Serrajordia – Sant Cugat

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Mousse Cups

ESADE is located in Sant Cugat, and honestly, I don’t find food that appealing there. I guess it’s just that there’s limited choices, and the prices are higher than out in the city. However, on our walk to school from the station, we always pass by Serrajordia. K made it almost like a habit, to always grab a small breakfast there. He said their little pastries, like their mini cookies and biscuits were really good! I, on the other hand, always had breakfast at home, so never really got to try their pastries. However, most of my friends said they are a great bakery! One day, C invited us to her dorm for dinner she would cook, and I decided to stop by Serrajordia on my way to get some desserts. They have a variety of cakes, and also individual mini cakes, but I looked in the freezer and saw these little mousse cups. How convenient and cute! They aren’t the cheapest desserts out there, but definitely worth the money when you think about places like Thomas Haas. I got two Lemon Mousse Cups, one Triple Chocolate Layer, and one Chocolate Mousse. Each one were topped with little crispy chocolate balls and some had chocolate or berries on it. Everyone enjoyed them! They were smooth, but because we had fridged them and they hadn’t cooled enough, they were almost like an ice cream texture, which none of us minded. My favourite was the triple layered chocolate!Β  Now I wish I had tried some of their other pastries. I doubt I would come back here since it’s so far from the city…

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Anyways, if you haven’t realized, I’m putting a little twits to my food blog and introducing some places I’ve visited while on exchange. I guess it’s a way for me to remember and document some of the things I’ve done and to help others who are traveling in Europe. One of the first places I visited in Barcelona while my sister visited, was Park Guell. It’s basically one of the top tourist destinations for Barcelona tourists. It’s a little difficult to commute here, just because the metro doesn’t take you straight to the entrance. However, if you take a bus, it’ll get you right to the station, and the last bus stop is Park Guell, so not that hard. It’s a garden with amazing architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi, who you must recognize when you visit Spain. I feel like pretty much all architecture Barcelona is famous for is done by him! It’s extremely tourist-filled during the summer months. During September, when my sister visited, it was also free to go in. We got lucky and didn’t need to pay!

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Many people refer to this place as looking a bit like Candy Crush or a Candy House. I do agree. Everything seems like it’s sugar coated with frosting. And I absolutely love the mosaic you find at the top. You’ll also see the statue of a salamander that is popularly known. This park is basically one that you won’t experience any where else. It’s not one of those romantic parks you find yourself in London or Paris, but one that is whimsical, artsy and fun. You’ll find yourself taking pictures of literally every angle of this park. There’s so much to see, you won’t even feel tired climbing up to the top of the park with the burning sun on you! A must see!

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Pizzas L’avia – Barcelona

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There are always plenty of things to do in Barcelona, and one afternoon, we decided to visit Montjuic. Montjuic is a hill in Barcelona and very close to the city center. In fact, you can hike up to it just by walking up from Plaza Espanya. From the Palau Nacional, which houses the Museum of National Art of Catalunya, this is the beautiful view you get of the city. If you continue up the hill, or choose to take the bus, you will reach the top of Montjuic where you will find a fortress.

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After our mini hike, U took us to Pizzas L’avia. It’s in the El Ravel neighbourhood, which is sometimes known to be a little dangerous at night. Her brother said that the little shop is great for cheap local food, so we took the adventure to check it out before it got dark. The place doesn’t look the most amazing on the outside, but the food is great and cheap!

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I love how they actually make their paella in a giant pan. It was the first time I actually saw such a big paella pan in person.

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They also have a bunch of other dishes and desserts. Yes, the dishes are not exactly fresh, since they are pre- made, but freshness wasn’t really a big factor in making these dishes delicious.

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They are famous for their Empanadas. We chose the Honey Empanada and Spinach Empanada. They were warmed up in their oven and filled generously. A great value for only around 1,30 euros each!

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I guess someone also got a Salad… Typical salad, nothing difficult in making this one.

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We got the Prosciutto and Cheese Pizza. Their pizzas are quite interesting. They don’t really dig a hole in the middle to put the fillings in. Instead, they just place the toppings right on top, so you don’t exactly get a crust on the side. The pizza was really delicious though! Extremely fluffy and although the ingredients are basic, they really work well together.

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We also got two dishes of the Paella. It’s not the best paella I’ve had, but it tasted really local and I liked how it wasn’t too saucy. The rice was a little overcooked, but I actually liked it since I find that some of the other restaurants cook it too al dente. There was an abundant of seafood such as shrimp and mussels in it.

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U said that the Bacalao here is amazing. It’s a very common dish for the Spanish, and it’s basically cod fish topped with lots of tomato sauce. This one also had eggplants and other vegetables. I found the sauce to be very similar to a ratatouille. I really enjoyed this as the sauce was actually sort of sweet!

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Lastly, we had another fish dish, and I actually found this very similar to the Bacalao, but with less sauce. I couldn’t really tell the difference, other than the fact that it was more deep fried. Tasted like cod to me too…

Overall, Pizzas L’avia is a great place to check out if you want to try some local food and at a cheap price. You can also get some of the items to go.

Els Quatre Gats – Barcelona

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Els Quatre Gats means “The Four Cats” in Catalan. You’ll sometimes see that it’s short termed as 4 Gats. This restaurant has a lot of history! It started as a hostel, then became a cabaret, a pub, and finally a restaurant. It’s been open since 1897! There is supposed to be a lot of art and architecture history behind the building and it’s actually well known because this was the spot where Picasso used to come very often.

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Inside, the place is colourful and there is a small section of tables near the entrance with the bar behind.

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If you continue walking in, you’ll find that the restaurant is actually quite large. There’s also an old piano on the side, and it seems like there are jazz nights here.

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The restaurant is filled with art pieces, and Picasso actually had his first exhibition here. I love how there’s two seater tables at the top balcony. It sort of looks unstable, but people still sit up there today. I could only imagine Picasso sitting there sipping a cup of coffee and finding art inspiration.

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This is the menu. The title page for the menu is actually made by Picasso. Pretty neat! Anyways, the prices at 4 Gats is quite pricey and not for everyday meals. However, they offer a menu of the day with 3 courses during lunch time for around 16 euros. It’s much more expensive than typical menu of the days, but the restaurant is almost a famous tourist spot, and the setting is close to fine dining. So it’s quite reasonable.

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Bread

Of course, we ordered the lunch menu, since most entrees on their own were the same price. The set came with a bread roll for each of us.

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Mineral Water and Red Wine

Then came a glass of mineral water and a bottle of red wine for our table of 5 to share. The wine wasn’t actually too bad. Usually the house wines are watered down and extremely cheap. You get around two glasses each. I liked how the waiters were very professional in the way they poured the wine and how they placed our table setting.

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Paella

Since we had 5 people, we ended up ordering every single item on the menu. They had four choices in each course to choose. We were able to try a bit of everything this way. The first appetizer was Paella. I really enjoyed this! This was probably one of the best paella I had. I hadn’t had a lot of paella in Barcelona just because I wasn’t very fond of it. I could have it once or twice, but I eventually got sick of it, and it’s also not the cheapest dish. This was a seafood and meat paella. Rice was moist, but not too saucy, but at the same time, it wasn’t too dry. The rice was cooked perfectly so it wasn’t too hard or soft. There were shrimps and mussels and a meat I couldn’t really grasp upon what it was. It had a chewy texture, but I loved it! I felt like it was some part of pork. Loved this dish!

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Spinach Lasagna

Another appetizer was the Spinach Lasagna. The lasagna was actually quite a decent sized portion as an appetizer. I could easily get filled up by this and the bread. It was very creamy with a load of cream sauce and tons of spinach. There wasn’t too much cheese to it though, so it wasn’t a very cheesy lasagna. Definitely more of a cream base one.

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Goat Cheese Salad

The Goat Cheese Salad was plated beautifully. I liked how the cheese was made into almost like a terrine, where there was nuts mixed into it. I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese, so I found the cheese to be really strong. My friends really enjoyed it though. The greens were also extremely fresh and crisp.

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Vegetables with Parmesan

I was hesitant about the Vegetables with Parmesan, as it sounded very plain. However, it was plated beautifully again. They stacked the vegetables on top of each other to make a square shape, and topped it with lots of Parmesan. This was then baked I believe. It was a simple dish, but I really enjoyed it! I thought all the flavours worked really well together and I never enjoyed eating vegetables so much!

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Stew Fish with Clams and Potatoes

Now onto the entrees! Again, we tried every item on the menu. I didn’t think the presentation of the Stew Fish looked too appetizing, but then again, it’s a stew. Surprisingly, there was a lot of fish! The sauce was very flavourful, and all the ingredients were soaked in it. Not bad, but wasn’t my favourite.

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Swordfish with Vegetables

Another fish dish was the Swordfish with Vegetables. The swordfish were battered and deep fried. There wasn’t much of a sauce to it other than the vegetable mix with a slightly tangy lime sauce. However, the fish was fresh, so it was really delicious without any real sauce.

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Steak with Baked Potatoes

I thought the Steak was both a hit and a miss. We ordered two dishes of this, and one was cooked perfectly, while I thought the other was a little undercooked. Both dishes were cooked very rare, but one of them was extremely tender while being pink. The other was a bit tough and I almost felt disgusted that I was eating raw meat that was extremely difficult to chew. Let’s comment on the good dish. It was lightly seasoned with salt and topped with some green onions. It was already sliced into strips so it was extremely easy to eat. As for the potatoes, they were baked alright with a generous sauce on top. I found the baked potatoes to be just average.

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Duck with Artichoke

The Duck dish didn’t look too appetizing again, but it was actually quite delicious. The duck was extremely tender and the meat would just fall off easily. I wish the skin was a little crispier. The artichokes were cooked till soft and complemented the dish quite well. A lot of sauce on the dish as well.

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Apple Cake

As for desserts, we ended up only choosing two out of the four, since the other two were a yoghurt or fresh fruit. Didn’t sound too interesting. So instead, we got the Apple Cake. Sadly, it was quite disappointing. The cake was extremely sweet since it had alternating layers of a cream custard. The custard was very similar to the ones they use for Catalan Cream. It was too moist and soggy with the cream, and none of us really enjoyed it. Also, overly sweet!

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Pineapple with Catalan Cream

Lastly, we had the Pineapple with Catalan Cream. We weren’t too sure what to expect, but it ended up to be simply a kebab of pineapples on a skewer stick and topped with tons of Catalan Cream. It was actually quite refreshing! Not the most amazing dessert, but it wasn’t too sweet. A great way to finish our meal.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with Els Quatre Gats. I don’t think it’s a place I would recommend as a must go, but I think it was cool to dine here at least once. You really get that artsy atmosphere and now I can say I’ve dined at the restaurant where Picasso did! Also, service was not as bad as other reviewers have written. I found it a little cold when we first stepped in, but our waiter himself, was extremely funny and friendly. You’ll also find an older crowd here.

La Rita – Barcelona

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If you have extra time in Barcelona, and are rollercoaster fans, PortAventura is the theme park to head to! It was nearing Halloween, and PortAventura is known to decorate their theme park for Halloween. A group of us who love thriller rides decided to head there on a weekday to avoid the crowds. It’s located in the south of Barcelona in a city called Salou in Tarragona. We took the Renfe train from the Barcelona Sants Station near Barcelonetta and it took a little less than 2 hours I think. When we arrived, the park was all decorated and I really enjoyed it because there’s different themes based on regions of the world.

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In the China themed land, there’s the famous Shambhala! This roller coaster is famous because its the fastest and tallest hyper coaster in Europe. It’s 76 m tall and has the longest drop in Europe at 78 m. Pretty impressive and a lot of fun! So much fun we went on this ride multiple times. PortAvenutra is also neat because it has a water park in the summer. I’m sure the park is a huge hit during the warmer months. They even had a haunted house and some other special attractions because of Halloween. Definitely worth going and the waits aren’t that long during weekdays. A tip for those going: they sell these Chupa Chup gummy candies at stores such as Carrefour and sometimes the bags will have a PortAvenutra coupon. Basically, if you buy two bags of these gummies, finish the bag, then keep the sticker coupon on the bag and bring it to the admissions office, and you can get two tickets for the price of one! A great deal where you only pay around 22.50 euros each in the end.

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Anyawys, after a long day, we finally grabbed dinner back in Barcelona. We were at the park from opening till closing. By the time we got back, it was probably around 9 pm. We got out of the station, and found La Rita across the street. I had seen great ratings and the menu looked decent, so off we went. Inside, the place is actually quite fancy, but prices are affordable. It basically reminds me of La Fonda again, with good quality food, nice decor, but average prices. Funny thing is, I did some research later, and found that it’s owned by Grupo Andilana, which also owns La Fonda… No wonder!

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Hamburger “Rita” on thin bread, glazed onion, tomato, Havarti cheese and a bowl of chips

C got the La Rita Hamburger. When we saw it, we were kind of confused. There was no top! A gourmet burger for sure. The meat was fresh and seemed homemade. The glazed onions were flavourful and the Havarti cheese was melted beautifully.

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Fideua noodles “ca la Margarida” style with shrimps, clams, and aioli sauce

For myself, I decided to go for the Fideua Noodles . D actually ordered the same and it came in the same dish. We were both sort of confused when it came. They were paella noodles! We were both craving some typical pasta and I was craving my pasta to be drenched in a white sauce. I think we had some misunderstandings when we were reading the menu and got really confused. The menu actually wrote garlic sauce, so I thought it would be a white garlic sauce. You know..the typical seafood linguine in white sauce or some sort. But nope. I mean, the paella noodles were great and all, but I just wasn’t craving it. The aioli sauce came on the side as usual, and you could mix it in as you liked.

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Iberian Fillet

I believe this was the Iberian Fillet, or some sort of steak. S and a few others chose to order this. It was cooked perfectly to medium rare and was tender and juicy. It came with half a tomato and some french fries.

Overall, La Rita seems to have quality food. I think the only problem was I ordered something I didn’t want. If not, I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed my food much more. Everyone else did. La Rita actually serves typical Catalan food, so a great place to visit if you want to experience true Catalan cuisine. Prices were very reasonable and service was great as well!

Swagatam Bar Restaurant – Barcelona

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We were told by some friends that Swagatam Bar Restaurant was a really good Indian restaurant in the Gracia neighbourhood. It looks a little dodgy on the outside and it’s not exactly easy to find but it was surprisingly really good!

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Inside, the decor is not really any better. Definitely minimal and simplistic. However, service was pretty good and they spoke good English. We had a fairly large group, of about 10 people, so we decided the best way was to order a few curries and share. The waiter gave us a hand in choosing them, and the portions were just perfect with all of us being satisfied and full. I didn’t really take part in any of the ordering, so I don’t know exactly what the names of the dishes are… But here goes…

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We started off with two plates of these chips. I believe they are called Papadom but correct me if I’m wrong. They reminded me of tortilla chips, but they are a round disc shape and broken in half. I think these are made with lentil and chickpea and lightly salted. Crispy, but pretty much flavourless other than the salty taste.

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It came with three types of sauces to dip the papadoms. The dark reddish brown sauce was the mildest, and was actually a little sweet. It didn’t really have any kick to it. The green one in the middle was more of a yoghurt base and reminded me of those Greek tzatziki sauce. I actually liked this one quite a lot. The last one that was bright red was the spiciest sauce. However, I still didn’t find it to be super spicy. It wasn’t the spice where I needed to gulp water down right away. All of them were quite mild in my mind.

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I wasn’t able to get pictures of most of the curries since everyone already began indulging in them before I could get any snaps. I believe this was the Butter Chicken. We got mild for all the curries since Indian curries are usually quite spicy. However, we found none of the curries to be spicy! And I’m someone who can’t take spice… It was sort of odd and a little disappointing. Still, the butter chicken was really good. It was smooth and rich in tomato with a buttery texture. Lots of chunks of chicken too!

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I think this was the Chicken Tikka Masala. Again very rich and creamy. Still, it was not spicy enough!!

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We had a few bowls of Basmati Rice. We also had naan, which was complementary.

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Here’s a picture of some of the different curries we had. I think some had lamb, while others were mostly chicken. I especially liked the rice which was already seasoned. I’m not sure what it was called, but it was nicely flavoured and a good change from having such a buttery creamy texture. Overall, I was really happy with the Indian food at Swagatam. I believe they are one of the top Indian restaurants in Barcelona, actually. The only problem I had was the level of spice. Definitely could’ve kicked it up a level. Maybe we sounded hesitant when they asked us if we could take spice, hence what they served us. But otherwise, definitely worth checking out!

Txapela (2) – Barcelona

I had wanted to take N to Ciudad Condal because it’s my favourite and I had been raving about it to her, but unfortunately there was a huge line up and I didn’t see my favourite salmon montadito. We were hungry since I got off school really late, so it was already almost 9pm. Typical Spanish time for dinner, but not so much for us! We wandered around Passeig de Gracia, and we walked in Txapela. I had previously blogged about Txapela here: Txapela, and while this one was also on Passeig de Gracia, we later found that they had two locations! This one was much smaller and more like a bar. When we went in, it was basically empty to my surprise..

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Pintxo Gernika – Crab Salad

We sat at the bar and they had some pintxos already pre-made sitting in behind the glass counter. They looked pretty and appealed to us, so we got some. We chose the Pintxo Gernika, which was an imitation crab salad topped with mini massago. This was refreshing. I do find that the bread at Txapela to be much thicker than the ones at Ciudad Condal. It makes you much more full. Something about the fact that they were pre-made and with the lack of customers made me question how fresh the food was. I mean, the food at Ciudad Condal sits at the top of the counters too, but there’s a constant flow of people, so the food turnovers quite quickly.

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Catalan Sausage Pintxo – Catalan sausage tartar with tomato and virgin olive oil and Pintxo Bidasoa – salmon roll stuffed with crab and mayonnaise

Another few also caught our eyes in the counter. N chose the Catalan Sausage Pintxo. She said it tasted like beef tartar but the seasoning was good. Not exactly sure what was on top of it though. We both got the Pintxo Bidasoa. I thought it looked a little like a carrot! No carrots in this pintxo, but smoked salmon! I’ve found a new love for smoked salmon since my time in Barcelona, so it was a must order. I find that the smoked salmon in Barcelona is not salty at all like the ones we have in Vancouver. Imitation crab salad was wrapped with the piece of smoked salmon. It was placed on top of a piece of lettuce and drizzled with mayonnaise and topped with some caviar. Again, I thought this was great, but I found it a little cold. It would’ve tasted much better if it was at least slightly warm.

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Croquette Pintxo – Iberian Ham Croquette and Pintxo San Fermin – Crispy Chicken with “Chistorra” Sausage and Pepper

We decided to order some off the menu, which is on our placemat. I suggested N to try the Croquette Pintxo, since croquettes are very popular and typical in Spain, and most of my friends had enjoyed them. This was one filled with Iberian Ham. Came on top of a piece of lettuce as well. Again, it felt like it wasn’t really fresh. The croquette was just warm, and not hot. It felt like the other Txapela location had more people, so the food was much more fresh. N also ordered the Pintxo San Fermin, which had some mayo at the bottom, a crispy chicken on top, then a padron pepper, and lastly topped with a “Chistorra” sausage. She enjoyed it and said the sausage reminded her of those Chinese sausages you find at barbeque pork houses.

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Kebab Pintxo – Marinated Pork Loin Brochette

For myself, I got the Kebab Pintxo. Wasn’t sure what sort of meat it was when I looked at the picture, but it turns out to be pork loin. It was marinated in a feisty and slightly spicy sauce. We both thought it was really delicious.

Overall, I found this Txapela location to be a little disappointing. Service was great since we were bascially the only diners. They even helped N change her Fanta at no extra cost when we found a fly had flew into the drink. The only issue for me personally, is how fresh their food is.

La Fonda (2) – Barcelona

I had visited La Fonda twice already, and this was my third time. I didn’t post another blog post for the second revisit since I had ordered pretty much the same items. It seems that whenever I have visitors, La Fonda is the place to bring them to. I guess it’s just because you can get a taste of some decent paella (which all tourists want to try!) and the menu is at a decent price. So when N came over, I took here here for dinner.

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Beef Carpaccio with Lemon Vinaigrette – carpaccio de buey con vinagreta de limon

We started off with an appetizer, and got the Beef Carpaccio. They were thinly sliced and topped with slices of cheese and drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. It was light and appetizing.

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Black Rice – Arroz Negro

As for our entree, of course we got paella. It’s called Aroz Negro on the menu, which means black rice. It may sound odd at first, but it’s really normal rice but mixed with a squid ink sauce. You’ll find bits of squid inside as well so it’s lots of chewiness in this dish! This was 2 orders, since you have to order a minimum of 2 orders per table. We found this extremely flavourful and N really enjoyed it. You really get the seafood taste to it. I’ve had their Valencian Paella before, and I have to say this is much better even though you don’t get as many ingredients. I just enjoyed this flavour much more!

Again, La Fonda didn’t disappoint. This was my last time at La Fonda during my trip, but I’m sure I will visit again when I visit Barcelona again.

Cafe Granja Viader – Barcelona

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Cafe Granja Viader was recommended by my Spanish professor. This cafe has so much history! The family business began in the 1870s and started as a farm. They are also among the first to start the dairy industry in Spain, and they invented Cacaolat, which you will see all over Spain. Cacaolat is basically the Spanish version of our Milk2Go. The cafe is actually located just inside the streets off of La Rambla, so extremely accessible. You’ll find locals eating here with their children, but tourists have also discovered this cafe and has been a popular destination.

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The cafe still has such a vintage feel to it! Very basic furniture with the waiters dressed professionally.

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Painters are hung around the wall. We came just when the second opening time began, and hence we got a seat right away. The cafe closes from around 2-5, abiding to the siesta. Therefore, many of my friends have found it difficult to visit here, or when it’s open, there are usually huge crowds.

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Swiss Hot Chocolate

N had came to visit me in Barcelona, and I decided to take her here after she got off her flight. Another friend had suggested items to order, so I followed. First, we got a Swiss Hot Chocolate. This was basically the Spanish Hot Chocolate, but topped with a huge lump of whipped cream. The whipped cream was actually light and didn’t have that heavy milk taste that cheap processed whipped cream had. You need to realize that the hot chocolate in Spain is literally melted chocolate. It’s so thick! I don’t think they put any milk in it… The whipped cream really helped lighten the hot chocolate and give it a more milky texture.

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Spanish Hot Chocolate

My friend suggested we order just a Spanish Hot Chocolate, and because the Swiss one had so much whipped cream, you could just scoop over half of it onto the one without the cream. This worked out perfectly. When we tried the Spanish Hot Chocolate by itself, we felt it was too heavy. They use dark chocolate, and hence it’s not too sweet. But still, imagine yourself drinking a cup of just melted chocolate… It’s quite something. We both agreed that we wouldn’t be drinking hot chocolate in a while… Extremely rich and smooth though!

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Churros

We also got an order of Churros. The plate came with around 4 looped churros and there was one that was a bit different. It had a lot more sugar on it and had a slight cinnamon taste to it! The churros were fresh and surprisingly not too sweet. I did find that the churros were a little hard for my liking, so I ended up dipping it in the hot chocolate. It was the best way to eat it, especially since it got a little boring just drinking the thick hot chocolate.

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Overall, I was quite satisfied with Granja Viader! It’s a nice place to sip on some hot chocolate and grab a snack. I really felt like I had went back in time and was experiencing the true Catalan way of enjoying tea time.

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To finish off with some Barcelona attractions, I attended the El Clasico 2013! For those who aren’t football fans, like myself, El Clasico is a football match between the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The two teams are among the richest and best teams in the world, and Barcelona and Madrid themselves have always been rivalries in football. Also because of other political issues, like independence, the two cities are always heated when they compete. My friends luckily convinced me to attend, and it was the best decision! I’ve never been to any sports game in my life, let alone football being of any interest for me. However, it was so much fun, and the crowds were full of spirit. Never felt so excited watching a game! Camp Nou, the stadium is also the largest football stadium in Europe! It was fully filled and although our seats were almost the last rows, we still had clear vision of the game. And of course, Barcelona won!