I woke up to a truly beautiful day, sunny and in the mid 60s – perfect weather to go for a nice long walk to a beachfront paella restaurant I went to over 25 years ago – Escriba. I was curious to see if it was still as good as I remembered. The path to get there took me out of El Born to the Olympic Park and then eventually to the beach.
About 30 minutes later, I arrived at the restaurant, which faced directly toward the beach. Known for over 30 different versions of paella, I decided to go with the one called Of Mountains and Seas. My server took my order and then came back with an hourglass, explaining that’s how much time I had until my paella would arrive.
Sure enough, just as the sands shifted completely in the hourglass, my paella arrived. As the name implied, it was a mixture of both meats and seafood – pork ribs, chicken, wild mushrooms, green beans, Norway lobster, mussels and cuttlefish. This being a Catalan paella, there was no saffron. And yes, this was for 1 person.
The various meats and seafood all blended together in the rice, giving it a tremendous depth of flavor with the mushrooms and green beans adding some different textural elements. The rice on the side, called the socarat aka the crispy bits, was particularly delicious. A damn fine paella, and I was pleased to see the restaurant still held up.
Needing to walk off all of that food, I headed back to El Born, taking a slightly different route for variety’s sake.
The Catalan and Castellano clashes were all over the city.
After stopping by a very cool wine shop, I ended up at a tasting room for a small winery based in Priorat. It was just me and the proprietor who was very friendly and knowledgeable about wine. I asked her about the “fresh” term I kept hearing with the Priorat wines, and she explained that it was due to a combination of things but mostly due to climate change. The hotter, drier growing seasons are causing wine makers to adjust how they producing the wines. Plus, the hotter weather is making Spaniards want to drink less and less the traditional bold, heavy Priorats in favor of something lighter.
The wines were quite good and she gave me a couple of other pours for wines that were sold out but wanted me to try them. We started chatting about Spanish politics and the Catalan separation movement. She said that in schools now in Barcelona, some are teaching kids in just Catalan. Her kids were older so they didn’t have to do that. We both agreed how crazy that is given the limited scope of Catalan out in the world. She sighed and said even though she’s a proud Catalana, it was foolish to believe that any sort of separation from the rest of Spain would work. She added though that she agreed the region was being taken advantage of, and she supported the desire for more of a voice in the Parliament.
I also remarked that I wasn’t hearing as much Catalan being spoken in the streets this time versus last. She said that despite the separatist movement, there was more of an understanding these days that Spanish language was important too. I had also noticed more people now were willing to engage me in Spanish versus insisting I speak English. That was one of the things that had made me avoid Barcelona for so long because people, quite frankly, assholes about it.
After a bit of a rest at the hotel, I set out again but this time to a different part of the city to a wine bar that the hostess at Ferrer Bobet had suggested given it was co-owned by the owner of that winery. Along the way I passed by one of my favorite buildings in Barcelona, the Palau de Musica.
After a, thankfully, brief trip through the tourist wasteland of La Rambla, I arrive at Monvinic, a very slick and sleek wine bar with over 40 wines by the glass. All of the servers are sommeliers and I was presented with an iPad to review the wines by the glass. I wanted to stay in the Priorat area so I selected a half glass of what sounded like a good one. It was 100% Granacha and had the now familiar “fresh” taste to it.
After trying a not so great rose also from Priorat, I saw that there was another one that was from Scala Dei, but a 2013 reserve versus the regular one I had enjoyed. Of course, with that, came a pretty hefty price – 18 Euros for just the half glass. Given I’d probably never have a chance to try it again, I had to try it and wow was it good. None of the “fresh” taste, just deep, flavorful dark cherry notes and super smooth tannins. One of the best Spanish wines I had ever had.
I had asked for the bottle so I could take a picture of it and they said it had been tossed. The sommelier though asked if I wanted to tour one of their 3 cellars while he got another bottle. They had over 200K total bottles – very impressive.
I decided that was enough of the expensive stuff so paid my bill and headed back towards El Born for some cheap eats. I had been told this place Mosquito was a local favorite and about 30 minute walk back to my hood, I arrived at the ramshackle Asian tapas and beer bar joint.
The wine and my heavy lunch had left me with not a huge appetite so I ordered a couple of tapas and a local beer which I thought would be more than enough. I sat at the bar and once again, like seemingly everywhere in Barcelona, heard more English than Spanish (or Catalan for that matter)
The Spanish pork ribs with Xaoshing wine sauce and the smoked duck dumplings were both delicious and a nice change of pace from the usual Spanish fare I had been having. As I suspected, this was plenty enough food so I paid my bill – a mere 12 Euros – and walked back toward my hotel. Knowing though this was my last major night out, I sought out a spot for a night cap and soon arrived at a very nice looking wine bar called Eldesit.
It turned out they also made their own wine, which my bartender Alejandro, allowed me to try before I settled on a Priorat that he said I would like. He was correct and this one was also in the older style, more full bodied and deeper flavors. I chatted a bit with Alejandro who said my Spanish was “perfecto” – gracias although certainly not true. He let me try a few other of the wines and eventually I had to say “basta” since I didn’t want another hangover. I promised though to come back tomorrow on my final night for perhaps a cava this time.