I am very excited about today's post. On Saturday, February 21, we caught a very yearly morning flight out of Madrid to Barcelona, after having only slept for about 15 minutes the night of the flamenco romp. Upon arriving in Barca and allowing a few minutes in our hotel cafe to have a cappuccino, and it was off to the Gothic Quarter to Cook & Taste Barcelona for a cooking class- a la Catalán! Talk about hitting the ground running would be an understatement. It was quite fun navigating the small, tiny streets of the Gothic Quarter on the way to the venue. The cab driver dropped me off in the middle of Plaça Sant Jaume, and from there I basically had to Sherlock Holmes' it, as my phone was not picking up signal due to the tiny streets lined with very tall buildings. Alas, I found Carrer Paradis and followed it to my haven that is Cook & Taste. The door handle was a rolling pin. Already in love!I was greeted by a very kind young lady who signed me in and made me feel very much at home by offering me books about Catalan cuisine and giving me a tour of the facility.
The set up was beautiful.... can all of the cooking enthusiasts relate? The perfectly polished stainless steel cookware, the hearty green spinach, the voluptuous artichokes and mineral water! I love mineral water.
The plethora of cooking tools and spices- not to mention a vegetable that I hadn't tried yet- Romanesco- was all so beautiful. I was inspired and ready to overhaul my entire kitchen and recipe collection before the class even started. Back to vacation mode, Brittany.
All set up and ready to cook Paella! Paella is a traditional rice dish that originated in the Valencia region of Spain. Traditionally, paella contains a mixture of rice, vegetable, sometimes beans, and spices (most notably, saffron) and either chicken and rabbit, or a mixture of seafood; such as prawns, mussels, clams, or other varieties of firm fish. The rise used for paella is called called bomba rice. It is a shorter grain, which causes the rice to become somewhat creamy. I would place it between Jasmine rice and Arborio rice on the starch meeter. I just like the name, Bomba. Somehow a song by Ritchie Valens comes to mind.
I give you our instructor, Mario! Quite the quick and agile chef. He was a very good instructor, and made sure that everyone in the class (there were 12 of us) had plenty of responsibilities during the cooking process. We made an entire 4-course meal!
He couldn't choose anyone better for Spinach duty. I always had a love/hate relationship with spinach. Other than leeks, spinach has to be one of the dirtiest vegetables. But, I find it completely worth the entire washing, drying and stem-removing process. Thank goodness for the salad spinner.
Workin' those leafy greens.
Represented in my group, was United States (California, Texas, New York, Missouri), France, Tunisia, and Brazil. An amazing group of people!
"Paella starters" as I like to recall them. Bell peppers, grated tomato (a new technique I'd never even heard of!), and shallot. Check out that bomba rice.
I was definitely learning when it comes to my next responsibility- I actually had to be shown how to work the cod. Happy to declare that I have learned how to easily remove skin from fish! However, the skin was not to be thrown away! I quickly learned after almost discarding it, that it was to serve as a topping for one of our appetizers!
Time to cook the prawns- the first step in cooking paella. Then you remove them from the paellera- the large round pan used for cooking paella. You may find them in various sizes, depending on the need for your household.
At this point, we're a little over halfway done with the paella. By now the little mussels are beginning to pop open; it was like watching popcorn pop.
For the first course, after finishing a lovely serving of Spanish olives and tomato bread (which I forgot to photograph), we started with flat bread, topped with wilted spinach, steamed cod, and you got it- crispy cod skin! It was fantastic! Cod, when steamed, has a very delicate taste and texture. Then, roasted vegetables- artichokes, calcots (grilling onions), romanesco, over the creamiest, most luxurious sauce I've ever had- Romesco. Yes, I just called a sauce luxurious. It was the cashmere of sauces, if you will. I love food.
And for dessert- we enjoyed Creme Catalana- which was pretty much the same as creme brûlée- one of my favorite desserts!
Overall, Cook and Taste Barcelona did not disappoint. It was very much, well worth the time spent -4 to 5 hours, depending on if you choose the Boqueria market tour beforehand- and very much worth the cost. My initial thought was to book the Express cooking class (it is only half the time) because I was unsure about spending a half day, as I would only be in Barcelona for 3 days. Now I am glad the express class was booked on the weekend I would be there- absolutely no regrets! Unfortunately, I was not able to tour the Boqueria market with the class, since it was taking place as my flight was coming in. I did tour it on my own the next day!
If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, I highly recommend Cook and Taste. One of the most exciting aspects was meeting other people who love to cook from all over the world! I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. The meal was most definitely a fine dining experience.