mooninspain

Food, Travel , Life and more Food in Spain

Archive for the category “Food and Travel”

Open air market, sardines, and the sea…

IMG_4867Just south of one of my favorite cities, PORTO, there is an active fishing town called Espinho.  We have spent quite a bit of time there during the summer months sleeping in our van, swimming and enjoying the fantastic seafood that the restaurants offer there.  I was even coaxed into taking a surf class one morning.  The morning we had our class the waves were huge and the beach had a red flag.  My biggest nightmare became reality.  Miraculously I made it through alive but I stick to body boarding from then on.

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In the mornings we would wake up early to watch the fishing nets being pulled in from the sea.  We loved watching this whole process.  Early in the morning the boats take the nets out and leave them in the sea.  Hours later tractors pull the nets back onto the beaach.  Traditionally this was done using the Portuguese fishing boats and steer to pull the nets back on to shore.  The catch of the day is pulled up to shore and then the people in charge begin to sort, separate and sell to local restaurants or families.  It is so much fun to watch.  Usually it is the men and boys who are separating the fish and the women take care of the business side of things. The atmosphere here is so pure and and the people are living the same way they have for years and years.  If there is one thing that can keep my attention before coffeee, it is the fishing industry in Espinho.  It is a mixture of calm, chaos, confusion, organization and the hardcore daily life of locals.

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Bar in the Fishermen’s Neighborhood

There is a small fish market right next to the local bar in this neighborhood but every Monday in Espinho they celebrate one of the best open air markets I have ever experienced.  For 12 hours each Monday you can find pretty much everything imaginable.  The market expands over a mile long and is filled with local farmers, artisans and the gypsy market as well. The fish market here is absolutely gorgeous.  We met a wonderful woman named Carlota.  We watched as she purchased the fish and then followed her to the stall where she sold the goods.  Some were already prepared for “Caldeirada”: a traditional Portuguese fish stew prepared with an assortment of skate (or any other fish), potatoes, onions and cilantro.

At one point in the morning you could purchase a huge crate of fish for two euros.  Sardines are the best in the summertime.  We would have purchased the two euro crate if we had a fridge in our van but it was probably not a good idea to do that!! We enjoyed them in a restaurant almost everyday without the lasting smell.

The rest of the market is an array of colors and smells and local people selling their items.  You can find the freshest vegetables, bread, cheese, pots and pans, clay cookware, live hens and roosters.  I could go on for hours talking about the products that you can purchase in this amazing market. Instead I will leave some nice photos below to give you an idea.

One of my favorite parts of the open air markets in Portugal is the food that you can eat while you are shopping about. My partner loves having the grilled chicken with salad and wine.  He could eat this everyday of his life.  But, in Espinho we found a great little stand that sold a variety of dishes.  The 50 cent jars of wine went great with a “bifana”, a traditional pork sandwich served with mustard and hot sauce.  We also noticed people showing up with their empty tupperware containers to fill them up with the soup of the day.  Of course we had to try the soup!  One Monday it was “Papas de Sarrabulho”.  At first this may not sound so enticing to you.  It is mashed blood with potatoes and meat from a variety of animals. It is a soup that is prepared in the Northern part of Portugal and wonderful in the winter months.  Like most dishes prepared with blood, it was surpsingly tasty!

We enjoyed the Monday market days thoroughly but they could also be exhausting due to the hot weather.  Usually we followed a morning at the market with an extremely refreshing swim in the Atlantic and a long walk along the beautiful coastline. On the other days of the week we would swim and eat and swim.  We would eat grilled sardines almost everyday.  In Portugal they serve them on top of great bread so the flavor of the sardine soaks into the bread.  You eat the sardine and then put olive oil on the bread and enjoy the wonderfully flavored bread!  We usually followed the sardines with a fish caldeirada. We even prepared it a couple of times on our own over an open fire.  Along with a lovely salad and local wine you really can’t go wrong.

RESTAURANTE OS MELINHOS – CREDIT FOR AWESOME FOOD!

 

One afternoon we ran into Carlota along the boardwalk selling fresh fish.  This a town of hardworking people.  On Mondays she would be at the regular market and then during the week she would go from restaurant to restaurant and house to house selling her daily catch.

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End of the morning work……….time for a beer.

 

 

 

Everything Swiss………….

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Alphitta. Zermatt.

If someone told me that they visited Switzerland and did not like it, I would be seriously worried about them.  Yes, it is expensive. Insanely expensive.  A glass of wine poured out of a thimble costs 15 dollars, fine. A pizza for one person, 20 dollars.  But, you can also have one of the best homemade sausages in Zermatt and beyond for about 5 dollars.  Add a beer or wine. 3 more.  And, everywhere you turn it is jaw-dropping gorgeous.  Every place is more beautiful than the next.  It’s clean, organized and people are genuinely nice.

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Best Rosti with Sausage at Alphitta!

I was so lucky to be introduced to this amazing restaurant, Alphitta, near Zermatt.  The owners are genuine and friendly, the food is outstanding, and the view is unbeatable.  Can’t get much better than this in one day.  My friend ordered a boar ragu that was absolutely delicious but I had to have the Rosti with Sausage and it did not disappoint.  It was prepared perfectly and absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t wait to go back to visit!!

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Cherry Panettone

I especially love the Italian part of Switzerland.  It’s where I feel most at home with the language and the people.  And of course, the food!! My daughter and I make panettone every Christmas so I loved seeing this display of Cherry Panettone that they prepare in the summertime.  I was also served the most beautiful and delicious raviolis I have ever seen (besides my Nana’s) recommended by our gracious bartender, Mario.  Smoked eggplant with mozzarella. They were so good that my colleagues actually ordered them for dessert! I couldn’t repeat so I had BABA, a small cake saturated with a rum syrup. Oh dear, time for a jog!!

Thank goodness Switzerland is best known for it’s hiking and swimming in beautiful crystal clear lakes and I was able to enjoy both of these.  I left Switzerland holding a special place for it in my heart. It’s beauty, cleanliness and culture.  Glaciers. Mountains. Cows, oh the beautiful cows.  It is a small bit of heaven in Europe.  I can’t wait to go back.

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Meditative meal…………

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Yesterday morning I sat down to meditate and it took me a moment to calm my inner monkey.  In that moment I was taken back to the time when I was first learning how to meditate, about 20 something years ago.  The memory and feeling came back as clear as the morning’s light.

I used to go to yoga, thai chi, kung fu up in a very cold Cultural Center in the Albaicín neighborhood.  We finished each class with, what was for me at the time, a very lengthy mediation.  Besides the lack of warmth in the room I also remember every bit of my body from my chest down falling asleep, the kind of asleep where you cannot move and have to massage every muscle to be able to stand up and avoid looking like a new born goat or simply falling down. It took me quite a long time to get used to sitting for long periods of time and to allow my mind to relax into a meditative state.  We would finish class quite late, around 10 or 10:30 p.m. and inevitably at some point I would lose the concentration of my breathe, succumbing to the pain in my legs and become distracted by the growling in my tummy.  This is the moment where I would practice my own meditation focussed on what to have for dinner.  To make it through the end of the meditation and the incredibly long winded post meditation chat from my professor I would take part in my own mental movie.

In my mind I would leave the building and begin the beautiful walk through the narrow streets of the Albaicín enjoying the crisp winter air.  I would pass by my favorite spot, Plaza Carbajales and enjoy the beautiful view of the illuminated Alhambra before making it down to a local food shop located the street that we called the Tea house street, filled with Moroccan shops and tea houses.  My roommates called the shop, la mala follá , refering to what they thought of as the general grouchiness of the owners. I, however always found them quite friendly.  I would purchase one avocado, one tomato, one cucumber and a small loaf of bread.  Eventually I would make it past Plaza Nueva and to my home, the Hostal Colonial, a place that was like living a movie everyday. I would  run up into the lively kitchen to prepare my favorite salad. In my mind this salad would taste so glorious and my little meal meditation would take me just up to the point to when I would hear my professor’s long awaited hand clap that would signal the end of the “post meditation monologue”.  Happily I would join in clapping my hands together and rub warmth into my hands, face and legs and bundle myself up to continue my beautiful journey home to my ritual salad.

Carbajales is still one of my favorite plazas that I pass by whenever I wander through the Albaicín for an afternoon walk.  And the days have long passed since that cold building filled with many memories but the meditation continues, no pain and less thoughts about food in the moment.

 

Good Vibes in Granada………..

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You can’t judge a book by it’s cover (tapa) but a bar you can.

Sometimes in the winter off season from tours I find myself “holing up” and reading books, doing yoga, and being a bit of a recluse in general.  Yesterday was quite different being that I met with a friend for coffee, then went to my class and in the evening met up with another friend for tapas.  Both of my friends that I met with yesterday are the type of people who spread positive energy, and time with them leaves me feeling much better about myself and life in general.  With my morning friend we talked about how negative comments from others are so unnecessary and can really get one down.  We definitely need to choose to surround ourselves with positive influences on our lives.  This made me think about how much I have been through since I moved to Spain and how difficult it has been at  times to filter through the falseness to find true friendships.

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Not long ago we were served this tapa of potato chips and pickled anchovies which also took me on a time travel back through my experiences since I’ve lived here. I had been a vegetarian and then vegan for many years before moving here but when I arrived I decided to expand my food horizons for cultural reasons.  This was the very first tapa I was ever served in Granada.  Having been tortured as a young child by canned anchovies (the extra salty ones) hiding under the cheese on homemade pizzas, I basically loathed the smell and taste of them. One can imagine how I felt when this was set in front of me.  However, like many other things I learned to love them. I remember everything about this moment and the bar where I was having tapas with friends.  At Seis Peniques they would serve 3 free tapas instead of 1 with every drink,  and it was where we took Sevillana dance lessons in the basement. It was also where a close friend of mine ended up working as a cook in the kitchen and he was taught the “secret” to the amazing Salsa Rosa.  Ketchup and Mayonnaise.  We laughed for hours about that one.  Since that first tapa I’ve had many positive and negative experiences, both with people and with tapas.  These two subjects can give you the same general feelings.  They can be dissapointing and make you feel really awful or they can lift you up and make you want for more and more.

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One of my favorite discoveries in Granada was taking the bus down to the beach and being able to enjoy a tapa at one of the chiringuitos in the sand.  I felt like I was in heaven the first time I was served a cold beer with a tapa of fried fish and was able to jump into the sea between drinks.  This is still one of my favorite ways to enjoy a day off.   The best part is that if you are served a tapa that you don’t like you just might have a friend stop by to enjoy it for you as was the case for me one day.  A small friend but very helpful.

Cheers to my uplifting encounters with dear friends yesterday and to my friend Melissa who lifts me up and encourages me from far away!!

elegance and quality on the Camino……..

 

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From personal experience, this yellow arrow will always lead to somewhere magical. On one of our many excursions to Portugal we found ourselves on “La Via De La Plata Portugues”. This Midevil Route of the Path of St.James led us to the beautiful city of Braganza in the region of Tras os Montes, Portugal.  This city with human settlement dating back to the Paleolithic Age welcomed us with Christmas music played in speakers on the streets, an open fire in the plaza to warm our hands and its incredibly well preserved Castle dating from the 13h century.

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We spent the night in the Solar de Santa Maria, a small hotel placed in the old home of the chief of police from 1639.  The owner asked at what time we would like breakfast the following morning.   When we came down we found the best spread I have ever seen,  set up just for the two of us. Homemade jams, Christmas sweets, fresh fruit, rolls and a variety of local cheese.  We rate hotels by their breakfast and this is definitely sharing the number one spot!

A few more pieces of my Granada………

During and after the holidays  is a time for me to regroup a bit and enjoy some down time before the tourist season begins.   The weather has been unusually beautiful even for Andalucia.  We always take advantage of the warm sun to explore some of the small towns and nature that we have a stone´s throw from Granada. We can hike or bike to Pinos Genil which is a beautiful small town on the river known for its outdoor terraces where you can enjoy lunch or just a small tapa.  The “huevos rotos” are especially good at La Taberna de Guillermo.  Sauteed potatoes with excellent Serrano ham and fresh eggs. The eggs are served fried and whole on top and you cut everything up with a knife and fork hence the name, Broken Eggs.  Here they let us use their homemade hot peppers to put on top which makes us extremely happy.

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Since my daughter Luna “adopted” my bike a couple of years ago I have not had my own until this Christmas. Thank you Santa.  To celebrate we biked to Fuente Vaqueros, the birth town of Federico García Lorca, a prominent poet and playwright who was assassinated by the Nationalist troops in the Spanish Civil War. From the path along the Genil River you have a perfect view of the snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada. In the afternoon we stopped to talk with a shepherd who was out walking with his 180 goats.  He was a happy man who mentioned that the day would be perfect if he could spend it sitting on an outdoor cafe drinking beers with his wife.

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One of the most pintoresque drives in Andalucia takes you from the city of Granada down to the Mediterranean Coast passing through the mountains and the Tropical Valley.  It is called the Carretera de la Cabra, or the “Goat Road” in English.  There is a beautiful hike down to the Rio Verde and a few small white towns that are yet to be discovered by the masses.  We usually stop in a couple of those along the way to the coast.  In the town of Otívar we have a glass of one of my favorite wines which is quite strong.  It is called vino de la tierra, wine of the land.  Here it is pink and harsh.  A dear friend from another town close by laughingly commented, “be careful or you will end up asleep in the valley.”  That same friend directed us to a bar in Otivar to taste their award winning tapa, grilled eggplant with goat cheese.  IMG_3273

“UNDERSTAND ONE  SINGLE DAY FULLY , SO YOU CAN LOVE EVERY NIGHT”

                                                                                                   – Federico García Lorca

local, cheap, and good!!!!!!!!!!

Yesterday I was just thinking about a new blog post to catch up on the last couple of years.  As I flipped through photos and memories I couldn’t quite decide where to begin; Naples, Portugal, Switzerland or Granada.  In the evening my new roommate/adopted daughter was talking about the dishes she misses most from Portugal and mentioned this wonderful traditional cod. It was quite random that I had this blog post saved as a draft with this photo. So, here is one of my favorites as well from a lovely little restaurant near my old hotel in Lisbon. Bacalhau com grao. Boiled salt cod with garbanzo beans, boiled potato and served with chopped raw onion and parsley. I like it with piri piri but I usually break all food rules when it comes to hot sauce.  More to come and Happy Sunday!!!IMG_9465

More Pieces of My Granada………..

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

The cave where I lived………

 

We all have places in this world that enter in our hearts and never leave. I have a few that come to mind. Simply closing my eyes I can take myself back to certain sounds, streets, mountains or sunsets. My sister Georgianna has always joked around saying that I can only live in two cities, Granada or Flagstaff, Az.  Hopefully I will prove her wrong one day but she knows me well. They are the two places that cling tightest to my heart.

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The “Poppy” Fountain

Granada is unique in this world, one of the most beautiful cities without a doubt. I have been lucky to live in almost every neighborhood in the city.   The best was without a doubt , Sacromonte. A magical neighborhood of caves with the best view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The fountain next to my old cave home says,  “How I would love to be the fountain in my neighborhood, so that when you pass by and drink I could feel your lips close.” The history of cave dwellings runs deep in this part of Spain, Sacromonte dating back to before the 16th century. In 1963 this Gypsy quarter was almost completely destroyed by severe flooding but today life is still thriving in its bars, flamenco and cave homes. It is our favorite “city” hike especially on a sunny day.

 

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View of the caves…..

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Caves and Mountains…

Passion, Port and the Douro Valley

img_4830The Douro Valley in Portugal is known for its prolific wine production which is eventually taken to Vila Nova de Gaia near the city of Porto and stored in the wine cellars.  Traditionally the wine was transported there by “rabelos”, a cargo boat native to the Douro region.  The microclimate in this area also allows for the production of olives and almonds.  The rolling hills along the river provide fantastic scenery to enjoy a cruise or a train ride.  This summer we enjoyed both of these and a great pass through lock of the Regua dam, one of fifteen dams that exist on the river.

We parked our van in the town of Pinhão from where we were able to explore much of the valley and enjoy the excellent wine.  Right in the small town of Pinhão is the Quinta do BonFin, one of the many winery’s owned by the Symington family.  Eventually the grapes will end up at the Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.  Here we enjoyed one of our favorite afternoon drinks, “Porto Tonica”, white port with tonic water and a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick.  The views from Bomfin were absolutely beautiful!

 

I have a minor addiction with tiny towns in the middle of nowhere.  From Pinhão you can hike straight up hill to the well-preserved town of Provesende, home to 356 inhabitants. This town dates back to the time of the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula.  They say that the  name comes from the last Moorish King of the area, Zaide. The town is pintoresque and loaded with history. You can see the Pillory from 1573 , the granite fountain and the Manor homes which remind us of the wealthy families that resided in this area.

 

One of my favorites parts of this town were the trash bins on the streets that are actually the baskets that were traditionally used to collect the grapes during the harvest. What an outstanding idea! We also hit the jackpot for lunch in Provesende.  The main restaurant in town was already closed but the owner offered us a “light snack”.  Before we knew it we had a spread in front of us of ham and cheese, local olives served with a sugar cane honey to dip, vegetable soup, bread and local olive oil, sliced apple sprinkled with bee pollen, and a local sausage called Alheira.  Don’t forget the wine, we are in the Douro Valley!

  • Dedicated to my Smithsonian group that I was forced to abandon due to minor injury.

 

Illegal in Lisbon……………

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One of my favorite past times is researching restaurants. Local and traditional are important to me especially to recommend great places to my guests so that they can enjoy good food in non touristic places. But, for myself and my family I love to find the best Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and Japanese just to name a few. I love spicy food and I crave vegetables especially when travelling. A couple of years ago we found our new favorite Chinese restaurant in Madrid and I was trying to find something equal to it in Lisbon where I spend quite a bit of time. Bingo!! What I came up with was ¨Lisbon´s Illegal Chinese Restaurant Scene¨. It sounded like my Chinese food dream as I read through the article.

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My love and I had a whole afternoon and evening free in Lisbon not long ago and I could not wait to see if we could find the Illegal Chinese Scene! He knew the neighborhood well but had never heard of the Chinese restaurants. We had a beer in the colorful plaza of Intendente before wandering down the street to hunt for our destination. We finally saw a building with a few windows where we could see a some people sitting at tables. We walked into the dark stairway and saw a black arrow pointing to one door. My love knocked on the door and said to the kind Chinese girl who answered that we were looking for the illegal restaurant. Maybe not the best choice of words but we did laugh about it quite a bit. Her answer was a simple no and she pointed upstairs. I decided to take a different approach and said that we wanted to eat to which she responded by opening the door wider and leading us to a table.

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Everything that we ordered was delicious and authentic. Pork dumplings, Tofu with Vegetables, and Kung Pao Chicken. Fresh and colorful and the by far the best Chinese I have had in years. I will return again and again. Not only is the food great in a unusal setting but the neighborhood is one of my favorites. I love the slightly grungy streets spotted with Indian and Chinese restaurants. It is worth it just for a walk and people watching.

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