Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh Starry Night

A few months ago, my friends Allan and Trish were in town, treating Felipe and me to dips in the roof top pools of their swank hotels and multiple bottles of cava. We ate well in those weeks--tapas around town, a picnic on the beach, and paella on our terrace. But the most decadent treat (thank you Allan and Trish) was dinner at Cinc Sentits ( restaurant owned by Catalan-Canadian brother and sister, Jordi and Amelia Artal (pictured).

The dinner deserves a considered post and you will get one in time. Before that, however, one piece of news: last week, Cinc Sentits was awarded its first Michelin honour that locals have long thought deserved and one pounced upon by Catalan newspapers following the release of the new Michelin guide for Portugal and Spain.

The star is all the more bright because of the widely prevailing view (at least in the Spanish press) that the awards of stars were "stingy" this year--stingy in that few new stars were awarded in Spain, of course. But what would food industry accolades be without a little fodder for bellyaching, I say.

You can read my article about Cinc Sentits in the Globe & Mail until I get a chance to fill you in further. Here's the link: Catalan-Canuck chef makes Michelin magic.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Churros and Chocolate in Barcelona

I rarely write about blogging per se because, let's face it, qua activity it's a little on the dull side. That is not to say that the blogging world doesn't hold a sway over me. Nor is it to say that I don't follow my blog statistics with a greedy fascination. It's simply that the mechanics of blogging are normally best left out of the blog.

Except today. Today, I'm going to tell you a little about what I learn from my stats. While the statistics don't identify visitors, they do let me know generally where visitors to the blog are from and, in some cases, what they were searching for when they came to me. You may be surprised to know that an alarming number of my blog's visitors are searching for "girls' pepes", which I suppose is a misspelled euphemism for vaginas. They are directed to the post titled Pepe's Paella. I can only assume that they are sorely disappointed. Not unlike those searching for "sexy nuns"; they end up at Nuns Cook.

More importantly, I've discovered that there are many desperate souls searching for the best churros and chocolate in Barcelona. They have to date been misdirected to this blog because of a post about churros in Seville.

Churros are deep fried pieces of dough, usually in stick form, which are typical of the south of Spain; they're not part of Catalan culinary tradition, even though there are a handful of churrerias sprinkled around Barcelona. My Seville churro post simply says that Barcelona's churros just don't reach Seville's standards and, with that, leaves those hopeful souls hanging

That ends today. For those of you who must know, there is one Barcelona spot that nearly reaches Seville standards (nearly). The pace is rather laconically dubbed Xurreria (the Catalan spelling of Churreria). You can find it a few doors down from a place called La Granja (c/ Banys Nous 4, Gotico).

La Granja (pictured above) is, well, a granja, that is to say, a milk bar--a little like a cafe, but with offerings that usually include a variety of hot chocolates and milk based beverages. For those looking for a break from bars, there's no alcohol and no smoking. Many granjas are holes in the wall; La Granja is one of the more charming and offers a variety of chocolates, milks, juices, teas and coffees as well as pastries, sandwiches and home made desserts. An excellent option for a light breakfast or a merienda (an afternoon tea, usually taken at around 5pm in Barcelona).

But back to churros. The Xurreria makes some of the lightest, freshest churros in Barcelona and La Granja--which sells a a thick melted chocolate so dark it's nearly black--lets you bring them in for dipping.

An individual portion of churros is a euro. The chocolate is 2.50. I have no doubt that your taste buds will thank you...your arteries, not so much.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Foie Gras (Rant Free)

I've been working on a post about old school Catalan restaurants recently, dutifully consuming butifarra, suquet, pigs' feet and a variety of other Catalan classics without writing a word.

Luckily, the Globe has come through by publishing another article that I can share with you on-line. This one is about "ethical" foie gras. It's a costly rarity, even in Spain, but you (assuming you are European) can get it through this site, if you fancy:

If you have a hankering to read all about it, you can find the Globe article here: Spain's no-guilt delicacy: foie gras minus the force feeding.

If you simply cannot suppress the need to rant about foie (one of the most rantable foods, to be sure), feel free to let it all out in the comment section of this post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pigs for Obama

It's a little hard to wrap your mind around pigs on the glorious morning of the Obama victory. Believe me, I know. But, if any pig can take your mind off history-making, righteousness and the single largest ray of hope on the world political stage, it's the wooly, totally improbable Hungarian mangalica. I like to think the mangalica would have come out for Obama in droves were they human and registered voters in key swing states.

In any case, here's a link to my story about them (voting history not addressed) and the Spanish production company that helped save the breed: Mangalica: The Next Big Pig.

In case you're wondering, I do still have a piece of sausage left from the mangalica samples that Jamones Segovia sent me, the ham samples having disappeared a long time ago. The pork is delicious, even if the picture of the wooly critter on the packaging creeps me out a little every time.