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Top priorities for a trip to Barcelona might just read: see great art and architecture, enjoy the nightlife, eat ham. In all seriousness, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to eat Spain's exquisite artisanal ham made from acorn-fed native black pigs whose meat is salt-cured and then air-dried for two to four years. The best kind, jamón ibérico de bellota, comes from carefully managed and exercised pigs fed only on acorns. This lengthy process results in a silky, slightly sweet and nutty meat that is contradictorily both light and intensely rich.
You can casually approach the quest for this delicacy at nearly any bar or restaurant across Barcelona, feasting on different qualities of hams, including jamón ibérico's lesser but still stellar cousin, jamón serrano. Or you can do it purposefully and premeditatedly, seeking out the very best the country has to offer. For that, there's really only one place, Jamonísimo (Provenza 85, Eixample 93/439–0847
This small and modern store and café is like a museum of ham. Here you can learn Ham 101: staff teach that it matters not only what the pig ate, but also which part of Spain's southwestern dehesa (a rolling oak park) it was raised in. You'll even discover which particular cut from the ham is the most flavorful. For a full lesson, sit down at a table in the café with a tasting plate of "las texturas de ibérico" (approx. €33).
Jamonísimo will vacuum seal packages for you to take home, but be aware that although Spanish ham may now be legally brought through U.S. customs, in fact, anything may and often does happen. So be prepared to swallow your stash on the spot at customs, or enjoy it in your hotel room or while traveling around Catalonia.
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