Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paris - Vincennes Markets

Ahhh..... Barcelona is but a dream now. We're back in Paris in the suburb of Vincennes where Laure lives with her partner Leo.

Hi Leo!

We're shopping for lunch. I know - sorry to subject you to yet ANOTHER market. Can you tell I'm obssessed?

Beautiful blooms.....

... delicious salamis and wines from the rugged mountains of Corsica (Laure's home island). We bought some wild boar saucisson
 under the menacing eye of this Corsican stallholder.

But it was the melons we were looking for. June is peak season for France's famous Cavaillon melons grown in the rich soils of Provenance.

They have the most bewitching perfume simliar to Turkish delight...

And a juicy flesh like no melon you've tasted before...

And for lunch we feasted like kings....... on Cavaillon melon, Spanish jamon from Barcelona, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese with tomato and basil and French champagne.

Au revoir Paris!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

OK, you've got to see this cathedral for yourself. Photos just don't do it justice. Especially these hasty ones I took on the way back to the airport!

Part Lord of the Rings part towering sand castle, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is one of architects Antoni Gaudi's most famous creations.
Gaudi was a devout catholic and somehow convinced the powers to be to let him construct this highly original and organic cathedral.
Work on the Sagrada began in 1861. When Gaudi died in 1926 his workers continued his vision but the cathedral still won't be completed until 2026 - the 100th anniversary of his death.

The new additions are clearly un-Gaudi like. A lot more structured and linear. Apparently Gaudi's original sketches were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.

What extraordinary creativity

Let alone the construction techniques he developed to create this unique appearance


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Barcelona - tapas at Pinotxo Bar

Many gastronomes make food pilgrammages to Spain these days. From Ferran Adria to Juan Marie Arzak, Spanish cusine is lauded internationally for its quality produce and innovation.

Top of my list was Pinotxo Bar at the Barcelona markets. 

For a 20th of the price of its Michelin counterparts, Pinotxo Bar turns out some of the best tapas I've ever tasted -  all from a 20 meter square kitchen.

These croquettes were quickly dropped into hot bubbling oil until they were crisp but soft and gooey on the inside. The fillings included mashed potato with jamon, spinach and bacalao (salt cod).

These local mussels were steamed over a hot grill and then dressed with a carrot, onion, tomato and pepper salsa with spanish olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Mussels were tiny bursts of creamy salty sea and the salsa was a crunchy acidic counter

And of course we had to try the local specialty - pork sausage. This one was cured with fennel, wild pepper and lemon, barbequed and served with a simple bitter green leaf salad. Hubba Bubba!

Pinoxto Bar only seats about 10 people and closes at 4pm everyday.
If you miss out on a seat do what everyone else does order your wine and tapas plates and grab a bench in the market courtyard.

You just have to come here!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Barcelona - Mercat de la Boqueria

I have been fantasising about visiting these markets since reading that many food writers viewed the Mercat de la Boqueria as the best markets in Europe. Big call.

We visit on a bustling Friday morning when all of Barcelona seems to have squeezed under its roof.

The fruit at this stall and the freshly squeezed juices were like manna from heaven. We especially loved the fresh coconut juice.

Of course no market in Spain is complete without rows and rows of jamon.

Serrano ham is the most prized. The free range pigs are fattened on acorns giving the cured meat a deep nutty flavour.

Pity I had no carry-on room to take one of these back to Paris. But I did manage to squeeze a few slices on board.

These little piggies went to market .... but didn't come home.

These snack-size saucissons were delicious and dry.

The cheeses we sampled included goat, sheep and the famous manchego.

Being close to Northern Africa means a wonderful supply of dried fruits and nuts

The fruit displays were breath-taking

And how about all these varieties of tomatoes?

Would have loved to have made up a fresh salad with these beauties!

And to finish your meal how about a cappucino chocolate?

or maybe some pebble toffees?

Folks, I've found my retirement village!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Barcelona - by night

As beautiful as Barcelona is during the day, its at night that it really comes alive.

Impromptu drumming...

...celebrations in tucked away squares...

performance artists...

....that look a little too real.

bubble blowers

This one was a metre wide

exotic flame dancers

who entertain the tapas-munching crowds

The night became a balmy blur........

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Barcelona - by day

Hedonistic as it sounds my friend Laure who works in Paris has managed to get Friday off from work so we've decided to go to Barcelona for the weekend.

Finally some warmth and sunshine!

This is Barcelona's most famous street - La Rambla. It's a 1.2 kilometre tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfare that connects Placa Catalunya with the harbour. The energy is electric.

And overlooking us are Barcelona's famous hills.

The architecture is an interesting blend of Spanish, French and Italian.

The Catalonians are fiercely proud of their unique heritage.

We stroll down to the harbourside as the sun is setting.

The marina is packed with super yachts and sadly the water is heavily polluted with rubbish.

It's still as pretty as a picture....

... and so is Laure!

With nightfall approaching we make our party plans.