Gothic Sights and 21st Century TastesWednesday, November 23,2011
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year's Jazz in Italy
Plaça de Sant Jaume, in the center of the Gothic Quarter, is the political center of Barcelona, with the Municipal Hall on one side, and the center of regional government on the other. We meet in the square for a walking tour of the ancient quarter, and begin with the oldest remants, those Roman columns we saw on Sunday.
The current day entrance of the government HQ is on St James Square, but the former entry, guarded by a now- spearless St. George, led into a courtyard on the narrow side street. How about that baby hanging tight onto the flying gargoyle?
One of the most photo- graphed spots in the city is a beautiful more-recent Gothic fake, Barcelona's own Pont dels Sospirs (Bridge of Sighs), added in the 20th century.
Our storied stroll takes us through many beautiful buildings, with a peek into the Archbishop's Palace,
a pause in a gracious courtyard of the former Viceroy's Palace, now the Archives of Aragon-
don't miss the magnificent coffered ceiling above the staircase. From the middle of the 16th century, this masterpiece even has a galleried balcony. Wonder how you get up there?
Here's a favorite corner for the locals, with patron Saint Eulalia's gentle gaze falling on the lane ( Baixada - descent) on which she was rolled down in a nail - pierced barrel, one of the many persecutions she suffered from pagan Romans in 303 AD.
Another lovely courtyard
this one graced with abundant ceramic tiling.
We have to leave the tour a few minutes early, since we have an appointment to visit a hotel we're considering for Barcelona Discoveries in May. The rooms and lobby did not make the cut, but what a glorious rooftop!
Catalan chefs have been in the forefront of revolutionizing cuisine since the 80's, and we're looking forward to lunch with one of the best in the city, Jordi Artal at Cinc Sentits ( 5 Senses). With the ambiance of a chic and sleek club - dark walls, copper screen swirling above us, hushed but enthusiastic service from staff dressed in black with copper ties, we begin our tasting odyssey with a creative take on the usual olives and charcuterie - the olive is stuffed with garlic, the sausage is a crispy pretzel.
Then a wooden box is opened at our table. It holds two shots, which our waiter suggests drinking all at once so as to savor the flavors together. A sabayon of cream and Cava (Catalan "champagne") sprinkled with sea salt atop a smoky maple syrup - stellar!
Ready for soup? It's a chestnut cream poured over quail breast, garnished with cubes of sherry gelatin and a coffee crisp.
I've chosen foie gras on pasty with glazed leeks, and Kirk scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, ham chips and a sweet onion reduction.
Followed by rockfish with potato confit and arroz sec - "dry rice", an Ibizan specialty so delicious that I use the wooden spatula to scrape every last toasty grain from the mini paella pan.
Hours later, it's time for dessert... a lacy tube filled with mascarpone, with coffee crumble, apple cubes and porcini (!!!) ice cream.
But wait, there's more! A pomegrante gelatin cube in one spoon, a mint and chocolate bon bon (eat it all at once - it's filled with liqueur, counsels the waiter), and a cuplet of violet flan.
What a delicious and marvelous experience - one we can't wait to share with our Music and Markets guests in May!