I spent two weeks in Costa Brava a few years ago and was totally unfamiliar with Catalan cuisine before my visit. The first few days went something like excited exclamations of: “Jamón ibérico! Paella!” After two or three days of stuffing my face full of delicious, salty ham and eating every kind of paella, the excited exclamations became groans of “Jamón ibérico. Ugh. Paella. Ugh.” I seriously don’t think I saw a single vegetable for two weeks. I was totally ready to smuggle in some fixing for a salad on my next trip to Spain. But my friend Lauren, owner of Devour Spain food tours, convinced me to come along on a Devour Barcelona food tour with the promise of an introduction to a much wider variety of Catalan cuisine.
And did the Devour Barcelona food tour ever deliver! The walking food tour weaves through the tiny streets of the Gràcia neighborhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Passeig de Gràcia. Gràcia was it’s own city up until the late 19th century and the people are very proud of the heritage. They still say they are from Gràcia, not Barcelona. It reminded me how the Venetians are insistent that they are Venetian, not Italian.
Like Venice, many of the little restaurants and bars were established many years ago and handed down through the family with another generation still running them today. The team at Devour Spain spent countless hours eating everything to select the best of the best, painstakingly narrowing it down to nine delicious stops.
There wasn’t a single stop that I didn’t immensely enjoy. It was all delicious and I was thrilled that we didn’t have a single paella. I’m not going to tell you about all nine stops – you’ll just have to book your own Devour Barcelona food tour – but, I will share a few of my favorites.
Grilled Botifarra Sandwich with Cava
Sometimes it’s truly amazing how delicious a simple dish can be. The grilled botifarra (a very typical Catalan pork sausage) is simply grilled and served on bread that is rubbed with a little bit of garlic and special type of tomato, then drizzled with olive oil. The sandwich was served with a glass of cava (the Spanish version of champagne). It a delicious way to start the day.
“Bomba” Croquette with Brava Sauce and Alioli
This little “bomba” was literally a delicious bomb of spice that exploded in your mouth as you bit in to it and the potato and ground beef mixed with the brava sauce and alioli (garlic and oil). It was just the right of spicy, perfectly neutralized with an oak-aged Catalan red wine from the Penedès (or a Catalan draft beer if you preferred).
Vermouth and Pickled Anchovies
Let me preface this by declaring just how much I DO NOT like anchovies. But when in Rome…er, Gràcia. I braced myself for the worst as I speared one of the two anchovies on my plate with a toothpick and, like pulling off a bandaid in one fell swoop, just dropped it in to my mouth. Maybe it was because they were pickled, but it wasn’t at all salty and fishy like anchovies usually are. It was so tasty, I happily speared the second one and popped it in my mouth. I was disappointed to see that everyone else on the tour had enjoyed the anchovies equally as much; I was really hoping to take a few unwanted ones off people’s plates.
I also braced myself for the burning sensation Vermouth usually leaves. But this Vermouth was dangerously good. Smooth, it went down a little too easily. I can see why hora del vermut (Vermouth hour) is such a trendy thing in Barcelona these days. Who wouldn’t want to spend an hour each afternoon sipping this sweet fortified wine, nibbling on delicious bits and relaxing with friends?
Oh my goodness, this little shop had the best take-away dishes that are home made daily. As we stood eating our albondigas (meatballs), a steady stream of locals came in a got containers to take away and eat for their lunch. I had a bus to catch that afternoon, otherwise I totally would have gotten a container of the tasty meatballs with chickpea and bean gravy to munch on as an evening snack. So yummy!
Of course you have to have something sweet and we ended the tour with these mini cremants. You actually won’t find these anywhere else but one very special bakery in Barcelona, which has been handed down through the family. The owner invented the cremant as a play on crema catalana, a type of Catalan creme brulee. The cremant is a very light cake topped with the crema catalana and it is a little bite of heaven.
I know it looks like we only ate and ate…and ate some more on the Devour Barcelona food tour, but we actually learned quite a bit of the history of the Gràcia neighborhood from our knowledgeable guide, Renee. It was a lot of fun learning about the neighborhood and hearing the stories of each shop, bar or restaurant owner while eating our way through it. It was such a great experience, I can’t wait to join more of Devour Spain’s food tours in other cities like Madrid and Seville.
Looking for more things to do in Barcelona? Check out these free things to do in Barcelona.
I was an invited guest of Devour Spain in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.