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(Stay tuned for many more photographs of La Boquería.)
El Mercat de San Josep, La Boquería.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / email@example.com.
Caren (from Argentina), Winged Victory. Les Rambles, Barcelona.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2008 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lovers in Antoni Gaudí's Parque Güell, Barcelona.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010 / email@example.com.
Juanito Bayen, owner of Pinotxo in La Boquería, Barcelona.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2008. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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). If 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.
About Gerry Dawes
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
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Gerry Dawes can be reached at email@example.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): firstname.lastname@example.org