mooninspain

Food, Travel , Life and more Food in Spain

Archive for the tag “beach”

monkeys and a little sag paneer………..

I have to admit that for many years I could not comprehend why so many people got all worked up about visiting Gibraltar.  Was it the stamp in the passport (that you don’t get anymore), the view of North Africa, or the monkeys stealing their potato chips???  I’m truly passionate about the places that I visit on tour, but it took me years to warm up to Gibraltar.  My first memories involve a temperature as hot as hell with humidity, being crammed into taxis and shuttled up to the top of the rock to have a Chevy Chase like view of Africa, a quick stumble through a cave and then hassled by some monkeys before heading down to Casemates Square for lunch.   I always spent the entire visit dreaming about the next stop on tour, the beach, where I could recharge my batteries a bit and have a swim in the water instead of just looking at it from a rock.  And the Costa del Sol is definitely not lacking in fish n chips if someone really had a hankering.

Many many years have passed since those first visits to the rock.  And at some point my perception changed and I began to appreciate this quirky and unusual bit of the peninsula.  The people from Gibraltar are known as Juanitos.  They are laid back, interesting and always open to a nice chat.  I’ve had some great taxi drivers who were like walking history books.  They have shared their family history with me along with some great anecdotes about Gibraltar.  I’ve enjoyed some amazing conversations with more than a few Juanitos in their mixture of Spanish and English, not that different from my own way of speaking.  The monkeys are adorable.  It is pretty difficult to dislike a monkey butt.

My friend Todd shared a gastronomical secret spot with me many years ago.  It is now one of my favorite places to eat on the entire peninsula.  Really.  I love Spanish food but I truly suffer at times without spice and hot peppers.  My body needs it, craves it and basically cannot live without it. Introducing Mumtaz!! Mumtaz is a tiny, hole in the wall take-away Indian restaurant tucked away off of Main Street.  It has two plastic tables, a few chairs and the best damn Indian food I’ve had in a long time.  I eat here every time I go to the Rock and enjoy every bite.  The sad part, is that I’m always alone which means I have to be limited to one dish with a bread.  I’ve slowly been eating my way through the menu.  Tour by tour.  On my last visit I indulged in a great Sag Paneer, a chapati and an ice cold Cobra as I read an article about Mumtaz in some Gibraltarian magazine. I can’t wait to go back!

needing some warmth………..

Winters in Granada are not as horrible as they can be other places I realize, but nonetheless I get tired very easily of the cold.  I prefer heat, hot sun, sand on my body and a cool drink in my hand.  So, after all too many days of battling a nasty winter flu I have been dreaming of summer.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, sweet and enjoyable summer.  I have many food and cultural posts still for winter but today I need to feel the hot sun on my skin. If only through a blog.  So, my dreams take me back to Asturias where we enjoy spending a bit of each summer vacation.  Hard cider, great food, and a sunny day on a pristine beach are what brings us back year after year.  The sunny day can be a give or take since Asturias tends to be fairly rainy.  But, we usually luck out with sun for 90 percent of the time. 

  Each year we return to the same rural hotel (another post) where we always feel welcome and have a chance to decompress between campground and campground.  From this beautiful home there are hiking trails that will take you to different towns, beaches, restaurants, and the breathtaking look out at  Cabo Penas.  One of our favorite beaches to walk to is Verdicio.  First we stop at a nearby restaurant along the national highway and then we make our way down to the beach area which kindly offers a small hut serving hard cider whenever you feel the need. 

We had a fantastic meal at a cider house,  La Fustariega before heading down for a swim.  French fries ( or chips) smothered in a sauce made with the best cheese in Spain, Cabrales.  Cabrales in its pure form will make your eyes water, nose run and your stinky tennis shoes smell like roses.  It is delicous.  A raw milk cheese that is cured in an extremely humid cave in the high Picos de Europa Mountains until it is covered in mold and  striped with lucious blue veins.  Asturias is famous for its cheese and Cabrales is one that is honored in competitions each year. 

The other typical dish that we devoured before ordering desserts was Pastel de Cabracho.  According to gastronomical history this dish was first prepared by the famous Basque Chef, Juan Mari Arzak.   The fish (black scorpian fish) is boiled first in a stock, deboned and then mixed with a mixture of tomato, heavy cream and sometimes leek and carrot.  It is formed into a pudding and cooked in a double boiler.  It is normally served as an appetizer with homemade mayonnaise.  When it is prepared well, Pastel de Cabracho is not to be missed. 

We ended our meal with two mouth watering desserts.  Simple and delightful.  A creamy rice pudding topped with cinnamon and a typical Asturian cheesecake.  It was the perfect meal to fuel us for our short walk down to the beach where the sun and a cold bottle of hard cider awaited us. 

                         

toes in the sand, shrimp in my hand……

peeling shrimp, big hands and little hands

Some of my favorite tapas are on the coast of Granada.  Since it is still around 90 degrees everyday here, I have the beach on my mind constantly.  In any of the beach restaurants or “chiringuitos”  you can sit down at a table with your feet in the sand, order a beer (or whatever it is you desire), and enjoy a wonderful tapa.  Fresh fish and seafood are the norm here.  I love when I am surprised with a small plate of  grilled shrimp or fried, marinated dogfish.

I remember my first couple years in Granada when we would take the bus down to the beach for the day.  There was something  liberating about enjoying a  cold drink with a free tapa of fried squid and then jumping into the Mediterranean sea merely 5 feet away.  My excitement about this has not faded a bit in the past 16 years. Swim, tapa, swim, sun, tapa, swim, tapa, sun, swim…………ahhhhhhhhh!!

Migas con Sardinas

During the summer months the “chiringuitos” set up an open fire to grill the fresh sardines.  We call them “sardinas al espeto”, sardines on a skewer.  For most of my life I thought I hated sardines (?).  Little did I know about the delicate flavor of these healthy fish.  I prefer the smaller sardines to the larger ones.  The larger ones tend to be oilier and have a stronger flavor.  A favorite tapa here is “migas”  or sauteed breadcrumbs and garlic, topped with grilled sardines.  Sometimes a bit of melon is thrown in. Delicious!

The end of the day……….

Sunset in Cantarrijan

packing up...........


My favorite time to be on the beach is at the end of the day when the sun has just barely set in the distance.  I love the sluggish manner that the families pack up to go home almost with regret or “sin ganas”, without desire.  The end of summer, the shortening of days.  After surviving some of the hottest days of the year, we were met yesterday by clouds on the beach.  Last night the air smelled of cool rain followed by a nice morning breeze.  It was cleansing, but if it were up to me I would extend summer just one month more.  I tend to spend the hottest of the Spanish summer working and then as soon as possible we go straight north to enjoy a bit of cooler air.  Avoiding the Southern beaches in the summer has become a habit.  Too many people, too expensive, too many umbrellas on the beach, and difficult to find an empty bit of sand on any beach.  However, in early fall all of this disappears and the beaches are left wide open to enjoy.  The water has a perfect temperature and the sun still warms enough of your body to enjoy the full day.

The coast of Granada tends to be filled with local people.  The beaches have pebbles instead of sand which at times can be a bit agonizing for the feet but I prefer to look at it as reflexology.  The service in restaurants tend to be typical “estilo granadino” with a bit of grouchiness thrown in with your fried fish.  But for me, it is simply home.  Once you cringe over the pebbly entrance, the water is cool, deep and so salty  that there isn’t a need to move a limb to float.  I can swim for hours.  Over the years I have fallen in love with many secret coves in Granada.  Even on a day where we have little time to go hiking and driving about, in 35 minutes we can be on a beautiful, relaxing beach.  The food comes next…………

view of beach and buckets as we enjoy lunch with our feet in the sand.....

view of beach and buckets as we enjoy lunch with our feet in the sand.....

our favorite restaurant and a stork.......

our favorite restaurant and a stork......

Rabas and Bravas

Rabas y Bravas

Rabas y Bravas

Deep fried food.  Before moving to Spain this was something I ate occasionally in a bar or to cure a hangover.  In Spain however, fried food disguises itself in a way that almost makes it seem healthy.  And, according to many a Spaniard, if it is prepared correctly it is healthy indeed.  You may try to avoid it, try to minimize, but it is always there and always delicious.  Even after 17 years I still haven’t taken up the tradition of deep frying in my own home.  I prefer to leave the dirty work to someone else and enjoy my “fritanga” sitting on a beach or a pleasant terrace.  The smell of my neighbor’s fried fish wafting into my open windows three times a week is as close as I need to be.

Two years ago we discovered a great campground in a national park on the Northern coast of Spain in the region of Cantabria.  From the campground you can walk down to an extensive beach, Oyambre, that allows amazing views of the “Picos de Europa”, a spectacular mountain range.  Last year we discovered a great little restaurant still open in the off season where we enjoyed a menu of the day that included a pinto bean stew and an excellent tuna with onions or atún encebollado, typical along this coast.  When we returned this year in August, the main beach restaurant or “chiringuito” as we would call it here was open.  El Pájaro Amarillo as it is called has beautiful views of the beach from its extensive terrace.  We were looking to eat something “light” on our first afternoon at the beach.  Since my daughter is a huge fan of fried calamares we decided to order “rabas” .  They are basically deep fried squid cut to be straight instead of rings.  We also ordered a “ración” of patatas bravas ( fried potatoes in a spicy sauce).  The fried squid in Cantabria is one of the most tender and delicious that I have had in the country (and my daughter eats it everywhere possible).  But, the patatas bravas were unbelievable.  This is a typical tapa served all over the country in many different ways.  Like my daughter with fired squid, I try to taste all varieties of patatas bravas throughout the country.  What usually varies the most is the sauce.  These were actually patatas mixtas which includes both the spicy tomato sauce and an alioli or garlic mayonnaise.  Both of the sauces were so delicious that we dipped both the potatoes and the squid into the sauce.  YUM!!!  The alioli held enough garlic to ward off the flu for 5 years and the brava sauce was actually SPICY!!!  Something very unusual in Spain.  We returned the next day and ordered the exact same simple meal without one regret.  The beach is beautiful and the mixture of sand, sun and fried yumminess makes it all the more worth the visit!!!

Bonito Encebollado


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