Friday, September 10, 2010

Let's Eat and Eat and Eat...

Spain is a land of food-lovers and their waistlines show it. It appears that their weight issues rival those of the US. I guess it really should come as no surprise since there is a meal of some sort or other being eaten from about 8 am until midnight or later. I think there was only one of the 5 nights where we got back to the ship before midnight after eating dinner and that was the last night when we had to be on by 6 pm! We witnessed families with wee children enjoying the open space of the plazas until at least midnight.

A meal out in Spain is never “a quick bite”. Once you sit down at a table in a restaurant, it takes some time for a waiter to come, clean the table and bring a menu. This is really an okay thing once you figure out that you are going to be there for a while. The outdoor tables make fine people-watching vantage points.

One night after dinner we strolled with another faculty member through some plazas and I spotted an adorable French bulldog puppy. Interestingly, in Spain dogs are mostly off leash and accompany their owners for walks without issue. Occasionally, we saw the owners grab collars as we passed by, but for the most part the dogs know the system and cooperate. I approached the French bulldog pup’s owner and asked if I could pet his puppy.

The puppy, named Luca, became very effusive when I got him going and I was the unwitting recipient of a French kiss from a French bulldog. The owner’s brother came over as he speaks some English. We chatted for about a half hour and then I asked him to recommend a good fish restaurant – somewhere that he likes to go to. That led us to our best meal of the stay in Cadiz. Several nights later, we went to dinner with an art history professor – Manuel – who is from Mexico and thus a fluent Spanish speaker. Between the information that the local gave us and Manuel’s inquiries, we made it to Bar Club Caleta which was right on the beach in Cadiz.

The choco (a large squid) had lots of garlic which tasted so good after eating many meals without much garlic. The dish in the background was cubed tuna that had been marinated in a vinegar sauce and then deep-fried.

We had an octopus salad with onion and red peppers and it was extremely fresh and delicious. The final dish we shared was mako shark that had been grilled - wonderfully fresh and simple. Manuel agreed that it was his favorite meal of his stay as well.

One night we had dinner with a group of folks – the academic dean, and some faculty and staff at Ventorrillo del Chato which has been family owned and operated in the same location since 1780! The academic dean has studied and lived in Spain – he has even been knighted by the King of Spain. In addition, we had a UVa faculty member who is from Spain – Fernando ordered a series of tapas to get us started and they were all good. I had pargo for dinner – described as being similar to monkfish.

It was Fernando’s wife’s birthday – so it was a fun evening.

Greg and I continued our tradition of acquiring less typical souvenirs. We went on a tour of the white towns that grace the hills of parts of Cadiz province. The buildings are all white to help keep them cool and this makes them quite picturesque. In the surrounding farms they raise a type of goat found only in this region and the milk is used to make a cheese called Payoyo. I purchased a wheel and when I told Fernando this at dinner, he acted as if I had made some sort of stupendously intelligent decision! It smells great, but I am bound and determined to hold off eating it until I am back in the US.

I also love the Spanish or Italian tuna packed in olive oil – it is great for making salads – so I bought two very large cans. In addition to the food, I was bought a beautiful tablecloth and napkin set in Ronda – a white town perched on the sides of a precipitous gorge.

Apparently, prisoners were held in the middle portion of the bridge spanning the gorge. It is funny because the souvenir I was most excited by was a new set of wooden spoons with a unique shape – good for getting into the corners of the pan!

We spent a day in Seville visiting the cathedral (where Christopher Columbus is allegedly buried) and the Alcazar. Both unbelievable and too hard to sum up. Here are a few pictures…

And finally, if you don’t scoop your dog’s poop in Ronda it will cost you – BIG time!
Aged Manchego in Balandro Restaurant in Cadiz

It is impossible to sum up all we saw and did in a blog, so I will include a hodge-podge of pictures below.

Chip flavor of the port was jamon!  They tasted like ham in the US, but not jamon so much.

1 comment:

  1. Pam, I love your blog. The pics and stories are great! Thank you for taking the time to do this, for those of us who will most likely never get to these places. Cadiz is beautiful, and the food is really interesting. The Frenchie is adorable! I won't tell Lager about your French kiss, he would be SO jealous!
    Oh, and good luck not digging into that Papoyo before getting it back to the States. LOL!