Que Delicioso - A Foodie's Chronicle of Eating in España
Over Thanksgiving, I went on the trip of a lifetime; my boyfriend and I traveled to France and Spain for three wonderful weeks. While the culture and weather of costal Spain is enough to draw even the biggest hermits across the ocean, the food is what will keep me coming back. Barcelona and Valencia offered amazing traditional Catalan fare, some of the best Italian food I’ve ever consumed, and unrivaled tapas. Here’s where I went and what I ate.
Pepito – Aside from being the best meal we had in Europe, Pepito offered a wonderful 1920s vintage meets modern warehouse aesthetic. We enjoyed ourselves so much we attempted to return a second time, we had already tested our luck trying to get a table without a reservation. If you can plan in advance, Pepito is well worth it. Our meal began with a lovely mild Riesling and tuna tartar with strawberries and avocado. I followed with steak with roasted onion and artichoke puree (which was tangy, creamy, and absolutely mouth-watering). For dessert, I opted for the region’s specialty, Catalan cream, a pudding-panna cotta hybrid, served in a martini glass and garnished with fresh fruit; the cinnamon and nutmeg notes were stronger than I’m used to, but it was the perfect finish to a fantastic meal.
Le Coq & The Burg – Don’t be alarmed, I didn’t go to Europe and jump straight into burgers and fries. We stopped by this tiny shop for brunch while we meandered through the winding streets en route to the Sagrada Familia. I had eggs benedict stuffed with brie and delicious orange/kiwi/carrot juice. I also grabbed a few bites of my boyfriend’s spinach onion stuffed pastry, which was flaky and delicious. The coffee was strong, par the course for Americans in Europe, but it was a great, quick breakfast. The décor seemed to be right out of a pinterest board, with washi tape holding up inspirational quote and photo collages, and from our table we could watch tourists and locals mosey down the street.
Tapas24 – We went here twice, and if I were in Barcelona tomorrow, I would go right back. Quick, easy, and delicious, these small plates are served by genuinely kind servers who will take their time with you if you’re struggling to bring back high-school Spanish. The staff at Tapas24 had the best English of any restaurant we visited, and given that our second trip here was our last night in Spain, I was grateful for the linguistic reprieve. Staff aside, if you’re going to Tapas24, you’re going for the braves. These roasted potatoes are crunchy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, but then they are drizzled with what I can only guess is chipotle sauce and garlic aioli. I also leaped into tzatziki pork rib bites, which were served in lettuce wraps. The pulled chicken croquettes were fantastic, as were the pulled pork chimmichuri tacos, which arrived with mini tortillas, salsa verde, and the pork was in its own mini cast-iron pot. Beverages shined brightly here too, with a sweet lemon beer.
Geppetto – Valencia was our first stop of the trip and Gepetto was one of our first dinners in Europe. Without a grasp on the city and no reservation, we stumbled upon Geppetto in a small, open-air square. I instantly recognized the wood carving of the famous Disney toymaker on their signage, and thought that anyone borrowing art and name from Disney can’t be bad. This ended up being a wonderful, multi-course Italian meal. We started with some of the best bruschetta I’ve ever had, and an enormous Italian meat plate. For my meal, I opted for ragu Bolognese over gnocci, and it was tremendous and hearty. The waitress was very understanding while I adjusted to speaking more Spanish in one meal than I had done since college, even when I ordered her a glass of wine instead of one for myself. Given that it was mid-november, I was also pleasantly surprised to find a lot of outdoor seating, including heaters and blankets. This meal was a wonderful start to Europe and if you’re looking for a hole in the wall for great food this is the best place to start.
L’Orxateria – Right outside of the entrance to the Mercat Central is a small churro stand. You’d never know that they’re ranked internationally for their churros. I was SO glad I made the decision to eat fried bread and sugar for breakfast, because it was fantastic. This place is worth bringing an empty checked bag and filling it with churros. They also offer coffee and fresh juice, but you’re going there for the churros. Warm, crunchy, crispy, sweet, churros. Here is a much better description of all L’Orxateria has to offer, but if you’re looking for a delicious snack while you roam the meat market, here it is.
La Petite Brioche – Spain really likes their ham. Really, really likes ham. I’d find ham on my plate even if I didn’t order ham, and La Petite Brioce followed suit. I ordered a chocolate croissant, and it came with ham. Truth be told I ate it anyway, but be ready to kill some pigs if you’re ordering breakfast in Valencia. The star of La Petite Brioche was the coffee. While I don’t understand why cappuccinos in Spain are actually mochas, I’m not complaining. My coffee came in a wide mouth mug, with swirls of milk froth and powered dark chocolate. It was a great way to start my day. With chalkboard paint and a French bakery feel, this place also offers homemade jams and delicious eggs.
El Raco del Senyoret – I’d be remiss if I talked about Spanish food without bringing up paella. In a unique twist, we never tried the traditional seafood paella that foodie fairy tales are made of. Instead, we headed into El Raco del Senyoret starving and grateful that the restaurant was so close to our hotel. I wasn’t expecting to have such an extraordinary food experience. We ordered roasted chicken and vegetable paella for 2, and I was scraping my plate for crumbs at the end. This was thanksgiving on a plate. It was warm, filling, well-seasoned, and just tasted like home. With roasted green beans, yellow beans, asparagus, chicken, carrots, onions, and perfectly cooked rice, this paella is what dreams are made of.