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Line your stomach like a local tonight

4 Aug

Well you weren’t going to go out tonight, but you went to meet someone in the early evening.

So you had a couple of beers.

Then another friend joined the group.

So you had a few more beers.

Then someone joined the group who was friends with the bartender.

Suddenly it’s 10pm and you’re on your way to another bar suggested by another friend. You haven’t had solids for the last nine hours, and beer is sloshing about your belly and doing funny things to your eyes.

It’s time to eat my friend.

If you’re in the Raval, you can have kebabs, or kebabs. And if you’re like me, it takes exactly three mouthfulls to remember why you don’t eat kebabs when sober.

If you’re in the Gotico there are a few options. On Carrer Dels Escudellers there is the famous Lechuga, pizza heaven to the discerning drunk. My new favourite however is on Carrer dels Codols.

Turn off Placa Trippy (Placa George Orwell on the map) onto Carrer dels Codols. The first shop on your left is a kind of hybrid which looks like a kebab shop but serves chicken and rice, chicken and chips, samosas and a whole lot of similar combinations. The average price for food ranges from 3.50 Euros to 5 Euros.

A bit too ‘street’ for your European sensibilities? Fine, keep walking.

The next place on your left, marked by the internationally recognised red lantern is the Chinese restaurant. Fried rice, or a dish of rice and beef, or noodles and chicken, will set you back about 4 to 5 Euros. Gone are the nostalgic days of 3 euro chinese food, but still great value, and you can sit in and eat for no extra cost.

Not in the mood for Chinese? Fine, Keep walking. Peek into El Mariatchi bar on your right, and make a mental note to come back for a drink.

And finally when you think the person who gave you directions was probably too drunk to think straight, you see it. Tuccos! Bohemian cafe chic, with big tasty food at street food prices? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Past the front desk, and inside the long and narrow cafe are two food stations buzzing with activity. A little team of chefs are working hard, and more significantly…looking clean. Several tables are scattered through, with what even appears to be a large birthday party in progress in the back. The mandatory artist friend’s sketches are up for sale on the walls, along with spray painted skateboards and the perplexing message ‘I can’t stop’ forming a repeated theme throughout art in the restaurant.

That isn’t Tuccos’ message though. Tuccos’ slogan is ‘Real Food’. Hooray!

I opted for a mini pizza (1.80 Euros) and a slice of dulce de leche, a kind of caramel cake (1.60 Euros). A good portion of lasagna would set you back 5 euros.

Tuccos has just relocated to this new spot, and all the decor is fresh and crisp. Unfussy, but cool. The lady taking food orders at the front counter is patience exemplified, quietly explaining and waiting for large groups of tipsy people to muddle their way through the menu.

Overall, the cafe had a great vibe. Silly cheap prices were just an added bonus.

In fact, I’m going back (sober) today, just to make sure that dulce de leche really does taste as beautiful as it did last night.

I’m all about thorough reporting.

Photo blog Day 14: Japanese Ramen Noodles

4 Jul

After craving Ramen Noodles for months and months, I finally broke.

I found a relatively easy looking recipe, which used plain language and explained all most of the Japanese terms.

For the ingredients I went to Yang Kuang, on 12 Passeig de Sant Juan near Arc de Triomf. This is a brilliant wee store specializing in imported Chinese food. I found most of the ingredients I needed, enough to not feel bad about ignoring the rest anyway. I also bought a bag of frozen pork and vegetable dumplings for about 2.75 Euros, and they tasted awesome!

If you go looking for this place, ignore the other poncy ‘gourmet’ shops on the street. You will get half the selection and pay double the price. Yang Kuang looks like a warehouse and the produce is all garish plastic, and vacuum packed bags with cheap paper labels. A more reassuring sign of authenticity than wicker baskets and pretty labels.

Anyway, almost 24 hours after starting to cook…… ta da!

The recipe I kinda followed:

Confessions
I used ready made chicken stock, ginger paste and pepper to make the soup, instead of this whole carry on (described below). I used Pak choi instead of spinach, and I couldn’t find naruto (a slice of cured fish with a pink swirly pattern). I bought spicy bamboo shoot instead of shinachiku and cheap rice wine instead of sake.

Note: Don’t be a eejeet like me and ask the Chinese shop girls about the ingredients; although they all have Chinese origins the recipe uses Japanese names.

Shoyu Ramen

Ingredients: (for 4 servings)

1kg chicken bones for 1.5 liter chicken soup,1 white onion (leek), 30 grams ginger, 2 liters water, 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sake, 1/3 teaspoon salt, a little pepper and sesame oil, 4 balls of chinese noodles, 8 pieces yakibuta (chinese pork ham), 4 pieces naruto, 1/2 bunch spinach, 1/2 sheet nori, 1/2 green onion, a little shinachiku (chinese flavored bamboo shoots)

Preparation

Soup:
1. Clean chicken bone, remove fat and sinew, wash well. Then cut it into large butsugiri.
2. Boil water in pot, put bones in it. Boil bones until the color of the bone changes. Place bones on strainer to drain water.
3. Prepare a large deep pot with water (1.5 liter), leek, ginger, and bones together. Start to boil on a high flame.
4. When it comes to a boil, skim the scum.
5. Continue heating for 1 hour with mid-low flame, while skimming the scum often.
6. Filter it on the bowl by strainer with thin cloth or kitchen towel on top. Add Soya sauce to taste.

Toppings:
1. Cut spinach into strips and steam.
2. Cut nori into quarter sizes.
3. Slice green onion into thin koguchigiri (thin slice), soak in water, then dry with cloth or paper towel.

Putting the dish together:
1. Heat up soup stock, add soy sauce, sake, salt, pepper and sesame oil.
2. Boil water in a large pot, boil noodles till just cooked (about 4 min).
3. Set serving bowls warm, pour soup, put noodles.
4. Add yakibuta, naruto, spinach, shinachiku and nori on top.
5. Shake pepper and garnish with green onion as desired.

This is the most common way to make Shoyu Ramen. To make it much easier use ready made soup sock.

If yakibuta pork is not available, make it as follows:

Set 600 grams of pork block tied with cotton string in tsukejiru soup for a while. Tsukejiru (1 teaspoon grated ginger, 3 tablespoons of each sugar, soy sauce and sake, a little pepper). Put oil in a chinese frying pan, fry the block of meat until it browned, add rest of tsukejiru in to pan and cook in the oven till tender (about an hour).

Best seats in the house at La Confiteria bar

14 Dec

Yeah there are other seats. At the bar, at the side and in the inner room. But who cares.

We want the best seats. The ones in the window. Inside the hall of infinite mirrors. With sparkling crystal lamps above our heads. With the clink of glasses and chatter, and envious glances all around. Nothing less will do darling.

Nothing less will do, and we’re willing to fight for it. Amidst the fabulous creatures of the theater who populate this bar. Flashing pearly smiles, swinging manicured hands and shrugging scarves onto vacant seats. Nudge a costume designer here, angle around a script writer there.

Inch by laughing inch.

Until at last the prize is won. One night of bliss in the BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE. In your face!

Come and join the fight-

Address: Carrer de Sant Pau 128
Transport: Hop skip and jump away from Parallel Metro station
Phone: 93 443 04 58
Hours: Some time – 2am

Black Mirror: Brilliantly disturbing UK mini series

12 Dec

The Black Mirror series is a set of three mini movies which explore some of the ideas of modern life and the media which make many of us nervous. In a nutshell, hated the first one, loved the next one.

Episode 1 The National Anthem

Weird, weird, weird. This one shows how an individual can use the internet (and a little old-fashioned kidnapping) to blackmail the British prime minister into screwing a pig.

Yes. He does the dirty. With a pig.

Shocking concept, great build up and very realistic, but it fell short. First, it makes an undecided half hearted attempt to show the story from the point of view of random members of the public. They shouldn’t have bothered.

Secondly, they never explain the perpetrator’s motives, apart from the PM’s aide muttering some crap about him making a ‘point’ on the phone. Now turning down a knighthood or leaving excess packaging at the check-out desk is making a ‘point’ hen. Forcing another human being to have sex with an animal is something else entirely.

It seemed like the Channel 4 execs just wanted to leave the Brit public with the image of the PM doing a pig. Seriously? Just imply he’s having a career damaging affair, in accordance with acceptable media tradition.

15 Million Merits

Brilliant! So brilliant! So scary.

Set in the not so imaginary future where people spend their days pedalling strange exercise bikes (probably to generate electricity). By pedalling, they earn merit points which they then exchange for food and entertainment. The only possessions they can buy are virtual ones which their avatars can enjoy.

The only way to escape this drone drudgery is to become rich and famous, notably through an X Factor/ Pop Idol type talent show. But to become rich and famous, you gotta prostitute your humanity.

How do you fight it?

Watch the Black Mirror series on the Channel 4 website 4OD and look out for the final episode in the series, The Entire History of You, on the 18th on Channel 4 at 10pm Spanish time (9pm UK time). We use Expat Shield to watch brit tv online, but there are lots of options out there.

The cathedral of the sea- bleh!

17 Oct

I gleefully got my hands on an English language version of Cathedral del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones, only to be left underwhelmed. All the references to Barcelona and the descriptions of the streets of Barcelona just didn’t make up for the main story.

The book follows the protagonist Arnau Estanyol’s journey from penniless fugitive to laborer to soldier to super rich merchant (thanks a Jewish man with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of gratitude) to cream of Barcelona society connected by marriage to royalty to criminal and then some. It’s very similar in tone and style to Ken Follet books such as Pillars of the Earth, but not as entertaining. The book was well received by domestic and international audiences and may even get the ultimate Hollywood ratification when it gets turned into a ‘major motion picture’. I think not. A mini series period drama maybe, but not a major motion picture.

I like the fact that the author used his knowledge of the law to bring medieval Catalonia to life and structure his story, but the good bit ends there. The characters are ok if a bit black and white and the descriptions of Barcelona not particularly evocative. But its the meandering nature of the story which gets to you in the end. That and the lack of any unraped female protagonists.

I’m serious. Everyone gets raped.

Multiple times.

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