La Rosca

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 at 8:09 am

I took a very early train from Valencia to Barcelona today.  When I arrived at my hostel, Hello BCN, it was too early to check into my dorm room.  I left my luggage and went in search of some food.  I had read about a place called La Rosca in my guidebook.  It was supposed to have traditional Catalonian food and a great set price lunch deal.  I didn’t have any better leads, so I set off in search of it.  It was hard to find, set back in a small side street near the Palau de la Musica.

With Alberto at La Rosca in Barcelona

When I finally got there, the restaurant was completely empty.  I second-guessed my choice, but something in my gut made me stay.  An older gentleman seated me in the empty dining room.  There was no menu.  For each of the three courses, he gave me three choices, in Spanish.  For each, I asked, “muy tradicional catalunya?”  He would nod and write something down. 

After taking my order, he went away and brought back a liquor bottle filled with cold red wine.  Then, he brought a steaming bowl of soup.  I asked him to write the name of it: sopa d’esculla.  It was a deep, comforting chicken broth, full of large elbow pasta and potato chunks.  The soup was creamy, not from cream, but thickened by the pasta and potato.

Sopa D'Esculla at La Rosca

The kind man’s name was Alberto.  When he brought my main dish, he wrote its name for me: butifarra y sanfaina.  The butifarra, a regional specialty, might have been the best sausage of my life.  It was a pork sausage, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  It was just perfect pork flavor, so juicy that each bite burst in my mouth.  The sausage sat atop a mixture of roasted vegetables, the sanfaina.  I now know that sanfaina is another classic Catalonian dish, often compared to ratatouille.  While the ingredients may overlap, this sanfaina was so much more flavorful and more integrated than any ratatouille I’ve tasted.  The zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, onion and garlic had been roasted to sweet tenderness in olive oil.  It was so good that I took one slow bite after one slow bite, not wanting it to end.  This sanfaina was an example of the best that food can be: simple, earthy ingredients cooked to bring out their own gloriously rich flavor.

Butifarra y Sanfaina at La Rosca

For dessert, Alberto brought me crema catalana, the most “muy tradicional” of the day’s choices.  It is like creme brulee.  Historically, the dish may have been in Catalonia before it was in France.  La Rosca’s crema catalana was pudding-like, not too sweet, with a glass-like bruleed top.

Crema Catalana at La Rosca

As I left in the restaurant, I looked in the kitchen.  There was one woman of grandmotherly age.  “Gracias,” I said and she took a little bow.

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