Bar Picnic

Posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2009 at 7:26 am

Today started as one of those perfect travel days.  I got up early and had another delicious breakfast at Pinotxo in my beloved Boqueria.  Then, I met Josiane, my new friend from Quebec, in a metro station, as arranged two days earlier.  She and I went to Gaudi’s beautiful Park Guell.  On the way to the park, we saw some promising food shops.  There was one with meats and cheeses, another with fruit, and several bakeries.  These were local establishments where real Barcelonians shopped.

Leaving the park, we decided to have a picnic.  Going from store to store, we bought six slices of jamon iberico, a small chunk of a hard Catalan cheese, a still-warm baguette, a variety of olives, a persimmon, some figs, and a strange green fruit called a chirimoya, which I had been wanting to taste since first spotting it in Valencia.

With our delicious loot, we headed towards La Sagrada Familia, looking for a green spot.  Along the way, we hoped to find some fancy hotel where we might wash our filthy hands and maybe the fruit, too.  Aware that we had no plates, utensils, or Purell, I had a new idea.  Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could find a bar that would let us picnic inside?  In the States, you can often bring food into bars if they don’t sell their own.  Just as Josiane agreed that this was a good idea, I looked down a side street and saw a bar.

It was called Bodega Casas.  Going inside, it looked perfect.  The front was crowded, but the tables in the back were empty.  While I was disappointed to see a display of cold tapas, Josiane was not deterred.  In simple Spanish, she asked the bartender if we might have our picnic there.  We showed our bags of food.  Miraculously, he agreed.  He took us to the back, showed us a sink, and brought us plates and silverware.  I couldn’t believe our luck.  We ordered copas (glasses) of cava and spread everything out before us.

Our Picnic in the Bar

Digging into our pieced-together feast, the bread was fresh and soft.  The salty parmesan-esque cheese paired perfectly with the jamon.  The fig, as red as the meat, was intensely sweet and also paired well with the ham and cheese.  The persimmon was sweet, tart, and so juicy that it dripped down our chins.

Chirimoya

The chirimoya was the most amazing find of the day.  It looks like a cross between an artichoke and an avocado.  It needs to be very ripe, which means it should be so soft that pressing will bruise it.  (A kind old man had helped us pick a perfect one, touching fifteen before he handed us the winner.  He had then mimed that we should cut it in half and eat with a utensil.)  When we cut it open, we found a white interior with a lot of big black seeds.  Tasting it, we were totally surprised.  The chirimoya was sweet and creamy, like a custard.  Josiane and I put it aside and saved it for dessert.

Josiane with the Vermouth

After cava, we tried vermouth, which neither of us had ever tasted.  The owner brought us two glasses of the liquor, each with a slice of lemon, as well as a green plastic bottle, so we could spray our own soda water.  The vermouth was mildly bitter and a little bit sweet.  It reminded me of very dark chocolate and anise.  We both liked it.

By three o’clock, the bar was almost empty and we realized he was closing up.  We offered to do our dishes, but he wouldn’t let us.  Instead, we took photos with him, tipped generously, and happily headed out into the streets.

Bodega Casas

We ate our last treat as we walked.  I had taken it “to go” from Pintoxo that morning; it was only slightly crushed from my purse.  Called a chucho (or xiuxo in Catalan), the crisp, light, fried dough was covered with sugar crystals and filled with a not-too-sweet cream.  It might be compared to a tubular donut, but I think that underestimates its greatness.

The Chucho

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