Paella, Paella, Paella

Pealla on the Wharf in Barcelona

Pealla on the Wharf in Barcelona

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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/

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The Marketplace- Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria-

Mercat

Pinotxo Tapas Bar

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Salami and Jamón

Food, Food, Food!!!!! By far one of the most memorable things about Barcelona is the marketplace.

Fresh baked bread at market

Fresh baked bread at market

It is an exploration of food for the whole family and offers an array of pastry, meats, cheeses, olives, seafood and drink. The marketplace is accessible from the main drag of Barcelona- Las Ramblas. Our hotel happened to be on Las Ramblas and once we discovered La Boqueria, we explored daily. My son was in awe of all the seafood brought in fresh daily on ice. My daughter, very picky, even found a candy section of the marketplace!

I woke up every morning craving their coffee and fresh made chocolate croissants. I was surprised to find counters to sit at and eat meals right in the marketplace. One of the restaurants, Pinotxo Bar, was featured on the Cooking Channel show, From Spain With Love. The owner, Pinotxo (Pinnochio) has been in the marketplace for 70 years and our kids were fortunate enough to meet him. Restaurants serve different items daily so be sure to go more than once!! My daughter even ate a quiche, Tortilla Espagnole, for breakfast that had escargot in it. Check out the Pintxo Bar at http://pinotxobar.com/

Pintxo Bar

Pintxo Bar

Great memories were created for our kids. We gave them their own euro’s, they picked out fruits and had smoothies made daily for 2€. We did not assist them with the communication barrier, they were on their own and did really well.

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Assorted nuts

$$ saving tips: When exploring the marketplace, be sure to browse multiple stands prior to purchasing as many of the vendors will sell similar items at different prices. For example we found Jamón (ham) Panini’s for 3€ each and then found a stand which sold them 2 for 5€. Before taking off on your excursions or double decker bus ride, stop off at the marketplace and grab salami, cheese, wine, Panini’s or whatever you would like to bring for a picnic. We picked up food almost daily. The market place is conveniently located on the same street as the double decker bus transfer at Las Ramblas about a 4 or 5 block walk.

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Candy bar

History:
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə βu.kəˈɾi.ə]), is a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and one of the city’s foremost tourist landmarks, with an entrance from La Rambla, not far from the Liceu, Barcelona’s opera house. The market has a very diverse selection of goods.

The first mention of the Boqueria market in Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat. From December 1470 onwards, a pig market was held at this site; at this time it was known as Mercat Bornet. Later, until 1794, it was known simply as Mercat de la Palla, or straw market. In the beginning, the market was not enclosed and had no official status, being regarded simply as an extension of the Plaça Nova market, which extended to the Plaça del Pi.

Family at La Mercat

Family at La Mercat

Later, the authorities decided to construct a separate market on La Rambla, housing mainly fishmongers and butchers.

St. Joseph La Boqueria

St. Joseph La Boqueria

It was not until 1826 that the market was legally recognized, and a convention held in 1835 decided to build an official structure. Construction began on March 19, 1840 under the direction of the architect Mas Vilà. The market officially opened in the same year, but the plans for the building were modified many times. The inauguration of the structure finally took place in 1853. A new fish market opened in 1911, and the metal roof that still exists today was constructed in 1914.

Fresh baked chocolate croissant

Fresh baked chocolate croissant

There is even a Culinary School within the market!!! The courses are taught by chefs and sommeliers as renowned professional, and by young artists.

http://www.boqueria.info/

 

Sangrada Familia, Barcelona

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The Sangrada Familia is a must see while in Barcelona!!! The first time I experienced the massive cathedral, was in September 2011 on a guided tour. When I returned with the family we had a week to spend in Barcelona and decided to take the tour ourselves with the whisper (headset and radio). I highly recommend the whisper to provide the historical information about the tour. It is not necessary to hire a tour guide and often times you will feel rushed if in a large group.

Europe 033We took our time and read the signs as we went along. The colors of the marble columns are breathtaking with shades of pink, peach, purple, and blue. I have never seen marble in the those colors before. The large organ and pipes are unbelievable. As you wander through and listen to the whisper you will find that the construction tells a story. You will find hidden objects imbedded in the structure on the outside. The Sangrada Familia is constantly under construction and you may just see cranes moving about while you observe the structure from outside. It is absolutely fascinating!!!

$$ saving tips: There is a park located in front of the Sangrada Familia with big, shady trees where you can enjoy a picnic lunch before taking the tour. Plan to spend at least 2 hours viewing the cathedral. We chose to take the double-decker bus to the cathedral rather than a cab or the metro. It is a beautiful ride if you sit on the top-level, you can take spectacular pictures from the bus which will capture side views of Sangrada Familia towers and the bus fare is a better deal if you purchase a multi-day pass.

Inside the Sangrada Familia

History:

The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale which was begun on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea. The building is in the centre of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.

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It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 131 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them.

It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.” The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century.

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http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sfeng/docs_instit/historia.php