Franco got his revenge on me! We dined at a little restaurant near our flat that was very well appointed, perfectly designed, and empty, always empty. Generally, we find that when we enter a place, be it a shop or restaurant, it seems to fill up . . . so why should this place be any different?
We ordered fried baby cuttlefish with quail eggs, fried potato nest with poached egg, and a cod belly appetizer with spicy tomato. All were perfectly mediocre; it was our first Barcelona meal that did not tickle us. Little did we know that the cuttlefish and quail egg dish would mean twenty-four hours of sheer hell for me (doing my best impersonation of Linda Blair in The Exorcist —'nuff said).
This was the worst possible scenario for me. We were here to eat, and salmonella can ruin the appetite for days. I work with food for a living and generally this type of food-borne illness does not affect me the way it does other non-food professionals. But this strain was different, way different. Desireé kept me hydrated throughout the day, and as I lay bedridden, I vowed to eat my way through this hell. After bananas and peanut butter for breakfast, then yogurt after yogurt, plus Desireé’s homemade chicken noodle soup and toast, toast, toast, I triumphed!
The next day, after we ate a huge breakfast of pancetta torta, orange juice, yogurt, fruit, and coffee, I was ready to resume our gastro adventure. That night, we dined at Cinc Sentits, a one-star Michelin joint with impeccable service, a beautiful wine list, and warm hosts. This was
our first foray into high-end dining in this city, and we were enamored. Of course we ordered the degustation menu, which consisted of nine courses—if you include mignardise. The highlights of the menu included foie gras, Iberian suckling pig and baby squid. The foie gras course was the second course and really set the tone for the rest of our meal. It was caramel crusted, chive dusted, and set on a sweet shortbread. It melted in our mouths and left us anticipatory for courses to come. The fourth course of baby squid was the chef’s modern version of paella. It was the freshest squid we had ever tasted, and it was set on a smear of saffron aioli with a little toasted paella-rice ball, beautiful and fantastic. Our favorite course was the Iberian suckling pig, which was cooked sous vide style and was his take, for us, on pork chops and applesauce. He seared the skin to caramelized and crispy, and the accompaniment was apples two ways: roasted and pureed. This was the pinnacle of the meal, and we were literally giggling with a food high.
Thankfully, that meal was our introduction (thanks to chef Jordi Artal) to the cutting edge fine-dining scene in Barcelona. Chef Jordi was gracious enough to come from his kitchen, chat food with us, and point us to a few more great restaurants that we were lucky enough to experience and will share with you later.