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We escaped the tourist zone on this food tour.  In neighborhoods where the locals live is a great way of experiencing the food and culture of a city.  Courtesy of Context Tours we got a peak into Barcelona’s local Catalan tradition of “pica-pica” which means sharing nibbles (tapas) with a glass of red Spanish vermouth.

Tapas are appetizers or small plates served cold or hot for lunch or dinner.  On the Barcelona Tapas Tour, our guide, Esther Dotras introduced us to an array of tapas in  the Poble Sec district of Barcelona,  one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, it was once considered a poor area, and has now evolved into an ” up-and-coming” place with an emerging food scene.

Our small group included a lovely lady from Australia named Tanya. Our first stop on this culinary walk was Els Sortidors del Parlament. Once a mechanic’s workshop, it’s now a cool little restaurant offering a large assortment of Catalan wines and Spanish vermouths. Before we sat down Esther showed us an interesting looking glass vessel called the porron. A traditional wine pitcher that can be shared by pouring directly into your mouth.  She also showed us the selection of vermouths. Unlike the type we avoid in Martinis, Spanish vermouth is vibrant and spicy. It has a wide range of offerings – traditional deep balsamic flavors to lighter sweet flavors with a variety of herbs and citrus.

Esther demonstrated how to make one of the most popular tapas called Pan Con Tomate (tomato bread).  Our table was set with olive oil, garlic, dense crusty bread, and a basket of beautiful tomatoes. Esther, lightly coated a slice of bread with garlic then took a half tomato and rubbed it on the bread slice. Atop that she drizzled olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. This was delicious and a fun dish to share.

Following the Pan Con Tomate we were served a cheese platter with a variety of Catalan cheeses raging from blue, goat and manchego cheeses. On he table was a variety of cured spanish olives.  Esther explained that Spain has over 300 million olive trees, most located in the south. We were also served a delicious red vermouth which paired beautifully with the cheese.

Next we walked to one of Esther’s favorite small tapas bars called Bar Nostalgic.  Her good friend and owner Toni came out and introduced each of his tapas.  Our first treat was Croquetas De Jamon (ham croquettes). This dish has a long history as a Christmas holiday food, Now it’s enjoyed all year long. A mixture of ham, cheese, and eggs are coated in bread crumbs then deep fried. It was crunchy and tasty!  Next he dropped La Bomba tapas on us. This bomb shaped potato has savory meat inside and is topped with a spicy sauce.  We were then treated to a tapas for which Toni recently won an award.  Atop a vermouth drizzled slice of bread sat cheese, olive tapenade and a savory jam.  After tasting it, we agreed it deserved the award. We enjoyed these delicious bites with a glass of white wine.

Our final tapas stop was Rosal #34 another trendy cool restaurant that hits you with a beautiful display of tapas at the entrance.  We shared fried zucchini flowers with Bacalao (dried cod) with a romesco sauce.  Next we had small plate of Pimientos de Padron. This was new to us and Jeff’s favorite find of the night. Small green Padron peppers are fried in a cast iron pan with hot olive oil and a pinch of salt. These are commonly mild, yet an occasional a hot one turns up – about one in ten. The anticipation of getting a hot one adds to the fun of eating these scrumptious little devils. The last dish was a large plate of savory marinated prawns. We washed them down with a fine Catalan wine.

Our evening was topped off perfectly with a stop for some heavenly gelato from Gelati Dino’s. After waiting in a line that extended out the door, Esther, suggested a gelato flavor using ingredients based on traditional desserts in Barcelona.

With full tummies we gratefully thanked Esther for a terrific tour and walked back to our nearby Airbnb. What a great evening. We all agreed we felt like locals for the evening – meeting the tapas restaurant owners and getting such extensive insight from our guide.

A big thanks to Paul and Nick at Context tours for arranging this tour.  Also, coming soon, a podcast on our Airbnb in Barcelona with Air2share Podcast.  Plus, a new Savory Road podcast and blog on our Context, Naples Food Tour.

Context Tours Website