By Stefania Trimboli
There is no place like Barcelona, Spain. Settled in the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, it is the capital of Catalonia, Spain. The energy that this city has is so different than anywhere else. The fresh, young spirit completely carries you away. Timeless Gaudi creations are at every corner, nestled in the city streets like it’s no big deal. The street of La Rambla is the heartbeat of the city, lined with beautiful, giant trees and filled with locals and tourists, alike. Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca is quoted saying that La Rambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”. Off of this historic walkway is the infamous landmark of The Mercat de St. Josep de la Boqueria, or simply called, La Boqueria. This market has to be one of my most fond memories of traveling and of food in my life.
As you enter the market, vendors fill the space with their goods. Everything from cured meats, artisan cheeses, eggs I never knew about, salted codfish, the freshest produce, hundreds of spices, candies of all kinds, it’s endless. Every colour of the rainbow is showcased at this diverse bouquet of a marketplace. Breakfast, for me, in Barcelona is crusty bread with fresh tomato smeared all over it. Pan con tomate. After tasting this for the first time, I thought “I’m having this every day”. And I did., mixing it up with the occasional slice of queso manchego or jamon serrano. We walk the alleys of the market, with my eyes wondering at every nook and cranny of it. I want to taste it all, can I taste it? Fortunately for us, there are plenty of samples to go around, and some vendors even cook right there in front of you. I start lunch with fresh, gooey, just oozing out of their shell razor clams, lightly grilled, topped with local Spanish olive oil and a tart slice of lemon.
After wandering around the market for what seemed like only minutes, but I know it was a couple of hours., we move on to our next venture, Parc Guell . What a magnificent sight. Another brilliant Gaudi design. Before my cousin and I head out, we pick up a fresh baked baguette, some jamon serrano, a variety of cheeses and a vine of bright red, plump cherry tomatoes. We make the, what seemed endless, climb to the top of the parc to enjoy our typical Spanish lunch. Starving the whole way up, I couldn’t wait to sit down, eat and take in the view. The walk, and wait, was well worth it.
How could I be in Barcelona without trying paella? This is the meal I have been waiting for. A large paella, of well, paella. Mixta, if I choose. Filled with king sized prawns, Spanish chorizo, juicy chicken, clams, mussels. What a feast. There are many variations of paella, differing in each region of Spain. The most traditional being the Valencian paella. The crunchy, toasted rice at the bottom of the paella is essential to any solid paella. Socarrat, as it is called, is a delicacy in Spain, and highly regarded. When I first came to Barcelona, I was certain that paella would be my favorite dish. I was not yet aware of the magic that was about to unfold at our dinner table.
Fidua. Made with tiny fideo noodles in a paella pan, this Spanish stroke of genius was by far my most memorable morsel of goodness that I tried. Just like the paella, Fidua was loaded with meats and seafood. What’s special though, is that it is served with a side of creamy garlic mayonnaise that you spoon over it and mix it all in. Something as simple as garlic mayonnaise turned this dish into something else. It brought the dish to life. Much like what Barcelona did to me. Brought me back to life.