1st Spanish Meal: Desayunos

We wanted to spend most of our day visiting the area around Montjuic.  Montjuic is the site of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.

It is also the day we are going to eat-eat-eat-eat-eat-and-eat.  That is going to be a lot of eating.  Contrary to our readers’ impression, we are not big eaters.  Really.  Honest.


We took a leisurely stroll to around the neighborhood where our hotel was.  Our hotel was not in a touristy area and so the restaurants here are very much patronized by the locals.

The one we went to was just around the block.  It was like almost all local restaurants, people are smoking inside.  We only decided to eat here because there were no one smoking outside at the patio.

The folks here does not speak English at all.  But over the last few days, we learned a bit of Spanish … he he he.

Clearing my throat, I confidently say “Hola!”.  The owner replied “Hola!” and proceed to speak Spanish.  Ahh … but I know what he was saying to me.  He said we could either take the tables inside or outside.  I know because he was pointing to the tables inside and the outside.  I smiled and said “Gracias!”.

So far so good.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Spanish Meal Hours

The theme for the fourth day of our vacation in Spain is “Eat Like a Spaniard!”  We were going to attempt the meals that the people in Spain have.


At home in Canada, we eat three main meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with small snacks in between if needed.  However, according to our travel guide, the people in Spain have SIX meals!

This is how their meals are laid out.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Tapas in Txapela

There is one more important Gaudi that we wanted to go to.  We could not locate Park Guell, a garden which Gaudi designed.  We took the Metro all the way to the nearest station and then found out it was another 1.5 km walk.  We had enough for the day and turned back, heading back to Plaza de Catalunya.


We had tried tapas in a pub before and Suanne hated all the smoking.  Near the Plaza de Catalunya we found one that has much lesser smoking and the place is more airy.  It looked busy too, but at the same time, it also looked very touristy.


We had the option to get seated by the tapas bar or the tables.  In many places in Spain, the prices for eating at the bar and at the tables are different for the same food.  The bar prices are cheaper.


We opted to get seated at the tables.  It’s more comfortable … and we don’t have to deal with eye contact with the bartender … and we don’t have to chat with our neighbor.  Spaniards are chatty and they will talk to you in Spanish!!  Not this time, we were dead tired and just wanted to have a quiet, take-it-slowly meal … and catch up with our notes.


I had beer, Suanne had water.  I don’t really like to drink beer.  I only ordered that so that I don’t look wimpy.  LOL!  Believe it or not, after just half a mug of this, my face will turn bright red and will take at least 1/2 hour to clear.  Suanne ALWAYS bug me about it … “Honey, your face is red again.”

Oh please … not too loud.  The next table could hear!

I can’t quite figure out the pricing of beer here.  The waiter asked if I wanted the 0.4L for €2.95 or the 0.5L for €3.95.

BTW, €1 is about CAD $1.60.


This is a touristy tapas restaurant alright.  The menu is available in the language you want.  They have it in German, French and what nots.  On the tables are paper mat printed with numbered pictures of the tapas they have.  The translations are on the menu.

We have an order sheet (like dim sums in Richmond!) to circle what we wanted.

The food are more pleasing to us.  Suanne said she likes this better.  I just think that this is watered down and presented better for tourists.  Anyway, here are some of what we had.


The Pintxo Octopus (octopus in Vinaigrette) was €1.70.  It was particularly nice with the chopped onion, tomato and peppers.

The prices here felt cheaper to us because at the other places, the prices of each dish is about €4.  However, the serving here is much smaller and often bite sizes only.  We actually like it better with bite sizes because we get to try more types of tapas.


The one above is called Igueldo.  It is made of tomato sheets and lined with a Catalan cheese called Atura.  €1.70.

The cheese was quite mild tasting like mozarella.  We like the cool and refreshing taste. (more…)

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Barcelona: Guess Where We Had the Tarta de Queso

After the whole day of walking, our feet were killing us.  We looked for somewhere to rest and get a drink.  We wanted somewhere simple.


We came upon this restaurant which looked familiar.  So we went in and since they have really delicious looking pastries too, we ordered some.  Suanne gravitated towards the Tarta de Queso as always.  Alright, it is cheesecake but the words name Tarta de Queso sounded cooler.

It was served somewhat fancy considering that we did not expect a place like this to do that.


I had a simple pastry.  Loved the way they served this.  You may think that … so what?  This is nothing unique.  It sure is considering where we had this.  We had this in, believe it or not, … (more…)

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Barcelona: Our Version of “Savory Breakfast”

On day three in Barcelona, I stole a few hours again from Suanne.  I wanted to be there for the start of Stage 7 of the Tour de France (Barcelona to Andorra).  The race was supposed to start at 9AM and so we thought we be smart and stake our spot at 8AM.

We got ourselves a great spot.  It was the first turn after a 1km ride down the avenue.  I was pretty pleased with the spot except for one problem.

It was the procession and the floats that starts at 9AM.  We had to wait until 10AM before the race started.  It was a long wait … two hours!


The race ended in no time.  All the riders rode past under 1 minute.  Gosh … we waited 2 hours for 1 minute of action.  Oh well … at least I was right there.

Suanne was very patient with me. She was quite hungry because we had not had our breakfast yet that morning.  I know because her stomach gives a mean growl when she is hungry.  LOL!


So we just randomly go into one of the many restaurants along the Paral-lel Avenue.  We selected the one with English menu displayed at the entrance.


We are getting into the habit of getting Cafe Con Leche.  So we had that again.

We learned that Spaniards have a very different meal times that the rest of the world.  For instance, they have TWO breakfasts.  The first one is a simple pastry and coffee and the second one is known as the “savory breakfast”.


I don’t know what “savory breakfast” really mean.  I attempted to ask the waiter about this but he doesn’t speak much English.  So we just made up our own version of “savory breakfast” by selecting items we thought were “savory”.

I told the waiter that we wanted a Pork Loin with Cheese Sandwich.  Lost in translation … instead, we were given an egg sandwich instead.  We had no complain because to our surprise the sandwich has ripe tomato in it.  It was very much like the Pa Amb Tomaquet we had the previous day.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Paella and Tapas for Dinner

One of the quest we had coming to Barcelona is to dine at El Bulli.  No, we were not one of the lucky 8000 diners selected this year (out of 2,000,000 reservation requests!) to have the privilege to dine at the world’s best restaurant.  I thought since I am here I give my best shot.  Who knows right?  I could get lucky that someone with reservation might all of the sudden cancel their reservation.

So, our quest starts on day two in Spain.  We made phone call and sent email begging them if there is anyway they could accomodate us.  After all, we came all the way from Canada … pretty far, please?  This to and fro with El Bulli went on for THREE days.  I am gonna tell you if we got a table … not now … in a few days.  I got to post this in sequence.  LOL!

For now, we’ll share about the traditional Spanish food we had.


Dinner for the second day were simple affair.  We had been snacking way too much too.  We were not too hungry but we had already decided exactly what we wanted to eat.  We have a list of Spanish cuisine dishes that we have to check off — so that we know what else we are missing.

We quite randomly went into one that we thought is frequented by Spanish and not tourists.  Heavens, I don’t even know where this restaurant is.  There are so many in Barcelona that you will not go hungry.  Most of them are small outlets.

And most of them are filled with SMOKE too.  This one is, much to Suanne’s disappointment.  She does not have much choice.

Also many of the restaurants in Barcelona also has a jackpot machine or two at the entrance.  Gosh — gambling, smoking and drinking is something you don’t see a lot of in Vancouver.  Wait till these Spaniards come to Vancouver … they’ll suffer.


Did you know that Sangria is Spanish?  I read somewhere that this red wine punch originates from this part of Spain and very popular during the hot summer months.  The restaurant did not serve their Sangria (€3.90) in a pitcher like how it should be traditionally.


Suanne obliged my suggestion to pose with the Sangria.  You know, it is kind of obligatory to pose with the food we eat, like the way you pose at the sights you visited.  That is chowtimes for you.

That was solely for show only.  She took a sip and declared she did not like it.


She had tea with lemon (€1.35) instead because she was beginning to develop a sore throat from all the travelling and lack of sleep.


We ordered a small personal sized Paella.  This is called Paella Mixta.  As you know, I am a fast learner when it comes to languages.  Mixta means “mix” — and I remembered it the first time I heard of the word.  I think I have a natural knack for languages, particularly Spanish don’t you think?

This one is €11.40.  It was the FIRST time … (more…)

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Barcelona: Catalonian Breakfast at Bracafe

We woke up early on our second day in Barcelona.  We had a good sleep … did not realize how tired we were after all the travelling and going sightseeing while dealing with jet lag.  It was going to take some time to get over the jet lag.  Most people will take one day to get over each hour of time zone difference.  There are nine hours between Vancouver and Barcelona.


We wanted to have breakfast at where the locals eat.  We walked the streets around the hotel looking for one and found one not far away.  It was a pleasant cafe.  When we were poking our heads into the cafe, the staff beckoned us to come in.

Language was lesser of a problem here as one of the staff speaks English.  He knows we are tourists and without having us even asking, he helped us with suggestions.


Cafe Con Leche — strong and creamy.  We love it!  The Spanish people takes their coffee seriously.  In every restaurant we went to, even hole-in-the-walls, has an espresso machine.  As a matter of fact, during the entire vacation in Spain, we had not come across a drip coffe maker.  Vancouver’s coffee seems so pathetic compared to their Cafe Con Leche.  I would think the Spaniard laughs at coffee from Starbucks!

The waiter told us that Cafe Con Leche means coffee with milk.  The word “Con” means “with” in English and “Leche” is milk.


The waiter recommended that we have a very Catalonian breakfast … the Pa Amb Tomaquet.  We just called it Tomato on Bread.  It is just a simple toast and yet so deliciously fresh.  It is easy to make too.  When we came back to Vancouver, Suanne had been making this for breakfast at home too.

It is just toast.  You just rub a ripe (it is important it is ripe) tomato on it and then drizzle it with olive oil.  You can add a little salt for added taste.  Simple.  You should try it at home.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Tapas in Bar Castell Near La Rambla

I read somewhere that one should avoid eating at the restaurants that front La Rambla.  They are tourist restaurants which often means that it is overpriced and lacking in quality.  A dead give away is the menu and signs in English.  So, we avoided those places like plague.


Instead we were advised that we should duck into one of the many side streets along La Rambla.  Indeed … it was a whole new area to discover.

We were looking for a tapas bar for our dinner.


We peeked into one that looked lesser like a tourist spot.  My criteria is … the customers must look like locals and that the staff can’t speak English.  This one met the criteria.  Bar Castells is the name of the bar.

They had a number of tapas on display at the bar.  We made our order by pointing and hand signs.  Oh yeah … I grunt a few English words too to mimic human communication.  We got by.  They seems to understand.  I think they had seen the likes of us before.


The bar was unbelieavably smokey.  Unlike Vancouver, there are no non-smoking laws here.  They don’t even have a non-smoking section.  Suanne wanted to turn back but when I told her I don’t know how to cancel the order in Spanish, she had no choice.  Everyone seems to smoke here.

We went to the empty back section hoping that the air is cleaner.  It was better.  But only for a while.  Before long, this section gets filled up too and EVERY table have at least a packet of ciggies on it!  Suanne was horrified.

One thing we were sort of glad … we were the only tourist looking person here.  Everyone looked like they are locals, speaking Spanish and in working attire and all.  Boy, Spaniards does talk very loudly in this restaurant.  It is like they are talking for the neighboring tables to hear.

Oh, I forgot.  The people in Barcelona are not Spaniards and do not speak Spanish.  They insists that they are Catalonians and they speak Catalan.  Not that I can make out the difference after half a day in Barcelona.


The waiter came by asking what I wanted to drink using the universal hand signal for drink … you know, the thumb to the mouth.  A little shake of the hands means alcoholic drinks, I suppose.  A steady hand must have meant non-alcoholic.

I learned an all important word during the flight to Barcelona … Cerveza.  So, I ordered a Cerveza.  It seems like no one ask for one by brand.  When you ask for a Cerveza, they bring a Cerveza.  Strange thing too … when they brought me the cerveza, they pushed the “sal” next to the beer.  I wasn’t sure if they meant for me to have salt in my beer or they was just moving it and happen to move it next to the beer.  Rather than looking like an idiotic tourist, I did not use the salt.  I did not see anyone else in the surrounding table did.

You think Spaniards Catalonians drink their beer with salt?


Bread was complimentary, I should think.  It does not taste fresh and is dry.  It tasted like it was made in the morning.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Getting Around Barcelona (and Our First Spanish Meal)

We got to Barcelona — finally.

As much as Suanne feeling that the vacation started when we crossed the US border, it is only when we landed in Barcelona that I feel the vacation really got going.  After all, Suanne has put everything on my shoulders.  She said that she is leaving it entirely up to me to do everything … she is there only for the ride.  I am the tour guide, she is the tourist.  She got the better deal.

Here is some self explanatory trivias for you which I got from Wikipedia.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

In terms of cities, Barcelona ranks #11 in the world.

It did not take us too long to clear immigration at the newish looking Barcelona airport.  We travelled light with no checked in baggage.  When travelling standby, you don’t want to have the mess dealing with retrieving your baggage in case you don’t get to board.


Getting from the airport proved to be easier than we thought.  Due to the lack of planning, I had earlier been prepared dole out some bucks (or rather euros) for taxi ride to the hotel.  I was really expecting it to be expensive too.  For some reason I do not know, many airport taxis in the world have surcharges making it more expensive than normal.  Do you know the reasoning behind this?

The Information counter at the airport speaks perfect English.  We were directed to down an escalator and there was a stand with a bus waiting.  The bus shuttles to the city very often and costs a few euros.


The shuttle bus last stop was at the main square of Barcelona.  It is called the Plaza de Catalunya.  It is like the Barcelona city center.

Having got off from the bus, we needed to get some bearings on where we are and where the hotel is.  The bus driver was of no help because he speaks no English.  So, we went to the Information Center office at the Plaza de Catalunya, lugging our bags along.  We were not so conspicious because there were tourists doing that too.  So, yeah … we blended in alright!


At the Info Center, the folks there were helpful.  But that place was super busy and (more…)

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Greek Summer Festival 2009

The Greek Summer Festival 2010: June 29th to July 11th.

Suanne and I were invited by Amir, the Executive Director of the Greek Summer Festival, to the event to experience Living A Day The Greek Way.  Suanne and I had been having way too many invites these days but this was one event we could not turn down because we felt we had so much to learn.


We met Amir and to our surprise, he had actually gotten the people behind the event together so that we could meet them.  Never in our imagination how much history there are behind this annual event.

The Greek Summer Festival had started as a one day event 23 years ago organized by the Greek Orthordox Community of East Vancouver.  The event’s main goal is to raise funds (this year they partner with Make a Wish Foundation) and to introduce to Vancouver the richness of Greek culture, traditions and FOOD!

They told us how this one day event grew from one-day event to an event that spans two weekends around Canada Day.  This year’s event runs from June 26th to July 5th.


George Economous was our host of the evening who was gracious enough to spend two hours that day to bring us around the place and showed us the event behind the scene.  He he he … Suanne and I felt like we were on a guided tour of Greece!  We were so intrigued by the stories we are hearing we decided to learn more before digging in to the food.  But since this is a food blog, I gonna share with you the most important aspect of this festival … FOOD … especially …


… LAMBS.   If there is only one thing we came away impressed, it was the lamb.  Being Chinese who generally finds lamb gamey, we ended up thinking of lamb in a much different light.


The Greek Summer Festival sold a whopping 465 lambs within 10 days in the festival last year.  This year, they are on track to break last year’s count and I am not going to be surprised.  We met George “The Real Boss” (the person above is George “the Host”).  George “the Real Boss” is the man behind these lambs since the inception of the Greek Summer Festival.  Boy, he sure has lots of stories to tell and BBQ burn scars to show too!!


They used to do this by hand and using charcoal but today they have a whole row of rotisseries imported from Greece that slowly cooks this.  It takes four hours of slow cooking to make each.  They use the very best New Zealand lamb because of the tenderness of the meat and of the consistent size.  They tried to use local lambs but gave up because it was best only during Easter period.


They used to chop the lamb piece by hand.  It is impossible to keep up with the demands that they had introduced new ways and machines to do the job better and faster.


Many people actually come to the Greek Summer Festival only for their lambs.  People would drop by the festival on their way home to pick the lambs on the spit up by the kilo ($32) or half-kilo ($16).

Some people even order the whole lamb.  That is $185 and is more than enough for 20 people.  They will cut it to your choice.  Sometimes there are customers who comes in a group and order an entire lamb to feast at the festival.  That would be fun!


This is what Suanne and I had — the Lamb Dinner, Bone-In.  This is wonderful … perfecto in every aspect. (more…)

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