I am happy to say that in Santander, the third city on our tour, I experienced one of the best meals of my life. The nice thing about this city is that it is less metropolitan than Barcelona, so most restaurants are fairly good quality, with their own little quirks and regional items. Of course, you have to stay clear of the restaurants lining the beach and waterfront areas and having a Spanish foodie who is familiar with the cities hot spots always helps.
Lucky for us, the head of the Spain based stage crew fit this description and brought a few of us hungry dancers to a little placed called Bodega Del Riojano post-performance. The title is fitting considering the walls were lined with painted wine barrels and the relative ease with which we acquired some grade A Sangria shortly upon our arrival. At 8 Euros the L, things were already looking up and the bar tender was amazing to watch as he added this, that and a cinnamon stick to the concoction.
After a bit of chit chat in the bar area (we were a relatively large group), we were taken to our tables and given menus which, to my relief, were only available in Spanish...no tourist snares here! Of course that meant I had a bit of trouble deciphering what I was ordering, but by this time I had already sized up the plates around me and knew I would be safe with just about anything. My friend and I took a leap of faith and ordered the Monk fish which came bathed in a beautiful tomato based sauce and was like putting little bites of heaven into your mouth. We also ordered the house special Calamari Frito which was without a doubt the most succulent and fresh seafood I have ever tasted. Indeed apart from a squirt of lemon juice, this fried treat needed no tartar sauce!
The other highlight was the steak two of the men at my table ordered. It came on a huge platter and took up nearly half of the table. It also came quite raw and accompanied by a hot stone, which I pointed out was probably supposed to be used to cook the meat to the desired level of rareness. Mind you by the time I had pointed this out, one of the men had already inhaled two slices of very raw, but apparently very delicious meat!
The way the entire meal worked was amazing, there was no waiting around for the next item, things kept appearing on the table with no effort on my part..it was the kind of paradise I have only experienced in the sweetest of dreams. Indeed when I thought all was said and done, a dessert platter arrived with an assortment of flans, puddings, cheesecakes and gelato. The most amazing thing was the goat cheese gelato. There is nothing more tantalizing than a bite of this frozen delicacy when you are expecting an ordinary vanilla flavour!
The authenticity of this restaurant was undeniable and I am so glad I finally experienced a true spanish meal in sizeable quantity as well as quality!
I would go back in a heart beat, but alas, we are on our way to Las Palmas. On the bright side, I hear their paella is among the best in Spain!