As slender and stylish as most of the people in Barcelona are, it might come as a surprise that they spend most of their leisure time eating and drinking.
Breakfasts here are simple, perhaps because they all know lunch will be a multi-course affair with fried seafood, cheese, cured pork and wine. But dinner – which often doesn’t begin until 10 p.m. – is the main meal here. This is when they unwind with a glass of cava – always cava – before moving into martinis and a parade of dishes that capture the flavor of the region.
Pan tomaquet is the Catalan dish that’s on the table at every meal. Crusty bread is lightly toasted, rubbed with ripe tomato and finished with olive oil and a pinch of salt. It’s a meal in itself if you’re starving.
Pimientos de padron are these savory and tender green peppers that are served blistered with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and a splash of vinegar. Eating them is like playing a game of culinary Russian roulette. Some are mild with a pleasantly bittersweet green flavor and some are quite spicy. You won’t know which you’ve gotten until you take a bite.
The ultimate ham experience in the world is jamon iberico de bellota, a cured ham that comes from black pigs that were raised on hazelnuts and herbs. The nutty flavor comes through in the satiny slices of rosy red ham, making it irresistible for a pork lover.
The wine to drink with all of these foods is cava, a sparkling wine that’s made in the same method as champagne using native grapes xarello, maçabeo and parellada. Cava comes in a range of styles from crisp and young with green apple flavors to richer rosés with pinot noir in the mix to long-aged sparkling wines with the depth and intensity of any famous champagne.