Our Go-To Pizza Place in Barcelona: Napoletani DOC

Before moving to Barcelona, we lived in Naples, Italy for three years and during that time, we ate pizza as if it were our job. We did not chronicle our pizza hobby as this guy did (who ate 365 pizzas over two years), but between the two of us, we did pretty well as connoisseurs in the birthplace of pizza. We ordered pizza from our neighborhood joint so many times that they knew us by name over the phone (this is still one of our proudest achievements to date).

We got spoiled by having amazing Neapolitan pizza at our beck and call all the time. We never had to travel more than a block or two to find a pizza restaurant, and within minutes we could have hot, crispy, oozy, delicious pizza that rarely cost more than 6-8€. It cannot be overstated that Neapolitans are SERIOUS about their pizza, and there are very specific rules for a pizza to be called “Vera Pizza Napoletana.” These rules dictate the diameter of the pizza (no more than 35 cm), the thickness in the center (1/3 cm), where the tomatoes must come from (San Marzano) and so and so forth. There is even an organization that governs the pizza regulations called the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana.

As we were getting ready to leave Naples, we knew that pizza would never be the same. It’s like growing up in Philadelphia and then trying to find a suitable Philly cheese steak anywhere else. We were worried, until we went to one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants called Osteria DOC. The family that runs the restaurant is very sweet, and after telling them our plans to move to Barcelona they said “Oh you need to go to our son’s restaurant there. He has a pizza place.”

HALLELUJAH!

We arrived in Barcelona, and like any normal person, I put on my Napoli jersey and we went to check it out. Let me tell you, it is FANTASTIC.

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Walking into this place is like walking into a pizza place back in Napoli; huge wood-fire pizza oven, pictures of Mount Vesuvius, as well as jerseys and scarfs from the SSC Napoli soccer team on every wall (they also have a whole page of pizzas named after the soccer players on the menu).

The pizza is spot on, too. The price is slightly higher than what you would find in Naples, but there is absolutely no difference in quality.

Hello beautiful.
Hello beautiful.

Pizzas come in the standard personal size (no more than 35 cm, if you recall) and are best eaten with a knife and fork. They have what seems like an endless list of pizzas (more than 30) which includes the classics (diavola, capricciosa, margarita, etc.) but some unique ones too (Spacca Napoli, for instance: mozzarela, butifarra, mushrooms, parmesan and basil). If you’re going with a group, consider getting the 1/2 meter, or if you’re really hungry, the 1-meter pizza. In both cases, you can choose more than one topping to accompany the metric measurement.

1-meter of pizza.
1-meter of pizza.

They have a considerable list of antipasti, primi and secondi, but our experience with these is limited.

It is, without question, our favorite pizza place in Barcelona. It is also the only one we go to, but I have a hard time believing a better one exists. Maybe someday we’ll branch out, but until then, I’ll have another capricciosa.


Napoletani D.O.C.

Metro: L1 Urgell
Calle Diputación, 101
Barcelona

Phone:+34 93 451 6902
http://www.napoletanidoc.com

Bertso Taberna: A Fantastic Barcelona Pintxos Bar

We took a week-long trip to Spain’s Basque country last spring, staying in San Sebastian and Bilbao. It is a beautiful and fascinating region with some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Our friends Dustin and Amaia hooked us up with a detailed list of places to get the best pintxos – Basque tapas – in both cities. Amaia is from a city near Bilbao, and these two have great taste in all things, so we followed their list like a treasure map. We ate so, so well.

pintxos-san-sebastian

I love that each pintxo is a tiny, flavorful work of art. Salmon, anchovies, tuna, jamón, bacalao, beef cheeks, foie, red peppers, olives, cheese… The combinations were inventive and endless. The pintxos crawl is the way I want to eat all the time:

  1. Go into a bar, where the counters are covered with platter after platter of tempting small bites.
  2. Order a glass of txakoli, the Basque white wine that is a tiny bit sparkling and very refreshing. (Also, the bartender pours it from about a foot in the air, and it’s fun to watch.)
  3. Grab a plate. You’ll probably serve yourself, and the bartender will add up your total later. (You can also order larger portions of hot dishes at a lot of places – some of which are definitely worth the effort.)
  4. Try to pace yourself. Fail.
  5. Pay up, walk next door and repeat… and repeat… and repeat.

We have found a couple of Basque tapas bars here in Barcelona, but the best one by far is another Amaia and Dustin discovery. They were in town in October, visiting us and other friends and family, and the apartment they rented just happened to be next door to a brand new pintxos bar. Coincidence? I think not.

bertso-taberna-pintxos

Bertso Taberna is in a quiet part of Gràcia, conveniently a short walk from our apartment, but it’s always bustling with people. The owner is very warm and welcoming, and the food is outstanding and affordable. We’ve tried a variety of the pintxos out on the bar, as well as the larger portions ordered from the kitchen, and everything is good. Give me all of the seafoody pintxos and extra heaping helpings of the octopus, the morcilla (blood sausage – don’t let the name deter you; it is so good – served with a sweet apple compote) and the meatballs, and I am a happy girl. We’re looking forward to becoming regulars. You should join us.

pulpo-bertso-taberna

Bertso Taberna
Metro: L4 Joanic, L3 Fontana
Carrer Torrent de les Flors, 113
Barcelona

Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Wednesday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Photo credit

Tartiflette Recipe: A Feast of Cheese, Bacon & Potatoes

The French dish tartiflette is everything you want in a winter comfort food. It combines rich cheese, bacon and potatoes in melty amazingness, and it’s guaranteed not to result in any leftovers. You’re probably supposed to eat it after a long day of skiing in the Alps, but since I don’t ski or understand the cold, I think it’s acceptable to eat it any time there’s a little chill in the air.

tartiflette-recipe

Our lovely friends Marylise and Joan invited us over for a pre-Christmas dinner and made a to-die-for tartiflette. We had an entire conversation about how you should pace yourself while eating it because it’s so rich and filling that it’s easy to overdo it and end up with a belly ache later… and then we licked the pan clean. It was too good to stop.

I asked Marlyise for her secrets and consulted a few recipes before making my own tartiflette for family in New Orleans. Some recipes have you parboil the potatoes before baking, others have you pan-fry them. I opted to pan-fry because it worked better for our timeline, but I think either way would work well.

References:

The tartiflette was delicious, if I do say so myself. Everyone liked it, from my parents to my wee toddler nephew. We’ll be having this one again.

Note: We were able to procure reblochon – a soft washed-rind, stinky cheese – by means I cannot reveal, but if that is hard to find, you could look for a similar substitution. There are “reblochon-style” cheeses, and I’ve also read about using gruyère or other cheeses you would use in fondue. Go to a cheese shop or a grocery store cheese counter and see what suggestions they have.

Tartiflette

Tartiflette

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ - 3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped or diced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ lb. bacon or lardons, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 lb. reblochon (or reblochon-style) cheese, cut into thin slices
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a sauté pan, cook bacon until browned and starting to crisp. Remove bacon onto paper towels.
  3. Drain grease from the pan, except for 1-2 T.
  4. Add onions, cooking for a few minutes until they start to soften and turn golden.
  5. Add wine and let simmer until it’s reduced by about half.
  6. Add the potatoes, bacon, salt and pepper and cook until the potatoes are just tender (adding more wine if you like).
  7. Grease an ovenproof casserole dish, and spread half of the potato mixture in an even layer on the bottom.
  8. Spread half the cheese slices on top. Repeat with one more potato layer and one more cheese layer.
  9. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
http://www.travelingtotaste.com/2015/01/24/tartiflette-recipe-a-feast-of-cheese-bacon-potatoes/

How to Help People Cook More Often (AKA the Story of my Masters Thesis, Pt. 1)

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we like food. We like to cook, we like to eat and we like to break bread with others. We generally can’t have a meal without reminiscing about a meal in the past, or the potential of another in the future. Look at our Instagram accounts on the right side of the page. Is there anything non-consumable in there? And, you know, we have a food blog that you happen to be reading right now.

Food is a daily necessity for all of us, but some people enjoy the experience more than others. For some, thinking of what to eat is torture, and they long for the meal pill from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For others, each step from coming up with the idea to savoring the flavor of a meal is a joy. Lots of us fall somewhere in between, but last year, I decided to explore this a little bit.

A year ago I starting doing a Masters program here in Barcelona, a significant part of which is a thesis on a topic of my choice. I’m not a betting man, but I’ll give you one guess what my topic was. If you said food, you are correct. Extra credit if you guessed cooking, which is more correct.

The reasons I wanted to focus on cooking can be distilled down to exactly two things: health statistics in the US, and Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked.

For one of my presentations I made the slide below compiling some heath statistics from, to name a few, the National Institute of Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( a .pdf can be found here).

Some Health Statistics on Americans.
Some Health Statistics on Americans.

These numbers gave me pause. For reference, according the US Census Bureau there are about 316 million people in the US. To say that one-third of the adult population in the US is obese (i.e. a Body Mass Index of 30+) is to say that nearly 77 million of our countrymen and woman are dangerously unhealthy and are at high risk things for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Apart from the health effects and costs for the individual (and family), these statistics call into light the health of our nation. As a guy who was in the Navy for 7+ years, I wonder who will be capable of defending us and protecting us? Who will be our firefighters, police officers, paramedics, emergency services and serve in our armed forces if two-thirds of us are obese or overweight?

The obesity epidemic (that is what they are calling it now) is surely a combination of many factors, but as Michael Pollan puts it in his book, our food, and the industrialization of our food production, is a very big culprit. Corporations, he says, “cook very differently from how people do…They tend to use much more sugar, fat, and salt than people cooking for people do.”

I don’t mean to paint a grim picture because, ultimately this a story of hope. If high levels of sugar, fat and salt from industrial foods are to blame for our health, then all we need to do is to cut down on, or eliminate them.

The easiest and simplest way to do this is to cook for ourselves. Skip the complicated stuff, the calorie counting, the”fat-free,” the fad diets, the cleanses and the deprivation. If we do nothing else other then cook more often, we will be doing a whole lot better than we are today.

I also don’t mean to over-simplify the issue, because there are lots of moving parts and factors involved in making a meal, but I think it’s a good and manageable place to start.

This is what inspires me, and this is what I built my thesis around. More on that coming soon, and I’ll explain how I ended up with #cookingcouplets.

 


 

If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, you would probably also enjoy:

  • Cooked by Michael Pollan. I’ve discussed it here, but the whole book is fascinating. The intro is available for free download if you follow the link above.
  • Fed Up– Katie Couric is one of the executive producers of this documentary, and many big names in health and food make appearances.
  • The Weight of the Nation– an HBO series covering the obesity epidemic. The whole thing is available for viewing online.

UPDATE: I’ve finished writing my thesis! If you want to read it, you can download it in the Download section.  You can also see a shorter slide show here(29 Mar 2015)

On Resisting Takeout: Easy Thai Noodle Stir-Fry

It is a daily challenge to make a healthy dinner instead of grabbing takeout from the many tempting places in our neighborhood. And I do love to cook. But when we don’t plan ahead, and it’s 8 p.m. and the hangries are coming on… well, a kebab or a wok stir-fry someone else has prepared starts to look pretty appealing.

Sometimes I give into takeout’s siren song, and I enjoy every bite. But I know it’s not great for our budget or our health to do it as often as it crosses my mind, so I try to have a few easy recipes to draw from that I actually look forward to.

The wok takeout places are our default for fast food: you choose your noodles, your sauce and your protein, and they stir-fry it to order with veggies. It’s tasty and cheap, and because it has vegetables in it, it feels healthier. But I’ve been working on making our own version at home with whatever we have on hand. It’s cheap, it makes a ton – so we have leftovers for days – and it’s delicious and much less greasy than the takeout version.

stir-fry-veggies

If we have chicken, I’ll add it to the hot wok first, browning it on all sides, and then adding the veggies. But more often, I’ve been making it with just veggies. If you use a good portion of something hearty like squash or sweet potato, it’s really filling (even meat enthusiast Brian agrees) and a great way to use up produce you don’t want to spoil.

The “recipe” below is just a basic framework. I do it differently every time, and it’s very forgiving and adaptable. I’d love to hear any variations you try!

Thai Curry Veggie Stir-Fry

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Serving Size: 6

Thai Curry Veggie Stir-Fry

Ingredients

  • Fresh vegetables, cut into cubes (suggestions include: squash, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, bell peppers)
  • ½ can- 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 package rice or egg noodles
  • Curry paste or powder
  • Oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Ginger, garlic, fresh basil or cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat a small amount of oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large pan.
  2. Add the heartier veggies that will take longer to cook (such as squash and potatoes) and stir-fry until they start to soften a bit. If they begin to stick to the pan, add a little more oil, water or broth.
  3. Add the rest of the veggies, as well as curry paste/powder, soy sauce, ginger and garlic (if you’re using them), and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, stirring well to mix in the spices, and let simmer until the veggies start to become tender. Season with soy sauce and hot sauce to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, boil water for the noodles. When the veggies are just about done, cook noodles until al dente (usually 1-2 minutes).
  6. Drain noodles and add them to the veggies (along with fresh herbs if you’re using them), mixing well and turning off the heat.
  7. Serve with extra herbs and hot sauce.
http://www.travelingtotaste.com/2015/01/21/on-resisting-takeout-easy-thai-stir-fry/

Welcome to our winery. Well, not exactly.

Not a bad spot, eh?
Not a bad spot, eh?

As Gillian mentioned in her previous post, she grew up in Sonoma, California, so when we head back to visit her family, we have been known to frequent some Sonoma wineries like Ravenswood, Cline, Viansa, etc. Wines in Sonoma are amazing, and they are the first wines we pick when we’re in the States, but when Gillian describes where she is from, people often give her a quizzical look. Then she says  “it’s north of San Francisco” and if necessary, “it’s right next to Napa” and suddenly they understand.

Of all the times we’ve been to her hometown together, we’ve hardly ventured into Napa for any reason at all, much less for some wine tasting, but then we found this place: a winery that bears our last name!

What a fantastic name for a winery.
What a fantastic name for a winery.

We are, unfortunately, not related in any way to the Burgesses of this winery, nor did we really “find” this place. A good friend of ours works at another Napa winery and brought us a fantastic bottle from Burgess Cellars wine a year ago, with the promise that she would arrange a trip to the winery the next time we were in Sonoma. Monica was not messing around, and despite having a 6-week-old infant, she and her husband Jason drove us up to this beautiful winery up on the hill north of St. Helena.

The winery started back in 1972 when a guy named Tom Burgess bought a 1870s-era vineyard. Tom is from Ohio (so definitely no relation to my Brooklyn-born relatives) and cultivated a taste for wine after being stationed in Europe while flying in the Air Force. When he began Burgess Cellars, there were only a handful of wineries in Napa Valley, it being a few years before Napa gained world recognition in 1976 (as depicted in the movie Bottle Shock). The woman pouring wines for us told us how much he paid per acre, and the number so low it made me long for a time machine.

It’s still family-run and a relatively small outfit with three separate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres. Their Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs and Merlots are all fantastic and award-winning, and they grow a total of eight different varietals.

The whole family is here!
The whole family is here!

If you find yourself in Napa Valley (and have already been to some Sonoma wineries, of course), check out Burgess Cellars. It’s beautiful and tranquil and a nice change of pace from the wineries on the main drag of St. Helena Highway.

Tastings are done twice a day (10:30 and 2) in small groups and by appointment only, so call ahead or send an email to make a reservation. $10 will get you six different wines, but the fee is waved if you purchase a bottle. Most wines range from $30-80 and we walked away with a bottle of Petit Sirah that made the long journey back the Barcelona with us.

For more info, check out their website, and when you show up, tell them the Burgesses sent you 😉

Tel: 800.752.9463 or 707.963.4766

Oysters, Chowder & Beer on the Sonoma Coast

Brian and I just got back from a month-long trip to the U.S. for the holidays, which made us feel like fancypants jetsetters. Just stops in Fairfax, New Orleans and Sonoma; no big deal. For such a long trip, it flew by, and we managed to indulge in many, many delicious meals with some of our favorite people.

hog-island-oyster
Hog Island Oyster Co., Tomales Bay

I grew up in the town of Sonoma, California, where my parents still live, and I love going home for obvious reasons. Awesome wine, food, people and scenery? Yes.

I was especially excited to make it back to Sonoma because I haven’t visited in almost two years, and Brian hasn’t gone with me in five. We must have charmed the weather gods because it was sunny, temperate and beautiful for our entire stay (a rarity in January), and we took full advantage by planning a day out on the Sonoma Coast.

Way back in high school, my friends and I would pile into someone’s car, crank up the tunes and drive out to the coast as often as we could. Mind you, a Northern California day at the beach is not a scene from 90210. It’s usually freezing. We’d wear hoodies and jackets and scarves… but every now and then, we’d get a day warm enough to get in the water. But even on the grayest, windiest, saltiest days, the Sonoma Coast is absolutely gorgeous.

Bodega Bay has always been my favorite for lounging, grilling and eating out, but we decided to go south 30 minutes and stop in Tomales Bay first for one reason: oysters. Tomales is known for its fresh-farmed, delicious oysters, which I wasn’t really aware of when I was younger. I’ve always liked oysters and would eat them grilled or cooked in butter or wine from an early age, but it wasn’t till I lived in New Orleans that I started eating them raw. Oysters on the halfshell, plain or with just a little hot sauce and lemon, are damn near perfection. They taste like the ocean in the best possible way.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

A Day on the Sonoma Coast

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Hog Island Oyster Co. has oyster bars in Napa and San Francisco, but if you head out to Marshall on Tomales Bay, you can eat a few fresh-shucked beauties right on the farm. If you have a picnic reservation, you can shuck and grill your own, but we went the lazy route and ordered from the bar – which is the bow of an old wooden boat. An order of raw oysters, an order of grilled oysters with chipotle sauce, two beers from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg: heaven.

Sweet boat.

We got there at about 11 a.m. on a Monday, the day the Golden Gate Bridge was reopening after a weekend closure for renovations. We had the place entirely to ourselves for about an hour, enjoying views of the bay while the friendly staff worked around us to a great soundtrack.

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Tomales Bay Oyster Co.

After Hog Island, we drove a few miles down the coast to the next stop on our oyster tour: Tomales Bay Oyster Co. You can buy bags of oysters by the dozen for a great price (we paid $15 for ours), then carry out or pay $5 a person to shuck, grill and eat at the picnic benches next to the bay.

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never actually shucked my own oysters before… so we got a quick tutorial (and a knife) and got to work. The oysters were amazing, and totally worth the extra effort.

Tomales Bay Oyster Co.

The Tides

We still had a little room after our oyster appetizers, so we drove up to The Tides, an old favorite in Bodega Bay. Normally, we order a feast from the snack bar – clam chowder in a bread bowl, calamari, oysters – and eat at the tables outside if it’s not too windy (or more often inside), but it was closed that day. So we got a loaf of sourdough and a large order of clam chowder from the deli and feasted that way instead.

Lagunitas Brewery

Bellies finally full, we drove back into Petaluma and wrapped up the day at the fantastic Lagunitas Brewery. I love their beers and their funky NorCal character, and the tour and tasting didn’t disappoint. You leave wanting to hang out there all the time and somehow get a job (any job) there. Go for a visit, drink a beer in their tap room and ask them to tell you all the good stories (like the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale).

I miss you, NorCal, but we’ll be back soon for the rest of your oysters and beer.

 

I wrote this post as part of the Your Turn Challenge from Seth Godin’s team. Anyone can participate and write one blog post per day for seven days on any topic. My lovely sister Melia inspired me and gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get writing again. Gracias y besos – here’s to Day 1!