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It can all be a little overwhelming, the city may not be huge but the culture, activities, events, eateries etc. is vast. So we have taken it upon ourselves to amalgamate our local 12 years experience in the city via our blog. Whether you are planning on coming over for the festivals, want to find out vegan eats or general insider information, we will keep you in the loop.

Lip-smackingly good!

setas5-verkleind

16/10/2010

Becoming a Boletaire

 

Ask your average urbanite if they know where to find some mushrooms and they’ll direct you to their personal travel agent for the trip of a lifetime. Ask a local in Barcelona and they’ll check the nearest location of recent rainfall and pinpoint a field on a map. Hunting for wild mushrooms (setas in Spanish, bolets in Catalan) is de rigeur for Catalans in autumn.

Statistically, everyone in Catalonia becomes a boletaire (mushroom-hunter) at least once a year. It is an excuse to get out of the city, get earthy and get eating while the harvest is ripe. Friends and family plan months in advance for their annual hike and hunt. And, returning at the end of the day like kids from a treasure hunt, they feast on rovellóns and ceps sautéed in olive oil with garlic and freshly chopped parsley.

Visitors to Barcelona don’t have to go to quite such extremes to sample these fruits of the forest: at this time of year, mushrooms can be found in every market and on every traditional menu.

Best place to buy mushrooms
Barcelona has its very own mushroom man: Llorenç Petràs, a legendary character found near the back of the Boqueria Market. His stall is piled high with the weird shapes and strange colours of local and global varieties. To sample the regional flavours look for: rovellós (bleeding milk caps), amanitas cesárea (Caesar’s Amanitas), ciurenys (ceps), rabassoles (morels), rossinyols (chanterelles)… To find out what to do with them, buy Petrás’ book: Cocinar Con Setas (Peninsular).

Best place to try mushrooms
In one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Barcelona, Pedralbes, is the prestigious Neichel Restaurant. Owned by Michelin-starred chef Jean Louis Neichel, the restaurant offers regional Catalan ingredients prepared with techniques from French cuisine. Neichel is famed for creating visual dishes that retain the distinct flavour of each ingredient and, when in season, mushrooms and truffles make a frequent appearance on the menu. Among the fungal delights served are salad of black truffles with slices of foie gras, milk-fed lamb with cep mushroom sauce, beef fillet with chanterelle mushrooms and a Cabernet reduction…

Other autumnal delights
Castanyas Caliente: In October, little stalls with charcoal braziers make an appearance on numerous street corners in Barcelona. The nutty aromas and warm glow emanating from these stalls make them a welcome sight as the days get shorter and the evenings colder. There is nothing better than a warm bag of roast chestnuts or a hot sweet potato to make the transition into winter that little more delightful.

Panallets: These traditional Catalan sweets are part of La Castanyada festivities, celebrated on All Saints Day to honour the dead and ease their transition into the other world. They are made of marzipan and rolled into balls covered in pine nuts, coconut, chocolate or various other delicacies. The high-calorie morsels are said to give family members sufficient energy to hold a vigil for their loved ones throughout the night. And drink generous quantities of the sweet wine, moscatel… perhaps the best of all autumnal delights!

 

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