Friday, July 6, 2007

Barcelona, Villa Viniteca

Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely obsessed with bellotta, the superb Spanish ham also known as Pata Negra. On my recent trip to Barcelona I set out to discover which variety of bellota was the best, something that occupied so much of my attention that my traveling companions began referring to me as Our Lady of the Bellota or Santa Maria del Bellota.

While scouting a wine store I noticed a high end food shop across the street with the same name. They were indeed related and as soon as I walked in, I saw some fine looking hams hanging there and a few inviting tables at the back. We discovered that they had a limited sampling menu of ham and cheeses, but I had no idea what I was actually in for until we sat down and wine was poured and some deliciously thick sliced bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil was laid before us. The tomato did not make the bread soggy and when I asked about what sort of tomatoes they used, they told me the tomato is called tomaquet de sucar, a special variety that is hung up for a few days before being smeared on bread. This is a Catalan specialty but it is better here than anywhere else we had it, maybe because it comes from a great little bakery across the street.

The wine was a red, 2003 Pittacun from the producer Biezro. It was made with a grape I never heard of, Mercia and it was fabulous, a little like a zinfandel but lighter; it was only 10 euros a bottle. Unbelievable.

Next came the bellotta. I asked for the best and they brought Joselito gran riserva. It was truly the best I’ve had-- rich and moist and sliced thicker than is customary. As I was enjoying it my friend Armand told me that bellota is actually good for you. Think of it as an olive tree with legs, he said. He was referring to the all acorn diet of the pata negra pigs that graze in the open and must each have 1000 square meters of land to themselves. I didn’t care if it was healthy or not, it was delicious. Next came trays of salami. At this point I was so excited I could barely contain myself. This is my favorite way to eat. I had a salami made from pata negra, one of the best salamis I’ve ever had. Another one that was stronger and also great was called lomo and is made from the loin of the bellota. There was also a moist, rich chorizo, a classic from this region.

This is the place to go if you want to experience the best hams and salami of Spain and drink some of the best Spanish wines. They also have a superb selection of cheeses, many of them local so you won’t find them elsewhere. Also, if you see something in the wine store that intrigues you, you can bring it to the food shop and they will pour it for you. Anything you want to buy and take with you is available and they have a machine to vacuum seal your meats. This was the best find of my trip and it will be definitely one of my stations of the cross next time I am there.

Vila Viniteca
Agullers 9
08003 Barcelona


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