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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gourmet Barcelona

Not only is Barcelona an amazing food city, it knows it. Starting at the Plaza Catalunya, on Friday or Saturday at 11:00 am you can take a Gourmet Walking Tour put on by the Barcelona Tourism office. The cost is just under $15 and it is well worth it. Over the course of two hours a local guide leads you down a bit of the Ramblas, from the Boqueria into the Barri Gotic and finally to La Ribera making numerous stops along the way.

The tour is a terrific way to orient yourself and make sure you hit some of the best examples of Barcelona's gastronomic riches. The first stop is Granja Viader, the site where Cacoalat, a kind of bottled chocolate milk was invented. This is a great place to find all kinds of local dairy products, cheeses, crema catalan, yogurt, but also cakes and sweets that are local specialties.

On to the market! I will post more about the Boqueria but suffice it to say it one of the most impressive covered outdooor markets in Europe. There is a great variety of fresh seafood, eggs, produce, meats, charcuterie, wines and even little kiosks where you can get a meal.

Some more of the highlights include the Patisseria Escriba, here pastries are particularly fine, and don't miss their amazing hot chocolate. I was so enamored, I bought a bag of it. There are two locations, but the building near the market on the Ramblas is a Modernist style jewel.

Next proceed to a tiny alley in the winding, twisting, narrow lanes of the Barri Gotic. Carrer de Petritxol is known for it's "granges", cafes that specialize in traditional products such as chocolate, curd cheese and churros. This is the perfect place to stop for breakfast or a snack.

Xocolateria Fargas is a chocolate shop that opened in 1827 and not much has changed since then. Walking in is like taking a step back in history. There is even an old stone that was once used for grinding cacao beans for Barcelona's chocolate fiends. Buy a little packet of chocolates here and be treated to the best chocolate covered almond with your purchase.

Casa Gispert is a roastery and the scent of coffee and nuts is intoxicating. The dark atmospheric shop is filled with many treats including fig paste with almonds, chocolates, coffee, saffron, smoked paprika, honey, cookies, crackers, and of course those crisp and delicious marcona almonds. This is the place to stock up on pantry essentials and pick up a gift or two to take home.

On to La Botifarreria de Santa Maria. Here you may feel regret that you didn't rent an apartment in town. You will be filled with the desire to purchase sausages, hams and other charcuterie. Make a mental note to order jamon iberica de belota next time you see it on a menu, it is ham from acorn-fed pigs, rich, sweet, porcine and delicious beyond description.

There are plenty more stops along they way, about ten to twelve altogether. Each place, a gastronomic delight will tempt your senses and will fill your imagination...