I love buying food at the supermarket because everything is sort of familiar and yet so foreign. You can buy juiceboxes and fruit and sundries, but if you want fresh milk, you're kind of out of luck. Better to buy the boxed variety. The irony is that there are THREE whole sections of yogurt in the dairy area - heaven for a yogurt-crazed woman like me.
So, for the most part, Raf and I have snacked on manchego and brie cheeses with fresh bread, apricot jam, nuts, tomatoes and dates, washed down with a bottle of wine (which is so dang cheap here, even for the yummy rioja wines). Add a little dark chocolate and it's more than enough for a good meal. The kids have been good with sandwiches of fresh bread and butter, a few pieces of fruit and some almonds, and a little boxed apple juice.
But then Raf and I had an amazing idea. Since our 20-or-so-room hotel is closed to the public (you have to be buzzed in) and there's an incredible restaurant on-site, two floors down from our room, we thought, Hey, Emme can "babysit" and we can eat downstairs while they watch TV. So we made reservations and did just that.
We ordered a bottle of Cava (Spain's sparkling wine) and the 60-euro per person "gourmet tasting menu" which had seven or eight courses - I cannot even tell you what we ate, exactly, but it was one gastronomic feat after another. For example, one appetizer course came served in tiny shot glasses; there was a layer of an orange-pink fish pudding topped by a layer of wispy cream. Another course featured small pieces of seafood and vegetables artfully placed on a shallow dish; once the dish was placed in front of me, the server poured a cold gazpacho soup over the seafood and vegetables, then dusted with black truffle shavings.
Our pre-main dish was served on a piece of slate (pictured above). It was a gold brick of mashed potatoes (the "gold" probably was real gold dust molded into a kind of fondant), a single snap pea, cuttlefish, a scallop, and a swipe of gold dust. Seriously. And it was surprisingly good. The main dish was a beef filet with cherry confit on top - incredibly melt-in-your-mouth good.
For dessert, there was a mango or papaya pudding floating in an almond cream and topped with an "herbed ice" -- crushed ice that is infused with herbs like rosemary and mint and god-knows-what. Then a deconstructed tiramisu and finally a plate of unusual chocolates (infused with chili and wasabi and some sour Asian fruit) and coffee.
We don't normally eat gourmet food, so this was a chance to step outside of the Cheesecake Factory zone. It was like the taste bud version of a crossword puzzle, to keep my appetite for gourmet delights sharp. We couldn't have afforded El Bulli (touted as "the best restaurant in the world," and it's here in Barcelona), but this was, for us, just as good.
The best part? The kids only called the restaurant once.