Mariño

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Bar Mariño

The Food Hounds got an invitation we could not refuse from our mate Idoia to join her on a Sunday luncheon excursion to Bar Mariño in Irun. Bar Mariño has made a name for itself (and deservedly so) for having a way with pulpo (octopus). There was no way this was not going to be fun…

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Octopi in the House

Post a short hop on the E22 bus, we toddled our way to Bar Mariño & it was hopping. Sunday is a BIG family day in Spain and it was quite clear that many of the Irunian/Hondarribian families had descended on Bar Mariño…fortunately our mate Idoia had made a reservation and seemed to be known by just about every one at the bar & all those who worked there. She’s as local as local gets…

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Pulpo! Pulpo! Pulpo!

We did not waste any time & put ourselves in the most capable hands of Idoia & she ordered away for the table. Two steaming hot plates of just cooked pulpo quickly arrived at the table along with a fat carafe of local white vino that Idoia said was perfecto with pulpo…no arguments there. So we tucked in, and tucked in again & again & wiped up the savoury juices with crispy, crusty bread…Dios mio.

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Mushrooms, Lamb and Veal Courses….

Then to balance it all out we went a wee bit veggie with some wonderful sautéed mushrooms followed by super tender, slow cooked veal & lamb…dropping off the bone it was, just dropping off the bone. And the bread came to the rescue once again as some much needed juice mops. I could almost say no plate cleaning was required by the kitchen staff…

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Outside & In…

So if you ever find yourself in Hondarribia or Irun and you fancy some serious taberna food with a speciality of pulpo, turn on your GPS tools (it is not easy to find) & locate Mariño. You will NOT be disappointed….we are most def going back!

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Road Trip – And Finally, Burgos…

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Beautiful Burgos Cathedrals

Burgos was the last stop on our road trip but not in any way our least favourite. Burgos was named Spain’s gastronomic capital in 2013 and that was a primary reason to stop in & verify that title! We were once again more than adequately informed with hot spot details from Restless Fork blog…so off we went.

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Los Herrero’s…

We arrived a wee bit late into Burgos as our old Land Rover Gertie fails to attain the highway’s top speed of 120kmph…she’s a wee bit more like 90. And it proved to be a seriously long haul from Porto to Burgos. So as we set off into our first night, we were a tad tired, dazed & confused, so we sort of wandered aimlessly, searching for one of Restless Fork’s choices – El Morito. We found it, but unfortunately for all involved (us & our Jack Russell Billie) they do not allow dogs. We put it on the schedule for the following night when we would be sans Billie…But the bartender @ El Morito was more than helpful & scribbled out a list of places we may have some success with our wee canine. That took us to Calle San Lorenzo & Mesón Los Herrero’s. And what a winner…bustling with local folks, bar stuffed to the max with tasty tapas, excellent wines by the glass (the David Sebastian Crianza was a serious find) and Billie was welcome! We closed out our first night here…to bed, to bed.

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Juarreño’s Pastelería – Plaza Mayor, Burgos

Up very bright & early for Burgos town we made a bee line to a very highly recommended establishment – Juarreño’s. The description we had in our notes said a bun fight has been known to break out as the folks get impatient for their sweet tooth indulgence. But we were warmly greeted, quickly served & tucking into some excellent pastries (Hound #2 said it was the best custard she’d tasted in years) and hand warming coffee.

We had a good Burgos wander taking in the castle atop the hill offering us excellent views of the city, the gorgeous gothic architecture and Burgos’s love affair with statues & sculptures. Burgos has a beautiful wee river flowing right through the city centre with a nice bit of grassy land to either side (excellent for Hound #1) and reed beds & wonderful plantings. Spotted about 3 or 4 trout too – excellent.

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Burgos Views

As lunch time rolled around & we had strolled most of Burgos’s Old Town streets, we went in search of another recommended eatery – La Favorita. And once again our gastro advice was spot on and after several dead ends, we arrived to a smashing tapas bar with wines to match. We met a very nice local fella who was a photographer & had lived in New York City for 10 years he graciously guided us through the various tapas on offer & also changed our wine order to a better value drop & then proceeded to shout us a couple of glasses. Burgos – your folks are great.

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La Favorita – Burgos

Post our La Favorita nibbles, we made one last shopping pit stop before our afternoon rest – El Lagar wine shop. One of my minor passions since moving to Spain is to track down & explore the Mencia grape from the Bierzos region just outside of León. And this shop had an excellent selection of Mencia as well as many other wines from Spain – and the owner once again ticked the ‘nice folks in Burgos’ button.

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El Lagar Wine Shop – My 2 Menica Bottles on the Counter

With the final destination for our final Burgos night already decided (El Morito), we decided to make a few warm up stops. First on the list was Pecaditos which was given a two thumbs up by the friendly chap we’d met at La Favorita – he told us it was the bargain drinking & eatery in town. And he was spot on – they were running a tapas & a BIG caña of beer special for €2! Nuff said – we ordered & ate.

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Pecaditos – Tuna with Pimiento & Fresh Made to Order Roasted Pork Kebab

Then we took a very short wander & came across El Pez situated right next to El Morito – easy peezy. And it continued in the theme of ‘Burgos has very nice folks’.

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Gastrotienda El Pez

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El Pez – One of our Faves…Sweet Folks.

I ordered a glass of tinto wine but Hound #2 was itching to try the local vermut as a low alcohol alternative to the sometimes too sweet mosto. Viola! El Pez brews there own so a glass was quickly ordered…and followed up with 2 wee packets of chorizo & sausage – gratis! As well as a small bowl of bread stick crackers to go with our tapas & beverages.

Then it was on to El Morito…..

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Cervecería El Morito – Excellent.

Morcilla (blood sausage) is one of the region’s specialties – so we figured the best place to give this beast a try was El Morito. Not bad at all – both of us thought it tasty as and not at all hard to swallow unlike a few our of experiences with a full cooked English breakfast.

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Popular? You bet – plates that would feed an army.

Then it was on to the mains – and to say they were big plates would be an understatement. Hound #2 went with the roasted veg & gulas (supposed to be baby seals but just pressed fish) platter while I leaned towards the seafood side with some perfectly cooked calmari. We finished the plates & stumbled & rolled our way home…

So if you have never been to Burgos then you must put it on your ‘to do’ list – the folks are just so nice…you will not be disappointed.

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Burgos – The End….

Road Trip – Next Stop, Porto…

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Porto – Tower View

Our drive to Porto, Portugal was non-eventful but driving in Porto was what I would call a ‘day from hell’. A game of musical parking spots is constantly being played out with what seems like 10,000 cars looking for 100 spots. Folks were double & triple parked – some reading books! And our Google Maps was down for the count as we had lost our Spanish cell phone carrier once across the Portuguese border. We finally opted to pay up for the roaming charges & got back on course after several circular round abouts & dead ends & arrived at our home away from home – Yours Guest House. It was a peaceful oasis in the heart of the old town. Not only was the room lovely, but there was a great lounge area and and amazing terrace. The staff were delightful, helpful and informative. One of the highlights of our trip was staying here.

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Yours Guest House – Estupendo!

After a filling dinner at a local establishment recommended by Yours Guest House, we had a great night’s sleep & awoke to breakfast that would please anyone’s gullet. Cereals, fresh fruits, cheeses (mozzarella, brie, gouda), charcuterie, juices, pastries & cakes and of course excellent hot coffee (and milk!).

Then it was off for a walk to the Bolhão Market….

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Porto’s Bolhão Market

Any city or town that we visit, if it has a market, we are there. Markets are just such a fascinating place & process to observe & partake in, having been in or part of all cultures in some form for thousands of years.

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Bolhão Market – Fish Stalls….

The only bad thing about being at a market such as this is we are not able to cook  or nor do we have access to cold storage – so we are a wee bit limited on our purchases (still made quite a few – yeah!).

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Bolhão Market – Fruit & Veg…One of those Garlic bunches hangs proudly in our kitchen…

With our appetites whetted by the market, we proceeded on a zig zag, random walk in search of some lunch. We had read about several places in Porto worthy of a visit, but the one that ticked our boxes that day was Bugo Burgers. All the burgers listed on the menu were soooooooo tempting, but it was the Black Angus that seduced us both – no mistake was made in that choice. The absolute best burger either of us had eaten in years….

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Bugo Burgers – Sensational!

We’d heard from many of our Hondarribia mates that Porto was super cheap, but we found that like many destination places the tourist can take a serious whack. And in Porto, if you stay in the Old Town section or stroll the river waterfront the prices will or can be substantially higher. So with great pleasure we were more than happy to stumble into Casa Santo António (with help from the Guardian) which was just around the corner from Yours Guest House. The Guardian called it perfectly – ‘a “gourmet tasca” with a friendly vibe and great regional ingredients’.

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Casa Santo António

For €16 we dug into 3 main dishes with 2 sides of beans & sautéed carrots and a half litre of the house red…we had found our food nirvana.

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The Meal Deal To Make Ya Squeal…

The next day we opted to explore some new territory outside of the main town & caught the #500 bus out to the city park in Foz and had a leisurely ocean side stroll (in perfecto weather for December!) back into town.

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Beach Walk…Ferry Ride.

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Riverside Beverage Stop…

We’d also highlighted another dining gem in the Guardian guide called Taberna do São Pedro (4400 603, R. Vasco da Gama 126, São Pedro da Afurada, Portugal) which was just a short ferry ride across the Douro to the fishing village of Afurada. You know you’re in the right place as you depart the ferry and the smell of wood grills & smoke’n fish engulfs you…

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Taberna do São Pedro, Afurada

It does not get much better than this folks – street side table (in December!) with perfectly grilled, fresh fish & chilled white wine…Eso si que es la vida!

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Fresh As Fish Cooked on A Grill – Hard to Beat.

Post our piscine lunch, we strolled back along the River Douro to pay our passing respects to the port houses that are stacked up the hill & managed to nab a LBV from Niepoort and my steady fave – 6 Grapes from Graham’s…excellent winter drinking.

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View from the River Side of the Port Houses

Our final gustatory pleasure was at the wonderfully idiosyncratic establishment called Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) which sits atop a parking garage and has multiple rooms where there might be an exhibition in one or a DJ in another or you can just eat. And eat we did – pizzas are a house speciality here so that is the way we rolled & washed it all down with some delicious reds @ €2 a glass – now we’re talk’n.

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So if you have never been to Porto – go! Hopefully we will be back to see some more of what Portugal has to offer…

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Infamous Portuguese Tiles

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Porto Pics

Road Trip – León’s First Up…

As part of Hound #2’s birthday celebration, we sorted out a week long road trip to León, Porto and Burgos (in that order). León was our first stop, and what a great first stop it was. We were very blessed with some spot on info from the Restless Fork blog (and excellent weather), so armed with their secrets of León, we hit the streets…

 

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BPS – Billie Positioning System…

We undertook this journey in my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie to us) which was a bit of a stretch for all involved, including Gertie. But she’s a trooper & got us there in the end…and we arrived to the most beautiful sunset which showcased one of León’s jewels, the cathedral.

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The Essence of Beauty…

And our great impressions continued with a warm, warm welcome at Le Petit León Hotel – located at the epicentre of the the old town action – just minutes away from the cathedral, tapas bars & restaurants and much of the old town sites…and a hop’n in house bar!

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Hotel Le Petit León…Perfecto.

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Le Petit León’s In House Bar….

We quickly got a bit lost in the crooked & narrow León laneways and somehow managed to stumble into La Despensa de Lorenzo as our first stop – and what a great first stop!

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La Despensa de Lorenzo – Fenomenal!

The place was chocka with León’s finest small goods (including a decent selection of local Bierzo Mencia vino), especially the cecina (the Spanish version of bresaola) which is what a good mate had ordered us to try. The shopkeeper was more than obliging, hoisting up 2 serious slices of cecina on some delicious bread. As we savoured those savoury bites, she continued to ‘force’ upon us various samples of their chorizo, salchichón and local cheeses – almost a meal all on its own. And not to be left out of the festivities, she insisted that Billie partake in the fun – lucky dog…

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La Despensa de Lorenzo – Gratis Nibbles…and Billie Too!

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Queso With A Sense of Humour…

Semi-satisfied, we pulled ourselves together and headed off in search of our long list of tapas bars par excellence. León is one of the cities in Spain where if you buy a beverage, your tapas is FREE! The tapas range all over the board from a bowl of potato chips or cocktail mix nuts to generous portions of sliced bread & charcuterie to tapas that clearly took some effort – like a gazpacho tomato soup with crispy shallots on top (El Colibrín Bar) or a steamy plate of paella (Camarote Madrid) or the calamare bocadillos (Monalisa).

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The Hummingbird Bar

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Selfie @ El Colibrín Bar – León

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Camarote Madrid – León

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Paella @ Camarote Madrid…

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Bar Correo – León…Super Wee Wine Bar & Friendliest Staff

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El Rincón del Gaucho – León…Packed with Locals & Excellent Tapas…

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Jamón, Jamón – León…Specialist in Tasty Charcuterie & Right Next Door To Our Hotel – Too Easy!

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El Tizón – León – Old School Tapas Bar…

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No Dogs Allowed Sign on Door – 10 Minutes Later Owner Waved Him In!

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Monalisa – León – Best Bocadillos Tapas of Calamare and Chorizo…

So if you have never been to León or had no idea you needed to go to León, go. You will drink good vino on the cheap and eat for pretty much free…and have a marvellous time strolling the old town neighbourhoods.

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León’s Stunning Architecture…