Tag Archives: Spain

Banitsa – Bulgarian Pastries hidden in Barcelona

When we went to Barcelona we were not expecting to find Bulgarian food, but that is indeed what we got when we stumbled upon Banitsa (Carrer de la Diputació, 188, 08011 Barcelona, Spain), a hole in the wall cafe serving sweet and savory pastries by the same name. Banitsa is truly tiny, and there is no AC, but the friendly service and good food more than made up for it. The menu basically consists of either sweet or savory varieties of Banitsa (€3). So what exactly IS as Banitsa? It is a filo dough pastry coiled around a filling, similar to a small version of borek, and is popularly eaten as a breakfast food in Bulgaria.

The banitsa offered in Barcelona are a bit more avante-garde and contain fillings you are unlikely to see in Sofia: mint and pear, chocolate and orange, pumpkin and blue cheese and coconut milk curry. There are many vegetarian and vegan options, and even a gluten-free banitsa. The pastry case also contained some tempting-looking cakes including the classic Medovnik honey layer cake. To round out your meal, you can also get coffee, lemonade, tea, yogurt and hearty soups. There is also a small selection of Bulgarian groceries. We sampled chocolate and sesame seed and cheese varieties, both of which were excellent, and we loved the mini-burek format. if you are looking to get off the tourist track and try something new in Barcelona we heartily recommend Banitsa.

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A World of Buñuelos for Hanukkah and Christmas

Happy first day of Hanukkah – now it’s time for the treats! We wrote a little bit about the classic Sephardic Jewish dessert fritters, Buñuelos, in the past. However, we underestimated just how popular these little fried dough treats from Spain were. Though they are symbolic Hanukkah dish, and the frying of the dough represents the oil that burned for 8 nights, Buñuelos are also enjoyed as a Christmas treat. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among other names) were initially created by Spanish moriscos centuries ago, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.


Bunuelos / Bimuelos by Joe Goldberg

Just how many Buñuelos varieties are there out there? It’s hard to say, but here we have tried to compile just a few variations on the humble Buñuelo:


Buñuelos in Mexico City by bionicgrrrl

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Spanish Bones of the Saints (Huesos de Santo) for All Saints’ Day

There is a theme with some Day of the Dead treats to be a bit literal – and usually that involves some form of bones! Pan de muerto is demarcated with a crisscross of bones on the top and ossi dei morti literally look like white, powdery bones! Spanish “saints bones” (huesos de santo) follow this trend, and are a bone-like, tubular marzipan with an egg yolk filling (sometimes squash). Maybe that filling is supposed to resemble bone marrow (cool! gross!)? Spain Recipes, Blue Jellybeans and The Spruce have recipes to DIY your own saints’ bones. These cookies originate from Madrid and have a history that stretches all the way back to the 17th century! Along with panellets and buñuelos, you’ll find these typical treats in many Spanish bakeries.

From Spain Recipes: Some accounts attribute their origin to 17th century Madrid, a theory that’s supported by their mention in Francisco Martínez Montiño’s cookbook, Arte de Cozina, Pastelería, Vizcochería y Conservería (The Art of Cooking, Pastries, Cakes and Preserves). Written in 1611, the book states that these sweets were “made to commemorate all the Saints and all the dead at the beginning of November”. 

Huesos de Santo by Dario Alvarez

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The Teterias of Andalusia

When we went to Spain we were expecting to get our fill of tapas, but one thing we were not expecting were the proliferation of tea salons! We are major tea lovers here at ETW, so we were delighted to learn about a genre of tea rooms found only in Andalusia: teterias. These are Moroccan-style tearooms influenced by the many centuries of Islamic rule when Spain was known as Al-Andalus. Teterias are found throughout Andalusia, and we were lucky enough to try them in both Cordoba and Granada. In Cordoba we visited the Salon de Té (Calle Buen Pastor, 13, 14003 Córdoba, Spain), a stone’s throw from the Mezquita. In Granada we stopped at La Teteria Del Banuelo (Calle Banuelo 518010 Granada, Spain), in the shadow of the Alhambra.

The inside of a teteria is typically done in a Moroccan style, with an atmospheric courtyard filled with North African-style furnishings and pillows. Mint tea is always a good bet at the teteria, though the tea offerings are usually much more extensive; at some places you can even get smoothies and Mediterranean munchies. Another great aspect of the teteria are the little Moroccan pastries on offer, which transported us to the Djemaa al Fna.

I was impressed by the tea selections at the Salon de Té, with pages and pages of both hot and cold varieties. M got an almond shake, while I sampled an iced rooibos tea with berries. Our friend K fought through the heat and got a beautifully-presented mint tea with tons of fresh mint. At the Salon, we sampled baklava, kunefe (birdsnest pastries), tiny turnovers with pistachios, and makrout; you can get savory dishes as well if you are feeling peckish. Banuelo had a smaller selection of teas and savories, but offered sweet crepes along with a similar selection of Moroccan petit fours. Lemonade with mint and an iced coffee was a perfect selection for a particularly hot day at Banuelo, though the mint tea was still beautiful and refreshing. Banuelo also boasted a cute outdoor seating area, though it was too hot to venture outside on the day we visited.

Visiting these teterias was a highlight of our visits to Andalusia, and they definitely transported us to another era of Spain’s history. Whether you are looking to hide out from the punishing sun, or get some munchies, when you are in Andalusia you have to make sure to stop by a teteria for the full experience.


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On Our Way to Iberia

The eaters are going to be spending our Summer in Portugal, with a few side trips to the South of Spain and Barcelona. This means we will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging until we get settled and return from Andalusia – probably until Mid June. After that we hope to start chronicling our Iberian adventures. We have been to Portugal for an extended period of time (and have sampled dozens of pasteis de nata), but are relatively new to Spain and are especially looking forward to delving into the rich food scene. We see a lot of tapas and jamon in our future. Do you have any favorite recommendations in either country?

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The Best Cheese Plate in Cleveland at L’Albatros

franceThe cheese plate at Cleveland’s French stalwart L’Albatros (11401 Bellflower Rd.) is the best one we have ever tried. Usually, when you order a cheese plate at a restaurant, you get a small plate of pre-selected cheeses. Maybe at better restaurants you choose from 10 or so cheeses off of a list. One of the most disappointing things about cheese plates is either that they have repetitive, common cheeses, or the servers have no idea how to direct you to the right cheese selection. However, at L’Albatros, nothing is left to chance, and the staff goes above and beyond to help you get the right selections. You can get the cheese plate for either lunch or dinner, and you can select either 3 ($11), 5($14) or 7 ($17) cheeses. There are no pre-set selections, and the cheesemonger comes over to your table with a giant tray of dozens of cheeses, and you can talk about what you want, and even have samples! Check out at the amount of cheese to choose from (plus there were even more that didn’t fit into the frame).


Here’s what we ended up with after much discussion and sampling:

  • Tomme de Savoie – France – A good start, Tomme is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a mild flavor.
  • Cantal – France – A sharp, semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that was almost Cheddar-like in taste and consistency.
  • Cabrales – Spain – M asked for the “blue-est” cheese they had, and after sampling, this was our choice. It was indeed a super sharp, crumbly sheep and cow’s milk cheese (so sharp it was almost metallic, which sounds weird, but was tasty).
  • Robiola Bosina – Italy – The first of two Robiola varieties we tried. This was a more mild, creamy goat and cow cheese.
  • Robiola Rochetta – Italy – As a contrast to the first robiola, this was a sharp, super-creamy (almost runny) blue cheese made with sheep, goat and cow’s milk.

We really enjoyed all of our our selections, and felt we got exactly what we wanted: a good mix of flavors and consistencies (granted we did take a while with the process). The plate also came with bread, honey and quince paste. We loved our cheese choices that night, but if we went back, we may end up with a totally different selection of just-as-delicious choices, depending on our mood. We cannot recommend the L’Albatros cheese plate enough!

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Gingerbread Gaudí – Casa Batlló

spain[Via Metafilter] The holiday season is upon us, which means it is time for all things gingerbread. We usually make a gingerbread house every year, and try to incorporate an international theme. This year we found a gingerbread house that really ups the ante: a re-creation of Antoni Gaudí’s iconic modernist building in Barcelona, Casa Batlló. Check out Modernist Cuisine’s video above, and blog post, to see how the house was made, right down to the stained glass windows. If you are feeling ambitious, how about a gingerbread Sagrada Familia, Fallingwater or Chichen Itza?

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All about Ensaimadas – Spain to Puerto Rico to the Philippines

philippinesFlag of Puerto RicospainWe first ate an ensaimada, a sweet eggy, yeast roll on a warm day in Puerto Rico, not knowing anything of its history, other than that it looked pretty tasty (it is actually called a Mallorca there). However, we did not put two and two together until we stumbled upon the same sweet yeast roll, with the same spiral top, on a cold winter day in Madrid, except this time it was called an ensaimada. When we got home, we did a little research and sure enough these two rolls, encountered an ocean apart, were actually the same pastry.

La Mallorquina in Madrid

Enaismada (center) from La Mallorquina in Madrid

Ensaimadas originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca, and gained their name from the pork fat used to make them, saïm. The pastry traveled with the Spanish around the world, and throughout the centuries have found their way throughout the Spanish speaking world to Puerto Rico, and to the Philippines, where they are particularly popular. Ensaimadas, due to their richness, are popular to eat around Mardi Gras time, before all the sweets and butter are given up for Lent, so why not whip some up now? Check out this Spanish-style recipe from Delicious Days, or a traditional Cabell d’àngel pumpkin jam-filled version from the Gusty Gourmet. Jun-blog has a recipe for Filippino ensaimadas, which are miniature-sized and made with butter.

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Splurge: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota at the Mercado San Miguel, Madrid

spainM arrived at the Mercado de San Miguel with a single goal: eat jamón ibérico de bellota. “Iberian Acorn Ham” is the name given to the finest quality Spanish jamón, a fiercely protected product produced through a painstaking process. Black Iberian pigs, living in southern and southwest Spain close to the Portuguese border, freely roam oak groves consuming little besides acorns. Their hams are left to dry for weeks, and cured for another twelve months or more. The result is what is universally considered the finest jamón on the peninsula, if not the planet. The price definitely matches the quality – but it is worth it.


At the Mercado de San Miguel, most patrons get their jamón from a stall featuring Carrasco Guijuelo. The company was founded 120 years ago by the Carrasco family in the tiny town of Guijuelo (Salamanca province, on the border with Portugal). Now a protected designation of origin product, Carrasco Guijuelo now enjoys a major share of the Spanish domestic market, as well as running an enviable export business (but we all know the keep the good stuff). They also produce a lot of other food products.

While the standard jamón is a big seller, I splurged and got the 50 grams of the finest-quality Reserva, priced at 18.5 euros for 100 grams – or $111.13 per pound. The eight slices in this photograph – my total order – were priced at 9.25 euros (although, full disclosure, they accidentally charged me the price for the standard, at 16.5 euros/kilo. I did not correct the error).


We write many words on this blog, but there are simply none that can effectively describe the taste of a perfectly prepared and cured jamón ibérico. The ham is so finely cured that it when sliced, it looks like a wax copy of an actual ham, each slice retaining a light sheen that catches the light of the room. The sheen may is from the fat, which while visually obvious, may as well not exist when eaten. The fat all but liquefies on your tongue, melding with the muscle and acorns in a salty/sweet/nutty flavor profile that is subtle yet precise. Jamón ibérico de bellota is a food that, while you eat it, composes a most beautiful poem about its own taste, and you are more than willing to sit there and have that poem read to you over and over again. By the time I was done, I was ready to pull another ten euros out of my pocket for another 50 grams. If you ever have the chance to get some, don’t pass it up.


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La Mi Venta, Excellent Tapas in Madrid

La Mi Venta
Plaza de la Marina Española, 7
28013 Madrid, Spain


On our short trip to Madrid we wanted to cram in as much food fun as possible. We had previously experienced the frenetic market scene of San Miguel, and we wanted to take things a little slower for our second foray into Madrid tapas. Spaniards do not eat dinner until 9-10 PM at the earliest, so tapas serves as a kind of happy hour snack, where you can drink, have some munchies and meet with friends. However, Americans tend to buck this tradition and make tapas more of a meal. Alas, so did we, as we found ourselves famished at the odd-for-any-nation hour of 3 PM. In Spain lunch may even run as late as 2:30 or so, so I guess we fell into the late lunch crowd rather than the geriatric early-bird crowd.


The specialty at Li Mi Venta is tapas (along with a limited selection of main courses). The tiny restaurant consists of a bar and a back room with a few tall tables. You could get most of the offerings in a large portion or as a tapa – so depending on how hungry you are you can either try many different little plates or stock up on a favorite. We decided to go with a variety of meat and vegetables. And of course M could not resist getting his hands on some more rare and delicious Jamon Iberico. As another meat dish we sampled was spicy chorizo “from hell” (how could we skip it), and migas, one of the more unusual offerings, a composed plate of fried breadcrumbs, peppers and chorizo. We were shocked by the reasonable prices – everything was under 3 euros.

La Mi Venta Tapas

La Mi Venta Tapas: (clockwise) Migas, Tuna, Jamon, Manchego and Tortilla.

However, not all of our selections were so carnivorous. We also ordered the manchego cheese, which was excellent (but not as good as in the market). M’s favorite selection was the Tuna bocadillo with tomato confit, a delicate combination that really worked well. L also enjoyed the Spanish Tortilla (potato omelette), and could have gone for another slice or two. To finish our tapas “meal” off we decided to end on a paradoxically healthy note: Salted tomatoes in olive oil (8€). Such a simple dish – but it was extremely tasty and refreshing. The portion was also extremely generous, justifying the higher price.


M’s Favorite – Tuna and Tomato Confit.

In addition to tapas, there was a nice selection of teas and coffees that came served in little silver pots. They also had free wifi, though that seemed a little incongruous with the other offerings. We also appreciated the friendly and attentive waitstaff and the pleasant ambiance. It’s almost as if you are eating in a private wine cave – it would definitely be a great place to have a small party (maybe someday). La Mi Venta was a welcoming place with a great selection of fresh, well-prepared tapas. For less than 30 euros we were full for the entire day!


A giant plate of tomatoes – simple but delicious.

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Traditional Spanish pastries at La Mallorquina in Madrid

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor, 2
Madrid, Spain

spainA seemingly endless window display of beautiful pastries, cakes and candies first entices you in to La Mallorquina. Taking the opportunity to have a weekend brunch and try some new-to-us pastries in the process, we quickly entered. The bakery was packed to the gills, it looked like half of Madrid had the same idea for brunch! La Mallorquina’s bottom floor is a traditional bakery, with stand-up counters where patrons quickly enjoy coffee and a sweet. The full tea room is located upstairs with tile floors and wooden tables. “La Mallorquina” means the little woman from Mallorca, and is also the same name of a famous old cafe in Puerto Rico (no relation). The Madrid cafe was established in 1894, and looks like it hasn’t stopped churning out treats since.


La Mallorquina had a huge selection of baked goods, cakes, sandwiches and coffee drinks, and you can order anything in the tea room that is in the front counter. The selection was nearly overwhelming, but we went in with a few recommendations (the chocolate napolitana is a specialty, as are the rosquilla rolls). We were interested to see some of our favorite treats that are popular in Puerto Rico: mallorca and ensaimada. We went to the bakery around Christmas time, so Christmas favorites like Turron were also on offer. 


We made our way up to the tea room and were lucky enough to find a spot. We picked an apple tart, a Napolitana and ensaimada. The ensaimada is a rich brioche roll, which was perfect with butter and the apple tart was fresh and had a sweet glaze. However, the chocolate Napolitana was definitely the star of the show, think a rich croissant filled with chocolate custard. Of course, to complement our brunch we had a cappuccino and some chocolate milk (we also hear the orange juice is excellent). Given the sheer variety, there were so many selections we wish we could have tried. The torrija, a Spanish take on french toast looks amazing. If you are looking for a classic Spanish pastry experience, this is definitely the place. Just be prepared for a crowd!


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A Photo Tour of the Mercado de San Miguel

spainWe love visiting markets while traveling, and making a little picnic out of the local meats, cheese and fruits. One of our recent favorites is the Mercado de San Miguel in the heart of Madrid. The Mercado de San Miguel is a metal and glass Beaux-Arts masterpiece that was recently opened after a long renovation. You can find nearly any kind of Spanish food in the mercado, including produce, cheese, meats, paella, pastries, ice cream, seafood and more. The market is open until midnight on most days (and 2 AM on weekends) and is nearly always full of people. It is especially crowded around Tapas time, from 7 to 9 or so, before the extremely late Spanish dinner. We visited one evening and filled up on a variety of excellent meats and cheeses, just wandering around and sampling to our heart’s content.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Interior of the market

Interior of the market

A variety of Spanish Cheeses

A variety of Spanish Cheeses for sale

Cheese shop in the market

Cheese shop in the market

A cheese tapa

Garrotxa cheese tapa

Jamon Iberico

Selecting Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Carving Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Macarons for Sale

Macarons and pastries for sale

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Chocolate and churros in Madrid

spainOne of our favorite things to do in a country is to sample their typical iconic breakfast foods. We have found some of our most favorite foods this way – yogurt and honey from Greece, helva from Turkey, Torta Caprese from Italy, etc. –  and we find it quite a lot more enjoyable than taking a bland continental breakfast. In Spain, the breakfast treat of choice is hot chocolate and churros. In the US, churros have something of a dubious reputation. While, of course, you can find some excellent renditions of churros in the US, the sugar-coated, soggy churro is often the purview of school lunches and amusement parks. I had personally sworn off churros after they were the only dessert offered in our junior high cafeteria. However, I am open to an opinion change.

Churros and Porras

Churros (left) and Porras (right) at Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid

Churros are a different affair in Spain though: no extra sugar is added, and the fried pastry is the whole deal. However the best part of having churros is dipping them in the thick, rich hot chocolate that traditionally accompanies them. No Swiss Miss hot chocolate here: this is thick, rich sipping chocolate. They sometimes even give you a little spoon to eat it with. We tried chocolate and churros and two locations in Madrid, each of which was completely different.

Waiting in line at San Gines

Waiting in line at Chocolatería San Ginés

The first stop for churros was Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, Madrid). All they serve is chocolate and churros, and boy do they serve a lot! We went on a Saturday night, which admittedly is probably the most crowded time you can get chocolate and churros, and there was a line snaking out of the door. The routine is similar to Giolitti: you order and pay and then get a receipt for what you ordered. If you are able to get one of the tables (either inside, outside or in the basement) the waiter will take your ticket and give you your order. The only things available to order are chocolate, churros and porras (a thicker churro). The churros were excellent: a nice portion and not at all greasy. The cost of a cup of chocolate and 6 churros is less than 4 euros.

Chocolate and Churros at San Gines

Chocolate and Churros at Chocolatería San Ginés

On our last day we sampled churros from Chocolatería Valor (Calle Postigo de San Martin, 7, Madrid), which is more of a regular full service café. We visited Valor at an admittedly off hour, 8:45 on a Monday morning. So we were very pleased to find that a fresh batch of churros was fried up just for us. Perhaps as a product of their freshness, we found these churros a little greasier than the offerings from San Gines. However, the price was a lot cheaper, and you could get additional items off of the menu if you so desired. There are even paper cones for those who want to take the churros to go.

Chocolate and Churros at Valor

Chocolate and Churros at Valor

Going to Madrid completely changed my idea of the churro (especially when combined with hot chocolate). We especially enjoyed Chocolatería San Ginés, and we are looking forward to going back someday and trying more varieties. Do you have a favorite place for churros in Madrid?

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Spain Week at ETW: Spanish Cheeses

spainHappy Monday – Buenos días! This week is Spain Week at ETW. On our way back to Chicago from Lisbon we took a stopover in Madrid where we ate some excellent food. However, we never put up any of our posts, and the blog was quickly taken over by our updates from Brazil. Since we are back in the US we figured it would be the perfect time to share our Madrid culinary adventures with you. Stay tuned for a new post about cuisine from Madrid every day this week. To get you started, you can check out some of previous Spain posts on ETW.

Spanish Cheese

Spanish Cheese (l to r) Montenebro, Ibores, Mahon Curado – by Tenaya Darlington

To kick off the week, why not learn all about Spanish cheeses. Though Manchego is the best-known cheese from Spain, the country has a huge cheese culture with hundreds of varieties. Catavino has a wonderful series on Spanish cheese that gives a crash course on the country’s diverse dairy offerings, divided into cow, goat, sheep and mixed-milk cheeses. The New York Times has a piece on Spanish cheese from the region of Asturias, though that is not the only place cheese is produced in Spain, and there is even a National Cheese fest in Trujillo, in the region of Extremadura.

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Portugal to Madrid to Dallas to Chicago

spainportugalWe are heading to Madrid for the weekend – mainly because it was cheaper to fly to Chicago from Madrid than Lisbon (even factoring in a hotel in Madrid and a flight from Lisbon to Madrid). Yes, that means our time in Portugal is coming to a close. We will miss Lisbon more than we thought we would, especially its inimitable cafe culture and pastries. Hopefully we will find some good eats to transition back to stateside living in Madrid. Starting on December 18th we will be back in the USA for about a month before heading off to another foodie location. Stay tuned to find out where.


Plaza Mayor, Madrid at Christmastime by Carlos Solana

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Sephardic recipes for Hanukkah

spainWhile Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Hanukkah foods may be more well-known in the USA, Sephardic (Mediterranean) traditional foods are worth a second look if you are hoping to switch up your Hanukkah menu. The mix of Jewish traditions and Mediterranean flavors is definitely a good one. I am very interested to try Jessamyn’s Sephardic Challah Recipe, which seems different than its eggier Eastern European counterpart. Other traditional Sephardic Hanukkah foods include buñuelos, a Spanish cousin to sufganiyot, and even fried turnips. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among others) were initially created by Spanish moriscos, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.


Bunuelos / Bimuelos by Joe Goldberg

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We eat the menu at Mercat a la Planxa

Mercat a la Planxa
638 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL

One of the best things about tapas restaurants is the huge variety of food options, however, it is also the worst things since there is never any way to try all of the enticing options. So when we had the occasion to go out in a group of four we figured a tapas restaurant would be perfect, thereby upping everyone’s chances of enjoying as many dishes as possible. Mercat a la Planxa, helmed by Jose Garces, has been open since 2008, and specializes in Barcelona-style tapas. The menu changes frequently and has a rotating selection of traditional and more avant-garde tapas, as well as fish and meats “a la planxa” (“grilled”). We went to Mercat with quite an appetite, so we were excited to sample the extensive tapas menu. You’ll find what we had below, along with menu descriptions. As you might notice, all of the dishes have Catalan names – very Barcelona!

At the start of the meal we were presented with the house Pa amb tomàquet, a kind of riff on bruschetta. Typically,  Pa amb tomàquet is typically a lot lighter on  tomato, but we liked this non-traditional take as well. Next, we picked from the Spanish cheese selections, and tried La Peral, a Cow’s Milk Cheese with Apricot-Cider Mustard ($9) and Garrotxa, a Goat’s Milk cheese, roasted garlic dulce de leche ($8). Garrotxa is one of our favorite cheeses, and it paired perfectly with the dulce de leche, the Peral was good, but less memorable. Next, we had an order of Gambas al ajillo – Garlic Shrimp ($10) – a classic tapas dish, perfectly executed, though the portion was a little small.

Pintxos Muranos – Lamb brochettes wrapped in bacon with a lamb jus ($14). Another classic tapas dish, this one was M’s favorite, which was not surprising, given the wrapped in bacon. Since the brochettes were served on skewers, they were a little hard to share, so the two non-bacon lovers ceded their portions.

Next were the Pelotas de calabaza y cordero, Butternut squash dumplings, lamb ragout, beech mushroom escabeche and black truffle ($11). What looks like fried bacon in the photo above was in fact mushroom, which had an amazingly earthy flavor. The dumplings were more like squash-filled ravioli, and were tasty, though the lamb ragout definitely stole the show.

Black Angus Rib Eye – 12 oz. ($42). The steak was good, but probably nothing we would really get again at a tapas restaurant, good for the two major carnivores at the table, though. Looks like we forgot to get a photo…oops.

Mar i Muntanya (“Sea and mountain”)- Serrano-wrapped yellow fin tuna, potato croquette, foie gras torchon, pickled pearl onion. The yellowfin tuna was wonderful, but we’re not sure it needed the foie gras on top, maybe we aren’t just big foie fans though. The pickled pearl onions provided an unexpected tangy zip, and the potato croquettes were both substantial and flavorful. We also appreciated the beautiful presentation.

Gratin de Escalivada (“Grilled Gratin”) – Oven baked roasted red peppers, tomato, eggplant & cipolini onions with goat cheese and grilled sourdough ($10). There needed to be more goat cheese with this dish (as with any dish), the grilled veggies were fine, but nothing to write home about on their own.

Coliflor amb Xato – Roasted cauliflower with currants, padron peppers, truffled tarragon xato and shaved manchego cheese ($13). Despite never ordering cauliflower out on a regular basis, we found this take on caulifower was unexpectedly delicious, and perfectly complemented by the spicy xato sauce (Xató sauce is made with nuts, vinegar, garlic and nyora pepper). This was L’s pick out of the tapas we ordered.

Patatas Bravas – Spicy potatoes with spicy paprika aoili ($5). This is an item we always have to order at a tapas joint. As you can see from the presentation above, this is more of an avant-garde take than the usual haphazard potato cubes, with each potato being formed into a little fried cake, topped with a dollop of spicy sauce.

Plantain empanada – Spinach, Manchego & Piquillo artichoke escabeshe ($10). Though it arrived with our savory foods, the empanada provided a hint of plantain sweetness. The piquillo pepper was a nice contrast to the somewhat-rich empanada.

Horchata Bon Bon – Horchata ice cream, dark chocolate, cinnamon, puffed rice, coconut crema and marcona brittle ($3.50). The bon bon was filled with ice cream – and the combination of flavors was absolutely perfect! The Spanish horchata flavor (made from Tiger nuts)  was rich and almond-y, and worked perfectly with the cinnamon and coconut flavors. The marcona almond brittle was also a nice touch.

Our final dessert was the Pastissos d’Avellana (“Hazelnut Cake” – sounds better in catalan, no?) Hazelnut Mascarpone gateux, apricot, dulce de leche, salted hazelnuts, apricot sorbet ($12). This was a very successful take on cheesecake, with a rich hazelnut flavor. The apricot sorbet was also delicious, and tasted exactly like biting into a fresh apricot.

We enjoyed Mercat a la Planxa, and we were happy to try both the traditional and nouveau tapas dishes. We think the new takes on tapas were really Garces’ forte, and our favorite dishes were the more unusual ones. We were pleased with our choices – but there was one item we really were coveting – we noticed a party table next to us getting a suckling pig (cochinillo asado), which looked absolutely fantastic ($220 for half, $440 for a whole). However, you have to order the pig 72 hours in advance, so you can’t order it on the fly. Maybe next time… thanks also to our dining companions, who helped us sample this veritable feast!

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Potatoes of the Canary Islands

In looking for a flight to Lisbon, one option given to us was a stopover in the Canary Islands. Who would have thought? We knew little of Canary Island cuisine, so we were pleased to see that Food and Think did a feature on the  best (and worst) of Canarian cuisine. It turns out the Canaries are known for their potatoes. The Canary Islands were one of the last places in Europe to be introduced to the tuber, and there are still heirloom Andean varieties grown there. One of the most famous Canarian potato dishes is known by the name of “wrinkly potatoes (papas arrugadas)” – we found a recipe on Tastespotting.

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El Bulli to close for good

Contrary to what was previously reported,  El Bulli is not going to close temporarily and then be re-imagined. It is going to be closing for good. I had no idea they were losing so much money!

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El Bulli to Close

El Bulli, the famed Molecular Gastronomic restaurant in Spain, which has often been called the best restaurant in the world – is closing for 2 years,  starting in 2012 and will open in 2014 with a completely different concept. Wow – so much for eventually getting there!

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