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Archive for November, 2009

Good Eatin’

Question for all my restauranteurs– can you please help a friend find a spot in a NY kitchen this winter?

My language partner Albert, who rules, will be in NYC end of Dec-April to get the opportunity to work at the mecca for foodies, New York, while improving his English skillz. He’s a student at the super fancy Hoffman culinary school here in Barcelona (he is currently #1). Their restaurant has a Michelin star! I couldn’t meet with him last week because he was prepping for a catering event for 50 people, where he went on to serve a seven-course meal. The guy is insane.  So…if you know of anyplace that may take him, please let me know!

Speaking of food, I finally visited, nay, made the pilgrimage, to Boqueria market.  Yes, with Albert. The colors and smells of fresh fruits, breads, fish, and meat are overwhelming. The hoards of tourists are evened out by equal quantities of locals picking and pointing out the ingredients of their next meal. If my memory serves me well, while Barcelona developed and grew throughout the centuries, one of the few buildings that refused to be moved or torn down was the market, because it was and continues to be the epicenter of town. The Barcelonese are absolutely mad about food and quality, the origin of produce and meat, seasonality, and freshness. I love cooking here!

Albert Surveys the Fruit @ Mercat de la Boqueria

Ruski Table at the International Food Fest at Spanish School. The 'sirniki' I made are on the left in the front, behind the sour cream. And that bottle of vodka and its 2 friends were gone in <1 hr. Did I mention this thing started at 10AM?

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Montserrat

A light descended from the sky and illuminated a spot hundreds of meters above Barcelona’s sea level where the holy virgin mother was sighted over 1,000 years ago. Right there monks built a monastery. Montserrat, which literally means the serrated mountain because of its jagged outline, is the epicenter of Catalan culture and history.

The Virgin of Montserrat

During the Franco dictatorship it was refuge to Catalan revolutionaries, and contains a pretty creepy wooden Virgin statue with baby Jesus on her lap that is considered Catalunya’s patron saint. Tourists and natives make pilgrimages to rub a little ball she holds in her right hand, for good luck. Why would she be holding a ball you ask? Right…no idea. The rest of her is encased in plexiglass.

The church is gorgeous, with detailed mosaics of saints and animals in bright azul, green and gold; silver sculptures of lions and monks, and cast iron candle chandeliers that seam to float down from the dome.

Mosaic

Flanking the abbey are huge mountains which we wasted no time in climbing. We hiked up the 1,200 meter peak of Sant Jordi (the other patron saint of Catalunya) with out labyrinth companions Dani and Yi-Hsiu, and her super cool Japanese friend visiting from Madrid. Along the way we spotted formations in the rocks that I took to be a penguin and a camel. The original plan was to go proper mountain climbing in the area with a group from Dmitry’s uni, but that’ll have to wait for another day. Can’t just waste good company. We did spot some climbers at the peak though. One very tired looking guy smoked up while eating a bag of hazelnuts, which he said helped open up his lungs a bit. Nice! The other one was completely baffled to learn that we were from New York and told me about a few other famous climbing locales in the Pyrenees, but said that for lack of funds he and his friend were staying local.

The Gang on Top of Sant Jordi


We got lost on the way down, and separated from our peeps. Fortuitously, we stumbled upon a funicular, and took it back to the monastery. It’s not cheating if it’s not a competition. Mwhahaha.

Surrounding Mountains


To balance all of this wholesome goodness on Friday we patronized several notable Barcelonese bars– the first which foolishly put out free tapas. We hung with my bud Ieva and her classmates. Students on a budget+free food=loss in profits for bar. I introduced Ieva to the bloody mary, which she added to her repertoire without much opposition. She then showed us her favorite Barcelona dive– a place in Raval that smells like cats and sports mostly torn dumpster furniture BUT also pours out cheap and tasty caipirinhas. Worth the trek across town.

I’m beginning to think of one-upping Lonely Planet and writing my own guide to the city.

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