Archive for the ‘Barcelona’ Category


In the words of jazz singer Fats Wallace, “One never knows, do one….”

Truly, no clue presented the palate-bending event about to transpire, even walking down this delightfully deserted and quaintly picturesque street in the Barcelona neighbourhood of La Barceloneta.


In fact, we’d headed out in the evening intending to visit a little hole-in-the-wall eatery near this corner but found it closed. Asking the proprietress of the little groceria above for a worthy restaurant recommendation directed us down the street to a similarly unassuming storefront.

Now, if you’re reading this post from the comfort of the western hemisphere it’s likely you’re looking at this photo and thinking, “Oh those two! Heading out so late for dinner! What could they possibly expect to be open at that hour?”

Well, yes, the time was about nine o’clock in the evening, late for supper by any schedule with which I’m familiar.

However, here where palm trees line the beach, where the latitude of this city lines up with that of Rome, where olives and oranges hang temptingly from trees in the park, heading out to eat at 9 pm is sadly, head-shakingly, barely forgiveably early.

Unless you’re a tourist (and opening one’s mouth removes all doubt) and if that’s the case, it’s likely they’ll let you inside where you’ll see empty tables or a spotting of another foreigner or two.


It was predictably vacant when we landed inside the Restaurante Somorrostro but the young woman who met us as the door smiled kindly and placed us in a cosy corner. Then she asked if we were hungry.

Instinctively I said, ‘No.’ I don’t usually think about eating when I’m spending my energy on staying vertical. My dining companion honourably did not contradict me but would have ordered bigger had he had the chance.

However we were sufficiently alert to order a glass of bubbly cava which we sipped as we told the waitress we’d like to order from the menu degustacion with a couple of requests — no gambas (shrimp) for him and no carne for me.

No problemo.

We relaxed and sipped our cava.


The first dish of the tasting menu was this beautiful salad:

Thin slices of fennel, a couple of slivers of anchovy, some dry roasted chickpeas, cooked beets, fresh tomato, two cooked mussels, toasted walnuts, red cabbage, some salty cheese and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

So simple and lovely, the tastes blending together so well we looked at each other across the table and thought, ‘How can it be that we found this place so late in the game?’

When the empty plate was removed it was by the fellow whom we’d seen just a minute before at the stove — that’s him in the third picture — who smiled but didn’t seem particularly surprised when we told him in our broken Spanish how happy we were with the first course.


The second course arrived with as much simplicity and stunning savoury flavours as the first:

Cream of potato soup as thick as custard, dotted with mushrooms and cauliflower that had been sautéed in garlic and olive oil, and garnished also with tiny mounds of pesto and roasted garlic.

If this already sounds exquisite — good. That’s how we felt after just the second course.


For the fortunate ones who don’t have to taste everything in a single evening the menu board is carried to each table. In speaking with one of the owners/waiters/cooks the next day he told me each day the menu changed — each day!! — depending on what struck his fancy at the mercat. Be still my heart.


Third course was tuna tataki, lightly seared with lemon and garlic. I do not have a picture.

Fourth course was fish — of course I have no idea — with clams. I can’t tell you more but that it was pretty and it tasted fall-off-your-chair wonderful.

Or was that the cava speaking? Or perhaps by now we’d switched to a Rioja . It didn’t matter as we were in gustatory heaven.


This course — perhaps it appears an uncommon combination, but allow me to tell you, my foodie friends, it worked just fine. Mystery fish, egg, hummus, balsamic vinegar. That would be roasted garlic atop the fish.

Nope, your wouldn’t think it would work but I assure you I would not be labouring over this post had it not been a successful combination. Praise those cooks for their daredevil ways!


These are happy diners. The wine, the garlic, the friendly cooks…


All right folks, time for a tempo change. The cheese plate. On a a plate of slate. Oh those clever clever people.

It was just a sampling but take a nibble of each and follow it with a swirl of Rioja. Please.

From left to right, cow cheese, goat cheese, mixed cow and goat cheese, cheese with liquor… That’s the best translation I could do. And artfully dotted with fig coulis and golden raisins.


Dessert: Chocolate. Three kinds, three ways, topped with an orange marmalade. Even for a non-fan of chocolate it was a fitting end to the meal.

Caramel would have been better. Just sayin’.



Please: Copy down this information and put it with your passport. You may some day have a chance to eat here. Please. You don’t have to but you will thank me. The owners have already been there eight years and said they’re not going anywhere. They’re having too much fun.


One last glance backward as we walked away.


A fitting finale.

Bon profit!


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Now, if every time you approached your friendly neighbourhood Safeway, Save-On, Fortino’s or Overwaitea parking lot and it looked like this, wouldn’t rooting through bruised apples and overpriced cheese be just a little more pleasant?


The building of this Mercat de Santa Caterina was completed in 2005, replacing a predecessor built in the 1800s.

What is in the water that so inspires these Modernista architects? Or is it simply the sunny blue skies? (If I’m not on the return flight to gritty grey Vancouver you’ll know where to find me.)


Beneath the undulating roof it’s just that oh-gee conglomeration of family slow-food stands, fresh produce trucked (as in not-flown) in and a good reason to stop and shop.


And to take time to smell the fungi. Which I did.

As mushrooms top the list of my favourite food groups I was more than happy to make like a local and sniff my way down the row. Many different varieties — large and fleshy, small and perfect, yellow, red, black, decisive (‘trumpets of death’ was the translation on one) and each had a distinctive aroma. Pine, earth, humus (not hummus), wet leaves…

And my favourite was this stand below where, next to the multiple mounds of mushrooms were pre-chopped, pre-packaged, pre-planned and ready to toss in the pan with a little butter and olive oil — garlic and parsley. Oh my.


Still on the topic of food, we returned to the Mercat de la Boqueria, the place of the crushed bull heads, remember? Recall, my friends, that for one half of the travelling party this trip was about eating the food, not just looking at it.


This little stall — whose name escapes me now; I’ll update later — is popular with tourists and locals because the food is fast, fresh (how could it not be, surrounded by all the stalls above?) and because the guys behind the counter are pretty obvious about not taking life too seriously.

While I struck up a conversation with the good ol’ boy sitting next to me, who was leaving for New York the next day and whose wife was aghast that I would have no wine with my midday meal, the following plates of food appeared before me, fresh, sizzling and truly tasting and garlick’d beyond compare:




A plate of seared calamari made its appearance as well but clearly not long enough to be captured for posterity.

Yesterday’s vegetarian is easily swayed by today’s fresh catch.

Tomorrow I will tell you, in such painful remembrance because it is too possible that I will never ever set foot there again, about the best tiny restaurant on the planet, where the owners are the waiters and the waiters are the cooks and the cooks are creative and meet you at the door when you come back the next day because you left your scarf behind but maybe you just hoped they’d be open for lunch so you could eat there one more time…

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