La Boquería & Mercat de Santa Caterina


Wandering around the markets of Barcelona–which is an essential activity for any food lover who visits–you’re confronted with sights and sounds and smells that’ll haunt you forever. I may one day forget the spires of the Sagrada Familia, but I’ll never forget my time wandering the aisles and aisles of fresh fish (so fresh, some of it’s still moving!), eggs placed out on piles of hay, and cuts of meat so stark and unfamiliar, they’d probably frighten Francis Bacon. What follows are a bunch of pictures I snapped wandering around the markets, with some occasional commentary.

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One Really Bad Meal


Lest you think our trip to Barcelona was nothing but lollipops and rainbows, I thought I’d take the time to tell you about our worst meal of the trip. Before I get into it, I want to assure those of you who recommended this place–and several of you did–that I hold no grudges and that you weren’t alone in recommending it: we found recommendations for it in not one but two of our guidebooks. Which is why I feel the need to warn anyone headed to Barcelona to stay far, far away from this highly-touted restaurant; please, heed my warning: do not go to Le Quinze Nits.

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Barcelona’s Best Bites


How do you sum up a city’s food in one post? It’s an impossible task, and one I can’t even pretend to set out to do. I considered splitting this up into multiple posts–one on tapas, one on Bistronomics (a new restaurant trend in Barcelona, where high-end restaurants serve multiple courses for reasonable prices)–but ultimately I thought it would be more useful to you, and more manageable for me, just to pick the best bites from our trip. What you’re about to see represents the best food we ate in one of the world’s great food cities: Barcelona, Spain. If you’re planning a trip there soon, you may want to follow our lead.

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Pa amb Tomàquet


If there’s one dish that most fully represents our time in Barcelona, that really captures the varying cooking styles we encountered but also represents the deeply rooted food culture that exists in Catalonia, that dish has to be “Pa amb tomàquet”–Catalan for “bread with tomato.”

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Barcelona, A Reflection


Before I left for Barcelona, two weeks ago, I created a three-ring binder of essential information. The first tab said “Hotels” and there I printed out the confirmations for the Hotel Banys Orientals, where we’d stay for most of the trip, and Hotel Coral Playa, where we’d stay when we went to Roses for dinner at El Bulli. (Note: both hotels were great choices, thank you all for your tips.) The second tab said “E-mails” and there I kept all the direct e-mails I received about where to go and eat in Barcelona. Tab three was “Comments” and I printed out all your comments from this post, highlighting the most commonly reoccurring restaurant suggestions, and then, in Tab Four “NYT,” I printed out profiles of those highlighted restaurants from the New York Times Barcelona page. Suffice it to say, I arrived in Barcelona fully prepped and ready.

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It’s rare to find a restaurant that strikes a perfect balance between sophisticated grandeur and homey comfort, but Marea is such a restaurant. It’s the newest restaurant from Chef Michael White, whose other restaurants–Convivio and Alto–are justifiably revered for their highbrow Italian food. I’ve been to Alto, and liked it ok, but there was something a little fussy about it. Not so, Marea. The food at Marea is robust and deeply flavorful, as comforting as any Italian food you’ve made at home, but far more accomplished and enjoyable.

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The Paris Wrap-Up

I haven’t updated much since I got back for two main reasons: (1) I have a nasty cold; and (2) I really liked that the main page was completely filled with my Paris posts and videos for latecomers to graze over. But now that grazing time’s over, I thought I’d do a wrap-up. Mainly this is written to those who wrote or left comments saying they’re going to Paris soon and are using my posts for suggestions. For everyone else, perhaps one day you’ll go and try these places too. It’s not as impossible as you might think. If I were you, I’d keep checking the Virgin Vacations site. The package we were on was $449 for round-trip airfare and 5 nights at a hotel. True, the hotel wasn’t luxurious or anything but it was totally fine and well-worth it for the days we spent in Paris.

Ok, so now for my round up. A few things. This is an idiosyncratic list. Meaning: these aren’t Michelin choices, they’re based on my experiences and tastes. In fact, all five restaurants are quite reasonable money-wise and better for students than, say, Ivana Trump. For the glitterati, go to Joel Robuchon—he’ll turn you away and you’ll love it. Everyone else, follow me!

Adam’s Top Five Favorite Meals in Paris

[Note: to read detailed accounts of these meals, just click through the Ah, Paris archive.]

1. Chez Omar. Recommended by David Lebovitz, this was the meal John desires for his final meal should he ever be executed. I agree. Well. If the meal had to be from Paris, then yes: probably this. Just simple, classic French dishes in a boisterous, authentically Parisian environment. The steak frites had us floating out of our booth on wings of meaty ecstasy. And all very reasonable.


2. L’As Du Fallafel. When readers recommended I try fallafel in Paris I thought they were out of their heads. “Go to Paris for fallafel? Why that’s absurd!” said my thought bubble. But having been to L’As and having discovered Le Marais, I am converted. In fact, I get hunger pangs just thinking about that overstuffed pita drenched in sauce. With fries on the side and a perfectly tart lemonade, this is a meal you shouldn’t miss.


3. Au Gourmand. This place is the fanciest of the bunch but it’s also the cutest. They’re so eager to please and the food’s just dynamite. Patricia Wells recommended it and I second that recommendation. It’s on the left bank so this can be your left bank day: see Shakespeare & Co., explore Luxembourg Gardens and then lunch here. And don’t miss the french toast dessert, you’ll cry it’s so good.


4. Chez Paul. Here’s where David took me for lunch on the day we met. You walk in and the room’s alive, just like it is at Chez Omar only a bit cozier here. This, you feel, is where real Parisians eat and now you’re one of them. Start with the frisee and lardons salad (if you don’t fear choking) and then feast on a pot-au-feau; a meat-lover’s dream come true, steaming in its aromatic broth, presented with coarse salt and spicy mustard. Get a carafe of wine and you’ll be eating pretty.


5. Le Clou. This one’s more a sentimental choice for me, so don’t go out of your way to eat here: it’s just the place I ate my first (and last) night in Paris right near my 17th arron. hotel. The food’s lovely and the environment’s really friendly, if a tiny bit trendy. Should you be in the neighborhood, check it out. Have the venison, it’s Bambi-riffic.


And as for all the non-meal places we noshed? Here’s a list for that!

Adam’s Top Five Favorite Bites in Paris

1. Pierre Herme. When pastries die and go to heaven they are judged and if they are judged well they are reborn on the shelves of Pierre Herme. This is the most beautiful, exciting, lavish pastry shop I’ve ever visited. The passion fruit chocolate pop I sampled (you can watch me eating it in the first Paris film) is an edible thesis on the existence of a higher being, or at least a higher pastry maker who can take simple ingredients and explode them into something extraordinary. Not to be missed.


2. Lauderee. Debates ensue about the best macaroon in Paris, but for my money sitting on the 2nd floor of the Lauderee near the Opera station (there are a few Lauderees) eating macaroons and sipping tea confirmed my belief that deep down in my soul is an old lady trying to break free. Lauderee let my old lady shine and if I’m ever in Paris again, I know I’m going back. Get the macaroon sampler–you get to try them all (though it is a bit pricey. But my old lady’s rich.)


3. Poilane. Best bread in Paris? That’s what they say. But John’s croissant and my pain chocolat were top-notch. If you’re nearby, stop in and sniff the air, admire the breadwork (there’s a bread chandelier and a bread mosaic on the wall) and buy something to taste and appreciate. Apparently, you can even see the ovens if you ask. In case you don’t know the French it’s: “Voulez vous coucher avec moi.”


4. Berthillion. I don’t regret going in winter, but should you go in spring or summer you have no excuse not to visit Ile. St. Louis (right behind Notre Dame) to stroll past the stores and specialty shops and then to stop for ice cream at Berthillion. Try the honey nougat or prune armagnac or one of the other unusual flavors. If you’re feeling decadent ask for whipped cream and a feather boa. Then sashay out without paying your check. Just kidding: pay your check and then sashay out.


5. La Grande Epicerie. If you like shopping, check out Le Bon Marche and then stop into La Grand Epicerie just to see a high-end Paris supermarket and to try one of the pastries from the pastry case right near the front. I had a cannelle and I don’t regret it. Neither will you.


Hope all of this has inspired you to consider a trip to Paris! Remember: all it took was a whim and a click of a button and John and I were on a plane three weeks later. If you do go, let me know. I know a great hotel…