Ah, Barcelona. The city of sangria, Gaudí, paella, Barça (definitely mas que un club, mind you), tapas and so much more. This summer, I discovered more than a few food and drink trends I’d be thrilled to see make a leap across the pond.
Catalan tomato bread: A Catalan classic, pa amb tomàquet (aka pan con tomate, aka tomato bread) is a simple, delicious and prevalent meal starter in Barcelona, as well as throughout Catalonia, Aragon and Majorca. All it takes is hot, toasted slices of bread rubbed with a clove of garlic then half a tomato, sprinkled with salt, and topped with a drizzle of olive oil. Garlic gives the juicy Catalan tomato bread a nice kick and sets off the acidic flavor of the tomato.
Tortillas Españolas: The tortilla Española–a separate beast entirely from the corn or flour flat breads we’re accustomed to here–is one of the most dynamic food items Spain has to offer. Served hot, cold or room temperature, tortillas can be savory or sweet and eaten at any time of day. The Spanish version is usually thick and typically frittata-like in density, though sometimes suggestive of a thin omelette. In Barcelona, the famous tortillería Flash Flash offers more than 50 varieties of the egg-based delight. Particularly notable were the tortilla de las niñas, a rather omelette-like option with a thin egg exterior encasing chicken in rich Bechamel sauce, and the tortilla de la panadera, which was more like a frittata with crispy bits of fried bread and tomato lurking inside. For dessert, the tortilla de manzana Tommie was a sweet treat. The tart apple and syrupy topping made the mouth all but forget that cooked egg suspended the fruit. Tortillas could be an excellent addition to brunch.
Jamón Ibérico: At the risk of sounding gastronomically blasphemous, I’ll say it: I’m just about over pork belly. I’m ready for the next pig trend. And what better product to embrace than the Spanish porcine treasure of jamón Ibérico? Unavailable in the US prior to 2005, jamón Ibérico is a cured ham made from black Iberian pigs. The pasture-roaming creatures’ natural grass and herb diets are supplemented with acorns and olives just prior to slaughter, yielding a characteristically smooth, almost buttery flavor to the meat. It’s salted and dried for 12 to 48 months, and then shaved off in thin slices. The melt-in-your-mouth jamón is used on bread or pizza, with cheese or olives, or in any other situation that could be improved by the addition of rich, supple meat (read: every situation). It has a higher fat content than Serrano ham, though much of the fat is monounsaturated, or “good” fat, thanks to the acorn-rich Iberian pig diet. One drawback: It’s a bit pricy–upwards of $52 a pound in the US.