Saturday, December 31, 2011


Spain is home to some of the best food in the world. It's well known yet remains mostly cheap and unadulterated. Seafood, seafood, seafood. And amazing jamon, wine, sheep cheese, and pintxos or tapas. I ate more mussels in three weeks than my whole life up to that point. The octopus pintxos were tender and mild, unlike the rubbery, fishy calamari that we encounter so much here. I couldn't find sheep brains or calf tongues in their own blood - next time.
Stay tuned for my pintxo bar to open.
The Spanish are mad for wine and devoutly nationalistic. In Spain you drink Spanish wine. But I have no complaints about tinto rojo, blanco, brandy and cava. Had delicious mojitos in Granada, agua de valencia (a reeling drink made from cava, vodka, gin and orange juice that I am determined to recreate) and beer nearly everywhere (except the subway). 
The cerveza situation in Spain isn't dire - it's on tap everywhere - but the choices range from ultra-cheap lagers to slightly less-cheap pilsners. I'm certain there are cervezerias for hop snobs, but I didn't find much in the way of craft beer.

I wish I took more food snaps but here's a few examples to pique your appetite:

The only time I cooked, which was agonizing because the markets were unbelievable. You could find any imaginable meat, cheese or vegetable of great quality. At Carol's I made this concoction of anchoas, gambas, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, onions and olives. 

Farmer's market aftermath.

Paella Valenciana. With rabbit and chicken. 

Basque cheese maker at the market in Tolosa. He cut off big chunks of all the cheeses to taste, which ranged from gamy and salty to soft sweet and sour. Love the sheepskin.

Bolete bounty. Carol asked this caballero to weigh the mushroom and it came out to just under two pounds. It would have cost about 25 euro. He apparently wasn't keen on talking in Spanish, preferring Basque.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Alhambra

The Alhambra sits on a hill over Granada - another fortress that defines the skyline of a Spanish city. It began construction in the 13th century under Muhammad I al-Ahmar, continuing with influence from Catholics as the land changed hands. Supposedly it was abandoned to beggars and thieves by the 18th century until Washington Irving visited and wrote "Tales of the Alhambra," which sparked a renewed interest in the site.
I stayed up until 3 a.m. wandering the streets of Granada the night before my 8 a.m. entry to the Alhambra, so I was a bit groggy for the long, steep walk up to the fortress gates. It was well worth it. I spent 5 hours on the grounds, and probably could have explored further if I didn't have a bus ticket out of town.

Watch tower looking out over Granada's old town. One of the older parts of the Alhambra.

View from the watch tower. 

The high-ceiling Moorish insides of Alhambra buildings, covered in intricate stone carving and woodwork. 

Luz en la ventana.

View looking away from old town Granada. It was rainy, windy and thankfully uncrowded.

Nice place to relax on a hot Spanish day.

Just your average home.


Generalife, the gardens portion of the Alhambra. Nicely laid out formal gardens with fountains, walls and...

Redwood trees.

Palacio de Carlos V, built 16th century.

Rain falling on Carlos V.

This is the kind of carved stonework that covers the inside of most of the buildings in the Alhambra. Amazingly intricate.