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Barcelona

Notes from Barcelona

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Notes from Barcelona

Tom Armitage | Oct 11, 1999 04:24 AM

Greetings from Barcelona, where the days are sunny and warm, and the food is a Chowhound's dream. For our first meal in Barcelona, my wife and I went to Cal Pep. We had been warned about the long line for a seat at the counter unless you get to the restaurant before it opens at 1:30 p.m. Alas, we arrived shortly after 2:00 and had to wait more than an hour for a seat. My wife does not regard as one of my endearing qualities the (to her) excessive lengths I am willing to go to for food (long drives, long waits, etc.). The longer we waited, the more my wife's agitation was rising, and I was getting her well practiced speech about my obsession with food. I am happy to report, however, that AFTER the meal at Cal Pep, my wife readily conceded it had been well worth the wait, and was already talking about a return visit.

Cal Pep is simply wonderful--noisy, hectic, boistrous, brimming over with energy and personality. No hushed tones and stuffy atmosphere here! We started with small baby clams in a fragrent broth seasoned with Jabugo ham, hot peppers, garlic and parsely. This was followed by lightly fried artichokes; fresh, fat, lightly fried sardines; anchovies served on layers of potatoes and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil; oven baked bacala topped with sauteed greens; razor clams ("havalles" in Catalan) cooked on the grill; fried peppers; fried calamari that we dipped in allioli; and, in response to my inquiry about recommended fresh fish of the day, an oven baked llobina (whiting) with garlic, red chile pepper, and olive oil. All this divine food was accompanied by an unexceptional but emminently quaffable house white wine that seemed just right with the food. For postre, we had a sublime crema catalina. This was one of those meals--one of those experiences--where you leave the restaurant walking on clouds. I can't recommend Cal Pep highly enough.

Other memorable moments have included the bacala al Serallo at Can Sole. The cod, which was moist and wonderfully textured, was served in a simple but wonderful sauce of olive oil and garlic. Also good at Can Sole were the cuttlefish in tomato sauce and the fideua--short strands of a spaghetti-like pasta cooked in fish stock and then baked in a cast iron pot until crispy on the bottom.

Time to get out and enjoy the day in Barcelona. More later.

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