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2/02/2014

English Version of Boquería Gourmand (Published by Viena Edicions), a Book about Barcelona's Fabulous La Boquería Market (Foreword by Gerry Dawes)



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Boquería Gourmand
English edition, published in October 2011 by Viena Edicions (www.vienaeditorial.com)

Email me at gerrydawes@aol.com for information about obtaining a copy of the book.



La Boquería:  My Favorite Pueblo is a Gastronomer’s Paradise
(Foreword includes additional paragraphs not in the published version.)

By Gerry Dawes©2011

Premio Nacional de Gastronomía 2003
(Stay tuned for many more photographs of La Boquería.)


“I felt dizzy with the idea that I was part of that paradise of food. It was, and still is, a petit poble (small village) inside the big city.” - - Quím Marquéz, Chef-owner, Quím de la Boquería, Parada 606 (location), El Mercat de La Boquería. 

Quím Marquéz, Chef-owner, Quím de la Boquería
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

For forty years I have been traveling in the patrias chicas of the Iberian Peninsula.  I lived for eight years in Andalucía and have repeatedly crisscrossed El País Vasco, Galicia, Valencia, Navarra, Aragón, La Rioja, Asturias, Extremadura, the lands of Castilla y León, and all of the other provinces of Iberia, including Catalunya.  Over these decades of travel, I have come to love many "pueblos" across the vast, wonderful and exotic Iberian landscape-Sanlúcar de Barrameda (where my soul resides) and Ronda in Andalucía: Chinchón just outside Madrid; Covarrubias (Burgos); Burguete (Navarra); Haro (La Rioja), Cangas de Onís (Asturias), Gratallops (Tarragona) and Cadaqués (Girona), among many. 

As much as I long to return to such places for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a multitude of friends and memories, few have quite the compelling attraction of Barcelona's El Mercat de San Josep, La Boquería market, which as Quím Marquéz put it so well, "still is a petit poble (small village) inside the big city" and is literally one of my favorite pueblos in the world.


El Mercat de San Josep, La Boquería. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Ever since I spent six weeks in Barcelona in 1970--first working as an extra on the American movie, The Great White Hope (many of the boxing scenes were filmed on Montjuic) and having anecdotal quality adventures off the set with the actor, James Earl Jones--this exciting city has occupied a favored spot in my heart.  While working on the movie, I stayed in a steeply discounted small room in the Hotel Ritz, then I moved to a very modest pensión, ironically on the calle de la Boquería.  Each day, I lived the rich Bohemian life of the legendary pedestrian artery,  Les Rambles, and the narrow, labyrinthine streets of the Barri Gotic, Raval and Born, incessantly taking photographs, including a memorable Sunday when I captured soulful images of Catalan sardana dancing in front of the Cathedral.  


Caren (from Argentina), Winged Victory. Les Rambles, Barcelona.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2008 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

In those early days, I was not yet the gourmet and gourmand that I would become as a writer-photographer specializing in the gastronomy of Spain--in 1997, Food Arts magazine (http://www.foodarts.com/Foodarts/FA_Feature/0,4041,387,00.html) published my article on  Ferran Adrià, the first major article in the U.S. on elBulli's superstar chef.   I wandered into La Boquería on occasion (and returned there periodically on subsequent trips), but then usually I went on to explore Barcelona's other attractions- Les Rambles, the Barri Gotic, Montjuic, La Barceloneta and Antoni Gaudi's architecture.  


Lovers in Antoni Gaudí's Parque Güell, Barcelona. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

It was not until 1992 that I was properly introduced to La Boquería on a pre-Olympic, gastronomic scouting trip with two major American journalists, Bryan Miller of The New York Times and William Rice of The Chicago Tribune.  With us was Spanish expatriate restaurateur, Gabino Sotelino from Chicago, who seemed to know everyone.  On our first day in Barcelona, we had an incredible breakfast in La Boquería at Bar Pinotxo, where Juanito Bayen held court and posed for his famous trademark two-thumbs-up photographs.  Catalan culinary luminaries, American chef Jonathan Waxman and writer Colman Andrews (author of Catalan Cuisine), all stopped by to say "bon día" to Juanito and see what he and his battery of cooks were serving that morning.

Juanito Bayen, owner of Pinotxo in La Boquería, Barcelona. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2008. Contact: gerrydawes@aol.com

There were egg dishes, mongetes (little white beans) and butifarra blanca (Catalan sausages), grilled asparagus and more, all washed down with lots of glasses of cava (Catulunya's fine sparkling wine), then carajillos, brandy-spiked espresso with the naughty name.   Later, we went with Isidre Gironés, owner of the legendary Ca L'Isidre restaurant, to Petras's mushroom stall, where I photographed Isidre with a large box of truffles.

Each time I returned to Barcelona after that 1992 encounter, I went straight to La Boquería to see Juanito at Pinotxo, have a glass of cava and a plate of gambas, more of those mongetes or a café con leche and a xuxo (chu-cho), a sweet, crême anglaise-filled breakfast pasty "to die for."  After Pinotxo and my "first breakfast"--now served to me by my friend, Jordi Asín (sadly his co-chef, brother Albert died in February 2011)--I go on to photograph the purveyor stalls of La Boquería, entering a gastronomer's paradise where I often lose myself for hours. 
Everywhere in La Boquería there is color. Artistically arranged in tiers are red, green, yellow and orange peppers; yellow-and-blush pink peaches, red, yellow and green apples, oranges, lemons and limes; shiny black or purple eggplant; green zucchini squash, green and white asparagus, artichokes and chirmoyas (custard apples); little baskets of red raspberries and currants; red and red-green tomatoes; white and red radishes, hanging strings of garlic and dried dark red ñora peppers.  Around a corner, a stand sells a dozen varieties of cured green, black and purple olives, pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, garbanzos, etc.  And another specializes in a Catalan staple, bacalao, salt cod in small stacks or in trays soaking in water, being de-salinated before cooking.

Jordi Mas's (co-author of Boquería Gourmand) family establishment, Mas Gourmets de L'Embotit (five stalls in La Boquería), specializes in Spanish hams and a variety of traditional and innovative embotits (cured meats and sausages).  Hanging from hooks attached to metal rods suspended from the ceiling are a dozen types of jamónes Ibéricos de bellota--exquisite pink-to-wine red, streaked with ethereal white-yellow fat hams from free-range pata negra (black hoof breed) pigs fattened on acorns-specially selected from three separate denominaciones de origen in western Spain.  And, in La Boquería, a variety of butcher shops offer everything from steaks and pork chops to whole lamb, suckling pig, goat, rabbit and game birds.  Some specialize in offal--brains, livers, hearts, mounds of snow white tripe and "off" parts, pigs' trotters, lambs' heads, etc.

Another stall offers a wide range of imported and local cows', ewes' and goats' milk cheeses from Catalan Garrotxa to Extremaduran torta del Casar to French Vacherin Mont d'Or. A number of bakeries sell a wide variety of breads, pastries and pa coca, the original Catalana version of pizza.  A favorite photo opportunity is Ous de Calaf, which specializes in an impressive array of eggs from hens (organically raised), bantams, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, partridge, quail, ostrich and even emu!!  And, at Avinova Ous i Caça (Eggs and Game), my friend Salvador Capdevila, depending upon the season, will have rows of rabbits, partridge, ducks, geese and other game, including venison, hanging in his cases to be hand dressed or cut according to the needs of his customers, which include some of the top restaurants in Catalunya. 

 
Another major attraction is the seafood purveyors selling a stunning selection of fresh fish (all arranged on beds of ice) from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, interspersed with  a wide variety of shellfish--pink gambas (shrimp) from Denia and Pálamos on the Mediterranean, carbineros (bright scarlet prawns) from Huelva, red or blue-green llagostas (lobsters), walnut-colored, razor-case shaped navalles (razor clams) and white-pink cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns) from Galicia (many so fresh they are still alive!). These colorful market stalls bustle with constant movement with fishmongers. 

For years I have always stopped to photograph my friend, the lovely Gemma Bosh, always stylishly dressed, like many women in La Boquería, wearing an elegantly embroidered bodice and looking gorgeous, all the while bagging mariscos (exquisite crustaceans and mollusks), cutting up fish, wrapping slices and filets, passing them to customers and taking payment.  Many of the women of La Boquería go to work dressed like they are going after work to attend a performance at the nearby Gran Teatre de Liceu (on Les Rambles), Barcelona's equivalent of Milano's La Scala.  (Years ago, one such well-dressed woman in a Boquería butcher's shop--before the health authorities made everyone wear gloves--spread open the carcass of a goat hanging in her stall for me to photograph with her carefully manicured, bright carmine, lacquered fingernails and the gold ring with diamonds she was wearing juxtaposed against the pink flesh of the freshly butchered animal.)

At the back of the market, I always return to the famous stall of Bolets Petras, which even though my friend owner Llorenç Petràs has retired and left the business in the capable hands of his son, Xavier, still sells a multitude of mushrooms in season, along with truffles like the ones in the box that Isidre Gironés of Ca L'Isidre held for me to photograph twenty years ago.  

 
I always finish my tour of la Boquería at Quím de la Boquería, another legendary market bar, whose slogan is "El Arte de Comer en Un Taburete" (The Art of Eating on a Barstool). I
f he is not crazy busy, I get a thumbs-up and a big abrazo from Quím Marquéz, the owner. From a small stove in impossibly tight quarters his sauteé pans flame and his plancha grill sizzles as Quím and his crew prepare some of the best food in food-crazy Barcelona.  For my "second breakfast"--the first was at Pinotxo-knowing that I am going to be fed like a king I put myself in Quím's hands, like he did with me when I took him and his two young sons to New York City's Chinatown a few years ago.  

Quím may make me a bowl of steaming beberechos (cockles); a plate of grilled asparagus or deep-fried artichoke hearts; an exquisite dish of shrimp with the heads still on; my beloved mongetes with butifarra and aioli; then a perfectly cooked slab of foie gras with crispy fried leeks, all accompanied by glasses of cava rosat (rosé), Catalan Champagne. 

At Quím de la Boquería, I usually meet my old friend, Salvador Capdevila, owner of Avinova and now President of La Boquería owner's association.  Sometimes Salvador, then Vice President, would come with the amiable and highly regarded Manel Ripoll, who was President of La Boquería and who also became a friend.  (Sadly, Manel and two other friends of mine, the three-star Catalan chef Santi Santamaría and Pinotxo's Albert Asín, all died early in 2011).  And during the course of the hour I may spend at Quím de la Boquería, I sometimes see some of the most famous names in Catalan gastronomy such as Juli Soler (Ferran Adrià's partner at elBulli); Ferran's brother, Albert, chef-owner of Tickets; and Christian Escribà, Barcelona's supremely talented pastry maestro and event planner.

But, regardless of who shows up, when I return to this gastronomic paradise that is La Boquería, I always feel like I have come home to the pueblo of my dreams.

-Fin-
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About Gerry Dawes   

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 
  
 

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