Spice Route Tasting in Atlanta

When I was in Spain, friends and coworkers would get together at cafes and casual restaurants for a drink and snacks in the evening. This is when we would have an aperitif of cocktails, campari or Rose, along with olives, nuts, cured meats, cheese and bread. It was only around nine or ten pm that we would head off to a restaurant for a proper dinner. Typically, we ordered a bottle of wine for the table, with tapas for dinner, thus continuing the Spanish tradition of communal dining.

Flavors of Morocco and Spain now intersect at Atlanta’s hip Buckhead neighborhood. Gypsy Kitchen opened in October 2014 offering sophisticated patrons old world wines, handcrafted cocktails, and sharable tapas, in a sensually artistic ambiance.

A walk around the restaurant is worth the visit for visual senses. A metal bull sculpture stands as centerpiece at the bar. Teal blue walls, oversized French chandeliers, and Moorish doors and glass framed mirrors – together create a delicate and romantic ambient lighting. The assorted lighting fixtures around the room is a good representation of what the food is about – inspirations from around the world.

GypsyKitchen_Atlanta

The menu is organized by cheese plates, tapas, soups/salads and entrees. Lightly dusted with olive oil and grilled toast served with slices of Spanish Manchego cheese and Quince paste, paired with a bold Rioja is a good starting point to this journey. Cured meat lovers would want to order Jamon Iberico to share alongside.

Tapas (or small plates) take center stage at Gypsy Kitchen. A must have at any Spanish restaurant is Croquetas (or croquettes). Served steaming hot, the center is gooey with chicken and cheese, while the outside is perfectly crusted with fried bread crumbs. This was my absolute favorite snack food in Spain, second only to Patatas Bravas, crisp roasted potato wedges dipped in spicy aioli. The Roasted Cauliflower Salad is a great way to indulge guilt free. Smokiness of the paprika and heartiness of chopped boiled eggs add a unique touch to this dish. For a Moroccan inspired appetizer, try the Lamb Kefta Tagine, soft lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce topped with a runny egg.
lamb meatballs

Combination of dates, blue cheese and ham rolled in to a Spanish Cigar is a fun savory cookie-like appetizer that compliments with the Spice Trader (Bourbon, Honey & Cayenne, Apricot Liqueur, Lime, Ginger Beer).

Garlic Shrimp is a traditional tapa found at many restaurants, but here it is grilled with shells intact with a touch of parsley, olive oil garlic and salt, which helps retain moisture while absorbing flavors.

grilled shrimpLarge Plates on the menu are not worth the trouble. The Marcona Almond Tikka Masala comes with chunky pieces of chicken breasts that lack the well established Indian spices, and the fish dishes are too bland for the surroundings. My aspirations at dessert are also broken down by a dry devil food cake. I crave for a typical apple tart from Barcelona and hot churros dipped in warm melted chocolate from Madrid, but can’t find them.

Gypsy Kitchen is a good attempt to take the diner on a walk along the spice route. It’s a good gathering spot offering lots of space. With subtle flavors and upscale ambiance, it has a gypsy-like quality that is on the move to “find itself.”

La Bodega, Barcelona

One of my best dining experiences in Barcelona was at La Bodega Restaurant at Plaza Molina in the Sant Gervasi district. My local friends, Tina and Alex said it was their favorite restaurant in Barcelona so they had to take me there. Open since 1983, the owner, Jose Luis Jimemr Momci still greets every one of his guests and attends to every detail. White table cloths and rose petals create a romantic atmosphere in this wine cellar converted into restaurant; it specializes in classic Mediterranean cuisine with a Catalan twist. Continue reading “La Bodega, Barcelona”

Speak and Eat in Spanish

On my last evening in Spain, my friend Gina and I headed to AIL Madrid near Retiro park for a Gazpacho Cooking Class. Little did I know that the class was about to be held in Spanish! Well, that would be quite obvious since it was at a language school. In fact, AIL offers unique classroom Spanish lessons integrated with cultural and social activities that teach you about the customs of Spain. It is a great way to learn the language, as well as experience Madrid. Continue reading “Speak and Eat in Spanish”

Gaudi inspired chocolates

Barcelona based acclaimed chocolatier, Enric Rovira is famous for  drawing inspiration from the beautiful shapes and line designs of Antoni Gaudí, into more edible pieces of art. It is amazing to see how he takes the forms from famous structures such as Gaudi and turns them into sculptures made of chocolate. Continue reading “Gaudi inspired chocolates”

The Spaniards need us too!

When you think of volunteering internationally, generally Europe doesn’t come to mind. I always thought it is the orphanages and schools in third world countries, or the villages and communities in a disaster hit area that really need us, but I was wrong. Continue reading “The Spaniards need us too!”