June 20, 2006

Can Ganassa – Barcelona, Spain

While in Barcelona, I spent much of my time either in the Barri Gotic area or on the beach. However, on one adventurous day my friend Tina and I walked around Barceloneta, which is the port area just south of Port Olimpica.

Barcelona is known for having great seafood, and within the city Barceloneta is the place to be. This area is packed with restaurants and tapas bars offering a wide range of seafood.

My Rough Guides book suggested eating at Can Ganassa. This unassuming restaurant is located in a little square just off of Passeig De Borbo (the street that runs along the south side of the port area). Walking up to it, I felt a little hesitant because the exterior reminded more of a bar-b-que restaurant that I would find in Alabama rather than a Spanish eatery. However, we were pushed for time (we had to watch England play Paraguay in the World Cup!) so we went with it.

Can Ganassa is a casual restaurant that offers a wide selection of tapas, as well as, entrée dishes. Also like most other Spanish restaurants, it also offers a menu del dia (“menu of the day” which affords you a three course meal for a very reasonable price). On this occasion, Tina and I opted for a selection of tapas.

We asked the waiter for his recommendations, and as a result we ended up ordering everything he suggested. We received baby octopus in tomato sauce, fried calamari, grilled green peppers with sea salt, and fried potatoes with cream sauce.

The baby octopus in the tomato sauce was me and Tina’s favorite. The tomato sauce was very flavorful having been simmered with garlic, capers, and anchovies. Now, the idea of baby octopus may be a bit weird for some of you, but it tastes just like squid. Also, the tentacles held the sauce really well so that every bite included that fabulous flavor.

The fried calamari was similar to what I find here in New York, but the pieces were gigantic. Tina and I were also interested to see that the fried calamari was not served with marinara sauce like what you find in the States. (I am soooo sorry for the black and white photos, my camera switched to this setting without me realizing it).

I must admit that I was not excited for the grilled green peppers, but this dish ended up being really good! The peppers were grilled and marinated in olive oil, then topped off with sea salt. Remember my post about Salt? This dish was a great example of when to use the chunkier sea salt. Each bite included a few granules of this salt, which afforded a nice, bold salt flavor to compliment the subtler taste of the pepper.

Lastly, we had the fried potatoes that were served with a crème sauce that I believe was seasoned with paprika. As simple as this dish was, it was a nice accompaniment to the other dishes.

Tina and I both agreed that Can Ganassa was an excellent stop for lunch. The dishes were fabulous and, although there were a few tourists, the crowd was primarily local—always a good sign.


Can Ganassa, Pl. de Barceloneta 4-6, Phone: 932 216 739

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June 18, 2006

Mamacafe – Barcelona, Spain

Hola! I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Barcelona, Spain. If you have not already been there, I definitely recommend that you visit it. The city is absolutely beautiful, and to make it even better, Barcelona sits right on the Mediterranean Sea so you can hang out at the beach as well.

The first half of my trip I was on my own. So what does a girl do when on her own in a city like Barcelona? Treat myself to a lovely meal at a place where I can just linger for hours.

For this part of the trip, I was staying on Las Ramblas, so I wanted a restaurant that was located in the Barri Gotic or El Raval areas (the neighborhoods just east and west of this main street). My handy-dandy Rough Guides book (I never travel without one of these) suggested the restaurant, Mamacafe; which was conveniently located a few blocks west of my hotel.

Before I start talking about the restaurant, let me explain a couple things. In Spain they eat dinner late—very late. Typically, restaurants serve food 1-4pm and 8-11pm. Although the restaurants begin serving food at 8pm, most Spaniards do not begin filling up the places until at least 9pm. Well, this time schedule was not going to work for Kristin who was quite hungry from her arduous day of meandering the alleys of the Barri Gotic and sunbathing at the beach while sipping sangria. It was tough.

In between these meal times, tapas is the main choice for food. Not so bad. The tapas is just like what you see here in New York, and I assume everywhere else as well. For those of you not familiar with tapas, it is basically little dishes to nibble on. The idea is that you order a selection of tapas dishes to make a complete meal or order a single dish to snack on.

I found that in Spain, the tapas tends to be more of a bar thing, but not a grubby bar thing. I would walk around and pass by nice looking wine bars/cafes that had tapas sitting along the bar counter. It is a lovely way to have a nibble. According to my guide book, and also from what I found walking around, the best tapas bars are in the southern most part of the Barri Gotic, near the port area (but be careful because this area can be a bit sketchy as night).

Evidently each tapas bar has their specialties and the remaining items can sometimes lack in quality. Therefore, the locals tend to go from tapas bar to tapas bar to nibble on the bar’s specialty along with a drink. Things could be worse.

Another interesting note about the Spanish way of dining is that at lunchtime the cafes have the menu del dia option. This is basically a three course menu for a very reasonable price. The menu del dia’s I looked at were typically only about 8 Euros, and these were in the tourist areas. Overall, I found that the food and drinks were very reasonably priced even given the exchange rate (1 Euro = $1.28).

Okay, back to Mamacafe. So like the rest of Spain, Mamacafe did not begin serving their dinner menu until 8pm. I arrived around 6:30-7pm. Although Mamacafe is not a tapas bar, like many other restaurants, they serve a few tapas dishes in between meals. So I sat down at the best table in the house and ordered their specialty tapas dish along with a glass of wine. Here I just lingered enjoying my dish while reading a book.

Their specialty tapas dish is Crunchy Ravioli with Brie and Candied Onion (3.50 Euros). Wow, this was good. The ravioli pastry is made from filo dough, hence the crunchy aspect. As the name suggests, the filo dough is stuffed with brie cheese and caramelized onion. The ravioli is then served along with some tomato puree and very fresh pesto. All together these flavors and textures were excellent. I was in total awe.

Finally 8pm rolled around and the waitress handed out the dinner menus to me and the other American couple who were also not used to eating so late. As I decided upon my evening’s dishes, the waitress brought over some hummus served with toasted baguette slices. The hummus was served traditionally with some olive oil drizzled over it along with a little sprinkle of smoky paprika. I was very pleased with this complimentary dish.

For my appetizer I ordered an Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper and Candied Onion dish. Again, this dish was really good. On top of the pepper was some sort of a mellow cheese (it reminded me of the cheese you traditionally find in Mexico served on dishes) and vegetable gravy. What really made it so great is the freshness of the ingredients, which is what I had read makes this restaurant so good.

My entrée was a tuna steak with an apple and mango chutney. Drizzled on top was a little soy sauce to add a nice contrast to the sweetness of the chutney. This was not my favorite of the dishes (the ravioli would be my favorite), but I appreciated the combination of the flavors. Also, each of the ingredients were just so fresh.

As for the atmosphere, it is a bit funky-casual. I liked it because it has a nice trendy feel but without an ounce of pretension. The wait staff were all super friendly to this American and never made me feel rushed. They welcome the fact that I was stationing myself at their restaurant for a few hours to relax, read, and treat myself to a nice dinner.

I was also very pleased with the price. Including my tapas dish, complimentary hummus, appetizer, entree, and two glasses of wine, my bill was 33 Euros. Also, in Spain tips tend to be only 5% so that only added about 1.50 Euros to the bill. I was very pleased.

As you can see, I loved this restaurant and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in Barcelona. Note though that Mamacafe does not serve traditional Spanish food, so do not go here if that is what you are looking for. However, if you want just a really good dinner made with super fresh ingredients, then you should try this restaurant.

Mamacafe, c/del Dr Joaquim Dou 10, 933 012 940

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June 04, 2006

Jamie Oliver’s Pan Seared Scallops with Crispy Bacon and Sage Salad

This past weekend my friend Gemma hosted our group of friends at her place for the weekend in honor of our friend, Allison, who is sadly moving to San Francisco. Despite the rain, we made it through a Met’s game at Shea Stadium (well, through the 6th inning—it was pretty cold). Then Gemma surprised us with a nice dinner for the evening—just what we were in the mood for! What a great way to spend some time with a friend who is moving, where we can just eat at our leisure and hang out all night talking.

Since the weekend was in honor of Allison, Gemma asked her to choose the menu. Allison’s choice for the entrée was Jamie Oliver’s Pan Seared Scallops with Crispy Bacon and Sage Salad. Evidently Gemma has made this dish for Allison in the past, and it is her favorite.

After we munched on a selection of olives, Italian cheese, and smoked sausage; dinner was served. I can understand why this dish is Allison’s favorite. There are a lot of flavors layered into the salad that compliment one another very well. The salad is also relatively light for a summer meal, yet has a bold, warm flavor.

To make this dish yourself, the following is the recipe (for 4 servings):
  • 12 thin slices of streaky bacon or pancetta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 leaves of fresh sage per person
  • 12 scallops
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 heaping tbsp cooked lentils
  • 4 large handfuls of green salad leaves
  • Olive oil and lemon juice dressing
  1. Fry the bacon or pancetta in a small amount of olive oil in a hot pan.
  2. When the bacon or pancetta is nearly ready, add the sage. The bacon and sage will cook and crisp up at about the same time.
  3. Once they are cooked, take them out of the pan and place them onto some paper towels to drain.
  4. Put the pan back on the heat and, when it is very hot, add a little drizzle of oil and fry the seasoned scallops.
  5. These will take about a minute each side; the skin will go slightly crisp and golden brown.
  6. When both sides of the scallops are cooked, squeeze the lemon juice over the top and give them a stir. This will start to caramelize the outside skin even more.
  7. Take the scallops out of the pan and put them into a dish.
  8. Using the same pan reheat the lentils.
  9. Dress the salad leaves with the olive oil and lemon dressing and divide between 4 plates.
  10. Sprinkle the crispy bacon and the crispy sage leaves over the 4 salad plates. Then place the scallops around the salad.
  11. When your lentils are hot just sprinkle on top.

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