Chök, Doughnuts, Las Ramblas

ChökI have been to Chök a dozen times since I moved to Barcelona. I love their doughnut display: I mean, whatever is the hole there for if not for hooking it up on the wall?

They have a distinctive doughnut.  Extremely light: almost soapy in flavour.  They employ a special (secret) technique that makes it possible.  It’s not my thing.  I favour a hint of grease and the crispness in a doughnut.  I’m probably happiest with a sugared Krispy Kreme and a cup of black coffee (or in Barcelona, a Lukumas).IMG_5451 Read more of this post

Çu Kor, Candy Shop, Gracia

CukorAs a child, I had extremely poor dental hygiene, as a result, every molar I own has a retro Amalgam filling in it. If I don’t laugh out loud though, you can’t tell, in fact my front teeth are straight and white. Good-looking teeth because I am (now) fanatical about maintaining them. Which is why: I don’t eat candy.

Mannequins at the candy shopExcept on the rare occasions that I happen to be passing by the sweet shop Çu Kor in Gracia.  Everything here is handmade.  It is all beautiful, quirky and real.  In the winter, I picked up some wonderful ginger pastilles that soothed my raw throat.  A couple of weeks ago they had some stringy barba a papa.  Another time it was different sized discs in a rainbow of colours and a little satchel of sour powder.  They sell marshmallows, fruit pates, toffee, fudge.  It’s all here. Read more of this post

My Organic Garden

My organic gardenMy splurge for 2013/2014 was an organic garden. I’ve wanted a working vegetable garden for roughly 20 years but I have always lived in an apartment. Now, encouraged by having 3 children, we finally moved into a house with a garden – clad in Astroturf. Not my choice but as it’s a rental that is how it will remain. A few months ago, I received a flyer from Garden Ambrosia for an organic garden scheme. It pictured a family with broad smiles and misshapen vegetables.

I went for it. A friend of mine derided me openly. “What? You are going to pay someone to do it?”

Courgette and tomatoesYes, I am paying someone to do it. I’ve wastefully blundered through attempts at balcony container gardening for ages. Buying books. Lugging 20 liter bags of soil through the house. Managing only to grow a handful of strawberries (usually picked off by the birds) and some tomatoes with inedible skin.

It turned out the happy family on the brochure belonged to Derwent whom I invited to scope out the garden.  Despite our garden being large, the only suitable sunny spot we could find was the gravel driveway (I had also always dreamed of a gravel driveway arrivals and departures accompanied by a crunch crunch crunch noise). Some of it was sacrificed (reversing into it is now a lip biting experience). As the soil was poor, Derwent set about constructing a raised bed and bringing the soil, the manure and the ah – volcanic ash – to me. He told me that a healthy plant needs 98 elements (or was it 89? Everything went blank when he mentioned the periodic table) and volcanic ash is just the ticket.

Twins admiring the gardenWhen I complained that the slugs were turning my lettuces into green doilies he retorted that bugs taking up to 10% of a crop is fair and that the plants are healthy enough to take it. When the beetroot was ready to harvest, he cautioned me against throwing away the leaves and so we prepared them as the Greeks do, with garlic, olive oil and lemon. It was delicious. We have learned to eat plants nose to tail so to speak – whenever possible Read more of this post

Comaxurros, Modern Churros, Sant Gervasi

ComaxurrosOn page 16 of June’s Elle Gourmet there is a tiny picture of some pallid churros with an insert about how they come salty and sweet.   The picture does not induce even minor pangs of hunger but the text is intriguing.

I set off on a mission to a little visited part of town. The street didn’t say much to me, sometimes a new address is just the thing to get me discovering a whole host of charming places and this wasn’t going to be one of those times. The flourescent sign of Comaxurros was easy enough to spot, though the light did nothing to enhance the few churros they had in the window in pink, yellow and brown. Still, I had come all the way to try so I dutifully went in. I ordered a raspberry one and my sister had the passion fruit one.

Churros at ComaxurrosThey look like sharp edged eclaires but taste nothing like them. I like love eclaires but these churros eclaire things are possibly even better. There’s a chew, a tug. There is the vague savouriness that churro pastry always has and when that is coupled with sour and sweet – it’s an addiction in the making. That is without mentioning that it’s fried and fried tastes better.   You only have to have a taste and all of a sudden, it turns out it’s not so much that you want it as you need it. Right. Now. Read more of this post

Brunch at Espacio 88

SKye Coffee Espacio 88My sister was visiting me from London last weekend and it coincided with a weekend of fun events in Barcelona. A pop up brunch at Espacio 88, the 2nd Eat Street by BCNmes and a weekend of open artist studios in Gracia and Poble Nou.  My perfect day begins with a great coffee so the two of us were there, cup in hand by 10:30 a.m.  I had a bagel from the guys at Cloud Street Bakery, split down the middle with two fat slices of foie gras, a drizzle of maple syrup and a fried egg, topped with shaggy rocket and some crumbs of briny feta cheese.

Foie gras, fried egg, maple syrup bagel Read more of this post

Praktik Bakery, Self-Service Bakery / Cafe, La Dreta de l’Eixample

Praktik Hotel BakeryI avoid making bread. Cake, cookies, tarts? Yes, yes and yes. Work clean, measure accurately, get the oven temperature right and with a good recipe, success can always be achieved. Bread on the other hand requires time, commitment, nurturing and being open and receptive to what it’s telling you. Bread making is like taking care of a child. And I have 3 of those so my patience and intuition are worn thin, I am full to the point of bursting in the deciphering mercurial temperaments department.

So bread? Not so much in my house.

Praktik Hotel BakeryI do like to eat it though and watch Anna Bellsolà make it on Youtube. All topsy turvy and not the way I do it at all (the way I do it is stick everything into the Kitchen Aid, mix, put cling film on top and wait for it to rise – no art or beauty in the process. But Anna, to make a ciabatta, she starts by mixing flour, water and salt. She works that dough. She rests it. Later she adds crumbled yeast to it. (!!!) She rests it. Then she pours green olive oil on and somehow coaxes the bread to suck it all in. By the end, having worked with a dough so wet, it would have intimidated me into adding an avalanche of flour  (but not her) –  she has a dough so round, pert and perfect that when she slaps it, it sounds like she is slapping a baby’s bottom. Read more of this post

La Cuina d’en Garriga, Delicatessant & Restaurant, Dreta de L’Eixample

La Cuina d'en GarrigaI visited La Garriga twice before I finally decided to give it a try with my new friend Anjalina of the Barcelona food blog – Rainbow Spoon.  Mostly because this neighborhood has a tendency for well designed shops with mediocre but expensive food.  Garriga has some promising visual cues; they use and sell bread from Baluard, stock tea from Mariage Frères and sauces from Wilkins & Sons.  Meanwhile their chiller cabinet is groaning and perspiring with all manner of delicious things.La Cuina d'en GarrigaMy original plan had been to order some buffalo mozzarella with organic rocket but then I thought it better to test the kitchen and ordered the quinoa salad (€11.30) and the arroz ala cubana (€11.50). Anjalina ordered the lentils with foie gras (€11.40).  Portion sizes were on the small side and prices on the other end of the end of the scale but it was all delicious, unexpectedly so.  The lentils were boiled so that they were tender and not a moment to long.  The quinoa was light and fluffy with the surprising addition of candied lemon peel.  All dressed well.  The lone fried egg atop my rice a la cubana could have used a friend, my stomach certainly thought so.   But overall good and a nice change from all the Tapas and such. Read more of this post


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