International travel allows people to gain a new appreciation for other cultures of the world, and a big part of any culture is the cuisine. The food of a region is a reflection of their history and geographical location and the resources they have available to them.
Spain, a top food and wine destination, has six distinct culinary districts - the North, Pyrenees, Valencia, Andalucia, Central and Catalonia.
Catalonia's largest and most well known city, Barcelona, is a popular port city on Spain's northeastern coast. Because of its location on the Balearic Sea and a stone's throw from the Mediterranean, Barcelona's gastronomy scene is characterized by amazing seafood. One of the great dishes to try is the calamari and squid, which you can get either fried or grilled.
Travelers, however, will find all types of culinary delights, reflective of the colorful history and centralized location in relation to northern Africa and all of the Mediterranean.
A great way to try a variety of regional specialties are with tapas - small plates meant for sharing. No trip to Barcelona would be complete without them. Some dishes you should try:
Jamon Iberico: Iberico ham is to Spain what prosciutto is to Italy. This ham has become a famous ingredient known well to world-class chefs as one of the best hams in the world. This ham can be served on its’ own or as an ingredient in a dish. It is cut thicker than prosciutto, so it is not as delicate and a little meatier.
Chorizo: Chorizo is spicy sausage that is eaten in many different ways including sliced up like salami or used as an ingredient in many dishes.
Croquettas: Similar Bombas. Croquettas are filled with meat (usually chicken or Iberico ham) and cheese. They are a long, oval shape.
Manchego Cheese: This sheep’s milk cheese pairs great with wonderful Iberico ham. It has a salty, earthy flavor to it. Although it originated in the La Mancha region (outside of Madrid), it is eaten all throughout Spain with great popularity.
Pulpo a la Gallega: Octobus and potatoes. It may not sound like it, but a great combination!
Pa Amb Tomaquet (pan tumaca): This is a bread that is served with many dishes in Barcelona, including breakfast. It is a slice of bread topped with a rub of olive oil and tomato and a dash of salt. Everyone puts their own twist on the dish like some will toast the bread and others will serve it with more chunks of tomato. It is so popular that if you don’t order it specifically, many servers with ask you if you want it.
OTHER REGIONAL FARE
Bocadillos: This is the Spanish version of a sandwich. They are made on baguettes that are soft and crusty all at the same time. You can choose the meat that you want on it and then they are topped with multiple sauces and toppings that can include lentils, lettuce, corn, or cucumbers.
Bombas: Bombas are a combination of mashed potatoes and meat that are rolled in bread crumbs in the shape of a ball and fried. They usually come in two different sizes (like snack and meal size) and they are usually served with one aioli on top and another on the bottom.
Calcots: Calcots are a milder and sweeter type of scallion or green onion available November through March. Very popular in restaurants during the harvest season , they come lightly grilled or roasted with a romesco sauce made with tomatoes and almonds.
Gazpacho: A chilled tomato soup that is really satisfying on a hot Spanish summer day. It sometimes comes served with Pa amb tomaquet or with sides of croutons, red peppers, and onion. No matter how it is served, it’s delicious.
Spanish Omelet- This is not the breakfast omelet that is probably coming to your mind right now. This is an omelet that is eaten all day and can come in an individual size or larger and served in slices. It is filled with chunks of potatoes and onions and served with some type of aioli.
Sangria: Everyone knows that you have to try a great glass of Sangria - a great refreshment, especially on a hot day. The great thing about Sangria is that every restaurant and Sangria maker has a different take on it and some places will even offer up to 6 different varieties on their menu.
Cava: This is a sparkling wine unique to the Catalonia region, and may be white (blanc) or rose. Normally on the sweeter side, however there are variations, including Brut Cava, that is drier, tasting more like traditional champagne.
Spain, and especially Barcelona, is a food lovers dream. There are amazing restaurants and cafes that line the streets and all of the best Spanish fares are at a traveler’s fingertips.
A few tips: Stay clear of the touristy restaurant locations of Las Ramblas and consider taking a food tour, one that explores more off the beaten path places. You won't be disappointed.