Friday, November 21, 2014

Squid Poo

I have eaten so much while in Barcelona. I mean the food is to die for...from different kinds of tapas and pinchos; to some of the freshest sea food I have ever had. But the one thing I was missing was Paella, and I wasn't getting the WOW factor from the places I visited. I researched where I could find the best Paella, stiffeld through various sites; till I came across Trip-4-Real, a site that allows you to be a local, do  what the locals do, eat what the locals eat. As the aspiring chef I dream of one day becoming, I thought what better way to immerse myself in the culture then to learn how to make paella from scratch, as well as eat amongst  a local family that can teach me the traditional way of making this delish dish.So I signed up for the market tour & paella class.

Good food, great wine.
The day started at the Mercat de Ninot were we gathered all the ingredients for the days feast. I loved this covered market, because unlike the Boqueria, known for hoards of tourist, Ninot was small and homey. With products just as good as the Boqueria, just less hustle and bustle. Basically where the locals shop. From there we took a short walk where Christina and Guillermo welcomed me and about 7 others into their home. The cutest little flat with a nice sized terrace that was gorgeous. They grew their own herbs and veggies and had ample space where we can all sit comfortably.  We wasted no time before we got the bottles of wine cracking and the food cooking. We first started with a nice spread of hams, sausage, different cheeses, marinated olives, garlic and tradition tomato bread. Tomato bread a traditional Catalan snack  is  served almost everywhere. A baguette is split open, then a specific tomato (forgot the name) is cut in half and rubbed all over so that the bread soaks up the juices, then olive oil gets drizzled over and finally a touch of salt; and BAM tomato bread.(It's amazing)

Through out  we drank wine and engaged in delightful conversation about Christina and Guillermo where they were from and how they met. They were such a cute couple and worked so well together. They truly inspired me. They both had previous professions and said "hey, were not fully happy with our careers. Lets dedicate our time to cooking together and teaching others how to cook our favorite dishes" (loosely based that is, don't quote me..lol). I mean if they don't sound just perfect, I don't know what does.
Cristina, Me, Guillermo.
As you can see we killed that Paella.
The class it's self was very hands on. We made a three course meal that included: gazpacho, brandada de bacalao, seafood paella, chicken paella and a mojito sorbet. Christina and Guillermo pride them selves on using only all natural and fresh products. Everything was made from scratch from the tomato sauce to the fish stock. Nothing came out of a can, nothing was processed. I was very impressed. Especially since I had never made tomato sauce or fish stock from scratch before. we started with the the starters which were to die for. I am not a big fan of bacalao ( I know, I know....I am Puerto Rican it should be in my blood.) but I am not (Don't judge). But the brandado (a fish paste) was yum city. Spread over bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley.


But lets talk about the star of the show the PAELLA!! We used fresh tomato sauce, saffron, prawns, muscles, clams and cuttle fish to transform this rice dish to heaven on a plate. We used the fish stock made earlier in the day to give the rice the perfect flavor. Everyone had part in making the paella, from cutting the pepper to sauteing the rice. My job, the most important of course, was the cutting the cuttle fish; a squid like sea creature. I had never worked with this and Guillermo was very patient walking me through cutting off the cartilage and making sure it was cleaned properly. Then I got to this sacky like part from the inside of the cuttle and I assumed I would throw that part away. "NO!" Guillermo said. That's the most important part and what will give our rice that seafoody flavor we need. I was to carefully open the sac and squeeze out all the excrement so that it can go in the Rice. that's right folks, SQUID POOP all up in the rice. And I loved every minute of it.  Needless to say the rice came out perfect. Everything came out perfect.
Squid Poo.

This had to have been one of the best days here in Barcelona. I was in my element, surrounded around great people with great conversation. I learned that when you have a dream, do anything and everything to make it possible. The group I was with was inspirational; from a fellow blogger (seasoned), two different couples who shared the love of food, to a woman who after 30 years at her job quit to become an authentic chocolatier. And of course Chris and Guillermo who also had an amazing story. It's moments like this that I live for. I went to the class originally wanting to just learn how to make paella and drink good wine. I left coming out inspired to take on the world.

*I have also supplied the recipes for all of these dishes, please them under devour.
** Please visit their site @ barcelonaslowtravel.com they offer great opportunities to see the Barcelona in a new light and experience what the locals experience.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Eat, Paris, Love.

I am not your typical tourist that has to do the "top five things to do" in a city to feel satisfied. There are some touristy things that I may do because they really impact me personally but for the most part I'm not THAT tourist. I don't find enjoyment in the waiting in long lines, with screaming children, old men couching up what seems to be a lung, and foreigners confused on which direction they should head. That doesn't tickle my fancy esp. not when my trip consist of only 48 maybe 72 hrs. I'd prefer not to spend my time waiting in line to see some old artifact, Sorry.  But you know what does get my engines roaring? The city its self. Breathing it in, walking until I have blisters, finding beauty in a back alley way that houses some small old jazz bar, the people, the drink, the food. Oh the food. 

Paris the city of love. A very appropriate description for this classy, eloquent, and gritty city. Filled with beautiful men and women. Where everyone, even the elderly, dressed impeccably and looked as if they came straight out of Vogue. I instantly fell in love the minute I arrived and could see the Eiffel in the distance on the bus ride there. I only had two days in Paris and I wanted to make sure I saw everything and ate everything. As the foodie that I am, I had to experience what all these world renowned chefs talked about. What was all the fuss?? I had to know; so I spent those 48+ hours walking my ass off, eating, drinking and eye goggling men. I saw the Eiffel, I saw the Louvre, I walked the Champs Elysee, I saw the love lock bridge, and I walked threw Luxembourg park. But the main attractions, were the many delights I ate along the way. From crepes filled with nutella, strawberries and bananas (which I failed to picture because the gluttony set in and before I knew what happened, it was gone) to foie gras.  

Below you'll see some of the romantic affairs I had on this trip. Be warned pictures do not do justice.

I had the opportunity to go to Le Dome, a restaurant praised by many, and recommended  by Anthony Bourdain (my all time favorite person EVER). The fanciest restaurant I have ever been too and the food was immaculate. My first time trying Truffles and I don't know how I am supposed to live without this fungus in my life, in every dish I make. The truffled risotto had to have been the best thing that has ever happened to my mouth. I am just saying.


.
Fresh muscles in a cream sauce with a hint of curry.
So delicate and buttery, melted in the mouth.
White truffle and Scallop risotto.
the scallops seared perfectly and
truffles heavily through out the dish 

Pasteur Bistro had some of the most mouth watering dishes. I went there twice because the first dish of duck breast with potatoes au gratin was so good. I am glad I went there for a second time because I had the opportunity to try foie gras and see what all the fuss was about. I still don't know. After bite three and trying to mentally convince myself I liked it because, well all the fanciest people eat it, the texture of the duck liver and the notion just made me sick and I couldn't finish it. However, the steak con frite was to die for. One of the best steaks I have ever had.
Duck Breast cooked rare with potatoes au gratin
Steak con Frites avec foie gras

Finally dessert. My all time favorite, the macaron, not to be confused with macaroons a coconut cookie. The macaron is one of the most delicate and hardest desserts to perfect. The "cookie" part, is created from almond powder and gel or powdered food coloring/flavoring; as the slightest measurement discrepancy will throw off the "cookie" and you will not get that light and airy texture needed to make this classic confection.
Pierre Herme-  home of the best macarons in the city
with flavors like: passion fruit & Belgian chocolate or
Cinnamon & orange blossom (my mouth just watered)

My all time favorite Pumpkin & Corn.
I went back
just to get another two before I left.