By Senior Executive Chef Alban Gjoka
From the moment you step off the Ramblas in Barcelona, you hear the market stalls buzzing with people, you smell the fragrant fruits and freshly caught seafood, and you can almost taste the freshly pressed orange, pineapple, mango and coconut juice stacked on the shelves. No matter how many times I arrive in Barcelona, I never get tired of coming to La Boqueria market just off of La Ramblas. It happens to be one of my favorite markets in Europe, and in one of the European cities I love most.
It’s always alive, filled with the energy of this great city. I love strolling the aisles of vendors and seeing what’s in season. On my recent trip, the figs were just beautiful – a deep ripe purple and perfectly sweet and succulent. Sea bream, and the mounds of fresh mussels, oysters, corvina, cuttlefish perched atop mounds of ice were also fresh – seafood perfect for a zarzuela de mariscos, a really delicious traditional Catalan seafood stew.
Try the morels if you visit the market in the fall. You can’t miss the endless parade of chorizo and jamón hanging from stalls. And you can’t stop in Spain without trying the amazing jamón ibérico de bellota! This is one of the many delicacies I am always very proud to say that we serve on board.
If you’re hungry for more than just samples, there are plenty of tapas bars within Boquería – just pull up a barstool and order a selection to share. I love the gambas (fresh shrimp), pan con tomate is a classic and don’t miss the pimientos de padrón – little flash-fried peppers that can be spicy. Ask the vendor what they recommend. They are as passionate about their food as you are about trying it. Wherever you go in Barcelona, just remember to sit back, relax, and take it all in – it’s the Spanish way!