There are a lot of bonuses that come with being adopted by a host mom and host dad when studying abroad. For me, these include Fina’s Spanish tortilla [which has appeared on the table more since host mom witnessed my roommate and I hallway celebrating after its scent hit our nose one night] and Juan’s by-heart knowledge of all things Barça.
Having three daily meals provided through my homestay, means my stomach consumes less dine-out food than it’s used to in good ol’ U-S-A. It’s not as overtly body changing as my pant size had assumed, seeing as it remains supported and in the oil loving hands of Barcelona home-cooked meals.
But, every once in while the dining room table shackles loosen and I tell my wallet that we’re going to splurge. This scenario happened sometime in October when my intercambio partner dared to make the lofty claim that he knew “the spot in Barcelona with the best patatas bravas.” I remained skeptical.
First, some background: 1) At your request, ISA will set you up with a language partner in Barcelona — it’s a friend, an hombre, someone to practice Spanish skills with. I frequently refer to Pepe as my “forced tio,” but let’s not get lost in terminology. 2) Patatas bravas are potatoes — fried. They’re a popular tapa, a sort of snack or appetizer, in Spanish cuisine.
We decided to make the trek.
Bar Tomás sat simply, straddled by narrow city streets, in Sarrià. A handful of people sat under the green awning consuming a variety of tapas, but mostly patatas bravas – as expected. It’s a small place with only a few tables and we agreed to wait. So, we waited.
Eventually my body fell into a metal chair and patatas bravas appeared before us in a matter of minutes. This is no exaggeration. I stared at them. I anticipated Heaven’s gates opening up upon my first bite. Angels might begin playing harps from somewhere up above, maybe they would erupt in song — I didn’t know.
The scene played out a bit differently. Shocking — there were no angels.
We talked to the man who delivered this potato masterpiece. We asked him for the secret sauce. We might have pleaded, we might have tried to strike a bargain. He remained like one of the guards outside the Buckingham Palace. The secret remains, sigh. There were some bravos, there were some cravings for more spice, there were a lot of things that you should go watch.
Bar Tomás’ patatas bravas came out looking a bit like steak fries. Who doesn’t love a good steak fry? The secrets in the sauce, we were told. The sauce was excellent. A lot of garlic, and pretty far south on the spicy scale. Excellent, really. The best? Debatable.