The best meal in Paris…

Well, it’s about time I tell you a little about our trip to Paris in April. I’ve always loved Paris…once I even had an 8 hour layover at Charles de Gaulle airport and took a bus into the city to get a quick fix before boarding a plane back home. How cool that you can just run into the city for a few hours on your way from one city to another?

This is a city where you could spend hours walking around just looking at the architecture and smelling the fresh baked breads and pastries wafting throughout the streets. While I had been to Paris before, I had never been with Mark. How amazing would it be to experience the city of love with someone I love?

We always get our food research in before our trips. We look on the web, check out where Anthony Bourdain went, NY Times reviews, etc. Funny enough, the best meal we had there wasn’t planned at all.

Les Papilles was a restaurant that Mark had seen on online when we got there. It had great reviews and after our lunch of Croque Monsieurs and salad, we decided to walk by and take a look. The owner was very welcoming and was was able to squeeze us in for an 8pm seating for dinner that night.

We had no idea what kind of treat we had in store! They do prix fixe 4 course menus that change daily. I don’t think we could have picked a better day to go.

Inside, the tables are close together but it was such a convivial atmosphere that it didn’t matter. Plus, you become so enthralled in what you are eating that you barely hear what’s going on at the next table. You kind of feel swept away in the experience. We would see people come in constantly asking if there was a table available only to be turned away because all seatings were reserved that night. Must be a good sign right?

They started off with a tureen of cauliflower soup with a ladle. Each of our bowls had shredded raw cauliflower, creme fraiche, bacon, chives, fried parsley, and croutons. The various textures and flavors were so comforting and delicious and warmed us to the bone. It was incredible. They gave us a generous amount of soup but we had to stop ourselves from finishing it so that we had room for the rest.

The main course was what rocked my world and what I dream about since then. Seared and roasted duck breast with potatoes, carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a decadent sauce. I’m sure butter played a big part in it but they managed to somehow keep it from being too heavy. This dish transcended anything that I can ever remember having. There was a familiarity to it but it was elevated by such a depth of flavor. The duck was cooked perfectly. I mean, look at the picture. Doesn’t it LOOK amazing? If anyone can tell me how to make this dish please do! I haven’t tried to recreate it because I’m not sure that I can.

After the duck, we had a cheese course of bleu cheese and jam followed by an apple panna cotta with caramel foam for dessert. That dessert was heavenly.

Ahhh, Europe always ruins restaurants for me back home. Barcelona was where it all started. The food, the people, the experience…nothing like it. And I’m sorry Paris, but Barcelona still ranks as my top spot. But Paris comes in at a very close second.

La Torre de Escorial (Barcelona)

In search of the Calcot….

Day Two. A day of Gaudi, great weather, and a suprising little restaurant called La Torre de Escorial. We were lucky that it was calcots season when we went, and also lucky that the concierge knew of this place.


Calcots are white onions replanted, left for several months to sprout up through the soil. They are then grilled and dipped in romesco sauce. After seeing Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and La Predrera we were ready for lunch. It was on the way to Park Guell which made it convienient.

So we take our seat and see the fixed price meal which includes a whole bottle of wine. This seemed like the best option considering the whole menu was in Catalan. The appetizer was bread rubbed with tomato and drizzled with olive oil. This is a very popular way to eat bread in Spain and is a wonderful change from the typical bread and butter.


Next up was the first course, the calcots.

Now eating these wonderful onions is serious business. There are the gloves and the bib. (we didnt use the bib)

 

The peeling. You have to peel off the outer layer to get to the middle onion. These can be hot so you have to be quick.

 

The dipping. You then dip them in the romesco sauce which is tomato based sauce with garlic, almonds, hazlenuts, chile, and red wine.


The tilting of the head. You then tilt your head back to lower the calcot in.


And then the consumption. Ahhh, this is why you come to Barcelona!! Now drink some red wine and repeat.

The third course came and was aplate of different meats. We had pork, chorizo, rabbit, chicken, and a grilled potato. Simple flavors but perfectly cooked.


Then the desert was Crema Catalana which was a delicious custard with torched sugar on top.

This was one of our true Catalan dining experiences with traditional Catalan cuisine and a cozy local feel. If you are in Barcelona during calcots season be sure to seek this place out.

Bar Inopia (Barcelona)


We heard about Bar Inopia before traveling to Barcelona. Inopia is an innovative tapas restaurant and is owned by Albert Adria, brother of Feran Adria who owns El Bulli (which is outside of Barcelona and considered the most famous restaurant in the world). We went there our first night in Barcelona and had an amazing meal. Not only was food great, but this is where we met a great group of people (from Chicago but now living in Barcelona), who showed us some great spots in the city a few days later.

We started off our meal with chicharones (pork rinds), mixture of olives, and anchovies with white vinegar and olive oil. If anchovies tasted the way they did in Barcelona, we would be eating a lot more of them in the States. There was none of that oversalted, brown, canned fish. This tasted as if it were just caught and filleted that day. Oh, and the olives were not like the canned variety you buy here…they had the perfect amount of salt and didn’t need any seasonings to mask their intense flavors. Our favorite was the larger green olive called the Manzanilla olive.

Next up, fried artichokes. These were not of the canned variety. These were freshly peeled, battered, and fried artichokes with a sprinkle of salt on top. They didn’t need any dips or sauces, the flavors were amazing as it was. And now comes the Batatas Bravas. Now we’re talking fried goodness! It’s hard to relay how fried potatoes can taste so good…but these were not even your typical batatas bravas — medium cut potato pieces, deep fried, topped with a red sauce and a sort of sour cream.

The ham croquettas were smooth, yummy, oozy pieces of lusciousness. The fried sardines were pretty good. Not life changing, but good.

Onto dessert…the pineapple with molasses and lime zest was a surprising treat for the palate. Usually I want my chocolate, but this made me forget that. So refreshing with a touch of sweetness to balance out the tartness of the pineapple. We also enjoyed a cortado and almond cake
(which was delicious as well).

Overall, Inopia is a place you want to visit when you go to Barcelona. It’s hip, frequented by tourists and locals alike…be prepared to wait outside for a spot…

Pinotxo Bar (Barcelona)

Barcelona : 10:00 AM

We took a cab from the airport, checked in to our hotel, threw our bags in the room, and then hit Las Rambla. A couple blocks down was the famous Mercat de la Boqueria where we were looking for some coffee and some food. When you enter La Boqueria you are hit with meat, fruits, tourist taking photos and then Pinotxo Bar where you can start your day right with a glass of cava and a chu chu, and thats what we did. (and then some…)

So as we sit down at the bar we are greeted by Juanito the owner and order two cafe con leches. As we try to decide what we want first Juanito picks up a Xu Xu (Chu Chu) and gives a thumbs up. This pastry was delicious, fried dough with custard in the middle. It was the best pastry we had in Barcelona.

The bar was getting crowded and the staff moved in and out of their small space with ease. They were cooking up calamari, chick peas, lamb stew, and various seafoods. It was time for us to get the next course. Dos copas des cava por favor!!

With cava in hand we are ready for the real stuff. Looking overwhemled Juanito comes to the rescue with suggestions of seafood and meat dishes.

We had heard of the fresh seafood of Barcelona and Juanito recommended the large shrimp and some of the lamb stew.

They grilled the shrimp whole and sprinkled salt on them. They tasted like the sea. We also had seen Bourdain suck the the brains so here was our chance to experience that type of food ecstasy moment. It was briny and salty, full of flavor.

We came back 3 more times to Pinotxo Bar mainly for cortados and xu xus, but we did try another special which were the chick peas. Cooked in oil and mixed with onions, raisins, and pine nuts, this was one of the tastiest dishes we had in Barcelona.

If you get a chance to experience this bar, please do. Everyone from tourists to locals eat here and there is a good reason for it. The food and drink are delicious and the atmosphere gives it that extra charm.