Chocolate & Churros

Before I start recapping the Portugal part of our trip, I thought it might help to look back at why I wanted to go to Spain in the first place. Despite my well-documented love of pork, it wasn’t Spain’s famed jamon that caught my attention but rather a breakfast consisting of churros and cup of thick hot chocolate that I saw on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’. I reasoned that any country that considers this a normal breakfast was a country worth visiting.

The photo above was taken hastily at Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona. The churros weren’t cinnamon-y like the churros I’ve eaten in California, but they were lovely dipped into the very-thick hot chocolate. (Sampaka is a chain but I found I preferred their chocolate to that of Madrid’s famed Chocolateria San Gines.)

While I still heartily approve of churros and chocolate for breakfast (or any time, really), on the whole, I was pretty underwhelmed by the food we had in Spain — and this surprised me because I love so many of the primary ingredients: anchovies, peppers, olives, ham, eggs. I wanted every bite to taste like this, but this was the exception, not the rule:

The picture above is of two montaditos we had at Quimet y Quimet, a tiny bar in Poble Sec, a relatively charm-less area of Barcelona. Quimet y Quimet has a great beer selection and simple, quality food you eat standing up. We lamented that there weren’t places like this in San Francisco.

I’d hoped that Spain to be more like Italy where food is very regional. I’d eaten very different food in Florence than in Rome, for example, so I was surprised to see so many of the same tapas in Barcelona and Madrid, but maybe we’d have eaten differently if we’d gone to the Basque country or to southern Spain.

We had decent food in Spain — we had nice meals at Cal Pep and Tabac 24 in Barcelona, for example —  but we didn’t have great food. While I expect a trip to be a mix of good meals and disappointing meals, I never had anything like the bistecca fiorentina I ate in Florence, the falafel I ate in Paris or the gelato I had in Rome — all foods that really added to my overall experience in each place.

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