Barcelona & Mallorca: A Journey of Food and More Food

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“I don’t know a culture until I can eat it.” — Me

I’ve recently returned from a lovely vacation to Barcelona and Mallorca with a good friend. And while we succumbed to Spain’s penchant for siestas once in a while, we also allowed ourselves time to indulge in the cuisine Barcelona and Mallorca had to offer… like, A LOT!

My journey began with my very first (and certainly not last) glass of Cava and a charcuterie board at El Nacional, which is an upscale tapas bar offering a number of different restaurants and bars under its roof where legs of cured pig hung from the bar ready to be carved for its patrons.

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The following morning, we sought out Two Schmucks in the Raval. While not serving traditional Spanish fare, the UK-run bar offered delicious drinks and brunch — the drinks came in handy as we waited two hours for their chef to arrive. Now, that could easily lead to a negative review but the owners were so accommodating, buying us a round of drinks and providing amazing snacks to tie us over (capping our stay off with a couple of shots of Elderflower). As for the actual food, there was really only one option that stood out: Chicken and jalapeno cheddar waffles… and it was worth the wait.

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Paco Meralgo was one of many tapas restaurants we went to. The thing with tapas is that the same items will show up on every menu so it’s very easy to fall into the habit of comparing one night to the next. One such item is Burrata, a creamy mozzarella, usually served with pesto and olive oil. Paco Meralgo served it on a bed of cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar drizzled over the Burrata. We had Burrata at other places later on during our trip but this one takes the cake.

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Other common items also include tomato bread, patatas bravas and croquette. All a treat to my feed hole.

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I wish all food was served as small snacks like tapas. But you know what they are missing (for better or worst)? Small cocktail sticks jabbed into them!

That was my segue to pinchos.

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There is a specific distinction between tapas and pinchos (and pintxos) that I really don’t feel like getting into. Read all about it here! My understanding as an intro to pinchos is:

  • they have cocktail sticks jabbed into them
  • they are served cold
  • they are put on display on the bar where you can pick and choose them like a buffet (or more accurately, a cafeteria as seen in TV)
  • they are usually, but not always, served on a slice of baguette

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I almost feel like this next section deserves its own blog post but here we are at La Boqueria. This food market swam with cured meats, cheese, fresh fish, spices, and treats.

In other words… Heaven.

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Near La Boqueria are two other must-haves while in Spain: churros and nougat from Torrons Vicens (the latter also has a large stand in the market). We enjoyed our churros with dark chocolate in a nice cafe called Granja Dulcinea. Seriously, nothing disappointed on this trip, food-wise.

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On our last night in Barcelona, we took in a recommendation for a place that someone says has the “best paella.”

Fact: this place does not serve paella.

However, Casa Lolea might have been my favourite restaurant we visited in Barcelona, lack of paella notwithstanding.

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They distribute their own sangria (surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve had sangria while on this trip. It only took 4 days… SHAME!) and it was a pleasant surprise to find a shop at the airport that carried their line.

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Where was I? Oh, yeah… FOOD!

One after the other, we were treated to the most delightful meal. To brie cheese with apple and tomato, mushroom risotto with black truffle, blini marinated salmon with yogurt and honey truffle to patatas bravas made their way (traditionally the potatoes are cubed and fried) and tomato bread.

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The tomato bread is another item that is quite common at every restaurant (most places offered it for free). At Casa Lolea, we got a tutorial on how to prepare it as it was delivered to us deconstructed.

  1. Cut the garlic and rub it on the bread.
  2. Cut the tomato and then liberally rub that on the bread.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over it.
  4. Salt to taste.
  5. Eat. Repeat.

And that’s it! It was a delicious journey of Spanish food that…

Oh, what’s that? I’m not done yet? I haven’t even had paella yet? Well, then.

For our first night in Mallorca we had a goal: eat some fucking paella. And eat it, we did. We found an elegant restaurant near our hotel called Ca’n Manolo where we finally had some paella.

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge seafood person. I’ll eat it on occasion, but it is never my first choice. Ca’n Manolo had an option for “un-shelled” mixed paella. Every bite was a flavourful moment to savour. It was a great way to enter the second leg of the trip.

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If you’ve frequent my blog at all, you’d know my focus is always on desserts. And if you’ve gotten this far in this blog post, you’d notice a severe lack of desserts. Well, I finally made room for some, forcing myself to say no to a third serving of paella… toughest thing I’ve ever done but it was for the greater good (the greater good).

Hola, flan (also know as creme caramel)!

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I might still be on a post-vacation high, but the food in Spain might be among my favourite in Europe, having previously been to France and Italy… this is a bold statement!

If eating is a way to explore one’s culture and history then I am so very glad to have met you, Spain. I raise a glass of Cava to you! xoxo

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Spreading Love with Rainbow Cupcakes

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In my last post, you might have noticed that I got a little sentimental (I regret nothing!) So let me fill you in on some of the behind the scenes stuff: Because my friends wanted a chocolate cake for the Gender Reveal cake, I had to make at least one batch of vanilla cake to dye blue. Needing only half for the cake presentation and having mixed a full batch of vanilla batter, what’s a girl to do? Mom always told me not to waste food so….

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I reserved half the batter and divided it into three bowls to mix red, yellow, and green. And of course, I left some blue batter for these fun little cupcakes. I carefully spooned the batters, layering them gently and baked as per usual. Topped with my usual vanilla buttercream and dressed with these little pink chocolate hearts I molded, these rainbow cupcakes are just another way to spread the love!

The Great Gender Reveal Cake

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I try not to get too personal on this blog even though I take baking very personally. Sure, the things I bake for my friends and family are personal but when I blog about them on here, it’s to show my growing technique or share an exciting recipe. But when my dear friends Brandon and Marisa broke the news that they were expecting a baby and wanted me to make a gender reveal cake for the celebration, I didn’t fully grasp how personal it would mean to me to be asked and trusted with this information. To blog about the experience, about the cake, I have no choice but to get personal and perhaps a little uncomfortably emotional about it.

Simply put: I’ve made many cakes before but this was hands down the best cake experience of which I’ve had the honour of being a part.

With the parents-to-be in gender-neutral clothing.

Being the only person with a naughty little secret sporting a grin of Cheshire Cat proportions as party-goers made their guesses by donning pink or blue, I felt a little smug… maybe even a little powerful. And while everyone’s eyes were on the cake as it was being sliced, my eyes were on the parents-to-be, and their parents, and everyone else’s reaction. I teared up before the cake revealed to the room what a piece of paper revealed to me a week before – IT’S A BOY!

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Big smile for a baby boy!

Let’s be honest, their reactions would have been the same whether that cake revealed pink or blue. And though you don’t know Brandon and Marisa personally, I will tell you this: that they will be amazing parents and I look forward to spoiling that kid with many baked goods!

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Some chocolate cupcakes to accompany The Great Gender Reveal!

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Eager cousin Oliver was hoping for a little girl cousin. Maybe next time, buddy!

Photos by Dianna Reis Martin (soon-to-be auntie to a beautiful baby boy)


Disclaimer
Father-to-be Brandon included this statement on the event invite that I wanted to make clear as well:

And for the record, please don’t think we agree with gender colours… this is just for a party! Our girl would be decked out in blue, and our boy would be proud to love pink!

Well said!

Welcome to the #BakeChain

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Introducing the #BakeChain! A fun little “spread the love” project I decided to start that involves, what else? Baking! Unlike the Herman Friendship Cake, this bake chain letter is more personalized and free – you can bake what you want, as much as you want, dress it up however you like, and most importantly, you personalize it with a sweet little note to the recipient telling them what they mean to you. Your friend, in turn, will spread that love to three other people they know. Man, the idea of it alone is giving me diabetes!

So here is what you’ll need:

  • Baked goodies; 1-2 dozen cookies/brownies/tarts/whatever will do; it’s totally up to you! Want to bake three small cakes? Have at it! Did you only make 1 dozen regular-sized muffins? Feel free give your friends 4 each. It’s the thought that counts.
  • A little note expressing how awesome your friend is!
  • Some packaging for your treats. This can be brown paper bags, small tin containers, or tupperware. I found these decorative treat boxes at Bulk Barn (see below) that I will hand-deliver to their homes.  Well, at least to two of them. One of my friends happens to live in another city, so I’ll be sending it via post in a less decorative box.
  • A copy of the instructions so that they can extend the #BakeChain to their friends! You can copy and paste the instructions below.
  • When or if you receive a #BakeChain package, you must take a photo of it, along with the note of love and post it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and tag the person who sent it to you and hashtag it #BakeChain.

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I will post the recipes for my cookies later. Be on the look-out for that!

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INSTRUCTIONS (PRINT AND INCLUDE IN YOUR #BAKECHAIN PACKAGE)

How to #BakeChain

  1. Take a photo of your treats along with the note with your name on it and post on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter using the hashtag #BakeChain and tag the person who gave you the sweets.
  2. Select three other friends and bake some cookies, brownies, cupcakes, muffins, tarts, or anything else of your choosing for them. The quantity and how you pack or present the parcel is up to you.
  3. Include a note for the recipient explaining why you cherish them.
  4. Include a copy of these instructions.
  5. Deliver your dessert package by any means: hand-delivered, postal service, or bike courier, whatever!
  6. There is no time frame for when you need to send your baked goods. Just don’t be the person who weakens the chain!

A History of the Easy-Bake Oven

Baking a cake using the heat of a 100-watt incandescent light bulb with no parent giving me permission to lick the mixing spoon was empowering, even though I didn’t know what empowerment meant at the time.

It was 1988 when I first got my Easy-Bake; a gift surprisingly not from my parents but from my brother. The Easy-Bake was in the midst of its post-modern makeover, taking the form of a microwave oven as opposed to the make-shift replica of a 1960s kitchen.

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Meow-Meows takes a bath

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“She will lose her shit,” said the doting father of a two-year old daughter named Cecilia, who loves bathing her TY Beanie Boo Muffin cat (aka “Meow-Meows”).

If ever there was a review for my cakes that I would wear with pride, it’s that I made a toddler lose her shit.

So here was the criteria:
1. Make it chocolate.
2. Include this cat:

TY Beanie Boo Muffin Cat

TY Beanie Boo Muffin Cat

3. She loves bathing Meow-Meows.

Rubber ducky was a bonus:
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#NailedIt