Without a doubt, Barcelona is one of my favorite places. The city’s signature architecture, the cadence of life here and the love of food, sport and art in Spain…is there a more intoxicating recipe for a great destination?
One of the reasons we built the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on Marina (and on Riviera, which debuts next year) was to take advantage of the markets in so many ports we visit around the world. I have spent the summer visiting many of these markets and developing our 2012 Market Tours program. In a nutshell, we visit markets and culinary points-of-interest with 24 students and then return to the culinary center to cook the cuisine and dishes we have gathered on our voyage that day. We launched our first market tour in Corfu, Greece, and our second in Barcelona. I am targeting about 15 to 20 market tours for 2012, so I hope to see many of you on those fun excursions with us in the future!
We began our Barcelona Market Tour with a private visit to the workshop of Carles Mampel, undoubtedly the “rock star” pastry chef of Barcelona. His chocolate line, bubo, is sold in his three locations throughout the city.
What a treat it was for us to have Chef Bruno, Marina‘s pastry chef, along with us.
We were treated to two demonstrations, one a “weekend cake” that is common to the Catalan region, where Barcelona resides. It is similar to an American pound cake with an iced glazed frosting.
The second was a parfait of coffee cream and hazelnut streusel and a vanilla tonka mousse. They boxed up the parfait, and we kept it cold for our tapas lunch later that day!
We also watched the pastry chefs put the final touches on many confections.
The precision with which they work and the beauty of these pastries are amazing – so beautiful you feel like you would not want to eat them! Such whimsical and festive confections…obviously made with a lot of love and attention to detail by the chefs who hosted us.
By the way, if you are wondering what tonka is, it’s a pea that has the intense aroma of vanilla, and it is used to flavor soaps and cosmetics as well as confections.
We piled back in the bus for our 15-minute drive back to the city and our visit to the fresh food market often referred to as “the flying carpet building” of Barcelona. The Santa Caterina Market is the building that started the revival of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. It’s located three blocks from the Barcelona Cathedral. Its distinct roof of bright colors and agitated forms makes this a market to see for both its architectural and culinary uniqueness.
The renovation was completed in 2005, and it is the favorite destination market for “those in the know” living in and visiting Barcelona. The stalls have brightly colored heirloom vegetables, fresh fish, specialty butchers, candy makers and many avant-garde food boutiques.
We had arranged for a private olive oil tasting in a room atop the market. Our host was the co-owner of Olisoliva.
We tasted five olive oils, from mild to strong, and all Spanish (of course!). We then broke into small groups and walked through the markets, checking out the produce and Iberico ham. Some of us bought olive oil and others produce. What fun it is knowing we can take things back to the culinary center to use in our paella class this afternoon!
After our walk through the markets, we took a short bus ride to Paco Meralgo, a trendy tapas restaurant in Barcelona. Tapas are a progression of dishes meant to be eaten with friends and brought in succession, one after another.
Our first tapa was a typical Catalan toasted bread rubbed with garlic, olive and tomato. After that delicious start, the dishes kept landing on the tables (as well as a crisp, surprising Catalan Chardonnay). Bombas (baked potato balls filled with cheese and meat), Croquetes de Pollastre (chicken and ham croquettes), Bunyols de Bacalla (cod fish cakes), Pajaritos de la Huerta (tempura onions with Romesco sauce) and the undisputed favorite, Calamarcets a la Llauna amb Ganxet (squid with white beans). It was a FEAST, which we devoured in true Barcelonian style – with lots of laughter and friendship. It is so special to meet new friends on our cruises, and sitting around a table with great food and wine is the best way to do that!
So as not to forget the pastry demonstration earlier in the day, we whipped out the cold parfaits and ended the meal with a yummy confection.
All of the chefs and staff from the Bon Appétit Culinary Center attend our market tours, so here are our guests making merry with Ralf, Putu and Daniel.
We were also blessed to have our guest master chef, Anita Eisenhauer, on the tour with us. She teaches Mediterranean cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America and is a dear friend of mine. It was great having her with us for this tour, and we hope to get her back on Marina soon!
After a short siesta, we all met back in the culinary center for a paella class. First up was making a sangria. Everyone helped to contribute fruit by practicing their knife cuts.
Each team made a seafood paella, and I made a meat paella with aioli. Despite the tapas lunch, we all had an appetite to test both paellas.
It could not have been a more festive day. Good food, new friends, special places and fine wine. We owe a lot to our guide, Yvan, who arranged an insider’s look at Barcelona that few tourists could ever command.
People often ask me if I miss living “on land like a normal person” (Haha!). I can honestly say that it is days like today on Marina that make this the greatest job on earth. The upside of being a cruise gypsy is spending the day with interesting, inquisitive food enthusiasts like we had on our Barcelona Market Tour.