Tastes of Spain: the good, the bland and the churros
I realized something when I arrived in Spain: you rarely hear about Spanish food. Wherever you go in the world, you can find Italian pizzerias and Japanese sushi bars. French haute cuisine is revered. Turkish kebabs, Chinese takeout and Indian curries are the best budget options. But Spanish food? Who eats Spanish food outside of Spain?
It made sense once I tried Spanish food. Sorry to any Spanish foodies, but overall, I was unimpressed. The concept of tapas—ordering many different small plates—quickly adds up. And you find the same tapas everywhere—literally, the exact same thing. Expensive, boring and a bit bland? Not exactly the winning-ist combination.
However, we did discover one hole-in-the-wall restaurant that proved that tapas can be delicious without breaking the bank. La Bombeta was tucked away on a side street in Barceloneta, an older neighborhood that borders the sea in Barcelona. The patatas bravas sauce was delightfully spicy, the gaspacho was fresh and the family-run service was down to earth. It was just what we needed after a string of disappointing and bland tapas.
And the one Spanish cuisine item that redeemed all the failures? Churros and chocolate. Suzy and I stumbled across Churreria Granja Ruz after an early morning at the Picasso museum, desperate for a caffeine fix to start the morning. What we discovered was more like Christmas morning than a typical Starbucks fix: fresh-out-of-the-fryer churros. A local told us that the best was to eat them was to dip them in thicker-than-thick hot chocolate—and so we returned the next morning to try just that. Spanish churros aren’t the same as Mexican churros—not as sweet and not as cinnamon-y—but dipped in chocolate, it’s the dream breakfast to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Here’s a sum-up in photos of many Spanish staples:
Unidentified goodness: We saw these on the table next to us, thought they were mozzarella sticks, were informed that they were not fromage/queso, but didn’t catch what they were called. Either way, they were delicious. Anyone know what they are?