The Catalan capital is a real gastronomic playground, with meats and cheeses springing from every street stall, tapas bar and market. This jamon you’ve eaten all week will have to stay in Spain (it’s against US customs laws to bring meat into the country), but luckily there are plenty of delicious Barcelona items that deserve just as much space in your suitcase and legally transportable across borders.
Salsa Espinaler is a spicy, peppery vinegar sauce that Catalans love to pour over seafood (canned or fresh) and other tapas. It is also excellent drizzled with chips. Miquel Riera i Prat opened the Espinaler Tavern in 1896 just north of Barcelona on the water, and in 1952 the sauce was invented by his grandson’s wife, Ventureta Roldós. They finally started bottling it, and today the company is run by the fifth generation of the original family. The tavern and the sauce remain Catalan institutions.
Marcona almonds are a Spanish breed of fatter, moister, and sweeter almonds than the California variety. You can find them in the United States, but they are more expensive and not as fresh as the ones you can get in Barcelona. For Marconas and more, head to Casa Gispert, one of the oldest grocery stores in Barcelona. The family-run shop roasts nuts in a 167-year-old wood-fired oven, adding a distinctive smoky touch. They use holm oak wood to roast almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, macadamia nuts and cashews, following the same process for over a century. The shop also offers other specialty items such as saffron, olive oils, nougats and jams.
American tuna has ruined the idea of canned seafood for many, but try not to let that stop you from stocking up on Barcelona’s supremely gourmet canned seafood. Head to La Ribera for items like ventresca and northern skipjack Tuna, berberechos (cockles), octopus, mussels, squid in ink, sea urchins, knives, anchovies and sardines, all preserved in various oils and delicious sauces. And, of course, a few splashes of Salsa Espinaler on your fish is a must.
Chilli pepper is smoked paprika, made from peppers slowly smoking over an open flame, which impart a deep, smoky flavor. It comes in three varieties: dulce, which is gentle and gentle; agridulce, which is semi-spicy; and picante, which is the spiciest. Agridulce, in particular, can be hard to find in the United States at a reasonable price, so if you’re only bringing one strain home, this is your best bet.
Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting table who travels the world – and crosses NYC block by block – in search of her next amazing meal. See his latest adventures on his Instagram at @devoltv.