Saturday, March 15, 2014


It's been quite a while since I first opened a bottle of wine from Priorat. I won't claim that that was the moment I realized I had to come here, but I always knew that I would. Priorat is one out of the two wine regions in Spain to ever claim the coveted DOQ marking for their bottles (the other being La Rioja). DOQ stands for Denominacion d'Origen Qualificada, which is a high honour in the wine world: many other good-quality wine regions obtain only the DO standing - Denominacion d'Origen, without the Qualificada part.

Wines from Priorat are special. They are rich, full-bodied, full-Spanish, very expensive to the local standard (to the Canadian - not very). They are the wines with character, with a touch of history. They are bold and demanding. They are a pleasure to drink.

So my dad and I finally got the time to drive up to Priorat for the weekend. The wine region is found in Tarragona and is only an hour and a half drive away from Barcelona. But it is secluded, so solitary, so perfectly void of human noise, that is is very difficult to describe how comfortable we feel here. I suspect that we've been craving this kind of solitude for a while now, and this stay in the middle of nowhere - only the stars and the best wine in the world to keep us company - arrives just in time.

We've been welcomed with arms open wide. I honestly cannot remember if I've ever been treated with such warmth and genuine interest elsewhere in Catalonia. Today we had lunch in Falset, which is the capital of Priorat, and stopped at the bodega Buil & Giné for the night - and at both places we were (and are) taken such good care of, that I find it hard to believe we will need to leave. Wine here flows not by the bottle, but by the barrel. Hospitality is truly boundless.

It's been a while since I first opened a bottle of wine from Priorat. It's been a while since I wanted to stay longer somewhere so bad as in Priorat. Good call, Dad, good call.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Foodie in the Mission 101

I spent my weekend in San Francisco exclusively in the Mission district, only leaving the neighbourhood once to go to Haight-Ashbury. Considering the circumstances and the fact that I'd been to San Francisco before and done a fair share of sightseeing, I don't feel bad about it. The Mission is a great place, and I mean Great. To eat, to drink, to have breakfast or afternoon tea, to shop, to do anything you want - you can do all that in the Mission. Below are the food and drink establishments that I have visited last week and loved.

Paprika (3324 24th Street) is a cozy restaurant with a classy vibe, specializing in goulash and sausages. There are two goulash options on the menu, one slightly more expensive than the other, with sour cream and sauerkraut - that's the one you should get. Delicious.

Mission Pie (2901 Mission Street) is a pie shop, duh. Their banana cream pie is to die for. They also have hearty stew served with kale, which is all the craze in California, apparently.

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen (3150 24th Street) is a deli cafe, where I had a slightly hungover breakfast. Chopped liver, pastrami scrambled eggs, bottomless coffee make Kaplansky's in Toronto look like a joke. Or maybe I'm just biased!

Zoe's Bar and Restaurant (3088 24th Street), has great cocktails that, considering the level of fancy, are quite decently priced. Trouble and Strife with beaten egg and a flower on top particularly stands out.

Boogaloos (3296 22nd Street) is a favourite breakfast haunt of the Mission hipsters. Chorizo scrambled eggs with black beans and salsa tomatoes tasted great and filled me up till a very late lunch. Since I was there at 9 am on a Friday, all the hipsters were at their coworking offices, presumably.

When I needed a coffee break to get some work done, my two coffices were Philz Coffee (3101 24th Street) and Haus (3086 24th Street), both lively and full of Mac-yielding people of all ages. Philz has only brewed coffee, some 20 types, and Haus serves espresso drinks. Both naturally have Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Total San Fran Withdrawal

Current temperature in San Francisco: +15°C.
Current temperature in Toronto: -17°C.
The temperature drop of 32°C total is a bit much for me. I would like to go back to T-shirt weather and brunches.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Back for More in San Francisco

I don't know where to start my post about San Francisco, except to note that I cannot believe I haven't blogged about it last year when visiting it for the first and second time.

One of the things I always remind myself of, and the thing that I remember well, is that the world is enormous and interesting and not confined by Barcelona, no matter how much I love the city.  The temptation to stick to the comfort zone and remain safe in the familiar surroundings is huge, and that's why I book my travels way in advance with non-refundable tickets - so that when the moment to travel comes I cannot cancel it. I never want to go travelling right before the set date, because I am always happy where I am, but I know how important it is for me to travel. Travelling expands my horizons (which are quite broad already, if I may say so), gives me energy, inspiration and focus. Travel is an immensely valuable investment for me and I never forget that with my head. With my heart, however, it is trickier, because the heart prefers to be calm, nevermind that it actually loves adventure and excitement.

The point of this long interlude is this: the night before yesterday I didn't feel like going to San Francisco at all. I would have had more time in Toronto, with my friends, family and my lovely nephew, I would have done more work, I would have slept better - what is this business, flying somewhere early in the morning for one weekend, crashing at someone's place, shopping for dresses? What is this nonsense? That this nonsense made perfect sense I realized only when my plane was taking off from the Minneapolis St. Paul airport where I had a short and painless layover. "My life is great", - this is what I thought during takeoff. This is what I always think during takeoff no matter where the plane is going.

And when I finally arrived to San Francisco, and it was sunny, and summery, and glorious, I realized yet again how thoroughly I forgot about all the excitement of travel. I need to be reminded all the damn time. San Francisco is intoxicating - not only because it's sunny and warm and cool here - but also because I am surrounded by energy, ambition and joie de vivre that never ceases to amaze when I come to the United States and especially California.

I am loving every second of it.