December 20, 2011

Tapa Hopping the Nation's Best Tapas and Pintxos

Incredible "Jabón de pato" pintxo at Los Zagales Restaurant in Valladolid
This past November I again had the opportunity to attend the incredible National Pintxos and Tapas Competition that is held annually in the city of Valladolid, in Castilla Leon. While the competition itself is absolutely amazing, this year I focused my experience on visiting the local bars and restaurants that were hosting the competing chefs from all over Spain and providing the opportunity to taste their winning creations. Not only does the city boast a lively nightlife and ample tapas scene, but also, being able to actually taste the competing pintxos added a level of complexity to my understanding of the event itself.

Read more in Small Wonders in Valladolid on Foods From Spain.

December 15, 2011

Puckering up to Spanish grapefruit

One of my favorite winter treats has always been grapefruit. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my father's from Florida, but as children we used to eat half a grapefruit on winter mornings slathered in our own honey. I love the fact that the fruit makes its own handy breakfast bowl and the utilitarian beauty of the serrated grapefruit spoon.
When the magazine asked me to do an article on Spain's growing grapefruit, or pomelo, industry, I was completely shocked. I had never seen people eating grapefruit here the way that they do in the States (or at all really) and had no idea that it was such an important crop. Of course it's not surprising given the importance of other citrus crops such as oranges and lemos along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
A four-hour train trip down to the beguiling and tropical town of Murcia, with it's ridiculously good vegetables and tapas scene, revealed the extent to which this delicious and tart fruit is blushing its way across the countryside.

Read more in Pulp Non-Fiction: Grapefruit, Spain's Other Citrus, from Spain Gourmetour Magazine on Foods From Spain.

December 14, 2011

Tis the Season for Turrón

Turrón de Jijona being made in the traditional boixet at El Artesano
I confess that I personally have never really developed a taste for true Spanish turrón. I want to, I really do. In fact, every year I make E give me a bite of his to try, but to no avail. This method worked with patxaran, a somewhat bitter and sweet (but interestingly, not bittersweet) Spanish liqueur - I tasted a sip from my friend Josh's glass for years and now can't get enough of the stuff.
Of course I have never had much of a sweet tooth, and so the honeyed sweetness of turrón is too much for me. I do like it, but just have never felt the intense love that most of my adopted countrymen have for this holiday treat. I can however, appreciate the history, tradition and incredible ingredients of this classic Spanish sweet, whose origins trace back several hundred years.
This appreciation is especially true now that I've visited the town of Jijona, Alicante, a delightfully smelling town that lies at the heart of Spanish turrón.

Read more in Turrón Temptations, Tasting the Holiday All Year Long, from Spain Gourmetour Magazine on Foods From Spain.

December 11, 2011

Now This is Grilled Octopus!

While on the subject of octopus, I thought it might be nice to give people a 'taste' of what a real grilled octopus dish looks like. This photo was taken on the island of La Graciosa, off the coast of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Grilled octopus is a specialty in Lanzarote and I have to say it was the most delicious pulpo I had ever sunk my teeth into. The outside was crispy and smokey, as if almost caramelized by the heat from the grill, and the inside was soft and tender. While the Canaries do tend to be cheaper than Madrid, if I recall correctly, this plate cost around 8 Euros. Amazing.

December 8, 2011

Clarita: Overpriced Octopus Category

I can't remember the last time that I went out to dinner and my greatest regret of the evening was not having had taken a photo of the octopus.

The pulpo, or octopus, dish was tasty, I'll give it that, but it was also so incredibly overpriced and ridiculously tiny (think 1-2 bites a person for a group of four) that I kept expecting it to jump up and sing Dixie, just to get my money's worth.

Truly anyone would have been shocked and appalled to pay 16 Euros for the one (small) tentacle of grilled octopus that came out on a massive plate accompanied by four, lackluster acorn-sized boiled potato cubes and a squirt of mango cream. This was hardly the fancy sounding dish that was advertised on the casual sounding menu for 16 Euros, but then again this was hardly a fancy enough place to be able to get away with this kind of blatant customer abuse either.

Fortunately, my guilt at bringing the outrageous price and quantity of the dish to the waitress' attention was assuaged by her surly attitude and uninterested, dismissive response. It seems that Clarita, a cozy looking cafe/restaurant squeezed between the edge of Malasaña (neighborhood) and the iconic avenue Gran Vía, is nothing if not consistent: small portions complemented by soaring prices and heaps of bad attitude. Welcome, neighbors, to the first candidate for the Worst of Madrid Dining in the Overpriced Octopus Category.

Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 19
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