I was really looking forward to the Big Taste YYC lunch event at the new Barcelona Tavern. I had visited with the family nearly a month ago and was very impressed with their style and choice of great tapas. We enjoyed everything we ordered right from the fried Manchego to the Churros at the end of our night. The paella was quite tasty, though it was a bit oily for my taste. I chose not to write a post on it as it was one of those rare evenings out for the four of us and I let go of any blogger frame of mind right from the get go. I will say that I love the interior of this place. It has not changed in shape or form from the previous occupant, Belgo, but it has it’s own…Spanish flavour. I love the lighting, artwork and great ‘street art’ featured throughout the space. Do not mistake this place for an upscale or quiet date spot. It is loud and raucous…a high energy place best for groups of friends looking to unwind after a busy day.
So I was very curious what Chef Andrew Gass at Barcelona Tavern would offer for the Big Taste YYC event. We were all seated on the top level and though I was in a great position to hear the commentary by John Gilchrist, I was glad he used a sound system for those diners in the back seats. As a well known local food writer, critic, and all around good guy, John Gilchrist lightheartedly offered us his predictions for the ‘it’ foods of 2015. Last year his pick for protein of the year was pork belly, with cauliflower being his choice of veggie and sriracha the choice for sauce. This year John has chosen octopus as protein for the year. While I love octopus (especially grilled) I will admit this prediction seems strange for a city in a landlocked province about a thousand kilometers from the ocean. I will wholeheartedly disagree with John that celery is to be the popular vegetable for 2015. It was bad enough that he chose cauliflower last year…there’s no way I am going to get excited about celery. My own veggie prediction for 2015 is the radish. I’ve begun to really enjoy the beauty and flavour they impart to dishes, whether they are raw, pickled, or roasted…radishes are THE veggie for 2015!
We began our lunch with…Octopus Crostini. Beautifully braised and tender octopus with queen and cerignola olives, crispy caper berries, and chili sambal with meyer lemon and San Marzano tomatoes. Our table did wonder if this crostini was to be eaten by hand or with a knife and fork. The majority used utensils and exclaimed that the crostini was delicious to the last bite
Since I had come down with an unbelievably inconvenient head cold, I gave most of my wine to my dining partner. I worried a bit when we were to have a charcuterie board for our second course. I really didn’t want to share my germs with others while eating in a sharing style and I’m certain most of my dining mates did not want what I had. When the servers placed these adorable individual serving boards in front of us I was really excited…I didn’t have to share my food or my cold! On the platter we had a lone white anchovy, (and going clockwise from the anchovy) house made chorizo, Iberico ham, Quince preserve, hard goat cheese, sriracha pickled carrot, lightly pickled pear, rosemary manchego, and Pepita studded crackers. I think my favourite components on the plate were the chorizo and those pears. They were lightly pickled bosc pears with star anise and allspice. Perhaps there could be an experiment in my future?
If octopus and celery (radishes!) are the ‘it’ foods for 2015, chimchurri is most certainly the sauce of the year as well. I fully and completely agree with Mr. Gilchrist in this respect. I’m not going to complain because I would much rather drape this tasty and luxurious sauce over my steak than have someone slather it with the fake smokey tasting sauce that most people call barbecue sauce. On our Grilled hanger steak, Chef Gass drizzled some amazing non traditional chimichurri consisting of horseradish, tomatoes, and capers. It went fabulously with the succulent piece of meat. The meat may have been overcooked for some but I rather enjoyed it and found it still quite tender. What I really enjoyed the most though, was the adorable little Spanish tortilla on the opposite side of the plate. What a thoughtful little addition, much nicer than the traditional side of mash, fries, or roasted potatoes.
I was a bit confused when the dessert arrived. I had been expecting churros but I wasn’t sure why there was also a very ‘Italian’ cannoli on the plate as well. It turned out to be a great thing that the cannoli made it onto the plate as the churros were a bit doughy in the middle and definitely needed some dipping sauces. The sauces that generally come with the churros on the regular menu had been smeared onto the plate ahead of service and had mostly dried. The cannoli, however, was a crispy roll filled with lovely strawberry cream. I loved dipping it into the thyme-scented lemon curd provided.
Thought Barcelona Tavern has really only been open for a couple of months I think they did a great job on their Big Taste YYC menu as well as keeping up with the regular lunch time rush. If you are ever craving a taste of Spanish tapas downtown or some great gin based cocktails, Barcelona Tavern is a great choice.
501 8 Ave SW