Finally back with more Barcelona! Have I mentioned how absolutely, head-over-heels I fell for this city? There is just somuch to talk about that it’s making it extremely difficult to pare down our adventures into concise blog posts, but I’m at least going to try.
Previously I told you all about the fabulous Food Lover Tapas Tour, and today I’ve got a completely different dinner experience to share with you.
Pakta is a Michelin-starred experiential restaurant run by Albert and Ferran Adrià of elBulli fame. Yes, elBulli, that place in Spain that was named the most influential restaurant in the world for many years. Sadly, it closed a few years before I stepped foot in that country, but I certainly read about it. A lot. For anyone that is as food obsessed as I am, there was no way not to.
When I began researching Barcelona, I crowd-sourced on Twitter, which I often do when planning trips. Pakta was recommended by an acquaintance whose opinion I definitely respect when it comes to food, so I added it to my list of ‘potentials’. As I began to dig further, I discovered the connection to the Adrià brothers and there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was a MUST do.
My research also turned up these fun facts:
Pakta serves Nikkei cuisine, which is a blend of Japanese and Peruvian elements
Nikkei cuisine was created by Japanese immigrants that began coming to Peru in the late 19th century
The word Pakta means “union” in the Peruvian dialect Quechua (the original language of indigenous Peruvians)
To learn more about Nikkei cuisine, its roots, and where it’s going, read this article. I found it fascinating.
Now, for our experience~
Pakta offers two set tasting menus, which they will email to you a few days before your reservation. At that time, they ask that you let them know your choice of menu so they’ll be ready for your visit. (You are able to share allergies or intolerances at this time so the chefs can adjust your menu)
The first option is the Fujiyama menu, with 23 dishes for 95€. The second option is the Machu-Picchu menu, with 33 dishes for 130€. Typically I would go for the larger offering, but this was one time that I showed restraint and was actually happy that I did.
While I’m sure all those extra dishes were incredible, we were completely satisfied with Fujiyama’s 23. It was the perfect amount.
Corn surinagashi with huacatay and lime
Tamago-dofu, tosazu sauce with nori and salmon roe
Horse mackerel with cucumber, gari and sumiso sauce
Cherry with kimchi, radish and green shiso
Kumquats with “leche de tigre” jelly
Daikon with “ají amarillo”
Market fish usuzukuri with yuzukosho
The meal starts with Honzen Ryori, which is a basic style of Japanese cuisine where dishes are arranged and served on trays. Our first round of dishes were bite sized courses served on a wooden platter.
Oyster nigiri with ponzu sauce and “rocoto”
Horse mackerel nigiri with umeboshi and “ají mirasol”
I can’t even begin to explain everything. Let’s just say we were blown away. My head was spinning and I’m not sure there has ever been a time in my life where I was so absolutely giddy about food. We were both at a loss for words, and all we could manage was “wow”.
Tuna tartare with crispy nori and shichimi
And of course it didn’t end there. We were just beginning. Next up was nigiri, tuna tartare, and the most amazing ceviche ever. Honestly, I felt like I was in a dream. My head was swirling as dish after dish was put in front of us.
Sea Bass ceviche with fresh green almond “leche de tigre”
Looking back, there’s a part of me that wishes I’d done a better job of documenting every bite. Taken notes, taken more photos. But at that moment in time, I didn’t want to analyze and document. I needed to just be. To enjoy.
Floral causa of tuna with “acevichada” mayonnaise and kizami wasabi
Fried causa with chicken and huacatay
That said, I did take the time to snap a few photos, and luckily several of them were of the dishes that turned out to be favorites.
In traditional Peruvian cusine, a causa is a mashed potato terrine typically served as a starter. Pakta’s causas were little mini bites, but the small size definitely did not mean little flavor. This tuna causa was absolutely incredible.
Suckling pig Xiao Long Bao with “ají limo”oil
Pork jowl fried “sanguchito” with pickles
Cancha chulpi soba with “acevichada” sauce and bottarga
Then there was the Xiao Long Bao. I haven’t had a dumpling this good since China. Need more of these in my life.
Grilled chicken “Anticucho”
Fried rock fish with “escabeche” nikkei sauce
Desserts Honzen Ryori
Soy sauce flam
This was a meal that will never be forgotten. When I’ve tried to describe it to people, the best way I can do so is to say that it was one of the best meals of my life. Actually, it might even be THE best meal I’ve ever had.
It’s made me start researching Peru so I can go there and seek out more Nikkei cuisine. It made me want to expand my world. To travel more, to soak in other cultures. That’s what a truly great meal should do. Fully satisfy you, but leave you craving more.
Back in February, a new bar opened it’s doors in Wedgewood Houston and I pretty much instantly fell in love. At that time, some of my friends didn’t even know where Wedgewood Houston was. Actually, by the blank stares I still get from some people when I’m explaining where Bastion is, it’s obvious there are plenty that still don’t.
And I’m okay with that. Because so far it hasn’t gotten too crowded. And it hasn’t been overrun by tourists and bachelorette parties (please God, don’t let this happen. Please.)
Tucked away inside Houston Station, Bastion is the kind of watering hole/gathering space that my husband and I have been saying was lacking from the social scene for a few years now.
Strategic Hospitality and Chef Josh Habiger are the forces behind this place, and once again they’ve got the golden touch. A neighborhood bar serving everything from amazing craft cocktails to High Life ponies, Bastion also has an arcade table. Galaga!!! The excitement I experience any time I encounter Galaga is a little abnormal. Pair it with a good cocktail and my night is made.
While I love many of Strategic’s concepts (Patterson House, Pinewood, Catbird), this one is definitely the most laid back and comfortable. It’s the perfect place to hang with friends or have a casual date night with your honey.
Craft cocktails are $13. Punch of the day, Old Fashioneds and Bucks (my go-to) are $9. Wine is $8. Beers are $2.50 – $6.50. When I say there is something for everyone, there really is.
Toy Soldier at Bastion – Tequila, Mezcal, Pineapple, Lime, Ginger, Cardamom, Salt
While there are more than enough drink options to keep you busy for quite some time (and meet anyone’s taste), the bar serves only one food item – nachos. But they are way delicious, so I think you’ll be more than satisfied.
just part of our Feast at Bastion, the restaurant
That said, if you’re looking for more of a meal than just snack-y bar food, then you can combine your visit to Bastion the bar with Bastion the restaurant.
Opened in May of this year, the 24 seat restaurant side of Bastion is made up of basically 3 areas – a small bar, a kitchen counter, and a dining room with 3 tables.
one of many a la carte dishes at Bastion’s counter
Parties of four to six (no parties of more than 6 can be accommodated) can dine at one of the dining room tables, where they offer ‘the feast’, a multi-course meal that, in our experience, will leave you stuffed, and perhaps even taking home some leftovers. These dishes are served family style, and the chef himself delivers the courses to you, along with a detailed description of each.
Pear + Fennel at Bastion
For parties of one to four, Bastion offers a multi-course a la carte menu served at the kitchen counter, where you can watch all the magic happen up close. Having done both, I have to say, I think I prefer sitting at the counter for no reason other than being able to interact with the chefs as they prepare the meal. You can’t go wrong with the food either way, but it’s fun to watch and ask questions as it’s all coming together.
Scallop + Melon at Bastion
The kitchen counter menu is arranged by size, with the smallest dishes at the top, and the larger entree-like dishes toward the bottom, with dessert very last. They suggest 1 item per line per person, and for the most part, I agree. Of course, if there are 3 things on one line that you want, go for it! My husband and I are usually more interested in savory courses than sweet, so if you’re like us, maybe you’ll want to cut out a dessert and choose something from another section instead.
Whatever you do, definitely choose different items than your dining partner/partners, so you can taste almost everything on the menu!
Beef + Sweet Potato at Bastion
Menu descriptions are super simple (as you can see from my photo captions), but I promise the flavors are way more complex. There’s a lot happening in some of these small plates and your taste buds will be doing the happy dance as you hop from dish to dish.
Dessert at Bastion
Whether you’re looking for a casual after-work drink spot or in need of a special place for a celebratory meal, Bastion has you covered. Take my word for it and go grab a drink, have some nachos, and/or make a reservation for the restaurant via their online ticketing system. But let’s keep it between us, okay? I’d like for it to stay tucked away as our hidden gem for as long as possible…
Nashville Scene’s annual Best of Nashville issue just hit the stands a few days ago and I want to thank you all for voting for me! For the second year in a row, I placed second in the Best Food Writer category between two very talented and very deserving people, Chris Chamberlain and Jennifer Justus.
When I started this blog over seven years ago, I had no idea anyone other than my friends and family would ever read it, and I certainly didn’t think I’d be winning any awards! Even better than the awards though are the friendships I’ve built and the amazing opportunities I’ve been given. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting me all these years!
Day 1 of the festival was one of the grayest, dreariest, messiest days I remember experiencing here in Nashville for quite some time. Lucky for me I learned my lesson years ago after surviving one mud-bogged Steeplechase, and I now own some cute rain boots for times like this. I’ll admit they don’t provide the best support for hours on your feet, but at least they kept my tootsies dry and made navigating the mud-filled park a lot easier than those people I saw getting stuck ankle deep in sandals in the mud. Ick.
While the rain did put a bit of a damper on the first day, it certainly didn’t stop me (and a few hundred others) from enjoying some great food and drink.
This was the 4th year of the festival, and the 4th year I’ve attended. Year 1 and Year 2 were held at Public Square Park downtown, but last year it moved to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, and I absolutely LOVE the change of venue. Much more space, a few trees to seek shade (or shelter from the rain), and plenty of free parking in the area.
Virago’s Carp Crudo
It would be absolutely impossible for me to recap every single thing I ate and drank, so I’m just going to hit the highlights. Believe me, there were plenty of those.
By far the best bite of the day on Saturday was, for me, Virago’s Kentucky Silver Carp Crudo with pickled gooseberries, gooseberry ponzu, chevral, and smoked olive oil. It was so refreshing and flavorful, and just so very different than anything else I had that day!
Thai Esane’s spicy chicken larb
People often ask me to name my favorite restaurants in Nashville, and it’s HARD y’all. Sometimes I really love a place for certain seasonal dishes they have. Sometimes I love a place for the atmosphere. But there are a handful of places I consistently crave no matter what time of the year and my fondness for it has nothing to do with atmosphere. Thai Esane is one of them.
Thai food is my jam, and the pork larb is one of my favorite dishes there. Here at MCFW, Nina was serving up their chicken larb and even though I probably added a few too many peppers (good lord, my mouth was on fire!), it was one of my favorites.
The Goo Goo Shop at Music City Food & Wine
Okay, so I know I work for the company, but I swear even if I didn’t, the Premium Goo Goos would have still been the best dessert I ate on that Saturday! For the last couple of years we’ve been collaborating with some of Nashville’s best chefs for our Summer Chef Series, and Music City Food & Wine is where the series culminates and all chef creations are available for tasting.
My favorites this year have been Chef John Lasater’s (Hattie B’s) “Goo Goo Cluckster” and Pat Martin’s “Whole Hog“. If you weren’t at Music City Food & Wine and haven’t been able to get any of the Premiums yet, then hurry over to the Goo Goo Shop today and grab one because today is the very last day of the series!
The Southern’s potato pancake with duck confit
Now back to the savory…
I really enjoyed the Southern’s duck confit with spiced carrot puree and plum cherry mostarda with toasted pepitas, plus I got to chat with Chef Dale Levitski who was manning their booth at the time, so that’s always a treat.
As many of you probably know, Dale used to be the chef at Sinema, but left a few months ago. I was excited to hear through the grapevine a few months back that he was now working on the new Tom Morales seafood concept, Fin and Pearl (which will be a sister restaurant to The Southern). I love Dale and seafood, so should be a winning combo!
Watermark’s Bacon & Pickles
Watermark won my award for prettiest tablescape of the weekend. I actually kept taking people by there to see it. Of course, I wanted them to eat the food too, as it was one of the best bites — maple glazed bacon with pickled squash, carrots, onions and mustard seed. Yum.
Watermark’s Table at Music City Food & Wine
Chickens and cabbages gettin’ smoked at Martin’s
While I didn’t get photos of all the individual foods I sampled from the Martin’s BBQ fire pits, I can say that everything I had was fabulous! From lamb skewers to sausage to green beans, I loved it all.
Octopus on the grill at Music City Food & Wine
Hallelujah, Day 2 of Music City Food & Wine was a much better day! It wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, and for some reason, the food offering was even better (was that just my imagination?) than Saturday.
Over the last couple of years the Sunday Grand Taste has really become my favorite part of the whole weekend. The Gospel Brunch is fabulous. Love the music, love starting the day with a Bloody Mary (this year from Tito’s), and the vibe of Sunday just seems to be way more chill for some reason. Maybe because many people are hungover? Ha! Thankfully I wasn’t, so the day was pure awesomeness.
Merchants Bacon Cornbread
I’m not typically one for carb heavy foods, so sometimes I pass up those dishes at events. Not on this day, and thank goodness I didn’t, because carbs ruled.
When I saw the description of Merchants’s cornbread on their sign, it sounded strange, so I hesitated. But, ultimately I went for it and let me tell you, bacon cornbread with peach miso butterscotch dandelion pesto is divine.
Holler and Dash’s amazing biscuit
Let me tell you what else is divine. Every single topping on the biscuit from Brandon Frohne of Holler and Dash: candied bacon, popcorn, whipped peanut butter, and bananas. Yep. If I had been hungover, this definitely would have cured it.
Bongo Java Pink Radio Cake
More carbs! When I spotted the pink radio cake from Bongo Java, I was giddy. You see, this cake has been around for years (at least 7 or 8 years?? I feel like I may have been eating it at Fido before I even created this blog). But until Music City Food & Wine, I hadn’t had a piece in ages.
One little square reminded me what I’ve been missing out on. The second square confirmed that I need to eat it more often. No, I didn’t take a third square, but I wanted to. (fun fact: the cake and icing contain puréed beets but you’d never know it from the taste!)
Watermelon salad from Butcher & Bee
There were lighter bites to be had too, I swear. For instance, I loved this little bite of watermelon salad from Butcher & Bee. (Seriously, you can never go wrong with anything from Butcher & Bee. Never.)
Ceviche from Bajo Sexto at MCF&W
And this really light & tangy ceviche from Bajo Sexto. Speaking of which, have you been to Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge on Charlotte yet? It’s awesome, you guys. You must check it out if you haven’t already. Super cute space, great patio and some really interesting dishes coming out of that kitchen from Chef Kaelin.
The best drink booth of the entire festival was definitely Wild Turkey’s, as they had these guys from The Patterson House mixing up tiki drinks.
I mean, look at them. They slay.
Wild Turkey Tiki drink from Patterson House at MCF&W
Flyte’s Cornmeal Sourdough Crostini
One of the best parts of this festival is that I get to revisit some older, more established Nashville restaurants that maybe I haven’t been frequenting as often as I used to since all these newbies have started popping on the scene. Case in point – Flyte.
They served this simple cornmeal sourdough crostini with mushroom ragout and whipped bonnie blue chevre, and it was delicious. Chatting with Chef Chris Stallard reminded me that I haven’t been there since he took over the kitchen, and that’s a big fail on my part. My friend Kristin and I are already comparing calendars so we can remedy that.
Elote bite at Music City Food & Wine
Rodney Strong Vineyards brought Chef Jason Dady all the way from Texas, and my friend Jenny from Speakeasy Spirits forced me to eat the little bite they were serving up. Really, she forced me. I was so stuffed at that point of the day, that I didn’t think I could eat another bite, but I did. And when she saw the look on my face, she said “I told you so”.
This cream corn concoction was served atop a lime wedge, so you squeezed the lime to transfer the corn into your mouth and it gave you all the flavors of elote! Such a creative (and delicious) idea.
Ice Cream Sandwich from Bastion
The very last bite of food I ate on Sunday was this mind blowing ice cream sandwich with peanut ice cream, carolina reaper chili, and basil oil from Josh Habiger of Bastion. Josh is a genius, in case you didn’t already know that. I asked him to explain this little nugget to me, but I think my head was still trying to process how incredible it was, and I couldn’t for the life of me repeat back the details for you. Sorry! Just take my advice and go see him at Bastion. I’m quite sure he’ll astound you with several dishes.
So there you have it. My picks for the best of the fest. Until next year, Music City Food & Wine!
Saturday, October 1st, 2016
10 am til they sell out!
Williams-Sonoma Green Hills
Green Hills Mall
Nashville, TN 37215
Williams-Sonoma Green Hills is hosting a “Professional” Bake Sale this Saturday for a great cause. Featuring donations from local bakeries, pastry chefs and candy companies, 100% of the proceeds will go to No Kid Hungry, a campaign that connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending child hunger a national priority.
So if you happen to be shopping in Green Hills on Saturday, don’t forget to pop into WS to get your sweet treats and help out this worthy organization!
Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival
Saturday, October 1st, 2016
10 am – 6 pm
2500 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve lived in Nashville for almost 15 years and have never made it to the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival. This year, the 20th anniversary of the festival, that’s going to change! On Saturday I’m heading to Centennial park to soak in dance and music performances, eat as much exotic food as I possibly can, shop the global marketplace, and let my kiddo have loads of fun with all the children’s activities being offered (He can create wearable Samurai garb? Yes!).
But again, back to the food…. I’m completely overwhelmed by this list of offerings. How will I choose?!?
Green Door Gourmet Fall Fest
Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
Noon – 6 pm
Green Door Gourmet
7011 River Road Pike
Nashville, TN 37209
Cost: $5 per adult, children 10 and under free
This is shaping up to be a busy weekend for our family, because in addition to the cultural festival, we’ll also be attending Fall Fest at Green Door Gourmet. We had a blast last year, so definitely wouldn’t miss out this time. Join us on Sunday to soak up live music, take a hayride around the farm, play some pumpkin games, and let your kiddos burn off some energy in the Kids Zone.
In addition to all that stuff, more than 40 local artisan vendors will be showcasing their local, Pick TN and Made in the South wares and there will be food from The Grilled Cheeserie, Peg Leg Porker, Yayo’s OMG Tacos, Jeni’s Ice Cream, The Trailer Perk, Califarmia and Yazoo.
Henrietta Red Oyster Roast
Friday, October 7th, 2016
6:30 – 9:30 pm
1307 6th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37208
Nashville is not lacking in new restaurants these days, and one of the most highly anticipated openings is Henrietta Red. Slated to open in Germantown in “Winter 2016” (according to the website), it will feature seasonal food with an emphasis on sharing, as well as a raw bar with oysters and seafood. You can read more of the details here. I’m REALLY looking forward to this one, as I’ve heard great things about Chef Julia Sullivan, and well, I’m a fan of pretty much everything Strategic Hospitality puts their hands on.
Winter seems so far away, but lucky for us, we can kick off Oktoberfest and get a preview of Henrietta Red with an upcoming Oyster Roast being held next Friday, October 7th. Details and tickets can be found here.
Tennessee Beer & Wine Festival
Saturday, October 15th, 2016
Noon – 5 pm
Two Rivers Mansion
3130 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
Cost: $30 (early bird online until 10/5), $35 (online from 10/5 – 10/14), $45 (at the door), $15 for designated driver tickets
The Tennessee Beer and Wine Festival will once again bring beer lovers and wine aficionados together at the gorgeous Two Rivers Mansion on October 15th.
The 7th annual festival brewery lineup includes favorites such as Tennessee Brew Works, The Black Abbey Brewing Company, Crazy Mountain Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing, Core Brewing and Ballast Point Brewing Company. In addition, guests are invited to stroll along the beautiful grounds of Two Rivers Mansion while enjoying local musical talent, a variety of food vendors and moonshine tasting. The event will also feature an educational tent with sessions such as food pairings and home brewing. As an added bonus, Lyft is offering free and discounted rides to guests for safe driving to-and-from the festival.
Tickets include access to the event, samples of beer and wine, a commemorative tasting glass and an invite to the event’s official after party at Scoreboard Sports Bar & Grill.
For more information on the festival and discount codes from Lyft, visit the festival website.
Chef Ashley Christensen Cookbook Signing
Monday, October 17th, 2016
6 – 8 pm
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
410 4th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37201
James Beard Award Winner Chef Ashley Christensen is heading to Nashville to promote her new book and Pat Martin is hosting a shindig for her at the downtown Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out the new place, then this is the perfect opportunity!
For $25 you’ll get plenty of delicious hors d’oeuvres (see menu below) and two signature cocktails from Ashley’s new cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner. The ticket doesn’t include a copy of the cookbook but you are welcome to bring your own copy if you’ve already purchased or they will be available to purchase on-site.
4213 Magazine St New Orleans, LA 70115
Though it had been quite a long time since I’d visited New Orleans, I certainly hadn’t forgotten how great the food is in that city and over the years, I’ve continued to pay attention to new restaurants that have come on the scene there.
That’s how I knew that Shaya was the first reservation I needed to secure when planning my trip. Named the Best New Restaurant in the U.S. at the James Beard Awards in May, and then more recently, one of the South’s Best New Restaurants by Southern Living magazine, there was no way I was missing out on eating a meal there.
ikra at Shaya, New Orleans – paddlefish caviar spread with shallots
And let me tell you, I’m tempted to hop on a Southwest flight back to the Crescent City just to eat there again!
That bread. The ikra. We are all still talking about this spread. How can a simple dip be so glorious??
crispy halloumi at Shaya, New Orleans plums and beets, tarragon, almonds
In addition to eating an ungodly amount of pita bread (and I almost don’t even want to call it that, because it’s so far above and beyond any pita bread I’ve ever eaten in my life), we consumed one of the best meals I’ve had this year.
Shipka peppers with goat cheese, Moroccan carrots with chermoula and mint, an amazing roasted cabbage….
While Shaya can be the main reason you go to New Orleans, you might as well take advantage of the rest of the dining scene and eat some more delicious meals while there, right?
Smoked Oyster Deviled Eggs at Trinity, New Orleans
Trinity is fairly new on the scene (I think it just opened in May?) so it was a riskier choice as there wasn’t as much written about it as some other tried and true places in New Orleans. But, it was on Eater’s Heat Map for one of the hottest restaurants currently, and it had lots of oyster options on the menu, so I booked it.
Trinity grilled octopus & chickpea dip
The Smoked Oyster deviled eggs were to die for. We would have gotten two orders, but they had just run out of eggs when we asked for a second order! Boo.
Ah well, the grilled octopus & chickpea dip with pickled red onion and toast points was awesome, as were the broiled oysters with cayenne aioli.
Broiled Cayenne Aioli Oysters at Trinity, New Orleans
Seared scallops with corn puree, roasted mirliton, and pine nuts was our favorite entree, but I think the small plates was where the restaurant really shined. (Did I mention pork belly? Never a bad thing)
Tip: If you go to Trinity, be sure to make a night of it and check out Cane & Table right next door for great craft cocktails.
800 Magazine St New Orleans, LA 70130
just a portion of our spread at Peche, New Orleans
If you need another reason to buy a plane ticket to New Orleans, Peche is it.
I was actually afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype (as I’d heard SO MANY good things about it). Fortunately that was not the case….it was even better than I could have imagined.
Peche’s tuna with pickled corn, pistachio puree, and crispy rice
From the moment I took the first bite of the tuna sashimi, I knew I was in for a treat. Then the crab salad…. well, that crab salad. Words escape me. Who knew a simple crab salad with cucumber & sesame could be so brilliant?
Not me. Thus, I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it before digging in. See what you can’t really see in the above photo? Yep, that’s the crab salad in the background, upper right corner. If I had known that it was going to be mind-blowing, I certainly would have documented it better than this!
Cobia with lentils, pepitas, fried onion, and curry aioli at Peche
Often I find that the dishes I am most impressed by are found in the appetizer/small plates section of the menu, but here at Peche, the entrees definitely held their own with the starters. The Cobia may have been my favorite, with lentils, fried onions and a curry aioli. I made sure there was not one single morsel left on that plate. Not one.
And then we were super surprised by the Baked Drum, which was described simply as “baked drum w/ tomato broth + croutons”. Uh, yeah, that description does not even come close to doing it justice. It was not at all what any of us expected, but that was not a bad thing. It was actually a very, very, very good thing.
So there you go… a few places to visit and things to eat on your next trip to New Orleans! Enjoy~
Recently I was invited to a preview of the rooftop brunch, so I thought I’d give you a little peak at everything we got to sample. First, I can tell you that this not your typical brunch menu, which makes it really exciting.
You’ll find twists on breakfast favorites and completely unique items that you may have never heard of, but you’re definitely going to want to try!
Virago Soft Scotch Egg – soft egg, tsukune (chicken meatball that’s wrapped around the egg), black currant mustard, shungiku (chrysanthemum greens)
I’ve known Chef Andrew Whitney for a few years now — since he was the Executive Chef for one of my favorite food trucks (Riff’s Fine Street Food) turned brick and mortar, Riff’s Cafe. If you haven’t been to Virago since Drew took over the kitchen, this is your chance to go see what he is doing. I promise, you’re going to like it. A lot.
Bacon and Eggs Mazemen at Virago – soft egg, pork belly, arugula, pickled tomato
My absolute favorite dish of the preview was the Bacon & Eggs Mazemen, which is like a ramen noodle dish. Those pickled tomatoes were the perfect little bite to cut the richness of the egg, noodles and pork belly.
Even though I was pretty stuffed (do you see all the food we ate???) I kept going back to this plate for another bite. And another. And another. So good.
Virago’s Cereal Roll
sweet rice, inari tofu, mascarpone, crunch, rolled in fruity pebbles, sweet condensed milk
While I typically prefer savory breakfast and brunch dishes, I certainly was not opposed to finishing off the meal with a little something sweet. I’d definitely recommend this fruity sushi roll for sharing with a group – it’s plenty to feed 4 or even 6, depending on how much of a sweet tooth you have.
Virago’s Cereal Roll
sweet rice, inari tofu, mascarpone, crunch, rolled in fruity pebbles, sweet condensed milk
That’s just a little preview of a few dishes you’ll have to choose from – you can check out the full menu here. There are so many great things being offered up that I might just have to be there every single weekend between now and the end of October to get through it all!
Roasted Hazelnut Burrata definitely needs to happen in my life. Burrata, arugula, toasted hazelnuts, citrus and blueberry balsamic vinaigrette with grilled bread…uh huh.
Oh, and the Bacon & Egg Hand Roll…and the Breakfast Bomb…and the Wagyu Kimcheese Burger and the Pork Belly Corn Dog. And did I mention the view? The best.
With over 400 photos of Barcelona to dig through and whittle down to a more manageable number, I almost started to think this trip recap was never going to happen. But…I fell so in love with this city that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share, no matter how long it took me!
While I was attempting to write one single Barcelona post, I’ve decided that’s absolutely impossible. Honestly, I’m not even sure I can fit it all in 3, but that’s my goal! *Hopefully* over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’ll find the time to give you the full rundown of our Barcelona adventure.
La Bodegueta, Barcelona, Spain
For today, I’m starting at the beginning – Day 1 of our stay in Barcelona. Within 2 hours of checking into our hotel we were already out the door and on the way to a tapas tour of our neighborhood, L’Eixample. I discovered Food Lover Tours through my friend Lindsay, who had, just a couple of months before, gone on their Sweets Lover Tour in Barcelona.
Since Ravi and I are definitely more savory than sweet people, I wanted to try out one of their other tours. Tapas style eating is my jam, so when I saw “Tapas Lover”, I was all in. Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize when booking it how near our hotel we would be.
Our meeting point to start the tour was at Gaudi’s La Pedrera (Casa Milá photo at top of page), located just two blocks away!
La Bodegueta, Barcelona, Spain
Our tapas tour began at 7:30 pm and was to end at 11:30 pm. After several hours on a train traveling from Paris, I was definitely ready to stretch my legs and eat more than a croissant. Little did I know just how much food (and drink!) we would be consuming that night. At 94 €, we MORE than got our money’s worth.
Our Food Lover Tour group (sans me) at our first stop, La Bodegueta
This is a group tour, and we were fortunate that we ended up with a really fun crew. Of the 12 of us, a few were from the U.S., but France, Germany, England and Australia were also represented (as well as Ireland, which is where our guide Brian hailed from).
Boquerones en vinagre (small anchovies in vinegar with olives)
La Bodegueta was the first stop, and here we got “a taste of the sea”: Esqueixada (Cod fish with olives and tomato), Bunuelos de Bacalao (codfish croquettes), and Salpicon de Pulpo (octopus in vinegar). And it’s not seafood, but it’s perhaps the most traditional tapa- Pan Con Tomate (Spanish style toast).
Next we made our way to what would end up being our favorite neighborhood tavern during our stay in Barcelona – Colmado. At Colmado we were treated to “mountain food” and Vermut.
We learned that if you want to drink like a Spaniard, you participate in the ritual of tomar un vermut (“taking a vermouth”). It happens any time during the day, typically with a friend (or a few). There are different variations at every spot, and at Colmado we had Casero, a small production white wine made with 20 spices in Reus, the village where Gaudi was born.
Gin Tonics almost as big as our heads at Colmado
The purpose of vermouth is not to get drunk, but to just relax and enjoy yourself. Sounds pretty good to me.
Of course, after some wine at our first stop, then this vermouth, and then a Gin Tonic that was far larger than any drink I’ve ever had in the U.S., let’s just say I’m really glad there was plenty of food to soak up all the alcohol…
patatas bravas al caliu at Colmada
Here at Colmado we noshed on Alcachofa (artichokes), manchego sprinkled with crushed almonds and drizzled with olive oil, and Patatas Bravas Al Caliu (roast potatoes with “allioli” – a Catalan variant of the garlic sauce aioli).
You guys. These potatoes. !!! I’m not even a huge fan of potatoes, but man, these were delicious.
Butifarra (Catalan Sausage) at Colmado in Barcelona, Spain
But my very favorite dish of all was the Butifarra (Catalan sausage) in white sauce with mushrooms and crema de leche. Oh. My. Word. It might not be the prettiest dish, but it was certainly one of the best bites I had on the entire trip.
Restaurant 2254 in Barcelona, Spain
After all that, it was on to Restaurant 2254 for “Mediterranean modern tapas” and I honestly have no idea how my stomach found room for all of the food we consumed here, but it did.
And it was glorious.
First up was a Gazpacho with strawberries from Maresme, a rucola salad with goat cheese, pistachios, and dried tomato, and then red shrimps capuchino with sea urchin. Sure, that’ll get us started.
Oxtail (Boneless with prawns) at Restaurant 2254
There were several dishes to follow – oxtail, smoked sardines, rigatoni, and octopus. And I ate every single one. And drank more wine.
The coolest presentation of a dish goes to the Smoked Sardines with Guacamole…. just watch this short video clip below to see for yourself.
I have to say, gastronomically speaking, Barcelona was smoking Paris. At least in my humble opinion.
Smoked Sardines with guacamole at Restaurant 2254 in Barcelona
Brandade stuffed rigattoni with crispy Catalan sausage
Octopus with green curry and Catalan beans from Ganxet
Hazelnut Coulant with vanilla ice cream
Words really cannot explain how much we enjoyed this Tapas Lover Tour, and I cannot recommend it enough. It was the PERFECT way to kick off our Barcelona experience and I’m so happy we did it on our very first night in the city. If you find yourself heading to Barcelona or Seville, definitely check out Food Lover Tours!
Hi, I’m Beth, a food and drink obsessed girl living in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee. I'm always on the hunt for new and exciting things in the culinary world, so I created this blog to share all of my adventures, discoveries, inspirations, and recipes, along with a sprinkling of just about anything else that brings a smile to my face! Follow along and I bet you'll smile too... more