A Barcelona food blog
For lovers of cookery, fine food and warm sunshine there was probably nowhere better to be this past weekend than in Barcelona at the ‘Mercat del mercats’. The plaça in front of the Santa Eulalia Cathedral in the barri Gotíc was taken over predominantly by stallholders from the cities 46 markets and Catalan producers of DO products.
These were complimented also by exhibitors from cava cellars from around the region, a handful of DO producers from Italy and southern France and tapas and tasting from twelve of the city’s most prestigious restaurants. This was not only a showcase of the finest food the city and region has to offer but also an opportunity to improve culinary knowledge and cooking skills through a series of presentations and demonstrations from the exhibitors in the aula gastronòmica (gastronomy classroom).
For those of a grapey inclination there were additional presentations from sommeliers in a seperate lecture tent and a children’s zone with fun and games for the little ones. The whole event stretched from the cathedral and across the traffic clogged Via Laeitana to in front of the Mercat de Santa Caterina in Born.
As I’ve mentioned before the public events put on by the city council never cease to amaze me and this was no exception, other than that it was the best I’ve been to thus far and had me in a state of near ecstacy all weekend. Unsurprisingly this was an incredibly popular event and the crowds flocked and stuffed the aisles of stalls from early afternoon onwards. Thankfully we’d agreed to meet before noon so got a chance to wander and sample without having to endure the later crush.
Entering the market from Plaça Nova the first ‘zone’ was for producers of local and quality products from the towns and farmland around Catalonia. Cheese gave way to embutits, in Spanish embutidos, the collective name for cured meats and sausages, which then led to locally reared chickens which at 32€ each I was unable to stretch to but would relish the opportunity to devour one day. Many of the goods were from the area around El Prat, nestled on the edge of and around the airport it is littered with small holdings and crop production which is clearly visible to anyone getting the train in or out of the city when they arrive. Organic meats and calçot cultivators sat alongside an overwhelming range of olive oil producers which somehow I have managed to not get any photographs of.
Whilst quietly chewing on many slices of bread soaked in their fruity, peppery and sometimes herby olive oils (which is probably what distracted me from taking any photographs) the majority made from Arbequina olives, I discussed the possibility of visiting some of the cooperatives with the engaging stallholders when the harvest season arrives at the end of next month and the beginning of December. Many open their doors to visitors and I have at least one visit planned to brighten up the winter months.
From the local products we wandered into the Cuina de mercat, the zone dedicated to the chefs and leading restaurants and bars in the city. This section deserves a post of it’s own and will feature in the future articles ‘Tapas and tasting Cuine del mercat‘ as will some of the presentations in ‘Gastronomy classroom’, ‘Carles Abellan – Celebration dishes made with cans’ and ‘El Bulli chefs present easy and surprising tips and techniques’.
Moritz beers and cold drinks brought our unusually high October temperatures down and waist-height bench tables provided a space to enjoy the tasting plates, icy beers and catch up with friends before continuing the adventure.
We wandered through the cava space, exhibitors from 20 cellers from the Sant Sadurni d’Anoia region and in the late afternoon we returned to buy a chilled bottle of brut from the celler ‘Rossell i Formosa’ to enjoy on the cathedral steps as we soaked up the skin tingling rays and the atmosphere.
The most varied section was that of the markets of Barcelona. Whilst I was aware that Barcelona’s market network was extensive, to learn there were 40 market halls out of 46 total markets was still a surprise. Whilst the Boquería is without doubt the most popular and well known visitors should not dismiss the markets of the other barris, some of them in impressive old buildings, sat on top of roman ruins and oozing charm. I don’t need to describe what was on sale here, the following photos do all the talking.
As we left this sensory overload behind we wandered past the workshop tent and through to the compra a pagès, literally meaning ‘buy from the countryside’ and here in one space where twelve producers from further afield in Catalonia. Here we found eggs, more olive oil, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, honey and pollen.
Our last call before going to briefly check out the children’s zone and the organiser stands across Via Laietana was that of the markets of the Mediterranean. Represented by MedEmporion a project which supports and brings the markets of Barcelona, Turin, Marseille and Genoa together, here were twelve more suppliers of quality jams and conserves, breads and the last stall of wonderfully moreish Genoese pesto whose representative Stefano Bruzzone lovingly prepared for one of the demonstrations we will read about another time.
This has been a whistle stop overview of the market, here you can find information on all the producers, exhibitors and demonstrations from the weekend. However, I spent the best part of two days here so more to follow, watch this space.
Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th October 2010