Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Homage to Catalonia

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria is a lively assemblage of food and people. There are other markets scattered around the city, but the most famous is The Boqueria. It sits a half black off the world famous (read here: best to be avoided) La Rambla. The stalls in the Boqueria are piled high with any food product you could imagine. Over there is a stall specializing in jamon iberico and hanging from its rafters are joints of rosy pig leg crowned by a black foot. Look here at a large collection of wild mushrooms stacked a foot high. There around the corner is seemingly every creature from the sea displayed on rocks of ice. There are eggs, sheep intestines, fruits, dried beans, candy, nuts, sausages as thick as your forearm and ones skinnier than your finger. Food is the star and it is everywhere.

In the Boqueria, there are two main snack bars: El Quim de la Boqueria and Pinotxo. Our first stop was the latter. Maybe fifteen seats lne the bar which and are snatched up as soon as they become available. A few tables are outside of the bar, but just like Camellia Grill, you go to Pinotxo to watch the show. Behind the bar four waiters work, serving beer, pouring cava, and shouting orders to the three cooks. All of this is accomplished in a space the size of a walk-on closet. It is chaotic and delicious.

First up, a glass of cava made especially for Pinotxo. This echoed a refrain we heard the day before at Sant Pau and would hear many, many times over. Then came a plate of creamy garbanzo beans lightly sauteed in garlic and olive oil and sweetened by golden raisins. So simple and so perfect. With the cava and a few chunks of bread, it makes for a very nice light lunch.

Of course, light lunch is fine and well for ladies who just finished a round of aerobics, but that was not us. We moved on to a plate of croquetas. Lightly fried rolls of pork and potato or potato and cod or whatever anyone else could imagine. The potato croquetas were nap inducing and salty, a perfect foil for the cava. We paid the modest bill and pressed onward.

The next stop was at El Quim. Where as Pinotxo had been a rectangular bar, El Quim is a rocking square of food service. We waited around twenty minutes for a stool, all the while watching the diners gobble up slabs of foie gras, squid, and shrimp hot of the plancha. We settled in and ordered some San Miguel cervesas and looked over the extensive menu. While I would hesitate to call any of the food in Spain as light, the menu at El Quim was filled with the hearty, heavy fair that can sustain a laborer for a day's worth of wages. We passed over the braised oxtail and settled instead on a plate of tripe, fried eggs topped with chipirons-tiny squid and a red wine sauce, and a vegetable. Don't worry the asparagus were wrapped in pork. 

The eggs were perfect, their golden yolk mixing with the rich wine sauce and salty punch of the squid. The tripe was a bit heavy handed, as tripe tends to be. The sauce was a gelatinous rust colored liquid in which the tripe rested. At this point, we were quite ready for something green. Thank goodness we had ordered a plate of tender asparagus graced by a sherry vinegar vinaigrette. The bacon wrapping wasn't a bad idea either.  

1 comment:

Damn True said...

Looks fantastic! We visited 'Barca in March and enjoyed eating at both El Quim and Pinotxo in the Boqueria. Here's a few of my pics: http://thedamntrueexperiment.blogspot.com/2011/04/photo-essay-mercat-de-la-boqueria-de.html