Travels To: Where to Eat in Barcelona, Lisbon, & Sintra

the view of the castle of the moors in sintra, Portugal, from pena palace

the view of the castle of the moors in sintra, Portugal, from pena palace

My favorite way to get to know a new city is through the food, and we recently did just that in Barcelona, as well as with a few stops in Lisbon & Sintra on either end. I feel so lucky to have been able to take this vacation just a year after coming back from Rome (and after studying abroad in Spring 2014 as well as traveling in Europe in Summer 2012). I never thought that traveling would be something that could potentially become a part of my life, and the past few years have helped me realize that it might be - if I budget!

This trip was so worth every home-cooked meal and homemade cocktail over a night out. When we were on vacation, I said so many times, "This is so worth being on a budget at home." Don't get me wrong - I'm on a budget for many other reasons, including student loans and simply just being a teacher, but prioritizing my spending and babysitting on the weekend paid off as we sipped creative cocktails at a speakeasy or splurged on last minute FC Barcelona tickets. Plus, being travel-savvy doesn't hurt.

How did we find such a great deal? As a teacher in Boston, we have school vacation in both February and April, so we used Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to go somewhere for one of those weeks. We found a flight to Barcelona for cheaper than some destinations in the United States, including flights to Florida or San Francisco. When you consider the cost of hotels or even AirBnB in the U.S. vs. Europe, I thought we might be able to pull off this Barcelona trip for a shockingly reasonable price - and we did! The secret to the cheap flight was that it was through TAP Air Portugal, and included a 15 hour layover on the way there (we headed to Sintra, which we loved!) and a 24 hour layover on the way back (when we explored beautiful Lisbon). We had never been to Portugal, so we saw this as a huge perk rather than an issue.

Overall, I fell in love with Barcelona. It is a cosmopolitan, modern city that is a total foodie destination and the perfect place for a fun, whimsical vacation. Our day trip for hiking in Montserrat was breathtaking and well worth the breath of fresh air from the city. Exploring Sintra was the best way to spend a 15 hour layover, and 24 hours in Lisbon enticed me to go back some day. I came home feeling both exhausted and energized, satisfied and more curious to explore the world.

In terms of travel recommendations, we loved our hotel, Hotel Ciutat Barcelona, in El Born district of Barcelona. We booked it on Black Friday for 30% off (!) and loved that they provided fridges full of water bottles on every floor, had a perfect location near almost every top restaurant and cocktail bar we wanted to try, and that it was across the street from a cinnamon bun bakery. Because duh. There's also a rooftop pool that looked amazing, but sadly it was a little chilly to utilize in February. Next time! Another must is an FC Barcelona game, if they're playing, as well as a day trip to Montserrat for some hiking. We did a fun cooking class with Barcelona Cooking and semi-successfully recreated the paella recipe at home last weekend. If you're looking for more info on trip logistics and other recommendations, please feel free to reach out via the "Contact" page. Planning trips is a weird, obsessive passion of mine, and I spent hours and hours researching to maximize our time and tummy space and stretch every dollar. I'm happy to share!

Now on to the real reason why you're here - THE FOOD. I'll share a few highlights of what we ate during our six day trip, although if you look at the photos you might think we were gone for three weeks. I thought about apologizing for how many photos there are, but isn't that the purpose of a food blog? Note: this is a small percentage of what/where we ate. I still aim to create a Europe guide e-book but being a first year teacher has put a damper on my plans to have a side project. It's coming, eventually, I promise. The more traveling I do before then, the more I have to add to it, right?


after an overnight international flight, our first stop (once we got to sintra, 2 hours from lisbon airport) was  casa piriquita . We picked up travesseiro, a traditional pastry of Sintra, meaning pillow in portuguese. They are puff pastry filled with almond cream. The bakery has been open since 1862 and provided the perfect fuel for our exploration of the pena palace and moor castle.

after an overnight international flight, our first stop (once we got to sintra, 2 hours from lisbon airport) was casa piriquita. We picked up travesseiro, a traditional pastry of Sintra, meaning pillow in portuguese. They are puff pastry filled with almond cream. The bakery has been open since 1862 and provided the perfect fuel for our exploration of the pena palace and moor castle.

Once we made it to our barcelona hotel and got a good night's sleep, our first "meal" in barcelona was  demasie , a cinnamon bun bakery, literally a dream come true right outside our hotel door. We went here many times over our few short days in Barcelona. our favorite cinnamon buns (served warm) were classic cinnamon, dulce de leche, and tiramisu. Huge shoutout to ali over at  gimme some oven  for this rec.

Once we made it to our barcelona hotel and got a good night's sleep, our first "meal" in barcelona was demasie, a cinnamon bun bakery, literally a dream come true right outside our hotel door. We went here many times over our few short days in Barcelona. our favorite cinnamon buns (served warm) were classic cinnamon, dulce de leche, and tiramisu. Huge shoutout to ali over at gimme some oven for this rec.

we dove into spanish cuisine pretty deeply - in a cooking class! We learned how to make paella (along with crema Catalana and much more) and semi-successfully re-created this recipe at home last weekend. We truly enjoyed our experience at  barcelona cooking  and felt it was a great value for the money!

we dove into spanish cuisine pretty deeply - in a cooking class! We learned how to make paella (along with crema Catalana and much more) and semi-successfully re-created this recipe at home last weekend. We truly enjoyed our experience at barcelona cooking and felt it was a great value for the money!

crema catalana in action at  barcelona cooking .

crema catalana in action at barcelona cooking.

I could eat Chocolate con churros from  Churreria Laietana  every morning. we watched the elderly man fry the churros fresh and they were just perfect.

I could eat Chocolate con churros from Churreria Laietana every morning. we watched the elderly man fry the churros fresh and they were just perfect.

We stopped at  BAR pinotxo  in La Boqueria market for breakfast on our last day in barcelona. It gets mobbed for lunchtime, so we totally accepted eating a savory breakfast. I had a version of this chickpea dish twice in barcelona and am looking forward to re-creating it at home. This version included blood sausage - which I was not aware of when I ordered, but it was delicious.

We stopped at BAR pinotxo in La Boqueria market for breakfast on our last day in barcelona. It gets mobbed for lunchtime, so we totally accepted eating a savory breakfast. I had a version of this chickpea dish twice in barcelona and am looking forward to re-creating it at home. This version included blood sausage - which I was not aware of when I ordered, but it was delicious.

the highlight of our meal at  BAR pinotxo  ended up being this pastry that was gently forced upon us despite the fact that we were stuffed. It's called xuixo, and it's a deep-fried, sugar-coated pastry filled with crema catalana. It is even better than it sounds.

the highlight of our meal at BAR pinotxo ended up being this pastry that was gently forced upon us despite the fact that we were stuffed. It's called xuixo, and it's a deep-fried, sugar-coated pastry filled with crema catalana. It is even better than it sounds.

5 miles and 4,000 ft into the air above the region of barcelona, we had carried a selection of meats and cheeses for our picnic lunch (in 20 degree weather). All thanks to  Vila Viniteca ! This included the famous Jamón ibérico, which yes, we ate after a long hike in 20 degree weather at the top of a mountain. It's fine. At the shop, We spent about 20 minutes sampling cheeses and meats, and the wonderful staff there were so helpful and friendly. We got a little nervous as we were tasting that this would be a $60 picnic, but it came to just 12.50 euro! 

5 miles and 4,000 ft into the air above the region of barcelona, we had carried a selection of meats and cheeses for our picnic lunch (in 20 degree weather). All thanks to Vila Viniteca! This included the famous Jamón ibérico, which yes, we ate after a long hike in 20 degree weather at the top of a mountain. It's fine. At the shop, We spent about 20 minutes sampling cheeses and meats, and the wonderful staff there were so helpful and friendly. We got a little nervous as we were tasting that this would be a $60 picnic, but it came to just 12.50 euro! 

our best bang for our buck meal was the "menu del dia" at  la pubilla . the Menu del dia is a great way to try a more high end restaurant at a reasonable price, and I had researched a lot on what our one menu del dia would be - and I made a good choice. for 16 euro, we had a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. Every...single....dish....was....amazing. my main dish, above, was a perfectly delicate and garlicky fish. That is all I could translate from the catalan menu and it was delicious and that is all that matters. 

our best bang for our buck meal was the "menu del dia" at la pubilla. the Menu del dia is a great way to try a more high end restaurant at a reasonable price, and I had researched a lot on what our one menu del dia would be - and I made a good choice. for 16 euro, we had a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. Every...single....dish....was....amazing. my main dish, above, was a perfectly delicate and garlicky fish. That is all I could translate from the catalan menu and it was delicious and that is all that matters. 

one of the many dishes we had at our very authentic barcelona lunch stop,  el xampanyet . these are Padrón  peppers    (1 in 10 are spicy and I've had about 50 of these on our trip and none have been - am I just lucky?) served with cooked (rather than cured) jamon, a specialty spanish ham. It was salty and juicy and amazing. Also, they have 1 euro cava (Spain's version of prosecco, or sparkling wine) Where can you go wrong?

one of the many dishes we had at our very authentic barcelona lunch stop, el xampanyet. these are Padrón peppers   (1 in 10 are spicy and I've had about 50 of these on our trip and none have been - am I just lucky?) served with cooked (rather than cured) jamon, a specialty spanish ham. It was salty and juicy and amazing. Also, they have 1 euro cava (Spain's version of prosecco, or sparkling wine) Where can you go wrong?

I don't think any cocktail bar will ever top Paradiso for me. I'm planning to do a whole post on it, but for now, these artisinal cocktails speak for themselves. Tucked behind a secret door in a pastrami bar, we stayed for hours.

Bodega 1900 was probably our most "foodie" destination, run by famed Barcelona chef Albert Adrià. From left to right, the house vermouth (it is a vermouth bar, after all), anchovies (we REALLY took a liking to these in Spain/Portugal. It's a thing. Pigeon (WHAT) which might have been our favorite dish of the evening, "La Rubia Gallega" - aged beef tenderloin, and prawns. A must-visit, with a reservation.

In terms of tapas bars,  bar del pla  came recommended from ali at gimme some oven as well, and she did not disappoint. This is the secreto ibérico - a "secret" cut from the famous acorn-fattened pigs of spain. It. Was. Mindblowing.

In terms of tapas bars, bar del pla came recommended from ali at gimme some oven as well, and she did not disappoint. This is the secreto ibérico - a "secret" cut from the famous acorn-fattened pigs of spain. It. Was. Mindblowing.

Our favorite stop from our short time in Lisbon was Ramiro, a Lisbon institution for fresh, delicious seafood. I really don't think I'll ever be able to eat seafood from the grocery store again. Check out those giant tiger prawns.


Remember when I said this is a small portion of where and what we ate? Yikes. Or Wow. Or whatever your reaction is. Trying new things, learning about new cuisines, and fumbling through my Spanish (which was no use in a city that increasingly prefers Catalan), and sharing these places with people who will enjoy them is something I truly enjoy. Someday, there will be an e-book about this. In the meantime, please feel free to hire me to plan your next vacation - only if I can come, too.

Highlights from Rome (& an announcement!)

We snapped this photo from the top of the palatine hill. This is currently my computer desktop and I don't want it to ever change.

We snapped this photo from the top of the palatine hill. This is currently my computer desktop and I don't want it to ever change.

Life update: Dreams do come true. I left Rome in June 2014 after 10 unreal weeks of studying abroad hoping that one day I would be able to come back. My boyfriend had studied abroad the term before me (poor planning, we know), so we had switched continents for 7 months straight and wanted to experience the Eternal City together. We stumbled upon miraculously inexpensive tickets and the exchange rate with the Euro was good, so we booked flights and an Airbnb and started scheming. We only had a week...where would we eat???

I started my first blog the last time I was in Rome as a way to keep my family and friends updated on what I was eating for every meal. Here I am two and a half years later coming up on The Millennial Menu's one year anniversary (June 1 people! Mark your calendars!). I traveled to 14 cities in Europe over the three months I spent there with Rome as my home base and food was such an important part of my travel experience. I insisted so many times that we trek to the cheapest cheap eats or to the local favorite at the end of the tram line, and through this, I experienced and explored cities through one of the truest forms of culture there is, food.

Our trip lived up to all of my memories and we made so many new ones, exploring somewhere that we both called home at different times for the first time together. We strolled by the Pantheon enjoying a Giolitti cone, took a cooking class, traveled to Frascati for a vineyard tour, attended (my second) Easter Mass at the Vatican, climbed the dome at St. Peter's, and ate solely carbs for 7 days straight. I've shared a few of my favorite snapshots below.

I am excited and nervous to announce that I will be releasing a Millennial Menu "Guide to Rome" e-book (!) in Fall 2017 that will take you to all my favorite places (and maybe even suggest what you should do in between meals, if you're lucky), informed by 3 months of studying abroad in Rome and my recent travels back (confirmed: everything is still as delicious as I remembered). Food is an important part of my life not just in the kitchen when I cook it myself, but also experienced at restaurants and cafes and ice cream shops with friends and family, whether here in Boston or around the world. I have no idea what this project will look like but I know that eating good food is something I am passionate about and something I want to share with you all. So hang in there until fall 2017, and maybe start looking at flights to Rome...


ravioli

Fresh ravioli purchased from a tiny old Italian woman at a shop in Trastevere for Easter dinner.

pizza-photo

Enjoying my favorite lunch in Rome. Do I look legit enough to write an e-book?

pasta

I ordered carbonara at every restaurant we went to for dinner, simply because that was what I ordered every time we ate out when I was abroad and because I needed to compare my favorites to each other. This version at my new favorite restaurant in Trastevere was by far my favorite, featuring delicious homemade spaghetti and fatty pieces of guanciale (pork cheek a.k.a. better bacon). 

trevi-fountain-lunch

I'm pretty sure any sandwich would be enjoyable on a breezy, sunny, 70 degree day in front of the Trevi Fountain, but this one was gourmet.

in rome.jpg

Where to Eat in New Hampshire and Vermont

I'm pretty excited to share my first Foodie Travel Guide with you today - featuring New Hampshire and Vermont. If you tell me you're going somewhere, it's pretty likely I'll tell you that "you just have to eat at this one place, trust me." Part of the purpose of this blog was to share my favorite places to eat with you. I actually enjoy spending time researching the best foodie finds in a new city, and I had four years to figure that out in New Hampshire and Vermont. I've organized it into four sections: Hanover, NH (where I went to school), New Hampshire (the area surrounding my school), Burlington, VT (the biggest city close to us - lol), and Vermont (also the area surrounding my school). 

What's great about these lists is most of my suggestions are along major highways through northern New England - both I-89 and I-91. Whether you're on your way somewhere else or stopping to enjoy the scenery, I'll make sure you're well-fed.

To get to the Foodie Travel Guide for NH & VT,
click on the photo below

The One San Francisco Foodie Destination You Can't Miss

Give me 4 hours in a city, and I'll eat two meals and sample some of the best foodie finds in whichever metropolitan area I find myself in. I'm the type of person that makes a beeline for the best food truck, market stall, cheap eats restaurant, and ice cream stand the minute I set foot in a few place, and my short visit to San Francisco was no different - I headed straight for the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace.

I was on a babysitting trip in San Jose for the weekend, so knew I had to maximize the four hours I had to explore San Francisco, and the Ferry Building was the perfect choice. While the building still operates as a ferry terminal (San Francisco is the City By the Bay, after all) and an office building, the real draw for me was the marketplace inside and the farmers market that sets up outside (lucky for me, on the day I was visiting!) There are dozens of food vendors in the stalls inside and outside, as well as groceries and specialty shops.

After pacing half a dozen times up and down the hall, comparing my prior research on what to eat while surveying my options in person (should I admit I put this much thought into everything I eat on the internet? Probably not, but here I am), I finally committed because my stomach was rumbling. I happily snacked on prosciutto di crudo (my guilty pleasure), prochetta di testa, and cappocollo from Boccalone - a shop literally calling to me with its tagline "tasty salted pig parts." This trio is also known as the "meat cone" of thinly sliced, salty, fatty, savory meats. My eating escapade continued with a visit to Cowgirl Creamery's Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar for their specialty grilled cheese of the day: quince apple jam with ricotta, raclette, and Holey Cow cheeses. This was served with bread & butter pickles (I LOVE all things pickled) and I couldn't resist adding in one of my favorite flavors of one of my favorite desserts: earl grey panna cotta (a combo I'd never seen before). While I liked the jam with the cheeses, I could eat a whole pot of the earl grey panna cotta. Maybe I'll try my hand at making it myself? 

 
Boccalone's meat cone

Boccalone's meat cone

 
quince apple jam, ricotta, raclette, and holey cow grilled cheese

quince apple jam, ricotta, raclette, and holey cow grilled cheese

earl grey panna cotta

earl grey panna cotta

As I'm recounting my afternoon I am now realizing that after this delectable dessert, I literally went straight to Humphry Slocombe for a scoop of their legendary Secret Breakfast ice cream in a cone. "Secret Breakfast" is bourbon + cornflakes, something I wasn't so sure about - I'm not a huge fan of bourbon, but this was perfectly done, slightly savory, and exactly the kind of salty sweet scoop you'd want at breakfast time. Nothing wrong with double dessert.

a scoop of "Secret Breakfast"

a scoop of "Secret Breakfast"

I reluctantly decided I should pretend to do something other than eat, so I decided to bring more food on-the-go and traipse the 452 steps up the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower. Yep, that's right - 452. I did not quite realize this when I started, but it ended up being a beautiful cardio workout through secret gardens. By the time I got to the top, I was grateful for the elevator up to the top of Coit Tower, with an expansive view of the city and the bay on a sunny, breezy, San Francisco day.

view from Coit Tower

view from Coit Tower

The top of the City By The Bay was a pretty nice place to enjoy my sandwich on a fresh baked baguette from Acme Bread (with Cowgirl Creamery cheese, arugula, black pepper, and sweet fruit jam). I enjoyed it with a California peach from the farmer's market that was happening right outside the Ferry Building, and I was reminded of what it was like to live in Sacramento, the Farm to Fork Capital of America where I went to farmers markets every couple of days and sampled fruit the way it it supposed to taste. I would get a whole box of strawberries and make chocolate covered strawberries and bags of peaches for homemade peach cobbler (that summer was an indulgent summer for me - and I have no regrets about that). I couldn't eat strawberries or peaches & nectarines for months after coming home from California because my California fruit was just that much better. It was nice to get a taste of that summer again.

chocolate lavender & rose geranium

chocolate lavender & rose geranium

I am slightly cringing as I type this, but after my sandwich and peach, I moved on to my third dessert of the trip from Miette: a chocolate lavender macaron (I saved the rose geranium for later that night - this was a good choice, both for me in the moment and my sweet tooth flaring up just a few hours later). Hey - all I can say is, I know how to maximize my time.

Before I came across the Ferry Marketplace in my research, plenty of the places that I got to try were already on my list. It was the perfect stop for a couple of hours and still let me try a bunch of different things. There are still San Francisco foodie institutions that I didn't get to - Tartine is definitely one of them - but I would not be opposed to more days wandering around in search of a good bite in this city, and I know the chance will come again.

Writing about my day in San Francisco here makes me feel content and at peace. This is exactly how I choose to spend my time in my ideal world: eating good food, wandering up and down the market stalls upwards of two dozen times, and exploring the city to new heights (literally). I was in San Francisco twice three summers ago when I was interning in Sacramento and enjoyed hitting all the big landmarks then, but I feel like I've grown a lot as a person since right after my freshman year of college (I'm also a college graduate now! WHAT!). It was nice to come back and have a few hours to fill exactly the way I wanted to fill them - unabashedly in pursuit of good food and a full tummy.

three years ago in San Francisco

three years ago in San Francisco