Salt is a chef’s staple ingredient, it’s on every restaurant table and is a guaranteed seasoning on all your dishes in Barcelona. In fact salt is beyond a seasoning in this Catalan city, it gives food texture as you feel the salty crunch in each bite. I will be honest I struggled at times with the seawater taste from the extra salt that my palate wasn’t accustomed too. My mum’s cooking leans towards spices and herbs with salt being a companion rather than a hero to the dish. So when I had my first paella I was absolutely overwhelmed by the salty taste in my mouth. I was also deeply disappointed not to find a crust at the bottom of my pan, which Masterchef had taught me. My travel buddy, Kirsty’s dish was even more salty but it was a salted cod so the menu was accurate in it’s description. Another food adventure was Ohla Cafe, a restaurant and bar famous for not only its gastronomical food delights but making whizz bang cocktails with foam. We didn’t try the cocktails but we did enjoy a selection of tapas. The extra salt gave the mussels some nice crunch (donated my serve to Kirsty), the beans and poached egg was also supported by sea salt particules (I’m a sucker for poached eggs so didn’t mind the salt here) and enjoyed a refreshing gaspazho soup (salted by anchovies). At this point I was getting confused – why was I struggling so much with salt? Here I am in Barcelona, the gastronomical molecular cooking capital with its creative and innovative recipes and I was struggling with a pantry staple. So how did I overcome this? Well I didn’t give up – I kept eating. I tried more paellas (still no crust) and I indulged in amazing seafood and after 3 days my palate had begun to embrace salt. A highlight for me was the seafood platter on the seaside of Barcelona (see photo) with wonderful prawns, sea snails and crustaceans in the mix. My favourite eating experience was at the markets off La Rambla – the beautiful produce (fruits and vegetables galore) and the amazing seafood (huge mussels, oysters, salmon made me want to sing my Little Mermaid favourite ‘Under the Sea’) had me in awe. I feel silly but most of my photos of Barcelona are from the market – it just captivated me. At this point I wished my parents were there to see what I could see, so I took photos and they were a bit puzzled at why I had photos of apples. The camera does not do it justice, the food needs to be eaten to be believed. I left Barcelona with a sense of satisfaction that I had experienced as much of the culture and taught my palate to embrace Catalan cooking. While visiting the Picasso museum Kirsty and I had three amazing food experiences. We first found a wonderful tapas restaurant where we enjoyed succulent scallops, empanadas and prawns. Then the second round was dessert – drum roll please…. creme brulee icecream. The most amazing gelati of my life – it had the sugar crackling and cream vanilla bean and caramel taste of a creme brulee. I was in heaven. The proof is in the pudding (or gelati in this case) – the happiness on my face says it all. Another wonderful food moment was this cute chocolate shop where we completed what became a three course meal with locally made dark chocolate (that was featured in the New York Times) so we were onto a winner. Barcelona was my first taste of Spain and I look forward to coming back to this country with a greater understanding and a more welcoming palate.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Mussels @ Ohla Cafe
Instead of going to the Picasso museum.