Saturday, September 13, 2008

I don’t know what I’m ordering, but I’m sure it won’t be good

Spain is not known for its culinary achievements, although, based on Ken’s previous experience, food prepared in the home is quite delicious. That said, we have been forced to eat what we affectionately call “street fare.” For the uninitiated, breakfast consists of coffee and croissants. Lunch is eaten between 2 and 4 in the afternoon and most restaurants serve a “menu of the day.” This includes a first course of soup, salad, or pasta, a second course of some kind of “meat” dish, bread, dessert, and water. Dinner, which is eaten no earlier than 9:00, is usually lighter fare consisting of small portions of cheese, cured meats, sausages, croquettes, etc.

Our breakfast at the hotel is very nice and there is much more variety than what you might get in a regular restaurant.

Our lunches so far have consisted of gazpacho (which we eat frequently because we know what we’ll be getting when we order it) and cured ham and melon for our first courses and roasted chicken, breaded pork cutlets, and extremely thin, overcooked pieces of steak for our second courses. We usually have ice cream for dessert as neither of us cares for flan or rice pudding. The water is good as long as the waitstaff remembers that we ordered non-carbonated water.

One notable exception to this dreary repetition was the lunch we ate at the Café Barbacoa in Avila. We were seated on the top floor of the restaurant with only a few other people who were all Spanish—far away from the crowded streets full of tourists. We began our meal with a teeny tiny bowl (about the size of a thimble) of melon foam with cured ham shavings on top and small pieces of toasted bread which we were instructed to top with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of gray sea salt. For the entrée, Ken ordered seafood ravioli in a zucchini reduction and Mother of Ken ordered carpaccio with arugula and shavings of a mild local cheese dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The waiter served us each three rolls—olive, cheese, and French. For dessert, we each had a plate of artisanal confections and coffee. The waitstaff at the Café Barbacoa were kind—a welcome change from the service personnel in most of the eating establishments we have visited.

In order to avoid trekking into town each evening to eat dinner amongst the raucous crowds of people participating in the Feria, we have taken to eating dinner in our hotel room while watching season two of Dynasty on Ken’s laptop. Our spread consists of bread or toast topped with tomato, different cheeses, and cured ham with apples on the side. We have cookies and Nestle chocolate bars for dessert. We cannot wait until we have our apartment in Barcelona and can cook for ourselves.

So far, we are enjoying eating jamon Serrano (cured ham), Manchego cheese, gazpacho, melon, and Nestle chocolate bars. Also, we are drinking our weight in Fanta de limón (lemon flavored soda).

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