Sunday, March 21, 2010

Barcelona Diaries - 1/2

This has been overdue. But the start to Q4 has been a little rough. Changing classes, new seats, the Barcelona hangover and the confusing ritual called recruiting have left me disoriented. The gorgeous weather and some great live music this weekend should make things better though.

The Art...

It was my first introduction to Dali and Picasso and I feel more cultured for having done that. For a first timer, the Picasso museum provided an easy to understand, chronological progression of Picasso's art right from his childhood. I'm no good judge of painting. I like some and I do not like some. And I don't really know why. But the museum was an education because it opened my eyes to the process that went behind Picasso's creation. The transition from a very talented boy who paints landscapes, pigeons and portraits of his family members in a traditional (classical ?) style to his gradual shunning of the norms, his play on perspective and his efforts to stretch the boundaries of what we call art - was very evident. His time in Paris, his affairs with women, the melancholy filled 'Blue Period' and his rendering of Velásquez's Las Maninas - it was a very useful albeit very short study into the creative process of Picasso, his influences and his view of the world around him. And now I know what cubism means.

Dali was more abstract and surreal. Looking at his art was an experience. The spectroscopic images, the pixilated Abraham Lincoln, the 'portrait' of May West – Dali took painting beyond being just on canvas to something which stimulated the mind in more ways. He used elements of engineering drawing to come up with abstract paintings which looked like a horseman when seen reflected on a glass bottle. His obsession with sex, science and Gala was different from Picasso’s recurring themes of family members and multiple women. It was a pity that the museum didn't have some of his more famous works. This is what my friends who had seen Dali told me.

ToDo - visit Dali and Picasso exhibitions whenever possible.

The Food...

...has a lot of meat in it. I didn't like the Paella, although a lot of it could be due to my general dislike for seafood. As a Bengali brought up on fresh water fish cooked in Indian spices, my food palates just do not like the 'rawness' in most of the seafood dishes. I keep trying though. And of course I think that bhape Ilish (Steamed Hilsa cooked with mustard) beats any other preparation in the world. It's a pity that outside India, 'Indian Cuisine' is essentially just Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan and Biriyani.
The Tapas was good and I absolutely loved the ham croquettes that we had at some places. A lot like the cutlets we have at roadside stalls in India.
The best meal that we had was at a Basque restaurant. The name was too hard for me to remember. The six of us finished 3 or 4 bottles of wine and had food ranging from ham croquettes to fried calamari to the more simple fried egg on potatoes to the absolutely delicious sirloin steak cooked with red wine. For dessert, we had a red colored liqueur called Patxaran. Yes, very fancy and all for 55 Euros. I'm not an advocate of spending tons of money in expensive restaurants. I do not buy the ambiance, presentation premium that they charge. So this was my most expensive meal till date. But this time around it was worth it. I think.
We came there the next day too to kick off Sarah's birthday celebrations. I tasted rabbit meat and it was awesome.

Any account of food in Barcelona would be incomplete without the mention of the pitchers of Sangria that we drowned. The alcohol content varied from place to place and so did the taste. But as the staple beverage during out trip (by the way, throughout the city, water was hard to find and cost more than beer), Sangria became the perfect accompaniment to the long dinners that we had.

Oh, and on Friday we had a unique lunch experience. Albert, the chef at Restaurant Coure is a practitioner of Molecular Gastronomy. A follower of Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame, he gave us a short introduction on the art and science of inventing new recipes by deconstruction of known ones. He boiled an egg in front of us at precisely 62 degree which coagulates the white but leaves the yolk intact! For more than an hour, he held a group of 25 MBA students captivated as he talked about the differences in Europe and the US in terms of eating habits, culture and business models and how at the given price McDonald's makes the best burger possible.

For lunch we had French Onion Soup which tasted heavenly but looked nothing like it. Predictably, I didn't like the clam. The Ox Tail (yes, we are getting fancy here again) was delicious. I thought it was a lot like the mutton I used to have in India.

So much for now. There's a lot more to talk about. The city itself being the most important part. Hopefully, the post wont be as delayed as this one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice Spain post. I'm applying to Darden so I was interested to read comments from current students. The Spain details brought some nostalgia for the months I spent as a homestay exchange student. The bull festivals happen all over the country. The first for me involved a single bull pinned by a mob of people in order to tie cloth to the horns and ignite a fire. Flaming horns upset bulls because this particular one rampaged after trying to extinguish the fire. Speed and fury unmatched especially at such close proximity! Onlookers quickly become Olympic sprinters and benign-looking grandmothers quickly become shouting hooligans when a freight train of muscle and anger thunders over sidewalks and through crosswalks. Unforgettable and in a drunken stupor, one brave soul dodged a trip to the emergency room by mere centimeters when he angled sideways at a traffic sign leading the chasing bull headfirst into the metal post after he smacked the bull's rear. Had the bull not been running full speed, the drunken instigator's sloppy stagger would have been his downfall. (I take that back. "Brave" wasn't the right word. He was incapacitated with severe impairment of judgement. The scene was hilarious though. Too much sangria.) Bull festivities could be a crowd-pleasing addition to Darden's international celebrations.
-Chad, applicant 2010