Category: Spain

Orange almond cake, petite madeleine Escribà Barcelona

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Spanish orange almond cake: a variation of the sémola bizcocho de almendras.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro 2014

It was the search for that perfect xocolata calenta in Barcelona 2011 on a weekday morning that found me wandering the streets of El Raval in the neighbourhood of Ciutat Vella, also known as Barrio Xinès or Barrio Chino, close to the quarters of Barri Gòtic, that landed me tasting the most wonderful variation of the Eurasian semolina almond cake, infused with orange.

Working on the batter of this cake, I can’t help but return to the words of the protagonist in Proust’s Swann’s Way, the first of seven volumes to À la recherche du temps perdu (published between 1913-1927), on when the petite madeleine, crumb soaked in tea, touched his lips: Continue reading “Orange almond cake, petite madeleine Escribà Barcelona”

BARCELONA

Timelapse of Barcelona by Alexandr Kravtsov. Just beautiful.

As David Bickley wrote, of A.Kravtsov’s 480gb of images:

“What’s even more impressive is what Alexandr went through to make this piece. In his words it took “a broken camera, lost flash drive, near 100 subway rides, 24 000 photos, endless hours of post production and rendering and 480 gigabytes of material.” That’s insane!”

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Antonio Gaudí: Casa Batlló and Casa Milà

Barcelona is a city that can truly inspire and touch the soul of a visitor. Not in the least because of its education institutions, of which I especially was taken in by IESE, but rather by looking at what is silently said through its culture, art and architecture.

Antonio Gaudí is one of the many geniuses of Catalonian descent that have left their unforgettable imprint on the city. His art speaks loudly, but only to those who can listen with their eyes and peek into each wrought iron entanglement and crack of a mosaic, rearranged to a new meaning.

In this post, a walk-through of Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.

Casa Batlló

There’s a constant stream of people to visit these buidlings, so having some quiet time whilst walking around the conserved apartments is not quite possible. Still something fun to do and worth discovering.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2011-2013

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At Los Caracoles Casa Bofarull, Barcelona, Spain

At Casa Bofarull, Los Caracoles Barcelona, Spain.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

If you hear that this restaurant is a challenge to find, that would be an accurate observation, especially if you don’t turn at just that left exit along La Rambla that leads you minutes down the lane to the restaurant, when walking from Plaça de Catalunya towards Rambla del Mar, but instead navigate from within the Gothic quarters of the city, or elsewhere.
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Visit to Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain

Rosa d’abril.
Text and Photo © CM Cordeiro 2012

Mare de Déu de Montserrat or Moreneta, the Virgin of Montserrat, is a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century. The hym to the Virgin of Montserrat begins with the words “Rosa d’abril, Morena de la serra…”, “April rose, dusky lady of the mountain chain”. It is for this reason that the Virgin is also known as “Rosa d’abril”. In her hand, she holds the globe of the world.
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Finding your way in Barcelona

At La Boqueria in Barcelona.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

Even if briefly visiting a new country, one of my most absolute favourite things to do is to go shopping for groceries at the local wet market, from fresh baked breads to cheese, eggs and various types of fruit both fresh and preserved. And while in Europe, the concept of ‘wet markets’ would differ from those in Asia, the spirit of trading at the break of dawn and the buzz of activities at a local focal meeting point would still be the fundamental connecting points in these entities.
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Morning in La Roca Village, Barcelona, Spain

Morning coffee at La Roca shopping outlet Village, Barcelona
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

A few years ago when visiting Italy, I had the pleasure of going “outlet shopping” at a large shopping centre just outside of Florence. It was more or less an entire village that was built just for the purpose of offering branded goods at discount prices. It was last seasons pieces, short series, not so successful colours, odd sizes and a fairly decent discount given to those who took the trouble to search through all this for something they liked. The prices are fine but you will also need to deal with the disappointment of finding a perfect pair of shoes in just that half size smaller model that would make them actually possible to wear on your feet.

This day in Barcelona, it wasn’t so much the shopping that we looked forward to, but rather just a reason to get outside of the city centre of Barcelona for a few hours. The La Roca Village (at La Roca del Vallès, Barcelona) was just about a 40 minutes drive from Plaça Catalunya, and this allowed for some indulgence in time to sightsee and catch-up on life whilst window shopping.
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Barcelona revisited – Sunday sopa de llenties

Spanish lentil soup, a keepsake from Barcelona.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

My favorite souvenir to bring back from places I have visited is actually the food.

Not only all the local specialties I can fit into my luggage and hope will survive the trip back, but the smell, the flavours and that particular piece of memory and history they contain, that could so easily be revived over and over again at the stove back home.

This weekend I was thinking about Barcelona, that will always have a special place in my heart.

If you walk down La Rambla from the Placa de Catalunya and resist the temptation to turn left into the Barri Gótic just for once, to get lost in the myriads of picturesque back alleys and squares that endlessly lead you round and around in the search for the perfect xocolata you had yesterday, just somewhere around here … and instead carry on, down past the familiar facade of La Boqueria wet market, and turn right, about there, you will soon find yourself inside the bohemian turned pretty posh quarters of El Raval.

There, immediately before you hit the open area of Rambla del Raval, you will find Casa Leopoldo.
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Enoteca de Paco Pérez, Hotel Arts Barcelona

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Enoteca, Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Spain.

Contemplating art in culinary form, through the Mediterranean perspective of Chef Paco Pérez at Enoteca, Hotel Arts Barcelona.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

I think Spain is one of the places where you should go today, to refresh the eyes with aspects of art, design and architecture that are cutting edge creative and new.

In the 1910-20s Spain and Barcelona were part of the movement that invented modernism, but when you visit Barcelona today, you realize that they didn’t stop there. They just went on, turning and twisting every rock they met on the road of human artistic expressions. This progression of ideas is most visible in architecture and unexpectedly, in modern culinary art.

It is also obvious that while being sat on by suffocatingly conservative forces like Generalissimo Franco and his likes for the best part of the 20th century, this vital people never stopped expressing themselves and just found new ways of doing exactly what they wanted anyway.

And while contemplating your impressions of the city of Picasso, Miro, Gaudi and Dali I can suggest no better place to sit down and enjoy an avant garde meal, building on these very traditions, than at the Enoteka de Paco Pérez at Hotel Arts in Barcelona.

Maybe enoteca is not an ideal name of the restaurant run by the El Bulli trained chef Paco Pérez, but wine is certainly an important part of the experience.

Enoteca carries the meaning of a “wine library” or a wine bar where you can try out wines by the glass, and of course the Enoteka de Paco Pérez at Hotel Arts is a little bit beyond that.

The cooking is brilliant but bordering to eccentric and somehow you sense the influences from all the artists that has made Barcelona famous. Personally I would also like to say that this is not where I would bring my friends for a dinner without asking them first what they would want from a night out.

Barcelona is so full of very good tapas bars and rustic Catalonian eateries that a restaurant that might in fact have picked up plenty of inspiration from the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, might not be a first on your Barcelona bucket list.

The ambiance also adds to the overall experience. This library of wines is reflected in the design of the place. Stacks of bottles of wines replace library books in black shelves that cover the walls.

Enoteca, Hotel Arts, Barcelona.

If you feel like you would like to try this out, the Barcelonians who also frequent this place, like to dine late, so as a jet-lagged tourist you would actually find yourself happily first in the cue in a more or less empty restaurant.

Enoteca, interior.

The dark wood and dim orange tint from the lighting of the interior of the restaurant gives a feeling of being swept away into your very own corner of the world, a comfortable cocoon of space and time, where in the next couple of hours, you’re left to explore at will, any culinary whim and fancy that the restaurant can offer!

With so much passion and wide eyed wonder at what goes on in the kitchen as was explained to us during our sitting, it was difficult for us to keep a cool front and not bounce from our table straight into the kitchen to get a glimpse first hand on how all of this was orchestrated.

Our pictures are in no way representative of what an evening here can offer but just a few random samples we don’t mind sharing.

Enoteca Tasting Menu I.

Some bread, just for a start.

Enoteca Tasting Menu II.

Besides that the presentations of the dishes were on the whole different and ingeniously combined for each dish, the ambition was as I see it, focused on bringing out the inner soul of fairly common ingredients and actually surprise you with what things you thought you knew could actually taste like.

Enoteca, wines.

The dining experience was softly overseen by your personal sommelier who suggested different wines throughout the dinner that in various ways enhanced or changed how the different dishes came out.

Enoteca Tasting Menu III.

The menu offered many opportunities to get a glimpse of what Paco Pérez’s creative directorship and artistry in the kitchen could create.

Enoteca Tasting Menu IV.

If you care to ask anyone of the friendly staff, that probably had marveled at the same thing as you did, you might find them well prepared to explain what went on in the kitchen, how each dish was put together and the techniques behind the making and presenting of the food.

Enoteca Tasting Menu V.

A dinner here takes time, interest and a sense of humour. Why humour you might say, well, ultimately food is there to be enjoyed and sometimes maybe the imaginative efforts of this extraordinary kitchen is stretched just a tiny bit too hard. The food is good, it really is good, but hey – come on – some of the dishes are there just to make you smile.

To come up with a single recommendation regarding Enoteca de Paco Pérez, I can do no better than to suggest to take the evening off and dine with the broadest of mindsets, expecting the unexpected. Sit back and enjoy the ride from beginning to end and focus on selecting your favourite wines together with the amicable help of the restaurant’s sommelier.

“Una xocolata calenta si us plau”

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro at the Museu de la Xocolata, Barcelona, Spain.

At the Chocolate Museum, just outside the kitchen where the museum holds classes on chocolate confection.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Although Spain’s connection with Mexico in the 1500s means that cacao beans and chocolate would be as native to Spain as coconuts and pineapples are to Singapore, I must say that it still took some doing exploring the numerous cafés in Barcelona, before I settled for a favourite place of mine that served my cup of hot chocolate with an added shot of espresso in it!

If you’re a chocolate lover like me, then perhaps nobody can stop you from immediately hitting any café in sight as soon as you get off the plane in Barcelona for a cup of Spanish hot chocolate. At least, that’s what happened to me.

But with that done I brusquely encountered a cultural difference of what a cup of hot chocolate laced with espresso is in Spain.
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Miró, Miró on the wall …

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From Castell de Montjuic silent large-calibre guns overlooks the sea and port as well as the metropolis of Barcelona itself. On the west side, stands an ornate memorial to General Francisco Franco. An unintentional but vivid commentary on the history of Spain and Barcelona as good as any history book would offer.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

The headline pun is, of course a play on the words from the English translation by D. L. Ashliman of the definitive edition of the Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Berlin 1857), tale ‘Snow White’, in which the Queen asks her magical mirror “Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who in the land is fairest of all?” The tale takes a dramatic turn when the mirror tells her an unwanted truth.

In a similar manner, the period around the early 1900’s was extraordinarily volatile when it came to artists and architects communication with the public. Many of the art movements that enriched the early 1900’s in Europe were protests against those in power that for their winnings sake drew the world into war. Various kinds of repression caused new ways of commenting on society to appear.
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Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, in Barcelona, more or less

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.

The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion is but a short walk downhill from the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, or the MNAC. It’s situated at the foot of the Montjuïc hill. The outdoor café outside the Museu Nacional offers a much needed refreshment.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Just below the Museu National on Montjuïc, towards the Placa d’Espanya and on its original site lies the newly rebuilt Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, originally the German Pavilion, built for the 1929 world exhibition held here in Barcelona.

The Pavilion is to me, a fundamental architectural monument from a time when the hope towards a unified and better Europe prevailed. Even beyond the field of arts history and architecture, the German architect and designer of the early 20th century, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969) was known for his works being some of the most influential of the time. He was one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style.

He coined the phrase “less is more” in referring to clarity of shapes and thoughts. So influential were his ideas from the early 1900s that today, these clean lines are visibly noted in the design of just about every current shopping mall or airport in the world. It could even be argued that the very typography of this blog, looking as it does, could be traced back to him.

Because of this, it is a little mind boggling that I found myself in the very building that in architectural form, presented this new ideology to the world, considering too that this was the fruitful result of a flow of ideas between the Russian constructivists, the Bauhaus design school in Berlin and the De Stijl group in the Netherlands, who no doubt also fetched energy and ideas from the modernists here in Barcelona.
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Culinary Paradiso at Los Caracoles, Barcelona

Los Caracoles, the restaurant

The outdoor dining culture of Barcelona is vibrant and not easily outdone. The competition between food outlets is fierce and the variety of food offered in this city is staggering. People are spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out, and it would take more than a lifetimes’s living here to fully discover all interesting restaurants, tapas bars and cafés.

One interesting restaurant sits on Carrer Dels Escudellers, just off Barcelona’s most famous boulevard – La Rambla – in the Barri Gothic quarters of the city. Founded in the early 19th century by the Bofarull family, this interesting restaurant is serving authentic Catalonian cuisine.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro Nilsson, Los Caracoles, Barcelona.

At Table 2, Los Caracoles. The restaurant has split level floors for seating for more than a hundred persons, discovered only after you walk past the short and narrow bar at the front of the restaurant. The walls of the restaurant are lined with photographs of previous patrons of fame.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

There were many curiosities about this restaurant that caught our attention on our visit. Their signature dish of Snails, prepared quite differently from the French escargot, got the restaurant so locally renowned in the early 1900s that the owners threw out their own last names in favour of the name of the dish calling the restaurant eventually, Los Caracoles or “The Snails”.

Many regular patrons will also tell of how you can’t possibly mistake finding the place because they fry their chickens rotisserie style outdoors on the actual road crossing. The combined visual effect of dancing vermilion flames on the street corner licking at chicken that is gradually turning golden brown, and the enticing aroma of the gently spiced meat that greet you along this narrow street is in itself an overwhelming experience to those who pass by.

But the entire visit, from beginning to end made us raise our eyebrows, first in curiosity and then with awe, mounting up to an extraordinary dining experience!
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Marmalade from the Garden of Eden

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Dulce de Membrillo is a traditional Catalan marmalade made from quince, and a perfect addition to the cheese tray. The fruit has a long history. It is divinely fragrant and because of this, the ancient Greeks are said to have offered it to the Goddess Aphrodite, as well as used it themselves in wedding ceremonies amongst mere mortals, where the bride would perfume her kiss with a nibble of quince prior to entering the bridal chamber.
Photo: JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

There are more ways to discover your heritage than reading about the country, its national dress, traditions and beliefs. In my case, Quince, an ancient fruit imagined by some to be the forbidden fruit of Eden, referenced in the Song of Songs and written about by the ancient Greeks, turned out to be one of the more interesting discoveries on my visit to Barcelona.

Of course I had met with dulce de membrillo before. However, it took some doing before I recognized this certain red marmalade, being a staple on the breakfast table here and constantly meeting with it in just about every wet market or food store I visited. I eventually got curious enough to enquire after it, and thus re-discovered this long lost acquaintance.
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Creps at la Boqueria, Mercat de Sant Josep in Barcelona 2011

Mercat Boqueria, Barcelona, La Rambla.

The entrance to La Boqueria is about midway along the famous Catalonian Boulevard La Rambla in Barcelona. The Boqueria wet market opens up at a side road called Mercat de Sant Josep. This market, that has a history from the early 13th century, is today frequented as much by locals as by tourists alike.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

A lot of things in Barcelona are labelled “touristy” and as a result, sneered at even by the locals just because they are popular with the tourists. But Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria tells a different tale.

La Boqueria, as it has been known since the early 13th century when it was established here in the Old City district, began as a convenient network market located near the old city gate where traders from the nearby towns such as Les Corts and Sarrià (now only a 25 minute bus ride from La Boqueria itself) gathered to trade and sell their produce. The market remained here through the centuries, got a firmer structure in the early 19th century and in 1915, an iron roof with its inset stained, colored glass was added, giving the modernismo touch of the time to the place.
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Dining with Picasso

Els Quatre Gats, street.

Els Quatre Gats or 4Gats bar, brewery and restaurant. The beautiful façade displays stained glass, ornate lamps, painted numbers on doors, intricately carved wooden door frames and then looking upwards, balconies draped in light swinging vines, filled with potted flowers in bloom.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

It was just about at the right time of the day that we found ourselves outside of Els Quatre Gats restaurant in the labyrinth of winding small roads in Barre Góthic, the late Roman part of Barcelona. From a balcony just above the ‘Four Cats’ restaurant entrance, a friendly dog looked down on us, just as if to confirm the many idiosyncrasies this city is so full of.

For anyone interested in Picasso, this restaurant is a must. Indeed, it is one of those living examples of what the industrialization period about the turn of the century one hundred years ago was all about.

The Modernisme had started earlier, in France as Art Noveau and in Germany and Austria as Jugend, but after the First World War, it was impossible to turn back time again to the dusty and suffocating drapes of romanticism. The time had changed and in all this, Barcelona played an important part.
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¡Hola, from Barcelona!

Sangria, in Barcelona

Sangria along La Rambla… there can’t be a warmer hello than this, in Barcelona!
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

It’s extremely warm in Barcelona, almost tropical though minus the high humidity.

Below, some pictures taken from La Rambla. Amidst running into the Swedish soccer team who are here in Barcelona for the weekend games, witnessing the protest in the main square and meeting people speaking languages from all corners of the world, you can settle down to a very large glass of Sangria and that favourite gelato, absorbing the central vibe of the city of Barcelona.
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