Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gypsy Caves

The tour has progressed from Granada - the city of love - to Madrid - the NYC of Spain. I admit, I did not get to experience much food related shenanigans in Granada, seeing as our hotel was way up on a mountain and our shows didn't start until 10 30 pm. Mostly we ate at the hotel barbecue which they kept open for us until 2 30 am. Unfortunately, it was not the greatest, and the service was quite awful...mind you serving a hoard of hungry dancers at that time in the morning is probably no one's cup of tea.

Luckily, the city had many other things going for it and surprisingly, turned out to be my favorite city!

I did have one great night in town when my friends and I went to an authentic hookah bar. I have never been to a hookah bar and apparently this city, or this spot we stubbled upon, was the place to experience it.

At first we weren't sure if the place was still open, seeing as it was 1 30 on a Sunday night, but they were indeed open - things tend to get shifted a few hours later in Spain because of siesta. We were escorted to our very own private side of the restaurant. The lighting was dim and the decor was very tastefully done ; it seemed that we had maybe trespassed into a secret room in the Palacio was great.

We ordered some mint-y tea which was traditionally sweet. It came in a beautifully ordained tea pot with glass cups engraved with beaufitul symbols and arabic print.

The waiter was probably what made the experience so great, he seemed thrilled that four american girls came into his restaurant before closing time. He was very jealous of the male friend we brought along with us...

He was very attentive, and brought our peach flavored hookah out very quickly. The highlight I must say though, was when he showed up with postcards and wrote all of names in Arabic characters for us. It was beautiful!

Of course, perhaps the effects of the hookah made us feel extra specially spiritual and moorish... regardless by the end of the night, we were all outiftted in arabic garber - head pieces and jingly scarves, the music was too good to pass up and we even did a little jig.

It was a fabulous night and the best thing was that it was so different from what we usually did, indeed the bar didn't even sell alcoholic beverages...clearly, that kind of stimulation is not necessary here!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Las Palmas - Las yum-as...

Here we are in sunny Las Palmas...except that it is not really sunny at all and is actually abnormally overcast...typico. We seem to be unable to get our timing right with the weather and have yet to be blessed with a perfect sunny day. At this rate, we will all be coming back whiter than when we left Boston!

On the other hand however, Las Palmas has proved to be the home of many a great restaurant and even more exciting is the fact that the restaurants are much more diverse than the other cities we have been in. So far, I have had a fabulous italian meal and an incredible brazilian meat buffet.

The italian restaurant is called Don Vito's and actually has a picture of the Godfather on the I am not going to lie, I was skeptical at first. But we went for it anyways and started off with a great bottle of red wine. I ended up ordering the Cosa Nostra salad which was a nice change from the usual insalada mixta (garden vegetables, boiled egg and tuna). This salad was loaded with avocado, chopped lettuce, pine nuts, a dash of pesto, cherry tomato and peaches. Very tasty!

I then split a vegetarian pizza adorned with mushrooms, sauteed onions and olives. Pizza, I find, can be very poorly made, but this place had a great crust and good cheese and those are usually a much needed pretense for any successful pizza.

The others ordered a sicilian mushroom pasta and the paella. The former was very good, creamy and fresh with a variety of funghi and the latter was even better, loaded with fresh seafood and the perfect tomato taste, so what they say about the paella in Las Palmas is true!

The waiter was also what made this restaurant such a success. He was brazilian/italian and had such flair as to entrance the diners and make the meal seem like some kind of show. Bravo!

The brazilian restaurant we went out to last night was actually referred to us by the waiter from Don Vito's, so we were fairly confident about it. However when we arrived, it turned out to be a buffet. Usually, when I am about to conquer a buffet, I need to know before hand so I can prepare my stomach for a bit of an overload. I wasn't quite prepared for this, but went for it anyways, trusting my unusual ability to stuff a large amount of food into a relatively small stomach. I am glad I didn't back down, the meal was an experience in itself!

There was a salad bar with all the usual fixings and then they brought out some sides. Unfortunately, because we were there a half hour before closing, they had no more beans and plantains (I was very put out). Nonetheless, they had rice and fries and delicious chicken croquettas and then they brought on the meat. I have never seen so much meat in my life, all different cuts. The prok ribs were my favorite..and the sausage. They would bring the meat out on a huge skewer and slice it right onto your plate. Delicious!

We ended the meal with a fabulous layered coconut chocolate cake. It was divine, litteraly like being on cloud number nine.

I was so full and satisfied by the time I left the place that I practically forgave them for not having the fried plantains.

Thank goodness Las Palmas didn't go for the tapas's so nice to have a change of pace!

Monday, June 21, 2010

My dream come true

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 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 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!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

El Fuego Negro - success!

I am proud to say that we finally made it out to the Fuego Negro, one of the top 25 tapas restaurants in Spain...and probably in the world.

It was not easy, my friend and I had to struggle and fight against major natural forces to get there; gail force winds, torrential rain and...well we were pretty much in a hurricane. But we pushed through and thank goodness we did, it was worth it!

This place was just the thing we needed after the tourist-type places we had become accustomed to in Barcelona. It was small, dimly lit with red accents embedded in the otherwise earthy interior. There was a nice bar area and a dining area in the back. My friend and I installed ourselves at the bar and were given an english menu. We then proceeded to order a 'dirty salad', a mini kobe beef burger on a sweet potato bun, cod with cauliflower puree and curry sauce and vegetable tempura.

The plates arrived as they were ready. The burger was divine, juicy and perfectly cooked, the salad was a bit too salty for me, but perhaps that is why they called it the 'dirty salad'. The cod was unbelievably fresh tasting and the puree and curry complimented it beautifully. My poor mouth didn't really know what to make of the pure tastes it was being subjected to. Clearly this place uses only regional ingredients. The vegetable tempura was good, it too was very fresh tasting, but I personnaly would not recommendhave tempura in a tapas restaurant. After these dishes we were still curious about some of the others so we ordered the garlic risotto which was sublime and came with some crunchy pieces of rice which added to the textures. We also ordered this crazy sounding ham dish which without the slightest hint of a doubt won the award for the best dish... that I have ever experienced.

I will try my best to explain was three little pieces of lightly cooked ham breaded in an almond cookie crust and accompanied by an espresso cup filled with this unbelievable coffee/almond gravy, topped with steamed milk. You would dip the ham in the sauce and put the saturated piece of meat into your mouth and pretty much have an orgasm. That's the best I can do.

I am so glad that we made it out against all odds to this restaurant, and I see why it is such a huge deal. If there is one place you get to in Spain, please make it this one!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Third time's a charm?

Greetings from San Sebastian! After a 9 hour travel day from Barcelona, the company arrived in this beautiful city a day ago.

It is strange because we are still in Spain, and yet it feels as though we are in some french city, the whole atmosphere is so starkly different from the constant bustling activity we experienced in Barcelona.

The food scene is also different. In Barcelona, apart from Sundays, mostly all restaurants were open all day, here, they really take their siesta seriously. This becomes a problem when you are in rehearsal until 6, and then back at the theatre getting ready for the nine oclock show. Think about it, if siesta is from around 4 to 8, and restaurants close at 11 on weeknights, that doesn't leave us many options!

It's a pity too, because there are a great many famous tapas restaurants in the area. One in particular, the Fuego Negro, we have tried to eat at two times, without any success.

On the bright side, we found this fab gelato place, they are really big on gelato here in Europe. This place had a great number of flavors, the most interesting being a kinder chocolate flavour and a fererro rocher flavour. I got the latter with some kind of milk was really tasty after our disappointment!

Perhaps today will be the day we manage to penetrate the walls of this small tapas know what they say...third time's a charm!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Head to the Gallows!

As promised, even though I am here in Spain, I am keeping you in the know back in the beantown.

The South End, an ever changing area when it comes to restaurants, two new locations which have sprouted up in the place of two others. Noche takes the place of Icarus, and The Gallows has turned up in the spot fromerly occupied by 'Sage'.

The latter seems like a fabulous new spot, I am very excited to try it out upon my arrival. The eye-catchers would be it's interiror decor which resembles an old barn renovated to suit the South End's usual comfort and class. They will be serving some great sounding pub-style meals with certain twists. Most importantly in my opinion, they offer various kinds of poutine, which is a genius combination of think-cut fries, cheese curds and gravy. The Gallows introduces a spring version as well as a foie gras version...pure genius! They also have a killer sounding burger for...wait for it....9 dollars! This is definately my kind of place!
The other newbie, Noche, is a bit more upscale with no barnyard inspiration. It is slightly less inventive from what I can see. However they have a very intriguing sounding bar menu and a st. Germain cocktail! So it does show some promise!
Feel free to peruse their slightly under-developed websites...and until I come back and try these places daring and take a gander round the South End!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Breakfast included = a touring dancer's savior

I am sure that if any of you have travelled to Europe, you will know that most hotels come with a continental breakfast included. Thankfully, this is the case with the hotel we are staying at. And thank goodness, because if this were not the case, I know I would have a much bigger food problem to deal with as the day progressed

In order to fully understand the importance of these breakfasts, you must first understand the difference between the american continental breakfast, made up of mainly breads, cereals and fruit and the european continental breakfast, which is much more ecclectic. Our breakfast includes the usual breads (chocolate croissants that are really quite delicious), cereals (muesli filled with dried fruits and oats) and fruits. We are also given hot options with scrambled eggs, their special potate omelette (tortilla espagnol) and different types of breakfast meats.

I would say the best part is the slightly surprising (to us) deli section. It is very traditional for europeans to eat what we would assume to be midday food for their breakfast. Although I don't think I would make a prosciutto and manchego cheese sandwhich for breakfast, this fast becomes an option for lunch and guess what!? It saves me having to go buy something elsewhere. When on tour, it is difficult to find a place to buy a quick lunch meal, and it is usually difficult to find the time. Having a packed lunch makes life much easier and cheaper!
And so what if there is a sign saying not to take food items out of the restaurant...a little sandwhich and fruit baggied up in your purse isn't really going to hurt anyone.

So, what can be learned from this post? Make the most of your included breakfast; stretch it into another meal and snacks and you have saved a few euro which you can then invest in a really great dinner!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tourist Trap!

After the great meal we had at the La Tramoia restaurant our first night in Barcelona, I was fairly confident that the quality of most of the restaurants in the area would be on par. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Last night, my friends and I met up at a tapas restaurant near our hotel and were excited because the menu had pictures on it as well as english translations.
We started off with two picthers of sangria and then ordered our little plates. (Aren't you glad I gave you all a tapas history lesson earlier on!??) We should have seen the signs of a bad restaurant when our sangria arrived and the bottles (21 euros each - quite a ways from the 12, 50 from the other place) were only about half full.
When the food came, we were each of us, one by one, more disappointed than the other. I ordered a spinach and goat cheese salad, which was probably the only decent thing on the table, my other plate, sausage and mixed mushrooms looked fab on the menu and turned out to be the most slug-like dish I have yet eaten.
By the end of the meal, I decided I needed to step in and speak with the manager. I told him we were unsatisfied with some of the dishes and he took a couple off, so it eased the edge, but did nothing for the worm - mushrooms slugging around in my belly...ugh.
On the bright side, we can all learn from this...steer clear of restaurants who boast pretty pictures of food with english translations...oh and certain 'tapas' that are named, 'Hannah Montana burger' and 'Hello Kitty skewers'. I realised this after we had sat down and ordered our sangria...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Frugal, foodista, Barcelona!

A big HolĂ  from Barcelona!
I have finally arrived in this beautiful country where architecture abounds in the most magnificent grandeur and tapas restaurants are sardined side-by-side down every little side street.
The trip over was long, hard and not very restful...but although I have not slept much, I have indeed eaten!
Behold! My first foodista experience in Spain! And what do you know? It was frugal!
My friends and I went to a tapas restaurant by the hotel and decided to get a pitcher of sangria, which ended up being the most delicious and well-bodied sangria I have yet tasted. We ended up having three glasses each and the cost of the pitcher split up as about 4 euros each...not too bad!
We also shared the selection of four salads, which featured some potato salad, delicious fresh tomato and feta cheese, and their very popular cured ham. We then got their special tortilla, which is like a potato omelette, very fluffy but dense at the same time, and we also shared their small sized sauteed sausages, which were so delicious.
The whole meal, which was far too much for the three of us to finish...(I tried my best) totalled to 12 euros each)that includes the three glasses of sangria! Unbelievable for the quality and amount of food we got. The waiter was also so nice and helpful and even gave us some spanish words to work on as we will be coming back for sure.
I hope all of my foodista adventures turn out as great as this one. Tomorrow, after an optional class in the morning, I will be going to the beach, so we will see what´s in store for me there!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Frugal foodista goes abroad!

As of 6 oclock today, I will be on a plane to Spain! I am going on tour with the Boston Ballet company and we will be going to 6 different cities and you know what that means...thousands of different foods to try out, great wines etc. etc.
I can't tell you how excited I am, I have never been to Spain so it will be a sensory overload.
Anywho, as I said before, I will be blogging throughout the trip, I will be in touch with what's up in Boston and I will also be able to enrich your palates and imaginations with my adventures in Spain.
See you in Spain!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June bloom

Another month gone and here we are on the first day of June.

I certainly hope this June will be much nicer than last year's...for those of you lucky enough to have missed it, it did not stop raining throughout the entire month and it was frigid!

If today is anything to go by, we are obiviously in for an unpredictable it's a toss up. But as for me, I am hoping for bright skies, strong rays and sandy beaches... as of June 4th, I am off to Spain and will not be back until the middle of July.

That's right! The frugal foodie goes abroad! I am taking this whole 'step outside your box' to extreme lengths. I am very excited, I will be sure to experience many culinary adventures over there and contrary to the way some of my fellow travelers are preparing for the trip, Spain is just as developped as America and I will have access not only to electricity, but internet too ;)

So there is no need to worry, I will be in touch from afar!
As for the local goings on in Boston, there are a few highlights I should mention even though I will not be around to enjoy them.

First of all, as with the begining of every month, those of you who have your Godiva rewards card can go and pick out your free monthly chocolate. I will be doing this in an hour or so...

Secondly, and this is really difficult for me to say knowing very well that I will be missing out. The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl is happening from the 8th to the 10th of June. This event is my absolute favorite...all-you-can-eat ice cream for an admission of 8 dollars...(you can usually get a dollar off if you text a number found in the Metro). Major ice cream companies show up to this event and it is just a beautiful three days...please go on my part and eat a few extra scoops.

On the drinking front, SushiTeq, located at the Intercontinental Hotel, will be hosting tequila tuesdays from today through Sept 4th. This is a very exciting event, especially for those of you who enjoy tequila...Every tuesday, there will be a complimentary sampling of tequila along with all the other ingredients needed to induce proper Mexican flair. In other words, professional salsa dancers will be present along with the appropriate salsa music and salsa lessons! I can only imagine what these tuesdays will turn into...Luckily, this event will be ongoing once I return, so I will be able to experience it in the flesh!

There are probably many other fabulous food events going on for this month. If you know of any please let me know...I will do my best from Beautiful Spain!!

As always...enjoy!