Zaragoza, the journey continues – Part 2
After we wake from a much needed nap it’s time to go do a little exploring and get some supplies for the apartment. We walk over to the hotel that manages the apartments and ask where a grocery store (tienda comestibles) is. We are given directions and the 4 of us start walking, taking in the sights. Little shops, farmacias (pharmacies) meat markets, produce store, bread shops, oh yes, they are big on bread in Spain, bread and Serrano ham. We seem to be going a lot further than the clerk told us it would be, could we be lost? Could we have misunderstood the directions? All possible but the reality is; no one really tells you how far anything is with any accuracy. They all walk all the time, they pay no attention to how far something is. They just enjoy the journey. The streets are filled with people, children, shopping and walking. People are sitting in cafes having coffee and a bite to eat, usually a sweet, because the restaurants don’t even open until 9:00 p.m. (well, except for the touristy ones that stay open for the tourists, but no self respecting Spaniard would be caught dead eating dinner before 9 – and that would be considered an early dinner as we are to find out.) Finally we come upon the street the store is on and then we have a debate, did she say to go up the street or down the street, for those of you not in the know, up is right, down is left. Well, let’s enjoy the journey and go down the street and if we don’t find it in a while we’ll just turn around and go up till we find it. We found it down. The boys get some snacks, including the ever present Sour Cream and Onion flavored Pringles (I swear if I never smell them again!), we get some beer, bread and ice cube trays, our experience in Europe being ice is rarely used and when they do give you some in a drink it usually is one cube, two at best. Anyway, we have an apartment with a freezer AND we are going to be staying at the beach for 4 days in an apartment, so ice cube trays make sense. BUT lo and behold, guess what? They are actually selling bags of ice…whoo whoo! Grab me one of those. I have no idea what kind of supplies are in the kitchen, but I decide I’m going to make breakfast. They have farm fresh eggs and fresh chorizo, so I pick some of that up…we can get some fresh bread and fruits and other stuff in the morning from the little shops. I love shopping for food in foreign countries, it’s so different.
Loaded with supplies, we head back to the apartment, stopping at the farmacia for some cough syrup (Trevor and I got the coughs). That’s another nice thing about so many other countries, you go to the pharmacy, tell the pharmacist what’s ailing you and they go in the back and bring you medicine…no Doctor’s note needed…and it’s good medicine. It works.
Since it’s our anniversary we tell the boys they are on their own and Brian and I set off to find our dinner place. We have been along the main street, didn’t see much there, we looked when we were walking to the store, thought we saw an interesting place so we set back in that direction…hmmmm…I know it’s around here someplace…where did we put that restaurant? We can’t find it. So we just walk, and look at a couple of menus, don’t seem too overly interesting, we do want a nice dinner, it is our anniversary after all. We go to this little bar set off the square and have a drink while wondering where we should go…we ask the bartender for a suggestion; he suggests a little place on the square, so after we finish our drink we set off to look at his suggestion, and well, it’s one we had already rejected and was owned by the same person who owned the bar so no wonder he suggested it.
Getting a mixed drink in Spain is a real experience. They come with the bottle of whatever it is you order, I guess this is to show you that they are really pouring the right stuff, although there is no proof that what’s in the bottle is the same as what’s on the label, but it probably is. Then they set the glasses of ice down, and pour the liquor from about 3 feet above the glass. Just wish that they knew what a cocktail glass was cause a vodka soda served in a giant tumbler just isn’t the same.
I tell Brian, “there was that little place right across the street from the apartment, want to try there?” ”Sure” he says, “let’s go take a look”. The time is now 10:00. Seems like a good time for dinner.
We enter Casa Teo. We are the only ones there. Is that a bad sign about the food? Not sure. But we sit, it’s got white table cloths, it’s comfortable and we’ve already walked all over town and haven’t found any place we’d rather be. It has an anniversary like feel. The owner comes over with menus; in Spanish. I ask if he has one in English. Yes, yes he does. He brings it. I wish I had written some of the translations down, they were hilarious. Things like “Kid in the oven” (Baked Goat); The Lamb’s Leg from spit” (Roasted Leg of Lamb)…I should have taken the menu, but I think the “English” version is precious so I left it.
Brian is perusing the wine list, as always. He wants, also as always, to have a white wine first, then a red wine. That’s fine for me (we usually take wine home with us, or leave it for the staff to enjoy, we don’t drink it all… really); so we place our orders.
Our first course is Tortilla Bacalao. Bacalao is dried salted cod fish. It has to be soaked for at least 24 hours (better 48 hours) in water that is changed at least 3 times. This leeches the salt from the fish (although it is still salty) and rehydrates the fish. This fish was then mixed with mashed potatoes, onions and fried. And it was delicious. Fresh, tender, great flavor.
The wine was a very local 2009 Menade Verdejo; and extremely light fruity wine. The combination of the two was perfect. I think we made a good choice of places to eat. It is now 10:30 and a couple of other people have arrived for dinner.
Our second course was a wonderful dish of shrimp (with heads and tails still on) served in a garlic buere blanc sauce. Fantastic, with a great rich sauce, great subtle garlic flavor. Again worked great with the wine. Remember wine pairing 101, drink the wines of the region when eating the foods of the region.
For our entrees: Brian had the Braised Lamb Shank, now this was a great dish, but it wasn’t any cut of lamb I’ve ever seen.
The Lamb Shanks
A different kind of lamb shank
I had the Sea Bream baked in Sea Salt. Simple presentation, the flavor of the fish really came through.
Dorado/Lubina a la Sal
I don’t remember what the second bottle of wine we ordered was, because it never came. The place started to fill up about 10:45 and Mr. Owner/Waiter got a bit frazzled and forgot to bring it to us. When Brian caught his attention and asked about it, he apologized profusely; went into the back and brought us a bottle that had been opened with 1 glass poured and offered us that “with his compliments”…”drink as much as you want” he said “gratis”. Well now, isn’t that a nice apology?
We open the cork that has been placed in the top, pour a couple of glasses, take a nose and “corked” we say in unison. Now the discussion starts.
Brian: “Should we tell him it’s corked?”
Me: “I think he KNEW it was corked”
Brian: “Why do you say that?”
Me: “Well, one glass was poured, the bottle was opened, he brought it over with a sly look in his eye, I think he knew”
Brian: ”Why do you think he would give us corked wine knowing it was corked”
Me: “Hey, we’re just dumb Americans. What do we know about Spanish wine? Yes, I think you should tell him it’s corked and we know it’s corked”
So Brian goes over to Mr. Owner/Waiter and tells him quietly that the wine he brought us was, as we would say in America, “corked”. Mr. Owner/Waiter looks at Brian, smiles and says, “In Spain we only say it’s bad”. He knew. What he didn’t know was that he had an international wine judge and his food/wine pairing wife sitting in his restaurant.
To make real amends, Mr. Owner/Waiter brought us some excellent digestivios; two local favorites, with glasses to drink what we wanted leaving the bottles on the table. This were good. And strong. It was an excellent meal.
We like the yellow herby one best
Dinner done midnight. And when you eat this late, you really know why disgestivos are such an intricate part of the Spanish and Italian cultures. We return to the apartment to find the boys both on Facebook it being 4:00 in the afternoon in California and all. ”How was your night?” I ask. ”Fine” comes the reply. I start to tell them about our fabulous meal and for some reason, they didn’t want to hear about it. ”What did you do for dinner?” I ask. ”We had some really mediocre paella from a cafeteria buffet” came the reply. Well now, that explains it. For the rest of the trip, where we ate, they wanted to come with.
Time for sleep.
The next morning, while the boys sleep after what I’m sure was a full night of Facebooking, IMing and other social media things, Brian and I get up and go for a walk along the river as we watch all the people commute from over the bridge (the suburbs) to the main part of town to go to work; most on foot or bikes.
We go into a little coffee shop for a cup of strong coffee with milk, it’s about the only way they serve it in Spain, Coffee con Leche, and then on to buy some additional breakfast supplies. We stop at the bread shop (Pan de la Tienda) and the produce store and then on to make an egg, potato and chorizo tortilla.
A really bad knife
I usually bring my own knives, but I wasn’t sure how that would work, internationally…
But in spite of it all, it turned out really good.
Chorizo, Potato and Egg Tortilla