At this instant in Barcelona’s old city Mr. Henry is posting from the wifi at Cafe del Born Nou. Its beamed ceiling reaches as high as Mr. Henry’s spirits. Vintage Joe Cocker is playing on loud speakers without distortion, loud enough to highlight Cocker’s peerless growl but not loud enough to split Mr. Henry’s jet-lagged head. Sparkling cava light and bright in the glass welcomes the arrival of white anchovies on toast, first in a line of tapas that will stretch from evening until night.
Thirty years ago when a callow Mr. Henry first set foot here Barcelona was emerging from under Generalissimo Francisco Franco’ heavy boot. Each plaça exploded with folk singers shouting their long forbidden language. If you spoke Spanish in Catalunya, locals frowned.
Now Catalan cuisine has seized the vanguard. Foam overspreads the culinary world. In one day Mr. Henry has already eaten foam crema catalan and foam tempura soy dipping sauce.
As a mark of confidence in themselves today if you speak Spanish badly or Catalan barely at all, locals smile graciously and respond in beautifully phrased English.
Wandering down the Argenteria Mr. Henry found Café El Magnífico, purveyor of estate coffees so rich and so delicate that not only is their name not a boast, it is a sharp understatement. Its natty proprietor, Salvador Sans, launched into an eloquent disquisition on the virtues of drip coffee over the iniquities of espresso. An acolyte of Bostonian George Howell, “god of coffee,” Salvador argued that espresso method’s heat and pressure not only destroys subtle florals and aromatics but also transforms desirable bitter flavors into harsh metallic ones.
Mr. Henry appreciates the opinions of enlightened iconoclasts especially when their opinions bolster his own. For years he had hidden his preference for drip coffee over espresso fearing that to foist unwanted opinions on friends and relations might spoil their after-dinner happiness. No longer. Drippers unite! Take back the aromatics!
In an act of divine mercy deserving of his name, Salvador telephoned his favorite Catalan restaurant, Taverna del Clínic, to secure a table for the Henry party who passed an evening feasting on sea worms with artichokes, whole squid with its ink intact, and braised rabbit ribs no bigger than the wishbone of a quail. Desserts were created by a chef who in 2006 won best chocalatier in the world. Magnífico.