A Day in Barcelona: From Breakfast to Late Night Bite

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Many people travel  for the cultural experience, and others travel for the sake of  sightseeing. But everyone who travels shares the universal need, and pleasure, of eatings.

The Catalan city of Barcelona is well known for many things, but especially its amazing culinary scene.  Whether you are in town for a pilgrimage to Salvador Dali’s home region or to catch a glimpse of the world’s best football player, Lionel Messi, or to treat yourself to a villa stay, your meals will be spectacular.

In your search for outstanding culinary experiences, avoid tourist traps, especially ones with signs that trumpet “Best Paella in Town.” Be adventurous and see if you can get a recommendation from a local.

Breakfast

800px-Chocolate_with_churros
Spanish churros with hot chocolate.

In Barcelona, the undisputed breakfast favorite is churros. A crunchy treat made from fried dough that is sugar-dusted, the pastry is paired with  hot chocolate to become the traditional working class breakfast. Café con leche, the Spanish variation of espresso with milk, is the  beverage of choice, and a great way to get a morning wake-up jolt.

But try the traditional hot chocolate at least once. Unlike its North American counterpart, the drink has a thick consistency,  like a bar of chocolate melted in a pot. Dunking churros in this pudding-like mixture of chocolatey goodness is a divinely decadent treat. If you love chocolate, check out this article  about four  European cities that are all famous for the rich treat.

Lunch

Although not native to Barcelona, the tapas culture has become a significant part of the city’s culinary  life. It offers a variety of small, savory dishes, often served at bars and eaten with drinks.

Tapas picture by José Porras
Tapas picture by José Porras

The best chefs in the city use the small portions of tapas as exquisite showcases of their talents and ingredients. At lunch, accompany the meal with a pint or local wine, and then continue sightseeing or partake of that most divine of Spanish traditions: the siesta.

The variety of tapas is virtually endless. A Catalan staple is pa amb tomàquet: a slice of toast generously rubbed with freshly cut tomato, drizzled with olive oil and then salted. The dish is often paired with the local jamon iberico, an intensely flavorful cured ham. Thinly sliced and paired with a good glass of Catalan red wine, the authentic jamon iberico is my personal favorite Spanish food. The incredible flavor simply explodes in your mouth – its indulgent savouring  with a subtle hint of nutty sweetness. This is the best ham in the world.

Dinner

Dinner in the city starts late. So don’t show up at restaurants at five or six. Often it starts being served at 8 p.m. and sometimes much later. So check your restaurant hours before going.  If your lunch tapas dishes were heavy on meat, you might want to opt for the city’s seafood, though much of it is not local. Another excellent choice is the paella, the Spanish dish of rice, saffron, chicken, seafood, etc., cooked and served in a large shallow pan. Go here for a list of top five restaurants serving this the hearty traditional fare. You can also try out coca, a Catalan version of the Italian pizza (coques is plural).

Desserts and Drinks

The most popular dessert in Catalonia is the namesake dish: Crema Catalana. Like the French Crème Brûlée, it is a sumptuous custard treat along with  offers a fancy blowtorch performance to get the thin, hard, delicious crust.

Glass of Cava.
Glass of cava.

Of course, if you love wine Barcelona offers some great ones, especially its reds. The region boasts the a fabulous desert wine, Muscatel.  Equally famous is cava, a sparkling wine variety. Formerly referred to as Spanish champagne, that label was then banned by the EU to protect the French region’s geographical status. It is true that the term has gone out of fashion, but I doubt the wine ever will.

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