Mosaic / October 16, 2008

Comida Montana: Must-eats in Spain

Confession: after living here for a month, I have yet to go to an authentic Spanish restaurant and order a whole meal. What with the economic crisis, the exchange rate, and my compulsive shopping habit, I just haven’t been able to stomach the idea of dropping 30 euros on a meal that my madre could make for free. The good news is that you can buy those purple fringe boots and still have enough left over to sample the best of Barcelona. Here’s how:

Things You Need to Eat/Drink:

1. Patatas Bravas (Spiced potatoes)

Some things are just universal, such as delicious fried potatoes. This is a traditional appetizer that makes the french fry seem like a piece of cardboard in comparison. Although most Spanish cuisine lacks condiments, these patatas come with a tangy brava sauce made of Tabasco, ketchup, mayo, pepper, and other spices. These little nuggets of flavor are served in every tapas bar in the city!

2. Calamares (Fried calamari)

If you’re one of those lucky people who don’t have seafood allergies or a phobia of squid, then you will love the abundance of things on your plate that look like onion rings, but have the consistency of plastic! They aren’t for everyone, but they are delicious if you give them a shot.

3. Crema Catalana (Pudding/Flan/Crème brulée Hybrid)

This rich pudding comes in a large bowl and has a sugary crusted top similar to crème brulée. Although it costs around 6 euros, its well worth it to try an authentic dessert, rather than the clichéd gelato which tends to cost even more.

4. Frutas de La Boqueria (Fruits from the market)

Right off the main touristy road, there is a huge market where you can find everything you want, and a number of things you never wanted to see. If you can make it past the hanging hams and skinless baby sheep heads (with eyes intact), then you will find cheese, candy, nuts, spices, olives, and some of the weirdest looking fruit on this planet. Anything you buy here is bound to be a novel experience, although I wouldn’t recommend the bright pink things that look like kiwis, because they actually don’t taste like anything. For only 1 euro you can get a delicious fruit smoothie to drink while you peruse the very fresh, as in, still-twitching seafood.

5. Café amb llet & Xocolata (Coffee with milk & Hot Chocolate)

I’m not a coffee person, but this coffee defies all the laws of caffeine. It’s so strong that they only serve it in tiny cups because that’s all you need. The hot chocolate is made from melted dark chocolate rather than a pack of Swiss Miss. Go to any cafe and you can get either (with a croissant for dunking) for less than 5 euros, plus the added bonus of feeling really European. You will never be able to walk into another Starbucks for as long as you live.

5. Vino tinto & Calimocho (Red wine & Concoction of wine mixed with coca cola)

If you’re of drinking age in Spain, then you will be pleased to know that the wine is very cheap but is also of a much higher quality than what you may be accustomed to. All the restaurants sell glasses of house wine for less than 3 euros. If you don’t learn anything else, at least learn how to say “Vino tinto” during your stay. And since you’re drinking wine, you might as well try Calimocho also. It never occurred to me to mix red wine with coca cola, but the Spaniards have been doing it for awhile, and now I see why!

Montana Standish

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