Our Easter break was a whirlwind of activity – first our surprise trip to see my family in Toronto, Canada, then a 5-day getaway to Barcelona, Spain for a bit of sand and sun. We were so excited to visit Barcelona and I went into full-on travel planning mode in the weeks prior to our trip. Barcelona has an amazing food scene so I knew without a doubt that we should go on a food tour to try some of the best food the city has to offer.
Enter Devour Barcelona, a small team of dedicated food lovers who are passionate about sharing Barcelona’s fantastic cuisine with hungry, curious travellers. Their goal is to support the businesses of hard-working families who can offer travellers a true taste of local cuisine.
Devour Barcelona runs several food tours, from their inaugural Gracia Neighbourhood Food Tour to their new Tapas & Wine Tasting Tour and Tapas, Taverns & History Tour (both offered in the evening). Since we were eager to get a running start at tapas-sampling on our first morning in Barcelona, we opted for one of their other new tours, their Tastes, Tapas & Traditions Tour which is offered during the day.
We met our guide Renee and the rest of our small tour group in front of Santa Caterina Market on a sunny Wednesday morning. Originally from California, Renee developed a passion for Spanish food and culture after moving to Madrid to study abroad. She now calls Barcelona home and is excited to share her knowledge of the city and its best bites with food-loving visitors.
Our first stop on the tour was at Granja Camprodon, a little restaurant and shop around the corner from Santa Caterina Market. In the pre-refrigeration days, this shop was one of the first in the city to offer fresh cream and milk to customers. How exactly? Well, they had a dairy cow inside the shop. Talk about farm-to-table! (In fact, ‘Granja’ means ‘farm’ in Spanish and Catalan.)
Here we sampled a traditional Catalan-style esmorzar de forquilla (aka ‘fork breakfast’) of savoury grilled botifarra sausage and white beans cooked with oil and garlic. Renee told us that this would be a typical farmer’s breakfast to fuel up before a hard day’s work. Alongside our breakfast, we also got to try our first tapa, pan con tomate (bread with tomato). Served at all times of the day, this classic tapa consists of toasted bread rubbed with a cut tomato then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Delicious! I also tried my first café con leche (coffee with milk) of the trip – strong and milky.
We proceeded to the back entrance of Santa Caterina Market where we could glimpse the undulating, brightly-coloured roof that the market is known for.
Once inside, we were faced with an explosion of colours and aromas – fresh produce, fish, olives, cheeses, meats, tapas, you name it. We learned that Santa Caterina Market has all the wonderful selection of the more famous La Boqueria market off Las Ramblas but without the crowds. Sounds good to me!
I’d been reading all about Spanish ham prior to the trip so was excited to try some of the best on offer at our first stop in the market, Cansaladeria Antonio Iberics. Here we tried a variety of different types of Spanish ham – llonganissa de Vic, llonganissa al pebre (coated with pepper), jamón serrano (a more everyday type of ham) and jamón ibérico de bellota (the finest, most expensive type of ham). Jamón ibérico de bellota comes from a free-range black-hoof pig that has fed on only acorns during the last 3 months of its life, leading to its characteristic sweet, nutty taste.
As a way of enticing customers and gaining their loyalty, the owner of Cansaladeria Antonio Iberics provides a porron of wine on demand to anyone who requests a sip. A porron is a traditional glass wine pitcher with a little spout commonly used in Catalonia (the region of Spain where Barcelona is located). Without making contact with his lips, the drinker holds the porron above his head and pours the wine directly into his mouth (‘without fear’, as Renee advised). I can proudly say that S and I successfully drank from the porron with only minor spilling on my part – good thing the wine was rosé so it wouldn’t stain!
Next up was a stop at Formatgeria Carles, a wonderfully-stocked meat and cheese stand specializing in Spanish and Catalan cheeses. Here we tried bites of Catalan goat’s milk cheese, Spanish Manchego (made in the La Mancha region of Spain from sheep’s milk), and a special Mao Super Sec cheese from the Spanish island of Menorca.
After a final walk-through of the market, we proceeded to Barcelona’s trendy El Born district and were immediately smitten with the narrow alleyways and medieval architecture.
Our next stop was at Casa Gispert, one of the oldest food stores in Barcelona dating back to 1851. They originally specialized in selling overseas products from Spanish colonies such as nuts, spices, dried fruits, coffee, tea, and cocoa. Today, they have expanded their offerings to include oils, chocolates, nougat and other specialty food items.
We were lucky to arrive on a day when they were roasting their nuts so the shop was filled with the aroma of toasted hazelnuts. We each received a little goody bag filled with house-toasted almonds, garrapiñadas (candied almonds), and catànies (almonds coated in caramel, a layer of white chocolate, then dusted in powdered black chocolate). What a treat!
For another sweet treat, we headed over to Pasteleria Hofmann, a legendary Barcelona bakery helmed by local culinary dynamo and Michelin star recipient Mey Hofmann. Here we sampled one of her indulgent award-winning mascarpone-stuffed croissants. I’ve never eaten anything like it, so rich and decadent. Suffice it to say that we went back for another croissant later during our trip!
For our final two stops on the tour, we proceeded to the Barceloneta neighbourhood which is adjacent to the beach. Renee provided us with a history of the area and pointed out charming details, like the characteristic laundry hanging outside of the apartment windows; Barceloneta is the only district in all of Barcelona where this is allowed.
We popped into Bodega Fermin, a little corner shop selling wine and tapas. Recently taken over by a young couple from the neighbourhood, Bodega Fermin is a friendly spot to fill up on affordable Spanish wine sold in barrels and sip an afternoon vermouth with locals (a popular activity in Barcelona).
A photo posted by Kaffee und Kuchen (@kaffeeundkuchenblog) on
We sampled their musky and bitter Cisa house vermouth garnished with a slice of lemon and an olive and nibbled on spicy “Gilda” banderillas, which are skewers of olives, guindillas (Spanish pickled green chillies) and anchovies.
Our final stop on the tour was at the tiny mother and daughter-run maritime tapas bar Cal Papi.
Here we got to try another famous tapa in Barcelona, buñuelos de bacalao (homemade salt cod fritters). To drink, we enjoyed a house white wine and a glass of cava, Catalan sparkling wine. Finally, the star dish of the entire tour was presented, fideuà, the noodle cousin of Spain’s famous paella. Made by Mama Carmen herself starting at 9am that morning, we could tell that a lot of love had been put into creating the traditional dish. Served with a dollop of alioli (a Spanish garlic mayonnaise) on the side, the seafood fideuà was a dish not soon to be forgotten. (Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try making it for yourself!). To finish off on a sweet bite, we enjoyed some carquinyolis, little Catalan biscotti.
Our food tour with Devour Barcelona was one of the highlights of our trip. Renee was a fantastic guide – extremely friendly, approachable and well-versed in all things related to Spanish cuisine and culture. Throughout our tour, she pointed out several notable landmarks and gave us the in depth history of the people, neighbourhoods, and areas of the city that make it so unique. If you are heading to Barcelona and want to eat some of the best Catalan cuisine in town, then I can heartily recommend taking a tour with Devour Barcelona. (If you’re visiting another part of Spain, they also offer food tours in Malaga, Seville, and Madrid, so you can check those out, too.)
Thanks so much to Devour Barcelona for hosting us and big thanks to Renee for an unforgettable day!
What are your favourite eateries or tapas in Barcelona? I’d love to hear in the comments below!