A Frommer’s gourmet Barcelona tour, fully illustrated

Barcelona has one of the liveliest food scenes in Europe right now, with celebrity chefs, sprawling outdoor markets, and gourmet dishes of all sizes and prices — which is why when I toured through the city in April I decided I would spend my days stuffing my face with tapas. I wanted to try the squid, the croquettes, the chocolate, the cava, the works.

I’m a Frommer’s editor by day (read more about that here), so I somehow cooked up the idea that the best way to do this would be to eat my way through the entire “Gourmet Barcelona” tour from Frommer’s Barcelona Day by Day, written by Neil Schlecht. This would be no small feat as the tour has 14 stops and is spread throughout the city. The tour’s introduction notes “this isn’t a day-long tasting menu unless you choose to make it one,” which I took to mean this is more of a list to explore at leisure rather than a typical one-day itinerary.

Still, I was determined to nosh my way through Neil’s list, testing out both the tour and the limits of my stomach. I had 2 days to do this before I left Barcelona to reconvene with my sister in Madrid (she was off touring the Costa Brava).

I gave myself a few ground rules: I would visit every stop but didn’t have to stick to the tour’s order; I would consume or at least buy something at each stop; I would allow myself the full two days (there was no point in running around and getting sick along La Rambla); I would roll with whatever punches Murphy’s law sent my way; and I would report all my findings, warts and all.

Did I finish the tour? and still fit into my pants at the end? Click below for a gallery with the answers. Be sure to start with the first photo, a map of the itinerary.

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Frommer’s on Gadling? The “Blogger Swap” Explained

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been swaps. Land swaps. Housing swaps. Student exchange swaps. Lunchbox dessert swaps. Baseball card swaps. Baseball player swaps. “Cash for Clunkers” swaps. Wife Swap. Now, for your reading pleasure, a Blogger Swap.

That’s a long way of saying that I’ll be writing on Gadling during the month of September, though I normally write on Frommers.com. Gadling’s Jeremy Kressman and Grant Martin will both write for Frommer’s. It’s an experiment that will hopefully not disrupt the travel/time/space continuum or cause anyone’s favorite cereals or bacon to get thrown away.

(That’s a Wife Swap reference. Everything that can go awesomely wrong with a swap is illustrated in a recent 1-minute clip of the show. Click here to watch.)

So who am I, and what do you get out of this barter? I am an Associate Editor at Frommer’s travel guides, and I contribute to our editors’ blog, Behind the Guides. I’m currently editing Napa and Sonoma Day by Day, Frommer’s India, and Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop Hong Kong. I’m hoping to use this month to revisit a fantastic 3-week vacation I took with my sister Diane through Italy and Spain in April. We noshed our way through Rome, Siena, up through the Chianti region and Florence to Venice, then over to Barcelona and Madrid. I ate through an entire Frommer’s “Gourmet Barcelona” itinerary and had a home-cooked meal on an agriturismo vineyard/B&B in Chianti. I dined at a Ferran Adrià restaurant in Madrid! I made a lot of food memories – fairly emotional food memories. It’s funny, as the editor of Frommer’s Rome, I remember deleting a few exclamation points I thought were gratuitous. This was the sort of trip that made me want to throw them all back in.

To help with my trip “notes,” I had a strict rule for myself to take a picture of every single dish I ate – and yes, whipping out a big, clunky camera in some of Europe’s best restaurants occasionally made me feel like an idiot and earned me glances from my sister. (Identifying myself as media would have made things easier, but that’s against Frommer’s policy at restaurants.) But in the end, I got the shots, and I’ll share the best ones here.

To whet your appetite, and as a tangible sign that I will not throw away Gadling’s bacon, I sprinkled in a few shots from Restaurante Botin in Madrid. It’s the world’s oldest restaurant (founded in 1725) – and the setting of the end of The Sun Also Rises! This is a half portion of the suckling pig, their specialty, with the oven they’ve used here for centuries.

The dish was EUR 22.50, so my sister and I split it. That’s an average entrée price at Botin (though this is the kind of place with a few marked-up specialties, like their baby eels for a whopping EUR 132 and their “quarter of an hour fish soup” for EUR 16.25).

As we waited for our lunch with glasses of wine in hand, Diane, a certified veterinarian, casually said, “It was probably 4 to 6 weeks old,” referring to our suckling pig. Dining with a vet can be humbling for a carnivore. So I feel somewhat guilty for saying the pig was entirely delicious: perfectly crisp on the outside, tender and juicy inside, very delicately seasoned and served in its jus, with a ham croquette. It would have been the standout dish of the day, had I not enjoyed – there’s just no way to avoid sounding like a jerk here – the Ferran Adrià tasting menu that evening.

I’ll be back with more proverbial bacon, including Adrià’s meal, throughout the month.

Photo of the Day (6/23/07)

Mazatlan Bananas
File this one under: Mazatlan Food Porn.

This shot comes from my own gallery of Mexican goodies and was taken moments before satisfying my personal street food craving in Mazatlan. While fried bananas covered in condensed milk and caramel is hardly frightening, one can never tell what exotic belly dance type effect foreign food will have on the bowels while vacationing. I survived! Today’s self-promoting POTD also comes with a reminder to check out this gallery of Weird Things People Eat Around the World and this plug on avoiding side effects of bad street food.

Bon appetite!