Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Back from Catalunya

My Iberian experience (previous episodes here, here and here, some still incomplete) continued with 10 great (although unbearably hot...) end August days in Barcelona, around the EEA-ESEM conference this year, excellently hosted by the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, in its two campuses at Autònoma and Pompeu Fabra. Keeping it very brief, my (very selective) highlights:
  • conference-wise, I have seen several excellent paper presentations and invited talks, but ultimately enjoyed most Pinelopi Goldberg's Marshall lecture on the effects of global patent agreements for pharmaceutical companies, talk partially based on this paper. The results were quite surprising (at least given my priors...): this is definitely worth reading/considering very carefully.
  • I had to check out some of Barcelona's famous restaurants; hence, I shall warmly recommend to anybody, foodie or not: i) pretty much any of the tapas dishes (perhaps a random selection would be best for your first visit!), accompanied, for instance (their wine list is not very large, but counts some excellent wines), by an unforgettable Santiago Ruiz Blanco, at Paco Meralgo -- without exaggeration one of the best tapas places I have ever tried; ii) Sagardi Euskal Taberna (in the beautiful Barrio Gótico) is obviously not Catalan-cuisine..., but I've found beyond delicious their baby squid in ink sauce, accompanied by the perfect Basque Country cider (guess which side of Spain I must visit next...); iii) I would not really compare, overall, this restaurant to the first two mentioned above, but if you try the monkfish at Can Ramonet (ask for the 'monkfish in Can Ramonet sauce', obviously), and accompany that with their superb Gramona Sauvignon Blanc, that'll surely make a perfect evening. The only regret is that I did not have time to try all the places on my list; inter alia El Bulli will have to remain for some future time... and some future budget :-).
  • if you thought I ignored all that, not a chance: Barcelona is, perhaps first of all, Antoni Gaudí's city. Obviously you should find plenty of documentation (and/or impressions) about Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà or the Parc Güell (the latter my favourite Gaudí-related spot in Barcelona), so I'll just say that you will be forever impressed, even if Art Nouveau is not necessarily your favourite architectural bite-- Gaudí's style is unique (delayed confession: I guess I am totally into Bauhaus, especially after admiring Walter Gropius's amazing 1938 house in Lincoln, with the occasion of my earlier visit this year to Boston)
  • last, but never least: essential for my Barcelona visit, my good old friend Joop is to be thanked for being a great host, guide, and... cook! That fresh monkfish ceviche was truly fabulous-- I think I just chose it one of my very favourite dishes, though for now I hesitate attempting to prepare it myself (even considering solved the problem of finding very fresh el rape) :-).

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