Pimientos de Padrón; a taste of summer in Barcelona
Grown in Galicia but available all over the country in the summer, 'pimientos de padrón' are little green peppers that are one of the most popular seasonal tapas in Spain. If you're in Barcelona, one of the best place to try this simple-but-definite-sense-of-place dish is in Elisabets, just a couple of blocks off Las Ramblas, in the El Raval quarter.
Anywhere in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella district is going to be crowded in summer, but in this unpretentious restaurant, you'll find a mix of tourists AND neighborhood-residents. The tapas won't be preciously decorated here, but the portions are generous and the prices are some of the best in the city. My wife and I were hungry, and knowing the usual size of tapas, began ordering a long list--when we got to the fifth dish, our waiter smiled and said "how about if I just get you these to get started, and then you'll see if you want more." He laughed as we thanked him later--the portions are about twice what you'll find in many other tapas bars.
The Spanish saying about these peppers: "unos pican, otros no"--some are hot, others not--you're considered 'lucky' if you get one of the spicy ones...but even the not-so-spicy peppers are a flavor-revelation: fruity pepperiness, flash-fried and sprinkled with coarse sea-salt--the evocation of place and season is unmistakable...
(Note: on menus you'll see both "pimientos DE padrón" and "pimientos DEL padrón" printed--don't let the grammatical detail worry you--the peppers are the same.)