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

294

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

304

308

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

306

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!!!

Tapa Time!!………

Tapas are a way of life in Spain.  Small, simple dishes of food that vary depending on the region and the restaurant.  The word tapa simply means “cover” or “lid” since originally a slice of cheese or ham was placed over a glass of wine.  Whether this was done either to keep the flies out or simply because someone decided it is preferable to have some sustenance along with your beverage of choice, the outcome shaped an important part of this culture.  This is  my first of many posts dedicated to the “tapa”.

Where I live in Granada tapas are free.  Not just in the city, but in the entire province (county).  There are many places throughout the country where you will be given a bite of something when you order a drink, be it olives or a small dish of paella.  But in Granada, the tapa  enters into a whole different dimension.  During “tapa time” which happens between 1 p.m and 3:30p.m. and then again from 8p.m. to 11 p.m. more or less, you are given a free tapa with each drink you order.  In many bars you are simply given a different tapa with each drink where in others you are given a list of tapas to choose from.  The assortment varies from bar to bar and can include anything from fried fish, meatballs, cured ham or a Spanish omelet to fried eggs with potatoes, snails in a spicy sauce or a  small baguette with pork tenderloin and tomato.  The list is endless.

Ham, eggs, potatoes and peppers! A light Tapa!!