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Friday, January 11, 2013

Spanish Travel Tales: The Paella of Barcelona

How do you handle the advent and event of food while traveling?

How Is The Paella? 

This was a question that I asked in Barcelona and further on into our Camino and one that I am contemplating as I get ready for our Night in Barcelona Cooking Class tonight at C’est si Bon! The serious envisioning of the Paella we will make is into overdrive. I have a beautiful new large pan to use and anoint and we will do this together. Our Paella will have both pork and seafood in it. I still have to shop for the squid and maybe scallops? And we need more lemons than our lemon tree can provide to slice and ring around the edge of the pan as it is presented. As was the case with the best Paella we had in Spain I can see the long table then, and tonight, as we smell the spritz of lemon as it’s squeezed over the top. Oops, sorry, I didn't mean to get you in the eye. Oh and we’ll make shrimp stock with the group. The saffron is from Spain. My heart is swimming with blissful intention that this Paella will be exactly what we need. Tonight.

How was the Paella in Barcelona?

Hostal Campi was less than half the price of a hotel, especially in the Ramblas area of Barcelona. The real reason I chose this Hostal was it’s ranking on Trip Advisor as the closest Hostal to the Boqueria, Barcelona’s market. Since we had left North Carolina on a Sunday it was well into Monday night by the time we arrived into Barcelona. Morning and Boqueria couldn’t come soon enough.

But it was Monday night at 10:30 pm. The shank of the evening in Spain. People were just rousting about the Hostal getting dressed (though based on what some were or weren't wearing they didn't seem to have put much effort into it) to wander outside. 

We asked for recommendations and always view this with a bit of skepticism. Did they really know we were serious about food and paella? We perused and perambled and ended up having dinner at a hotel like restaurant just around the corner. Bad move, I thought, but it was fairly busy. It was a few steps up from the street with an open patio. We sat down enjoying the Barcelona night. Once we turned our attention from the active bar scene inside we saw anew. Our table had an excellent view on about 3 or 4 homeless men or vagrants or maybe they were tourists just out on the town from Madrid? The waitress became "our" waitress and was very friendly in a nice welcome to Barcelona way and just as the laughing Barcelonians on the street opened their second bottle, the waitress uncorked our Ribera del Duero. 

I think we first ordered a dish that would become an old Camino friend, Ensalada Mixta, and then there would be a Paella. This Paella would be our very first Spanish one. This Paella was recommended by Hostal Campi. I think. My phone was on wireless and thus out on the street quite belligerently would not google map anything and so maybe this was the place and maybe it wasn't. But this Paella that we had not even seen yet, but oh did we smell it, this Paella already was living on commemorated in song and poem. I tried to quell the voices with more Ribera. Be still. 

The warnings I had read were that unless you are near the seafood market (we were only a few steps away) that the Paella of Barcelona could be such a dish as to be uninspired and even, get this, quite possibly not magnificent. This close to the sea? In Spain? Really? 

Ours arrived crackling warm and seafoody and we even ate the first bites from the serving spoon just for fun and because we were so hungry. It was thick with flavor and rice and small bits of seafood. The oven was so hot that it had cracked the mussel shells. Wow. But whether because we were exhausted or had too high expectations – it was not magnificent. But the moment of our first night in Barcelona was magnificent with the food being simply, okay, I can say it, ordinaire. 

Huh? What of that, Dorette? These were separate things. Food and the moment. They could be separate things.

Well, no worries. Tomorrow we would see and be the Boqueria market and the food would change. This theme also would present itself. Many times on the Camino. How is the food? What is it? Is it good? Should we eat here? Where is it good? How is it good? What exactly do you mean, IS good? 

Umm, okay so you see I have some distance to travel on The Way of Endless Tastes. 

How do you handle the advent and event of food while traveling?

Now on to finish shopping for tonight's Paella. 
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