I rented a flat in Barcelona really for one reason. I had a fantasy about shopping at the famous Mercat de la Boqueria and then using its pristine ingredients to prepare fabulous meals. As can happen when expectations are high, initially at least, events didn't quite work out as I had hoped.
My main problem was timing. I had arrived in Barcelona on a Saturday night and the markets were closed until Monday. So with high hopes (and nursing a small hangover from too much cava the night before), I headed to the market Monday morning, quite a bit later than I had planned. When I arrived at around 11, the place was overrun with camera-toting tourists. Half the stalls were closed, and there was only one fishmonger. I watched as a the few remaining sellers were bombarded by the paparazzi as if they were Becks and Posh or Madonna. It was depressing and I was devastated. Clearly all the real sellers have left and gone on vacation to avoid the tourists (I was wrong, but we'll get to that later).
So in a bit of a funk, I sidled up to the bar of Pinotxo (located to the right of the main entrance) and plunked myself down on a the same stool I sat on a year ago. A happy welcome from the ever ebullient 70-year-old Juanito Bayen began to cheer me up. He greeted me, as he does everyone, as if I had been coming there for years. Yes, of course, I would like a cava. What's Albert (Juanito's nephew) cooking today? Salt cod salad with lentils (esqueixada) sounds perfect to start. Lamb stew with mushrooms to follow--why not? By the time I had finished my cortado (espresso with a little milk) and said goodbye to the touring musicians from New York who had lunch on the neighboring stools, my spirit had lifted. Pinotxo, and particularly its owner Juanito, has that effect on people.