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  1. Hey there. So I'm thinking of applying for a Fulbright Grant. Grants are offered for college seniors (me), and may be applied to a variety of places. Being a huge food dork and an aspirant food writer, I have the notion of applying for a grant to write about food. The details are slightly murkier. I am extremely interested in the more unusual aspects of Asian cuisine, especially those that don't recieve much attention in the US mainstream. As a food blogger, I'd like to apply my (debatable) journalism skills to documenting interesting food traditions and preparations in an engaging (one would hope) way. Rather like compiling a live and conversationally oriented travel guide. I spent the spring of 2008 in India and fell in love with the cuisine. I was particularly smitted by the non-Mughal food, the stuff I'd never heard of. Kerala, Andra, Chino-Indian food, Vedic cuisine, Goan food - it seems to be stuff that pretty rarely permeates the US Indian food scene. It's not even that it's particularly odd stuff, and I would like to produce an easily-approachable document or guide to these foods. So that might be a good avenue for a project to take. (I personally believe that Keralan food would be a huge hit for the American palate if some more restaurants were opened...) I am also extremely interested in the Muslim cuisine of China and the seafoods of Hong Kong and Southern China, but as my Mandarin and Cantonese is excrecable, that would be a more difficult task to pursue. A Fulbright grant requires an affilation with an academic institution, at least if one wishes to pursue research (which I suppose I would be doing, in a delicious way). I have sent out some feeler emails to a few Indian universities but am not really sure where exactly the gastronomical illuminati of the subcontinent hang out. If anyone knows... I emphasize that I am a 21 year old rube, with little formal gastronomical training other then a decent amount of rough overseas travel and a willingness to eat anything that does not eat me first. Would love it if anyone could provide ideas or experience with pursuing food-related project grants. Am I nuts? Is there anything the food community might find valuable or a worthwhile place to direct my efforts? Thank you! The Fulbright program in question: http://us.fulbrightonline.org/program_stud..._us_search.html
  2. I did go to Kaia! I had a lovely salad of asparagus and prawns. My dad had an omlette with salt cod. Delightful meal. (This was after Etxebarri, so we were not as hungry as we might have been, but.). Photos to come. My computer broke last week so a small hold up in the photos...
  3. What a beautiful story! I love pear preserves. My family is NC native as well, but we don't do much in the way of preserving (sadly). Food is really the best way I can think of to connect with our families. I've made some of the stuff my great-grandmother (who I never met) did - what a way to cross time.
  4. Everyone's gotta go to Spain! What epic, epic food. The cliffs around Lekeitio. Lekeitio is not a restaurant mecca, and I only spotted a few actual restaurants during my wanderings around town that day. Most Basques here seem to subsist on pinxtos, the bar snacks that have been elevated to impressive gastronomic heights in this part of the world. Unlike tapas, pinxtos are set out on the bar as a sort of casual buffet for drinkers, and almost always are served on top of a piece of bread. Pinxtos often are uber-refined gastronomic delights in places like San Sebastian and Bilbao, but Lekeitio's pinxtos were definitely working class: fried egg, mayonnaise, sausage, and ham seemed to feature in almost all of them. Needless to say they taste very good. Since these snacks are free in unlimited quantity with the purchase of a drink, many Basques take the economical route for their evening meal. I fell in love with Basque sparkling wine, or Txakoli, during my time here. It's got just a little bit of sparkle and a dry texture - I think it's great with seafood and anything delightfully briny. Trust the Basques to come up with a good wine to accompany sea creatures. Fishing boats in town. A large fishing boat comes in most mornings and sells luridly colored and delicious-looking beasts to crowds of tough-looking abuelas. We ate supper again at our hotel restaurant. I had walked by a couple of places with Michelin stars earlier in the day but was unable to find them again in the rabbit-warren of Lekeitio's back alleys. Thankfully, the restaurant at the Princess Aisia Lekeitio was pretty darn excellent. For dinner, we decided to head back to the hotel restaurant, which had pleased us the night before. We started with the lobster salad, which was very attractive and nicely composed. One thing I like about Spain is how dishes are often prepared with a lot of care to appearance and composition, even in restaurants that are off the beaten track a bit. The flavor was also spot-on here: tender lobster, fish roe, and a Crab Louie-like mayonnaise sauce dressing. There is not enough lobster in my life. My dad had a rustic lentil soup. Lentil soups seem to be ubiquitous across cultures, and this was a good, meaty example of the genre. It's the perfect dish for a cold, cold night. As it was raining that evening and the temperature was rather chilly, it was apropo. I had monkfish with crab, which was excellent - pan sauteed with some butter and herbs. I have gained true respect for the monkfish during my time in Spain. The monkfish is the most hideously ugly fish in the world, the kind of beast you would expect to lurk in the shallows and lop off the legs of innocent women in bikinis, the kind of hideous monster you would expect to emerge from primordial slime when the moon is high. Despite its appearance, it tastes delicious if properly prepared, with a unique texture and a delicate flavor - indeed, it's often called the "poor man's lobster". I also enjoyed the crab claws that came with it. The kitchen cracked them ahead of time. You would not believe how many times I have ordered a dish like this with uncracked crab claws, forcing me to engage in disgusting and antisocial behaviors to get at the delicious meat because I sure as hell am not wasting it. Have a heart, chefs. Crack the damn crab legs. My dad had a mixed seafood grill, which was about the same as the pan-sauteed seafood we'd had the night before, if in a bit more variety. Tasty and simple pan fried fish with plenty of butter and garlic - a true classic, if not particularly flashy. My mom ordered prawns a la plancha, a classic Spanish preparation. Reminiscent of China's beloved salt and pepper shrimps, the little beasties are grilled and salted, leaving the shells cracker-crisp and delicious and the insides sweet like butter. Basque prawns are the best I have ever had. I ended up eating all of her left over heads and tails. I don't care if I am disgusting. I have no shame, I have no remorse, when it comes to suckin' on shrimp heads. I am not repentent.
  5. Aw, come on! My dad and I regularly fight over the eyes and the cheeks. We get extremely disappointed if we're served whole fish without eyes... Goat eyes...now, that's where my line is drawn. I saw a Lonely Planet special on Mongolia and goat eyes were served up with great pomp and circumstance to the host. Who ate them. (I swear I could see the Mongolians snickering, but you never know..)
  6. The Basque fishing town of Lekeitio. We decided to eat at our hotel, the </em>Princess Aisia Lekeitio. The restaurant was supposed to be quite good, and had a big white dining room with a view of the water. Our waiter resembled nothing more then a brusque, if friendly, Basque Hank Azaria. We all decided to go for the set menu. My mom and I had some simple sauteed mushrooms for our first course. Pretty good, if unremarkable: if you put a mushroom in front of me, I'm going to eat it unless it is poisonous, and even then I probably won't stop to <em>check.</em> I should probably avoid foraging in forests. My dad had white asparagus with crabmeat. The Spanish love canned white asparagus, are crazy for the stuff, but I've never liked it. It reminds me of what normal healthy asparagus turn into when they are undead. Dad thought it was fine. Apparently he enjoys consuming zombie vegetables. My dad and I both had the sea bream, which was really quite good - as expected for a Basque fishing town. This was sauteed in quite a bit of butter, a simple and always successful preparation. The flavor of the fish was flaky, tender, and mild, reminding me somewhat of a Biscayan sand dab (one of Northern California's finest aquatic treats). Very tasty. My mom had what I believe was a kind of sole. The flavor and preparation were about the same as we had - in other words, good - although mom did not enjoy negotiating the bones. I happily relieved her of the fish head. Insofar as I can tell, the Basque have the same delightfully freewheeling attitude towards seafood consumption as the Chinese do. In simpler terms: eating fish heads is awwright here.
  7. One of my favorite finds in Madrid was the Mercado de San Miguel, an absolutely alluring old market retrofitted into a modern farmer's market and eatery. Built along the same lines as the San Francisco Ferry Building, it's an excellent place to suck down some good sangria and sample the best of what Spain has to offer. Fish mongers, bakeries, meat shops, tapas joints, canned fish specialists, beer geeks, and wine sellers all have set up shop here, providing an excellent array of treats in one convenient location. I can imagine no better place to get blitzed and eat pinxtos in the area. I hung out there for a bit and took some photos. Namely of fish. Some large flat fishes. The horrifyingly frightening specter of the monkfish. More terrifying monkfish, or "rape negro". Some adorable little red fishes. Sardines of many varietals. Lovely little quick creatures. Dear lord, the aliens have come to roost. Clams of various varieties. You may guess I'm a bit taken with these monkfish mugs. For dinner, we decided to do a tapas crawl, going off some tips I recieved on the ever-useful Chowhound and Egullet. The Calle de Cava Baja proved to be a great place to cruise for tapas and booze, well favored by locals and not entirely jacked up by dorky tourists like ourselves. Warning: if you're even vaguely bothered by smoke, avoid doing a Madrid tapas crawl, you are not going to be able to survive for long. Spain is one of Europe's last hold-outs when it comes to frenzied indoors smoking. I suggest you just work through the pain and eat tapas until your face hurts, but to each his own. Getting to Cava Baja is easy: just walk out the bottom of the plaza from the Calle Mayor, and keep going down the Calle Toledo. Make a right on Calle San Bruno and you'll be there. Our first stop was Tempranillo on Calle Cava Baja. Most tapas joints are dual affairs: one part is stand up and the other is a more formal sit-down. We decided to stand up and order beer and house white wine. Most tapas around here are served on pieces of bread. These two are duck with mushrooms and four cheese. Pretty tasty insofar as stuff on bread can go, but nothing particularly exciting. Our second destination was the Taberna Juana La Loca, which can be reached by walking to the end of Calle de Cava Baja then walking into the Plaza Puerta de Moros. It's a super popular and atmospheric place, full of the young and hip of Madrid, who chain-smoke, gossip, and listen to darkly indie music over plates of excellent food. You can order pre-made food from behind the counter, which will be zapped and served quickly, or you can order off the more elaborate menu. High quality Spanish anchovies served with pita points and a kind of rich red pepper hummus dip. This was a tasty combination that hadn't occurred to me before, and would be nice to recreate at home. A simple serving of boneless pork chop, cheese, and Spanish pepper. This was tender and tasty, a bit like a stripped down version of a Philly cheesesteak. A delicious tortilla, or Spanish potato omlette. This was gigantic and filled with deliciously flavorful caramelized onions - a real treat in the tortilla category. A sort of duck ravioli wrapped in cheese and topped with bacon - how could this not be delicious? Juicy and flavorful in the interior. Nice stuff. For dessert, we headed back over to the Mercado de San Miguel, where we perused the considerable gelato and sorbet selection. My mom chose a passion fruit and pineapple flavor. Which came with a parrot stuck in it. (It now lives in our potted plant).
  8. Thanks for the kind words! I should have insisted on witnessing the plate-cutting ritual...ah well, when I return. Wish we had done more super-creative cuisine. I was traveling with my parents, who are definite foodies but not as down for a constant diet of Epic Meals as I am. Guess I'll have to come back and do an exhaustive survey of San Sebastian. Poor me. You know, the Goya comparison didn't even occur to me, and I just read a book on Goya (whoops). That's an excellent metaphor. And a very disturbing painting. Speaking of Spanish food in confluence with Spanish art, I did a little research today on the Bodegon genre of painting. Bodegon is a distinctive type of Spanish food still life, emphasizing the detail and nature of the food with considerable love and attention. I spotted a host of spectacular food paintings when walking around the Prado and just had to look them up. The paintings are characterized by their austere and back-to-ingredients nature in juxtaposition to Flemish still lives of the period...sounds familiar when considering Spanish cuisine!
  9. So happy to hear you're enjoying reading this stuff! I love writing it. Spain is an amazing place, especially for the food-inclined, and I hope to return soon. Spain experts: does anyone know where the heck this restaurant was? Typically, I can't remember the name. Anyone remember a big cheesy roadside hotel and restaurant on the road to Madrid just past the turn off to Ananda de Duero? (I know, I know, I was anticipating crap food and didn't bring my notebook and was very pleasantly surprised...) Anyhow... Around 2:00 lunch time, we found ourselves in one of the many small (but at one point terrifically important) towns out in the dusty desert. This area of Castile and Leon is renowned for its roast lamb, another in a long line of Spanish towns with a curious and slightly distressing affinity for eating babies. Ananda de Duero is especially renowned for its roast lamb, but as it was about a 20 minute detour from the freeway and we wanted to get to Madrid, we wrote it off. As we blew up the highway past Ananda de Duero, we saw a heavily advertised restaurant next to a hotel and decided to stop there. Upon getting inside, we found ourselves in a restaurant that appeared to have been lifted out of 1965 Arizona (on the tourist trail) and dropped directly into the dusty not-much of Spain. Wood beams, animal heads, and a tan and orange color scheme figured. I was immediately rather charmed. They had a full service and rather large restaurant, and we decided to go with that option, mostly because dad was totally down for lamb. As we sat down and perused the menu, we noticed everyone around us was chowing down with gusto upon cave-man sized portions of roast lamb, little lamb legs poking up out of their bowls. Paydirt or profoundly disturbing, depending on how you see it. (I reiterate my public service announcement that vegans should avoid the Iberian peninsula at all costs). For starters, we had a tremendous Spanish style salad with the usual tuna, asparagus, tomato, and sardine. A green salad in Spain inevitably entails a tremendous amount of delicious oil packed tuna and some white asparagus (green asparagus appears to be outlawed). I will definitely die of iodine poisoning in Spain. My main course was artichoke hearts with clams, a simple and surprisingly delicious dish. It reminded me almost of a Chinese dish with its delicately flavored wine sauce. The clams were perfectly cooked, and the tender asparagus hearts provided a perfect complement that hadn't occurred to me before. I'm going to have to learn how to make this. My mom had Castilian soup, a traditional dish on these dry plains. It even comes in it's own distinctive bowl! As she discovered, it's not exactly a *light* dish - this appeared to be bean and bread soup with an incredible quantity of miscellaneous pig parts in it, some unidentifiable. The flavor was porky, fatty, and rich. It's soul food for the pig obsessed Castilian. I derived great pleasure from watching Mom carefully examine her spoonful in an attempt to ID what, exactly, that thing was. My dad had the cordero, or roasted lamb. A giant portion of lamb came in a bowl (catching the gamey and delicious juice,) a plaintive little leg sticking out the top. This is the kind of food Castilian kings probably ate around their tremendous dining tables, grunting and scratching themselves and throwing bones to the dogs. It was needless to say very tasty indeed, with tender, uber-rich meat and crispy, delicious skin. After lunch, I explored the large and incredibly kitschy gift shop attached to the restaurant, which featured every Spanish themed piece o 'crap imaginable to man. Stuffed bulls, curious gummy candy, baked goods from every inch of Castile, pickled pork feet, you name it they got it along with obscene Basque t-shirts. They also had a healthy sized specimen of Castile and Leon's punch cake - a marzipan sponge cake filled with cream. It is delicious.
  10. You should probably visit one of the old-school restaurants, if only for the historical experience. I had a very fine meal at Commander's Palace recently. The super-old school table service is worth it alone. I would certainly recommend August. I've had very positive experiences there. Don't miss the beet salad or the beef cheek ravioli (if on the menu), but skip the oyster appetizer....
  11. Loving this thread and especially those recipes. I hope I can try out that shrimp curry soon. Keep em' coming and thanks for sharing!
  12. Thanks for sharing that piece, Chris. Your comments in particular about your neighbors are truly disturbing. (What I want to know is if they have any idea where said meat <em>comes from.</em> ) I find that, depressing as it is, Balzer is right to some degree. The vast majority of Americans wouldn't know how to cook if their lives were on the line, and that translates into a nation of people who don't know the first thing about what good food is. In my isolated bohemian college-student world, there seems to be an uptick of interest in cooking, but I suspect that's definitely not the case for the rest of the country. I go to school in New Orleans, which is renowned as one of the seats of fine American home cooking. The traditions do live on, but from what I've seen and heard, a healthy majority of New Orleanians live off food from convenience stores and fast food emporiums. With only a handful of full-scale grocery stores in the metro area and extremely limited incomes, picking up a pack of Twinkies from the dollar store or a cheeseburger from Rally's requires less time and (often) less money then cooking something good from scratch might. It's a horrible state of affairs. The same is true for most low-income urban centers in the USA. However, I suspect that the state of affairs isn't all bad. As I said earlier, there's definitely a revival of cultural interest in food and cooking (as evidenced by the explosion of Food Network shows, food magazines, and kitchen stores,) and I think that will translate into a healthy influx of people learning how to cook and learning what good food really is. Will this create enough of a cultural effect to move the USA away from becoming a zap-it-and-forget-it nation? I'm trying to be optimistic.
  13. Meson Candido Meson Candido, located conveniently right next door to Segovia's gigantic Roman aqueduct! This is Meson Candido, the most venerable and elderly of Segovia's famous temples to cochinillo, or Castilian roast suckling pig. A true institution, open since 1905 and chugging along with grit and style ever since, Meson Candido operates like a gigantic and hectic machine, turning out plate after plate of succulent and crisp roast suckling pig to a ravenous audience. The decor, meanwhile is true old-school Spanish, all soulful wood salons stuffed to the gills with wall-eyed animal heads and retro relics from the restaurant's very long life (Rock Hudson liked it!). Indeed quite a few of the occasionally doddering waitstaff seem to have been around during the building of the zillion-year old aqueduct itself. Celebrities, heads of state, and other dignitaries have all devoured the tender flesh of innocent baby animals here, and the tourists and accolades just keep coming, seemingly unfazed by the passing of decades, the financial crisis, or the pitiful wails of animal rights activists. We had to pay a visit. Reservations are highly recommended at this temple of baby animal consumption, but of course I wasn't bright enough to make any. We simply ambled up right in the middle of Spain's 3:00 lunch rush and asked real nice for a spot. The waiter looked pained, took my name down, and said it might be a, well, indeterminate wait. But we'd driven all the way from Avila just for this shining moment, just for this slab of porcine bliss, and by God we were getting it. All told, it took the staff about twenty minutes to get us seated, as the restaurant operates on a profoundly confusing quadrant system - we went up one narrow flight of stairs, down another, through some doors, back through some doors, and finally ended up parking ourselves on the middle floor, hoping our pathetic and starving visages would help us, somehow. They did. We got a table. Once seated, a tablecloth, place settings, and utensils were thowcked onto the table at mind blowing speed, menus were passed out, and we were compelled to order soon. Don't worry: it's all part of the game at Meson Candido. We started with a simple mixed tortilla, Spain's beloved egg and potato omelet. This was acceptably tasty, though I've never really understand the vast appeal of eggy substances - perhaps I was menaced by an poorly concieved poached egg during the tender years fo my youth. There were plenty of vegetables in here, and a nicey creamy center. In the interest of nutrition, we tried a grilled tuna salad escabeche (vinegar) style with red bell peppers beneath. This was a pretty good rendition of one of Spain's most ubiquitous and delicious dishes, featuring big chunks of meaty and nicely salted grilled tuna rather then the usual canned n' olive oil stuff. Both are good when treated with love and tenderness. I liked the tangy vinegar flavor of the escabeche combined with the peppers, a pleasant hit of sweet and tangy working in tandem. This escabeche wasn't a knockout dish, but it was a great counterpoint to the main attraction - the cochinillo. The cochinillo </strong>(roasted suckling pig) was divine, crazy good, the pinnacle of what all good little baby pigs should aspire to be. Roasted en masse in tremendous ovens here, the Candido family is known for cutting the pig "with the side of a plate" to prove how succulent and tender it is. We didn't see this ritual, but after tasting those salty and fatty pork juices, that crispy, crackling skin, that tender, ultra soft meat, hell, I want to believe. My dad proclaimed it the best piece of pork he's ever put in his mouth and as a North Carolina native, he knows that of which he speaks. We got a middle piece composed mainly of teeny-tiny ribs and ultra-rich belly meat, but some luckier diners had a dainty little trotter thrown in the mix. We made a mistake by ordering a single-person person - we should have ordered the quarter pig for two and been done with it. Don't do it. Don't ruin your lives. I suspect it is possible to order an entire pig here, if you feel like committing cardiac suicide in the most unspeakably divine way possible. We also had some salt roasted prawns, Spain's variant on China's dearly beloved salt and pepper shrimps. These were quite tasty, although as we would soon have transcendent prawns in Basque country, they suffer a bit in the recollection. Indeed, Spain seems to be some sort of curious epicenter for delicious-ass prawns, perhaps attracted here by mysterious underwater vibrations - secret military technology, I bet. The tail meat is always nice and tender and sweet, that is a given, but I prefer sucking the heads off these beasties much more. There's all that delicious bright red goo inside, the fat that lingers and grows sweet and decadent inside the central bits of the prawn. You can't pass it up. Dessert was Segovia punch cake, a cakey pastry dearly beloved in this region of Spain, which seem to have a tremendous, dentist-supporting sweet tooth. Composed of sponge cake bathed in marzipan with a cream center, the punch had a nice creamy, pillowy texture, a slightly nutty, not overpowering flavor, and a pleasant and vaguely salty caramel sauce drizzled all over the top. Not to mention this is a visually striking dessert with its criss-cross top - these are displayed with great and justified pride in the dining rooms of many of Castile's restaurants. We saw the man himself, Senor A. Candido, as we walked out the door, supported on the arm of his equally redoubtable wife. He's pushing 80 or so but he was directing the restaurant all afternoon long, hustling up the stairs and ordering around his staff with what can only be described as unparalled skill. Here's to many years more.
  14. Avila is one of Spain's most famous historical monuments, boasting the best preserved medieval walls in the country. It's also a charming small town on the plains of Castile and Leon, and a great place to base out of when exploring the nearby cities of Salamanca and Segovia. I highly recommend a visit. There is also, incidentally, an excellent restaurant in town. For dinner, we decided to visit what many call Avila's best restaurant, El Almacén. Located across the river from the city with an excellent view of the old walls, El Almacén specializes in high end Spanish cuisine in a refined setting. We loved it: I can't recommend it enough for a high-end and delicious dining experience in Avila. Our charming Romanian server bantered with us throughout dinner, and was kind enough to walk us through the menu and provide translation for Spanish terms we were not familiar with - yeah, I know, my menu Spanish could use a little improvement. He was a real pleasure to be served by, and I wish him the best - he deserves it. (Even when he told us he was from the "home of Dracula". Every Romanian I have ever met will bring this up within five seconds of initiating a conversation. It's probably a rule). We began with an amuse bouche, which was a kind of chilled and creamy fish soup. Simple fish soup can be divine when done well, and this was right on the mark, with a rich flavor and a delightful olive-oil finish. The menu is extensive and features almost all of Castile and Leon's culinary hits: think red meat with earthy preparations, wild game and fowl, and lots of pork products. I settled on the guiso picantito de chipirones y mejillones, a spicy stew with squid and mussels. A slightly chilled red pepper cream was studded with sweet, perfectly cooked squid and tender, briney mussels. I also liked the ever-so-slightly crunchy rice in the center. Intentionally al dente rice can be a revelation. My dad went for the salad with foie escabache. I was not too clear on this because my Spanish is distinctly mediocre, but I THINK it's a kind of foie or pate made out of pig belly - one of Northern Spain's very favorite ingredients. The pate was deliciously rich and melted on the tongue, and the salad was also very tasty indeed. If anyone knows more about this specialty, I'd love some more information. For my main course, I selected the merluza al horno con confitura of tomate y creme verde, or hake with tomato confit and green cream. I adore hake, a fish that's little known in the USA and totally ubiquitous in Spain. A white fish, hake has a fatty and slightly decadent flavor that (if you ask me) blows halibut entirely out of the water. This hake was cooked in the oven and served with a sweet and delicious tomato confit and a green herb-infused cream. It was a simple dish with excellent, natural flavors, and thus representative of what's good about central Spanish cooking. No bullshit, good ingredients, good eats. My dad had the lomo de ciervo con frutos secos confitadas (Venison loin with dried fruit). Castile and Leon is renowned for its wild game, and my dad took our servers advice on this one. He was glad he did. The super-flavorful venison was slightly caramelized, sweet, and foresty, and the incredibly rich reduction combined with dried fruits was a perfect combination of sweet and savory. This preparation would also be excellent with wild boar or any other kind of down n' dirty meat. A superb dish. Something about the food of Castile and Leon strikes me as distinctly medieval, and this was no exception. My mom had the solomillo al queso Valdeón, or beef sirloin with Valdeón cheese sauce. Talk about decadent! This was almost akin to the Spanish version of a country fried steak, and it was, as most gravy covered steaks are, incredibly delicious. Featuring super rare and high quality steak combined with an uber rich stinky cheese sauce, this was so bad and so good at the exact same time. In less experienced hands, this could have been dangerously over the top, but El Almacén produced the perfect indulgence. Stock up on your Zocor first. For dessert, we went with the dessert sampler, which proved to be an excellent idea. The flan had a good, loose texture - I'm not big on the thicker, chunkier flans and this fit the bill. There was also a sort of cheese mousse (yum), a caramel parfait, and rich chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce. Just the ticket after a very rich meal.
  15. Toledo isn't a bad looking place. La Abadia for Lunch La Abadia Plaza San Nicolas, 3, Toledo 45001, Spain Yes, we loved this place. The combination of good prices, excellent food, and interesting ambiance proved fairly irresistible. The best restaurant in the town is reputed to be Adolfo, which looked very fine indeed from the menu - but we simply weren't in the mood for a truly Fine Dining Experience during our stay in Toledo. Since lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain, we opted to eat downstairs in the wine-cellar like interior room. In the powerful heat of a Toledo afternoon, it was an excellent place to escape and enjoy some good wine and some excellent food. And good food it was. Even small restaurants in small communities (like this one) often feature extremely sophisticated food and plating choices here, in conjunction with superb ingredients. Further, everything in Spain is a hell of a lot cheaper then it is in Italy. We started with the Degustación de Ensaladas (8.50). The first salad was a Caesar with goat cheese and green tomato, which proved to be delicious with a sharp garlic and anchovy flavor. I liked the chewy strip of cheese on top as well. The second was of octopus with mango, pomegranate, and citrus dressing, which was a nice and fresh example of Spain's long-term love affair with the humble pulpo. Last was a combination of pulled chicken with sweet tomato confit over a bed of greens. Sweet but not cloying, it was fresh and good. My main course was the Lomo de Bacalo ($14.50), with aa confit of peppers and some corn mash. Bacalo (cod) is Spain's fish of choice, consumed all over the Peninsula and cooked in a truly dizzying variety of ways. Many Americans regard cod with suspicion, as it is the favorite choice of nightmarish school canteens and fish stick vendors. Spain will prove an excellent antidote to any past prejudices: here cod is venerated and given the treatment it so richly deserves. The firm fish was cooked perfectly, and I particularly liked the tangle of blackened onions on top. The red pepper pistou was tasty as well, though I would have preferred more of it. The corn mush was entirely non-descript. My dad chose the the merluza (hake) al horno with clams (13.50), in a distinctive green onion sauce. A visually arresting dish, the flavor was also excellent, sharply infused with onion and pleasantly marine at the same time. Indeed, the combination of firm white fish, perfectly cooked little clams, and dense green onions was pretty inspired. A dish this adamantly green might be initially off-putting but the powerful onion flavor immediately justified (and made pleasing) its appearance. My mom had a seafood skewer with squid and prawns (11.50), accompanied by a scatter of house-made potato chips. This was a delicious treatment of good seafood. Excellent Spanish prawns (the Spanish do a <em>fiine</em> prawn) was combined with cleverly cooked squid, which had been handled so deftly that its characteristic chewiness was all but eliminated. The seafood sauce was a nice and subtle accompaniment to the aquatic beasties as well. The house made chips were excellent: Kettle Chips, watch your asses.
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