Eat Barcelona” is my latest catch-phrase. No foodie would argue with me on this. Nor would any night-owl type who happens to love food & drink.

Dinnertime here often doesn’t even get going until 9, maybe 10pm. There have been plenty of nights (after a particularly active day of sight-seeing) when we don’t sit down for our evening repast until 11pm.

Not to suggest that one doesn’t wait to eat until late; it’s just that your days are filled with so many goodies, often called tapas, but here in Barcelona, those bite-sized snacks/morsels (often skewered onto toothpicks) are often referred to as pintxos as well as tapas.

It’s because Barcelona generally regards itself as (almost) a separate nation (Catalunya), with a different language (Catalan is the dominant language, very similar to Spanish), although many people {thankfully} speak English. I am so jealous of the Europeans, many of whom can rattle-off three or four different languages fluently. I have language-envy.

Today we started with the Devour Barcelona Food Tours (http://devourbarcelonafoodtours.com/), led by Renee Christensen, an ex-pat with a passion for Spain, food, fun, and people. That’s a perfect mix for a food tour guide, right? If she lived in Honolulu, I’d hire her in a hot-second to do my Hawaii Food Tours.

The group of about 10 guests on our tour met in a charming village section of town called Gracia, and we were led through the serpentine streets for tasty bites for several hours.

We tasted the famous ham (jamon Iberica), which is sacred here. As a matter of fact, at the very least in Spain, Italy and France, they all claim bragging rights to who has the best ham in the world. This ain’t your daddy’s ham, my friend, no no.

This is legendary swine, dry-cured in mountain air for a month or two, then aged for up to 4 years. It’s everywhere, and yes, it’s ridiculously expensive. How does (up to) 199 Euro per kilo sound to you? I’ve even seen it priced higher in some places. It’s an OMG thing, really.

Anyway, Renee treated us to her personal version of the wonderful history of the city, the region, the country, the foods, and the mixed cultures of the people who settled in and around Barcelona.

We tasted Cava, the amazing Spanish version of Champagne, of which I am a huge fan. The history of cava dates back to the first half of the 19th century, when some Catalan winemakers tried to follow in the footsteps of French champagne makers, but with their own set of rules.

Today, cava is an extremely popular drink in Barcelona and in Catalonia. You can find extraordinary quality here – Recaredo and Gramona, to name two of the best varieties – for a very good price, especially if you measure them by French standards.

After a few tips of the bubbly, we were off to another place for a homey, stew-like concoction of cece (garbanzo) beans, and a big meaty meatball, in a hearty tomato-based broth, topped with a lighter-than-air bread-like edible dunking tool (tool?) that reminded me of those “Stella D’oro” biscuits back in the day (my day, a very long time ago), but without any sweetness. Yum!

A Middle Eastern bakery was in the line-up where we consumed all sorts of phyllo pastries, with assorted nuts, in that famous ooey-gooey thick & sweet treacle-like sauce. Oh!

Another market was a showcase for the almighty olive, another national treasure of sorts, many different varieties and styles and textures. I loved cured and pickled foods. And, with Renee’s outstanding knowledge, all the scents, sights and flavors came alive that much more.

A stop for a refreshing beer was quite nice. A bit later on we visited a genuinely famous dark and dank space, with smoke-stained walls, for vermouth. Vermouth is experiencing a renaissance in Barcelona at the moment, from places like the one we visited (average customer age, about 80), all the way to young and trendy bars and nightclubs, vermouth is “in” right now. Who woulda known it…

I can hardly remember all the foods, but there was a cheese tasting, of course. Spain, along with many of its Euro neighbors, creates cheesy masterpieces. Really enjoyed that.

But one of our very favorite bites of the day was in the back room of a cheery, clean and bright bakery that served crema Catalana cake bites, which at first glance looks a bit like a scallop, but believe-you-me, this was a tongue seduction that will last for a very long time indeed. I call it “magic custard cake!” And you will too.

Anyone visiting Barcelona (and who eats) should do this tour. Ask for Renée Christensen. Tell her I sent you.

More food to come in my next posts!

Bon dia!

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