A good meal is more than just food. It's about love. It's about the company and sharing the food with the loved. It's about the vibe of the location and the culture that reflects in the food. It's also about the authenticity of the food and the passion of the chef. It must be accompanied with moments of joy and paired with the right booze.
I had a rendezvous with a perfect meal exactly a month ago - it was my second day in Spain. The company couldn't be better than of close friends & the location better than Spain. I love the tapas tradition in Spain of going to a restaurant and sharing small snacks & sangria with a group of friends. Our meal was a tapas lunch at a traditional Catalan (region in Spain) countryside restaurant, on the outskirts of Barcelona. During the forty five minute drive, we passed by quaint villages and charming casitas. The restaurant was perched on a mountain top, and as we neared the summit it almost turned into a dirt road. We were all starving, but our hearts assured us that the wait would be worthwhile !
The lunch wouldn't be possible without Vishal - my friends cousin living in Barcelona who is very passionate about his food . Before meeting him, we thought "vegetarian tapas" was only an oxymoron ! But he guided us to this place and many other authentic eateries in Barcelona. After meeting him, we were dining like locals !
We ordered and re-ordered a lot of food and everything was crafted to perfection. A lot of it was a twisted version of Indian or Italian food but still very satisfying. I've actually tried to pen down what we ate & this should be a good guide for adventurous vegetarians. After we learnt the lingo, we tried tapas at many other places in Spain, but none of them met the benchmark.
Gazpacho: Gazpacho is a chilled tomato soup. You then mix cut cucumbers, onions, peppers, vinegar and herbs in the soup. It was healthy, refreshing and light !
Patatas Bravas: The Spanish classic - fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. I'm actually not a big fan of potatoes.
Champiñones al ajillo: Mushrooms lightly sauteed with garlic, olive oil & sea salt. They actually infused the olive oil on top of the mushroom. Another version is "setas al ajillo" which are wild mushrooms lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
Pimientos Padron: Small green peppers from Padron (region in Spain) fried with extra virgin olive oil & sea salt. Gave me reminiscences of "vagharela marcha" in traditional Kathiawadi food.
Paella de verduras: A rice prepared with seasonal vegetables and white wine. It's almost a fusion between Indian biryani and Italian risotto. It was served on a huge platter - big enough for four people. We had put in the request for a vegetarian paella one day in advance. This was really the highlight of the meal, but we couldn't eat too much a lot since we were overstuffed with the tapas.
Sangria di Cava : Sparkling sangria, prepared with cava, fresh fruit and our special spirit mix.A perfect accompaniment.
"The time to enjoy a European trip is about three weeks after unpacking." ~ George Ade, Forty Modern Fable