Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mi Viaje a Barcelona (Part 3): Market Cuina Fresca and Being a Douchebag

This may just be the douchiest thing I say today, but: the way to eat at the most delicious restaurants on the earth is to have friends who know the owners of the most delicious restaurants on the earth.

I know, I know. I’m SO fancy. I put my Christian Louboutins on the same way you do: in my mind and not in reality.

I digress.

I serendipitously happened to be in Barcelona at the same time as a very cool friend of mine, Director Jonathan Barber. (I like calling him Director Jonathan Barber because he is, in fact, a director. He asked me to call him ‘sir’ but I have no evidence that he has been knighted. PROVE IT, JON.)

The last time I saw Jon, we shot a spot together and he bought me a Nintendo Game Boy fanny pack. We also ate 7 dozen oysters (calm down…with the help of 4 other people) and had a SICK meal at this place in Toronto called Parts and Labour. Jon is friends with one of the owners of Parts and Labour, which just got written up as one of Food and Wine’s Insider Picks for Toronto restaurants.  So, I trust Jon with the foods. And all of my Nintendo-based accessories, obviously.

Jon’s friends Ana and Damien own this little place on Carrer de Badajoz in Barcelona. And it is legit. If you are in Barcelona, go find Market Cuina Fresca.

Every morning, Chef Damien gets up at 6 and goes to the market to shop and put together that day’s menu. Everything is incredibly fresh. And not to mention, incredibly delicious. (Bonus? It’s healthy. WHAT?!)

They’re just open for lunch, but that’s more than enough. In Spain, they do this terrific thing called a “menu del dia” or “menu of the day.” (Now you know Spanish!) For a fixed price–at Market,  it’s 12 euro–you get a first and second course and a dessert, plus a drink. I mean, that’s kind of awesome.

The restaurant is light and airy. Which is amazing when I saw the pictures that Ana showed me of what it used to be. It was literally brown and orange inside. And now it reminds me of something that could be in the less pretentious parts of Santa Monica. Wherever those are.

And the food. Shit, y’all. I ate lunch there twice, which breaks my travel rule of not repeating restaurants. But the food is just that good. And the menu is always changing. It’s whatever is fresh and at the market that moment, hence the name: Market Cuina Fresca.

By the by, sidenote. The whole farm to table thing is a seemingly new trend here in the US. But the reality of the way Damien shops for Market and the care that he puts into his menu, it’s just the way things are done over there. And doesn’t that make sense? If a tomato tastes best and is in season in the summer, why would you want to eat it in the any other time? (And why would you want to eat a tomato from like Iceland to eat one in December…??)

Market Cuina Fresca. Go. Seriously. Look at all these foods I ate.

Photo credit: Director Jonathan Barber

Photo credit: Director Jonathan Barber

Jon told me I had to credit him for taking this picture. And to be fair, seeing as he is an actual director with an eye for visual composition, the food photos on this blog have lit’rally never looked better.

This was dessert: Cheese, quince, pear. AMAZING.  The photography? Awful.

This was dessert: Cheese, quince, pear. AMAZING.
I took this picture. It’s ain’t great.

I highly recommend a trip to Market. And a trip to Barcelona. If you happen to run into Jon there, it’ll be even more fun. (Stop by Drunk Beach. The half liter Estrella Damms will get you.) I’m looking forward to running into him in another city. And I fully expect him to have a pair of Sega Genesis legwarmers for me.

Sadly for me, this is my last Barcelona post. But I shall carry it in my heart. And on my thighs.

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And on the 15th day, I moved.

A brief respite from my humble bragging about Barcelona and #ham to tell you that in between my trip to Barcelona and my upcoming production, I moved. (Oh, you didn’t know that I went to Barcelona? WELL, I DID)

I didn’t move because I wanted to. Well, I did want to. But I also had to. My landlady decided to sell the condo I’d been renting. So, I had to find a new place. 

My parents came up last week and frankly, I could not have done it without them. Literally. If I’d done it alone, it would’ve gotten done. Like, all the stuff would be at my house. But I would’ve been living in a fort of boxes because I would’ve gotten overwhelmed and instead of unpacking the boxes, I would’ve come up with something new to do with them. Like make a fort. 

I’m living in a house now, which is exciting. And kind of scary. I think I might set up a tar and feather station, a la Home Alone. Just for some extra security. Bless this highly nutritious, microwavable meal and the people who sold it on sale. (Sorry, Sarah. Home Alone sin, quoting it out of season.)

Here are some pics. 

Naturally, the thing I’m most excited about is my new kitchen. And one thing in particular.  

IT. HAS. AN. ACTUAL. OVEN. For the last 5 years, everything I’ve baked was made in THIS monstrosity. 

Although, to be fair, it didn't usually have other racks in it.

Although, to be fair, it didn’t usually have other racks in it.

I know, it’s worse than Portia di Rossi’s new face. But, seriously folks…

This was really hard for someone who loves to bake. To make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, it would take me over 2 hours. I could fit 4 cookies on a sheet tray. I had to buy special sheet trays to fit the oven. It was just dumb. 

My dad, whose passion is model railroading (I know…we’re a really cool family), compared my love of baking to model railroading. And he said “you’re probably just as excited to bake something as I was to get out there and put cracks on the sidewalks on my model railroad!”

Again, VERY cool family. Welcome to the family, fake future husband!!

So, he asked what the first thing I was going to bake was. And I said: coconut tres leeches cake.

Much like the patatas bravas, I haven’t had a chance to make this yet. But it’s from Food 52, so I feel like it’s gonna be delicious. It’s going to be the first thing I bake. I mean, I may throw a piece of salmon in the oven. But this will be the first cake-ular thing that happens. Because man should not live on bread alone. And let them eat cake. And I’m out of phraseology, but now I’m hungry for cake.

Fuck.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake from Food 52

Serves one 9×13 cake

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • One 13 1/2 ounce can coconut milk
  • One ounces 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Heat the oven to 350. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Melt the butter and honey together and set aside.
Whisk the flours, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a larger bowl until everything lightens in color and is nice and smooth. Now on lower speed or with a gentler arm, beat in the flour in 2 additions until the batter is just smooth. Fold in the butter and mix until it is just fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating cake once halfway through, until it is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. This is going to look like a sort of shallow cake. Don’t worry.
While the cake bakes, mix the three milks (tres leches) together and also spread the coconut out on a baking sheet. When the cake comes out, pop the coconut into the oven to toast. Check and stir every 3-4 minutes. It should only take 8-9 minutes to get golden brown.
Use a toothpick to poke little holes all over the warm cake. Now pour the milk over it — slowly. It is going to look like a LOT of milk and you are going to want to panic. Don’t. My cake actually floated up like a raft briefly! But pour it all on and wait — 95% of that milk is going to adsorb into the cake and the rest is that lake you are looking for. Allow the cake to cool completely, and the toasted coconut as well.
Now whip the cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and lime zest together until stiff peaks form. Spread the cream over the cake, then sprinkle the coconut over top. You can dig in right now, our keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days, though I doubt it’ll last that long.
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Mi Viaje a Barcelona (Part 2): Patatas Bravas EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

This is a typical conversation between me and the Voice in my Head about potatoes. You know. As you do. 

Voice in my Head: So, Bethany. You just got back from Spain? What did you eat?

Me: Well, Voice in my Head who already knows the answer but who is asking me questions for the conceit of this blog post, clearly you did not read my last post. I ate bread. And much of it. 

Voice in my Head: Wow! They have bread in Spain!

Me: Yep. …Just like in America.

VIMH: What else do they have in Spain that they have in America to eat?

Me: Seriously? You didn’t read the post at all. They have ham.

VIMH: I’m a figment of your imagination. Also, HAM!

Me: …calm down… 

VIMH: And? What ELSE?!

Me: Wow. This was an annoying device to tell this story.

VIMH: And? What ELSE?!

Me: Potatoes.

VIMH: Potatoes?

Me: Potatoes.

VIMH: What kind of potatoes?! 

Me: Patatas bravas.

VIMH: OOOOH. Those sound FANCY.

Me: They’re not fancy. They’re at every regular bar/restaurant in Spain. But my friend Marla and I decided to become connoisseurs and we ate them almost every day. Sometimes twice a day. Because, well, they’re absurdly delicious.

Seriously. And this isn't even all of them.

Seriously. And this isn’t even all of them.

VIMH: What makes them so good? 

Me: Well, they’re fried. 

VIMH: OOOOOH.

Me: Will you just…shut… They’re potatoes that are fried and then covered with a paprika sauce and a garlic aioli. And they’re frankly delicious. 

VIMH: OOOOOH.

Me: I hate you.

VIMH: I get that a lot. How do you make them? 

Me: Well, I don’t know because I’m moving and then going on production so I have not cooked anything and won’t be doing so for awhile. But I’m going to transcribe a recipe I’ve never tried by the great Jose Andres. And then try to cook them….in awhile.

VIMH: Wow. This really is a fake food blog.

Me: I know, right? Also, you’re an asshole.

VIMH: I get that a lot.

Patatas Bravas from Olive Oil from Spain 

 For the brava sauce

  • 6 fresh tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs. Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • Salt to taste

For the allioli sauce | Allioli is Catalan for Aioli which is Italian for Garlic-Olive Oil-Amazing Sauce

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

For the potatoes

  • 4 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds Idaho potatoes (about 3-4 large potatoes), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup allioli (see recipe to follow)
  • 1 bunch chives, finely chopped, for garnish

Preparation: 

Cut each tomato in half lengthwise. Place a grater over a bowl and grate the open side of the tomato into the bowl. Strain the grated flesh through a sieve to produce 2 cups of tomato puree.

To make the brava sauce, pour the 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a small pan and warm over low heat. Add the tomato puree, sugar, bay leaf, pimentón, and cayenne.

Raise the heat to medium and cook until the mixture reduces by 2/3 and becomes a deep red color, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Add the vinegar, add salt to taste, and reserve.

Take a deep and heavy-bottomed pot and pour in the olive oil. Heat to 250°F. Place the potatoes in the oil and poach them, frying them slowly until soft, which normally takes about 10 minutes. The potatoes won’t change color but they will soften all the way through. You can test for softness by inserting a toothpick; if it comes out easily, the potatoes are done.

Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon or a spider and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Raise the temperature of the olive oil to 350°F. Return the potatoes to the pot.

Fry in batches until crispy and brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Continue until all the potatoes have been fried.

 Drizzle a little brava sauce on a serving plate. Top with the potatoes, add a dollop of the allioli, and sprinkle with chives.

Allioli a la moderna | Modern garlic and oil sauce

Break the egg into a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.

Using a hand blender/immersion blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste. Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color. Add salt to taste.

** If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.

José’s tips

What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another container and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

 Bethany’s tips

I told you. I haven’t made this yet. Don’t be a dick. 

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Mi Viaje a Barcelona: A Carbtastrophe

Those of you who know me as a real life human being know that I studied abroad in Spain junior year of college. I believe it was the fall of 2004 and oh my god that was so long ago and it feels like yesterday. (Call on me, anyone?)

This vacation was my first time back to Spain since then. While I was there, I had some really powerful visceral memories of things I did/did not miss from my time living there.

Things I did not miss:

  • Weird old men that hit on you while you’re walking down the street
  • The smell of sewage that randomly assaults your nostrils as you walk down a picturesque sidewalk
  • Dog shit just all over the aforementioned picturesque sidewalk

Things I did so much miss:

  • The sound of church bells ringing in the hour
  • Cafe con leche
  • The weird, nonsensical graffiti that is so well executed that you can’t even be mad at it, for example:
  • What? But...ok.

    I don’t remember this from the movie.

  • The rapid fire Spanish you both can and can’t understand; and on the flip side, broken English for tourists
  • The amazing sights, including but not limited to beaches, cathedrals, parks and monuments
  • Sigh.

    Sigh.

  • And duh. The food.

For me, this trip was about relaxing and eating. It was like How Stella Got Her Groove Back if Stella had been jilted by a Lean Cuisine and she chose to get her true revenge ON the Lean Cuisine by eating and drinking all of the carbs that there were in the world.*

*I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve never seen the movie. So this is a really bad metaphor based on what I THINK the movie is about. But somehow I don’t think I’m too far off.

Anyway. Barcelona.

Spanish food is generally simple, fresh and so, so good. And, y’all, they have the best ham in the world.

HAM!

If you’re a lover of ham like I am, then you simply haven’t lived until you’ve had jamon iberico. Prosciutto? Garbage compared to jamon iberico. The meat is salty and the fat melts in your mouth. I miss it already. But be warned, it is also a little bit stringy and hard to eat in front of people you think are good looking. But I digress. Jamon iberico is delicious and it’s perfect on my new favorite Spanish delicacy: pan con tomate.

This was a new discovery for me. The Spanish have bread at every meal, but in Barcelona that bread is so much more than just bread. They take sliced crusty bread, toast or grill it, rub it with a bit of garlic, and then rub it with a ripe tomato.

THAT’S IT. It’s effing delicious.

I have more posts about Barcelona to come. A whole post about potatoes. (MMHMM. POTATOES.) And one a restaurant you simply must go find if you’re in en Barthelona.

Cause everyone deserves a chance to get their groove back , y’all.**

**Seriously, I’m not going to see the movie. But I will continue to make references like I have.

Pan Con Tomate adapted from Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from Spain by Joyce Goldstein

Ingredients

  • Crusty Bread
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ripe Tomato, cut in half

Heat grill pan (or broiler) to medium-high heat.

Cut the bread ½ inch thick. Brush both sides with olive oil. Grill (or broil) until marked on both sides and somewhat crisp. Immediately rub one side with a garlic clove. Then rub the cut side of halved tomato on the still-hot garlic-rubbed bread. If desired, garnish with an anchovy or a slice of Serrano ham, since we cannot easily get the delicious jamon iberico here in America.

Roast salmon, tomato and watermelon salad and pan con tomate.

Roast salmon, tomato and watermelon salad and pan con tomate.

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