Sunday, June 28

Hake Detail, La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

Hake detail [enlarge]

As part of my La Boqueria market series I wanted to show you this detail of a hake which is one of the most consumed fish species on the Spanish table. Here are some essential recipes to enjoy hake: Merluza a la Gallega, Merluza a la Vasca and Cocochas al Pil Pil, there are many more of course. Remember to accompany them with a good white wine, like Albariño for example.

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Friday, June 26

Dragees or Peladillas, La Boqueria market, Barcelona

Dragees or Peladillas at La Boqueria Market [enlarge]

Dragées come in many different colors as you can see here. In fact I had never seen purple or green ones before. In English I prefer to call them dragées instead of sugar almonds or Jordan almonds since they can carry not only almonds but also raisins, nuts, liqueur or just chocolate but to be honest here they call them all peladillas (sugar almonds) in spite of having also the word gragea which is more general and seldom used. I don't know in your country but in Spain it is customary to give them as a present to guests at a wedding or baptism as they are thought to bring luck. They are usually presented inside a basket or a tulle net along with the newlyweds or the child's name. Peladillas are undoubtedly a coveted and appealing treat for children and adults alike. The origin is not clear, some say it was a Roman delicacy called tragemata created accidentally by Julius Dragatus, some others say it was the name of a slave or that it was reinvented by Pecquet in 1760 a famous French confectioner who gave them the current sleek appearance and used to supply the court aristocrats who carry them in small boxes called drageoirs. The final product is obtained after a five-day process which I won't describe here. According to the dictionary the word comes from Greek tragêmata that means sweet, treat, a sort of food made of nuts and fruit that could be munched or chewed. Gragea means pill or tablet so as you can see history is like a giant puzzle where every piece makes sense. There are even variations of the word like the verb to dredge in English which means to sprinkle or coat with some powdered substance and of course is used in cookery. Interesting don't you think? Peladillas are common in some parts of Valencia and Alicante, in Southeast Spain. The image was taken in La Boqueria market, Barcelona.

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Tuesday, June 23

Ferran Street As Seen From La Rambla, Barcelona

Ferran Street As Seen From La Rambla, Barcelona [enlarge]

First of all I suggest you click on the image for the larger size in which you will better appreciate old Carrer de Ferran (Ferran is Fernando in Spanish), a long street that goes from La Rambla (see plaque on left top corner) to Sant Jaume square right at the other end. Notice pedestrians have preference here although some cars do circulate. Besides the attractive modernist lamps there are some interesting shops and restaurants. I have always enjoyed this view on Ferran street cause there are no obstacles in the way. I mean, you can see far away and the buildings on both sides are aligned in perfect symmetry.

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Friday, June 19

Afternoon Relax

Couple sitting on bench in the afternoon [enlarge]

I am having some kind of kit kat moment along the way. I hope you don't mind. I chose this snap I took at Maremagnum shopping center cause it shows more or less how I want to be like, relaxed and enjoying the view. I guess it is the sight of future holidays around the corner what makes you reach a sort of peak in the graph of our life. You work all year long, nothing changes but when they show you a glimpse of how you could be doing instead of wasting your time at the office then that mental strength of yours starts crumbling down. It's like a race and the moment right before the finish line. Look at that seagull, can't you see it honey?

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Monday, June 15

Thirsty Like A Dog

thirsty dog [enlarge]

I don't like cliches and showing dogs, cats or any pets, you know, is kind of a classic. But this one was a thirsty dog and it can help illustrate the arrival of hot temperatures in Barcelona. I just liked the way the lady calmed the animal's thirst, directly from the bottle. Other than that this is just another picture of a dog.

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Thursday, June 11

Door Knocker in Barri Gotic

Door Knocker in Barri Gotic [enlarge]

Door knockers are fascinating and intriguing objects, small jewels of craftsmanship still doing their anonymous work instead of being in some museum showcase, I mean, that's where they ought to be. Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is full of them although there are other good examples disseminated around the city. I invite you to check older photographs featuring some interesting designs.


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Monday, June 8

Escriba Pastry Shop, Rambla de les Flors, 83

Escriba Pastry Shop or Pastisseria Escribá, Rambla de les Flors, 83 [enlarge]

Pastisseria Escribà occupies today what used to be the former Casa Figueres named after the family who first established a shop here. Although it is stated that it was founded in 1820, it was originally situated at Sant Ramon street but Jaume Figueres moved into this new establishment in 1842. The building was refurbished in 1902 by stage designer Ros i Güell. We should say that the Figueres family used to sell pasta and semolina so this was not always a pastry shop. The building is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau specially because of the rich interior decoration. On the façade the trencadis mosaic prevails along with some ornamental stonework. See it for yourself on this detail located on the corner of La Rambla and Carrer Petxina (petxina is Catalan for shell). The Escribá family bought the house in 1986 and from then on it has become one of the best pastry shops in Barcelona. The exact address is Rambla de les Flors, 83. Escribá also owns another well known pastry shop in Gran Via and a strategically located restaurant in front of the sea where besides the exquisite paella, desserts are a must. Escriba is known as the Mozart of chocolate but that is part of another story. Of course we refer to Antonio Escribà the founder and master. But there is also the son, Christian, a fourth-generation pastry chef or maître-pâtissier who owns the pastry shop in La Rambla at present and has developed an art of his own: patisserie jewels, collections half way between fashion and confectionery. Please read more about these renown artists by following the link above. Check an older post on Escriba Pastry Shop here.

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Saturday, June 6

Camiseria Xanco at Rambla, 78 - Selling Shirts Since 1820

Camiseria Xanco [enlarge]

In 1820 Antoni Cotchet i Nin founded old Casa Cotchet which he left to his former employers Josep Xancó i Farreras and Joan Bel that got in charge. Xancò who came from a wealthy family in Caldes de Malavella, Girona eventually took over the shop after Joan Bel resigned in 1921. In the 40s, Josep Xancó died, and the shop was inherited by his daughter Herminia Xancó and subsequently by her son Tristan Xancó Kussrrowc, who is in charge at present and has expanded the business. This is a sidewalk metal plaque in front of the store in which the city hall celebrated the 173rd anniversary of this unique historical shop in Barcelona. It reads "Camiseria Xancó 1820 - 1993 to all those years serving the city". Soon I will show you the place in detail.

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Thursday, June 4

Asian Umbrellas and Fans on Casa Bruno Quadros

Umbrellas and Fans on Casa Bruno Quadros [enlarge]

Although this façade was shown here in the past, I think last time I didn't feature it in all its splendor. I had an old lousy camera and the size of the picture was not the right one. This used to be an umbrella shop located in the ground floor of Casa Bruno Quadros (1891 - 1896 by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, the oldest of all modernista architects) more than a century ago at Rambla de Sant Josep, 82 right in front of La Boqueria. Imagine a wide road full of cafes with their attractive canopies, carriages drawn by horses, errand boys rushing, maids in aprons, workers wearing sided berets, elegantly dressed gentlemen walking with arrogant gait at the rhythm of their sticks and beautiful ladies showing off that brand new umbrella that had just arrived from Paris. Modernity, innovation came from neighboring industrialized countries. Wealthy members of the Catalan society felt more identified with cultural external influence. It happened that at a given moment, there was this sudden urge for everything Asian during and after the 1888 Universal Exhibition thus the oriental fans and umbrellas or the Chinese dragon on the very corner of the facade which clearly mismatch the Egyptian decoration of the house.

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Tuesday, June 2

Monkfish: A Delicious Monster

Monkfish -  [enlarge]

One of the ugliest fish there ever was, monkfish, is however highly appreciated because of its delicious taste and tender meat. When I see them in the market, I can't help wondering who was the first human to try such horrible creature. I reckon that ugliness is a relative term, and that the idea we have of a monster is intimately related to our psyche, our dreams. I think it is a matter of symmetry. If you take a look at this fish at La Boqueria market, the first thing that calls our attention is that big mouth, totally out of proportion. Besides, the body is flat and the eyes are on top. It doesn't look at all like a "normal" fish. As you see, we apply our concept of beauty, of harmony, to animals too. Monkfish remind me of abyssal fish in spite of living in the continental shelf (200 m approx.) and the continental slope (up to 1000 m). They even have that dorsal spine above which they use to lure preys which resemble fishing rods (that's why they are anglerfish too) so familiar when we think of deep water fish. The abyss by itself generates fear in our minds. Every time they bring out some fish from the bottom it has that demon-like aspect, pretty common in old illustrations about the sea and journeys towards remote, unknown corners of the world. I wonder why so? It is not the monkfish's fault to have benthonic habits, that is, to live in the bottom and have adaptations to that habitat, like the flatness, the position of the eyes, the color of the skin and the enormous mouth. What turns that into a monster? When did it appear as such in our primitive mind?. That fear of the unknown together with a menacing look might trigger a signal indicating danger to our existence. Who knows! Maybe we'd better kill the monster and eat him just in case. Some monkfish recipes to have at hand after the "killing".

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