Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

The last time I was in Barcelona in spring 2006, I joined a guided gastronomic city tour which started off with a visit to La Boqueria, otherwise known as the Mercat de St. Josep (or St. Joseph’s market). Our tour was followed by a paella lesson with Michelin-starred Chef Mey Hoffmann and a gourmet lunch in a private room at her Michelin-starred restaurant and cooking school Hoffmann in the La Ribera district.

This time around, I wanted to revisit the market with my husband and take my time seeing all the stalls and produce available and head off for a tapas lunch nearby. We set off mid-morning to La Boqueria right smack in the middle of Barcelona’s main historical boulevard – La Rambla – which runs from the main square, Placa de Catalunya all the way down to the port.

Our visit started with a slow leisurely walk around the market, starting off at the far end where all the fresh fish and seafood were, through the fresh meat and delicatessen area then towards back to the front where the fresh produce were. We saw tables filled with all kinds of fish – from monkfish to sole to tiny clams and large squid, from butifarra – the local sausage to Argentine cuts of meat, from towers of colorful fruits to stacks of green vegetables. The whole experince was an assault on the senses which left us hungry and craving for a bit of breakfast.

We had initially intended to sit at Pinotxo, the famed counter in the market, but there were no stools available so we wandered back into the market and finally settled on the Bar La Boqueria at the far end for a cafe con leche, a wedge of tortilla, some jamon Iberico and what else but pa amb tomaquet. The tortilla was disappointingly dry and the ham nothing special. Next time, we’ll go to Pinotxo instead.

After our breakfast, we headed off to another of Barcelona’s main streets, Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district also known as the Quadrat d’Or (Golden Square). We walked along the wide leafy avenue, alternately window shopping and sightseeing. Several famous buildings can be found on this street, among them Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. We admired the Gothic architecture alongside the stone facades and worked up an appetite for lunch which we planned to have in a little tapas place nearby.

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