Saturday, April 16, 2016

Caribbean Club Cocktail Bar - My Personal Favorite

I feel like I'm sharing a secret with this one...Tucked away (you'll miss it if you blink) on a tiny side street just off Las Ramblas is my personal favorite cocktail bar in Barcelona. You have the feeling of being in a small, intimate cocktail lounge on an old luxury cruise ship. Although they do serve wine and beer this is the place to go for an actual cocktail - there's literally a different type of glass for nearly every cocktail one can imagine.
On a recent visit I had a perfect Side Car served in a coupe -  it was heaven.  Hint: arrive close to opening hour if you want an actual seat at the bar.

Carrer de les Sitges, 5, 08001 Barcelona

La Castanya - New Restaurant in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter - Worthy of a Detour

This little joint, La Castanya, in The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is killing it with amazing food at thrifty prices. Worthy of a detour if you are visiting Barcelona! (interesting note: the hanging lamps are made from recycled bicycle parts)

 Rock-star interpretation of Caprese Salad: Heirloom & Cherry tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, and Basil Bread (which looks like green sea sponge). Sublime!

 Best croquetas de pollo (chicken croquettes) ever! Served in an egg carton

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bar Mut - What's Not to Love!?

Sophisticated old world European chic. Add to that great food and big drinks and what more could you ask for? Our little Saturday afternoon group drank red Vermouth on the rocks (with slices of orange), and snacked on razor clams (with garlic and parsley), assorted Spanish olives, croquettes (a la mama), white sea bass ceviche,  and fried eggs with foie gras and hand-cut french fries. Can't wait to return!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Barcelona's Mercats - A Feast for the Senses

La Boqueria is undoubtedly one of the most famous markets in the world. But did you know that greater metropolitan Barcelona has 43 Mercats (markets), each with its own distinct flavor and charm.

La Boqueria / on Las Ramblas in Barcelona

A typical fruit/vegetable vendor

Mercat Santa Caterina

The Mercat d'Hostafrancs is one of the larger markets in the western part of the city. It is located near Montjuic.

Ham (jamon) and cheese (queso) from Spain

Shellfish from Spain

A local fishmonger
Lunch at one of the Mercat' about from market to table!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Vibrant Cocktail Scene is Taking Place in Barcelona

Gin and tonics continue to be an obsession for the Spanish, who have put their own spin on the classic cocktail. They serve them in balloon glasses with giant ice cubes and creative garnishes, like tonka beans and cardamom. Every bar in town has a handful of gins, but grab a stool at Ideal Cocktail Bar, which pairs a vintage vibe with the most extensive list around: some 110 gins and 22 tonics.
Or head on over to Ocaña and gaze out over the historic Plaça Reial, which has lanterns designed by Antoni Gaudi circa late 1800's.

Spanish Ham (Jamón) - It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grand Opening: Hotel Praktik Vinoteca 40% Discount on Rooms

Design and architecture of Vinoteca

The world of wine recreated in a unique setting of comfort.
The interior design of Praktik Vinoteca is the work of Contemporain Studio (winner of AD magazine award for 2013). Lázaro Rosa-Violán, creator of the design and interiors of well-known establishments in Barcelona, integrates wine as a decorative element of the hotel in Praktik Vinoteca with exquisite detail and with the practical approach that is their hallmark as a modern and minimalist hotel. 
The Praktik Vinoteca hotel is located in the Eixample district.
Nowadays the Eixample is famous as the location of most of the Modernist and Art Nouveau monuments that have made Barcelona one of the leading cities in art, fashion and design. It is also a residential area, offering the people of Barcelona and the tourists who visit our city many activities, both daytime and night-time, of all kinds. In short, it is a traditional district with a wide range of cultural, gastronomic and leisure activities to enjoy. Follow the advice of their in-house sommelier and learn about the fascinating wine-making tradition of the area, while you taste a selection from their winery. Wine-tasting sessions are offered with the hotel's compliments on certain days of the week (please check with the hotel).
The Hotel opened October 15th and offering a 40% discount on room rates (through November 30th stays) when booked through their website.  Note that these discount rates are non-refundable.

From the quirky Praktik Hotels group: Praktik Garden

The quirky Praktik Hotels group has given each of its five properties - four in Barcelona, one in Madrid - a different theme: there's Praktik Bakery on Carrer Provença; Praktik Vinoteca, which opens this summer; and in this case a garden. Reception is manned by staff wearing stripy red aprons, and surrounded by tin buckets overflowing with spiky dragon trees, huge Swiss cheese plants and curvaceous calla lillies. An ongoing revamp by local hotshot Lázaro Rosa-Violán (set to continue this year) has so far dramatically improved the first-floor bedrooms which now have dark parquet floors and bathrooms with sleek, marble showers and navy hexagonal mosaics. The halls are papered with eye-boggling vintage circus posters and there's a cosy, open-plan living/dining room with a large table, oak-and- leather armchairs and stacks of glossy magazines. The small kitchen produces simple breakfasts of freshly squeezed juices, artisan pastries and small bocatas (traditional Spanish sandwiches). Best of all is the large AstroTurf garden - classier than it sounds - which has smart sun-loungers and dining areas enclosed by Washington palms and thick stands of bamboo, and is scented by planters brimming with herbs and mature orange trees.
Carrer Diputació 325 (+34 934 675279; Doubles from about $75.

Hip and Affordable Barcelona

Casa Gracia

In a vast modernist mansion in the swankiest part of town, Casa Gràcia is the vivacious brainchild of five hipster backpackers who set out to create the sort of place they always longed to find. Young travelers check in and out every two minutes, as do families and groovy baby-boomers on round-the-world trips. The reception is on the first floor of a six-story building (the ground floor is home to chef Paco Pérez's popular L'Eggs restaurant), with original oak parquet, pretty corniced ceilings and arched hallways. All of which serves as a backdrop for designer Pelusa Ruiz's recent overhaul. The big sitting room is filled with battered leather sofas, floppy beanbags and chessboards; an open-plan kitchen produces excellent breakfasts of homemade jam, cakes and pastries, with Spanish classics such as paella and chicken al ajillo for supper. At night, the dining room hosts flamenco shows, poetry recitals and film screenings; by day, guests spill onto a terrace shaded by olive and lemon trees planted in vintage fire buckets and lit by strings of multicolored carnival bulbs. Bedrooms range from dorms to deluxe suites with hot tubs; all have new, if tiny, bathrooms.

Passeig de Gràcia 116 (+34 931 874497; Doubles from about $75.


Elijah Wood Loves Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria)

Tell us about a great little place you know:

"There's also a no-frills sandwich place in Barcelona called La Champañería that's truly remarkable. It's tiny and always packed like a can of sardines. There are hams hanging from the ceilings, and they make their own Cava. It's an absolute dream, and it makes me want to weep every time I'm there."

What Elijah Wood failed to point out is that the other reason La Champañería is often packed liked sardines is the price of a glass of Cava (Spanish Champagne) is only about $1. read that right, one dollar. 

from Condé Nast Traveller

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bringing Home the Birkin

My primary website is:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Moritz - The Local Beer of Barcelona

Moritz beer dates to 1856. The original Moritz beer factory in Barcelona (at Ronda de Sant Antoni 39) is now a museum, tapas bar, and beer hall. 
In my opinion it's the best beer from Spain.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: DO. Placa Reial - Boutique Hotel Gastronomic - Barcelona

If you love luxury, and think local, then you'll adore the DO. Plaça Reial.
If you prefer a 5-Star boutique hotel to a Ritz Carlton then this is your place. If you prefer the local culinary hot-shot to the Capital Grille then this is your place. Rarely, in my opinion, do we find a truly fab boutique hotel housing the local hot-shot chef, all under one roof. At the DO. the food is sublime (I cannot imagine that it won't have Michelin stars soon) and the rooms are sexy, chic, and uber comfortable. 
Picture if you will a monumental square in the heart of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. A portion of that square (dating from the 1850s and historically protected) being lovingly restored over a five year period. New state-of-the-art culinary devices. Bang & Olufsen electronics. A quiet respite. High thread count Italian linens. Locally sourced best-of-the-best food products. Original works of art. Modernist tiles. Organic, local farm products. 
The best compliment I can pay the DO. is that when I ate there, when I slept there, I felt as if I were in someone's opulent home...a guest settled in for an extended stay.  I wanted for nothing.  And the only thing I longed for were additional nights and many more meals.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Will Barcelona become the next Las Vegas?

If Sheldon Adelson has his way it just might.
Adelson, who's listed in Forbes as the 16th wealthiest person in the world  with a net worth of $21.5 billion, is the man behind The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino (4,059 hotel rooms) and the Sands Expo and Convention Center (110,000 m²), both in Las Vegas, is now eying both Madrid and Barcelona as possible homes for his newest venture: Europa Vegas.
The promise of 260,000 new hospitality and retail jobs is nothing to sneeze at. But along with those jobs comes the darker side of gambling, such as prostitution, drugs and other illegal activities.
Rumor has it that Madrid is considered to be the leading contender, which is something I don't quite understand. I'd think that Barcelona's huge cruise ship industry and beaches would be a major draw, not to mention Barcelona's proximity to the Pyrenees and skiing. Besides, don't we have better weather in Barcelona? And better restaurants? And better...
Oh well, I guess only time will tell...

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, Las Vegas

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Look: Hotel DO. Plaça Reial - Boutique Hotel Gastronomic

The renovation carried out by the architect Oriol Bohigas and the interiors designed by Lázaro Rosa Violán have made this special building in the heart of Barcelona into an elegant and welcoming hotel, the ideal place to enjoy a unique stay and discover the centre of the city.
Exclusivity, design, comfort, excellent food and drink, and personal service make the Hotel DO: Plaça Reial the first gastronomic boutique hotel in the historic centre of Barcelona.
It is listed as a protected building close to the main tourist attractions: the Ramblas, the Liceo, the Boquería market, the Palacio de la Música concert hall, the Cathedral, the Palau Güell, Santa María del Mar, the Picasso Museum the Port of Barcelona, etc.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

DO. Placa Reial Boutique Hotel Gastronomic

I'm looking forward to the opening of this new Hotel & Restaurant. 
The lamp (center/left) was designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late 1800's.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best Beer in the World Suitable for Coeliacs

This award has been given in recognition of the quality of Daura, which retains the same taste and properties as tradition beers, as well as having gluten levels of less than 6 ppm, much lower than the 20 ppm recommended for people with coeliac disease by the World Health Organisation.
And of course, Made in Barcelona.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer in the City of Barcelona

It's summer and time for a frosty drink.
While the Caipirinha may be the official drink of Brazil, it has gained huge popularity here in Barcelona and is readily available in most bars and cafes.

My two favorite places for Caipirinha's are Margarita Blue (on calle Josep Anselm Clave #6 - just a couple blocks off the Ramblas, down by the Columbus Statue) and the outside terrace cafe at Placa del Rei (behind the main Cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia). Note: Margarita Blue also serves great chicken fajitas...and the prices are muy bajo (inexpensive).

If you are looking for something more easy breezy I suggest trying the locate favorite, a "Clara"....which is half beer and half lemon soda.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This Week's Wine Bargain

Marqués de Tomares "Excellence" Rioja 2007
90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano grapes
A beautiful, classic Rioja. And, at 4,90 euros/bottle (about $6.00)...this week's Wine Bargain!

Monday, April 26, 2010

4 of the Top 10 Restaurants in the World are in Spain!

Four of the top ten restaurants in the world are in Spain: El Bulli in Rosas, Girona; El Celler de Can Roca in Girona; Mugaritz in Rentería, Guipúzcoa; and Arzak, in San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa.

No.2 – El Bulli

2010 Awards – Chef of the Decade

2009 Awards – The World’s Best Restaurant, Best Restaurant in Europe

Ferran’s generous willingness to share his knowledge means his influence now spans the globe. Many of those who have worked with him have taken his techniques and ideas back to their part of the world. Maybe this is what drives Adria to surpass himself each year, in the knowledge that the people who have worked for him are one day capable of topping this list themselves.

Ferran Adria continues to tear up the fine dining rule book, presenting customers with food that often defies description, and maybe even defies the laws of physics too.

El Bulli won the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Award no less than 5 times in the last decade. This achievement earnt Ferran Adria the accolade of Chef of the Decade in 2010.

No.4 – El Celler de Can Roca

2009 Awards – Highest Climber

El Celler de Can Roca is the work of three brothers: head chef Joan Roca, maitre d’ and head sommelier Josep and pastry chef Jordi. Such a meteroric climb into the top 10 might be attributed to their move and new state-of-the-art kitchen-cum-lab, a wine cellar that offers customers an audio-visual journey through five key wine regions and a breathtaking dining space created with natural, organic materials and an abundance of natural light. Spain has yet another top 10 masterpiece restaurant in El Celler De Can Roca.

No.5 – Mugaritz

Andoni Luis Aduriz is often portrayed as the quiet man of Nueva Cocina. His food is less flamboyant than that of many modern Spanish chefs, and, ostensibly, he is less driven by new technology and kitchen science. But it is all a matter of degree. Aduriz spent two years studying the chemistry of coagulation in order to produce the perfect poached egg. Clearly, he is a chef in possession of a fathomless curiosity and a razor-sharp cutting-edge. “I encourage my team to make an individual effort to explore the origin of everything they touch and transform over fire.”

Where Aduriz veers away from molecular gastronomy, however, is that this learning and technical wizardry very much plays a support role in the Mugaritz kitchen. From baking carrots in clay and ash to creating “crunchy milk sheets”, technique and technology are very much a means to an end.

And what is that end? Well, it’s about coaxing the best flavour from the ingredients. It’s also about paying a creative homage to the natural world. This often involves exploring obscure ingredients, such as winter purslane, roasted acorn skins or amaranth grains, and making original, daring marriages on the plate. At a more profound level, it’s about attempting to produce food which resonates on an emotional as well as sensual level.

Mugaritz’s Naturan menu is full of arresting ideas: warm lettuce hearts soaked in vanilla brine; sheep’s milk curd seasoned with hay and toasted fern; beef roasted with the embers of vine cuttings. It is subtler, earthier, less sexy even, than what is going on at El Bulli, but, be in no doubt, Mugaritz is playing a pivotal role in the great global shift away from tradition, orthodoxy and dull restaurant food.
Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, 20100 Errenteria Gipuzkoa, Spain

No.9 – Arzak

Juan Mari Arzak serves dishes to amaze and amuse the senses. His family have occupied the same site in San Sebastian since 1897, and it remains a family affair with his talented daughter Elena at his side now.

Together they offer a modern interpretation of classic Basque cuisine, including such delights as Lobster with white olive oil and smoked white tuna with figs and pine nuts.

Read the entire article and all the Ratings here:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Power of Pimentón

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Paprika a power ingredient? That tasteless powder that your great-aunt sprinkled over potato salad to give it some color? Well, no. But in a fertile valley in the Spanish equivalent of the Wild West, they make a paprika with a sneaky heat and deep smokiness that takes the spice to a whole different place. Called pimentón, it’s a nearly effortless way to add complex flavor to all kinds of dishes, like barbecued brisket, or barbecue sauce, or a Spanish lamb stew, or this quick and easy kale recipe.

Smoky Quick-Cooked Kale
Yield 4 servings

Time 20 minutes

•1 1/4 pounds kale (about one bunch)
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•1 shallot, finely chopped
•2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
•1 teaspoon pimentón de La Vera, preferably agridulce
•1 tablespoon lime juice
•salt and pepper to taste
•1. Remove tough stems and center ribs from kale. Stack half of the leaves and roll into a cigar shape, then cut crosswise into very thin strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.
•2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot, then add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and pimenton and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is softened, about 1 minute.
•3. Add kale and cook, tossing very frequently, until tender and bright green, about 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Source: The New York Times

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I'm the author of the bestselling memoir, Bringing Home the Birkin, published in the USA by William Morrow/Harpercollins, and worldwide in eleven languages.

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