Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
A Barcelona Sojourn.
Catalonia is a Northeast Spanish region of rolling hills, verdant vineyards, majestic mountains and picturesque towns and villages. The area is rich with possibilities for an ideal holiday.
One can start by exploring the city of Barcelona; a large metropolitan area steeped in history, culture and some of the best restaurants to be found in Northern Spain. Barcelona is also at the center of the Catalan wine culture, as it is surrounded by numerous DOs and DOQs (the Spanish equivalent of a DOCG).
In my opinion, the region produces some of the greatest red wines in the world, as well as a diversity of whites and rosés with exceptional style for every occasion and purse. During your travels, you will find that there is no such thing as a typical Catalan wine; even though most are created by the main Catalan varieties of Garnatxa (Garnacha) and Samsó (Cariñena) blended with small quantities of Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and other local and international grapes. The whites are usually blends of Garnacha Blanca or Parellada with some Sauvignon Blanc and/or Chardonnay. Three local white grapes: Parellada, Xarel.lo and Macabeo are used to create an exceptional sparkling wine, Cava; Spain’s delicious answer to Champagne. Pedro Ximenez is also used in some blends as well as vinified by itself to give aroma and perhaps a hint of sweetness to the resulting white wine. Many of the larger wineries in the region have tasting rooms for visitors.
After a long day of tasting wines, an excellent meal is essential.
La Rambla is a 1.2 kilometer boulevard that is considered the civil, cultural and gastronomic axis of Barcelona. Radiating from La Rambla are streets, alleys and other boulevards. Bars, tascas (tapas bars), restaurants and other gastronomic treasures are easily found in those side streets.
Eating and drinking in Barcelona is a delicious experience and the chefs and cooks that prepare the food deserve kudos for their succulent creations. Regional specialties as well as classics are served to accompany the local wines.
We had lunch at one of the best restaurants in the city: Boca Grande, at Passatge de la Conseptió 12. Famous for extremely fresh seafood and scrumptious rice dishes, the restaurant is open from 1:00 pm to midnight.
We started with small plates washed down with a lovely cava. The cava was soft and fruity and very refreshing; the perfect starter on a warm spring day. The restaurant has a outstanding cellar and Daniel Rivera, the sommelier, knows his wines! The kitchen is as good as the cellar. Here the fare changes almost daily, depending on the season and ingredient availability and there is a long list of 40 daily specials ranging from small plates to first courses, to fish and seafood courses and finally desserts.
The first item was a Catalan classic, pan con tomato; a piece of charcoal-toasted bread, very ripe tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. You cut the tomato in half and rub it on the toast, covering the bread with the tomato pulp. Then you drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sea salt on the pulp. It is a peasant’s repast but with freshly baked bread and tasty, ripe tomatoes it’s a delight. The next offerings were “Cod Rinds” as well as Foie and Mango caneloni (sic), and a glass of refreshing Gazpacho. While we’re waiting for the next batch of appetizers an entire Turbot was brought to the table so we can see it. It was so fresh I think it was swimming in the Mediterranean earlier that day.
As I mentioned above Boca Grande is famous for fresh fish; as you enter the restaurant there is a fish display on ice under glass and the lobsters in the display were still waving their antennae and moving their claws.
Daniel uncorked a bottle of crisp white wine Les Brugueres from Priorat; an aromatic, slightly acidy wine that paired beautifully with the appetizers. On a piece of clay roof tile, came Fried “Padron” Peppers, they are small, green, very tasty and mild, sprinkled with sea salt and a very small amount of breadcrumbs. Then came Tuna Tartare over an Avocado base; rounds of Fried Zucchini toped with a bubbling Béchamel sauce and sprinkled with chives; grilled Octopus with potato slices and caramelized onion in a different cream sauce. By that time, the deep fried turbo was on the way to the table, and it was boned tableside and served.
The kitchen creates numerous seafood dishes including fried King Prawn tails “al ajillo”, Mussels “marinera” style, grilled scallops and also offers exceptional rice dishes, such as paella “marinera” and black rice (using the cuttlefish ink) with cuttlefish and cockles.
We finished the cava and the white wine as well as all the appetizers and the deep fried turbo. Even though lunch takes a couple of hours – this is Spain after all -- no one departs without dessert and a cup of espresso or an Americano.
Thank you Núria Ruiz i Mila and Ramón Raventós for guiding us through such an exceptional culinary encounter.
© June 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.