I do not speak any Spanish. My French and Italian (both terrible) let me understand the written word, but what I pronounce might as well be Old Norse. Given that, and that I am alone in Barcelona, I am spending most of my culinary time in the safe tourist spots versus the hardcore foodie Mecca joints oozing authenticity. Fair enough. Still, I will assert that you can eat extraordinarily well if you follow the black licorice rule. The what? “The black licorice rule: no one likes black licorice around you, so if you can enjoy that then you can have all you want at a great price.
In Barcelona that means that you can go to a tourist-style place, and if you avoid tourist food, then you can enjoy beautiful foods for a reasonable cost without the stress of being surrounded by angry, old Spanish men who are insulted you know no Spanish. Tonight found me at Pura Brasa, a gastropub grill across the street from B Hotel. Last time that V. and I were here we visited this place and had a fun lunch, so I decided to head over for a stress-free dinner.
Sangria is simply light, sweet wine in Barcelona. Do not confuse it with the great concoctions you might sip in Montreal or even Rome. It is for tourists who want to feel Spanish. Sooo I ordered one of these to set the stage. First up was the Iberian ham plate. Jamon is a prosciutto type of ham that kills with its rich beauty. There are a wide range of grades, so I went with the middle of the road for this meal to re-introduce my taste buds to the heady flavours. Hard fat like this demands a strong red wine (which I ordered) and a working with the texture. It was stunning and perfect for a mere 9 Euros.
For my main course I took the road untravelled by every other tourist: the Cava glazed Pig’s foot grilled to finish. Obviously, the black licorice of a menu filled with pasta, burgers, steak, paella and fish we all know. It had to be good. Do not forget that despite the fact that all of the cooks were Asian, Barcelona is the world’s leading gastronomic zone in 2012. As Anthony Bourdain rightly noted, all chefs want to stage here and train for a while. They work is these types of kitchens to pay bills, and they crave to be cooking the real deal in between the burgers and fries.
For the uninitiated, pig’s foot is…sticky and gelatinous. I first tried it with V. at my personal Montreal favorite, Pied de Cochon, and then again here last year. The last time it was too much after a full meal of hams, manchego cheeses and Cava – the glue overwhelmed me. This time I opted for a Cava glazed version that was grilled to finish in a wood oven. This dish killed. The smoke of the grill balanced the gluey fat which cut the salty pork richness and the Cava was subtle. Superb “black licorice” choice.
To end, I needed a cafe Americano (despite the name, often the best coffee choice in the Spanish world) and dessert. A pear cream dessert fit the bill. Neither too sweet or cheese-based, the pear flan was a good way to pull my palette back from the edge of insanity brought on by the feet.
For 35 Euros, this was a superb meal. Though the servers always seem to hate me here, I like the vibe a lot. If you ignore the tourist advice about Spaniards only eating at 9pm, then you can grab an empty restaurant at 7-8pm to get a good seat and a head start. Pura Brasa is a favorite place for me to eat – I like the new world order vibe of the staff, and the multi-lingual menus keep me safe from ordering lamb testicles…again. Just avoid the hamburgers; rawness and texture are to a different taste than the North American standard. Unless you are in Portland, Texas or a steak house then say no to ground beef. These particular burgers reminded me of one I ate in Havana – necessary due to a lack of available food, but awful to behold.
Oh, and while all of this week’s travel blogs will feature iPhone photos, I am shooting with my 1964 Leica M3 camera and the Hasselblad 501c/m. The new strap from Tanner Goods in Portland, Oregon is brilliant, and a waiter at the restaurant was taken by the camera enough to comment on its beauty.
Last thing is that I absolutely love the La Guita Manzanilla sherry I bought for 6euros this afternoon. It cannot be purchased in Canada, but it has a soft, refreshing taste that could be embibed for many hours without fatigue. My mission on this adventures is to avoid the wines and cava in favor of the sherry, Porto and cavaldos. Tomorrow is an early morning at the rooftop pool and then to La Boqueria.