Foodie Rule #1: Don’t ask, just eat.
Last Thursday I made my way to the north of Spain and into the region of Galicia for a first time visit via a short flight from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela and a 2 hour bus ride to the city of Vigo. A visit to a friend and fellow auxiliar led me on a trip to this northwestern land at the top of the country, and I arrived ready to sightsee, relax and (most importantly): eat.
Galicia is famous for its seafood, and I wasn’t about to miss any of it. Luckily, Natalie knows her way around the seafood menu, and we started at a local taberna with a very Spanish name: “Tony’s.” So my first dinner in the north featured chipirones (cuttlefish) and patatas bravas (potatoes & sauce), accompanied by albariño wine. This wine tastes like summer – fruity and crisp. If Ryan Air wasn’t such a pain in the ass, I would be bringing bottles of wine home with me from everywhere.
Friday we spent the day in Vigo, starting with la Rua de Ostras or Oyster Street. The ancient ladies shucking oysters put a smile on my face and made me think of my grandfather and our oystering trips in New Hampshire when I was little. Winding our way through the city we made our way to a fine specimen of a bookstore. Vigo is the home of a substantial and random collection of used books, music and movies. Personally, we were hunting for books. Buried in the depths of this musty and miraculous place, I unearthed two gems: The Girl with a Pearl Earring and Shadow of the Wind (both in English). Shadow of the Wind is particularly interesting as it follows a young boy and his father through Barcelona. A friend of mine is currently following the path laid out by the book – anda ya, Chloé!
Just around the corner from Oyster Street we settled into an intimate pub for lunch. The cornerstore of Galician cuisine is the pulpo (octopus). All relatives of the World Cup predicting Pulpo Paul (RIP) are steamed and sliced in this part of the country. We had a beautiful plate of pulpo a feira which was steamed and lightly salted with paprika. I don’t know what kind of magic they used to cook it, but it was delicious. Another staple at the Galician table is mejillones (mussels) and we tried croquetas de mejillones which were life changing. I may never eat a jamón croqueta again.
Wandering into a café I made sure to get a tiny version of the Tarta de Santiago (St. James Cake), which is often seen with his signature cross dusted on top with powdered sugar. The recipe seems simple enough, but I’m sure there is some witchcraft involved because I immediately wanted another one. Don’t laugh about the witchcraft – it exists! The best I can piece together is that the witchery has roots in this region’s Celtic culture. There are many sightings of tiny witches as souvenirs, in addition to ceramic cauldrons for quiemada (witches brew).
Saturday morning found us on a train to A Coruña, a coastal town further north. We dropped our things in a nearby pension and set off for a walk around the old town. For lunch we dined on the best calamares fritos (fried squid) I have ever had. The squid wasn’t rubbery and the batter wasn’t greasy. Again, I point to witchcraft. Dessert was a unique treat of queso tetilla and membrillo – a slab of soft cheese and another slab of quince jelly. Our waiter was an true salesman, and probably the most attentive waiter ever to work in this country. Originally I, the Trianera (resident of Triana, Sevilla and professional jamón supporter) turned my nose up at the name of this *restaurant: “El Serrano – Mesón Jamonería.” I’m sure the ham was good too, but skip it and go straight for the squid. Save the ham for your trip down south! (*c/ Galera 21)
Miraculously, there was no rain to be seen .. a true surprise in the rainiest region of Spain. We took a long walk on the promenade along the coast and watched some amazing pre-storm waves. On the hill sits the Torre de Hercules, a newly minted UNESCO World Heritage site and the “oldest Roman lighthouse still used as a lighthouse.” Personally I was too fixated on the waves to appreciate the tower, but it looked lovely. In town the houses have beautiful second floor porches covered in glass to keep out the elements. Rumor has it the houses face inward away from the sea because the fisherman got tired of looking at it!
Sunday we made our way back down to Santiago de Compostela, and went to the gothic cathedral of pilgrimage fame. My final day in the north turned out to be the best time for caldo gallego (Galician broth / soup) as it started to rain. The waiter was clearly annoyed that we were smart enough to (1) share a sandwich, (2) decline extra bread, and (3) decline a beverage. So for two medium sized portions of hot soup (made with white beans, potatoes, turnip greens, various spices) and half a bocadillo (sandwich) – we only spent 6 euros. Even the delectable You Pick Two at Panera is not as good as this!
Now it’s back to Sevilla .. and back to the gym. Thank you, Galicia (& Natalie) for a delicious weekend 🙂
more photos here
for more info on Galicia, check out this blog