12 things you must eat when you visit Barcelona

Adventures, Food, Travel

Every time I set foot in a European city I am so thankful for living on this incredible continent. Even if it is on a small island just to the left. As a self-confessed foodie, Europe is an absolute haven for culinary delights.

Madrid may be the Spanish capital but Barcelona is certainly the food capital. It’s the city of utter gluttony. A wealth of beautiful architecture, designer stores, and high-end restaurants lining the streets, tiny lit up bars serving glass after glass of cava and plate after plate of tapas. It’s difficult to know where to start. If you are planning on visiting the City of Counts soon then this is your go-to culinary list. Enjoy!

1.Iberico Ham

You can barely walk a few steps in Barcelona without stumbling upon a shop or stall selling all the versions of Jamon Iberico you could possibly imagine. Each different adaptation of the cured meat offers different flavours and characteristics but the distinct oily, slightly nutty taste synonymous with Iberico will always be there. For a small taste try one of the meat stalls in Mercat de la Boqueria. Tick off 2 items on this list by buying one of the small punnets that contain both Iberico and a bit of our next treat…

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2. Manchego

Made in the La Mancha region of Spain this sheep’s milk cheese is, in my opinion, the perfect companion for your Iberico. Nutty, sweet and caramel in both flavour and colour. It makes the perfect addition to the fatty, rich Iberico.

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3. Pa amb Tomaquet

Arguably one of the best Catalan inventions of all time, Bread rubbed with tomato. Sounds basic, tastes incredible. The bread should be ideally sourdough and toasted, maybe even slightly charred, a sprinkle of salt on the bread, the tomatoes should be on the vine or of the hanging variety, the tomato is sliced in half and rubbed over the course bread releasing all of the natural flavours. The finishing touch? A drizzle of high-quality olive oil. Bon profit!

4. La Bomba

Potato and meat bombs. Sound amazing, taste amazing. These are large balls of mashed potato surrounding usually a pork or beef centre. The best are served piping hot and with a spicy sauce and a traditional alioli. Go to Paco Meralgo for their “Bomba Paco Meralgo” which is my personal favourite!

5. Paella (Catalan style)

Paella is easy to get wrong and there are countless restaurants in Barcelona that will serve up frozen versions to the tourists roaming the city. For a real Catalan version, you should expect at least an hours wait. Catalan paella is slightly different, once the rice is added to the pan the pan is not stirred, this allows the ingredients to relax and gives you that incredible “soccarat” that you look for in a good paella. I recommend going to Pez Vela Chiringuito, directly on the beachfront in the shadow of the glamorous W hotel, this is the perfect place for a bottle of wine and a few paellas to share. Pez Vela do around 5 different versions and charge per person so try a few different flavours. My favourites are the Baby squid, black rice & artichoke and the Squid, prawns & clams rice.

6. Padron peppers

Don’t mistake these for a boring dish. Hot, blistered peppers sprinkled in sea salt are the perfect pal to an ice cold glass of Albariño.

 

 

7. Cava

Often heralded as a lesser Champagne but don’t dismiss this sparkling wine. 70% of this refreshing beverage is produced in Catalonia and so there is no better place than to enjoy a glass/bottle than in one of Barcelona’s many wine bars or bodegas. Can Paixano aka La Xampanyeria is a great old fashioned tapas bar, popular with tourists and locals alike, that serves up very reasonably priced glasses of Cava if you order a small portion of food. Not that you need convincing…

8. Patatas Bravas

We all know and love this fried dish don’t we but it can go so horribly wrong. Chunks of roughly cut potato cooked in high quality oil accompanied with a sales (occasionally spicy) and alioli. For the best in Barcelona try Bar Tomás whose secret sauce recipe is closely guarded. If you aren’t a huge fan of spice and heat then try Elsa and Fred’s version – this is a milder take on the classic but doesn’t fail to pack a punch with its flavour profile.

9. Croquetas

Croquetas don’t strictly have an all Spanish origin but the first thing I look at ordering when I’m in Spain are these little babies. Originally they were made from leftovers, bound with a bechamel sauce and then deep fried. Nowadays you can find them served up with a whole range of fillings. If this is your first time trying them then opt for the Jamon variety. You just can’t beat a classic.

 

 

10. Crema Catalana

Quintessentially Catalan. The recipe is very similar to that of a Creme Brulee but don’t you dare let the locals hear you compare it. This dessert is the perfect finish to your evening meal, light citrus infused custard with hints of vanilla and cinnamon topped off with the iconic crunchy layer of scorched caramel. There is a very sweet story behind the origin of this dessert here.

11. Artichokes

Vague, I know. Artichokes are native to the region and there a plethora of tapas bars that serve up different takes on this versatile ingredient. Try them stuffed, roasted or most commonly, fried into chips. Ciutat Comtal does a fantastic version, as do many of the tapas bars within Mercat de la Boqueria.

12. Churros

Churros (Xurros) may not originate from Barcelona but you can find some phenomenal examples of them, particularly if you stray away from the hoards of tourists and into some of the quieter back streets. There are plenty of small Xurrerias (Small, snug shops that specialise in the deep-fried treat) that offer up not only the traditional version with a pot of dipping chocolate but also stuffed and empanada style versions. For the best in Barcelona try Xurreria San Roman, Xurreria Trebol or La Xocolateria (by Oriol Balaguer).

If you are a foodie in Barcelona it doesn’t matter if your preference is more Market stall than Michelin you can truly get a taste of Catalonia no matter where you go!

 

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12 Hours in Amsterdam

Adventures

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Last weekend Mr. PL and I went on a five-day cruise for my lovely Dad’s 50th birthday. One of the day stops was Amsterdam. I have visited once before but I was only 17 at the time and so I was only interested in sleeping in, staying up all night and laughing at the risque souvenirs. So this time I was so excited to return and see the real Amsterdam.

We got off in the cruise terminal and decided to wander through the streets toward the Bloemenmarkt. Narrow, tall houses with ornate gabled facades line each street, everywhere you look there is a beautiful building to gaze at. If architecture isn’t your cup of tea I assure you that you will still be fascinated. One reason – Each house seems like it was built in the middle of an earthquake. They lean in every possible direction, the windows look positively tipsy in their frames. It truly is the Dutch answer to The leaning tower of Pisa – The leaning houses of Amsterdam.

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Bloemenmarkt is the worlds only floating flower market. Sounds like a dream and looks like a dream. Each market stall sits above the Singel canal, full to the brim with tulips of every colour you can imagine. I have a few pleasures in life, fresh flowers and cheese are two of them – Bloemenmarkt combines the both because directly opposite the flower market sit a plethora of cheese shops. As if I hadn’t already indulged enough.

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We strolled along the canals all the way to the old Heineken Brewery which today houses the Heineken Experience and museum. One of the many beauties of Amsterdam is that you can walk around most of it as it isn’t a huge city like say Rome or London. You get to see so many more hidden gems wandering around.

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We spent around 2.5 hours in the Heineken Experience, learning about the history of the brewery, the beer, and the brand. It really is such a fantastic and immersive set up that they have there. It’s well tailored to the Instagram crowd with numerous ‘selfie spots’ dotted around and my favourite – the karaoke bikes!

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To finish the tour, we drank wayyyy too much beer in the Heineken bar. Perfectly poured pints in a low-lit underground bar, trays of bitterballen and a pour your own pint immersive bar. I blame the staff at that bar for how much cash I went on to spend in the brand shop.

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After spending the afternoon learning about Heineken and drinking Heineken what did we decide to do? Go to Cafe de Pijp of course for a large Heineken. Retro-modern decor, large cold beers and more hot, crisp bitterballen. I really couldn’t have asked for more. With a slight beer haze and bellies full of deep fried Dutch delicacies, we spent the rest of our evening walking through the canal district and the old square. Amsterdam’s image can be sordid but it’s so much more – a beautiful, cosmopolitan city perfect for a city break.

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Disclosure: Opinions expressed are purely my own and I accept no responsibility for your sudden urge to book a trip to Amsterdam