Day 7 – Barcelona, Spain

Day 7 – Barcelona

Our fourth port of call was Barcelona, Spain. We actually docked at about 5am since more than half of the ship’s passengers were disembarking early that morning.

Look at the beautiful sunrise colors over the harbor!

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The first stop of the day was the famous Sagrada Familia, designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Although incomplete, Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the highlights of Barcelona. Construction began in 1882, but Gaudi took over the project in 1883, transforming it with his style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. At the time of his death in 1929, less than a quarter of the basilica was finished. It’s estimated that construction will finish in 2026 – exactly 100 years since the death of Gaudi.

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The inside of the church is just as impressive, if not more so, than the outside.

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After Sagrada Familia, our next stop was a nice stroll through Las Ramblas, the main tourist stretch leading down from Placa de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. There is so much to see and buy along Las Ramblas – it’s also a beautiful walk without car traffic.

We then walked along the harbor to our lunch spot, Can Sole. Can Sole, established in 1903, has been serving paella and seafood for over 113 years. We, of course, had to have the paella! Throw in some jamón ibérico (ham from Black Iberian pig) and pan con tomate (tomato paste bread) and it was one of the best meals of our trip!

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The paella was so big it didn’t even fit into a single shot! It was jam-packed with squid, octopus, mussels, clams, and shrimp. Between the three of us, we finished more than 3/4ths of it, which I think is an accomplishment.

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Dessert was at Eyescream and Friends, which serves up shaved gelato. It’s a very easy process – you pick your gelato flavor out of six options and then grab two toppings of your choice. They’re so cute I didn’t want to eat it! Shaved gelato is smoothier and creamier than shaved ice, so I definitely am a huge fan.

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If I had more time in Barcelona, I would’ve definitely had more sangria and more ham. The sangria is so cheap! 2.50€ for a large glass!  

Beso

For Birthday Dinner #3 on my actual date, the Boyfriend and I decided to take the ferry over to Staten Island and have dinner on the island. After some Googling and Yelping, I found Beso. Beso is located in St. George, just two short blocks away from the ferry. They specialize in Spanish tapas, or small plates. We arrived around 5:30 for an early dinner and were seated immediately. We were given a warm loaf of bread with some olive oil, which was very good. I love when restaurants offer warmed up bread!

Beso offers two menus – the a la carte menu and a prix fixe menu. I opted for the a la carte menu since I had already set my eyes on a few dishes beforehand. The Boyfriend decided to go with the prix fixe menu, which is $20.13 for three courses.

First, let’s begin with our a la carte orders. We decided to order the lamb chops, which were $12 for 4 lamb chops that night. The lamb chops were delicious! They were juicy and succulent. The meat itself was very tender and didn’t have that smelly lamb taste at all. This was easily the best dish of the night. Definitely order their lamb chops if you pay Beso a visit!

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I started with the Sashimi de Atun ($9.95), or guajillo crusted seared tuna served with sundried tomato salsa. The serving size was huge! I was not expecting so many slices of tuna sashimi when I ordered. There were at least eleven pieces on the plate, which is almost unheard of for that price elsewhere in Manhattan. I was amazed when I first put a slice of tuna in my mouth. The tuna was seared to perfection and the salsa gave it a very nice flavor.

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My “main” dish, if you will, was the Lobster Enchiladas ($10.50), which features lobster meat wrapped in a flour tortilla with arugula, onion, tomato and Manchego cheese. The order comes with two enchiladas, which is really more than enough. At this point I was already getting quite full. I could taste lobster with each bite and the cheese contrasted nicely with the lobster. I did think the dish was a bit salty, so next time I’m definitely telling them to lighten up on the salt.

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The Boyfriend’s prix fixe menu comes with a choice of 4 tapas, 3 entrees and 3 desserts. He chose the Conchas de Cave, or Prince Edward Mussels sautéed in Spanish Cava and served with toasted tortillas. The mussels were a bit on the small side but the sauce was very good and tasted great when soaked up with tortilla. The serving size was quite generous as well.

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For his entrée, he chose the Seafood Merengue, which features mussels, clams, calamari, and scallops sautéed in a Sofrito sauce and served over spaghetti. I thought this dish was pretty good for a simple pasta dish. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente and was covered in seafood. The best part, however, was the sauce. The sauce was tangy with a hint of tomato. It was definitely not your usual spaghetti sauce. I kept stealing bites from the Boyfriend’s dish in between bites on my own food.

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For his dessert, he chose the Tres Leches Cake, which features vanilla cake soaked in three kinds of milk. The cake was a bit harder than I’m used to in a Tres Leches cake, but I thought it was still good nonetheless. It was topped with fresh blueberries and diced mangos, which helped make the cake a little big lighter. We managed to polish off the piece of cake together and it was just the right end to a delicious meal.

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Overall, I was very impressed with Beso. The food was delicious and the dining room was quiet despite the people slowly filling in as the night wore on. The waiters never rushed us – in fact, we were left to eat our meals in piece. Our waters were refilled periodically and the waiters reacted appropriately whenever our dishes were empty. They changed our small plates once during the meal, which I thought was a nice touch. All in all, I would definitely return to Beso. I need to have those lamb chops again!

13-Pound Lobsters

Francisco’s Central Vasco Restaurant, located in Chelsea, is perhaps one of the most interesting restaurants I have ever been to. Dubbed “the best lobster in the city’, this Spanish restaurant specializes in lobster and seafood. Upon entering the lobster house, you’d notice the intriguing decor. Right above the bar hung lobster claws from lobsters ranging from 50 pounds to 25 pounds. Their largest lobster claw is from a lobster weighing around 70 pounds. Talk about serious lobster eating!

Once you are seated, you are given a menu with all sorts of seafood – seafood paella, crabmeat stew, lobster bisque, and much more. Then you are given a separate sheet of paper for just plain lobsters – steamed or boiled. The smallest lobster, around one and a quarter pound will cost you around $21.

After ordering, your waiter will bring over a lobster bib and put it on for you. The bib is plastic and has a cute lobster design over it. After the bibs, come the appetizers. Each house special comes with side dishes so when the entire table orders, the side dishes come out family style. A large plate of fresh garden salad is brought out, followed by a large plate of Spanish rice, fried plantains, and boiled green beans. Fresh bread is also presented along with the side dishes. Majority of the time, no appetizers are needed since the lobster and the side dishes are enough to fill you up. 

As someone who could not decide between a steak or lobster, I chose the Surf and Turf, which consisted of one and quarter pound of Maine lobster along with a sirloin steak. The steak is cooked to your choice while the lobster is steamed to redness. The order is quite large but with time, it is possible to finish the entire meal. I always eat the lobster first because it does not taste as good cold. Melted butter is offered on the side for dipping the lobster meat and a shell cracker is also offered on the plate. A1 steak sauce is given when asked. Running at $39, the Surf and Turf isn’t exactly budget eating but your portion will be large enough for two people to share.

Eating the lobster at Francisco’s Central Vasco is always a joy to me because it tastes superb. The lobster is cooked just right so that it’s not overcooked and stringy. When you crack open the lobster, the juices are flowing out because it hasn’t been overcooked and remains juicy. The best part of the Surf and Turf is that the lobster is steamed. The steamed lobster retains all of its original flavors without being overwhelmed by another other added in ingredients. You can taste the freshness and the sweetness of the lobster meat. After the lobster, my favorite would be the side dishes. No matter how full I am from the lobster and the steak, it seems like I always have extra room for the Spanish rice. Most of the time I even doggy-bag the rice because I can’t get enough of it.

Francisco’s Central Vasco isn’t cheap, but the quality of the food is well worth it. If you’re ever in the mood for good quality lobster and are willing to splurge, pay Francisco’s a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Holiday Cheer!

Today marked the opening day of Columbus Circle’s Holiday Market. I’ve been waiting for this day for almost a month now – ever since I found out the exact date they opened. Last year, I spent at least 2 lunches a week at the Holiday Market. So this year, I decided to pay them a visit on their very first day to scope out their food options.

My first stop was German Delights Bratwurst. I was a big fan after I had their cheese filled bratwurst or German sausage last winter. Their apple cider is also super delicious. It is the perfect hot drink for the cold weather.

They didn’t have their cheese filled bratwursts just yet, since it was opening day so I went with one of their regular wursts. For an extra dollar, I added sauerkraut to my sausage. The sausages here are served on a roll and are big enough to fill you up for lunch. Priced at $6, I think they’re a deal. It’s hard to find cheap lunch in the Lincoln Center area!

German Delights also serves Gluehwine or Glühwein, which is a popular hot drink that is drunk during the Christmas holidays in many European countries. German Delights serves a non-alcoholic kind. They are the only U.S. provider of Christkindles Kinder Punsch, which is a premade version of Gluehwine. I am absolutely in love with this drink. Christkindles Kinder Punsch is made with Pear Juice Concentrate, Honey, Grape Juice and Lemon Juice Concentrate, Elderberry Juice, Plum Juice, Raspberry Juice, Blackcurrant Juice, Cherry Juice, Strawberry Juice, Bilberry Juice, and Blackberry Juice. Wow! That’s a lot of different flavors. And it shows because with every sip, it feels like you’re getting kicked in the mouth with flavor! 

Next up is Sizzles, which serves up empanadas. This is their first time doing anything like the holiday market so they’re still getting on their feet. The worker behind the cashier told me that they’re still trying out new products and seeing how the feedback is. So head on over and try out some of their new projects! You never know if they’ll be there the next day! 

One of their new pet projects was their ham and cheese roll. They didn’t really have a name for it yet since it’s their first time selling it. After eating the roll, I went back and told them that they should definitely keep it on the menu. The roll had gooey cheese throughout the entire thing. There was hardly a bite without filling. The roll was also super soft, which was perfect because who wants to bite into a rock hard piece of dough?

After the roll, we wandered down a little further and saw Sonrisa, who also happens to sell empanadas. I wondered why I had never seen them before around the city. The boyfriend questioned them about having a restaurant. We found out that Sonrisa is actually a food truck located in New Jersey. That made a lot of sense!

They specialized in empanadas but it wasn’t them that captured our attention – it was the pulled pork sliders. Their slider comes double wrapped in tin foil – no leakage whatsoever. The sauce that they put on top of the pulled pork made the bun of the slider a bit soggy. The sauce was so good though, that I overlooked the soggy bun. The pork was abundant and easy to chew. Overall, I liked the slider and I know I will probably go back for it sometime in the near future. Too bad they’re only here until the end of the fair cause I’d love to have their sliders on a regular basis.

After the slider, we decided to take a walk around the fair. We saw a sign that advertised baked goods and hot chocolate so we followed the sign. We wandered upon Baked Alone, which offers an abundant option of baked goods. There were pumpkin breads, huge brownies, and much more!

I opted for their oatmeal cranberry cookie. The large cookie was around $2.50 – pretty expensive for a cookie but the size makes up for it. The cookie was perfection. It was chewy but not too much that it would fall apart in my hands. There was a slight crunch to the outer rim, which is my idea of a wonderful cookie. 

Besides the food vendors that I tried, there were also Wafels & Dinges, Thai food, pretzels and lots of chocolate. One of the chocolate vendors, No Chewing Allowed!, offered free samples with the order of – “No Chewing!” The idea was to let the chocolate truffle melt in your mouth – which it did! I know I’ll definitely be back to purchase some chocolate truffles as Christmas gifts. At $12.99 a box they’re super affordable.

Now that you’ve read my experience at the holiday fair, go explore for yourself! The Holiday Market is open daily until December 24 so there is plenty of time to go have a walk around. I definitely recommend a visit to German Delights. Their drinks and bratwursts are the best! I know I will definitely be back so maybe I’ll see you there! Happy eating!