The Evolution of Catalan Gastronomy experience by Food Tours Barcelona begins in front of La Confiteria, a beautifully preserved bar on Carrer de Sant Pau. After being greeted by our vivacious host Jessica, we took a short walk to the oldest church and monastery in Barcelona, Sant Pau del Camp, dating back to the 10th century.
Strolling along, Jessica enlightened us with interesting tidbits of Barcelona history. I learned that the Raval neighborhood’s name is derived from the Arabic word ‘rabad’, meaning ‘suburb’. During the Middle Ages when Barcelona was a walled city, El Raval was located outside of the walls.
Streets of Sant Antoni
We then made our way towards the Sant Antoni market, taking in some of the modernist architecture and public artwork along the way. The Sant Antoni neighborhood is central but not overwhelmed with tourists, allowing a more authentic experience of Barcelona’s food scene.
Sabores del Mercado
Inside the market, Jessica’s tour already has many friends
We got our taste buds whetted by a delicious selection of Catalan, Galician and Manchego cheeses paired with Membrillo (a sweet, thick jelly made of the pulp of the quince fruit).
An unexpected tour guest takes a nibble
Next it was time to taste some Jamón Serrano (dry-cured Spanish ‘mountain’ ham) and Jamón Iberico (made from black Iberian pigs fed with an acorn diet). Jamón Iberico is produced in the southwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula, covering both Spain and Portugal. Meanwhile Jamón Serrano is produced throughout Spain, especially in mountainous areas with mild, dry summers and cold winters, ideal for the curing process of at least six months.
As we savoured each variety we noted the difference in texture and flavor. The marbled Iberico ham melts in the mouth while stimulating the taste buds with sweet, nutty nuances.
A Classic Bodega
Having made our way through the lively throng of the Sant Antoni market it was time to discover an authentic bodega for some homemade vermouth and tapas.
Part of the fun is making your own Pa amb tomàquet, a Catalan favorite using crusty bread, garlic, olive oil, tomato and salt. Alongside this we enjoyed Cantabrian anchovies and Artichokes with Romesco (a nut and red pepper-based sauce that originates from Tarragona).
Olive Oil Tasting
Our next destination was a gourmet olive oil tasting at a nearby delicatessen, led by Dani, pictured above. A mild tingling sensation in your throat reflects that the oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols.
Contemporary Catalan Cuisine
Spanish Croquetas: made with thick béchamel
We then moved on to a lively modern setting where we devoured local tapas staples done to perfection, including croquetas and patatas bravas. Along with the tapas we drank Cava, the sparkling wine made in the Penedès region to the west of Barcelona.
Rob, the author of Homage to BCN, appreciating a good glass of wine.
Innovative Mediterranean Cuisine
Lifted by the bubbly we sauntered out into the sunshine and on to an attractive gastrobar on Avinguda del Paral·lel, in the heart of the old theatre district.
Pulpo confitado con parmentier suave
Here we were able to experience avant-garde local cuisine, made famous by star chefs such as Ferran Adrià of elBulli. Our dishes were inspired by creative fusions and techniques, using fresh seasonal ingredients.
A Sweet Finish
The final destination was an Orxateria dating back to 1920, perhaps the best in Barcelona. Orxata is a sweet drink made of ground tigernuts called chufas, blended with water and sugar. It is the perfect drink to cool down on a hot day. Along with our Orxata we tried Fartons, the Valencian pastry that traditionally accompanies it.