I went on a Devour Barcelona food tour and ate all of the food! Now for most people this doesn’t seem odd – go on a food tour and eat the food but for me who has suffered from lactose intolerance for almost 15 years, this was a big thing! Suffered is probably too strong a word but I really dislike having to play roulette with foods since dairy is often an added ingredient. That’s why I’m not a food blogger because I’m not really a fan of food – I keep it simple which makes me miss out on so many flavors and tastes around the world. Devour Barcelona allowed me to taste the flavors of Spain easily. The staff and vendors accommodated my issues (no dairy or seafood) as well as others (shellfish allergy, vegetarian, etc.) which was fabulous. Knowing that I could eat food and not worry about getting sick was such a relief, I could actually enjoy the experience.
Meeting the guide, Renee, an American ex-pat, who like so many others left the U.S. for a year but found her love and stayed in Spain. This is her dream job and her enthusiam for the food and the shop owners can be seen throughout the tour. Meeting outside of the Valentino store on the Passeig de Gracia was easy. I arrived first followed by a solo traveler from Chicago, another blogger from the TBEX conference and a family of nine (the group is capped at 12). We were told a bit of the history of the city and the neighborhood of Gracia that we would visit on our four hour tour. The area had been a village that was absorbed by the city of Barcelona yet retains so much of that small town feel that few tourists get to visit despite its proximity to so many other must see attractions. We were provide a handout with all of the spots we were visiting but I put it away and wanted to be surprised.
Warning: The Photos contained in this post may make you hungry! So don’t read on an empty stomach and remember I’m not a food blogger so I either like it or I don’t like it – simple as that
Spanish Second Breakfast
The Spanish like to have a second breakfast around 10:30 a.m. (who am I to argue this) so we visited a small shop for a grilled botifarra sandwich. The bread was fantastic paired with the spicy sausage, I really inhaled this it was so good. We were given a glass of cava (sparkling wine which is the “confused cousing of champagne”) to toast with. Cava is like water I’m told and can be drunk all day, some costing less than a euro a glass.
The Barcelona Market Stop
We walked about ten minutes to the first stop, the local market, one of the oldest in the city. Here we would have two visits – the first to a family run olive shop and the second to the cheese stand. The market reminded me of Philly’s Reading Terminal market of local fresh foods. We would pass the lady in the fresh egg stand, a stand big enough for just her and the eggs.
The Olive Stand
Started by his parents, the current owner renamed the shop after his mother who used to work in the shop while her husband socialized. With a variety of olives to choose from, our first tasting would be sea salted cod stuffed olives. I’m not an olive fan so passed on this tasting.
The Cheese Stop
I ate cheese! While everyone received three different Spanish cheeses, I was given lactose free cheeses – two Spanish and one Swiss. I really don’t remember when I last ate cheese without popping a few Lactaid pills with fingers crossed. The Spanish cheeses were creamy, the one with the jam was a tasty combination, the Swiss was a bit harsh for me.
Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting
Wine Tasting, yes, I’ve done that but Olive Oil tasting was a first for me. We entered what seemed like the fancy wine shop only to see all shelves lined with bottles of extra virgin olive oils. The group moved to the back room where tables were set up with bottles of olive oil, baskets of bread and bottles of water. Our guide shared the history of olive oil production in Spain (produces 45% of the world olive oil) and then we sampled olive oil both on spoons and with bread. It was interesting to see the results and hear everyone’s opinion.
The Bomba, Tomato Bread and glass of Penedes wine
Having spent time in Catalonia region, I learned of the tomato bread and quickly became a fan. It’s a do it yourself meal where you rub garlic (optional) on your bread, then take special small tomatoes (exclusively grown for this) and cut the top off and squeeze the tomato juice across the bread. Top with a bit of olive oil and you have the poor man’s bruschetta (without the diced tomatoes) which is called pa amb tomaquet.
With a glass of local Catalonia wine (or beer), I next sampled an AMAZING flavorful bit of “Bomba”. It’s a potato and ground beef croquette with brava sauce and aioli. It was my favorite of the day. The owner of the shop has a story too (they all do!) – he and his wife lost their jobs and took over this beloved neighborhood restaurant.
Filled with happiness – tomato bread, wine and Bomba,we moved on eager to see what could top this! It was a clear sunny day and wonderful to walk the neighborhood with nary a tourist in sight (other than our group).
A Tasty Syrian treat
We next visited the famous pastisseria with Barcelona’s adopted Syrian supplier of desserts. I tried the triple chocolate pastry and it was interesting – not my favorite pastry due to the textures – I was expecting chocolate filled or other gooey treat but the one I picked was a bit dry for my tastes. There were so many options, my default is always chocolate – others said their picks were good so next time I should focus on honey or almond or other.
The Old Man Bar
Told that this is “the place” for anchovies and vermouth, the old man bar (just a bar with lots of old men), happily gave me my sample without the pickled anchovies. The atmosphere and the happy old man and his wife (?) who wanted to share with us made me feel like this was a special place. It was fill with so much memorabilia that I wanted to stay for hours to explore but alas we moved on.
Time for Lunch at the smallest restaurant in the neighborhood
With only four seats at the counter, this takeaway restaurant was our next stop. Surprisingly, all but four of us fit in the shop for the tasting. I stayed outside on the small sidewalk. The owner appeared with two trays to sample. First up a spoon filled with vegetables as escalivada and romesco “pintxo”, next homemade meatballs in a bean and snow pea gravy.
Coffee & Dessert
Just as my stomach was getting used to the blind date with the foods, we made our last stop for dessert. Judging by the window alone, I knew this wouldn’t disappoint. We received a mini cremat custard treat. This pastry was a million times tastier than it looks in the photo – it really was that good. Wanting more, the owner had only made enough for the group (the universe telling me not to have too much of a good thing).
Check Please! I’m Stuffed!
Don’t eat a big breakfast! Walking around Gracia helped pace the food experience so you didn’t feel too full. The Devour Barcelona tour was fantastic and that fact that they accommodated my food issues really meant a lot to me that they care so much about the food experience that they don’t want to exclude anyone.
Right now, the tours are offered Tuesday-Saturdays sell out in advance. The cost is €65 per person. I was provided the tour complimentary as an attendee of the TBEX Costa Brava conference, opinions are all mine though and I’d happily pay for any tour that is lactose free! The pricing is reasonable for the amount of foods you get, the timing and the small group experience. It’s a bespoke food experience that all visitors to Barcelona should add to their “must eat” list. Your stomach will thank you, your Facebook friends will envy you and your Instagram/Pinterest photos will definitely get a ton of likes once you tag it #foodporn! So go forth and Devour Barcelona!