Beef Sha Bhakleb
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Barcelona, 2006. My husband and I were meeting another couple for dinner, some local expat artists whom we didn’t know. It was kind of a blind double date, set up by a mutual someone back in New York who wanted us to have dinner on him. None of us objected. They chose the restaurant: Passadis del Pep, an unmarked restaurant that manages to appear simultaneously informal (simple design, no menus) and upscale (white tablecloths, old-man waiters at the ready), located at the edge of the Born neighborhood.
As mentioned, there is no menu, so we had no idea what we were in for...until the waiters starting bringing out a slew of Catalan seafood dishes, each one better than the last, and pouring what seemed like bottomless glasses of cava and wine. Through the haze of time, I remember jamón and pan con tomate, snails and mussels, razor clams and gambas, and all of us feeling pretty full by the time a waiter approached and asked if we'd like to order the night's main course, a fish dish. Of course we had to try it! All the while we eyed the bottles of whiskey lining the dining room, and once dinner was through and the wine drained, these too were offered to the table, DIY style. Our minds were officially blown. The four of us, great friends by this hour, gasped at the cost of the tab, then giggled when we recalled who was paying--that is, not any of us.
Sadly, I have no notes and no photos of this night, but the dreamy effect of its combined elements--the setting, the food, the wine, the fleeting taste of the high life--is seared into my mind forever. More than one of the most memorable meals of my life, it is a snapshot of that fall we spent in Barcelona, newly wed and intent on adventure, summed up in one heady, delicious feast. For that, I suppose, no photo is needed.
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