Barcelona is a city that I had wanted to visit for a long time-
For starters, it is the home of an artist who has been an idol and inspiration for me since I was a kid- the genius Antoni Gaudi.
Now I know this blog is supposed to be about food..travels.. But I must point out that for someone like me, who has no separation between my profession and my personal identity- someone like Gaudi is the true definition of a role model- a True Artist.
He created some of the most amazing and surprising works of art, not just in the category of “Modern times”, but for all time.
He understood the perfection of nature, and never sought to “Tame” or “Modify” it- And he rightfully saw the forms and shapes and aesthetic perfection of the natural world as the highest form of art- and his works- from tiny, intricate mosaics, to massive, epic Cathedrals and architectural works- and in his art he payed tribute to the beauty he respected and strove to show his devotion to in his works.
His works are almost impossible to truly show the depth of their importance and majesty with photos. You simply must see these masterpieces in person.. And that means you MUST go to Barcelona!!!
Getting back just briefly to Gaudi, and his philosophy for a moment- I would also like to point out that for me- First and foremost, I am an artist.
I do not read industry magazines, I do not own or read cookbooks (other than a tattered old La Rousse surviving from culinary school..) I do not own or watch TV, even though that may seem outrageous as of course you all know I just finished filming a 13- episode show of my own..
And most of all- I do not “borrow” steal, or “get inspiration” from reading other Chef’s menus- for most chefs, it’s tempting- in fact, it’s the status quo!
Let’s face it! sometimes you are damn tired! Burned out! Exhausted!
And the last @#%! thing you feel like doing is sitting down and writing a whole menu.
But tough bananas!!
If you are a chef, and you start opening other guy’s books, and “changing just one element” here and there and then calling it your creation, trawling the internets, leafing through restaurant websites for ideas for your menus.. YOU CAN FORGET ALL ABOUT BEING A REAL ARTIST.
And *ahem* there are sure a lot of those kind of “chefs” in my town!!!!!
I get ALL my inspiration from what i see in the markets and in my travels, and the fact I’ve been in the kitchen since i was 14 years old!
I NEVER have to gank someone else’s ideas! sure it’s hard. I have to go to the market all the time. And go thru huge amounts of hassle tracking down ingredients!
I don’t even save most copies of MY OWN menus! otherwise, I will get complacent, and lazy, and I cannot have that! And neither can my clients!
It really gets on my nerves to see so often, menus all over town (and I am talking about SF, NY, even Paris, etc..) basically looking like the same guy wrote them all! Like there’s one damn chef influencing everyone! This sort of nonsense goes on all the time- Because TRENDS and HYPE pollute the inspiration of chefs and everyone ends up copying everyone else and pretty soon, nothing looks unique!!
This is boring! lazy! disrespectful!
Do you think Gaudi or Picasso “Just borrowed a few things here and there”?!
Now I seem to have gotten off the subject, which was Barcelona..
So to return to that- I love this city!!! And I love the Boqueria Market!
It has literally one of the best world-class Fish Markets in the world!
And it has a couple of really, really EXCEPTIONAL market restaurants- My favourite being “Kiosk Universal”
It’s an amazing, crazy, cafe right in the middle of the market!
There’s an island of plancha griddles in the middle where the macho, testosterone-fuelled cooks pump out insane volumes of the most pristine fish, seafood, and other delights the market has to offer!
Sit at the counter! Order a bottle of Cava!
get the “Ongos salteados” (sauteed mushrooms)
“sauteed mushrooms, Big Deal”, you say,??!
Oh no… THESE are about 10 different varieties of fresh wild mushrooms! sauteed with prodigious amounts of garlic and parsley!! Heaven!!
And the razor clams! weird- looking creatures which might give you a fright to behold! Eat them up! You will thank me!!
And my personal favourite- the delicate, tiny clams called ‘Taillerinas”- as small as the fingernail of your little finger!! you get about a half kilo of them, again with this glorious fresh garlic and parsley! I myself have eaten 3 orders at one sitting! Alon and I used to go at 11am and eat them, plus a bottle of Rose, for breakfast!!!! Que Rico!!
Also- the jamon de Iberico (Esp, the “Pato Negro”) is among the more delicious things on the face of the earth! Black semi-wild pigs! fattened on dried fruits! turned into the most delicate and refined type of “Prosciutto” in the world!
It costs a fortune, and it’s worth every damn Euro!
And what ever you do, DO NOT MISS eating a plate of fried “Chiles Padron”- a small type of green chile pepper- about the size of a jalapeno- but with these, only 1 in 10 is actually hot! You never know when the hot one is going to up and bite you!! and that’s part of the fun!
Go to eat tapas, go to eat in the Boqueria- but in my opinion you can skip the “Fancy” restaurants. They aren’t up to the standards of France, Italy, or the US, and their simple and traditional food is so much better…
And definitely go to a real, local, Tapas bar!! there’s a lot but I really enjoyed this one; (locals only, NO English spoken- excellent!)
Paseo Fabra y Puig, 296.
Also- “Cal-Pep” it’s very much the opposite, lots of tourists go here as well as locals but it is very high quality and great place..
And last but not least- here is a GREAT hotel! cheap! Cool! excellent location! Quiet! perfect service! and amazing concierge, “Gerardo”-
who will plaster you with Cava the second you set foot in the lobby, and help you with anything you might need! I think this place is fantastic!
So I hope you take my advice, and visit Barcelona- where the sunny and warm people as much as the architecture, art, food, and culture, will warm and inspire you… and Vaya con Dios, Mi Amigos!!