After two quiet years in Barcelona’s culinary scene due to the pandemic, it felt like in 2022 a storm of energy was released to shake up the city. On the more mainstream side, we saw bright re-launchings such as Teatro, a reincarnation (with new owners) of the Adriá-Iglesias brothers’ famous Tickets, and the resurrection of Albert Adrià’s Enigma after being closed for 27 months. There was also lots of movement in smaller neighborhood kitchens as local chefs fought heroically to adapt and survive, resulting in creative new partnerships like that of Bodega d’en Rafel and Celler Florida, or the forthcoming project at Mercat de la Llibertat from Alexis Peñalber of La Pubilla. This year also saw a crucial lack of personnel in the restaurant industry which affected many establishments. Maybe this will turn into good news – a push to improve the working conditions of countless waiters and cooks. As always, there was also a series of closings including our beloved Bodega Pinyol, which we will miss very much.
In any case, at Culinary Backstreets we remain steady despite these changes, keeping our attention on what gives meaning to all our work: the pleasure of a magnificent dish – a fragile moment of glory at a noisy little table in the corner of a terrace. This seemingly trivial moment is everything; it is a collective victory for everyone, from the producer to the final customer. Here some of our Barcelona Best Bites of the year:
El Racó del Peix
In the north of Barcelona, where the city starts to integrate with the foothills of Collserola Natural Park, we found El Racó del Peix. This Mediterranean restaurant, owned by Arturo Garzón and María José Millán, was founded by a family with generations of experience selling fish and vegetables in the Montserrat market in the Nou Barris neighborhood.
Our favorite in this restaurant was also the best rice dish we had this year. It was their brothy rice with blue crab (arròs caldós de cranc blau or arroz caldoso de cangrejo azul del Delta), which we enjoyed in their lovely terrace. The blue crab from the Ebro river delta – originally an invasive species (Callinectes sapidus) introduced accidentally from the western Atlantic Ocean – is now one of the main natural flavor boosters for local rice dishes, and lends powerful personality to the restaurant’s fumet (a concentrated stock used for paella and other traditional rice dishes). Onion, tomato, red pepper and cuttlefish complete the dish, topped with big pieces of crab nestled among the bomba rice, which also comes from the Delta de L’Ebre in southern Catalonia.
Fromagerie Can Luc
Can Luc is the kind of neighborhood shop that becomes indispensable once you’ve discovered it. Opened by Luc Tallbordet from France, Can Luc specializes in European artisanal cheeses, selecting around 150 varieties, mostly from producers who own their own cattle. French products dominate the shelves and fridges here, of course, but you can also find a great selection of lactic treasures from Spain and other European countries, such as a great Spanish Manchego, Payoyo, Ideazábal or Garratoxa, magnificent Swiss Comtes (aged 18 or 36 months), and many others.
Here you will not only find a wide variety of cheeses but also any kind of tools or accompaniments you might need to enjoy them: crackers, toasts, marmalades and chutneys, wines, and a short but excellent selection of charcuterie, conservas, rillets, pâté and pâté en croûte. Neighbors know that if they want to organize a spontaneous raclette or fondue night, they can even borrow the necessary equipment from Can Luc with an excellent selection of cheeses for the occasion. Here, as Luck proclaims on the blackboard outside the shop, cheese is more than just food, it is also a form of therapy.
The Best of Catalunya and Galicia at Besta
We often say that Spain is like a door between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea; a portal through which many cultures have crossed for centuries, influencing the essence of the many different Spanish cultural identities. At Besta, you will taste in each dish intersection of both sides: Catalunya in the east and Galicia in the west.
Best was opened in 2021 by chef Manu Núñez, a Galician with a long history in Barcelona at restaurant Arume, and Carles Ramón, a Catalan chef with years of experience working in Galicia. The menu of small plates, heavy on seafood, changes with the tides of the seasons, mixing flavors and products and always under the same criteria of creativity and quality. Last time we went, we loved the scallops served over delicate crispy almonds and crowned with a garlicky citrus butter; delicious seared wild gilt-head bream with toasted cauliflower in escabeche sauce. We also can’t forget the fried scorpionfish with lemon cream or the artichokes with aged beef picaña carpaccio and a menier sauce with little codium seaweed branches.
Volcanic Wine: La Solana, Fincas del Marqués, D.O. Valle de la Orotava
This is the wine that I always found myself talking about during the last year. I found it in the shelves of El Maravillas, a great tapas bar in the lovely Concordia square in the Les Corts neighborhood of Barcelona. This particular wine comes from Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, one of ten designated wine areas spread along the Canary Islands in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean.
La Solana is a fantastic smooth wine with a strong geological personality that immediately transports you to the burning volcanic heart of the islands. It has a clean, very mineral sulfuric aroma that starts to evaporate during the airing process to give way to the fresh taste of berries with notes of wet soil.
This low-sulfite wine is made with minimal intervention by Suertes del Marqués, a family run winery started in 2006. La Solana was our introduction to the 19 wonderful wines they produce. The wine is made with 100 percent red Listan grapes from centenarian vineyards on volcanic rock, grown with the traditional cordón múltiple trenzado system, in which the grape branches are intertwined. The wine is fermented for fourteen days in concrete tanks with its own native yeast, undergoing malolactic maceration, and finished with 12 months in French oak barrels and manual bâtonnage. From the magmatic hells to the heavens!
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Published on December 29, 2022