Barcelona: Cooking School

When researching Barcelona, a partner at my company recommended taking a cooking course. Because we were traveling with my sister, who loves to cook, as well as little, who is always up for helping in the kitchen, this idea made perfect sense. What a truly unique way to experience culture – a food and market tour followed by a cooking class.

Honestly, there are so many highly rated classes the only reason we chose Barcelona Cooking School (BCS) was the fact that they charged half price for kids. At about $75-$100 a lesson per person, it was a significant savings.

The class started with us meeting in the BCS offices right on La Ramba, where we were introduced to Chef Lalo and we headed to the famous La Boqueria market. La Boqueria is on the site where there was a monastery at one time with the market being on the boulevard of La Ramblas, but it all moved indoors to the current space in the 1800s. Our chef admitted that most avid foodies, chefs and locals do not shop there, as it is expensive compared to other local markets. But the location is great and many folks that live in the immediate area do frequent it for quick shopping.

We started with the market tour, where Lalo brought us along to pick peppers, fresh eggs, herbs, jamon (ham), and seafood – we bought mussels, prawns, cuttlefish and baby clams. He pointed out how to determine the best and most fresh fish and how to ask for origin labels to ensure shellfish was coming from the Mediterranean or fish from the north sea. We took mental notes of where the peppers and Spanish saffron was the least expensive so we could pick some up after class.

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One beautiful tHunting.jpghing about the market is the fresh fruit. Gorgeous fresh juices lined stalls for only a euro or two while cups of berries, dragon fruit and mangos sat in ice. Little picked mango and kiwi juice and watermelon juice. Chef explained to us that much of the fruit was greenhouse or out of season, except the mangos. He also showed us the foraged fruit area – tiny fresh berries – as well as the wild meat section, with rabbit, pheasant and grouse hanging. He showed us the difference in the color of meat when something is fed with grain, corn, free range and wild, which comes into play with Iberian ham, which is free range pork fed on acorns. This wasn’t for the weak of heart; there were many tongues, testicles, and lamb heads in the cases.

Once in class, we were given our tasks and instruction. Little was put on duty for dessert and Chef taught him to make Crème Catalan, a kind of crème brulee. We worked on a soup while others in the class cleaned seafood for the Paella and prepped ingredients for a Spanish omlette. BCS did a wonderful job with little; he was given real responsibilities – crack eggs and extract yolks, mix, use the torch to caramelize – all under the instruction of a professional but treated like a real contributor.

Paella2When we were done with our cooking, the 8 attendees and chef sat down to enjoy the meal together. It was delicious. Little tried many new things as kids often do when they are the ones cooking and he recognized a lot of what we grow in our own garden. He’s ready to return home and make some of the courses himself – including his new favorite, Pan con Tomate. Here’s how you make it:

·         Bread (toasted, sourdough)

·         Tomatoes from the vine, halfed

·         Olive Oil

·         Salt

Toast the bread lightly. Rub your tomato half on the bread, skin side up, until only the skin is left. Drizzle olive oil over the tomato and then add a sprinkle/pinch of flaky sea salt.

The above is the traditional Catalan breakfast and side for most meals that we enjoyed many times in Barcelona, sometimes with a simple slice of Manchego over it. Little swears he is going to make this every day when our tomatoes ripen this summer and the way he devoured it daily, I won’t be surprised.  Enjoy!

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Barcelona: Where the Streets Have No Name

There is so, so much to do in Barcelona for families.

Gaudi Sites: There are some things you just HAVE to do in Barcelona and they shouldn’t LaSagrada5be skipped. La Sagrada Familia and all the wonderful things Antonio Gaudi did for example. La Sagrada Familia is the Basilica Gaudi famously started over 140 years ago that is STILL under construction. As Gaudi once said, his client (God) has no timeline. Under construction or not, it is absolutely a stunning and remarkable artistic contribution that is a must. The play of light in the glass, the towering arches, the tiny playful finds and passionate details – La Sagrada does not disappoint and is wonderful for families to visit. A few things to note:

  • It is a church. You must cover shoulders and knees and children need to be respectful.
  • Buy tickets ahead of time; it is wildly popular.
  • There are two different towers you can climb; you take an elevator up and walk across and down. Not for the weak of heart.
  • There is a great playground outside that is perfect for giving children an opportunity to run around; it’s split into two areas for tiny little and mid-sized ones.

 

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Parc Guell

Parc Guell is another Gaudi masterpiece. The park sits on a hill overlooking Barcelona and contains two guard houses (you can visit one) as well as a nice area to walk around with gardens. When we visited, about half the area seemed to be under construction and that was disappointing. You’ll need to buy tickets ahead of time, as only 40 people are let into the park every 30 minutes.

 

Churches in Barcelona are beautiful and the ones we visited were free, with the exception of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, as that one came with a guided tour and trip up the Bell Tower, where we could see the roman wall and original old Barcelona boundaries.

 

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Barcelona Cathedral

The Barcelona Cathedral is the resting spot for the tomb of St. Eulalia, the patron saint of Barcelona. The cathedral has much 14th and 15th century art as well as many famous characters from Barcelona history. You’ll find 13 white geese in residency in the outside cloisters, each one representing one year that St. Eulalia lived. We also visited the Church of Santa Anna, a 13th century monastery and chapel where we were lucky enough to attend a private Spanish Guitar concert. With only 20 seats in the chapel, it was very intimate and moving, but should only be attempted with children who can stay still for an hour and a half. Little was thrilled to buy a cd and have it signed after the concert.

 

La Rambla: This famous boulevard has vendors along both sides and tourists wander along until they meet the harbor. It’s a great place to pick up little things but it was very busy – and very touristy. Once we had walked up and down, we felt there wasn’t much of a reason to go back. If you do make it to the Harbor, there is an aquarium and large shopping mall there.

gotic.jpgNeighborhoods: La Rambla is very famous with tourists as is the gorgeous Gotic (Gothic) quarter. While the Gothic quarter’s beauty cannot be beat, the bottom level is crawling with tourists, postcard shops, chain places like McDonalds and Dunkin Doughnuts. On one end, the Gothic Quarter meets the old harbor (Christopher Colombus’s statue is here) and on the other, it meets Ravel, a higher end neighborhood the is overrun by tourists on weekends. We preferred staying in the Born area, which I had been told was a lower-income area with students and artist. As a result there were amazing coffee shops, tapas bars, bakeries within minutes of our door. Which brings us to where we were staying:

Aparthotel Aladda: An Apart-hotel is a neat concept where you stay in an apartment but it’s a hotel-like environment: there is someone at the front desk to help you some of the time. The one we chose was a one bedroom, two bath with a mini kitchen and was within a 5-10 minute walk to Ravel, the Gothic Quarter and all of the amazing sites so we wouldn’t need cabs, metro or buses. Barcelona is a maze of tall, 18th century buildings that circle around little plazas, each with different restaurants, cafes and shops. Ours had pizza, sushi, Chinese and tapas, a British pub, as well as a shirt boutique, pharmacy and small market and turned into an open-air market on Saturday. Oh! And a small playground, which little LOVED and played in daily. It was just around the corner from a self-serve laundry and only 2 blocks from the Picasso museum. It can be so, so easy to get lost in Born but technology to the rescue – we could always open the phone to check in and re-navigate to our apartment.

 

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Picasso Museum

Speaking of the Picasso Museum, that was a lovely surprise! They offer an audio tour geared just for kids! It was a huge hit for little, who listened to every single moment and learned so much.

 

With a good base and the right attitude, you really can’t go wrong staying and playing in Old Barcelona.

Barcelona: Spanish Nights (Tapas)

Oh, Barcelona. We have eaten so well.

There are two things you will see over and over again as you look for food in Barcelona: Paella (to be covered in another blog) and Tapas. Tapas happens to be the *perfect* food for traveling with kiddos.

Tapas are small savory dishes served at a bar. Here is the deal: the tapas bars open at lunchtime and don’t become real “bars” until much later at night. You can stop by a tapas bar with your kid for lunch or early dinner (we try to be done by 7) and you will be welcomed in. And what a treat – order a glass of Cava or Red wine and start exploring the menu.

We made a meal of tapas every single day in Barcelona. Of course there are touristy places that aren’t the best (I question “nachos” on an authentic tapas menu, but maybe I’m wrong). Honestly, there are SO MANY highly-rated tapas places on every block, a quick google search for reviews and the flexibility to walk another block will ensure you have an enjoyable experience.

Small plates mean that kids can try something without breaking the bank. Little always

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Pan con Tomato

wanted Pan con Tomato (a bread toasted and spread with tomato and olive oil), olives, and a vegetable side (asparagus is in season now.) He would often try a fish or a ham as well. The adults ordered potatos bravos, a wonderful potato wedge with cheese and picante sauce, as well as other local treats like cheese plates, duck, scallops. A good rule of thumb is order a few “safe” things for the kids and a couple adventurous plates you would like to try.

 

 

 

Some of the fabulous places we ate wonderful tapas in Barcelona:

We had so many more recommendations but just hit up well rated places near our neighborhood (Born.) You really can’t go wrong with a quick google search and taking a peek at the menu.