Tasting Gràcia: A Walking Food Tour with Devour Barcelona

Walking Food Tour Devour Barcelona
Escalivada and romesco pintxo at La Botigueta del Bon Menjar

Walking in the neighborhood of Gràcia feels different from being elsewhere in Barcelona. The streets are narrower, the smell of freshly baked bread wafts onto the street as you pass by a home bakery, and art is everywhere; painted on walls and store shutters, inked on the bodies of locals and proudly displayed through the open doors and windows of artist studios. There’s neither the chaos of busy La Rambla nor the crowds of camera toting tourists that wander in the Gothic Quarter. Gràcia is different, its character exuding the rare charm of a place so comfortable in its skin that it isn’t vying for your attention.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Placa del Sol in Gracia

The village of Gràcia was independent until the late 19th century and it’s no surprise that its residents, a community of artists and intellectuals that’s fiercely proud of its heritage, still say they’re from Gràcia, not Barcelona. After spending a few days eating around the rest of the city and the best chocolate places in Barcelona, I happily took the first opportunity I got to experience authentic Catalan cuisine from the kitchens of family-run establishments on a walking food tour with Devour Barcelona on the Gràcia Neighborhood Tour. The company offers tours that focus not only on the meals, but also the people behind them, intertwining their stories with the culture and history of Gràcia while exploring this hipster neighborhood on foot.

The meeting point for the tour was the upscale Passeig de Gràcia, a street lined with fashionable stores boasting big names such as Valentino. Here I met our guide Renée, a long time resident with an infectious enthusiasm for Catalan cuisine, who would lead our group of twelve into the backstreets of Gràcia.

The Botifarra at Can Tosca

We had been advised to skip breakfast as there would be a lot of eating on the tour and our rumbling stomachs could not have been happier for our first meal at Can Tosca. Founded by two sisters from the neighborhood and now managed with the help of their children, Can Tosca is casual and inviting, with old black and white family photographs displayed on the walls.

My request for no beef or pork was well accommodated and as the rest of my group enjoyed their grilled botifarra (pork sausage) sandwiches, I relished my omelet sandwich with a refreshing glass of Cava (a sparkling wine similar to champagne) made from a blend of grapes native to the Penedès region in Catalonia. Cava is considerably cheaper than champagne and this has nothing to do with quality but is due to highly favorable conditions in Catalonia for production in greater quantities.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Omelet sandwich at Can Tosca

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Cava at Can Tosca

The pork sausage or botifarra is a traditional favorite in Catalan cuisine and the two main types are the white sausage made of minced pork and spices or the black sausage with the additional ingredient as boiled pork blood. But if you’re vegetarian or botifarra doesn’t sound like your thing, Devour Barcelona can accommodate your food preferences, provided you let them know in advance.

Market treats at Selecció d’Olives I Conserves Gloria

Our next stop was the Mercat de l’Abaceria Central, a market selling fresh homegrown produce, meat, seafood and dairy products, it’s entrance tucked away in a lane.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Mercat de l’Abaceria Central

We smiled at the friendly vendors, some still setting up their counters, and followed Renée through the aisles to find ourselves at Selecció d’Olives I Conserves Gloria. The store display was a colorful smorgasbord of varieties of green and black olives, bright red cherry peppers stuffed with cheese, wrinkly sun-dried tomatoes, pickled carrots and silver anchovies. We were each handed a skewer with an olive, sun-dried tomato and salt cod and on Renée’s advice, we popped it into our mouths all at once to be hit by an explosion of spicy, tangy and juicy flavors, something like an espresso shot for our tastebuds.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Seleccio D’Olives

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Selecció d’Olives

Award winning cheese at La Trobada del Gourmet

Just a couple of steps away, at La Trobada del Gourmet, we tasted a selection of delightful Spanish and Catalan cheeses, Urgelia, Idiazabal and Manchego which won the World Cheese Awards for the last two years. I particularly enjoyed the perfectly balanced sweet and savory tastes of the Manchego cheese served with a thin slice of membrillo, a dense sweet jelly made from the quince fruit, and casting aside my usual self-consciousness, helped myself to an extra slice.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Cheese tasting

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

La Trobada del Gourmet

The art of olive oil tasting at Oli Sal

Leaving the market behind, we followed Renée again as she led us into Oli Sal, a store that at first appears like olive oil heaven. The walls were lined with bottles of olive oil in different shades of gold. We headed into a tiny tasting room where we tasted three organic Spanish extra virgin olive oils as a spoonful and then with a small piece of bread, most of us surprised by the differences in the flavors and intensity, having never paid as much attention before.

Olive oil is a mainstay in Spanish cooking and it’s common to drizzle it over salads, bread and even dessert. Renée explained how extra virgin olive oil is made (without the use of chemicals or heat) and how labels on olive oil sold in supermarkets can be misleading.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Olive Oil Tasting at Oli Sal

Leaving Oli Sal after our quick lesson, we walked towards Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, a lively town square where people enjoyed al fresco lunches around an impressive clock tower. When Gràcia was still an independent village, the square, also home to the historic Town Hall, served as a central hub for events of political and social significance.

Walking Food Tour Devour Barcelona

Giants of Gracia

We stepped into the district office to find the Gegants or Giants of Gràcia, standing proudly, painted smiling faces and a horned devilish head scowling at us. These giants take over the streets and squares of Gràcia during the Festa de Gràcia (Gràcia Festival), an annual street festival held in August during which the neighborhood, dressed in all its finery, comes alive with processions, parades, concerts and community events.

Pa amb tomàquet at L’Anxoveta

We arrived at L’Anxoveta to the welcoming smile and warm demeanor of the friendly owner Carlos and a large table that was set up for our make-your-own pa amb tomàquet session. The delicious pa amb tomàquet (tomato bread) is a Catalan favorite that is enjoyed for breakfast, as a tapa or a mid day snack. It’s found in every restaurant in Barcelona and is always served as an accompaniment to the Spanish omelet. Throughout my travels in Spain, I ate this bread every day, unfailingly ordering it where it wasn’t already served because I just loved it so much! Following his instructions, we rubbed vine-ripe tomatoes, which were cut in half, on toasted crusty bread making it soft and moist from the pulp. We seasoned it with a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous drizzling of olive oil.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

At L’Anxoveta

This simple dish has an interesting story of how it became a Catalan favorite. Even the humblest of Catalan kitchens would usually have the three ingredients- bread, tomatoes from the family’s garden and olive oil from the farm, to never have to go to bed hungry. It was an economical way to utilize hardened day old bread that otherwise could not be consumed.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Patatas Bravas at L’Anxoveta

As we sat around the table enjoying the bread, Carlos brought in dishes of Bomba potato and ground beef croquettes and Patatas Bravas for the vegetarians, topped with fiery brava sauce and alioli. The La Bomba tapa is a round croquette of potato and meat in a pool of red brava and topped with a dollop of alioli (aioli). It was invented in the 1920-30s in La Barceloneta, a fishermen’s village by the sea and a hub for anarchists, to look like a bomb with a lit fuse in a pool of blood. Patatas Bravas (fried potato cubes in brava sauce topped with aioli) is another favorite in Spanish cuisine. Renée explained that there were many versions of Patatas Bravas and some restaurants would use little or no brava sauce, drizzling only aioli on the potatoes before serving them. I’d tried the dish in Barcelona and elsewhere in Costa Brava before but the one served at L’Anxoveta was by far my favorite.

Syrian pastry at Pastisseria Principe

Little did I expect a taste of the Middle East in Barcelona, but I have to admit I was right at home (next to rows of assorted Baklava) at Pastisseria Principe, a Syrian pastry shop. It was opened by Mostafa who first came to the city thirty years ago on vacation. In two months, he was married and had started the pastry shop serving Middle Eastern sweets like Baklava (a rich sweet pastry made of layers of filo, nuts, syrup and honey). The pistachio pastry, recommended by Renée, was crunchy, sweet and simply delicious.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Pistachio Pastry at Pastisseria Principe

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Mostafa at Pastisseria Principe

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Syrian Pastry -Pastisseria Principe

The Old Man’s Bar Bodega Ca’l Pep

As we entered this atmospheric bar, it was easy to see why Renée had described it as a classic ‘Old Man’s Bar’. For one, the only other patrons were old men who seemed to be having a jolly ol’time as they hung out engaging in banter and watching TV. Simple wood furniture, retro themed posters, ladles on the walls and a checkered towel that hung by the sink made it seem like we were in somebody’s kitchen.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Bodega Ca’l Pep

A glass of sweet, warm Perruchi red vermouth (wine flavored with herbs and caramel) was paired with pickled anchovies, olives and a piece of bread. Sweet, salty and sour, it was an interesting combination and a great introduction to vermouth for first timers.

Home cooking at La Botigueta del Bon Menjar

La Botigueta del Bon Menjar is a cozy shop tucked away on a quiet street with mouthwatering dishes of homemade meals like meatballs in gravy, pasta and fideuà (a vermicelli dish similar to Paella) displayed in the only counter.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Homecooked meals at La Botigueta del Bon Menjar

“Traditional meals for half the price you’d spend at a touristy place”, Renée explained. Under the watchful gaze of Jose, the owner, we tried the escalivada and romesco pintxo (grilled vegetables, an olive and romesco sauce). It was a fantastic pairing of contrasting flavors. This was followed by espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan style cooked Spinach). Warm, simple and hearty, it felt like something you’d expect to find in a traditional Catalan home. Thanking Jose for the lovely meals, we were on our way again.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Espinacas a la Catalana at La Botigueta del Bon Menjar

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Jose at La Botigueta del Bon Menjar

Sweet treats at Pastisseria Ideal

Our last stop was Pastisseria Ideal, a modern café and pastry shop on the main street Carrer Gran de Gràcia that first opened its doors in 1919. Here, we tasted their invention, the mini cremat, an innovative version of the crema catalana, believed by some to be a predecessor of the famous crème brulee, with the creamy custard contained in a spongy cake. The dessert is made using milk, orange rind, cinnamon, lemon and eggs and is slightly tangier than crème brulee that uses vanilla. Unlike the crema catalana, the mini cremat had a jelly like texture, with the creamy top settling into the soft cake. The mini cremat now proudly wears the crown of my favorite dessert anywhere ever (yes, it has knocked kunefe off its throne!).

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Mini Cremat at Pastisseria Ideal

Afterwards, over cups of cortado (espresso with milk), we tried to pick our favorite stops on the tour, a rather difficult choice. Not only had we enjoyed learning about the unique cultural identity of Gràcia but had also discovered traditions of Catalan cuisine that are difficult to uncover in a city where you don’t always know where to look for an authentic food experience.

Walking Food tour with Devour Barcelona

Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia

If you’re in Barcelona, I highly recommend this tour as a way to explore Gràcia and enjoy the best of traditional Catalan cooking.

Contact Devour Barcelona : http://devourbarcelonafoodtours.com/, info@devourbarcelonafoodtours.com, fee €65 for a day tour of 4 hours.

For general information to help you plan your travels to Spain and suggested itineraries (including off-the-beaten-path places like Palafrugell, Girona and Cap De Creus), check out my Spain Travel Blog. Alternatively, just get straight to the point and find out where to go for the best chocolate in Barcelona 😉

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A Walking Food Tour with Devour Barcelona A Walking Food Tour with Devour Barcelona

I was invited on the tour as a guest of Devour Barcelona. All opinions, as always, are honest and independent. 

 

53 Comments

  • Laia says:

    Wooow! I’m from Barcelona but I’m traveling at the moment, after reading your post I just want to go back to eat all my favorite food! And you’re right, Gracia is different, has its own personality and festivities. Gracia festival in August is great, I highly recommend it!

  • Prasad Np says:

    Such a yummy post and you have taken great efforts to showcase with beautiful pictures and various dishes… hope to visit Spain soon 🙂

  • Oh my God I am feeling hungry!

  • Alexis says:

    Wow, great post!! All of that food looks amazing and is making me hungry…especially the pastry! Thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you so much for coming on one of our tours Natasha! It was a pleasure to read this post and relive it all! Please join us in Madrid or Seville next time– there’s plenty more about Spanish food to discover!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Thank you for having me Lauren! Whenever I’m in those cities, I will be joining without a doubt 🙂

  • Love the idea of the walking food tour, you can get to know a place so much more though its food. Looks amazing

  • Yum! All your pictures are making me super hungry! On top of that, they’re making me miss Barcelona! I need to go back soon!

  • Andrea says:

    It would be a dream come true to go on a food tour in Barcelona … can’t wait to get to Europe on my RTW trip!

  • Stacey Valle says:

    Wow, all that food! Some looks really interesting and delicious! The other looks so different to me (I haven’t tried Catalan food before) but still willing to try when I visit there in the future 🙂 I haven’t done any Walking Food tour yet!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Catalan food is delicious! I ate my way through the region and can’t lose the weight even after a few months 😛

  • Tatiana says:

    Gràcia is my favorite area in Barcelona! Must be so awesome to actually live there! I’m bookmarking your post, next time I’m in Barcelona I have to do this food tour 🙂

    • Natasha Amar says:

      I highly recommend it, more so if you’re staying in the area because then, you can go back to all these lovely places!

  • Connie Reed says:

    You captured my attention with “the smell of freshly baked bread.” You sure covered a lot on this food tour. It sounds, and I’m sure tasted, amazing.

  • Simone says:

    Wow that food all looks so good! I love food tours 🙂

  • Elena says:

    Wow, these are such good tips for all the food lovers in one of my favourite neigbourhoods! And las fiestas de Gracia just finished, were you there?

  • Those Syrian treats and the cheeses look amazing 😀

  • zof says:

    Awesome. Everything looks so yummy. If I had to pick one place from the post, I’d go for the market. I love eating fresh foods at markets in southern Europe. I did it a lot in Portugal lately and it was the best food I’ve had in the country.

  • Hi! Food in Costa Brava is really amazing! Thanks for lots of hints what to eat around Gracia. Especially the pastry looks really delicious. Would you say that Spanish/Catalan cosine is better that Italian one? I think both nations are great when preparing the food: although I am fan of Spanish snacks, my number one favorite meal is pizza:)
    Greetings, V.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      It’s so hard to choose- I can’t do it because I love both! But I did enjoy eating around in Gracia more than I did in other areas of Barcelona 🙂 thanks for stopping by Veronika!

  • Claudia says:

    Considering that a minute ago I read a post about cocktails, it makes sense to read one about food now 🙂 Walking food tours are becoming increasingly popular lately. I love that – food reveals so much of the culture of a country, it is a great way to discover a place, finding the ingredients use, the way dishes are prepared and exploring the markets!

  • You killed me!!!
    I love Catalan cuisine, in the pst years I have travelled to Barcelona for at least a week during summer. One of the reasons that make me come back is the food, local food produced with love, good quality and fresh ingredients. Te olive and cheese tasting were the best part for me.
    Found really interesting that during the tour you visited and tasted some different food like the Syrian sweets. What a mix.
    Chrees,
    Nat

    • Natasha Amar says:

      It was a great mix and I don’t blame you- the food in Barcelona and Costa Brava was so delicious that I’m still working on losing that extra weight and it has been two months since I’m back. Thanks for the lovely comment Nat!

  • Sarah Ebner says:

    What a wonderful thing to do! My mouth was watering when I read this. I’d love to try that tomato bread in particular – and the cheese…..

  • Oh my word! Those olives look so good! How lovely to go on a food tour that is very personal and really lets you meet the people behind the food.

  • Katie says:

    I think I could eat tomato bread like that everyday, too! Definitely intrigued by olive oil sampling – I’ve definitely not been one to pay too much attention there. Really enjoyed this post – so well-written! I often steer away from food tours being pescatarian, so it’s good to read about one so accommodating. Just discovered your blog via the TBS share thread and will definitely be back for more 🙂

  • This sounds like a perfect food tour. And I can only imagine how difficult it was making notes at the same time so you could remember it all!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      It was easy to remember because the way Renee told us the stories made it more interesting 🙂

  • Lexi says:

    I would be in heaven with the cheese + olives! Looks like a cool tour

  • Jocelyn says:

    Looks delicious! My husband wants to go to Spain and Lisbon…he would love all this food 🙂

  • Aahhh the best way to get acquainted with a lovely city— a food tour! What did you like best among the cuisines you’ve tasted? The cremat makes me drool over here!

  • I’m definitely doing this tour next time I’m in Barcelona, I’ve seen a few bloggers rave about it recently. One of my favourite cities but I’ve never been there for long enough to really explore and taste the best bits!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Highly recommend! Sometimes tours like this are the best way to really experience something authentic 🙂

  • karla says:

    Food tour?:) I love food tours ! Good way to experience local dish plus happy tummy

  • Sabine says:

    Oh my, this is the tour for me. There is already so much nice food in Barcelona, or better Spain in general, and this gives you the chance to even try more delicacies. Yumm Yumm!!

  • Erica says:

    There’s nothing like exploring a city on a walking food escapade! Yummm this post makes me so hungry!!

    http://girlunspotted.com

  • Ynah.CA says:

    Looking at all those yummy treats makes me salivate 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Laura Lynch says:

    We had a lot of the same things on a Madrid food tour we took last year. I love the patatas bravas. The picture you got of the roasted peppers and olives is beautiful! I want to eat the whole plate.

  • Janna says:

    So with the acceptation of the olive, can’t stand the things, it all looks soooo good.

  • A food tour … love the idea. Like a wine tour only better!

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