mooninspain

Food, Travel , Life and more Food in Spain

Archive for the tag “wine”

distracted in Northern Spain and Portugal………………

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To quote Ani Difranco, ¨ I just got kind of distracted.¨  With a new tour, with a new life, and with just about a new everything.  A good and healthy fresh start. And most of this distraction began up North on a new tour that I have been doing from Lisbon to Barcelona.  The saying is ¨what goes up, must come down¨………….well, not in my case.  I went up and never came back down.  So, since last March it has been the North for me, over and over and over again.  Happy and at home along my ever significant Path of St.James and eager to share every bit of what I love about this special part of the peninsula.  Sometimes our job on tour can feel like a bit of a roller coaster without a place to get off and rest your spinning brain.  But, I think I now have the chance to rest and to share a bit of my experience.

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 From the electrico in Lisbon to a fine port tasting in Oporto, from the majestic maze of the Parador in Santiago de Compostela to the pintxos in the Basque Country.  The Guggenheim in Bilbao to my beloved chamois in the Aragonese Pyrenees.

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This year has been a great adventure in travel, love and of course great food and wine.  All of which will follow soon.

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Warming the Soul and the Tummy

Fabada Asturiana

Fabada Asturiana

Lately I find myself complaining a lot about the cold weather we have been experiencing here. But, considering that much of my family and friends have spent days on end stuck in their homes or sleeping at work due to their harsh weather conditions, I should really just shut up. Our “fairly” cold weather and snow capped mountain does bring thoughts of warm stews and soups to mind. There is nothing better than a steaming bowl of deliciousness to brighten a cold, rainy day.

Garbanzos y Espinacas

Garbanzos y Espinacas

Traditional Spanish food is filled with great stews and soups. We have an amazing selection of beans and legumes and the potajes (stews) that are prepared from these provide a healthy and inexpensive base to the Spanish diet. The recipes vary countrywide but I can bet that many Spaniards would say that their favorite dish is one “de cuchara” or eaten with a spoon. And more than likely prepared by their Mother or Grandmother.

Verdinas with Prawns

Verdinas with Prawns

Lentils are always a favorite of mine as well as the amazing garbanzos with spinach, cumin and paprika in Seville. But the recipes are endless. When you travel to Asturias it is obligatory to indulge in Fabada Asturiana with fat white beans and various pork products. One of my other favorites in Asturias are the “verdinas” or little green beans often prepared with seafood.

The mother of traditional Spanish stews is the Cocido. The ingredients vary depending on the region but the common ones include garbanzos, cabbage, potatoes, various types of meat, and pork fat. Some people enjoy the stew as one plate while in Madrid they eat the soup first with thin noodles and then the vegetables, garbanzos and meat. In an area called the “Maragateria” in the province of Leon it is eaten “al reves”. The meat and vegetables and garbanzos first then followed by the soup. The first time I tasted this cocido was on the Camino de Santiago after my first year in Spain. After that I have enjoyed it in some wonderful picturesque towns near Leon. And of course, any great Spanish stew needs to be washed down with a bold red wine and accompanied by excellent crusty bread.

As the rain falls here in Granada we are about to dig into a delicious stew made for us by a friend. It was prepared with garbanzos, wild mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes. A nice glass of Rioja and Happy Sunday to all!

Trusting your food instinct………….

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I have a serious problem. I am an obsessive menu reader and am yet to find a 12 step program to remedy this. It is impossible for me to just walk into any restaurant and sit down and eat, even if the establishment has been highly reccomended. I need to read the menu. Either the the actual menu itself or simply the food on display. It is one of my favorite aspects of traveling. However, my decision isn’t only based on what is offered on the menu but my simple instincts and how the bar or restaurant makes me feel upon entering. Trusting your food instinct is an art and one to believe in and to keep finely tuned.

On a recent trip to El Puerto de Santa Marìa in Càdiz I had one of these special moments. We had a great lunch at one of the most typical restaurants in El Puerto for fresh fish and seafood (recommended by my dear friends who are on a plane to Thailand at this very moment). After lunch, happily filled on wine, clams and baby squid we decided to take a long walk to the beach. As we were wandering through town I caught eye of a beautiful street sign, Calle Luna, and a great little bar right on the corner. I knew we would have to go back after the beach.

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While my daughter dug into a garbanzo and shrimp stew the owner prepared a marinated salmon with avocado for us that was simply beautiful and delicious. Accompanied by a glass of local white wine for myself and a cold beer for my friend, it was the perfect end to our daytrip.

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Time to Beach It!

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A high of 73 degrees during the first week of November is an open invitation to spend the weekend on the coast. I have become a complete beach whore since I moved to Southern Spain. And I can’t break myself of this addiction. Why would I want to? Our beaches in Granada are pebbly, hardly a grain of sand. Sometimes this can cause excruciating pain as you hobble from your towel to the sea. You simply adapt. And what small bit of foot ache can’t be cured by some great food and wine?

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No meal on the coast of Granada is complete without an “espeto de sardinas” (sardines grilled on an open fire). You have not had a real sardine until you taste these with a slightly smoked flavor. And wash them down with a cold glass of San Miguel beer. This is true beach food.

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A local winery named Calvente produces the perfect dry yet fruity white wine to accompany some clams in garlic sauce and the best octopus I have ever had in my life. Here it is smoked for hours over an open fire then tossed with garlic and parsley and served with a cabbage salad and alioli. This is what weekends are made for!

No reason to skip the cheesecake or crema catalana for dessert. A glass of my all time favorite liqueur over ice to help digestion? Yes please. Patxaran is made with sloe berries (endrinas) and produced mostly in Navarra and the Basque Country but Granada has it’s own small production as well. The best way to enjoy the sunset over the Mediterranean.

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Enjoying the Little Things in Life

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One of the most important things I have learned is to appreciate the smaller moments in life. To be present and relish the time we share with others and also alone. In Spain we have a saying that expresses this perfectly. “La vida son cuatro dias.” Life is only four days long.” Enjoy, and don’t let life pass you by without experiencing it to the fullest. In Spain much of this theory revolves around sharing food and drink. We can always find time to enjoy just a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I have many favorite places where I do this in Granada and in the cities that I pass through frequently.

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There is a beverage and a small bit of something delicious to fit any moment or feeling. A chilled glass of dry sherry served with olives and cheese filled peppers served by a gentleman in a white jacket and bowtie is a nice way to share a conversation with a friend an early evening in Barcelona. Or a bit of hard cider before lunch while peacefully looking out at the Bay of Biscay. And in Sevilla, I love to have a glass of sweet sherry accompanied by a bit of fresh cheese with quince paste and rosemary as I kick back and listen to the lively atmosphere around me. These are just some of the moments that I have treasured along this beautiful road we call life.

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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!

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!!

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.


my #1 for traditional food in Granada……..CAYAO

If there is one place in Granada that has never let me down, it is Cayao.  We were lucky enough to stumble upon this gem when we moved into our second to last neighborhood.  It was love at first sight and we continue to be faithful through the years.  The tapas and  specialty dishes are based on local cuisine, homemade, and always delightful.  The owner and son of a bullfighter, Mariano, treats his clients like close family.  I’ve brought groups, family and many friends here and everyone has always enjoyed every minute and morsel.

It is best to arrive early to Cayao to enjoy a tapa of their fantastic rice with alioli.  But if you don’t the replacements are just as good if not better.  On my last trip before Christmas with my partner in crime we were lucky enough to be in time for the rice.  Our palates were also blessed with the best Tortilla Española in Granada slathered in Salmorejo ( a thick tomato, garlic puree) and accompanied by a cabbage salad dressed with oil, vinegar and pomegranate seeds. Our last tapas surprise were small sauteed potato cakes topped with spinach with raisins and pine nuts and served with a perfect Manchego cheese.  Thanks Mariano.


The regular menu at Cayao is filled with wonderful options that include Salt Cod with fried garlic, fondue, and Iberian pork cheeks in a Pedro Jimenez sauce that is out of this world.  One of our standard favorites is their special Pisto (vegetable stew) which they prepare heavy on the zucchini and garnished with fried slices of bread or “picatostes”.  It is pretty much impossible to go wrong.  They also offer a different daily dish which varies from lentils to a Gypsy stew made of white beans, garbanzos and many pork surprises.

PISTO

For me Cayao is a mixture bar/museum.  I love to wander around and look at the bullfighting posters, newspaper articles and amazing artifacts that are hanging on the walls.  One of my favorites is a menu from 1957 that posts the prices for Tapas in pesetas.  They prices range from 4 to 20 pesetas which nowadays works out to approximately 2 – 12 cents.  Wow.

Cayao is a must visit in Granada.  If there is a Cheers for me in Spain, this is it.  Happy New Year!!!

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