As someone who travels for food and books reservations before flights, whenever I tell my friends about my time at 41 Grados they pause a bit before asking more. REALLY? THAT GOOD? I’VE NEVER HEARD OF IT! 41 Grados was started by the Adria brothers. Ferran Adria started El Bulli and many of the techniques used in El Bulli serve as the foundation of 41 Grados. If you missed out on the infamous El Bulli olive, you can get it at 41 Grados and Tickets, the tapas bar that the Adrias opened (and in DC with Jose Andres).
Getting Reservations Both Tickets and 41 Grados are relatively difficult reservations so you’ll have to book a month in advance. In both of my early Winter trips, 41 Grados would book up 2-3 weeks prior, but Tickets would book up instantly on the day reservations are released online. Of course, you should always check back for cancellations, but you’re less likely to see that at 41 Grados because there is a 50 Euro deposit.
The Experience Incredible. Albert and Ferran created an “experience” for lucky diners–inclusive of moving projected images and music as the Albert takes you around the world with food. Depending how die hard you are–you’ll probably want the first seating’s courses; If you sit through the the later seating, your dishes won’t line up with the music though I doubt anyone would have really noticed unless they asked! Likely you’ll sit there asking what items on the plate you can eat or not eat because all the food is presented in such a bizarre or fun way. This probably goes without saying, but not only does every dish have a perfect presentation, it all was delicious! I nearly forgot to note the cocktails that come with the tasting–frankly, I wonder why all cocktails aren’t as beautiful or wild as the ones at 41 Grados! Whether it is edible “leaves” and “pearls” or the perfectly branded ice cubes, you will probably leave impressed and excited about eating in a way you’ve never felt before. Go now! Nom.
I had a great meal at Tapeo, a small Spanish restaurant started by the opening chef at Tapas 24, David Rueda. When I first walked in, I didn’t catch the resemblance, but could definitely feel the same bright modern vibe. Speaking to the chef, he had a bit of a giggle reporting to me how the white counters happen to look just like Tapas 24!
First, we had the fried rabbit ribs. Yes, rabbit ribs! At first I couldn’t believe it, and while there was very little meat on the bone, it was so good. Fancy Super Bowl party snacks, anyone?
Next we had the fried artichoke (which you can find at just about any other tapas restaurant). Apparently artichoke is fairly common on West Coast menus, but you hardly see fresh artichoke on the menu in New York so of course I ate it up.
Then came the sliced stuffed squid (the only vegetables I had the entire trip, haha). It was exactly as you’d expect from a Spanish restaurant: pure simple fresh flavor.
Next we had the beef and mushrooms. It was a slow cooked stew-like meat with a thick sauce. Delicious.
Finally on the savory side we had the foie gras with truffle, mushrooms, and eggs. Wow! It was an amazing finish with all your favorite flavors in one. We almost didn’t order it but David insisted we try his specialty.
Siete Portes was a great paella restaurant near Barceloneta (and relatively famous too!). I’m not too keen on the tomato-based paella which is so sad and unfortunate, but when you change it up with well executed squid ink, I’ll never stop! The restaurant was pretty straightforward on the up-scale bistro level and a little pricey at 28 Euros, but I will definitely be returning next time.
It is also relatively close to the Citadel Park if you want a beautiful post-meal stroll! (You’ll need it)
I took my new friend’s advice to do exactly what I wanted at all times during this trip. With all the pressure of having to see certain things in a city you can often lose sight of important vacation goals like relaxation! As a result, I haven’t really left my hotel until 1pm all this week after some chatting with home and blogging and I spend my afternoons walking aimlessly and perusing shops and alleys. It’s been fantastic with something new behind every corner–blocks with only bead stores, massive ornament statues, abandoned buildings, people wildly dancing in the streets.
Judge it all you want, but hey I’m having a great time doing “nothing”. I think this approach to the trip is exactly what I need. Also, if I wasn’t randomly wandering I wouldn’t have found the Catalan Bombers (firemen)!
Anyway, yesterday I had the random experience of meeting some expat Americans living in Barcelona with similar priorities: food, wine, food, cocktails. They were the nicest people I’ve encountered in a long time and it reminded me… Oh yes, how really great traveling alone can potentially be. I think without all of these new friends, this trip could have continued to be a nightmare!
We went to a few spectacular places. First, a cool craft beer place called Georges and Dragons. Then we headed off to a lovely wine bar, grabbed something to eat at Fantastico and landed at 41 Grados for cocktails (and to meet Albert Adria).
Spectacular night. I was giddy with Albert’s celebrity status and totally dig the two kiss cheek greeting thing.
Today I was so lucky to have had a 360 compared to yesterday’s sad and emo day. I woke up gloriously late and started making my way out to go shopping where I stumbled on some beautiful buys and a new friend! She was also traveling alone and we met in a fantastic shoe store (I think we ended up buying the same pairs)! It was amazing to hear someone else’s lone travel stories to realize maybe I wasn’t the only one going through this. It actually made me feel less alone to know that!
In the evening I managed to meet up with the gf of my landlord to return the problematic apartment’s keys after a solid 30 minute wait in the cold, but after that horrendous experience I feel incredibly relaxed. It made me realize how easy it was to dwell on one aspect of a vacation that goes wrong, but all you can do is pick back up. I think it is reasonable to be frustrated with what happened, but I’m also really excited that I can finally move past it!
So back to what I said yesterday about traveling alone and deciding to do things that make you happy and not have to compromise/accommodate other people. It’s pretty tricky if you are so used to being around other people, but my new friend agreed that that was one of the pleasures of traveling alone. My new friend was really wise and also mentioned how we often feel obligated to go to places just to check them off our lists and because we know people will ask us if we’ve been there. That’s basically what I was trying to accomplish the first time I was in Barcelona. I tried to see as much as possible. It was a great trip, don’t get me wrong, but I couldnt do things purely because I felt like it in the moment, didn’t learn anything much about local culture and didn’t have the chance just to look at what was really going on around me. For instance, this is really random, but now I realize how people in the subway don’t mind sitting in close proximity to you if that’s what’s convenient for them. In New York you would leave gaps and avoid a bench of four with three empty seats if you see a complete bench of four empty just a little further away. Likewise, if you are standing in a spot waiting for the subway people have no problem in Barcelona huddling around you despite the rest of the platform being really empty! Of course the New Yorker in me initially thought they were really strange ganging up on me, but after a few times I realized!
To close the day after shopping, walking, having some coffee in a plaza, and eating some amazing food I also made a new waiter friend–my favorite kind of all! He of course related to my love of wanting to eat everything and didn’t pick on me for staring at the kitchen the whole night. All the other details of where I went will eventually be posted with photos :).