July 10, 2011

Cal Pep in Barcelona with Recipes

This is the second in our series about restaurants and food-related places we visited during a trip to Madrid and Barcelona. The first was Tapac 24 in Barcelona. Up next, Cal Pep.

Forgot to get pic on night we visited
Cal Pep is a major driver of Barcelona's burgeoning reputation as a foodie destination and one of the more popular restaurants located in the hip neighborhood, El Born, not too far from Las Ramblas.

There are no reservations at Cal Pep so you either need to arrive early or be prepared to wait. We arrived around 8:30 p.m. and had to wait about an hour in a standing room only line along the wall (no, you cannot leave and have them ring your Applebee's buzzer). You can order drinks while you wait and everyone is friendly so just be patient (easier said than done, trust us).

We noticed some people going into a dining area in the back but we couldn't quite tell if they had a reservation or just knew the owner. Either way we would skip that area and sit at the counter like we did.

The wait was well worth it. We just told the waiter to give us a selection of their best, which can often be a smart route to take at an international restaurant with no English menu and a language barrier.

Racio pa de coca started the meal, which is a toasted flat bread with tomatoes and olive oil (Catalonian bruschetta). Order it whenever possible.

The best part of the meal was the clams with ham in a white wine garlic sauce. The sauce is in my top five of all-time, which says a lot. I was iffy on clams and mussels before this visit and now order frequently if only to bring back the memories (a co-worker of mine recently went to Cal Pep and said the same thing). The only drawback, and this is huge for me, was no extra bread so I was unable to soak up all the delicious sauce when done with the clams. We could have asked for more bread, but when in Barcelona do as the Catalonians do, right?

A close second to the clams was the truita trempera, or potato frittata. This was so tasty and had the perfect mix of potato, cheese and bits of bacon. We're suckers for this kind of food whether its touristy or not.

Another interesting dish was the xipirons am cigrons (squid and chickpeas). The squid was not fried so you could see the tentacles, head, etc. This scares many people away so beware. It was a decent sized portion and there was no way this dish was going to go unfinished. Every time I pushed it away the waiter kept putting more on my plate - he was not going to let me be that tourist. The dish was average, while Kristy did not particularly care for the dish.

We also had a selection of fried fish called racio trifasic fregit that includes calamari, shrimp and whitebait, all eaten whole. All were good but you have to keep an open mind and just eat the entire fish!

The co-worker I mentioned earlier said the seafood omelette was phenomenal and likely his favorite part of the meal.

Unlike most U.S. restaurants, the wine in Spain is inexpensive at a mere eight euros for a bottle, and at Cal Pep it basically comes with the dinner. Don't worry about ordering a particular kind of wine, just say red or white and drink the house wine they put in front of you. It will be good. In fact, do yourself a favor and order an entire bottle of wine with every dinner in Spain. It's cheap, forces you to take your time and you will be more likely to fit in. And a good buzz never hurts anyone.

The staff at Cal Pep was friendly and they cook most of the meals right in front of you. We are big fans of this concept, which is one reason we loved Koo Zee Doo. We enjoyed seeing the chefs cook and having a chance to interact with them and the waiters. The owner, Cal, is funny and will talk with you so strike up a conversation even if you only know a tiny bit of Spanish. You will get by and if not, take another sip of wine!

Looks at the bar and cooking area
Owner, Cal, and our waiter

The entire meal came to 64 euros for the two us, which is not bad considering its quality. You also can't put a price on the atmosphere and being out at a popular place in Barcelona.

We signed up for Cal Pep emails and receive a recipe every few months. Here are a select few in case you want to try them at home. We have not received any for the dishes we ate and will add if/when we do. You will also have to translate some of the ingredient sizes. Let us know if you make any.

Update: Cal Pep has posted some additional recipes on their website. You can find them here.

Aspargus with Mediterranean tuna

Ingredients (4 people):
12 aspargus
25 gr. Salt
15 gr. Sugar2
2 l Water
200 gr. Fresh mediterranean tuna
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt

We put to boil the aspargus with the watter and sugar for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool the asparagus in the same water.Heat a pan with a little bit of oil and mark the aspargus on both sides until golden brown caught. Then we put them on a plate.Cut the mediterranean tuna into thin slices and add them on top of asparagus.Finally, marinated the tuna with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Eggs to the pan with artichokes, peppers and mushrooms
Ingredients (4 people):
4 eggs

400 gr. Artichoke
250 gr. fresh mushrooms
8 pieces of red peppers cooked and peeled (or canned)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Minced garlic and parsley.

Clean the artichokes and put them to boil water for 15 minutes. Once cooled, cut them into pieces.Clean the mushrooms and cut into quarters.Shred red peppers, and then skip these three ingredients with the minced garlic and parsley, salt and pepper.Then we take a clay pot about 18 cm in diameter and add a base with three sauteed ingredients. Then break an egg on top of the ingredients, being careful not to break the yolk and put the casserole in the oven for 12 minutes. When eating is recommended to break the egg and mix.

Coffee Flan with burned Rum
Ingredients (for 12 flans)
½ l cream
½ l milk
1 cinnamon stick
The skin of a lemon
300 gr. Sugar
300 cl. Coffee
12 eggs¼ kg sugar (to make the caramel custard)
12 custard cups
To make the burnt
Rum:100 gr sugar
150 cl of Ron.
8 coffe beans.

Put the cream, milk, cinnamon, the skin of a lemon and sugar to the fire and when it starts to boil remove and let stand 24 hours in the refrigerator. The next day, strain the preparation and add 300 cl of coffee.In a separate bowl, beat the 12 eggs and add them to the mixture.We'll put ¼ kg of sugar and half a glass of water on the fire. When the sugar is founded and made a caramel brown color, remove from heat and divide it into 12 custard cups and add to the first preparation custard cups.We will take a tray where will all the custard cups and fill it with water like to make a water bath (it is important that the bath water does not boil during the cooking process). We will put the tray in the oven, heated to 160 degrees and let cook for 40 to 45 minutes.Warm Rum, sugar and some coffee beans into the fire, flamed and throw it over the cool custard.When serving the custard, whipped cream can accompany them.

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