Our previous posts were on the highlights of our Spain trip, which we simply couldn’t condense into an abbreviated summary of “the best of Spain”. In addition to those, there were a few other noteworthly mentions, which though they may not warrant separate posts on their own, certainly do deserve a shoutout.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
Also known as the Mercat de Sant Josep, this market is just off La Rambla, making it an extremely convenient breakfast destination. It gets pretty manic later in the day, so best to arrive before 11 am.
I like that this seems to be a proper market, that even locals regularly patronise, instead of the tourist trap that is the Mercat de San Miguel in Madrid. The array of produce, particularly the fruits and fruit juices, is astounding. And the jamon… oh gawd, the jamon. Stall after stall of cured porcine goodness, with all manner of piggy byproducts including full legs of ham of varying qualities, sausages and salamis. They even sell vaccum packs to take home, and I can vouch for the excellent quality of those – even better than at most tapas bars.
Pronounced “Pinocho”, this is a veritable institution in the Boqueria. Run by the extremely affable Juanito, this was our go-to breakfast place every single morning. There doesn’t seem to a proper menu – it depends on what’s available that day, and Juanito’s always happy to help out. He doesn’t speak much English, and our Spanish doesn’t go far beyond “Dos cafe con leche” (2 coffees with milk) and “la cuenta por favor” (check, please), but somehow you’ll manage, and have a lot of fun in the process.
Their garbanzo beans are a speciality here, but I much preferred their almost underrated croquettes. They were only available on our first visit, and were some of the lightest, yet tastiest croquettes we’ve had.
They have something called chuchos (or something that sounded like that), which were a bit like croissants dusted with sugar, and filled with pastry cream. OMG. It’s no wonder that these were selling like hot cakes, with locals stopping by just to takeaway a couple of these. They may look nondescript but they were to die for. Light flaky pastry, giving way to a subtle custard filling. These were perfect with their cortados, or cappuccinos.
I love how Juanito was so encouraging when we took the trouble to order (or at least try to order) in Spanish. Getting the bill is even cuter, cos he relies on you to remember what you ordered, and he just tallies up the numbers on a memo pad.
Definitely a must-visit in Barcelona.
Casa Enrique, Granada
This rather random tapas joint was recommended by the Frommer’s guidebook. It’s literally a hole in the wall, and there are no tables, just dark wooden counters along the perimeter. We were a bit apprehensive, since again there wasn’t any English menu, but managed to order a plate of jamon and some pickled anchovies.
Both turned out to be awesome, and we really loved the whole vibe and feel of the place. The owner is a cool dude who, when not needed behind the counter, was doing crossword puzzles in his spare time.
Los Marqueses, Cordoba
Another Frommer’s recommendation, this was actually a lot more chi-chi than we expected. It was a bit intimidating being the only ones in the vast dining room, and the food did take quite a while, but it far exceeded our expectations. A couple of dishes in particular were real standouts.
Fried eggplant tempura-style with molasses seems to be quite a typical dish here in Spain, but most places just seem to serve cubes or wedges of eggplant drizzled with the sweet. The version here is adorable – the eggplant is sliced really thin, deep fried with a really light batter, and made to look like lollipops on wooden sticks. You pour the molasses on separately.
It may look really cute, but it also tasted great, partly because the eggplant slices were so thin, light and crispy. A found the molasses somewhat disconcertingly Asian, claiming that it tasted like the sweet sauce for soon kueh…
The risotto with baby squid and wild mushrooms was everything a good risotto should be – oozy, the rice still had some bite to it, really flavourful so the rice was still the star but was complemented very well by the squid and mushroom. Amazing.
As you can see, we certainly did eat a whole lot on this trip. Needless to say, we may be somewhat inactive on atetoomuch for a while, as we detox and try to shake off all that excess poundage.
C has pretty much covered everything. Chuchos from Pinotxo. Casa Enrique, with the really friendly bartender/cook/server/all-in-one dude (and supposedly one of the most famous tapas bars in Granada). Los Marqueses, a surprising find for a quiet (i.e. non-tourist packed) fine dining lunch on our day trip to Cordoba.
I’d probably also add Ferpal, a Spanish deli/breakfast joint in Madrid. We found this gem along the Calle de Arenal way too late. After many meals at the crowded, touristy Mercardo de San Miguel, this place was full of locals of all walks – from business men to construction workers. A sure sign that the food is good. Or at least good value. This will definitely be our new breakfast spot if we’re staying in the area again.