What better way to learn about a city and a region but through food. I love the markets, the smells, the energy the history. So Morry and I set out on our adventure with our new friend and culinary expert Yvan Mass from Spain Taste. It is his business and personal. He suggested the best places to go in Barcelona (5 days) and with him (5 days) we traveled on our Catalonia culinary adventure to the village of Madremanya, ancient stone and terra cotta tile in the rolling hills halfway between Girona and the Costa Brava. Checking into the lovely Hotel La Placa de Madremanya, we met the Chef and Innkeeper Vicenc who would be our cooking teacher, and his sommelier wife Monica. What was in store for us were visits to culinary artisans chocolatiers, goat cheese makers, and vineyards and restaurants with tapas, tasting menus, more villages and the art museums of Dali, Picasso, and Gaudi.

What was in season: mushrooms of every size and taste, chestnuts, figs, pomegranates, and the continual flavor of almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, and rabbit. Every morning we heard gun fire until 9am as hunting season started for wild pig and birds. We found the people genuine, warm, friendly, and could not do enough for us. They were also hard working. With 23% unemployment in Catalonia, this is a drop from where it was, and every business is trying hard to keep the economy thriving. Just a mention that Morry would like a pop up store selling olive oil brought a brother of a brother of the merchant ready to export many products from the region for his store. Business cards were exchanged.

What we learned: Catalonia,  has a language, history and custom of its own, it has a cuisine. It is natural, not expensive, and easy. It is eggplant, peppers baked in ashes, potato omelet, duck, catalan rice, paella and of course the best olive oil. Our Chef Vicenc taught us the Sofregit which is the base of all the sauces with onions and tomatoes and Picada as the bookend or thickening with garlic, liver, bread, parsley, almonds, and chocolate. Delicious small dishes with only the finest ingredients. The fish coming off the boats for auction was great to see. We could get up close to all the working boats with the men preparing their nets for the next morning.

Ahah Moments: Visiting the Soccer Stadium was one of the highlights of the trip. I was not a soccer fan before but am now. The self guided tour was 28Euro and totally worth the price as it was a multimedia experience. They sell 100,000 tickets for every game. The Nike Swoosh was huge, and everywhere. International branding at its finest.

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Product Discovery: On the back of every bus was this Timberland Boot, I thought it very interesting. Everyone wears soccer type footwear or boots for men and ballet flats or short boots for women. Only Americans wear gym shoes or Ecco. We were staying in the University area and the boot trend for men and short tan suede or leather boots with a short chunky heel was what the girls were wearing. It was warm so no high boots yet. Just received my Timberland catalogue, and now I have to have boots from this international company started in New Hampshire.

PS: I have a new respect for stylists in photographing food. My pictures need some TLC as does my knowledge of pixels and photo sizes. So I repeat myself, bear with me as I learn how to communicate in this new medium. I will get better…