Tuesday, January 27, 2015

markets, tapas and fresh seafood

Our travel is generally influenced by our stomachs. Yes, there are places that are beautiful and worth going to several times but if the local food is not good then we tend not to go back. Croatia was a good example. There were some picturesque places that we loved such as Split and Dubrovnik but we were so disappointed in the food that we doubt very much that we will return.
Spain on the other hand has good fresh simple food at really affordable prices. To go into the fish market at Cadiz and not be able to smell that horrible fishy smell you get from the fish section at some supermarkets is incredible.
 The variety of shell fish was amazing. The other incredible thing was that there were about 50 stalls selling what appeared to be the same products yet some stalls would have a queue of people waiting to buy and others were dead quiet. Obviously the locals have their favourites and know which ones sell the freshest produce.
The fruit and vegetable sections are a riot of colour with all sorts of produce and remarkably cheap prices. When we first went to Europe the markets only had fresh, seasonal locally grown produce so you were assured that if there were tomatoes they were rich, ripe and flavoursome and strawberries were sweet and succulent. These days with the EEC there is a greater variety of fruit and vegetables but they aren't necessarily locally grown or as ripe, especially in the supermarkets. Farmers market are still the best bet for fresh produce.
fresh artichokes

yummy Strawberries
how cheap are the clementines!!!
Spain is known for its tapas bars. There are the traditional ones that still give you free tapas when you have a drink - this may be just some home pickled olives or some slices of chorizo. These are usually frequented by elderly locals popping into the bar to hear the local gossip and chatting to their mates. Then there are the tapas bars that have created a niche from being inventive with their fare, catering more to the tourist market. Some of these are good and expensive, others are expensive and not so good then there are the ones that have developed a name for themselves amongst the expat community which serve a different style of tapas at a reasonable price. One such place was recommended to us by an Irish couple that we met on a walk in Puerto Banus. They steered us clear of the more expensive places catering to tourists. One of the tapas bars they recommended and that we visited several times was Funky Tapas. Owned by an expat this little bar is perfect on a sunny winters day. We sat out on the terrace for about 4 hours drinking dry verdeljo and eating our way through a variety of tapas such as soft poached egg rolled in Dukka on a bed of hummus or a crispy mediterranean fishcake with mustard mayonnaise. We finished off with a mini creme brûlée made in a liqueur glass with just a small amount of burnt sugar. This was actually better because it wasn't too sweet.
Another great tapas meal was encountered in a small bar on the route between Barcelona and Marbella. It was a tiny roadside cafeteria attached to a petrol station. Next door was a big restaurant that was busy with Saturday lunch and looked a bit more upmarket but we opted for the more casual meal. The staff didn't speak any English and we didn't speak any Spanish but several plates of food had just been delivered to a group at one of the tables. It looked delicious so we pointed to it and indicated we would have the same. Out came the obligatory home pickled olives - very bitter (maybe needed longer brining) and then our order appeared. Deep fried calamari and the most amazing prawns in what looked like empanada batter. They were so fresh and absolutely delicious - we ordered another one. We then had the Spanish version of creme caramel to finish off - and all for under €10.

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