Sunday, August 22, 2010

memories from españa


Bread rubbed with fresh tomato, topped with jamon serrano, drizzled with olive oil, grilled, and folded. The #1 most amazing food we ate. 2 euros each.

I went to Greece to see ancient ruins. I remember octopus salad, gyros sandwiches, chicken souvlaki, and ouzo. I remember in Japan golf cart-like trucks, loaded with whole tuna, dashing through the fish market...a steaming bowl of curry ramen...sticky natto...takoyaki carts on the street.

I remember that Laura and Mary in Little House in the Big Woods looked forward to homemade maple syrup poured over snow and that Bilbo Baggins served up scones and cake in The Hobbit.

Please, though, do not ask me what archaeological sites I saw in Crete, or what Bilbo actually did after tea time. I have a horrible memory for anything I can't taste.

Cowboy and I took two weeks this summer to eat and drink our way through Spain. We traveled from Madrid to Seville (and Triana) to San Sebastian to La Rioja (including Logrono) to Barcelona. Here are some of my best memories from the trip:

Cafe con leche, every morning with breakfast (desayunos). Like a latte, it combines a strong shot of espresso with steamed milk (whole by default - and worth it). Normally about 1.20 euros ($1.50 USD).

Tinto de verano, the most refreshing summer drink - one part unaged red wine (joven), one part lemon Fanta (con limon) or club soda. Typically 1.20 euro per glass ($1.50 USD). Paired here with a lomo montadito (grilled pork loin sandwich) at a little bodega in Triana, next to Seville.

San Sebastian was all about the pintxos, Basque for pinchos, or small tapas in the form of sliced crusty bread with delicious toppings, usually involving some - or many - forms of seafood.

According to the tourist books, the pintxos bars in San Sebastian all try to out-do one another in creativity. I found that the places in Parte Vieja (Old Town) served similar (good) fare - but in Gros, on the other side of the bridge, there was a lot more risk-taking (Bar Bergara pictured above).

Pan! Oh, I love a culture that takes bread seriously (I also appreciate Germany for this). Since bread is such a critical complement to so many dishes in Spain, the panaderias offer an awesome variety to choose from. There are no mediocre $4 bricks here. We're talking under $2 for any fresh loaf you fancy.

Jamon iberico, Spanish cured ham from the black-toed pig (the highest quality of which is acorn-fed, jamón ibérico de bellota). At the risk of getting food snobby, I'd describe the experience of eating jamon iberico as tasting a complex Bordeaux or Napa cab, where the flavors unfold, flex and change, and the finish is long. You can find jamon iberico for about 16 euros per platter at tapas bars (they carve the slices off the leg, right at the bar), and, as you can see from the photo of the carniceria above, you can buy it to enjoy at home from 85-168 euros/kilo (or about $50-100 per pound). Just remember that U.S. Customs does not allow you to bring it back to the States with you!


Anonymous said...

You just made me really, really want to go to Spain....

Jackie said...