Mosquito: Cheap and Cheerful in Barcelona’s Sant Pere District

I’ve been going to mosquito for years now.  It is a place I discovered through friends, and what a discovery.  It is possibly, hands down, the best dim sum and authentic Asian food I have tasted here in Barcelona.  It has been, at sometimes, a weekly tradition with a friend of mine, and every time I go, it always delivers the flavours that I am looking for.
It is a small, unassuming space, if you were walking down the road, you would probably pass by it without a thought.  Once inside, you know immediately that the food will be Asian.  Is it the little paintings on the wall?

Or maybe it’s the Chinese newspaper plastered along the wall of the bar?  Or just the smells emanating from the kitchen?  Anyway you realize, it always satisfies, and your wallet will be happy as well.  Never have I paid more than 35 euros, for two people, and that is a lot of food, wine and water included!

Today was like any other day, we ordered the same things as usual.  The only difference was I didn’t order the Peking Duck or the Sichuan Beef, because my friend is vegetarian.  But I did sneak in a tid bit just for myself!

Yup, the Pork Bun.  I have no idea if it is as authentic here as in China, but let me tell you, it’s delicious!  It’s soft and fluffy, yet dry and moist at the same time.  I love it.  It is a  new discovery, as of 2 years ago.  But, I am happy to have included it in my repertoire!  I love it.  But that is the only “meat” thing we had.  (Ok, I had.)  Can you tell that I love it?

Next up was our Shrimp Shiujiao.  Now, I have to order two of these, because I love eating all six of them on my own.  They are so good, it doesn’t matter how many times I come here and order them, I always, always end up moaning in delight.

They are always made as you order, never frozen, and don’t come from a package.  (As most dim sum here in Barcelona do.)

Of course we had to have our veggies.  We decided on steamed Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms, and an order of my absolute favorite….Kimchee.

 I can’t get enough of Kimchee.  I know it isn’t Chinese, it’s Korean.  But, one of my favorite things in the world.  I could eat it non-stop.  Really, I could.

Then, our last order was for Thai style Fish Cakes.  My friend Michelle loves these.  She could eat the whole basket, and then some.  And the dipping sauce….a sweet vinegar concoction with fresh sliced chilies…..heaven.

4 glasses of wine, and 2 large bottles of fizzy water….it all came down to an affordable 32 euros.  In Barcelona it is extremely difficult to find such amazing and affordable food!

So, if you’re in Barcelona, and you tire of tapas, try mosquito, you won’t be disappointed!

mosquito

Calle Carders 46

+34 93 268 7569

http://www.mosquitotapas.com

 

Gaig Restaurant: One Michelin Star restaurant with roots in traditional Catalan Cuisine

Last night, my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to eat at this amazing restaurant.  I’ve lived here for ten years, and this is the first time I’ve been, and I am so incredible pleased.  I know the now defunct El Bulli changed food forever with the inception of molecular gastronomy, but that has never been nor will ever be my cup of tea.  Yes, I recognize the importance, and have had a lot of fun trying some of the things that they have come up with, but if I never had to eat another foam or spherification of something, I would be a happy girl.  I like FOOD.  I like composite plates of perfectly cooked food, be it simple or complex.  But to give me a spherical olive, that isn’t an olive but tastes like an olive, well, the first time you’re impressed and surprised, the second time, it’s like, just give me the (expletive) olive for God’s sake.

Gaig is not one of those types of Restaurants, and I am so, so happy.  A week ago it was my boyfriend’s “Santo”, which is Saint’s Day.  Here the celebration of your Saint is almost as important as your birthday.  In Catholic tradition, you are generally, if not exclusively, named after a saint, and there is a Saints Calendar which tells you what day your name-saint is celebrated.  Anyhow, I digress.  So, as a present to my man who has almost everything, I took him to Gaig.  We both enjoy food, be it casual burgers and ribs, to places like these.

Gaig can be found in the second floor of Hotel Cram, in the center of what we like to call midtown Barcelona.  It is a small, warm and inviting space, the decor in red, white and black.  It is very calm and elegant.  It’s very much understated, and I believe that it to let the food be the star.  Which it is.

I always like taking a picture of the place setting and the menu before the meal.  It gives me an inkling into the personality of the restaurant.  This was beautiful and simple.  The menu was beautiful as well.

A head of garlic, star anise, the third one looks like an apricot stone, and a vanilla pod.

The house hors d’oeuvre were, from left to right, Ham crisp, Cod fritters, Croquettes, and Wonton chip with parmesan cream and sage.

We started with the wonton, because of the delicate flavor.  The sage was powerful for its tiny size, complementing perfectly with the creamy parmesan.  The cod fritter was creamy and subtle, the ham crisp was just that, a tiny morsel packed with that wonderful Iberian ham, and the croquettes, well that was the best I have ever tasted.  These are simple, Catalan flavors.  Done well, they are truly incredible.  And these were just that.

  Our first starter, on the left, creamy scrambled egg with yellow chanterelle mushrooms.  Ok, I have mentioned in the past my love affair with eggs.  For me, an egg is a thing of beauty.  This was a PERFECT scramble, super creamy, the only addition to it was the delicate chanterelle.  Such a humble, yet divine dish.

Next to it was a cold Vichyssoise.  Also perfect in its simplicity.  Food that is well done does not need any smoke and mirrors.  I really applaud chefs that present food like this, because, no they aren’t giving us anything we haven’t tried before, but it shows their confidence that they are giving you the best of an already amazing dish.

Here we have a beautiful and colorful plate.  This was Oyster, mussels, scallops, razor clam with pickled (escabeche) vegetables, with tuna lightly marinated in soy sauce.  I really commend the Chef on this dish.  This dish was über delicate.  The vegetables were almost raw, and there was almost no seasoning.  The accomplishment to this was that the seafood sung.  I have never tasted mussels this good.  The oyster was sublime.  I loved my razor clam, my boyfriend found his too chewy.  In the mix was a little bit of shiso…..and that was just about all the flavor this dish needed.  Shiso is such a delicate and lingering flavor.  It paired well with all the crustaceans without taking away their natural sweetness or briny flavor.  And the tuna.  It was again, perfect.

Meat cannelloni with a Truffle Bechamel.  This, my friends, is what I am talking about.  This is what put Carles Gaig, head chef and owner of Gaig, on the map.  This is heaven on a plate.  I cannot tell you how incredible this was.  If I was at home, I would be running my finger over the sauce to sop up every last teeny bit of it.  It was that good.  Why mess with perfection?  He didn’t.  By far, hands down my favorite dish of the night.

Baby octopus with artichokes in a red wine sauce.  This is a dish that is just fantastic.  The octopus was so tender, the artichoke hearts perfectly cooked.  The red wine was never overpowering but lending it a depth that it could not have had without it.

On the right, is another very traditional Catalan dish called “Suquet de Peix”.  I am not sure how to literally translate, but to sucar is to dunk.  I imagine the reason is because the sauce begs to be dunked or dipped by your fish, potato, bread, spoon….whatever.  This was a perfectly cooked piece of John Dory with potatoes.  The sauce is very rustic, onions, tomatoes and peppers, slowly cooked until their natural sugars come out.  Lightly seasoned with Pimenton, which is spanish smoked paprika.  It was heavenly.  Another one of his triumphs.  Why mess with it, again?

Now we are starting off with the meat courses, the first one is pan seared foie gras, with salsify and a baby red swiss chard leaf. I have never tried salsify, which is a root vegetable.  But it was caramelized, and paired with the foie, along with the swiss chard, it really lightened up the whole dish.  It was equally umami, tart and bitter.  Wonderful.

Our last savoury dish was “Pichon”.  Pichon is a young pigeon that is bred for eating.  Not the street pigeons.  It is a dark, very tasty meat.  But, this was my least favorite dish.  Although the preparation was fantastic, on the left you have the breast that was grilled, and on the right the leg was in confit.  The only thing that made me not enjoy this dish was the sauce.  It was made from the birds own kidneys.  I am not a fan of kidney.  It just reminds me of my mother making me eat kidney as a kid, and as soon as the plate came out, that brown hue just took me back there.  It was delicious, but I didn’t enjoy it, having my thoughts plaguing me with images of me crying as soon as I saw what my mother was putting on the dinner table.  But, to you kidney lovers, this was a very, very good dish.  The kidneys were very delicate, and I am assuming if you love them, you would give this a thumbs up.

Here we have the cheese plate.  This was lackluster, at best.  I love cheese.  But I think that my boyfriend and I have had so many cheese plates, and buy cheese so often, that this just did not measure up to our standards.  By no means was it not good, just not what we have gotten used to.  The plate is amazing.  And the apricot and orange marmalade was fabulous.  But you had to use it sparingly so it would not over power the delicate cheeses, except the Stilton.  And even with that one, it only needed a little bit.  The one to the left was a Petit Nevat.  It’s a creamy goats milk cheese, from Catalonia.  In the middle we had a dry and cured sheep’s milk, which I don’t remember the name.  It wasn’t my thing.  Very reminiscent of a Manchego, which I am not a huge fan of.  And on our right, Stilton.  I love Stilton.  So, obviously this was my favorite one.

When our first dessert was brought out, I was about to cry.  I knew exactly what it was going to be.  A deconstructed Crema Catalana.  I was going to cry not because I don’t like crema catalana, but because I make this on a weekly basis for my cooking classes, and cannot have another bite of it.  But thank God I did.  It was incredible.  On the bottom, Lemon jam.  Middle, caramel ice cream.  Top, catalan crème foam with the caramelized sugar.  Amazing.  Delicious.  I ate the whole thing with reckless abandon.  This is probably the best Crema Catalana I’ve had in my life.

Having said that, the chocolate textures dessert was rather disappointing.  Yes, it was chock full of “African Chocolate”, but it was lackluster and failed to deliver that rich chocolate flavor I so crave and desire when I eat it.  But the dish and presentation was beautiful.  It was a chocolate sponge cake, with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate crisp.

My favorite part of the night, was when the Carles Gaig, the head chef, came to our table, and invited us into the kitchen.  I am definitely starstruck with chefs, as how some people would be with celebrities.  They are my celebrities.

Except for those two teeny things I didn’t enjoy as much, this evening was perfect.  It was a special night for both of us, and it was an incredible meal.  If you can, you must make it to Gaig.

Gaig Restaurant

Aragon 214, 08011 Barcelona

+34 93 429 1017

http://www.restaurantgaig.com

Peretallada, Spain and Collioure, France

As you all know, I have had some visitors in town.  On Saturday we rented a car, and got on the road.  It was two magical, whirlwind days driving up the coast of Spain to get to Collioure, France; our destination for the night.

Peretallada is a small, very well-preserved Medieval town in the Baix Emporda, Girona.  It’s only about an hours’ drive away from Barcelona, but you feel like you have stepped into a completely different world, untouched by time.  It is just absolutely breathtaking, every corner you turn more beautiful than the other.  It was a hot, hot, hot afternoon.  So our first stop was obviously to eat, and somewhere in the shade, if possible.  We passed quite a few quaint little restaurants, that had almost doll-house like decoration.  My family wanted to eat in one of those, but me being the foodie that I am, was reading the menus of each, and settled on one that had a recommendation from the Guide Routard.  For those of you who don’t know, the Guide Routard is kind of like the Michelin, with recommendations of restaurants, routes and hotels.  The restaurant itself was a charming little space with an indoor courtyard, but we were luckily offered a table on the outside terrace.

It was cool and breezy, perfect for our escape from the searing Iberian sun.  The menu was also really interesting, all tapas, but a mix between traditional and more unusual fare.  The best part is that each plate was worth 3.3o euros, and it included wine and dessert.  We each chose 3 tapas.

The dish on the left, was Boquerones (white anchovies) with avocado on toast.  You can see a little piece of my aunt’s Smoked Salmon on toast as well.  On the right is Chorizitos a la Sidra.  This is a typical Basque dish, that is chorizo sausage cooked in Cider.

Here are two more of our dishes, on the left, seared ahi tuna with mashed potatoes and a wasabi soy sauce.  It was so tender and flavorful, and the mash was super creamy.  The sesame seeds were the perfect addition.  On the right are my Porcini mushroom croquetas…….what can I say?  Porcini mushrooms in a delicate béchamel sauce, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried?  Yummy.

On the left was one of Maggie’s dishes, A Sobrasada and Brie “Pizza”.  Sobrasada is a cured meat from Mallorca, it is more of a spreadable consistency, so it’s especially lovely on flat bread like this.  It’s chock-full of paprika, so super tasty.  And melted brie?  Yah, you know what I mean.  Then on the right is my aunt’s simple and delicate Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.  So beautiful, so delicious.  You don’t need anything else in it.

On the left is my super refreshing Watermelon “Soup” with mint.  It was a perfect starter for this hot, sunny lunch.  The mint just made it that much more refreshing.  And on the right…..Oh Lord.  Too delicious.  Codfish with a tender garlic Mousseline.  We could not stop sopping up this sauce after my uncle devoured (well, poor guy, we all devoured) the fish.

These two dishes, one traditional one not, were, in my opinion, the show stoppers.  On the left is the traditional “Gambas al Ajillo”, basically prawns in garlic-chili oil.  Ok, you can imagine.  So simple.  So perfect.  Sauce on bread with oil dripping down our chins while we groan like little piggies.  On the right, Salmon with a Coconut Cream sauce.  Who would’ve thunk????  Oh my God.  Fantastic!  The coconut sauce was so light and delicate.  Neither flavour overpowered the other.  Can you see a theme?  Dipping sauces.  We were all about dunking and dipping our bread in each other’s plates.

This was the last of our savoury dishes.  Very, very traditionally Catalan.  It’s meatballs with Cuttlefish, and it is one of the classic “Surf and Turf” dishes that graces menus all over Catalonia.  This was homey, comforting and again, dippable!  Now, we just prayed we had enough room for dessert!

We did.  On the left, chocolate mousse and Tiramisu, on the right, Crepes with Violet jam.  Fantastic end of our meal.  We could not have chosen any better, and were absolutely amazed by the quality of the food, the preparation, the presentation of each dish.  And it was so CHEAP.  We were so happy, with our bellies full.  We took a stroll through the town after lunch to help us digest this mini-feast.  Here are some pictures of Peretallada.

The Menu at our restaurant

major 10   |   peratallada   |   girona   |   17113   |   +34 972 63 50 30   |   info@papibou.com

Tomorrow……Collioure!

Anfiteatro: A hidden gem in Barcelona’s Vila Olimpica

This last friday was my second visit to Anfiteatro, a marvelous little restaurant in Barcelona’s Olympic Village.  This area is particularly full of tourist chain restaurants, pandering what the unassuming traveler would deem “authentic spanish cuisine”.  But not so….what you get is mass market food that has little to no quality, banged out in less than appetizing fashion.  If you cross the road from the two towers (Hotel Arts and Mapfre building) you will find this gorgeous and tranquil spot, where from the moment you enter you feel like you are in another city completely.

Anfiteatro is a small, inviting space, with large windows overlooking a water fountain and pond.  You are greeted warmly and taken to your table and immediately you can just sit back and relax and let the night roll out in a wonderful way.

As usual, we had the tasting menu, and every bite was delicious.

To start off we had a cold pumpkin cream with rosemary sorbet.

On its own, the pumpkin cream is good but not surprising.  The rosemary sorbet made the difference, turning around this classic into something worth writing about.

Then we had prawns in a parsley sauce.

I love this presentation.  The prawns look so in love!  The delicate taste was balanced well with the parsley oil.  Prawns here in the Mediterranean have a more “briny” taste than our American counterparts.  Ladling them with sauce would do them a huge injustice.

Our third appetizer was an Avocado, Salmon Roe and Shrimp cocktail.

This was by far my favorite dish of the night.  The colors were beautiful, and the addition of the Salmon Roe transformed this dish into what would be an entirely creamy puree, into bursts of ocean flavors.  I am not sure what the puree on the bottom was, but to me it seemed like a very lemony and light hummus.  I was yearning for seconds!

Our starter was Lobster “Ravioli” with a Shellfish Beurre Blanc.

Ravioli is in quotations, because this wasn’t actually pasta….this was very thinly sliced cuttlefish that was wrapped around the lobster to make these mouth-watering morsels.  I love the innovative way in which they presented a classic.  It was extremely light, and the filling was dotted with crispy veggies.

And finally, our main was a Slow braised beef with Crispy Pan-fried Potatoes

I absolutely adore demi-glace.  It needs to be used much much more, and it is often overlooked here in Spain because of all the molecular gastronomy, thanks to our local chef/scientist Ferran Adria.  I am more of a classics girl, I want to eat food, not have it in a bubble or a foam, or air…..  The beef was fork tender and juicy, and the potatoes were just perfect, crispy but not oily at all.

And finally, our dessert was a Mascarpone Cream with Raspberry Sorbet.

This was a perfect dessert to our meal.  It was sweet without being overpowering, tart enough to counter balance the creaminess of the mascarpone.  All in all, this was a splendid meal, that was not too heavy, but just enough to make you full.

If you are wandering through the Vila Olimpica and don’t feel like getting swindled by “El Rey de La Gamba”, cross over and try Anfiteatro.  Definitely worth it.

Anfiteatro

Parc del Port Olímpic  Avinguda Litoral, 08005 Barcelona

+34 659 69 53 45

http://www.anfiteatro-restaurante.com

Castell d’Emporda: A relaxing get away near Girona, Spain

Hello hello friends,

I have been quite quiet…..I know.  You see, I went away.  Far far away. (Not really)  I went to a castle, and there were dragons everywhere.   Really….there were. (Not the real ones though)  There was this moat, and damsels in distress. (Read: fabulous pool, and ladies who needed sun-cream.)  I am not just dreaming up some hyped up fantasy.  It is a fantasy.  My wonderful boyfriend discovered this magical place after searching on horseback far and wide. (Google search.)

So, anyhow, we went away.  And it was mahvelous darling, mahvelous.  If any of you have the opportunity to go to the Costa Brava, do not miss out on making a side trip to the interior, called L’Emporda.  From the moment we walked onto the grounds, I knew we were in for a treat.  The front entrance to the castle was full of blooming flowers and there was a gorgeous pond.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed the menu, the name of the restaurant “Drac” which means dragon in catalan, and the chef.  The menu was ok at first sight, but I knew that the food would be surprising, if not good, at least, because the chef hails from Oud Sluis in The Netherlands, which is the no. 21 top restaurant in the world, according to the San Pellegrino list.  We lazed in the back courtyard, which has these wonderful sofa-beds for you to read, sleep, sunbathe etc. next to the fabulous pool.  Made reservations for dinner, but before that I had a massage which I thought was pretty cheap, 35 euros.  It was brilliant.  The best was the view from the room.

Now on to dinner.  The decor I thought was beautiful.  It really captured and complemented the old world feel, the gorgeous large stone walls were flanked by wrought iron dragons everywhere.  It was sparsely yet extravagantly decorated, but the dragon motif followed us everywhere!

We decided on the tasting menu, as we always do cause I am a hungry hungry hippo.  No, really, as a chef I think it really gives you a feel of what the chef de cuisine wants you to try.  It could fail completely, but this night, it was perfect.  And, I thought after I ate, that the price, 50 euros (not including wine) was a steal!  I’m used to paying exorbitant prices for more disappointing meals.

We started off with the amuse bouche, a small sampler of teeny bits to whet our appetite:

At the very top end, there were some catalan olives, the small plate in the middle had “olive sponge cake”, and then an olive mayonnaise, and a black truffle mayonnaise.  In the glass was a taster of gazpacho, and on the spoon, was marinated salmon with a dill and lemon mayonnaise. I was hesitant about the sponge cake, since black foods is not something I am used to, the same goes for the olive mayonnaise.  But they were sublime.  Incredibly flavorful, yet delicate, with a final punch on the palate.  And the truffle mayonnaise.  Well…..I love truffles, so you can imagine me and my boyfriend duking it out with our pieces of bread to sop up the last bits of the stuff!  The gazpacho was perfect, but I eat gazpacho a lot, so it wasn’t something that I was super excited about, the same goes for the salmon for the same reasons.

Our first starter was a Corvina Ceviche.  I was so pleased with the little green ice scattered around the plate.  My first guess would have been basil ice, but they were made out of parsley.  And as you moved the beautiful leaves and fish around, you would find little surprises of dill mayonnaise drops.  The different textures and temperatures of this dish made the difference to a very well-known appetizer where I come from (South America).  I have never been presented with a ceviche that mixes iciness and crunch, with the smooth bursts of the dill sauce and then the perfectly acidulated fish.  The touches of the baby spring lettuce gave a welcome freshness to the dish.

Our second started was pretty monochromatic, considering the vibrancy of the previous dishes.  This was a Cabernet wine meringue, with a foie gras and wild mushroom mousse, with a fig marmalade.  I have never been so surprised at something in my life.  I surely thought, vinegar, mushrooms, foie and marmalade……uh huh.  But boy, was I in for a ride!  Again, the play on textures and flavors, acid, sweet, umami……sumptious!  Decadent!  Rich, without  being heavy.   I now was thinking, this guy knows what he is doing!  And…….then…….

Turbot with two types of asparagus, truffle potatoes, poached egg yolk and “migas” which is basically a spanish fried bread crumb.  I was bowled over by the poached egg yolk and the truffle potatoes.  But to be sincere, I NEVER would have thought that fish and egg would work together.  Needless to say, this was my HANDS DOWN FAVORITE DISH of the night.  I can’t explain how amazing this was.  So, I am going to let you in on what I was actually saying, or more like sounding.  Ummm.  Ohhhh. MMMMMMMMMMM!  Grunt grunt.  “This is amazing”  (Imagine me saying that with my mouth full and eyes open wide then closing.)  Ahhhhh.  Nuff’said.

I had to put the two pictures in.  I had to take separate ones.  I am in love with this presentation.  Look at that lamb.  Look at those zucchini rolls.  Look at the tomato mousse.  And the eggplant mousse.  Now look at the Jus below………

The lamb was *perfectly* cooked.  The zucchini was crisp, yet tender.  The eggplant lent this dish a smoky flavor, while the tomato tempered the bitterness of the eggplant.  And the Jus….Oh the Jus!  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I wanted to tip the bowl and drink it instead of my wine.  I wish I could muster up some fancy words to describe this, but hey, all I am going to say, DANG THIS WAS GOOD.

And then there was dessert.  I wish I could tell you what this was, apart from chocolate mousse, chocolate crumbs, lime sorbet…..it was good.  But, I am not really a dessert person unless it is ridiculous.  But, it was a great ending to an amazing meal.

I kid you not, YOU HAVE TO COME HERE.  It is the perfect place to lose yourself and RELAX.  Do nothing, swim, read, get a massage, ponder years of yore……..and eat like you’ve never had food before.  You’ll love it.  It’s simply perfect.  Have I said that before?  Yeah, I have.  I know.  Hey, if you’re still not convinced, the owner of the castle is a model fanatic.  Apparently his ancestors were in the battle of Waterloo.  They have not one, but two display cases of battles.

Oh, and did I mention how gorgeous it is at night?

I hope you can come to this magical place.  You won’t regret it.

Carla

http://www.castelldemporda.com