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Barcelona, night uno

August 3, 2009

After wandering around gape-mouthed among all the old in the Barri Gothic, L and I decided to finally begin the foodventure by heading north into the Eixample. First stop, had sangria and fried goat cheese balls with honey. No pics (sorry) but of course it was as delicious as something with fried, cheese, and honey in the name implies. Then, we took off into a residential neighborhood and after declining the advances of about thirty different restaurants, we wandered into Restaurant #31 for no real good reason. We sit at the bar, and here’s our conversation with the smiling bartenderess:

Bartenderess: something in Spanish or possibly Catalan

Us: Um.

Bartenderess: more Spanishy talk

Us: Uh (vaguely remembers guide book advice for eating tapas), la especialidad de la casa?

Bartenderess: confused look

Bartenderess: really quick Spanish/Catalan, possibly with some pointing

Us: Si, uno.

Bartenderess: more rapid-fire Spanish/Catalan with nodding

Us: nodding idiotically, praying that we’re ordering food

Us: Dos.

Bartenderess: smiles because she was supernice and patient with us Estupidos Americanos and we love her

And this is what that sweet sweet woman, a hero really, brought us:

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From the top: shavings of some sort of cheese, possibly manchego, definitely yum. To the right, grilled octopus, hacked up into little pieces and dusted with a paprika-ish powder around a little pile of potatoes. At the bottom, toasts with a kind of olive oil, tomato, and garlic paste smeared on it (this, as it turns out, is the chips and salsa of Catalan cuisine, called pa amb tomaquet). To the left is a some sort of a bacon croquette.

Zoom in on that octopus:

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I’ve definitely had squids, but don’t know as though I’d ever had octopus (also, I don’t know how the tech specs for each differ, but I’m working on the assumption that octopi are bigger, and possibly eviller). But this was simply spectacular. I fully expected these morsels to hit my mouth like a thick hunk of suction-cup-studded rubber band, but it had an amazingly tender, almost crab meat-like consistency, and the slightly firmer texture of the suckers was especially delightful. I liked imagining them puckering onto the insides of my stomach. L was equally amazed. Now we like octopus. Horizons broadened!

And in case you’re wondering, here’s an interior of that bacon croquette:

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Terrific, I could have had a dozen. We left with little beating hearts in our eyes for the bartenderess that brought us the magic octopus and decided to grab another drink and bite at what appeared to be a pretty hopping place. Didn’t see a menu, but ordered a tasty little combo that seemed to dominate what was being ordered up and down the bar:

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What we have here is basically two kinds of cheese, probably brie and mozzarella relatives, one dipped in a fruit sauce, and a couple little rolls of bacon, all poked onto a skewer, dusted in crumbs, and then deep fried. Fried bacon rolls on a stick! With cheese! An absolutely perfect finale, and certainly wouldn’t be the last time we would have fried cheese for dessert. And, if you’re keeping score at home, that makes:

Cheese: 4

Bacon: 2

Sea critters: 1

Tomato bread: 1

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