Le Meridien ~ Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

Artwork at Le Meridien

Artwork at Le Meridien

Barcelona is known for it’s museums, local culture, food, markets, opera house, flamenco dancing, art, architecture, gothic quarter and music. When choosing a destination, we really try to research things to do and places to eat for kids. The same is true when researching a place to stay. Some of the questions we ask are: Is the hotel family friendly? What accommodations do they offer for kids? Do the restaurants Europe - 3include kids menus? What is the surrounding area like? Is it conveniently located to public transportation, airports and cruise ports? Research, research, research!!!! Get to know the area before you jet set. We flew into Barcelona El Prat Airport and sailed out of the Port of Barcelona. Research the cost of a hotel transfer to the ship if you are cruising. Keep in mind, the transfer cost are per person. Compare that to cab fare to the ship from the hotel. The hotel concierge will be able to estimate the cost of the cab fare in advance. Most hotels offer the option to email their concierge questions prior to arrival. Before renting a vehicle consider the driving laws in the country which you are visiting. If you are not familiar, get familiar in advance!

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

While researching Barcelona, time and time again, Las Ramblas kept coming up. It is the main drag so-to-speak, walking distance to  Gaudí’ architecture, tapas (appetizer) restaurants, shopping and most importantly the Barcelona Metro & Barcelona Bus Turistic. We narrowed down the hotel to the city’s most famous street – Las Ramblas and decided to stay at Le Méridien located on Las Ramblas.

Arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta

Arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta

When you enter the Le Meridien Barcelona- it’s like stepping into a whole new world!

The cab dropped us off and I remember looking up at the sky-scraping, ornate, historic building in absolute awe. We entered through the gold and glass revolving door, which the kids loved, where we were greeted by doorman in suits who grabbed our luggage. The modern colors of black and red flash before your eyes while taking in the sounds & aromas of espresso brewing at the coffee bar, people speaking an array of languages, various currencies exchanging at the front desk, and hotel staff rushing by, smiling. The hotel is definitely alive.

Since we were off by 12 hour time difference, the mornings consisted of getting up very early to go downstairs and await the opening of the espresso bar and the Illy coffee (Italian gourmet coffee). My daughter and I would watch the residents rushing past the windows on Las Ramblas heading off by foot in the dark to their busy day at work. The doorman must be trained to memorize each and every guest name and face! It was an unreal experience, different from that my time in Italy and France. Observing the doorman while sipping coffee was fascinating to me. Since the hotel is located on the city’s most famous street, it was reassuring to know that the doorman monitor who is walking in and out. Throughout the hotel art and architectural detailing are displayed. In the central lobby, “The Hub”, is the perfect place to people watch, visit with friends and family, read, or simply drink coffee.

The arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta (pictured above). Fontcuberta is a local photographer and lecturer in Fine Art. He concretes on representations, wisdom, memory, science, confidence, ambiguity in images. The artwork is amazing, from the outside it appears as though you can’t see into the hotel but from the inside looking out, you can’t see the artwork.

La Rambla

La Rambla

St. Joseph La Boqueria

St. Joseph La Boqueria

Las Ramblas has a tree lined central promenade which is crowded all day and night. The street is pavedEurope - 7 in a design which is meant to ripple like water. There are several vendors along the promenade selling newspapers, souvenirs, flowers, and you will see street traders, performers, cafes and bars. Be sure not to miss the famous fountain, Font de Canaletes, and popular meeting point. La Rambla is lined with historic buildings which include the Palace of the Virreina, Liceu Theatre, the market- one of the city’s landmarks. Royal Square, shopping plaza with palm trees, pubs and restaurants, is located a couple of streets over from Las Ramblas.

Barcelona Shopping

Barcelona Shopping

Interesting facts about the hotel ~ Le Méridien Barcelona has had many world-famous guests such as: Pavarotti, Bruce Springsteen, Zubin Mehta, Rolling Stones, Madonna, and Rostropovich. The hotel offers limousine service, multilingual staff to attend to every need, complimentary Wi-Fi access in all public areas. The hotel is top notch with wonderful culinary options, interesting artwork, spacious rooms and located in the center of everything!!

Cava cava

Cava cava

Just a glass of Cava…….

In our house, the word “Cava Cava” are an inside joke. It’s along story, but basically the complementary glasses of Cava at 7 p.m. during the Le Meridien daily reception hit pretty fast when you haven’t eaten since noon! Getting on the meal time of Spain was a little challenging for us. We were almost asleep by dinner time and not too hungry anymore. We adjusted quickly but taking naps around 2 p.m. As they say, in rome do as the romans do.

Cava is a sparkling wine, which can be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado), produced in Catalonia. Cava is commonly made from macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo grape varieties. What is the difference between champagne/sparkling wine and cava you ask? Only wines produced in the champenoise traditional method (effervescence is produced by secondary fermentation in the bottle) can be labeled as cava. The village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is home to many of Spain’s largest production houses. Do NOT refer to cava as “Spanish champagne”, as it is not permitted under European Union law. Yes, they are quite serious about their cava. Cava is part of Spanish family tradition and is commonly served at baptisms, marriages, banquets, dinners and parties.

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Europe - 41.5

CentOnze

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

CentOnze has a sophisticated, yet warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“Our Chef is the creative genius behind a menu that is both well-balanced and intriguing, in which the sheer quality of the ingredients shines through the creative aesthetic, featuring dishes whose every constituent part is given equal prominence. The kitchens are bursting with the vibrant colors and fresh flavors of the Boquería market. Ingredients of the very highest quality are transformed into ephemeral works of art… haute cuisine made accessible” ~ Le Meridien Barcelona website.
The wait staff at CentOnze are phenomenal!! Anticipating our arrival each evening, they reserved a table in the window of Las Ramblas where we could watch all the night life take place. The wait staff memorized the type of wine that we ordered the first night and brought it to the table each night thereafter. The seafood was fresh from the Mediterranean and they suggested kid-friendly options. CentOnze was the perfect way to end each day in Barcelona after our siesta.

Barcelona

Barcelona

Money Saving Tips: We chose to not rent a car when we traveled to Barcelona, as it is 37.8 EUR (approximately  $49.14 US per day) to park per day. Be sure to consider the parking fees prior to reserving a car. There are several means of public transportation within walking distance to the hotel. We rode around on Barcelona Bus Turistic, which is conveniently located at the end of Las Ramblas. Tickets are available for all three routes: red, green and blue. We rode each route the first day we were in Barcelona to decide which places we wanted to tour. The bus is fun for kids as it is guided and offered in multiple languages.

Take advantage of the market’s convenient location!!! We would leave our room first thing in the morning to grab hot coffee and croissants. The kids created their own specialty smoothies – getting past the language barrier all on their own. Sit up to the counter tops in the market, order your lunch and watch the chefs and they rush around clanking pans cooking snails, ham, and quiche. Bring sliced meats, cheeses and crackers back to your room to snack on before dinner. In Spain, dinner is very late in comparison to the U.S. Our kids loved snacking away from 2-8 p.m. when most places are closed for siesta. The market is affordable! Grab Panini’s for the whole family to share and take off for a picnic. We grabbed a variety of Panini’s and headed to the Castle Montjuic .

To read more about our time in Barcelona, including Gaudí’s Sangrada Familia, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (world famous market), Sangria & Paella recipes, and Castle Montjuic ~ click on “Barcelona, Spain” under topics on the right hand column of the blog.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

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For the Love of Gelato!!!

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Roma

Gelato in Roma

Throughout the Mediterranean our kids flipped out over gelato!! Everywhere we went, they wanted more and more. In Florence, Italy our daughter ate gelato three times in one day which is not cheap.

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but is it really the same thing as ice cream??? Gelato refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. Gelato is made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. Often times you will see it served in a glass as a parfait or in a dish with whole fruits. In the picture above the gelato is displayed in parfaits. Whether in a cup, on a cone or in a dish~ It’s all amazing!!!

First you must know the gelato lingo!!! Gelati is plural for gelato and Gelateria is where geltao is sold.

Money saving tips: We ate gelato all along the Mediterranean. Be sure to look around and price out the gelato as some gelaterias are located on the same block for twice as much and the one next door. At Piazza Navona in Rome for example, gelato is priced very high within the piazza but if you step a block outside of the piazza you can find it much cheaper and just as good! It’s the same for paella in Spain or wood burning oven pizzas in Rome. When visiting Barcelona, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (The Market) has amazing gelato for much cheaper than purchasing on La Rambla. If you would like to read more about The Market, click on the link Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria on the right hand side under “topics”.

What makes gelato different from ice cream? Gelato is a type of soft ice cream which contains a relatively small amount of air. Gelato in Italy must have at least 3.5% butterfat. The sugar content in homemade gelato, as in ice cream, is balanced with the water content to act as an anti-freeze to prevent it from freezing solid. Several types of sugar are used including sucrose, dextrose, and inverted sugar to control sweetness. Typically, gelato—like any other ice cream—needs a stabilizing base. Egg yolks are used in yellow custard-based gelato flavors, including zabaione (an Italian dessert, or sometimes a beverage, made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine) and creme caramel, and non-fat milk solids are also added to gelato to stabilize the base. Starches and gums, especially corn starch, are often used to thicken and stabilize the mix.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona

Facts about Gelato~ In the United States there isn’t a standard of definition for gelato set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as there is for ice cream. Ice cream in the U.S. is defined by the Federal Code both by its ingredients, which includes milk fat of 10% or more, gelato in the U.S. covers a wide range of products including frozen desserts eaten like ice cream; products that are identical to ice cream with the exception of their butterfat contents; and premium ice cream containing butterfat far exceeding the minimums set forth in Italy. Recipes will vary as will the person making it, but most dairy gelato contains 16–24% sugar. Whereas, ice cream in the United States contains 12 to 16% sugar.

Where does gelato come from? The history of gelato dates back to frozen desserts in Sicily, ancient Rome and Egypt which were made from snow and ice brought down from mountaintops and preserved below ground. Then, frozen desserts appeared during banquets at the Medici court in Florence. Bernardo Buontalenti, the Florentine cook, is said to have invented modern ice cream in 1565. He presented his recipe and his innovative refrigerating techniques to Catherine de’ Medici, who in turn brought the novelty to France as Queen consort. In 1686 the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli perfected the first ice cream machine. Gelato increased in popularity in the 1920s–1930s in the northern Italian city of Varese, where the first gelato cart was developed!!

Interesting Gelato Stat: Italy is the only country where the market share of handmade gelato versus industrial one is over 55%. More than 5,000 modern Italian ice cream parlors employ over 15,000 people today, mostly Italians.

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Florence

Want to make your own gelato???

Piazza Navona, Roma

Piazza Navona, Roma

Making gelato is similar to making ice cream. There are several steps involved. The mixture for gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first, dissolving sugars. White base is heated to 185 °F completing a pasteurization program. The hot process to make chocolate gelato is basically the same for ice cream and is traditionally flavored with cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Gelato and some premium ice creams are so dense that they require a slightly higher serving temperature. This is the perfect point in which your scoop is firm but not hard and not so soft that it melts immediately. Gelato recipes usually include more egg yolks, more milk and less cream than ice cream. It actually has less fat than regular ice cream. Gelato’s low overrun (less air) makes for an extremely dense, rich and creamy treat that we all love.

Sorbets are all about the fruit, fruit, fruit. With the absence of milk, cream or eggs, they depend only on sugar, lemon juice and fresh fruit for flavor. Elegantly simple and refreshingly tart, sorbets were the rage during Victorian years, when they were served as palate cleansers between rich, heavy courses. A sorbetto, the more intense Italian version, generally has more fruit and less water, resulting in a softer, less icy texture. Sorbet is all about the FRESH fruit.

Giada’s Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts.

What type of gelato maker should you buy? Gelato makers can run anywhere from $22.00 – $1200 depending on the brand, size and features. De Longhi GM6000 Gelator Maker with Self-Refrigerating Compressor will cost you about $300! Cuisinart ICE-100 compressor is both an ice cream maker and gelato maker which runs about $251. If you own a KitchenAid mixer, there is an attachment for ice cream which is $85.00. Be sure to research before purchase, check out ratings and read reviews as some of the ice cream makers are for both ice and gelato while others are for frozen yogurt and sorbets. Gelato is made to perfection at a slightly lower temperature than ice cream in Italian Gelaterias; however, it can still be made at home using an ice cream maker.

According to World of Ice Cream, here is the equation for gelato:

Gelato= less fat + no air added = richer taste

Gelato in Barcelona

Gelato in Barcelona

 5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

 

The Ultimate Dining Experience~ Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Kauai Grill, St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

Kauai Grill, St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

Kauai Grill, Steam Onaga

Kauai Grill, Steam Onaga

Dining at a Jean-Georges restaurant is an experience which is practically indescribable. It’s

Kauai Grill, Seared Wagyu Strip Loin

Kauai Grill, Seared Wagyu Strip Loin

not the obvious…. that he is one of the world’s most famous chefs, his impressive Michelin background, his restaurants are all 3 and 4 star ratings or the fact that they are world wide. It’s something more and once you have experienced it, you will know. We were left wanting to seek out additional Jean-Georges restaurants as we were in awe of………beautifully displayed food, fresh concepts, unique menu, exotic flavors of the East and impeccable service.

A little about Jean-Georges Vongerichten ~ a French chef born in Alsace, France, March 16, 1957. Currently, he resides in New York City where he has ten restaurants. Vongerichten opens restaurants in most of the culinary capitals such as Las Vegas, London, Paris and Shanghai, as well as New York. He is author of five cookbooks, two with Mark Bittman. When Jean-Georges was 16, his parents brought him to the 3-star Michelin-rated Auberge de l’ill for a birthday dinner and that is where his love for food began.

Kauai Grill, Sichuan Peppercorn Crusted Bigeye Ahi Tuna

Kauai Grill, Sichuan Peppercorn Crusted Bigeye Ahi Tuna

What make Jean-Georges unique? His signature cuisine eliminates the traditional use of meat stocks and creams.

Kauai Grill, Spiced Chicken Samosas

Kauai Grill, Spiced Chicken Samosas

Instead, he features the intense flavors and textures from vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes.  Jean-Georges’ culinary concept has redefined industry standards and radically changed the way we eat.

New York Magazine wrote that in the past two decades, no single chef has had more influence on the way New Yorkers dine out or on the way other chefs cook and other restaurants look. “He invented America’s answer to nouvelle cuisine,” says Mario Batali. “When I first came to New York, his book Simple Cuisine was the holy grail for young chefs, and JoJo was the hottest ticket in town.”

Kauai Grill, Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae

Kauai Grill, Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae

Kauai Grill, Salmon Sashimi

Kauai Grill, Salmon Sashimi

Jean-Georges and Starwood Hotels: Vongerichten and partner Phil Suarez have formed a new company with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Catterton Partners, a consumer-focused private-equity firm which owns, operates, manages and license restaurants in Starwood properties. This new venture includes seven Spice Markets and other concepts world wide. The total number of eating destinations may possibly total 56 with this contract. The first to open were two Spice Markets at the W Hotel in both Atlanta and Istanbul.

Accolades: Jean Georges has received the James Beard award for Best Chef and Best New Restaurant. Esquire Magazine voted Chef Vongerichten the Chef of the Year in 1997. Jean Georges restaurant holds 3 Michelin stars. In 2008 it received a 18/20 “Excellent” rating. In 2009 it won the James Beard Foundation Award for outstanding restaurant. In 2007, Lia Bardeen, Jean Georges executive sous chef, was featured as a contestant on season 3 of Top Chef. In 2010, Jean Georges won the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service”. In 2013, Zagat’s gave it a food rating of 28, the second-highest in the West 60s, and rated it the 6th-best restaurant in New York City.

Sunset at Kauai Grill

Sunset at Kauai Grill

Kauai Grill, St Regis Princeville Resort

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kauai Grill opened in 2009 which is located in Kauai at the St. Regis Princeville.

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

Throughout the restaurant there are large windows displaying breathtaking views of Bali Hai  and Hanalei Bay.  A hand crafted fiber optic and ruby glass hibiscus chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling and zebra woods are throughout.

Our experience at Kauai Grill was quite interactive, rather than everything happening all around us, we

Kauai Grill

Kauai Grill

felt engaged in the process. The waiter recommended several appetizers, wine, entrees and dessert. We were pleased that our favorite appetizer, the Grilled Black Pepper Octopus, remained on the menu. The waiter recommended the Salmon Sashimi with Warm Crispy Rice which melted in our mouths.

Our son ordered a house made soda which was comprised of passion fruit juice, thai chili and club soda. When our son was less than thrilled with the soda (too spicy for his taste), our

waiter was at our table instantly with alternate recommendations. The waiter checked in with us each time food was brought to the table. When our son expressed his love for cooking and the waiter brought two Jean-Georges cookbooks table side for him to look through while he was awaiting the entrée.

Kauai Grill, Mashed Potatoes

Kauai Grill, Mashed Potatoes

For the highlight of the evening, the chef took him on a tour of the kitchen!! The overall experience could not have been any more magnificent. We ended the evening with the waiter’s recommendation for dessert….. Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae. The ice cream is made daily at Kauai Grill!

Kauai Grill, Roasted Ali'i Mushrooms

Kauai Grill, Roasted Ali’i Mushrooms

Jean-Georges restaurants offer kids menus. Many of the entrées on the kids menu were the same as the adult menu, offering smaller portions. The kids menu even had a burger and fries option.

St. Regis Deer Valley, UT

St. Regis Deer Valley, UT

J&G Grill, St Regis Deer Valley, Utah

J&G Grill, Truffle Pizza

Black Truffle Pizza with Fontina

J&G Grill is the Jean-Georges restaurant located within the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort in Utah. The restaurant is decorated with dark woods, stone and fireplaces throughout.

J&G Grill, Mussels

J&G Grill, Mussels

The resort has a high-end lodge ambiance throughout with floor to ceiling glass windows where you can watch the snow fall. After a long, cold day or skiing or just simply playing in the snow, it is wonderful to sit down to a nice, hot meal at J&G Grill. To start off, we have to describe the Black Truffle Pizza with Fontina Cheese. This pizza is possibly the best we have ever had. The kids asked what was on the pizza and we said we didn’t know (thinking they wouldn’t eat it if they knew it were truffles) and it was gone. It was outstanding so we ordered a second pizza. Next, we ordered the Maine Mussels Mariniere with Grilled Garlic Toast. The picture tells it all. Again, Jean-Georges offered a kids menu and our daughter chose a simple burger after skiing all day. It is refreshing to find a fine dining restaurant which not only offers a kids menu, but one which includes a burger option on the menu.

J&G Grill, Kids meal

J&G Grill, Kids meal

J&G Grill offers simply grilled preparations of the highest-quality meats and freshest local fish, accompanied by bold condiments.

You must try the 7452 Mary, which was chosen due to the altitude of the bar which is 7452 feet above

sea level. It is an enticing blend of the St. Regis famous Bloody Mary mix and fine oat-distilled Vodka 7000 from local High West Distillery-served with a touch of salt on the rim and finished with a
Wasabi-Celery foam.

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

In 2009, Le Meridien Barcelona began offering new elements created by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Breakfast with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Buckwheat Spinach Calzone

Breakfast with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Buckwheat Spinach Calzone

The breakfast has 5 new elements:

  1. Jean Georges Elements.  The breakfast innovator has created 7 “Eye Openers”, juice tasting and 6 dishes, some of which can be found in the buffet and some on the menu.
  2. Dishes invented internally. Le Méridien organised the competition “Sabor a Descubrimiento” (Discovering Flavours) which challenged the chefs from all the chain’s hotels to send original recipes that gave new perspectives on pastries, sweets and sandwiches for breakfast. The prize for the winners was recognition for their recipes by including them in the Le Méridien Breakfast.
  3. International Menus.  There is a selection of menus fromChina,Japan,India and theMiddle East.
  4. IllyCaffé.  The intense experience of sampling one of the world’s best coffees, both in the lobby and at breakfast.
  5. Uniforms. The chefs  wear a uniform according to the Breakfast.
Breakfast with Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Breakfast with Jean-Georges Vongerichten

While spending time in Spain, you must indulge in Jamón (ham). Early in the morning, we would went

down to the lobby at the Le Meridien Barcelona and smelled the wonderful meats and cheeses. After grabbing our cappuccino, we headed straight for the Breakfast with Jean-Georges. Our daughter loved the cured meats with eggs and toast while we opted for the buckwheat spinach calzone with sea salt. Jean-Georges breakfast offers an array of fresh squeezed juices in a rainbow of colors.

“My goal for Le Meridien was to create a breakfast experience that not only delivers the basics at a high quality level, but also provides a level of ‘discovery’ for guests by blending exotic flavors with everyday ingredients.  The dishes deliver a unique blend of flavors that invigorate and awaken the palate,” added Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

Jean-Georges Restaurants

United States

New York

Jean‑Georges

Nougatine at Jean‑Georges

Terrace at Jean‑Georges

JoJo

The Mercer Kitchen

Perry St

ABC Kitchen

ABC Cocina

The Mark

Simply Chicken

Chicago

Pump Room

Las Vegas

Prime Steakhouse

Jean‑Georges Steakhouse

Bahamas

Paradise Island

Dune

Cafe Martinique

China

Shanghai

Jean‑Georges

Mercato

France

Paris

Market

French West Indies

St Barths

Sand Bar

On the Rocks

Mexico

Los Cabos

In Collaboration with Culinary-Concepts

United States

New York

Spice Market

Atlanta

Spice Market

Bal Harbour

J&G Grill

Boston

Market

Kauai

Kauai Grill

Park City

J&G Grill

San Juan

Fern

Scottsdale

J&G Steakhouse

Washington DC

J&G Steakhouse

Canada

Vancouver

Market by Jean‑Georges

England

London

Spice Market

French Polynesia

Bora Bora

Lagoon

Mexico

Mexico City

J&G Grill

Qatar

Doha

Market by Jean‑Georges

Spice Market

Cookbooks

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges (co-authored with Genevieve Ko) (November 2011)

Asian Flavorings of Jean-Georges (October 2007)

Simple to Spectacular (co-authored with Mark Bittman) (October 2000)

Jean-Georges: Cooking At Home with a Four-Star Chef (co-authored with Mark Bittman) (September 1998)

Simple Cuisine: The Easy, New Approach to Four-Star Cooking (1991)

5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

Paella, Paella, Paella

Pealla on the Wharf in Barcelona

Pealla on the Wharf in Barcelona

Europe - 41.5

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Our son fell in love with Paella while in Barcelona!!!! He loves seafood and rice- so this was a dish come true for him. What exactly is Paella?

Paella is a Valencian rice dish which came about in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish.  Most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols. So it is a dish shared amongst many regions and many people but commonly served in Spain.

This dish is named after the two-handled pan it’s cooked in. The 15-inch paella pan has a wide surface area which ensures that the rice cooks in a thin, even layer.There are three common types of paella: Valencian paella, seafood paella and mixed paella, but there are many others as well. The key to this dish is the crusty caramelized layer of rice, called socarrat, that forms on the bottom of the pan. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat  such as: rabbit, chicken, duck, land snails- beans and seasoning.

CentOnze, Le Meridien Barcelona

CentOnze, Le Meridien Barcelona

Seafood paella includes seafood and usually doesn’t have beans and green vegetables.

Mixed paella is a free-style combination of land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans. The key ingredients include saffron and olive oil.

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Our son was on a mission to try Paella all over Barcelona. Each version greatly differed. The first place that he ordered Paella was at the Le Meridien Barcelona Hotel on La Rambla. While this is a Jean Georges restaurant which is usually 5 Star and quite pricey, their portions were large and not too expensive considering we sat in the window on La Rambla. We love to sit and watch all of the passerby’s at night. Of course in Spain, dinner doesn’t really start until 9ish and goes until very late!!! The Paella at CentOnze was € 22.50 for a large, adult sized portion. Pretty reasonable for the amount of seafood in the dish including a giant crustacean on the top. We highly recommend this restaurant for price, ambiance and food quality.

About Jean Georges Vongerichen: He was born in the Alsace and studied in France. He started his career in le Méridien Singapore and very soon after, he open 10 restaurants in the same area. In 1985, he decided to go to New York and he won 4 stars of The New York Times when he was only 29 years old.

He opened restaurants in Boston, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Paris, Bahamas and Shanghai. Currently he possesses 12 stars in The New York Times thanks to his 4 restaurants in New York (Jojo, Vong, Jean Georges and The Mercer Kitchen).

Fast Food Paella

Fast Food Paella

The Fast Food of Paella- GROSS!!!

Don’t make the same mistake we did. Our son wanted Paella one last time prior to leaving Barcelona, so we went looking for it. As we walked down a street in Barcelona that the bus dropped us off at, we came across a sign with a picture of Paella. After walking quite a ways and so hungry, we just stopped off at a pizza place which also served Paella. That was probably our sign- pizza and Paella? When it came out, it looked like sticky yellow rice with a bag of frozen peas and a disgusting chicken drumstick. We were actually afraid to let him eat it but he was so hungry. The restaurant was clean, very metro and the rest of us had great food. The Paella was comparable to fast food. Paella in Spain is much like “wood burning stove pizza in Rome” every restaurant swears by it. We paid about € 12.00 for it and it wasn’t worth € 2.00. It actually made us sick looking at it. Most Paella has mussels, shrimp, clams and other seafood such as fish, calamari or crustaceans. As you can see from the picture – this Paella had none of those- just a chicken bone.

Tapas Sign

Tapas Sign

“Mejillones” (mussels) in Barcelona are everywhere!!! After having his fill of Paella, he moved on to mussels.

How to eat mussels

How to eat mussels

Spain has tapas everywhere -so we took full advantage of sampling tapas around town. As you can see in the picture of the Tapas sign- mussels were only € 3.30. That’s so cheap!!! Many of the restaurants in Spain have menus posted on the sidewalk and many of them offer outside seating.

In Spain, mussels are consumed mostly steam cooked, boiled in white wine, onion and herbs, and served with the remaining water and some lemon. Mussels are commonly served as “tigres” in Spain, a croquette using the mussel meat, shrimps and other pieces of fish in a thick bechamel then breaded and fried in the clean mussel shell.

Mussels are also used in other varieties such as rices or soups or commonly eaten canned in a pickling brine made of oil, vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves and paprika.

Done!

Done!

Patatas Bravas: also called patatas a la brava or papas bravas, is a dish native to Spain and often served as a tapa in bars. It is made up of white potatoes that have been cut into about 2 centimeter irregular shapes and then fried in oil and served warm with a sauce such as a spicy tomato sauce or a mayonnaise. In the picture you will see that they were served with a white cream dollop which was similiar to a crème fraîche (lighter, less sour than our sour cream in the US). This dish is commonly served in restaurants and bars throughout Spain, where it is traditionally paired with a shot of orujo or a glass of wine. It is one of the most spicy dishes served in Spain. Yummy is all I can say!!!

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

$$ saving tips: Tapas can be extremely pricey!!! The first place that we sat down to for tapas in Barcelona handed us a bill for € 150.00 (times that by .30 for US dollars). What not to do when ordering tapas- if the waiter ask or tells you “I will bring a sampler of tapas” say no! Be sure to look at the menu prior to entering a tapas restaurant. We were drawn in because it looked like a happening place, dishes clanking, lots of people inside, wine glasses and smelled great. We didn’t look at the menu first and accepted the tapas sampler. We had just gotten off of a plane, tired after traveling 22 hours. Won’t make that mistake again. The menu in the picture indicates that there are affordable places which have a vast variety of tapas. Tapas are great because they are small and not really filling so we can restaurant hop along the side walk cafes and try all kinds of food. Tapas are also cheaper during the day!

Paella goes well with Sangria!!! Be sure to check out the Sangria page of the blog by choosing the link in the right hand column called “Sangria”. When ordering Paella, look at the quality as well as the price. We happened to find great Paella in a high end restaurant affordably prices and equally as good Paella on the waterfront in Barcelona. In our experience, if there is a picture of the item on the menu – it is probably more a fast food type of Paella. Try Paella in Spain and then make it yourself at home!!

Easy Chicken Paella Recipe

Original recipe makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, salt and black pepper to taste, 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, 3 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice, 1 pinch saffron threads, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped, 1 quart  chicken stock, 2 lemons, zested, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 Spanish onion, chopped, 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped, 1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled, 1 pound  shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-paella/

It’s all about the Sangria, Barcelona

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

One of my favorite things about Barcelona is the Sangria!!!! I have been to Barcelona twice and both times, fully indulged in the Sangria. The picture above is at a restaurant on the Barcelona Wharf. Need I say more. What makes Spain’s Sangria so deliciously unique is…..the full body and character of the wines made in Spain. Sangria can taste like watery soup if made incorrectly.

Eons ago were the wine-loving Romans in Spain who wisely discovered when settling in the area that the climate was ideal for growing grapes. As time passed, Europe’s penchant for wine-based punches enhanced with fruit and often other alcohol.

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

There are all kinds of sangria, it can be made with red wine (my favorite), white wine or rosé (Rosado in Spain). Sangria by definition is a “fruity wine punch”. The Spanish word Sangre means blood. Sangria is a

Sangria on La Rambla

Sangria on La Rambla

wine from Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Chopped fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, peaches, melons, berries, pineapple, grapes, kiwifruit and mango are commonly added. The usual sweeteners are honey, sugar, syrup, or orange juice . You can really make sangria your own by substituting brandy for other liquids such as Seltzer, Sprite or 7 Up.  In some parts of Southern Spain, sangria is called zurra and is made with peaches or nectarines.

Sangria is served throughout Spain and Portugal during summer. Sangria is often served in 1-litre pitchers or other containers large enough to hold a bottle of wine plus the added ingredients. Among the Spanish and Portuguese, sangria is most typically served at informal social gatherings, much like punch, from a punchbowl. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon, used to get fruit out of the bottom of the punchbowl or pitcher.

Sangria was initially introduced to the United States in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York. Although many believe that this wine punch has been around in Europe in various incarnations for hundreds of years.

Sangria is so pretty!!! Traditionally sangria is served in a pitcher but at parties I have served it in a large, glass container with a spout because it looks gorgeous. If you serve it this way, be sure to have fresh fruits that were marinated in the sangria overnight, on the side so people can add them to their drink. Another fun idea is to make two sangrias- one for kids and people who prefer not to have alcohol and one for the adults. When making the sangria for kids, use white grape juice instead of wine and omit sweetener. It is a great party drink for all seasons. I have served sangria at winter parties with apples, cinnamon sticks and pears floating inside.

National Sangria Day is December 20th!! When making or ordering sangria, what you must know is that the main ingredient – fruit is what differs the types of flavors for sangria. In addition, whether or not spritzers are added.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Here is a recipe for authentic, basic Spanish sangria

1 Bottle ( 26 fl. oz) Spanish red wine

1 tablespoon sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise

1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 liter 7-Up (add last minute)

1 cup of Grand Marnier

Refrigerate over night and add 7-Up at the last minute!!!

ROSÉ and SUMMER FRUIT SANGRIA
Rosé wines are popular and very delicious to use in sangria, particularly when combined with ripe, in-season fruit. Serve with small forks so you can pull out fruits swimming in the drink and eat them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time
Makes: About 5 to 6 (2 glasses each) servings
2, 750-mL bottles dry rosé wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur
1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar, or to taste
2 medium, ripe apricots, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 large plum, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 medium ripe nectarine, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) fresh blackberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh raspberries
1 medium lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups (500 mL) soda water
Ice

1. Pour the wine and orange liqueur into a large bowl. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved. Taste and add more icing sugar, if needed. Add the fruit, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. When ready to serve, stir the soda water into the sangria mixture. Fill a pitcher or two, depending on size, half full with ice. Ladle in the sangria and serve.

This recipe was found at life.nationalpost.com

Antoni Gaudí Structures, Barcelona

Roof top of Gaudi's Casa Mila

Roof top of Gaudi’s Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

Barcelona is known for it’s architecture and one of the most famous architects,

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

Antoni Gaudí’s gothic style structures. They are very unique by design and interesting to tour inside. We were able to view a few of them during our one week stay in Barcelona. Sangrada Familia is probably the most recognized and visited structure by Gaudí and for this reason, I have created a separate post specifically about Sangrada Familia. So be sure to check out that page by clicking on the word “Sangrada Familia” on the right hand side of the page under “topics”.

Antoni Gaudí is from, Reus, which is a small town south of Barcelona.  A

Casa Mila roof top

Casa Mila roof top

‘Modernisme’ movement took place towards the end of the 19th century in Catalonia that extended from ca. 1880 to the First World War. This movement was similiar to other currents such as Naturalism, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau. It was motivated by a return to traditions as an expression of national identity, as well as by the introduction of modern techniques and materials as part of progress. This Modernisme movement was very different from anything else as it pertained to cultural identity. The movement expressed literature and music, painting, sculpture, decorative arts and, of course,  architecture.

As we rode the Barcelona Bus Turístic around, we saw long lines in front of  Gaudí’s, Casa Milà. Later we found out that tickets are available for purchase on line in advance, thus avoiding the lines. The long lines indicated that this was a poppular Gaudí

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

straucture to tour and so we decided to take the kids and see for ourselves!! The best times to tour the bulding are before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., otherwise be prepared for crowds. Upon entereing the building you will walk through a downstairs area which has gorgeous glass window formations and indoor courtyards. Go up the elevator and walk around the roof top viewing the clay colored, head formations. The bulding displays what high end apartment life was like 100 years ago. Casa Milà is unlike any building I have ever toured or seen for that matter. I was a little nervous walking around the roof tops as it is very high and you walk up and down hilly, narrow pathways. Upon exiting the building there is a book store with unqiue gifts and souveniers.

Roof top of Casa Mila

Roof top of Casa Mila

Casa Milà  is also known as ‘La Pedrera’. It is a very unusual looking building, which was built between 1906 and 1912 by Gaudí (1852–1926).  La Pedrera is the headquarters of Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and includes a cultural centre. This bulding is known for an array of activities which are organized, exhibitions and other events.

Price information to tour Casa Milà:
Adult: €16.50
Student: €14.85
Disabled: €14.85
Children (six and under): free
Children (seven to twelve): €8.25
Casa Batllo from bus

Casa Batllo from bus

Another one of Gaudí’s masterpieces is the Casa Batlló which opened in 1877 and is located in the heart of Barcelona. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house.

When riding the Barcelona Bus Turístic around you will see Casa Batlló which is located in the very heart of Passeig de Gràcia. Gaudí’ wanted this building to have marine inspiration, such as a dream world, which portrays nature with its earthy elements and bits of fantasy.
The house was originally the residence of the Batlló family. Then, Gaudí included a huge gallery which projects several meters out over Passeig de Gràcia for all to see! He also added large oval-shaped feature windows and inserted stone columns in the shape of bones, and balconies in the shape of masks or gothic figures. On the top of the building there is a spectacular roof which resembles a dragon’s back. In addition, there is a tower with a cross rising up with four arms pointing north, south, east and west.

Gaudí is known for his representations such as an animal’s spine on the roof terrace using tiles of different colors on one side and the use of trencadís mosaic technique on the other. The roof also displays four chimney stacks. Gaudí completed a full refurbishment of the building using innovative techniques and creativity.
Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for the 1906 award for the best building.

Price Information to tour Casa Batlló:
Adult: €20.35
Student: €6.30
Children (six and under): free
$$ saving tips: Most of the Gaudí structures can be viewed from the Barcelona Bus Turístic. It gets expensive purchasing tickets for an entire family at each building. Some structures you really have to view from the inside, such as Sangrada Familia. However, other structures are shown very close up from the bus. The bus also provides information about the buildings and drives slow enough to take pictures. We were lucky as the bus came to a complete stop often times in front of the buildings due to traffic. Be sure to ride on the top deck to get the best view. The Sangrada Familia must be toured inside to see the various colors of gorgeous marble columns throughout. There are so many museums and building to see in Barcelona in addition to all of the Gaudí structures. The best way to save money is to ride the bus around first, take pictures of everything, and map out what you want to return to. Casa Milà was worth paying for the tour. You don’t need to pay for the guided tour with the head set. We did and then ended up just reading our way through and taking off the annoying head phones.
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Castle Montjuic, Barcelona

Europe - 16 Castle Montjuic

Castle Montjuic

When researching Barcelona I saw Castle Montjuic pop up but it was relatively difficult to find information on in English. I read a review from a mom who said it was one of the things that her kids enjoyed most and that it was free! So I decided to find out as much information as I could, but it was bits and pieces here and there. I am hoping that this post will capture everything I was looking for about the castle in one place! This was a favorite spot in Barcelona for our family because there were so many different things to do in one place and everything is outside. The castle sits up high with gorgeous views of their gardens and the Mediterranean Sea.

Barcelona Bus Turístic

Barcelona Bus Turístic

Getting to the castle- we stayed in a hotel on La Rambla, but regardless of where you are

staying or if you are in Barcelona for a day, you can access the castle location from the double decker bus, Barcelona Bus Turistic. The bus has three routes: red, green and blue. There is a ticket which allows you to ride on all three routes or purchase a single route ticket. For more information on routes and ticket prices please visit the site http://www.barcelonabusturistic.cat/web/guest/informacio. When purchasing a ticket for the bus, it comes with earphones to listen to the tour in 10 different languages if you choose. Castle Montjuic is located on the red route, but prior to reaching the castle, you must take a ride on the cable car, Telefèric de Montjuïc, which transports passengers to the top of  Montjuic. The cable car holds up to 8 passengers.

Telefèric de Montjuïc

Telefèric de Montjuïc

There are fantastic views of Sangrada Familia and Torre Agbar. The Telefèric de Montjuïc hours of operation vary seasonally. Be sure to double check prior to planning your day at the castle at http://www.tmb.cat/en/teleferic-de-montjuic.

Lunch area at Castle Montjuic

Lunch area at Castle Montjuic

There is a lot of walking which involves going up stairs to get to the castle from the cable car. It is best to allow yourself a couple of hours to really explore. There are informational plaques throughout to read about the history, people, construction, etc. In addition, you can eat lunch there. We stopped off at La Boqueria (marketplace) on the way to the bus, purchased salami, cheese and Panini to bring to the castle for a picnic. They sell beverages, have tables and an open lawn to enjoy a nice lunch.

Coin operated telescopes

Coin operated telescopes

Stop off and take a peek through the numerous coin-operated telescopes at various points around the gardens. You will see great views of the beach, the Mediterranean sea and imagine what it was like to be on the look out for approaching ships. Be sure to bring coins!

History: Montjuïc Castle is a grand castle that controlled the city since 1640. The purpose of the castle was to repress the people during two centuries. Repression of the anarchists in the XIX century and prison for the political prisoners under Franco. The castle is famous for the execution of in 1940 Lluis Companys, the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia. Nowadays is the only place of the city where you can see a statue of Franco. In addition, the castle shelters a military museum.

http://www.barcelona.com/barcelona_directory/monuments/montjuic_castle

Shops at Castle Montjuic

Shops at Castle Montjuic

The castle has a few, little shops to browse through while walking around. I found a pair of mosaic goblets that I fell in love with and would have purchased without a second thought, but they looked as if they would not ship to Hawaii well. Browsing through the shops was fun and the kids each picked something small and inexpensive.

Slide at Castle Montjuic

Slide at Castle Montjuic

The castle has two, large slides which I had read about but had difficulty finding. Part of the difficulty was not knowing the Spanish word for “slide” and trying to act it out for the security workers. The Spanish word for slide is “toboggan” which may come in handy. The kids loved going down the slide and then climbing up all of the stairs to go right back down the slide again. The slides are located just below the castle.

Canons at Castle Montjuic

Canons at Castle Montjuic

There are canons at the castle which the kids can stand and climb all over. This was quite fun for them as they read about the castle and how it was placed on the top of the hill to protect Barcelona from ships on the Mediterranean. They climbed right up and started the reenactments. It is a great photo opportunity as well, since these are real canons.

$$ saving tips: Purchase the Barcelona Bus ticket on line and save 10% on the ticket. Bring your own food into the castle and have a picnic lunch there. The views are absolutely breathtaking and it is as if you are eating in a park overlooking the Mediterranean. The castle has tables and a large, open lawn to sit down and relax. The restaurant at Europe - 20 Castle Montjuicthe castle is pricey and most of there business is on catering for large groups.  Take pictures of the signs and the history rather than purchasing the brochures and post cards. That way if your child chooses to write a report on the castle later, you will have all of the information for free.

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