Devour Food Tours gave my husband Burt and I the pleasure of sampling some authentic foods, tasting some locally produced wines, learning about some interesting cuisine, and absorbing more information and insights into the history of Barcelona.
We spent a delightful evening in October of 2022 with Devour Foods Tours on the Barcelona Tapas, Taverns & History Tour. We ate, drank, discussed culinary selections, and learned more about the history of Barcelona, Spain. Our delicious and educational excursion took place in Barcelona’s ancient Gothic Quarter where we met our guide Alex and the other participants.
After we all introduced ourselves, Alex began to fill us in on some of the history of the area. He told us that we were in the Catalonian section of Spain. We learned that the Romans conquered this area in 100 B.C. and many of the soldiers were given land and retired in the region after their tour of duty.
He said that our tour would take us through parts of the Gothic Quarter which consists of many narrow medieval style streets and actually dates back over 2,000 years to Roman times.
During the tour Alex pointed out several spots where we could look down through sidewalk level see-through glass to see authentic Roman ruins. We also saw a 2,000 year old Roman wall which is still standing.
The Gothic Quarter is filled with trendy bars, restaurants and night life spots. We visited three long established local spots and spent pleasurable time walking and learning during our three and one half hours. How fascinating to be surrounded by surviving remnants of medieval and ancient times along with today’s trendy dining and night life spots.
Our first stop was the Bar Pine Forest which was opened in the 1920’s in the Pine Tree Square. We initially sampled and learned about Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine made from three varieties of local grapes. It is produced by a double fermentation process by which the grapes are initially fermented in a cask and then in a bottle. It was originally called Spanish champagne – until the French objected. Whatever it is called, it was tasty and went well with the food offerings.
We sampled tomato bread which is made from day old bread as well as Manchego cheese. Manchego is a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed. It is aged between 60 days and two years. Small pieces of Black Spanish ham were also provided. This tasty, trendy but very expensive ham is obtained from pigs who are only fed acorns.
Alex continued the dialogue as we proceeded to our next venue. He explained that there are five meal times in Spain. These are the first small breakfast, the second bigger breakfast at 11:00 AM, the main meal of lunch with optional alcohol between one and four followed by an afternoon snack at five and a late dinner including tapas, wine and beer between nine and eleven. Banks conveniently close for the afternoon at 2 p.m.
We also visited several squares including the Kings Square which included the executioners’ house and the building where the Inquisition took place. Alex told us about the legend of Wilfred the Hairy who died fighting the Saracens in 897 and created the Catalonian flag with his dying blood.
Our next stop was at Bar La Plata. This bar was founded in 1945 and has continued to serve the same four menu items since the start. We sampled them all along with the house wine. The four items – fried sardines, tomato salad with onions, anchovies with olives, and Catalonian sausage. Yes, the place was mobbed, the tapas were enjoyable, and we got the feel of a true authentic tapas bar.
As we walked to our next stop, Alex briefly reviewed the issues facing Catalonia. Many of the people are favoring separation from Spain. The movement has stretched on for many years. Franco crushed it by force and the current Spanish government sent in troops in October of 2017 to stop an Independence vote. Several leaders were arrested and they are still in jail.
Our next and final stop was at the Bodega La Palma where we enjoyed white or red wine and food.The restaurant opened in 1935 and still contains the original furniture to preserve the spirit of this emblematic local with more than 80 years of history. Alex explained that most bodegas do not have a wine list and will serve up either a red or white house wine. We filled ourselves up with Croquetas and Patatas Bravas.
A croqueta is a fried ball of beef or pork and peas. The ones we sampled were delicious. They were crunchy on the outside with a soft tasty filling.
The Patatas Bravas are deep fried potatoes in a hot sauce. They were crunchy and the hot sauce was easily diffused by white wine. The desert was a Crème Ala Catalonia which is the Spanish version of Creme Brule. Instead of using vanilla flavoring the Spanish use a combination of cinnamon, orange and nutmeg flavors. I could taste the pleasant difference.
We left the restaurant full and satisfied. Alex gave us some good advice on how to avoid tourist traps when dining out. Among other suggestions, he said to never eat at a restaurant that has a pitchman at the entrance or is a franchise and don’t dine somewhere that offers a quick paella for one. It should be noted that accommodations are made for food allergies.
The time spent on the Devour Foods Tour was well worth it. We had taken their tour in Madrid and once again we were able to walk through and experience an area with educational insights and interesting sampling of local cuisine. We hope to visit some of their other locations as we continue to travel.
Story and Photos by Dianne Davis and Burt Davis