Hígado con Chorizo (liver with chorizo)

hígado y chorizo

I had some pig’s liver, chorizo and mushrooms in the fridge and looked for a Spanish recipe which utilised all three in a sauce. Finding nothing satisfactory, I made up my own receta, with surprisingly good results.

Hígado con Chorizo recipe (serves 2-3 people):

1lb pig’s liver (cut into bite sized pieces)
1/2 hot chorizo ring (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (chopped)
6 mushrooms (chopped)
3 grated tomatoes (or half a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1 red pepper
a splash of sherry vinegar
a dessertspoon tomato purée
a teaspoon ground sage and thyme
a teaspoon of fresh coriander (chopped) or parsley
sea salt and black pepper
1 dessertspoon plain flour
extra virgin olive oil


Before embarking on the dish itself, burn a red pepper until it is black all over – on a barbecue, under the grill (broiler) or on top of a gas hob. This is a very popular method of preparing red peppers (pimientos) in Spain. When completely black, put the pepper in a paper bag, Tupperware or cling film and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. The pimiento will steam in the residual heat and the skin can easily be removed with the fingers or the back of a knife, with a little help from the cold tap. The seeds are removed and the flesh has a sweet and smokey flavour. In Spain pimientos are commonly served in strips with a little olive oil, on top of salads, stuffed inside olives and in cooking. Those who can’t be bothered with the burning, can purchase pre-prepared red peppers in jars from all supermarkets and corner shops.

onion and chorizo

In a cazuela, cast iron casserole or large frying pan, gently soften a chopped onion in olive oil until it goes translucent and then stir in the chunks of chorizo. Be generous with the olive oil, it’s not just a cooking medium and it stops the onion burning.

higado de cerdo

When the onion stars to go orange from the pimentón in the chorizo, add the chopped liver. I used pig’s liver, but I’m certain that any type of liver will do.

sage and thyme

Sprinkle on some ground sage and thyme (I used a mortar and pestle, with a pinch of coarse sea salt and a few black pepper corns).


Turn the heat up to half way, sprinkle on a dessertspoon of plain flour and a couple of turns of sea salt and black pepper. Stir vigorously to brown the liver without it sticking.


When the liver has browned a little, mix in the mushrooms and garlic.


Cut 3 medium sized tomatoes (the riper the better) in half and grate the wet side into the cooking vessel. You should end up with all the pulp in with the liver and two flat pieces of tomato skin.


Fold the tomatoes and a big squirt of tomato purée into the solid ingredients, to make a sauce.

pimiento rojo

Slice up the roasted red pepper and mix that in to the liver and chorizo, along with a teaspoonful of chopped cilantro (coriander) and a splash of sherry vinegar. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

liver and chorizo

I was expecting to have to adjust the flavour and possibly add chicken stock or milk, but the dish was perfect, almost creamy, with a thick umami sauce. I deliberately used tomato and pimiento because they are typical Spanish ingredients, but also to act as a sweet counterpoint to the pig’s liver. I’m surprised not to have come across a similar recipe – perhaps el Duende was in the kitchen with me…

Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or pasta and seasonal vegetables. A robust Spanish red wine, such as, Muriel Vendimia Seleccionada (a Tempranillo from Rioja) will perfectly compliment the liver and chorizo.

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I cooked supper at a friend’s house this week and made a Tiella. Tiella is a rice dish from Italian Apulia and Calabria – it’s a close cousin to Paella and dates back to a time when the Spanish ruled much of Italy (part of the Aragonese Catalan Empire , which was incorporated into Spain when the crowns of Aragon and Castile were united by marriage in 1479).

I looked up lots of recipes for this dish and came across many variations, some have three or four layers of sliced vegetables with breadcrumbs on the top. Most recipes contain mussels, although a few contain sardines. I’ve gone for a simple paella type of mixture, as opposed to lasagna like layers. Mussels can be incorporated pre-steamed or on the half shell, whereas here, they are shucked and mixed in raw. Note that potatoes, tomatoes and courgettes (zucchini) all came to Europe after Spain financed Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Tiella is traditionally cooked in a terracotta casserole, also called a tiella, just like paella is named after the paellera it is cooked in.

While rice is now a common Italian food (particularly in risotto), it was relatively unpopular in Europe until the 18th and 19th Centuries. Apparently, the first official documentation of rice introduction to Italy is relative to Aragonese (Kings of Naples) ties to the Dukes of Milan during the 15th Century. That said, the Greeks and then the Romans were aware of rice (to them an exotic and expensive food), but it was the Moors who brought rice to Spain and Sicily, growing vast quantities in the river deltas on Spain’s Eastern coast from the 10th Century. Rice is somewhat difficult to grow and after the expulsion of the Moors, a drop in Spanish population led to a decline in rice production. However, even though rice was considered a Muslim food, some recipes (particularly sweet ones) endured. A population explosion in the 18th century led to a resurgence in rice cultivation, in spite of malarial outbreaks. By the latter half of the 16th Century, the crowns of Naples, Sicily and the Dukedom of Milan belonged to Phillip II of Spain.  The Spanish word for rice, arroz (pronounced a-roth), comes from old Persian orz, which the Arabs prefixed, al orz – this became ar-orz and ar-ruz over time.

Tiella recipe (serves 4 – 5 people):

300g désirée potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large onion (diced)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 sticks celery (diced)
4 large ripe tomatoes (grated)
a small bunch parsley (chopped)
1 large courgette (sliced)
100g pecorino cheese (grated) parmesan or grana padano could also be used
2/3rds bottle Soave Italian dry white wine
2 cups Carnaroli rice (or Arborio)
1kg raw mussels (shucked)
cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil (at least half a cup)


Dice the potatoes, celery and onion and put them into a cold cast iron casserole or suitable terracotta cooking pot. The chopped garlic, parsley and rice goes in too, along with the tomato (grate it in on top) plus the shelled mussels. Sprinkle on some black pepper and half the grated pecorino, pour on the olive oil and two thirds of a bottle of dry Italian wine, such as Soave or Frascati. Give all of this a good stir. Slice the courgette (ideally with a mandoline) and cover the top of the tiella with two or three layers. Sprinkle on the remaining pecorino cheese along with a little more cracked black pepper. Do not add any salt, as the mussels and cheese will provide sufficient salinity.

tiella section

Warm the contents of the casserole on the hob gently, while you bring the oven to a temperature of 200ºC. Bake the tiella for 45 minutes to an hour. It will be done when the cheese has browned on top of the courgettes, as per my pictures. The tiella has quite a delicate flavour of mussels, pecorino and vegetables. The rice came out al dente and the potato was perfectly cooked, but not falling apart.

mixed salad

Serve with a home grown mixed salad


and rustic bread, as per the above from E5 Bakehouse.

Make sure to buy two bottles of the Italian dry white wine (in my case Soave), to adequately compliment the cooking!

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Barbecue Pork Knuckle

pork knuckle

I came across cheap pork knuckles in the butchers this week. These are the lower part of a pig’s leg joint and can be quite meaty, becoming beautifully tender after a long slow cook. Note here that this is uncured raw pork – it is the same cut as a ham hock (also known as a gammon knuckle), but gammon/ham has been wet or dry cured with brine or salt.

I looked at a few recipes online and initially favoured cooking the knuckle like they do in Austria and Germany, as Schweinshaxe, quite popular in Bavarian beer halls. Schweinshaxe is often poached first, to moisten the meat while infusing it with flavour from vegetables, herbs and spices, before slow roasting in the oven with caraway seeds. I was sold on this idea, until I watched a Claudia Roden talk on YouTube the next day, where she mentions that the Moors inspired Spanish roast pork. This might sound a little odd – the Moors didn’t eat swine, being Muslim, but the Spanish took their cooking methods (seasoning, etc.) for other meats and applied these to roasting pork. Later, when the Spanish discovered the Americas, they brought pimentón (paprika) to Europe – this added a finishing touch. So while I was already aware of the above, it was the mention by Claudia Roden, that inspired me to cross the German Schweinshaxe with Spanish roast pork.

Poached Pork Knuckle:

1 pork knuckle
6 black peppercorns
6 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 large onion (peeled)
6 pieces of garlic (peeled)
2 sticks celery
1 carrot
A sprig of rosemary, sage and thyme
2 pints water


Put all the ingredients into a large metal casserole, cover and heat until almost simmering. Next, place the dish into a preheated oven at about 130ºC for about 90 minutes, turning the pork every 30 minutes. This can be done on the hob, but take care not to let it simmer or boil. The ingredients will work for two or more hocks if the pan is large enough.


When poached, remove the hock and strain the liquid to use for gravy. Keep the onion and garlic, but remove the other herbs and vegetables.


Allow the pork to cool, before scoring the skin with a sharp knife. Diamond or square shapes are good.


Spanish pork rub:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera picante (hot)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera dulce (sweet)
6 black peppercorns
a pinch of coarse sea salt

Heat the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until they give off some fragrance – don’t cook or burn them!


Put the cumin and coriander into a mortar, along with the salt and pepper. Grind the seeds up with a pestle, before mixing in the pimentón.

cut and rub

Rub the pork all over with the seasoning and let it rest while you light the barbecue. Save a teaspoon of seasoning for gravy. Let the flames die down before you put the pork on – you don’t want a Towering Inferno.

barbecue pork knuckle

Keep turning the pork for about 30 – 45 minutes. The fat and skin will slowly burst and pop, becoming crackling. Do not let it burn! When it looks brown and crunchy all over, allow it rest while you make gravy.


Cut the onion into four or more pieces, then blend with the stock and garlic. Make a roux with a little olive oil, butter and plain flour, then slowly stir in the stock to make gravy. Don’t forget to add the leftover teaspoon of barbecue rub for a Moorish flvour. Add a splash of sherry vinegar or Märzen beer to finish it off.

Serve with new or roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a glass of Señor de Castillo Gran Reserva, a cherry scented Tempranillo from Valencia.

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Pizzeria Italiana

pizzeria italia

Last week I was looking at nearby towns to visit in Maresme. I’d been through Canet de Mar many times on the train, but when looking out of the window, all I saw was the beach on one side and the main road (N II) on the other side. A page on the internet grabbed my attention when I discovered that the other famous Catalan Modernist architect (next to Gaudi), Lluís Domènech i Montaner had built a house in Canet along with many other buildings there. Montaner is particularly well known for designing the Palau de la Música and Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona.

carrer ample

It was 1.30pm, so I grabbed my camera and got the first train south to Canet (3 stops down from Calella). The journey took longer than expected, due to a problem on the line – normally it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so! I had a quick look around for restaurants on the streets at the bottom of town near the station, but most were doing tapas, burgers or pizza.

pizzeria interior

I turned right into Carrer Ample and came across the Pizzeria Italiana with a good sized terrace and a lot of locals eating.

pizzeria menú del día

I wouldn’t normally go to a pizzeria in Cataluña, but they had a decent looking menú del dia for €11.90 and I was starving. I took a risk and was very pleasantly surprised.

vi rosat

I drank a glass of vi rosat, while I waited for my order.

provolone al for

My starter was a fantastic baked dish of Italian Provolone cheese with a little tomato and herbs. It was heavenly!


The Provolone arrived with bread, which looked and tasted home made – I assume it was baked in the pizza oven. It was so good I scoffed the lot!

canalons de carn

My main course was Canalons de Carn – cannelloni stuffed with a beef ragu, topped with besciamella (béchamel) and baked in the oven. Utterly delicious!

mel amb mató

As if I hadn’t had enough cheese, I ordered mel i mató for pudding – this is a traditional Catalan whey cheese, normally served (as it is here) with a drizzle of honey.


I drank my usual carajillo with brandy for courage and a boost to get me up the mountain after all that cheese.


The bill came to a whopping €16.20 and was well worth every penny!

Pizzeria Italiana is at: C/ Ample, 29, 08360 Canet de Mar, Barcelona.

canet de mar

Fully restored I set out to explore Canet de Mar – above is the main street, Riera Sant Domenèc going up the mountain from the sea. This (like in many Maresme towns) was once a river.

canet beach

Behind me is the beach and Mediterranean Sea.

casa montaner

Domènech i Montaner’s summer house (Casa Montaner) is just one street up and on the junction of C/ Ample, where I had lunch. The house has been turned into the Domènech i Montaner House Museum, though sadly it was closed today – a good reason to return to Canet another day.

There were many other buildings to see, regardless. The above are examples of the houses I passed while climbing up the narrow streets to the top of the town. Canet was once a very prosperous textiles town and the money was used to create some stunning buildings

odeon entrance

Behind the central church (Parròquia de Sant Pere i Sant Pau), there’s a derelict building called the Odeon – this was built by the Canet Company, the oldest cooperative (mutual society) in Spain and it once housed a bakery, general store, theater, cinema, library and coffee bar. The cooperative was founded in 1865, though the Odeon wasn’t built until 1924.

odeon rear

In the 1980s the Odeon fell into disrepair – much of the upper building (above) fell down or was removed. In the last decade the upper section has been restored and there are plans to renovate and reopen the whole building. The back of the Parròquia de Sant Pere i Sant Pau (church) can be seen above right.


I thought I’d more or less reached the extent of the town, but as I walked up Carrer Abell Baix, I noticed a tree lined avenue in the distance.

passeig nostra senyora misericòrdia

This turned out to be Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia, a beautiful street with walkway and trees running down the middle, going up a steep hill.

casa carbonell

Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia is lined with the mansions (and these days some empty plots, where the houses have fallen down) of wealthy industrialists from a bygone age. Halfway up on the right, is Casa Carbonell i Forns, built by Pere Domènech i Roura for industrialist John Carbonell Paloma between 1909 – 1910.

santuari de la mare de déu de la misericòrdia

At the top of the mountain and Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia, is the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de la Misericòrdia, built between 1853 and 1857 in a Neo-Gothic style.

restaurante el santuari

Amazingly, just to the right of the church is a fabulous Modernist building, the Restaurante el Santuari, built by architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1898. Imagine going to church on a Sunday morning and them popping in here for lunch!

fabrica jover i cia

I walked down the mountain and towards the Mediterranean on Riera Pinar, which becomes the main shopping street. I couldn’t help wondering what Fabrica Jover I Cia (designed by Domènech i Montaner) had been like, when it was a working factory in 1903.

casa roura

Finally, I sat and drank a vermut at the bottom of town in sight of the sea. While I sipped my drink, I admired the dragons on the tower opposite of Casa Rourabuilt as a residence for Ricard de Capmany, once again by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Casa Roura is now a restaurant and I believe it does a good menú del día – what a great reason for coming back to Canet! I thought I was drinking in an ordinary Catalan bar with terrace at the front, but when I went in to pay and use the bathroom, I discovered that Bar Blau has a large swimming pool at the back… This is an interesting town!

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Sant Joan


The biggest festival in Cataluña is Sant Joan (St. John), which takes place every year on 23rd and 24th June. This is also a celebration of the summer solstice (albeit two days late), Sant Joan having been born (according to the church calendar) six months before Jesus on June 24th.

església parroquial

The larger part of the celebrations, take place here on the evening of 23rd June (and in many other European countries), so on that morning, I went to see what was going on around the older part of town. In the Església Parroquial (of Santa Maria i Sant Nicolau), they’d made a beautiful carpet of flowers and petals down the main aisle (top picture).

coca de sant joan

I went to buy bread in my favourite bakery (Canapé) on C/ de l’Església, where they were selling Coca de Sant Joan. Coca is a flat bread (not unlike pizza) which can be sweet or savoury. These are particular to Catalan speaking regions, including the Balearics and Valencia. The word coca comes from Dutch and is related to the words kuchen (German) and cake (English). In this case, Coca de Sant Joan is sweet and generally eaten on the eve of Sant Joan with a glass of dessert wine or cava.


In Calella, the Sant Joan celebrations start when the Flama del Canigó (flame of Canigó) is brought down from the mountains, to light a bonfire on the Passeig de Manuel Puigvert (at 21.30), next to the sea.


People sit down to a communal sopar (supper) in the middle of Passeig de Manuel Puigvert, from about 22.00, bringing their own food and drink,


or buying refreshments at the bar. The most common food being coca and botifarra (a typical Catalan sausage, which dates back to the Romans).


Throughout the night there’s a constant barrage of fireworks – you can see how smokey it is (above) during a lull in the explosions.

roman candle

Grown ups and children (of all ages) set off Roman Candles, petardos (bangers) and rockets.

focs artificials

The fiesta goes on until dawn, with people camping on the beaches, eating, drinking and setting off their focs artificial. It’s like a full on artillery battery!
The day of Sant Joan is somewhat quieter.

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Restaurant Diagonal


I was back in Pineda on Wednesday and went straight to Diagonal – an interesting restaurant that I’d noticed previously.

farm and mountains

As I mentioned before, Pineda de Mar, is about a 30 minute walk from Calella. Initially the two towns meet, but after a couple of streets there’s a 15 minute or so stretch that’s just fields of vegetables. There’s a quiet road between the crops – the sea is on the right and the mountains on the left. At the end of the farmland the town starts again and within a couple of streets, there are lots of shops and restaurants.

diagonal menú

I liked the look of the Diagonal menú del día on a previous visit to the town, but Ibèrick’s looked slightly more exciting that day. I’m always interested in discovering new restaurants, so this week I went back to see what I’d missed. The menú del día here is €13.50 for 3 courses, including wine or beer.

diagonal interior

Diagonal is a very modern looking restaurant, with a dinning room to the left of the bar.

diagonal awning

I chose to sit outside on the terrace, which is covered with an awning. It was fantastic sitting out of the sun and with a gentle breeze blowing from the sea.

vi rosat

I’d stopped earlier on for a refreshing vermut, after crossing the Pineda farmland, so here I promptly started in on the vi rosat – they give you a half liter jug of house wine with the menú. It’s quite drinkable.

carbassó farcit de marisc

I ordered a fantastic carbassó farcit de marisc amb salsa de gambes (courgette stuffed with shellfish in a prawn sauce) as my starter.


I made sure I mopped up all the delicious prawn sauce with the rustic bread!

guatlles en escabetx

My main was an excellent guatlles en escabetx – quail in escabeche sauce (see her for my escabeche recipe).


For pudding I had a guilty pleasure – Comtessa. This famous ice cream cake became known by it’s international name, Viennetta in 1998, but 20 years later, has been relaunched with it’s original title.

el pero

I couldn’t help noticing a hungry little dog while I scoffed my dessert.


As usual I finished my meal with a carajillo de cognac for courage and a caffeine kick.


You will see that the total bill came to €15.85.

I thoroughly recommend Diagonal – the food is excellent and the staff are very helpful. I will be returning.

Restaurant Diagonal is at: Avenida Montserrat 19, 08397 Pineda de Mar, Barcelona.


Fortified, I strolled down the road towards the sea and found a nice little square surrounded by pine trees, with a convenient bar. Here I enjoyed my second vermut of the day – Yzaguirre from Tarragona, to the south of Cataluña. This gave me the required energy to walk home.


Last weekend (14th – 17th June ) Calella celebrated it’s Festa Major de Sant Quirze i Santa Julita (the main town festival, for Saint Quirze and Saint Julita). There were fireworks, dinners in the street and a parade of gegants (giants) on Sunday. The above are Calella’s gegants in front of the adjuntament (town hall). All the nearby towns of Maresme, brought their own giants and the parade went down the main street – C/ de l’Església.

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Restaurante Capote

restaurante capote

On Tuesday I had lunch at Restaurante Capote in Arenys de Mar (sands by the sea), three train stops south of Calella and heading in the direction of Barcelona.

riera del bisbe pol

This is an old Catalan town dating back to the Greeks and Romans – I’ve seen the artifacts in the town museum. The main street (where I ate) is lined with trees and was once a river, going from the mountains and down to the sea at the bottom. Note, the yellow ribbons tied to trees and the electricity cables (more on that later).

menú del día

I looked around the town for somewhere to eat beforehand and came back to Capote, which is at the bottom of the street, on the left as you look up. The menú del día here was the most enticing.

capote interior

The interior is quite large – there’s a kitchen to the left and the rear opens up into a restaurant area. Even though it was about 24ºC outside, there were at least 10 people eating inside. The locals do not consider it warm just yet…

capote exterior

I was brave and sat outside – 24ºC is perfect summer weather to me!

vermut de la cassa

I drank a vermut, while I reviewed the menu. I always ask for vermut de la casa – it’s the house vermut, which means that it’s local and often homemade. Sometimes they don’t have one, in which case I’ll drink one as a digestive, somewhere else, after lunch. IMHO Catalan vermut is much better then the imported brands.

mongetes a la marinera

I ordered mongetes a la marinera (white beans in a fish sauce) as my starter. They were excellent!

vi rosat

The wine arrived with my beans – it was a very drinkable house rosado in a half liter garrafa.

lluç a la planxa

My main course was a delicious lluç a la planxa – hake cooked on the plancha (griddle), with sliced potatoes. I particularity like hake – this was cooked to perfection with olive oil, parsley and garlic.

pastel de crema catalana

For pudding, I had pastel de crema catalana – a tart made like crema catalana (which is similar to a creme brûlée). Note here, that the pastel has four dark stripes (cuatro barras) on top, like those on the yellow Catalan flag.

I was sitting eating my lunch, watching the world go by. I couldn’t help noticing that there was a couple speaking French on the table in front of me and that a very well dressed older lady came out from a door next to the restaurant and sat down. It became obvious that the lady was the matriarch and that her two sons and daughters run the family restaurant. The woman speaking French, on the table in front of me, got up to use the bathroom and commented favourably, on the Catalan braces that I was wearing – like the pastel above, they are yellow with 4 red stripes. Evidently, she’s from Barcelona and her boyfriend is French. At this point, the Capote matriarch joined the conversation, saying that she is Catalan Adalucian and that she believes firmly in Cataluña staying part of Spain.

In case you are unaware, there’s a huge political movement for Catalan independence and it can be quite a hot topic. I wear the braces because they were a gift and I’ve always been very well looked after in Cataluña. I also wear a little yellow ribbon pin (lazo amarillo), like the ones hanging from the trees in the picture above, of the high street. I wear this in support of democracy and the Catalan MPs who are in prison charged with sedition for organising an illegal independence referendum. Personally, I believe that the question of Catalan independence is something for the Catalans and Spanish government to decide – it’s not for the likes of foreigners such as myself to interfere. It’s difficult enough when Cataluña contains Spain’s second largest city (Barcelona) and many Spaniards have migrated here over the last century. It’s estimated that over 50% of the Catalan population is of other Spanish regional extraction. The question of independence poses a huge dilemma for many second and third generation Catalans who consider themselves Spanish and Catalan. There are many issues and grievances here, some of which date back to (among others) General Franco’s rule and the War of Spanish Succession.


Fortunately the political discussion was brief and I ordered my habitual carajillo for coraje (courage). At this point a homeless man came round and asked for money. I was quite impressed when the family matriarch (who by this time I’d discovered is 80 years old) took the man inside and got someone to make him some food.


Finally, when I asked for the bill I was amazed by the price – €13.70 for everything. I will be back!

torre d´en llobet

Infused with courage and energy from the carjillo I set about exploring the town properly. Just behind the restaurant, in a side street, I came across an old defense tower (I believe there are two others), from the 16th Century – built to defend the town against marauding pirates.


On the same street as and opposite to Capote is the Ajuntament d’Arenys de Mar (town hall) – built in the 17th Century and originally a hostel and bakery.

església de santa maria

The Església de Santa Maria (further up the main street) was built between the 16th and 18th Centuries and contains a stunning gold altarpiece by Pau Costa.

arenys de mar

The coffee and brandy worked miracles – I walked up tiny little streets and eventually found myself at the top of the town, looking down on the Santa Maria church and port. Arenys de Mar is a major port for fishing, yachting and boat building. Sadly I missed the beautiful indoor market, which is only open in the morning on a Tuesday, but this gives me very good reason to return…

Restaurante Capote is at: Bisbe Pol, 7 08350, Arenys de Mar, Barcelona.

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