Barcelona makes up one of four provinces of Catalonia, an area that covers the Northeast part of Spain. Catalan cuisine is influenced by its perfect location on the Mediterranean coast, whilst surrounded by the mountains and woodlands. Because of this there is an abundance of seafood and fish as well as all the herbs and spices found in the hills. Perfect for delicious food!
Catalan cuisine is still based on locally sourced seasonal ingredients which are brought daily to all of the city’s vibrant food markets and independent shops. These fresh ingredients are the basis of the Mediterranean diet, which is recommended to promote good heart health (1). There really is so much variety to taste and enjoy making it a perfect location for a foodie lover to visit on a city break!
Be a sustainable Tourist!
Did you know that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for development?
Barcelona is a forward-thinking destination that wants to protect its rich cultural heritage and allow the many attractions to be enjoyed but in a balanced way that respects the environment. In fact, Barcelona was the first city to be accredited with Biosphere certification as a responsible sustainable tourist destination (2). The city has made a commitment to pursue sustainable initiatives that improve mobility, preserve parks and beaches, and has a selective waste management system. You will notice how easy it is to get around the city, there are bike rentals everywhere!
To promote locally grown food and fair trade, the city has a wide range of restaurants and shops that use high quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients (3). Whilst you might associate Barcelona food with tapas and Chorizo, I can assure you that there is so much more. There is an increasing number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Barcelona. Did you know that Barcelona is the first city to declare itself “vegetarian and vegan-friendly” (4). There is also a variety of slow and local food restaurants. Slow food is the opposite of fast food! Aiming to encourage people to slow down and appreciate food again, whilst in support of local farmers and produce.
Here are three suggestions to try when visiting Barcelona to enjoy the local food and drink:
1. Fish Frenzy
From the abundance of seafood restaurants to the huge variety of fish and seafood you find in the markets, you will be left spoilt for choice. Eating in Barcelona will give you an opportunity to try something new and broaden your tastes.
Oysters and mussels are a sustainable seafood choice to have in Barcelona as they grow easily and quickly. They can be cheaper to buy in the food markets and are so fresh! Oysters are a good source of vitamin B12, zinc and selenium.
Oily fish is popular here making it very easy to achieve your recommended portion of oily fish per week. The more environmentally friendly choices are mackerel and Bonito (similar to tuna).
In some canteen-style restaurants you can pick ‘n’ mix your fishes which is a lot of fun! Opt for grilling when choosing the cooking method to be that bit healthier.
2. Mouthwatering Markets!
Barcelona is a city for markets. One of the largest is La Bouqueria which is just off La Rambla, a thriving street in the city centre. This market was originally a travelling market, attracting both passer-bys and locals. Today it is a bustling and vibrant hub where you can find all sorts of culinary delights! The market closes at 3pm so it is best to get there in the morning for a spot of brunch.
Everywhere you look there are fruit and vegetable stalls boasting seasonal and fresh ingredients. Popular vegetables in the Catalonian area include artichoke, aubergine, tomato, mushrooms, beans and garlic.
A rainbow of fresh juices and smoothies are everywhere, they are really well priced too. I loved seeing Pitaya or Dragon Fruit, which is the fruit of a cactus, being sold as a healthy snack. Comes with a spoon!
You can find traditional Catalan dishes here too. Fideua a la marinera is similar to paella but is made with noodles instead of rice, it is often made with seafood caught along the Barcelona coastline. The locals will often serve this with aioli – a sauce made from olive oil and garlic. Another traditional dish to try is ensaladilla rusa, which, despite its Russian roots, is popular in Spain. It’s a cold salad with potatoes, peas and often seafood – it’s perfect for a warm, sunny day in Barcelona.
You can’t go to a Spanish food market without noticing the variety of meat on show, especially pork. I particularly liked the snack style pork and cheese funnels as you get to taste a few different meats whilst keeping to a sensible portion size.
3. Coffee Culture
For a big city there wasn’t as many large chain coffee shops as you might expect to see. Instead, there are numerous independent and trendy coffee shops, many offering fair trade coffee. A few different shops were selling Nomad coffee, a brand roasted in Barcelona, picking only fresh, seasonal coffees straight from the farmer.
When coffee shops look like this, who can resist?
Written by Lilia Malcolm, May 2017