week 22.5: paco meralgo

update: pictures work!!!!!! yipeee!!!
if you haven't met chris,
i highly recommend it.
he taught me all i know about photo-bombing,
manta-ray fins,

he has an extensive background in ramen,
and he plays drums real good.

today i am honored to have him guest-blogging... 
all the way from 


Ohai! This is not Molly y - e - h pronounced "yay," 
this is instead Chris Thompson
guest-liveblogging some tapas in Barcelona, Spain. 

Let's get right down to it:

New York people tend to eat late, 
but I'm realizing we got nothing on Spain - from what I can tell, 
the evening meal starts between 10 and midnight and it's considered impossibly gauche to be seen in a restaurant before 9 pm. 
It seems like most places don't even open until 8, 
even though they all appear to be set up and ready to go all afternoon 
(almost like they are taunting one jet-lagged hungry traveler). 

I killed time as best I could, 
checked out La Ramblas (where many a sad-faced tourist can be found eating soggy paella at 6:15 PM), 
and walked through the massive La Boqueria market to ogle some pork products:

But then it was 8:15, 
and I realized I was just going to have to swallow my pride, 
waltz right in there and eat, or I was gonna fall over. 
After all, it was waaay past lunch time in NY. 
I'm so glad I did! 
They were super nice, and didn't mock me (or the other 2 people there) for 
rocking the blue-hair special
Sure enough, after about a half hour it was packed and crazy and I was happy I got a primo seat at the bar, 
in view of so much FRESHNESS:

My epiphany for the entire meal came within the first 3 minutes. Tomato bread, a common accompaniment to Catalan cuisine, is something so simple I couldn't believe I never experienced it before. I must have had 5 or 6 plates of this stuff by the end of the meal, and I'm now obsessed with learning the proper way to make it. 
Apparently the order of operations is key; 
rub the garlic on the bread, 
then on the tomato, 
then salt it, 
add olive oil, 
sprinkle on a mixture of crack and toasted pixie dust. 
omg you guys, look:

I regret not taking a picture of the awesome Gazpacho, served in a wine glass, but then there were SEA SNAILS 


Running theme here is 
"either you will give it a bath in olive oil, or we will do it for you." 
The anchovy bath included copious garlic, no complaints here.

Next there were fried things; eggplants, squid with ink-pouches still attached (but not for long), and PADRÓN PEPPERS:

They reminded me of Japanese fried shishito, 
a little hotter but with the same salty crunch and mysterious paper doily.
Finally, steak tartar "montaditos," in a bread tart 
(which is way more genius than it sounds):

I don't pretend to be a connoisseur of steak tartar, 
but I'll be surprised to ever have another one that lives up to this version. 
It was rich and flavorful but not overpowering and I completely forgot the bloodiness of it all. 

On my way out I caught a birds-eye of the masters at work:

I think I ordered 8 courses and three glasses of Rioja and it cost less than a steak in NY. I'm also thankful I was able to get through this meal with not a word of Spanish, but I think they gave me a pass for having that 
look on my face the whole time. 
I try to make up for my cultural ignorances with boatloads of appreciation, and it seems to have been a winning strategy so far. 

Paco Meralgo is at Muntaner 171, on the corner of Corsega, 
in Barcelona Spain. Don't even think of showing up before 8 PM.

-chris p thompson

thank you chris!!!
come back to new york now please so we can go to hagi please!!