Monday, August 27, 2012

Bubo Chocolatier and Pastisseria in Barcelona

  Not too far from our apartment in Barcelona, we discovered Bubo. Or rather, one night I feverishly searched Google for 'best patisserie in Barcelona' and came up with Bubo. Which happened to be quite close to us. (Pastisseria obviously being the Spanish version of patisserie, in case I'm not the only one getting confused by the spelling).
  Bubo, the mastermind of Carles Mampel, an award-winning pastry chef, actually consists of 2 storefronts, side by side: Bubo the chocolate/pastry shop, and Bubo the wine bar that serves amazing-looking tapas along with sweets from the chocolate side of the business. We unfortunately never got to dine at Bubo's tapas bar, but we did have a mid-morning treat in the chocolate shop.
 Upon arrival, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by just how modern and stylish the shop was. I guess I was expecting something a bit more traditional and older-looking, but that wasn't the case. I'd actually say that it looked like it should be in Japan, based on the presentation and the sweets themselves. Bubo definitely exuded class and style. It was quite hard to choose what we wanted to eat, seeing as everything looked wonderful.
 The shop clerk spoke excellent English and was quite happy to inform us of the ingredients in various cakes and desserts, seeing as we're always cautious about Keila's peanut allergy. After much debate (there were a LOT of tempting cakes, see HERE for some of what they offer), we settled on a simple dark chocolate cake by the name of Creamy Guanaja and a hazelnut chocolate croissant. As much as Keila loves her croissants and we really shouldn't have had it within her reach, the hazelnut was just too lovely to pass up. (Side note: If you don't want your toddler to throw a screaming fit in a cafe, don't even think about trying to stealthily eat a nut-studded croissant in her presence).
  The Creamy Guanaja was just as good as it sounds, and the hazelnut chocolate croissant was well worth tasting, too. Of course, all the ambience and those tasty treats didn't come cheap--I think it was about 7 or 8 euros for those 2 sinful delights, plus a coffee. Still, I'd say it was worth it--amazing chocolate desserts, stylish and relaxed atmosphere (besides someone's kid screaming for a croissant, that is)....I'd highly recommend Bubo! And their wine bar if you get time. Like I said, we never got to eat on that side, but we did take a peek and their tapas looked as good as their chocolates. They had a lunch menu of something like 5 or 6 tapas plus a dessert for 16 euros. Probably a drink was included in that price too but don't quote me on it. A good deal, either way!
  Bubo and Bubo Bar
  Caputxes 10, Barcelona
 (right by the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar)

                                                   Bubo Chocolatier and Pastry Shop

                                 I don't know what this was, but I really wanted to eat it. Too bad it was huge and therefore not an option.

            Our mid-morning indulgence at Bubo. See above for the link to better pictures of their wares. I had an upset baby on my lap so didn't get to take as many pictures as usual this time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

El Cangrejo Loco in Barcelona, Spain

  Another Barcelona restaurant review: El Cangrejo Loco, or 'The Crazy Crab'. Now, I really have no idea why such a posh restaurant would give itself a name that conjures up images of spring break revelers drinking at a beachside shanty, but El Cangrejo Loco it is. And let me assure you that it's definitely not a beach party type of restaurant. More like a 'book a babysitter and have a leisurely romantic meal' type of restaurant. Which of course we did NOT get to do; thank goodness for outside seating! Instead of a nice sit-down meal, our lunch was more of a baby-chasing relay. Keila was a champ as usual but if anyone knows a toddler who can sit through a 2 hour long lunch, then they get baby of the year award.
  Online reviews of El Cangrejo Loco rave about its views and most of the food, although many complain about the sub-par paella. Duly warned, we opted for their 25 euro daily set menu. This menu included 2 starters (1 hot and 1 cold), 1 main, and a dessert. Drinks obviously weren't included, and several of the menu options had an additional charge, so our bill came to 65 euros or something like. Not bad for a massive and long lunch! I would highly recommend this place: great views if you sit on the second floor veranda, excellent food (aside from the neigboring table's paella, which really didn't look all that great to be honest), pretty substantial portions for the price, and spectacular service (besides one of our 4 waiters, who was inexplicably cranky and frowned as us the whole time. He was attentive and prompt, just really grumpy). Oh, and most of the service staff seem to know English, in addition to the English menus. I think they also may have had Japanese and French versions too, but don't quote me.
 Between the two of us, we had: flat bread with smoked sardines, roast leek, and carmelized pineapple; octopus and vegetable salad; seafood ravoli with sea urchin sauce; monkfish stew with clams; and papillote of salmon in banana leaf with vegetables and soy sauce. Plus some amazing olives and flatbread with roasted tomatoes. Dessert was panna cotta and a lemon cheesecake.
 I'd have to say that my favorites were the octopus salad, the seafood ravoli, and the salmon. Keila agreed with me on the ravoli and the salmon; she never eats well on vacation, but the kid scarfed that salmon faster than I've seen her eat just about anything, ever. Unfortunately she mistook Yuki's panna cotta for ice cream and was quite disappointed upon discovering otherwise. The lemon cheesecake was good but I wouldn't call either dessert spectacular, just good. Then again, El Cangrejo Loco is a seafood restaurant, not a bakery or sweets shop. And they definitely excel at seafood.
 In summary, if you go: avoid the paella, stuff yourself with some of their wonderful seafood, and tell the cranky Indian waiter that we said hi!

                          I didn't think I liked olives all that much until our Barcelona trip. Spanish olives are my new addiction.

                                Flatbread topped with smoked sardines, carmelized pineapple, and roasted leeks

                                     Octopus salad at El Cangrejo Loco. Superb.

                                  View from the top terrace at El Cangrejo Loco.

                              Seafood ravoli with sea urchin sauce at El Congrejo Loco

                                          Keila thorougly enjoyed the ravoli

                                 Papillote of salmon with vegetables and soy sauce


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

El Pollo Rico in Barcelona, Spain

  I've given up on posting about Paris. For those of you who've been waiting to hear more about it, sorry. It's just been too long since June for me to remember a whole lot in detail, and I haven't even gotten around to our Ireland trip. If there's time later I may do a few quick reviews of sites/restaurants, but for now I'm going to focus on Barcelona while it's still fresh.
 Which leads to me.....El Pollo Rico! Or, 'The Rich Chicken', if you prefer the translation. Basically, this place is a little greasy spoon hole-in-the-wall a few blocks off Las Ramblas. The sort of diner/restaurant I'd pass by without a second glance, had I not read a few reviews about their awesome paella.
 Having tried a few upscale places and not really been overly impressed by their paella or tapas, we decided that we might as well give El Pollo Rico a shot. We were forewarned by some complaints online about El Pollo Rico not being the cleanest site around, but honestly it wasn't all that bad. Err...just don't look too closely at the pots and pans. In their defense, I did see them washing said pots and pans.
 When we entered, we were hoping for seats upstairs but were informed that the dining room doesn't open until 1 pm. Not wanting to wait until then, we opted for seats at the counter, down at the far end of the narrow first floor, where we could watch our food being made.
 We were promptly given menus in English; nobody there speaks more then a few words of English, but it was pretty easy to communicate with them via pointing and my basic recollection of Spanish.
  El Pollo Rico has various specialties of the day, most of which are printed in English. It'd help if you could read some Spanish and order a few items off their hand-written blackboard too, though---we got some amazing fish croquettes that were only listed in Spanish.
  Our first time there (yes, we went back not once but twice more!), we ordered the meat/seafood paella special: a jug of sangria and paella for 30 euros. There were various paella specials, all for 30 euros but the one with the sangria seemed to be the best deal. Our paella had lots of chicken chunks and a TON of seafood in it: I'm not sure how they could get any more seafood into their seafood-only paella (which doesn't include the jug of sangria). And El Pollo Rico's sangria is GOOOOOD! Or should I say, potent. Whichever the case, I did thankfully manage to stay on my barstool but only just.
  Now, for those of you thinking that 30 euros is a lot to charge for paella and sangria, especially in a greasy somewhat dirty're probably right. It was indeed the most expensive item on their menu, and I'd say it's quite easy to eat there for 5 euros or less per person. One night we got carry-out (take away, whatever you want to call it) from El Pollo Rico, and their daily special of seafood soup, an order of lasagna--which was surprisingly good---, some sides, and one other main cost us less than 15 euros).
 That being said...I'd dare say that their paella was the best we ate in Barcelona, and definitely the best value we had, too, in terms of seafood content and size. Not to mention that jug of sangria.
  A few more notes about El Pollo Rico: everyone there was very friendly and kind. The chefs made a point to try to talk to us, and they gave us extra little treats too, like some fried potatoes for Keila and some green peppers on our second visit. Maybe they just liked Keila, I'm not sure. The bathrooms were clean, although the women's bathroom door didn't lock. Or else I just couldn't figure out how to work it (sangria!). There was soap in the dispenser at the main sink outside the bathrooms, but it wasn't working so you had to kind of dip your hand in the top to get any soap out.
 While the place definitely looks somewhat aged and greasy, it had more of an authentic home-cooking feel to it than any other restaurant we visited, and we did see a cleaning woman at work, along with a dishwasher. So definitely not as bad as some reviews made it out to be.
 Finally, if you happen to venture a block past El Pollo Rico (heading away from Las Ramblas), beware the prostitutes. Not kidding. Wasn't really an issue at 11:30 in the morning (several of them were talking to a patrolling police car), but their presence made me guess that I probably wouldn't want to be hanging around that area after dark. Just a heads up. It's probably still quite safe to visit El Pollo Rico in the evenings, seeing as it's quite close to Las Ramblas, but I wouldn't go wandering blindly around the area too late at night.
  So, to summarize: El Pollo Rico in Barcelona: best paella we ate the entire trip! Don't go expecting 4 star gourmet, just really good no-frills meals.
PS. They do indeed serve roast chicken, as per their name. Not sure how good it is as we never go around to ordering it, but if it's anything like the rest of their food, it's probably well worth trying.
  El Pollo Rico
 Calle Sant Pau 31, 08001
   Barcelona, Spain

                                 The rather grease-encrusted range

                                              View of El Pollo Rico from the back, looking out the front

                                               Devilishly good sangria at El Pollo Rico, Barcelona

                                    Amazing seafood and chicken paella

                                 Fish and potato croquettes at El Pollo Rico

                                        Fried peppers

                 Seafood soup at El Pollo Rico. If it's the daily special when you're there, order it!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Keila's 21 Month Progress Report

I can't believe that Keila is 21 months already!! She's now closer to being 2 than 1 and 1/2 years baby is no longer a 'baby'.
 Here's what she's been up to lately:
 1. Keila keeps coming up with some good phrases. Her favorites within the past month include: 'NO....SELF!' as in, I want to do it myself and also 'NO.....BIG!' meaning, No, I want the biggest piece of tortilla, bread, etc possible. Keila has also been making other combinations such as 'Dada? Dada...HOME!' when she wakes up from her naps and finds that he's not around. It's simultaneously funny and heartbreaking to see her throwing a fit and rolling around her crib when I explain that he's at work.
 We've got a lot of other words popping out every day, but it'd take too long to detail all of them at the moment!
 2. Still no new teeth, but she's chewing on anything and everything and will randomly tell me 'Mouth...owie' so maybe they're on their way?
 3. Keila still isn't sleeping completely through the night, and I have the feeling it's only going to get worse what with another vacation and then a trip to the US next month. Ah well...maybe one day she'll make it through the the time she's 13 or so?
 4. We run, we climb, we play hide and seek, we love to chase and be chased. Very active girl!
 5. Nothing new to report about food. Except maybe that we had a few too many sweets when Grandma was here, and Keila now randomly yells 'Ice cream' and 'Candy' in the hopes of getting some each day. Sorry, kid.
 6. New actions...I can't keep track of all this baby does. Still trying to teach her 'gentle' when it comes to petting poor Wasabi. Keila does seem to understand the meaning, but that doesn't mean she always listens! Oh, and Keila can now work the tv/dvd player remotes pretty well, instead of just hitting buttons like she used to. She's quite good at 'play' and 'stop'!
 7. I think that Keila is still around 12 kilos? She's so active that I'm pretty sure she hasn't gained too much!
  Until next month....

                             Trying to give Wasabi a sip of water