A Mecca for Foodies
La Rambla is a street where you can find anything. Stroll down this long boulevard cutting through the old city, the Barri Gotic, and you are instantly reminded of Paris. The lovely buildings with their wrought iron balconies are quite reminiscent of Paris. But the resemblance ends there and quickly. The Champs Elysees doesn’t host birds, turtles, street performers, or the famous Mercat de La Boqueria, the one market in the world where foodies must come before they die. Unlike like Mecca, once will not be enough.
From early in the morning throughout the entire day, the market is bustling with buyers. Wander in at seven or so and you will find the market filled with restaurateurs there to buy fish just pulled from the sea that will be on their menus and tables by evening. Wander up and down and ogle the gorgeous varieties that nearly leap off the tables; they look that fresh. Tables of snails, gambas, sardines, huge fish, small fish (I’m starting to sound like Dr. Suess; I know, I know).
After you have gloried in the fish, it’s time for breakfast. Near the front of the market is the famous Bar Pinotxo where you can get strong coffee and a fresh, warm pastry. The owner Juan Bayen has been there forever. Look for the photos of him as a very young man. Watch him greet his regulars and put their order in front of them before they say a word. But get there early or you will find yourself six deep, waiting to get your order in. (See the picture!) Come later for lunch. Everything is delicious, but I especially loved the chickpeas served warm and cooked with sausage.
Here in La Boqueria you can shop for ingredients to take home to cook Spanish dishes like paella. Buy some Spanish pimenton; smoky paprika that’s hard to find elsewhere and gives paella its crazy, delicious flavor. Buy sea salt and bomba rice, as well as Spanish saffron and you will be cooking happily for months to come.
There is a plethora of pork product stands and it’s hard to know from whom to buy. Try the old standby: watch and wait and see where the locals go, but it seems as though it’s hard to get bad jamon (ham) here. I purchased several kinds of Iberian jamon, sausage and chorizo and it was all so delicious, I was ready to run back to Barcelona as soon as it was gone. (Don’t ask how I got it home. That’s a story for another day.)
Cheese stands were also in abundance and the amazing Spanish cheeses did not disappoint. Manchego is the dry delicious cheese I selected to bring home. It goes perfectly with a smooth glass of Spanish red wine; vino tinto.
On the way out, make a stop at the chocolate stand. They hand you little plastic baggies and a scoop and you help yourself. I thought I had stocked up. By the time my plane landed in the US, my baggies were, sadly, empty.
I’ve made myself hungry. I’m off to have a glass of vino tinto and a piece of Manchego cheese. Adios!