It's no secret that Spain is worth visiting just for the food. Given the overwhelming array of choice, here's where to go and what to eat in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. Spanish flavours BY JAANA RINNE PHOTOS BY RALF ÖRN A pallet of T he day in Barcelona begins with breakfast. Those in-the-know stay at the Casa Camper Hotel (a funky hotel owned by the well-known Spanish shoe brand) and start their morning at the in-house café, FoodBall. Hipsters who want to start their day someplace besides the multicultural El Raval neighbourhood opt for the Gallery Hotel in the grander Eixample district. The Gallery is a member of the international Design Hotel Association, so it's not surprising that aesthetics are half of the experience. Its earth-toned rooms soothe the eyes after the colour saturation of the surrounding streets. The hotel's excellent Mediterranean cuisine restaurant, complete with its own garden, serves a fabulous breakfast: thick yoghurt, perfect rolls, fresh cheese with a zesty tomato salsa, downed with freshly squeezed orange juice. Charged up by breakfast, it's time to head out into the streets of the Catalonian capital. Besides El Raval and Eixample, there are many fascinating neighbourhoods, from the bohemian Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) to the trendy La Ribera. You can check out the sights, from Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí's Casa Mila to the La Rambla pedestrian street, as you look for places to eat. At La Boqueria indoor market, the senses are tantalised by the endless variety of ripe fruits 32 BLUE WINGS DECEMBER 2008 and vegetables on display. Beside the first booth is a monument of Barcelona's culinary culture: the tiny "Pinocchio" bar. In the morning, Pinotxo is already packed with locals trading stories while eating tapas and sipping sparkling cava. There are less-traditional alternatives over in El Raval, such as mixed tempura at Hello Sushi and certified natural food at Organic. Barri Gotic, on the other side of La Rambla, is also a must-see. You can soak up the old city's atmosphere at the dimly lit Vinateria del Call. This wine bar is hidden in the labyrinthine former Jewish Quarter. Finding the bar takes time and peeking around corners, but it's definitely worth the effort. The tapas offerings are generous and tasty, and the classic local pa amb tomaquet is bread rubbed with tomato, salt and olive oil and accompanied by Rioja and Penedes wines. LA RIBERA: TRENDS ON YOUR TONGUE Following the trail blazed by Ferran Adrià's nearby Michelinstarred El Bulli restaurant, Barcelona food has developed to the level of the city's modern artists. The influence of the art of Gaudí, Lluis Doménech i Montaner, Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró can be seen on the menus in the city's restaurants. The Catalonians, who have a reputation as no-nonsense merchants, have begun to play with their food and introduced artistic dishes alongside traditional favourites. The cornerstones of Catalonian cuisine, mar y montana or "sea and mountain" gain new colours from modern experimentation, but fans of traditional fare need not worry. Sauces such as all i oli and samfaina and picada snacks of la brasa (flame-broiled) fish, meat and sausages are not disappearing from restaurant menus.
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