Since Paola came back from her Food Tour done in Los Angeles with such a great enthusiasm, we have included this kind of experience among the things to do when we visit a city. And not only because we are a sweet tooth but because food is always the basis of a people’s culture and it is a very original way of getting to know the city, certainly less demanding than spending the day in an archaeological museum, but very enriching.
Barcelona Tourist Office offers various walking routes, with English or Spanish speaking guide. We move around the city with the group and wear headsets to be able to hear the guide better even when we move away for various reasons. Those who love to discover a city starting from history will prefer the Gothic Barrio Tour, those who prefer art will explore it through the life and works of Picasso while those who are fascinated by modernism (but who will not be after visiting Barcelona?) will be able to focus on the Eixample district where most of the works of Gaudì, Domènech and Montaner are concentrated.
We have chosen the Barcelona Gourmet Walking Tour, a journey through the old city and its gastronomic culture. This guided tour is held twice a week: on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 am with departure from the Plaça de Sant Jaume where there is one of the city’s Tourist Offices. We are already inside the Barrio Gotico, where the thistle meets the decumanus and on this square the Town Hall (Ajuntament) overlooks on one side and the Palau de la Generalitat opposite.
We set off with the guide towards Plaça de l’Àngel where one of the oldest bakeries in the city stands: the Colmena. This is not a novelty for us, as we have already had breakfast here with chuchos and ensaïmad, but this place is famous more for candy and Amatller chocolate, the oldest Spanish chocolate famous for its Art Nouveau boxes. Here you will also find an assortment of tea biscuits created after the industrial revolution and of paneletts, marzipan sweets, almonds and egg yolks typical of the period of all saints.
After crossing Via Laietana, we enter the Born district along Carrer de l’Argenteria so named because of the presence of silver processing laboratories. Today this street is one of the richest areas of good restaurants, we stop to admire the wonderful pintxos of the restaurant with Sagardi Basque cuisine.
Still on the same street we find one of the few cafés in Barcelona worthy of the name: Cafes El Magnifico. Here they grind and toast coffee from fair trade. You can drink a coffee or a cappuccino as well as buy one of the forty varieties of ground powders specifically for your type of coffee machine.
A little further on we find Hofmann, one of the most important cooking schools of Barcelona and of all Spain directed by Mey Hofmann, Michelin star 2004. Its best students direct the kitchen of the restaurant and recently opened a pastry shop in the Ribera district .
What amazes me most of all is Casa Gispert, an old shop behind the Church of Santa Maria del Mare, in Carrer dels Sombreres. Here, since 1851, colonial genres such as dried fruit, coconut, vanilla, coffee, tea, cinnamon and saffron have been traded. Entering here is like taking a step back in time, but the shop is in full swing and every day even toasted nuts are roasted in the wood-fired oven (the best dried fruit in Europe in 1999). Since 2014, an out-of-town warehouse has been built with a wood-burning oven capable of reproducing the same roasting as that of the center shop, so it has been possible to extend the business to other countries, guaranteeing the excellent quality to which the people of Barcelona are accustomed.
We continue and we then we turn into Carrer de la Montcada which is overlooked by many buildings in the Catalan Gothic style including the one that houses the Pablo Picasso Museum. After we continue through a covered alley: Carrer de Cremat. Our guide explains that when space started to fail in old Barcelona, before proceeding to the demolition of the Roman walls that limited its extension, they began to build palaces covering part of the roads of the Born.
We then reach the Torroneria and Gelateria La Campana, founded in 1890 by a family from Jijona, the home of nougat and carried on with the same ideals of traditional and high quality products for over 120 years. Here we taste a nougat with minced almonds and one much more particular: Turrón de Yema Quemada that is the Catalan Cream.
Another stage in full Born is the Mercato de Santa Caterina, which owes its name to the Monastery that stood on this block and whose remains are visible right at the entrance. The building, renovated by the architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue and inaugurated in 2005, was an architectural restoration intervention much appreciated by tourists but also by the inhabitants of the Ciutat Vella. Its peculiarity is certainly the irregular and curved roof whose pixelated effect is given by a giant photo of a Mediterranean fruit and vegetable photo printed on 325,000 colored tiles: a clear tribute to the most representative architect of the city: Gaudì.
The stalls in this market are those of fruit and vegetables with the very special Alcachofa Prat, artichokes grown in the delta of the Llobregat, of butchery and cured meats, with the inevitable Jamon Iberico, of fresh and salted fish such as cod, spices and colonial kinds and of olives.
Let’s go back to the Barrio Gotico and take a look at the window of Caelum a resale of food products produced by various Spanish monasteries: sweets, tea, biscuits and liqueurs. We then pass in front of Oro Lìquido the temple of Spanish olive oil and products derived from it such as cosmetics.
The next stop with tasting is at Xocolateria Fargas, a chocolate artisan who since 1827 has produced more than 50 chocolate varieties from a stone-ground cocoa powder. The most typical here in Barcelona are the dark or dark ones. The art of working chocolate arrived in Spain much after the cocoa beans when it began to spread the Mexican fashion of Oaxacà to drink chocolate; it was the Italians who turned this precious element into chocolates.
At the Granja La Pallaresa you can taste the real Catalan chocolate, very intense, accompanied by melindros or churros. The last stop of this beautiful gourmet tour among the culinary excellences of Barcelona is the Jamon Experience, a space where you can discover everything on the Jamon Iberico a unique ham of its kind as well as of course taste various types accompanied by an excellent Cava wine.