Our first PFA International trip with Chef Jose Chesa to Barcelona was SOLD OUT, and spectacular! We’ve been doing events in Portland for five years, but this was our first foray into international travel. If you scroll down in this blog, you’ll find links to Wendy Bumgardner’s Locavoregon blog and our PFA Barcelona Hashtag. But first, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite shots from the trip (out of thousands), along with some of our dear guests’ comments.
Below, Jose and I meeting at the Country Cat at PDX before our 1pm flight. I got a complete green light to go through security. I didn’t even have to take my shoes off. Jose got stopped for “smuggling” some Jacobsen Salt for his chef buddies in Barcelona. Seriously, it took him an extra 20 minutes because of that salt. Nonetheless, we were ready to go after a year of planning.
I need to express what a treat it was and is to put this together with Jose and his wife Cristina. Truly gracious people. Busy, but they always took the time to do what was necessary to do this trip with complete care. Hanging out with Jose for 10 days, both in Barcelona, through Aragon on the way to San Sebastian, was truly one of the highlights of my life. He was so gracious, cared immensely that each guest had the best time imaginable, and put care and thought into every single thing we did. He translated for the entire four days I spent with him and his father, whom I found to be one of the best men I’ve ever met. I had no idea I was in for that treat when we took off! Well, I had ideas, but this trip was more wonderful than I had imagined all year.
Here, I just gave Jose the leather PFA travel diary with our itineraries bound inside. Note his watch – in Ataula colors.
Coming into Amsterdam the next morning on the direct Delta flight from PDX.
The H10 Urquinaona Plaza Hotel. Great location. Modern. We loved it. I can finally spell it without looking it up now that the trip is over.
Checking in. We didn’t get much sleep, but it doesn’t show. We came a day ahead of most of our guests. The hotel staff was simply fantastic. Always smiling, always helpful. That’s a good thing after I was pretty much of a pain in the ass for eight months leading up to checking in!
My modern room. Loved it.
Jose took us to Tuset for lunch with one of his best friends to preview where we’d be going to dinner later in the week. It was way more food than I had in mind. But then again, why not? See what our friend at Bar Canete had to say about that in the next pic, just hours later.
Wendy Bumgardner and I took the opportunity to try one of my favorite places that wasn’t on our itinerary, but that Jose had suggested to me on my trip the year before. Bar Canete still remains a place I will always need to go when in Barcelona. The steak with foie still sticks with me.
Wednesday morning, a few folks were already here. Al and Stephenie had traveled to BCN by way of Dubai, where they stayed in a 64,000 square foot suite (slight exaggeration, but not too slight). A tad larger than the rooms in Barcelona. Al Sermeno is a fantastic photographer, and it was great to have him and Stephenie on the trip. They were pretty much the catalysts of energy, and I am so glad they made the great new friends they did. It’s one of the keys to making trips like this so special—the chemistry.
Here we are at Bar Central at The Boqueria for breakfast.
You’ll see more food in Wendy’s Locavoregon blog below. She pretty much captured everything she ate! It’s seven blogs.
An informal welcome reception in the H10 garden before we headed out to Suculent.
In just about our only blip of the trip, which turned out to be a benefit, we arrived at Suculent a bit before they were ready for us. So we simply sat down outside at the nearest bar, and Jose took orders to help the freaked out server, who wasn’t ready for 18 folks all at once. Front of the house guy Jose Chesa!
Suculent. We all made our way up to this small space through walkways and steps, and found ourselves with our new best friends for the next week. After a drink or two, everyone seemed like they’d known each other for years.
The next morning, we did two shifts at Quimet y Quimet. We got there when it opened, and it wasn’t as much of a sardine can as I remembered it from my visit the prior year. This is a must do stop in BCN.
Jose taking in the ambiance of QQ. Either that or he’s dreaming of Cristina and Ethan.
Thursday evening at Lolita Taperia. Everyone was pretty loose by our second night. Lolita is a lot of delicious fun, and this night was no exception. This was my third visit here in two years. Not my last.
The view of Urquinaona Plaza (two blocks from Catalunya Square) from the H10 balcony, where the pool is.
Friday we all got on a bus and drove an hour north to Can Jubany, a Michelin starred restaurant that that just about unanimously everyone’s favorite eating experience on the trip. We got to tour their little farm before we made our way up to their largest private dining room. When we sat down, everyone was quiet. It was like we were in a church of gastronomy. Once the cava started flowing, the partying commenced, with the show being every single presentation and the wonderful service provided by Jose’s friends. He used to work here.
Chef Jose Chesa and one of his earlier mentors and great friend, Nandu Jubany. If I do say so myself, this kind of experience is what makes PFA far and away a more fantastic experience than you could plan yourself. Sure, you can visit Can Jubany, and you may even be able to get a tour of the kitchen, but the experience of being treated like friends and family—that’s what we tried to put together on this wonderful trip. I do believe we delivered! (see comments below).
The Jubanys and a Chesa.
These were are only non-Portland folks, and one of the big treats for me and others to have them with us. Shannon and John from Seattle had come to a PFA event at Kachka a year earlier and thankfully were on our mailing list and signed on. They’re seasoned travelers (and cava lovers) and seeing them so happy all the time had me stopping to appreciate what this was all about—often. You’ll see them again below. I love these two and are so glad we met!
Better food comes from chefs who are treated to this view while they work. I can attest to that. Those trees had charcuterie dangling from the branches.
Stephenie stopping and taking it all in.
How beautiful (and fun) is Stephanie? She should have this as her Facebook profile pic, if I do say so myself.
On the way with Penny to our paella lunch at the beach. Penny was a delight from the moment I spoke with her after she was encouraged to come along by Wendy at our Autentica PFA. We had a lot of fun hanging.
There’s some paella that would make anyone a fan of this Spanish delight.
Barbie and Kaman! (I’m feeling like the walk through on the last episode of Survivor now) Barbie was with us as a surprise from her boss for being such a great employee. You just never know how the group is going to shape up when you put events or now, travel groups together. It’s a huge bonus when people are so appreciative and bring sunshine to each day. Look at that smile! Yeah, you too Kaman. J
Chef Jose taking it all in, too.
These guys stopped by to serenade us. I loved it. I can still hear them! Papalaya! I probably have it wrong but I’ve never been good with lyrics so I don’t care.
Then we walked (today was a 30,000+ step day!) to Pastry Escriba’s workshop. What a fun deal that was with the Willy Wonka of chocolate, Christian Escriba. He’s the guy in the center with the big glasses. I don’t think I needed to point that out.
I love this shot. He’s a master at pastry, but wasn’t the AV guy in school.
Jose’s friends set us up with not only that aforementioned workshop at Pastry Escriba, but this, which happened to fall on the fifth anniversary of the first event PFA ever did at Nostrana in 2010. I was feeling particularly good about that this Monday morning. Here PFA had gone from Nostrana to an incredible molecular class with the chef from Albert Adria’s new restaurant, yet to open. Seriously, I am just an appreciator of food and decided to share my love of the Portland food scene in a different way, and here we were five years later to the day. The class was long and intricate, but had a definite payoff at the end! Not the least of which was the cava and the ham.
Those globules are cocktails.
An impromptu stop at El Nacional, one of the most incredible large bars you’ll ever see. It had about six completely different décor areas, if that’s what one calls them. Fortunately, these three were in mine. Penny, Jose and Becky. Hanging with Jose.
Here’s John and Shannon again at Taverna del Clinic.
These people didn’t know one another a week earlier. Now they’re hanging in Portland. (Hey, Penny, I didn’t get an invite!)
One more of Jose’s pals, chef Antonio Simoes of Taverna del Clinic. Delicious meal and beautifully crafted meal. Although we did have a discussion about the lamb here versus the lamb in France. (You know who you are.)
Tickets! We had a rez for 20. That’s a perk of going with Chef Jose, because reservations for even two are a year out here.
Rebecca and Dan. Probably two of Ataula’s most loyal customers. I have a feeling this trip didn’t put that status in jeopardy.
Hanging with Jose in front of some Gaudi architecture. I lost this hat. I’d had it for 15 years. If you’re going to lose it, I guess somewhere between Barcelona and Paris isn’t a bad place to have that happen (and another hat!).
Catalunya Square with the full moon behind it.
Richard and Helen made us aware of how to avoid the lines at the Segrada Familia. A bunch of us went. So beautiful. I almost got separated from our group from the tour office to the front entrance. I was lucky to find them. I was lucky to find everyone.
Here are some of the comments from our wonderful Barcelona PFA inaugural journey’s guests.
Unparalleled experiences that we would have never been able to arrange on our own (Can Jubany, Tickets, the workshop with the two chefs).
It was a really great trip, I don’t think there was too much to change!
Beautiful location, the best food, really awesome people! What’s not to like? We couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant experience!
The knowledge as to what foods were worth having was invaluable. I think knowing where to go for a good dining experience is not so hard. But having Jose present to inform, advise and sometimes order was awesome.
Great time, great people! The size was excellent. I think the 41 Degrees workshop was fascinating. I might plan one non-food adventure, perhaps optional rather than prepaid.
I could never have done this on my own. Even knowing where to go, nothing beats having Jose there to order and recommend. Dining with a group is always more fun for me.
Chef Jose was awesome and I really feel that I’ve explored excellent dining in Barcelona, from breakfast to tapas to dinner.
We’ve been home now for four days, and we’re still saying “WOW, what a great trip to Barcelona”. We thank both you and Chef Jose for planning and executing the week’s activities.
Communications prior to departure and during the trip were great. Keeping us informed via email as the itinerary was evolving worked very well. Our two group get togethers in Portland, one at Ataula and the other at Lardo, were great for bringing us up to date on the tour, getting acquainted with our fellow travelers and having some excellent food. The special itinerary notebooks with city maps you provided were very helpful ahead of time and on a day to day basis during the tour.
And the food adventures – one breakfast, three lunches, and five amazing dinners, a pastry workshop with Christian Escriba, and a cooking demonstration with Chef Oliver Pena. Each offered insight into the amazing culinary work that is happening in Barcelona. Starting with our first evening dinner at Suculent Casa de Menjars, with it upstairs room and dumb waiter food delivery, to the drive out of town and outstanding lunch at Can Jubany, to our final dinner at Tickets Bar, the restaurant choices were excellent, providing us with a fantastic array of tapas.
You are on the right track for planning future international food adventures. This was a truly a great and memorable trip.
Often times traveling using guidebooks and recommendations is still like taking a shot in the dark — you might hit the target, but often you miss. Traveling with PFA to Barcelona allowed us to sit back and enjoy hitting the target every single time when it came to restaurants and experiences. Beyond that we had the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of new best friends with similar interests who live right in our own backyard, all while enjoying opportunities that a single person or couple would virtually never get to experience traveling on their own such as behind the scenes access to top chefs and restaurants. Definitely worth any additional expense.
If you ever get a chance to do a PFA trip with Chris, do it! The trip to Barcelona was a trip of a lifetime. Everything I wanted out of this trip happened and more! I went to Barcelona not knowing anyone in the group. I needed to hit the reset button on my life, and this trip was just what I needed. I met some wonderful people who are now considered friends. My heart is full and very happy. Thank you Chris for this wonderful opportunity.
You’re invited to check out everyone’s pics on the Instagram hashtag #PFABarcelona <<< there.
I appreciate third-party blogs more than our own (and I appreciate Wendy more than to call her “third-party!”), and PFA’s most beloved patron Wendy Bumgardner wrote an impressive and wonderful blog about this experience here, on her Locavoregon blog. There are a number of entries. Just follow the links at the bottom of her blogs for the whole experience. Wendy has just about everything she ate covered.
This is a long blog. Thank you for reading, and check with us for our planned trips for 2016 and beyond.