Thursday, 4 December 2008

Girona, the jewish heritage

Visit Girona Known as the Florence of Catalonia because of its charm and magnificient architectural and artistic heritage.
Once an important Jewish centre, it definetely deserves a trip if you want to discover this unique town on the river Ter, not far from the Costa Brava.
Easily explored in a day, Girona’s historic sights reflect its long fascinating history. Visible from most points in the city and a five-minute walk down hill from the Jewish quarter, the Gothic Cathedral dates from 1416 and contains stunning stained glass windows and the world’s largest single-naved vault. Up a monumental flight of 90 steps and inside are: a 10th century copy of a Beatus manuscript “Commentary on the Apocalypse,” the best preserved Romanesque tapestry in Europe and an enormous 19th century organ.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Skating in Barcelona

Barcelona is fast becoming the skate capital of the world, with innumerable aspects conspiring to create the most amenable environment to the sport.
The climate makes it possible to skate year-round, the authorities are lax, and the dynamic hip-hop/graffiti/street culture ensures plenty of like-minded people.

The APB (Associació de Patinadors de Barcelona) is a non-profit-making entity whose goal is encouraging inline skating in Barcelona.
They organize weekly free routes through the city. They start each friday at 22.30h in Passeig Marítim with C/Ramón Trias Fargas (close to Vila Olímpica) and their lenght varies between 14Km and 18Km.
These tours have the permit of the city administration, and they are guided by a group of volunteers (stoppers) who control the traffic.
If you'd rather discover Barcelona through a different way, and you like skating, don't hesitate to contact with this entity.

More information:

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Catalan Cuisine. Creativity and Tradition

Catalan cuisine is currently riding a wave and experiencing quite a remarkable level of international exposure. Noted for its innovative capacity, stemming from a centuries-old tradition, Catalan cuisine is in vogue.

This has testified by the Michelin Guide, Europe's oldest and most celebrated gastronomic guidebook that lists the best restaurants and hotels in a dozen European countries. The Michelin star system is based on five basic and solely culinary criteria: the quality of the produce; the mastery of controlling the flavour, and cooking 'au poin'; the character of the cooking; value for money; and constancy.

My selection of Michelin restaurants in Barcelona

ABAC. Av. Tibidabo, 1. Tel. 93 319 66 00
This restaurant with two Michelin Stars, elegant and minimalist, is considered by many as one of Barcelona's very best restaurants, and it's one of my favourite as well. Famed chef Xavier Pellicer creates an innovative, experimental and original cuisine which is the culmination of a long and esteemed professional career. 

He follows prime produce through the season to constantly reinvent his ten-course tasting menu. Flash-seared tuna melts into crunchy, cumin-scented artichoke chips; crisp caramelized skin envelops fork-tender suckling pig; sea urchin royale with fennel foam; tendons, bamboo claims, broccoli mousse and truffle soup. Spain is well-represented on the cheese trolley. Reservations are a must and average dinner prices are from 80-110€

SAÜC. Passatge Lluís Pellicer, 12. Tel. 93 321 01 89
The latiest among Barcelona's new breed of intimate chef-driven restaurants, Saüc proves that you don't need El Bulli. The modest space is brightened by the presence of Anna Doñate, who's as passionate about service as her husband, chef Xavier Franco, is about food.

The menu changes seasonally, but always consists of eight starters, ten main courses (five fish and five seafood), and six desserts. A few dishes have become classics, including crispy ham with squid and artichokes, and magnificient slow-roasted suckling pig with velvety meet capped by a brittle crust of its own skin.  At lunchtime there's a menu that will rise up to 40€ with wine and coffee. So decide for the degustation menu, as the level of the simple one is not the same.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Barcelona's best hot chocolate

Barcelona is the epicenter of cacao. Forget Belgium and Switzerland. Barcelona as a city puts these other coutries to shame. We drink their thick dark hot chocolate in the morning, as a mid day snack at night, accompanied by sweet bready churros. 
Of course, among the gallons consumed, some hot chocolates are better than others. 
Here is my guide to drinking this brown gold.

Granja M Viader. C/Xuclà, 4-6
The chocolate milk drink Cacaolat (a bottled sweet chocolate milk) was invented here in 1931 and is still offered. I really recommend their suisse hot chocolate with whipped cream. Amazing! (Honey and cottage cheese dish is also great)

Dulcinea. C/Petritxol, 2
Perhaps the best chocolate and melindros (a catalan soft pastry perfect for dipping in the chocolate) in the city. Established in 1930, Dulcinea gains its namesale from Don Quixote's love, but gains its reputation for their lovely thick chocolate.

Gelateria Xocolateria Santa Clara. C/Baixada de la Llibreteria, 2
Hidden in a corner of Plaça Sant Jaume, this place has great hot chocolate and homemade churros, also their ensaimada pastries are not to be missed either. Open early, it's best to come here for a chocolatey breakfast.

Fargas. C/Pi, 16
Adorned with the same rustic décor sine 1937, this old-time chocolate shop is one of the most famous in Barcelona. Their hot chocolate is a definite must on every chocolate-touring itinerary.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Barcelona's tapas bars

Inopia is run by Alberto Adrià, the younger brother and partner of Ferran Adrià, at this point perhaps the best-known chef in the world. There is nothing at Inopia that is not at least intriguing. You can order ham croquettes in any tapas bar, but here they are made with jamón ibérico, and they are certainly superior. The menu is huge, and with precious ingredients, prepared and served simply. The frying is done in olive oil, as it is throughout the best places in Spain. Don't pass up the opportunity to taste their delicious anchovy fillets, the torta Canarejal, and a sliced confit tuna belly. At Inopia it somehow seems to be vastly superior than the touristic bars along Las Ramblas... and consequently more expensive. So, don't forget your credit card!

Bar Tomas (in outlying Sarrià) gets trainloads of patata brava fans evey weekend. What's the secret? Its salsa brava. It varies a lot from chef to chef. Bar Tomas is one of the most popular places in Barcelona due to his bravas. Don't pass it up!

But my favourite is a bar/restaurant in Gracia called Samsara. This trendy restaurant has built up quite a following among Gràcia foodies. I recommend you their sweety potatoes with pesto, king prawns with popcorns and parma cheese, pincho of prawns and bloody sausage, watermelon gazpacho with basil oil... and a brownie of white chocolate with pistachios... Nice alternative tapas at good prices.  
This is a cool place to hang out as well, since afterwards, the place became a bar to drink and mingle while a DJ plays lounge.