Saturday, April 26, 2008

My favourite city

Here comes the sun finally! After having heavy snow on a Sunday in March, I kid you not when people say the phrase 'as unpredictable as British weather' :P You just get paranoid and bring umbrella everywhere since you really do have millions of weather predictions/symbols in BBC going like this!

Hence, Spain is easily one of my favorite countries in Europe. Reasons? Pretty easy - Excellent weather, friendly culture and amazing cuisine all year round :) And the first Spanish city I visited was Barcelona about 2 years ago ... I couldn't get enough of it, hence I went back earlier this year for a short weekend! And man, it was was a gourmet trip for sure since I could pay more attention to the food having done all the touristy stuff previously. Now I understand what people say about visiting a place the second time ... it's a different experience all together...

In the day, you get a good contrast of modern day shopping activities vis-à-vis the various cultural offerings (art museum, La Sagrada Familia etc). At night, the restaurant and bar scene comes alive especially in La Ramblas with many Spaniards and tourists having tapas tastings from pub to pub, accompanied with a good excuse to drink and be merry :)

Besides, you have the beaches just 5-6km away from city center for a good relaxing stroll. What more can you ask for in a city? I went to Platja de la Barceloneta, one of the older beaches near Barcelona for some yummy fresh seafoood. What I love most about the contemporary Catalan cuisine of Barcelona is its simplicity - fresh, satisfying and uncomplicated - maximising the flavors of regional offerings. These are some of my samplings there and then:

K ordered ham for appetizers, sorry I didn't remember the name of the ham, but it must be some sort of local Spanish jambon. But it was really nice with bread, balancing the hint of saltiness nicely ...

The restaurant was by the port, and with clear blue skies and sun shining on a early January afternoon, how can you not love Spain given that Britain is cold and rainy until end of April?!

Seafood paella was on the menu for sure, since we were by the sea. Comes in those huge paella pan that I love (not to wash though!), with crusty crispy bits at the bottom: basically a wholesome dish consisting of tomato and saffron-infused short grained Paella rice with lots of fresh seafood.

More importantly, I tried a new Spanish dish second time around, something recommended by the locals called Dorada a la sal, a fresh sea bream baked in a salt crust. Kind of the same concept like the Yim Kuk Kai (Chicken baked in salt crust) dish in Malaysia, commonly found in Ipoh. Anyways, the fish is baked whole, with its scales still intact, covered by a whole mountain of sea salt. When the salt is brushed away, the fish is filleted and served with just some freshly steam carrots, broccoli and asparagus.

I've never eaten something as ... pure as this before! The quality of the fish definitely plays a role, as there is not a hint of the fishy smell at all and all you taste is the lightly salted springy/elastic flakes of the sea bream ... Something that I'd love to try again and again

Now that Greece is up for the summer plans, I can hardly wait to explore the beaches and Mediterranean cuisine :)

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