Carme Ruscalleda

Chef Carme Ruscalleda was born to be a champion of Catalan food. Raised in a family of farmers, she studied charcuterie-making and went on to marry a grocery owner with whom she opened restaurant Sant Pau. The restaurant’s Barcelona location has earned three Michelin stars over the years and Ruscalleda opened more restaurants in Catalonia and one in Japan which multiplied her accolades and made her the world's only seven-Michelin-starred female chef. Catalan traditions are the founding blocks of her cuisine and she has published numerous books to celebrate them and the products of her region.
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What Sets Barcelona Apart From Other Gastronomic Cities in Spain

Barcelona is a city that displays excellence in a wide range of dining styles. Exploring the breadth of how our cuisine is presented will seduce you into the region’s food culture. Here, you will be equally satisfied visiting historic restaurants like Via Veneto, centennial ones like 7 Portes, creative restaurants like Moments and traditional restaurants like Els Pescadors. Like everywhere in the world, the food and beverage establishments in Barcelona are facing daily struggles to sustain their business, but Barcelona is a very supportive city. I hope that the efforts of this tight-knit community can alleviate the challenges that we’re facing on a global level.

Highly-Creative Themed Menus in a Fine-Dining Setting

I am assiduous when it comes to supporting the four restaurants I’ve just mentioned and I frequent each one of them for different reasons. Moments – in which I’ve also collaborated – is special to me because my son, Raül Balam, is the chef here. It’s a restaurant that stands out. It’s committed to fresh, natural, seasonal and local products, and pushes the creativity with which they’re delivered on a plate. It does it in themed menus, so for example there’s a menu inspired by the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals designed by the United Nations to be a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet”) at the moment. Soon, they’ll be creating a menu inspired by Dali’s Les Diners de Gala book. 

Taste the History 

7 Portes has been around since 1836 and is the restaurant I take visiting friends to – especially those from the industry. It’s immersed in Catalan tradition. I always order some rice dishes. To celebrate a special occasion, I go to Via Veneto (said to be one of Salvador Dalí’s favourite restaurants) because of its all-round excellence encapsulated in 55 years of history. The kitchen is inspired by French cuisine, but everything is perfectly relevant and is carried out impeccably. But if you have one meal in Barcelona and you really want to experience the local scene and culture then you need to go to Els Pescadors. It embodies the seafaring essence of the city. I love the neighbourhood it’s in – it’s located in a charming spot in La Barceloneta. The menu is based on the bounties of our sea and is excellently interpreted. 

The Markets of Barcelona

Gastronomy is not only the practice of excellence in cooking and eating but also in choosing what to eat. Barcelona is a prominent and powerful producer of gourmet seasonal products. There’s a whole culture around our fruits, vegetables and mushrooms; our game, poultry, pork and red meat; our fish and shellfish; and our wine, cheese and pastries. The city displays a very wide range of great quality products in every category. This is achieved through a very important network of municipal markets, making everything accessible to both restaurateurs and the general public. When visiting Barcelona, you should not miss these municipal markets. I’m not only referring to the Mercado de La Boqueria, which is the most famous one. There’s also Mercat del Ninot, Mercat de La Concepció, Mercat Galvany, Mercat de La Barceloneta and the Mercat de Sant Antoni. Many of the spots there allocate space for tasting. I also recommend going on a 20-minute drive to Parc Agrari del Baix Llobregat where you’ll find the freshest produce there is, and also to La Lonja to experience Barcelona’s remaining fish market. 

Catalan Food, Two Ways

If it’s been a long week and I want to relax and enjoy good food with friends, it would surely be at Alkimia. I have a lot of admiration for chef Jordi Vilà’s work and creativity and I’m fascinated by the spaces he’s created. While Alkimia approaches Catalan cuisine in a radically contemporary way and presents it in a highly gastronomic tasting menu, his restaurant Alkostat perfectly executes simple, everyday Catalan dishes in a menu that’s designed to be shared.

Simple Food Made With Excellent Ingredients

One of the things that I miss the most when I travel is a good pan con tomate (traditional Catalan bread rubbed with garlic, topped with tomato and drizzled in olive oil). I also love an Iberian ham, white sausage or tuna belly sandwich made with good bread, seasoned to taste and topped with tomatoes and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). I can get all of these things at Vila Viniteca. It’s an exceptional wine cellar – with locations in L’illa Diagonal (shopping centre) and in the neighbourhood of La Ribera – and is probably the establishment with the most extensive wine list in the world. It also has a great cheese cellar, a nice selection of Iberian hams and sausages and fresh produce. You can take these products home or taste them in the shop. There’s also Camarasa in Plaça Francesc Macià that’s not to be missed. It’s a traditional greengrocer that sells top-quality fresh produce and has expanded its offering to include local provisions and gourmet products of excellent quality.

A Neighbourhood That’s Been Changing the City’s Dining and Drinking Culture

The El Born neighbourhood is very interesting to explore. It has really been influencing and changing the dining and bar scene in the city. There’s a variety of venue types there. Make sure to visit Paradiso for its exceptional cocktails and impeccable pastrami. El Xampanyet is another interesting place to visit. It’s a small, traditional tapas bar with good appetisers, tapas and preserves. For tapas, there’s also Cal Pep, a counter restaurant that has been operating since 1989, and has top-quality products, always fresh and prepared in a variety of sharing plates that include a lot of fish and seafood options.

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