He surprised me with a trip to Barcelona...it was January 2001...and we were leaving in a week. I had two instant thoughts. First...I swear if he doesn't propose to me on this trip he's a dead man! Followed by a close second...YUM, tacos, burritos, margaritas! Yes, that's right...tacos. I can hardly believe I am sharing this with you. I think I was just overwhelmed. Were we getting engaged? What should I pack? Will I like the ring? What about work? Will it be big and blinding? Will I need a hair drier adapter? Will it have a platinum band? (Shallow? Maybe.) I was quickly "enlightened" (by my dear husband to be) that Spain and Mexico were in fact two separate cultures, both with their own unique history, customs and food. (I knew this by the way.) Instead of empanadas and quesadillas, he assured me we'd soon be enjoying our fill of tapas and paella. (Condescending? Definitely.) I immediately hit Barnes & Noble to pick up books on Barcelona and spent the next few days reading all about their catalan dialect, places of interest, markets, museums...and food!
The day came and I was ready! Freshly manicured nails, a never before stamped passport in one hand, guide book in the other - after a few too many at the airport, I was feeling fine at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived in Barcelona thirsty and hung over, or as we liked to call it "jet lagged". Our first trip overseas, we somehow managed to get a taxi (all while stressing over to tip or not to tip, damn it guide book...!) and arrived at our ultra modern hotel on the outskirts of Barcelona. We dropped our bags, freshened up and were ready to eat! Bring on the tapas, the prawns, the serrano ham and squid! Barcelona, here we come!
So we walked, and walked...and walked....and walked. We were definitely outside of Barcelona. It wasn't the hopping Las Ramblas scene I had read so much about. A restaurant? A bar? Anything? We noticed a brick building with a tiny light on that sort of resembled what might be an underground jazz club in NYC or Boston. My "man" peeked inside while I hung back. Immediately five or so scantily clothed girls stood at attention and began walking his way. He quickly closed the door and turned around, "not a bar he said, definitely not a bar." Moving on and not wanting to wander too far off course, we turned the corner and to our delight...a lit up establishment! There were attractive people sitting inside, the faint sound of Spanish chit chat among the clanking of silverware. Yes finally...tapas! Let's get six, no eight, no ten! Turned out it was a pizza place. We ordered a margarita pizza and some fried calamari (I was hellbent on that squid) and joked the rest of the night how we flew clear across the ocean to step into a brothel and eat some pizza pie!
Still no ring, we found our way back to the hotel and slept for hours. We woke up, checked out and headed to a new hotel on Las Ramblas (another whole story, stay tuned.) The entire city seemed to smell of Spanish oregano. We were excited. Picasso and Gaudi in our immediate future, we had tapas, cerveza (and an engagement perhaps) top of mind.
(Note: wouldn't this story have been way better if the pizza place had been a taco joint!)Click Here for Barcelona Story Part II
Fried Calamari~adapted from Emeril's 2004 recipe on foodnetwork.com(I bought 1lb fresh squid and cleaned and cut it myself - sort of an ordeal but not too bad! Cut off the head of the squid, find the cartilage and remove by pulling it out in one long piece (not hard to do), clean out the inside and cut into rings (use the tentacles too if you like) seen here:
Place cleaned calamari rings in a bath of buttermilk and a few dashes hot sauce for 30 minutes (I used a Ziploc bag.)
Next, place the calamari rings into a bag full of flour and shake lightly to coat. (I used semolina flour but next time will use plain as I think I prefer my calamari a little lighter in texture.)
Heat canola oil (about 3-4 inches deep) to 350 degrees. Carefully fry calamari in batches for approximately 2 minutes (+/-). Drain on paper towels. S&P to taste. Top with fresh, chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve fried calamari immediately with lemon wedge and marinara sauce. Yielded one large plateful.