Destination: Barcelona

The ‘I Ate at El Bulli’ Genre of Food Writing

Famed Spanish restaurant El Bulli closed Saturday. Among its many legacies, the Telegraph notes, it created a new genre in food writing:

Over the years, however, hundreds of restaurant critics from all over the world made the pilgrimage to northern Spain, establishing a distinct genre of review that has become known in the trade as the “I Ate At El Bulli Piece” (IAAEBP).

A pioneering example appeared in the New York Times Magazine: “Welcoming cocktails of a frozen whisky sour and a foam mojito were accompanied by popcorn that had been powdered and reconstituted as kernels, and a tempura of rose petals. A ‘Kellogg’s paella’ consisted of puffed Rice Krispies to which the waiter added an intense seafood reduction; on the side were a small, flash-fried shrimp, a piece of shrimp sashimi and an ampoule containing a thick brown extract of shrimp heads that you were instructed to squeeze into your mouth.”

Anthony Bourdain’s April blog post about his El Bulli meal would have to stand as a masterful example of an IAAEBP.

Tonight: Bourdain Goes to El Bulli for ‘Greatest Meal’ of His Life

The Spanish restaurant many critics considered to be the best in the world served its final meal Saturday night. Travel Channel host Anthony Bourdain visited Ferran Adria’s El Bulli recently, and his show about it airs for the first time tonight.

Bourdain called the meal he had there during that visit “the single greatest restaurant meal of my life.”

I don’t know if Monday’s episode is the best depiction of what the Adrias did at El Bulli-though I’m pretty damn sure it is. I do know that our producers and camera people and editors and post production people went all out-did their very best work. This show was a labor of love and much gratitude. We were determined to get it right.

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Consecrated After 128 Years

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Consecrated After 128 Years REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino
REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

The Pope consecrated the Gaudi-designed church as a Basilica yesterday. The building is still unfinished—it’s been under construction since 1882—but the consecration means that daily masses can now be held in the main nave. If tourist entry fees remain steady, it’s hoped that the Sagrada Familia will be complete by 2026.

‘The End of Food Tourism’ in Barcelona?

Food writer Sarah Elton went looking for local seafood and fresh seasonal produce in the Spanish city—and, as she writes in The Atlantic, she came up blank:

I traveled to Spain with my parents when I was 12 years old, and I had vivid memories of some of our meals. I ate green beans with olive oil for the first time on that trip, and I still remember the flavor of the warm oil with the just-picked beans. These days when I travel, I am interested in getting to know places through what I eat, which means choosing foods that capture the terroir and offer a taste of place.

But on this holiday, when I searched for local food, I found long-distance industrial instead. From the hole-in-the-wall joints to swish tapas bars near the Passeig de Gracia, imports ruled.

Catalonia Votes to Ban Bullfights

Or as the Spanish newspaper El País proclaimed in its headline, Cataluña prohíbe los toros.

The historic vote marks the first time a Spanish region has moved to ban the pastime. Reports the New York Times:

In many ways, however, the ban reflected less on the animal rights than on a political debate over Catalan identity and a push by local parties for greater independence from the rest of Spain.

That hasn’t stopped animal rights groups from claiming a victory.

A Night at El Bulli, Frame by Frame

After a five-year effort, Amateur Gourmet blogger Adam Roberts finally landed a reservation at El Bulli, the Barcelona restaurant regularly dubbed the best in the world. He’s documented his 30-course evening in an entertaining comic strip/photo essay. David Farley interviewed El Bulli’s chef, Ferran Adria, for World Hum back in March. (Via The Morning News)

Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right

Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was at the tail end of a 10-week backpacking trip around Europe. I had just four days left before I caught a plane back to the U.K. (where I’d been living) and then home to Canada—and, predictably, I was out of money.

My British and Canadian bank accounts were both tapped out, and while I could still charge my dorm bed—a clear necessity—to my credit card, I stubbornly refused to charge restaurant meals or withdraw cash for groceries on it. (The interest will kill you, y’know.)

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Eight Great Travel Stories of Serendipity and Kindness

Eight Great Travel Stories of Serendipity and Kindness Photo illustration by Jim Benning

To mark our eighth anniversary, we've collected eight favorite stories from our archives that show how one person, or one small act of kindness, can alter our sense of the world

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Interview With Ferran Adria: Spain’s Super Chef

Interview With Ferran Adria: Spain’s Super Chef REUTERS/Victor Fraile
REUTERS/Victor Fraile

Superlatives and Spanish chef Ferran Adria seem to make the perfect pairing. His restaurant, El Bulli, located north of Barcelona, is often referred to by foodies, travelers and restaurant critics as a culinary heaven. The best restaurant in the world. And, as a result, nabbing a reservation is like winning the lottery: 100,000 requests for reservations per year come in. If you’re lucky enough to get one, you arrive in Spain hungry.

Adria spends six months out of the year in his Barcelona workshop, creating a menu (some have dubbed it “molecular gastronomy”) that is so avant-garde that it’s hard to find anything else like it (unless, of course, a chef is copying Adria—and many are).

I recently exchanged emails with Chef Adria and asked about his interest in travel—and I tried to be extra nice in the hope he’d grant me one of those impossible-to-get reservations.

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Hoscar the Grouch

Hoscar the Grouch Photo by Big Richard C via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Lisbon Lounge Hotel by Big Richard C via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s the Hoscars! No, it’s not an Oscar party with your friend from Rome, but rather Hostel World’s ranking of the top 10 hostels in the world, based on the opinions of some 800,000 hostel bookings in 20,000 different properties. We heard that backpackers the world over were scratching themselves with anticipation and/or scabies while waiting for the 2009 winners to be announced. The top dog: Travellers House in Lisbon, part of a clean sweep of the top three by Lisbon hostels.

Meanwhile, hostel fans on the other side of the Atlantic are out of luck, as no American—neither North nor South—properties made it on the list. It’s proof positive of something, probably the lure of Spectravision at a Motel 6. Even so, do take the list with a grain of salt, as even old travel writing greybeards like Leif Pettersen have yet to grace the sheets at any of the top 10.

Check out the top ten below.

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Travel Movies Go to the Oscars

Travel Movies Go to the Oscars Photo by ginnerobot via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ginnerobot via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Yes, the Oscar nominations are in. And while this year’s crop of nominated travel flicks won’t exactly be waltzing down the red carpet with all eyes on them—as expected, the films that made noise at the Golden Globes got significantly less love from the Academy voters—a handful may yet manage to sneak in one of the side entrances and grab some hardware.

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The Golden Globes: Is it the Year of the Funny Travel Movie?

The Golden Globes: Is it the Year of the Funny Travel Movie? Photo by ginnerobot via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ginnerobot via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has released the list of nominees for the upcoming Golden Globe Awards—and to my very pleased surprise, a few travel movies have made the cut.

Scroll right past all those dramas: the action is in the “Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy” category, where In Bruges, Mamma Mia and Vicky Cristina Barcelona have all gotten the nod. “In Bruges” also landed a pair of acting nominations for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and Meryl Streep took her umpteenth nomination for “Mamma Mia,” while Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz represented “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” in three of the four acting categories.

So what does all this mean? Is it the year of the travel movie?

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‘The Condé Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys’

A new anthology gathers some of the most memorable stories from the magazine's 20-year history. Tyler D. Johnson says it contains the humor and wisdom only travel can deliver.

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Me and Bruce in Barcelona

Michael Yessis went for a walk in Spain and stumbled upon a Bruce Springsteen concert rehearsal -- and an international band of devotees.

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