Just over 200 meters away from the icon of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia, is Raro (Carrer de Roselló 407): an antibistro where nicely poured Czech beer, delicious food at a very good price and the extraordinary good vibes of its owners, make this place an excellent stop before or after the mandatory visit to Gaudí’s work.
This finding dates back to the time when we lived near the Sagrada Familia.
It was warm and we were walking back from our jobs, in a very good mood favored by the nice weather and the good vibes of the city; and, adapted as we are to certain Spanish customs, we decided to stop at a bar for a couple of beers before locking ourselves up at home.
And there we saw it. Small, well decorated and with its pretty curious name, especially if we consider that food is served there: “RARO” (means “weird” or “rare” in spanish).
We were immediately seduced by the small bar that overlooked the street, we sat down on the two high stools that seemed to be waiting for us, and ordered what we were looking for: a couple of very cold beers.
What a good surprise
Just arriving at the door, we made an important discovery: the beer was no regular one, here, the beer was Urquell.
The world’s first pilsner. Czech; which is already a declaration of intent (and in this case, with this beer the intent is golden, fresh, refreshing, delicious, excellent).
The experience of drinking an Urquell becomes more intense (if possible) if it is served in that very cold glass, and by a Czech. In this case his name is Radim, one of the owners, who immediately treated us with great sympathy.
As we are chatty people (quite a lot), we soon found ourselves telling each other adventures and misadventures, and so we learned that Radim had lived in Barcelona for years, that they had opened with Rocío, his partner (a charming Argentine girl), this “anti-bistro” they called Raro, just a few months ago.
After having both worked in hospitality for many years, they felt that it was time to start their own project, and we, along with all their clients, thank them, because everything they serve is great.
The name “Raro” comes from the combination of their names; “Ra” of Radim, “Ro” of Rocío. But we believe that it is also a play on words: it is also “Raro” (in this case, “rare”) to find such a good combination of quality, service and good price.
This business was their opportunity to bring people closer to what they knew how to do so well: cook and serve their customers, in their own space, with their own ideas and flavors. Flavors reminiscent of Argentina, the Czech Republic, and also Spanish. All combined to give us tasty, generous dishes at a more than affordable price.
And so it conquered us: with warmth and good beer. In time, we returned to try their meals. And each time they surprised us with fresh products, cooked with dedication and affection, beautifully presented. And they have already become part of our weekly routine. And why not say it, we also became friends.
Raro has a lot to offer: starting with the drinks. Really, it is a pleasure to be able to have a cold poured Urquell in the middle of Barcelona. Care for the quality of the product is key to guarantee a good beer.
But if this is not your thing, there is much more: very good coffee, rich varieties of teas, wines, gin and tonic, a “gazpacho” awarded nationally (which they serve in the summer) and if you take a walk in the middle of winter, a spicy hot wine that takes the cold away and comforts deliciously.
Raro’s menu is not too extensive, nor is it always the same. Its owners seek to discover new flavors and ideas, to bring to their customers.
There is a very good selection of starters, to share or snack. The homemade sweet potato chips with their dressing, or the carrot hummus, are fantastic.
Then come the main dishes: varieties of sandwiches, and its big star: the 200 grams burger, a fresh and fluffy homemade bread, brie cheese, bacon, onion, dried tomatoes, arugula and lamb’s lettuce, accompanied by fried potatoes. In few places we have been able to savor a burger so rich and with such power. And above all, at the price offered by Raro. Amazing.
For those nostalgic Argentines, there is also a variety of “empanadas” and a generous “milanesa” on their menu.
Desserts and farewell
Be careful, do not get full before desserts arrive!
Because the pastries that Rocío makes are amazing and you deserve to try them. It can vary every day: the brownie, a cheescake, cookies, carrotcake or the red velvet … whatever you find available that day, make sure to go for it.
I must confess that sweets are not my forte, I tend to get a little bit sick with them. But Rocío and her sweets have earned a place in my little heart.
The taste of homemade food, especially if it’s made with passion, never disappoints.
And when you think that’s all, that the experience was great and you are ready to take a nap, the best closing comes, shared with its owners. Because that is what makes Raro a very special place: feeling at home, with friends.
Rocío and Radim, generous and careful with their people, invite you to that last shot of a cherry distillate, very Czech and very cold, which makes you fully understand the concept of hospitality, and which invites you to repeat the visit always.
If you want to enjoy this must-see place, just around the corner from Sagrada Familia, here’s their info:
There is a situation that is always repeated in bars and restaurants in Catalonia.
It begins with the order of the dishes or tapas to share, the waiter or waitress takes note of everything, and before leaving he asks the inevitable question: “And bread with tomato?”
And faced with such a simple question, there is always a simple answer: Yes!
You can never miss a serving of bread with tomato on Catalan tables, basically for two reasons: it is delicious and cheap!
Although today it is a dish that everyone enjoys, its origin is very humble. In fact, although some restaurants offer refined ways to taste it, the origin of “pa amb tomaquet” (well said in Catalan), was far from any refinement.
It is the Catalan “pages” (the peasant of these lands) who developed this idea, which is so popular today.
TWO CENTURIES BACK.
Imagine life in the country more than 200 years ago. Nobody thought of bread as an industrialized product like today, this will only come at the end of the 19th century.
In those years, bread was made once a week.
And not in a small bar. No, no. It was a very large loaf, intended to be consumed for days. And we all know what happens to the bread after a few days: it hardens and it is almost impossible to eat.
And this was something those who worked all day in the fields dealt with. In the afternoons, after many hours of effort, the “pagesos” would snack to be able to endure hunger until dinner time. And what did they have on hand?
Stale bread. Impossible to chew.
So they took the tomato, cut it in two and rubbed it against the slice of that bread. The tomato juices softened it and also gave it flavor. A fantastic solution, don’t you think?
That is why, thanks to a very basic need and the hunger of these people, a tradition is born that today is more alive than ever.
“PA AMB TOMAQUET” RECIPE
The best bread, the most typical to eat a good “pa amb tomaquet”, is the “Pagés” bread. That very rustic looking bread, generated from sourdough, which is cut into large slices and toasted.
The tomato is rubbed on each toasted slice: ideally it should be a “penjar” tomato (those are tomatoes hanging), characterized by having a soft pulp that well impregnates the bread when scrubbing.
Then comes the salt and, finally, the olive oil in good quantity, overflowing that bread and giving the perfect final touch.
And those who have been in Spain know that olive oil is a guarantee of unbeatable flavor and aroma.
A clarification: it may happen that in some bars they bring you the ingredients so that you “self-manage” your tomato bread. Among the ingredients, you will also find garlic. If you like it, it’s just a matter of peeling it and rubbing the clove against the bread, before the tomato.
A tip: just a little, do not get too excited about garlic, because it can be very strong and cover the flavors of tomato and oil, the main protagonists of this delicacy.
And now, dig in! What is it delicious?
Easy to make, tasty and with simple ingredients. In other words, the perfect formula for “pa amb tomaquet” to be a success, and that is why it will continue to be enjoyed for much longer.
The origin of the fuet can be traced back to almost 5000 years ago. The Iberians, the first inhabitants of these lands, used the fermentation technique together with the drying of the meat, but the Romans will be its great consumers. And the popular “lucanica”, the Latin name that defined it at that time, will be the one that will give its name to the Catalan “llonganissa”, elder sister of fuet.
Born in Catalonia, the meaning of the word “fuet” is “whip”, that rod or rope tied to a handle to hit horses or mules. But it is also the name of this famous and typical Catalan cured sausage, whose slim and elongated shape (a thickness of between 1 and 2 fingers), is distantly reminiscent of the shape of a whip.
HOW IS THE FUET MADE?
It all starts with lean pork, chopped more or less fine, which is then marinated with salt and black pepper. Subsequently, it is stuffed into a thin casing and cured. The maturation time ranges from 3 weeks to one month.
If there is something that distinguishes the fuet it is that natural white skin that covers it; and it occurs as a result of the fermentation process. Thanks to which fungi are generated that help improve the final flavor.
Now comes the big question: do you eat with or without skin?
And the answer would be: It depends.
Of what? Basically, depends on the origin of the casing in which the meat is stuffed. If it is natural, that is, the tripe of the meat itself, it can be eaten without problem.
It would not be so recommended if the casing is synthetic, which is quite common in industrial production fuets.
THE FUET IS UNIQUE.
Yes, it is true, its flavor is unique, but there are many varieties, and this has to do with the microclimate where the fuet takes place.
Mountain ones, for example, are drier. Those in low or more humid areas (such as the famous one in Vic) have the mold that we mentioned earlier.
But regardless of their precedence, the best will be artisanal, always.
They can be obtained in “cansaladerías”, delicatessen or butchers. Without additives, only meat, salt and pepper. No more is needed to make a great fuet.
Now, if you have already made yourself with a fuet, always remember the following: it is never stored in the fridge.
The ideal is to keep it hanging in a cool and airy place, especially if it is handmade. And when consumed, it must be cut on the bias (diagonally). Some make it very thin, others thicker than “longaniza” (a long pork sausage), but it is always very well accompanied by bread or “bread with tomato” and even in sandwiches.
A glass of bubbly, golden, cold and delicious “cava” is not just a drink that you can enjoy on any terrace in Barcelona. Because as you know (and if you do not know, we will tell you) it’s very difficult to walk around the city and not find a bar with its own terrace.
You will also see that these terraces are always full of people sitting and drinking something. Because the life of Barcelona (and this applies to all of Spain), is in its bars. It is common for us to meet at a bar for a drink after work, before we get home and finish the day.
It is part of the daily routine. One, which did not cost us anything to adapt to.
And although beer is the big star of all bars, in Catalonia you will find many people drinking what most of us buy (generally), only for big occasions or for New Year’s eve: a good glass of “cava”.
Also, if you pay attention, you will see people having their glass almost at breakfast. No matter the time of the day, or the occasion. It is always a good time for a “cava”. That is why we assure you that “cava” in this part of the country is not just another drink.
A LONG TIME AGO…
Catalonia has a history of more than a century with this sparkling wine and, although today its production is not exclusive to these lands, it is here where it was born at the end of the 19th century.
These lands have been vineyards since Roman times, so many things have happened since the region began producing wine. But the great development of this industry occurs in the Middle Ages, and in the 11th and 12th centuries the first vineyards appeared in Penedès.
Why is the Penedès region important?
Because this is where the cava will has its origin, and nowadays it is one of the most important areas in terms of wine production; in addition to being the protagonist of a huge and continuous development of wine tourism.
For a long time, wine production was increasing and reached one of its highest points in the 17th century. During the same years, in France, specifically in the Champagne region, they decided to bottle the wine shortly after the first fermentation, thus making the second fermentation take place inside the bottle.
THE RESULT: BUBBLES! AND SOME CATALAN CHANGES.
The result of this form of fermentation were the bubbles that are so characteristic, and despite some initial failures, they found their way around so that champagne became an accepted and recognized drink. This way of producing the new sparkling wine is known as the traditional or champenoise method.
In Catalonia they begin try this new technique during the 19th century, particularly in the Penedès region. Thanks to the promotion of thel Instituto Agrícola Catalán de San Isidro, the traditional method, created in France, was implemented, but with indigenous grapes from the area, to create a quality sparkling wine: Catalan champagne.
By 1872 the first bottles were already being produced and, soonly after, many wineries in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, today’s Capital of Cava, began manufacture it.
But not everything that comes from France is so good: in 1887, the phylloxera plague, which had already passed through the neighboring country, attacks Catalan crops and devastates hectares of production. In any case “every cloud has a silver lining” say those who know, and the dreaded phylloxera forced to take action on the matter, thus beginning the investigation to find an effective solution. At that time, it was when the introduction of quality white strains was decided, to replace the red ones.
The beginning of the 20th century was a very successful time for «cava», wich gained a popularity that continued to grow and turned it into an export product. However, the name “champagne” was still used for marketing. And this did not sit well with the French.
Champagne (or champagne) responds to the sparkling wine produced in this particular region. And not just any sparkling can be called that, as it is a registred name. This led to a legal claim that would be settled in 1972, during which the name “cava” was picked for Spanish sparkling wines.
Be careful though! Not any sparkling wine can carry the title of “cava”: they must be of a certain quality, made using the traditional method, produced according to certain regulations and from a certain region.
As of today, more than one hundred and twenty municipalities from the four provinces of Catalonia, two from Zaragoza, two from Navarra, three from Álava, eighteen from La Rioja, one from Badajoz and one from Valencia are recognized as such.
SO WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A GLASS OF CAVA AND A GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE?
The first difference is crucial, and it is the type of grapes used in their production.
Cava has three varieties: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.
While in the French version Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are used.
Another important difference is the geographical origin.
The third has to do with the composition: the “cavas” are made with wines from the same vintage. Champagne is the mix of wines from different vintages.
And the last one: time. Cava needs between 2 and 4 years, and the champagne more than 5.
VARIETIES OF “CAVAS”
There are different varieties of “cavas”, depending on the level of sugar added:
Brut Nature: up to 3 grams of sugar per liter.
Extra Brut: up to 6 grams of sugar per liter.
Brut: up to 12 grams of sugar per liter.
Extra Seco: between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per liter.
Seco: between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per liter.
Semiseco: between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per liter.
Dulce: more than 50 grams per liter.
The aging time also counts:
A “Joven” (young) cava takes from 9 to 15 months;
a “Reserva” (reserve), from 15 to 30 months
and a “Gran Reserva” (grand reserve) exceeds 30 months.
A Joven cava takes from 9 to 15 months;
a Reserva, from 15 to 30 months
and a Gran Reserva exceeds 30 months.
A Joven cava takes from 9 to 15 months;
a Reserva, from 15 to 30 months
and a Gran Reserva exceeds 30 months.
Very well, some things are now clear to us.
First: never ask for a champagne on your trip to Barcelona its surroundings. Here we drink “cava”. Well, you can ask for champagne, it is not prohibited, but for that you have other destinations like… all of France in general and Champagne in particular.
Second: if you are a big fan of this drink or the world of wines, don’t miss the chance of paying a visit to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (perhaps the most important area producing quality “cavas”) or to other towns near Barcelona . There are many wine tourism proposals where you can taste the best “cavas”, make a tour of wineries and vineyards, and also discover beautiful landscapes.
Third and very important: Keep in mind that being in Barcelona, you don’t have to wait for anything special to happen in order to toast with a “cava”
The simple fact of being able to enjoy a city like this, deserves a glass of cava and a good toast.
Discovering the exact origin of the name of a city as old as Barcelona, with more than 2000 years of history, is not so easy. Over the years, various scholars on the subject have developed different theories to explain its name. But with few records of the time, it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion.
However, there are some hypotheses and we share them with you below.
Although those who officially founded Barcelona, in the 1st century B.C. were the Romans, these lands were previously inhabited by the Layetans, who had come into contact with other Mediterranean cultures, the sea being the key point of that connection. Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks had already passed through these lands, but without settling.
Layetan coins (Iberian drachmas minted at the end of the 2nd century BC) were found on the Montjuïc mountain with an inscription that, when translated, is the word “Barkeno”. The Layetans, we said, had contact with other cultures, and the Greek will be the most influential, since it was already settled in the north of Catalonia, in Empúries.
That word, Barkeno, will be the one that will evolve until reaching “Barcelona” today.
WHERE DOES BARKENO COME FROM?
That is the big question.
For some, its origin is related to the Barca lineage. Before the Romans arrived, Carthage had already advanced on the Iberian Peninsula, trying to gain ground and recover after the First Punic War. On his way, Hamilcar Barca (or his son, Hannibal, the famous Carthaginian general considered to be one of the greatest military strategists in history), is attributed with the firsts bases of this city with the name of Barca Nova: a new Barca , in tribute and reference to the lineage of his family.
Another version, more “poetic” if you like, involves Hercules, hero of Roman mythology. Legend has it that on their journey through the Mediterranean in search of the Golden Fleece with Jason and his Argonauts, the sailors found themselves in the middle of a storm that destroyed the boats. The ninth boat, Barca Nona, appeared destroyed on the shores of what is now Barcelona. And attracted by the place, Hercules decides to found a city that he will give in the name of that boat: Barcanona … Barcelona, sounds similar, doesn’t it?
However, there is no archaeological evidence to demonstrate these options.
AND WE ARRIVED AT THE ROMAN FOUNDATION.
It occurs, in fact, at the end of the 1st century BC. (around 10 B.C.). Here we do have evidence showing the foundation and its full name: Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino.
Yes, yes, that is the full name of Barcelona.
That of Julia and Augusta refers to the Roman emperor who decides the foundation of the city: Augustus. The word Julia is related to the family of the emperor, the gens Julia.
Faventia seems to be related to a sponsoring character. We are left, then, with Paterna and Barcino, precisely the two words that have generated the most problems to identify their origin.
Paterna is likely to do with remembering Augustus’s intention to found a colony for veterans of his army.
And Barcino … Barcino … Beyond legends, some scientists have related the root of the word Barcino to a Celtic, Iberian or Ligurian origin.
What can be said with a little more certainty is that the Romans have taken the word Barkeno, which we already talked about and that was already circulating in these lands before the arrival of the Roman Empire, and adapted it to Latin phonetics. In this way, the letter “k” is replaced by the “c”.
Now, the last step: from Barcino to Barcelona. We must say that the change was an evolution that went through variations such as Barchinonam, Barcilonam, Barcilona … In the 6th century, when the Visigoths were already establishing themselves in these lands, numismatics and the councils wrote the word Barcinona. And in the Middle Ages, since the 9th century, it is known as Barchinona.
It will only be necessary to let the time pass so that the name sounds like it sounds today.
But if on your tour of the Gothic, you pass by the Cathedral and you find some bronze and aluminum letters that form the word Barcino, then, you will already know why they are there. All you have to do is take your photo, which has become a classic of walks in Barcelona.
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