• Saturday, July 19

    Catalan Cuisine Suggestions: Restaurant La Violeta, Castelltersol, Barcelona

    Violet Marmalade and Fried Cheese Gaspacho
    Tuna Fish and rice Icecream with Strawberries on top

    One the good things in life, if not the best, is to go out and find a nice meal, at a nice restaurant in a nice place. When it comes to enjoying excellent Mediterranean dishes, Catalan cuisine, is one of the best choices. It's been a long time, I haven't recommended an interesting restaurant in or out of Barcelona and in fact I always forget to use cellphone pictures I take while traveling around Catalonia to share them here with you. That's what a blog is for after all. Today I want to suggest Restaurant La Violeta in Castelltersol (there should be a letter cedilla after the R but Google spiders don't like foreign letters too much). This Catalan municipality that is part of Barcelona province which historically devoted to the textile industry and took its name after a castle that dates back to the ninth century. Restaurant La Violeta and the hotel with the same name, are located in a house from 1860, restored in the 90s of XX century. Apparently is just another normal local restaurant, but I have to say that if you happen to be nearby, you shouldn't miss it because its cuisine is certainly worth tasting. When I say nearby, I mean, you could be watching eagles fly in renown Cim d'Aligues natural park or admiring the views at Sant Miquel del Fai

    But let's talk about the menu at La Violeta. For starters, I recommend you don't miss their special tapas, like Formatges arrebossats amb melmelada de violetes (breaded cheese dice in violet marmalade) in the picture above, or the Patatas Bravas a la Violeta. In fact, my wife and I fell in love with that violet flavor and that's why we always try to return when we have the chance. They have a nice selection of salads like the season salad with nuts, cheese, quince and apple. For the main course, you can either have pasta dishes like the Rossejat de fideus mariners (a sort of Paella but with noodles and sauce) or a good shrimp risotto. I would go for the Arros amb llamantol (rice with lobster) but as you can see in the image, pan fried tuna can suit you well for less money. We were fortunate it was summer and they had the Gazpacho, one of the best I have tried, out of Andalusia of course. For dessert, there was this homemade ice cream with strawberries that was just the cherry on top of the day. As to the price, it is slightly pricey, not much, but you get quality food and they are not minimalist at all, if you know what I mean. More details on their website following the first image.

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    Tuesday, July 8

    A Day at Cafe Zurich, Barcelona

    Cafe Zurich, Barcelona, Spain [enlarge]

    With more than 150 years of experience Café Zurich summons the essence of XIX century Barcelona. Founded in 1862 as a canteen called La Catalana and located in a train station the place originally used to sell beverages but soon it became a chocolate shop until a Catalan that had worked abroad, decided to name the premises after the famous Swiss city. 

    In 1920 the chocolate shop was bought by family Valldeperas for 50 000 pesetas and their descendants still own the place. It was precisely the founder's son who turned the shop into a beer house around 1925. Later on and as a result of the works to bury Sarria railroad tracks underground the waiting room at the station was annexed to the canteen to turn it into a big salon. Some time afterwards, the terrace was inaugurated to give Cafe Zurich the wonderful looks it has today. Please check my previous post about Cafe Zurich

    Monday, June 2

    Wrought Iron Door by Manuel Ballarin, Palau del Baro de Quadras, Barcelona

    Ironwork door, Palau Baro de Quadras

    This a detail of the ironwork at the entrance of Palau del Baro de Quadras in Barcelona. This exquisite modernist wrought iron door was made by artist Manuel Ballarin i Lancuentra. From his foundry Casa Ballarin, the most important in the city by the end of the XIX century came out most of the iron art works present in the buildings by architect Puig i Cadafalch like Casa Amatller, Casa Macaya, Casa Serra among others. Check this lamp post at Passeig de Gracia by Ballarin or this remarkable gates detail at Casa Marti.

    Thursday, May 8

    Grape Vine Rootstocks of D.O Montsant

    Grape Vine Rootstocks of D.O Montsant

    D.O Montsant wines

    Near Siurana town, the latest muslim stronghold in Catalonia, reconquered by Christians in XII, there lies a prosperous community of over 60 cellars integrated under D.O Montsant (Denominación de Origen or Designation of Origin/Wine Apellation). The Romans used to cultivate vineyards in these valleys located in a vast area of Tarragona province that was once under the sea and where limestone and clay prevail. In fact, this kind of soil has an incredible drainage capacity, something that is ideal for obtaining good wine. These rootstocks in the picture above, are 80 years old! Their roots grow one meter every ten years in search of  subterranean water, so there are 8 meters of root below the surface. Isn't that amazing? Old vines, that is, any of those over 50 years old are more resistant to external factors. Such vines produce less grapes but with a higher quality. The entangled roots of the flowers in the image give the vine the opportunity to retain some water before it inevitably sinks down the natural drain. Montsant wines due their history of success to Carthusian Monks established on these hills in the Middle Ages although they did not become particularly popular until XIX. These wines are basically an association between Grenache and Carignan grapes although some other varieties are used like Merlot or Syrah for example. D.O Montsant has gained recognition in the international arena over the last 10 years and has been declared as 'a great discovery' by prestigious magazine 'The Wine Spectator' recently among other outstanding reviews. To conclude, I would like to point out that over 70 % of the total amount of bottled wine in this cooperative of wine makers is sold abroad. According to them, this is due to the fact that their production is relative small and competition is harder in Spain plus a relative lack of trust of Catalans towards local wine. I have to say, that as a local, it is true that many times we choose wine from other D.O's like Ribera de Duero or Rioja. This attitude is clearly changing at the moment as marketing of local wines improve.
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