mooninspain

Food, Travel , Life and more Food in Spain

Archive for the tag “Spanish”

My favorite places in Spain………..Salamanca Part 2 – the food

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Taking a walk through the small yet lively market in Salamanca is the perfect way to warm up your taste buds for an afternoon of tapa indulgence. This University town has tapas to suit anybody’s taste. For a plate of the some of the best ham, chorizo and cheese you should look for Las Caballerizas. It is a student cafeteria in the old stables of Salamanca. Cheap, traditional and delicious.

We always like to make a stop in Casa Paca right of the Plaza Mayor. The pisto (vegetable stew) with quails egg is one of my favorites. My daughter loves the meatballs and the “broken eggs” with ham and potatoes. The bar is the place to be where you can easily choose from the display of tapas but a table can be nice as well to kick back and observe the local flavor.

Pisto at Casa Paca

Pisto at Casa Paca

Sometimes tapas with a modern edge can be fun as well. Last year we stumbled into a place off the Rua Mayor. It is called Tapas 2.0, Gastrotasca. We were needing something green in our lives and were pleasantly surprised by the caramelized goat cheese with veggies. After that there was no stopping us. The crispy chicken leg was delicious and the patatas bravas rank among my favorites. Slightly spicy with a hint of garlic. As my daughter dove happily into the Mac Montero burger we were offered two glasses of Cava and a piece of chocolate cake to celebrate their anniversary. Heaven for us!

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

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Salamanca never disappoints. The beauty of the city mixed with the atmosphere and outstanding food welcomes me with every visit.

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El Abuelo………..a favorite in Madrid.

My dear friend Alex and I spent a few days kicking around Madrid this summer.  We have spent loads of time together in Madrid in the past 10 years but normally we are trailing around with group of 13 year olds.  This time we were alone and free to do as we liked.  Needless to say this involved quite a bit of wine and some great food to go along.  I think the first time that Aex and I met I took him and the other teachers to one of my favorite places in the center of Madrid, La Casa Del Abuelo.  I have been there with many people and  it is also a favorite of my Mom and Sisters when they visit.

La Casa Del Abuelo opened in 1906 and began to offer  wine and “bocadillos” or small baguette sandwiches to clients.  During the Civil War and after there was a shortage of flour in Spain and bread became worth more than gold so El Abuelo began to offer shrimp with wine.   To this day generation after generation have been enjoying their special house wine and shrimp and prawns served grilled, in garlic sauce or fried and served on a stick with a spicy dipping sauce.  The latter is my personal favorite.  Paired with a “chato” of their sweet house wine is a bit of heaven.  A couple of the other “Abuelo” restaurants have a more extensive menu (with the same delicious wine) but I prefer the original spot, standing up and tossing the shrimp tails on the floor.

Alex enjoying his chato of vino!

dear friends and delicious bites………

At the beginning of the summer Luna and I were blessed and invited to the beach with some dear friends.  We had a wonderful time enjoying great food, laughter and plenty of “mini-people” conversations.  The big people conversation usually happened after midnight and only if we lasted that long after a day of eating, drinking and swimming.  If I were to describe all of the amazing food we ate I would have to write a book.  Between the homemade Italian-accented dishes of my friend Carmen and the beach restaurants, my palate, tummy and heart were in heaven.  The homemade recipes are a secret of course. But I have the flavors memorized in my mind.

Two of our favorite Spanish staples are seasoned fresh tomato salad and fried eggplant.  Usually they are pretty straight forward and simple.  But, at the chiringuito (beach restaurant) in Malaga we had the absolute best of both. The “Tomate Aliñado” was a pleasant surprise.  Usually this “salad” is simple sliced tomato with olive oil, salt and fresh garlic.  But this one was extra special.  Fresh tomato, capers, toasted garlic, parsley, balsamic dressing and the perfect bit of anchovies on top.  The surprises didn’t stop at the tomato.

The same afternoon we also had Luna’s all time favorite, fried eggplant.  Under the batter fried eggplant covered in sugar cane syrup was a surprise slice of goat cheese.  When cut up and mixed together the goat cheese and sugar cane syrup made the perfect combination.  Although I always enjoy the traditional recipes in Spain, an imaginative variation can definitely make a difference.  Especially when sharing it with friends and enjoying the sound of waves and sea water on your skin. A view of the Mediterranean also adds a nice touch, especially with a gorgeous woman passing by. She looks like she needs a cold beer! Lucky for her the beach bar has a special cooler to take one down to the beach!!

not your average rest stop………….

There are a few luxuries that I admit I take for granted living here in Spain.  Cheap olive oil, cheap (and excellent) wine, and rest stops along the highway where you can actually eat a great meal of traditional and homemade food.  When you travel as much as we do the latter becomes extremely important.  Like anything else in life I have my favorites, but I also like to discover different spots.  I like to get out of my comfort zone sometimes and stop at a place that may not be estetically attractive on the outside and find out what is in store (or bar).

On a recent trip home from Madrid we decided to stop for a quick coffee some place in La Mancha.  When we walked in I knew that the coffee would have to wait.  I saw a huge bowl of my favorite olives and knew exactly what I wanted with my caña (little beer).  I wasn’t driving by the way.  My daughter decided she needed a few meatballs to make it all the way home and she happily sat down to devour the entire serving herself.  Meanwhile I walked around and marveled at the offering of random items for sale.  These vary from region to region, rest stop to rest stop.  Here they had great hiking boots and knives along with a variety of local pastries.  But, what caught my eye the most was the huge loaf of country style bread and wood burning oven with a huge variety of meats and sausages to choose from.  I’m not a major carnivore but I can still appreciate good meat and a great way to prepare it.  I would definitely stop here again for the olives and with any friend who loves carne!

Ham or Jam, however you want to spell it…………

ImageThe only thing more important in Spain than futbol (soccer) is ham.  Jamòn, be it Ibèrico, Serrano, Pata Negra, de Trevèlez, let ham live!   I have to be honest and admit that I pretty much avoid the average tapas bars in Granada that slap down a piece of ham and bread for a tapa. I don´t like bad ham.  I´d rather drink a cheap wine than eat cheap ham. I prefer jamòn ibèrico but I have also learned to appreciate cured ham from the lower Sierra Nevada Mountain range here in Granada.  Jamòn de Trevèlez.  However, if given the choice, I prefer cheese.  Always have, always will.  All cheese.  Soft, sweet, stinky, hard. I love it all.

When “Jam” first opened in Granada I would walk by the large windows and peer in while inhaling the deep smell of cured ham.  The name of the tapas bar made me laugh.  Ham, but in Spanish with a J.  Finally, one day we decided to give it a try.  I’m yet to be dissapointed by their tapas and cheese platters.

ImageThey have an amazing wheel of Stilton cheese that they fill with Pedro Ximènez, a dark and sweet sherry.  It is out of this world and the reason to order a cheese platter.  It is accompanied by a nice selection of cured manchego´s and reggiano.  The tapas are also delicious.  On one afternoon we enjoyed a great marinated dogfish with red cabbage and teriyaki chicken with a sweet and sour cabbage salad.

ImageImageSave the best for last they say, no?  The bonus dessert at “Jam” is an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  Cured ham covered with dark chocolate and topped with a bit of stilton, a walnut, and a bit of quince paste.  It doesn’t get much better than this!!

got the mojo…………………

I’ve expressed before my obsession with spicy food and the lack there of it in Spain.  I am eternally searching for the exceptions.  After 20 years of searching  I get extra excited when I find a good spicy dish in a typical place.  Because finding spicy food in an Indian or Mexican joint is pretty much a given.  The other day we stopped into one of our favorite local bars in our old neighborhood.  If you don’t get here by 1:30 in the afternoon you can find yourself with your face plastered against the window as you scream out to the bartender for another beer.  Well, the other day we were pleasantly surprised by a new tapa on their list.  PAPAS EN MOJO PICÓN!! I’ve talked about Patatas Bravas before.  These are not the same. The flavor is completely different. Mojo Picón is a spicy sauce from the Canary Islands that is made with garlic, cayenne peppers, cumin, vinegar, olive oil and salt.  Or any other variation on the theme.  The name comes from the Portuguese word Molho (sauce).  And these potatoes were particularly delicious with their homemade Mojo Picón!! Thank you Granada for the mojo!

The Madroño, it’s not just a legend…..

Everyone who has visited Madrid has seen, photographed or met up with friends at the famous Bear and Madroño Statue.  A cute little bear trying with his paw to grab a bit of this unusual and fairly unknown fruit.  This symbol, along with the seven stars that have been known to represent either the Ursa Major Constellation or seven castles that used to surround Madrid, make up the Coat of Arms of this capital city. There are many different versions about why the bear and tree also became part of the Coat of Arms. Some say it is the symbol of possession and power.  My favorite interpretation so far was one that my sister Denise was given late one night in a bar in Madrid.  Something about bears molesting trees. Anyhow, I would imagine that for most visitors this statue in the Puerta del Sol is their first and last contact with a Madroño Tree. But, they can be found all over the country.

The other day we went for a walk with friends near the Alhambra.  We eventually found ourselves wandering through the Carmen de los Martires.  “Carmenes” in Granada are typical homes with beautiful garden areas.  Sometimes Granada is referred to as The City of Carmenes.  This particular Carmen is  very large and open to the public at certain hours during the day. There are beautiful views of the city, extravagant gardens and even peacocks.  It is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet or read a book.  With three kids in tow we had less peace and quiet but we did enjoy the views and had fun tasting the funny fruit off the Madroño trees.  I heard once that if you eat too much of this fruit it can actually intoxicate you.  We didn’t have time for that but it was fun to taste.


wine, history, and nature……….

Is there anything better than the smell of a wine cellar? For me, there are few smells that are equal to that complexity.  A sweet yet profound passion that slowly intoxicates your soul. Usually the first thing I do when I step into a wine cellar is close my eyes and slowly inhale.  It is an aromatic reminder that something beautiful is about to happen.

Recently we enjoyed a visit to a beautiful Wine Hotel just outside of Salamanca. The enchanting Hacienda Zorita is home to a unique winery, hotel and spa.  It was, in the 14th Century, a Dominican Monastery and you can still visit the chapel “San Nicolás de las Viñas” which is home to some of the best wine in the country along with a collection of religious artwork from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  Jaime, one of the founding partners of the Hacienda took us on a guided tour of the winery and then hosted one of the finest wine, olive oil and cheese tastings that I have ever experienced.

After the wine tasting we were treated to a relaxing and informal dinner in the River Cafe.  Since my truly angelic daughter had sat through the very long tasting while quietly nibbling on pieces of apple and delicious bread dipped in golden organic olive oil, it was the perfect meal for us.  A simple cheese plate and delicious arugula salad were her personal favorites of the evening.

The grounds of the hotel were so beautiful that regardless of the subzero temperatures we took full advantage of the walking trails and the beautiful sound of the River Tormes. I look forward to my next visit to Zorita.


from the couch………….

Since my new friend Influenza introduced me to her friend Pneumonia about a week ago, I’ve had to spend way too much time in the house and on my comfy couch.  I’ve read at least 10 books and had time to do about three different meditations a day.  Since we haven’t been able to enjoy our usual “Thursday Tapa Til We Drop” day, my Partner in Crime has come over to spend a couple of exciting afternoons on the couch with me. The other day she brought Anthony Bourdain No Reservations in Madrid to entertain my pathetic self.  Since then I have become an addict.  I’ve watched every possible episode on Spain that he has made.  After being completely nauseated by the Spain On The Road series I had vowed to stay away from any glam meets flan food show about Spain. But Bourdain is hilarious and makes me want to get off the couch and go out to eat!!!

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!

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