To close the chapter on our Barcelona Gastronomic Adventure, we decided to have a marathon eating binge. There was a place directly across the street from our flat called El Tropezón. This is the type of restaurant that caters to the locals and seems to be open all the time, even when virtually every other restaurant in Barcelona is closed.
Restaurant hours are sort of a crapshoot in this city; many close in the afternoon and open later in the evening or decide not to be open on a random day. El Tropezón was always full of college students, families, and workers alike. You can watch the cook from the street grilling sausages, stewing tripe, and frying potatoes, a siren song for us. Our problem was that they were always packed, and we generally did not want to wait. Our time finally came, of course, on our last evening.
We entered and were immediately escorted to the mezzanine, if you can call it that: The place has fifteen-foot ceilings and somehow managed to get two stories out of that space. It was rustic, smoky, worn, and comfortable. We were pegged as tourists right away (French tourists, mind you), and the waiter had this air about him that we were going to be difficult and order
incorrectly (we’ll show him)! We ordered tripe, caracoles (snails), xistorra, a salad, and patatas bravas. The tripe was transcendent, buttery, and rich with a bit of tomato in the braising liquid. Not gamey or chewy, it melted in our mouths, and we gobbled it up. The waiter discovered we were American and couldn’t believe we loved the tripe. When he learned of Desiree's pregnancy, he was so impressed, he bought me shots of some super-secret homemade liqueur.
All the food there was great, but the xistorra are still what I crave every day. Xistorra are little red sausages griddled and served on pan con tomate (the ubiquitous bread smeared with tomato) to soak up every last drop of
grease that might try to escape the chewy, sweet, and slightly spicy sausages. For approximately four U.S. dollars, you get three-quarters of a pound of sausages, approximately eighteen links (the only night I had heartburn the whole trip). We dominated the food there, and the entire dinner with beverages was $25, cheap by any standard. We are still kicking ourselves for not going there first and working our way through the entire menu each day. Oh well, there’s always next time . . . and there will be a next time.
One of our food quests in the latter part of our trip was paella. Paella was everywhere but especially at the more touristy spots. We decided we were going to get flack if we went to Spain and didn’t try it. Now, Barcelona is not necessarily known for paella, but again, it was everywhere, and when in Spain . . . . After four tries at different caliber restaurants, we could not help but feel like the three bears. One was too fishy, one was too bland, one had very little seafood, and one was overcooked. We decided to let go of the idea of good paella at restaurants and cook our own.
Looking for a weekend getaway? I will be guest-chefing at Grandview Lodge in Nisswa on January 31 and will cook a special multi-course, prix fixe dinner. The lodge has great deals on weekend and single night stays. Come see what’s cooking.