We started the day at the Mercat de la Boqueria, the oldest and largest market in Europe. What a feast for the eyes, nose, body, stomach, and palate. Everything you could ever want is under this canopy: seafood of every type; fish of all sizes; pork, pork, pork; jamón; sausages; vegetables; offal; fowl; wild mushrooms; fruit; wine; and restaurants.
Desiree and I were blown away and in heaven, staring at all the bounty. We were also thanking our lucky stars we rented an apartment with a kitchen so that we can buy and cook from this and the other markets in Barcelona.
First off, we wanted jamón, the real deal. Expensive, Iberico ham, hand-sliced from a guy who has been doing it for years and years, and we wanted it now! It, of course, is everywhere, just the way we want it. We stumbled onto a very nice guy who gave us sample after sample of ranging grades and prices. Finally, we told him we would like 125 grams of el mejor (the best). He smiled and told us the price, we nodded, and he sliced the reddest, fattiest ham we have ever seen. And, at around $90 per pound, we assumed heaven was being sliced before our eyes . . . it was. It was sweet and piggy, with a Parmesan quality and an ocean scent, and it coated your mouth with a layer of fat that kept on giving as the flavor piled up. At the same time, it was so subtle and complex that we continued to indulge in hopes of finally understanding it.
By the time we had eaten half the purchase, our stomachs began the deep growl for breakfast. A kiosk was situated in the center of the market with lovely smells wafting to the packs of people gathered around. We were lured to two stools and bellied up to a seafood bar. Our actual breakfast consisted of griddled razor clams, salmonettas (small fish) with French fries, beer for me, and decaf café con leche for Desiree . . . spectacular.
After breakfast, we filled our backpack with clementines, anchovies, olives, bread, botarga (dried tuna), dried tuna roe, Ca La Rosa cheese, longanissa sausage, and a bottle of cava and headed home to drop off our bounty. We lunched on our veranda overlooking the city and planned our next gastronomic attack--an earlyish dinner at Caracoles. Little did we know, fried olives and foie gras were on the menu around 1 a.m.