It was a class for any foodie to attend, and we went home with the full instructions, should I ever decide to turn my kitchen into a lab.
Our dinner for the evening was at 8:30 pm at La Taverna del Clinic. The chef was another old friend of Jose Chesa, Antonio Simoes. This was a very impressive meal with many modernist twists, all packed with flavor.
This was one of my favorites.
Such big mussels you have!
That’s potato on top.
It was a delicious day, I would have liked to join with the rest of the group who were going on for drinks and dancing, since we hadn’t walked much. But a cab was available and somehow I ended up in it with a couple of others and back to the hotel.
The only item on our itinerary for this day was entry to the Degusta culinary show. It was election day, with a successionist mandate at stake, and much of the city shut down.
Most of our group opted out of going to the show, only three of us went. Word had gotten out that you had to pay for anything you wanted to eat there (with just a few samples). I was happy I went, although mostly for the beer and then walking up the hill to see the sights.
We toured the show, which had a many exhibits of fancy cakes and what it takes to make them. I don’t watch Cake Boss, so this wasn’t of much interest to me.
I do love me some ham, though, so I bought a bocadito of the top quality pata negra.
The food truck craze was being featured, just one more way Portland and Barcelona are similar, yet different. They had over 20 of them at the show.
But I was happiest about the Barcelona Beer Show. I’m not a fan of Spain’s Estrella beer, it’s too bland and unhopped for me. But I found brewers here who are happily making West Coast-style IPA. In fact, when I got a glass of the Further Westward IPA and said I liked it, they gave me a free bottle. As it is aggressively hopped and this is the last day of the show, I figured most people didn’t like it and they were happy to give a bottle to someone who did.
I stood in line for the free paella, the beer had enough alcohol content that I needed to cool my jets anyway.
Now I walked up Montjuic, past the Magic Fountains to the site of the 1929 World Expo. I sat to rest and actually took a little nap.
Heading back towards my hotel, I passed by Tickets Bar, the Adria restaurant whose chef would give us a cooking class the next day and where we dine at the end of the week.
Then I walked Rick Steves’ Eixample walking tour, seeing the modernist buildings in daylight. It was very nice.
This would prove to be an exhausting day for our Barcelona Portland Food Adventures group, starting with breakfast at 7 am at famed Pinoxto in La Boqueria. You may have seen this guy, Juan, featured in Rick Steves’ visit. He’s a classic.
Chef Jose Chesa, our food guide from Portland’s Ataula restaurant, ensured we enjoyed samples of their best seafood and tortillas. We ate in two shifts.
After breakfast and wandering the Boqueria, I followed Rick Steves’ walking guide and toured the Cathedral of Barcelona in more detail. I think this was also the day I visited the Picasso Museum (no photos allowed inside) and the El Born district, which has wonderful shops.
I had plenty of time to reach Xiringuito Escribà for our paella lunch on the beach, although once I was in the vicinity it wasn’t that easy to find the exact spot. This is the problem when you don’t have a data plan for your smartphone in Europe. Chris had provided a good map with our destinations circled, but I still logged some extra steps.
It was great to see the beach and a relief to find the restaurant right on time.
We were seated with open air access to the beach views and enjoyed a traditional paella lunch that was quite satisfying.
At this point of the day, a wise person would have taken a cab to our next destination, a demonstration/lecture by famed Chef ChristianEscribà. But some of us weren’t that smart. We had a lot of calories to burn off, anyway. But the walk there gave some folks more blisters.
We didn’t really know what to expect of the “pastry workshop” listed for 4 pm. It turned out to be a tour of this modern-day Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a slideshow by the man himself, Christian Escribà. This was definitely the sort of access to culinary superstars that made this trip a true food adventure.
We learned about his innovations, including cake walls. I want a cake wall.
Can I have this cake wall for my next birthday?
We had a bonus dinner scheduled for 10:30 pm. Some of our group opted out, as it had already been a massive day. But I was happy that I went (which contributed to the 31,300 steps for the day). On the way I saw a couple of the famed Gaudi-designed buildings.
The Tuset Restaurant‘s chef trained with Jose Chesa. I enjoyed the food very much, especially the peppery beef croquettes.
Our third day of the Barcelona international tour with Portland Food Adventures took us out into the countryside to the Michelin-starred restaurant where our guide Chef Jose Chesa (of Portland’s Ataula) worked before coming to the USA.
Can Jubany is a glorious example of slow food and not only locally-sourced but mostly grown right on the property. Chef Nandu Jubany is an international star of slow food and farm-to-table cuisine, with modernist touches.
We started our visit with a tour of the kitchen garden, farmhouse and chicken coops. Jose translated as Chef Francesc Arumi described how they rotate the crops continuously to provide the ingredients for the dishes. It was very impressive. The restaurant itself is in a restored country house.
While I could have visited this marvelous place on my own, it was priceless to get a tour from an insider. We also got a tour through the kitchen to see our first appetizer assembled.
The dining areas of Can Jubany looked peaceful compared with the noisy industrial settings for most Portland restaurants. We had a separate room for our group with a tastefully set table. Each course was paired with wine.
These first two appetizers had definite modernist twists.
I love pumpkin gnocchi. The service was perfect, as you would expect at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
It seems we always had to have some foie gras.
This lovely caterpillar appears on the Can Jubany web site, too.
That’s what the chickens were up to out in the coop.
The Spanish classic dish, with unusual seafood.
And now we got a flood of desserts
Quote of the day from Jose, “Modern is good, but if you go too far you miss the point.”
I’m pretty happy still by the end of the meal.
Anna says Nandu married her for her stomach size.
Many of us considered this day to be the highlight of the trip, it was wonderful.
But with the bus ride too and from, I got in almost no walking. I had to make up at least 30 minutes of exercise on the exercise bike in our hotel to make my Apple Watch meet that daily goal. But it was one of the few days in the past year I didn’t get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.
This was good as some of our group had blisters from the walking the previous day. And we all far made up the missed steps the next day, in which I logged over 31,000 steps, as much as a half marathon.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Chef Jose always ordered “little fishies” for us. I will never be a fan, but I appreciate the love others have for them.
The eggplant with molasses was super.
Not your McDonald’s variety of chicken nuggets.
Chef Jose said you can’t get these in the US, the rabbits aren’t the right size.
The bun needed some work, it crumbled. But the steak sandwich was super.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cod fish on cracker with sweet olive tapenade
Oxtail and mushroom croquette – this was one of my favorite bites.
Red shrimp with avocado
Tomato – tongue- tuna -almonds
Smoked sardines, ajo blanco, trout roe
This octopus and garbanzos combo reminded me of a dish we had for breakfast at BarCentral.
By now, we were quite ready for the desserts.
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.