When I first started this blog, I hoped that I’d be able to one day expand my search for new foods into other countries. Even though Atlanta is great for finding interesting eats, one can only visit Buford Highway so many times before the options are exhausted. Anyone who kept up with my previous project probably remembers me complaining about that, especially towards the end.
Fortunately, all that changed last week. Me and the GF were lucky enough to visit Barcelona, Spain for a few days, and it was a life-changing experience – especially in terms of food. I’ve never seen a city as food crazy as Barcelona, and we couldn’t walk a couple feet without seeing a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop. Rather than try to recap everything I ate in one post, I decided to focus first on one regional dish that blew me away: paella. It’s available in the States, of course, but I’d been told that I had to experience it in Spain. I’d never eaten it anywhere, so I figured Barcelona was a great place to start.
Thanks to a recommendation from Atlanta food blogger Jimmy Sobeck, better known as Eat It Atlanta, we made a reservation at Pez Vela, located right on the beach behind the W Hotel. Based on his review, I knew the paella was going to be good, but I wasn’t at all prepared for how good.
The menu featured 4 or 5 varieties, but we chose one featuring clams, shrimp, and squid. I figured seafood was the way to go, considering the proximity to the ocean. After an appetizer of pan de tomate (grilled crusty bread topped with olive oil, salt, and fresh tomato) and some excellent local wine, the massive pan of paella came.
After digging in, I immediately realized what all the fuss was about. Paella is a relatively simple dish, with rice and seafood being the 2 main components here, but the flavors were anything but simple. Even though the seafood was cooked perfectly and tasted amazing, the real star of the dish was the rice. The top layer was chewy and buttery, with a wonderfully salty, ocean-y flavor that I couldn’t get enough of. The bottom layer was just as good, but it was crunchy and caramelized from being stuck to the bottom of the pan. In this case, a little burnt is a good thing. I’m not exactly sure how paella like this is prepared, but I could tell a lot of time and effort was put into it. Amazing.
Despite the immense size of the dish, we didn’t leave a speck of rice or seafood in the pan – it was well worth being stuffed. Unfortunately, now that I’ve experienced paella this good, I doubt I’ll be inclined to order it anywhere else. I’ve been spoiled, for sure.
Part 2 of my Barcelona eating experience to come soon…