Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bites in San Sebastián - Donostia

Spent the weekend in San Sebastián - Donostia with some friends, and enjoyed some delicious cuisine. If you are at a loss for where to go, check out the following suggestions:

  • Pick up some local pastries at a pastelería, some fresh strawberries at a frutería, and head to the beach for a relaxing breakfast
    • La Tahoma (pastelería/pastry shop in Gros, on San Franzisco) has a huge selection of pastries and breads.
    • There are tons of pastry shops and bakeries, however, so take your pick. =)
  • If you're there on a Saturday, check out the farmers' market in Gros and pick up some local goods -- breads, local goat or cow cheeses (sample some from the lady that sells only goat cheese... it's delicious!), baked goods, veggies and fruits, or flowers.
  • Sample some delicious local seafood at Freiduría San Francisco in Gros (They have a selection of fried fish, grilled fish and shellfish. Try the gambas a la plancha -- grilled prawns, tortitas de camarones -- crispy fritters made with absolutely tiny shrimp, and fried chipirones -- crispy fried whole baby squid.
  • For delicious Italian food, try La Mama Vía (Paseo Colón). They have a selection of pizzas, pastas, salads, and risottos. Try the pizza primavera (with chorizo and green pepper), the pizza la toscana (with chorizo, chicken and hot peppers), or the risotto quatro formaggio (four-cheese).
  • Hit up any number of bars (they are all over the place -- Bar Barandiarán on Avda. Boulevard is just one) for local pintxos (pronounced "peen-chose") and a cold beer. Pintxos (or pinchos) are like tapas (appetizers), but refer to a specific type of appetizer. The words pintxo and pincho mean thorn (in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively), and a pintxo consists of a slice of bread, a topping, and a toothpick (aka. the thorn) holding it all together. Common toppings include fish -- tuna, bacalao, smoked salmon or anchovies, faux crab or tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette). See photo below of pintxos and tapas...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bites in Lisbon/Sintra, Portugal

I just spent the weekend in Portugal, and I have to tell you... The rumors are true! The Portuguese sure know how to do pastries... Walk into any local pastelaría (pastry shop) in Lisbon and you will find yourself surrounded by a mountain of pastries. Sweet or savory, bite-sized or the size of your head, you are bound to find something that appetizes you. Just a few tasty suggestions:

  • Pastéis de Nata or Pastéis de Belém (traditional pastry made with flaky crust, custard filling and bruléed top... click here for a pic... so popular that now Brazil's fast food chain Habib's actually has their own version on the menu)
  • apple-stuffed pastry (not too sweet, just right)
  • empanada-type pastry with shrimp & creamy filling
  • puff pastry squares baked with ham (fiambre) and cheese (queijo) inside
  • fish fritters (made with whitefish & herbs... hard to explain, but delicious)
  • croquetes (made with seasoned ground beef and chouriço (chorizo in Esp)
  • roll stuffed with sliced chouriço (delicious choice for breakfast)
  • roll/bread with chunks of chouriço baked right in
On a completely unrelated note, Lisbon is also home to some amazing Asian food. Restaurant Ton Xin (Av. Brasilia - Edificio Espelho de Agua) is on the water, between Ponte 25 (bridge) and La Torre de Belém. They have three parts to the restaurant: 1. You can enjoy a sit-down meal of Chinese food. 2. Sit-down meal of Japanese food. 3. The WOK. I recommend the WOK. It's all-you-can-eat, and the food is fabulous. They have cooked-to-order wok food, a hot Chinese food bar, cold food bar, sushi bar, and dessert bar. For the wok food, you select your own ingredients from a buffet-style line-up, choose your sauce, and the wok chef cooks it for you in a number of minutes. They have seven sauces to choose from... Try the Gon Bao sauce if you enjoy make-you-cry spicyness or if you are congested, or try the Thailand sauce, which is fantastic. They have less-hot sauces, like sweet-and-sour or garlic, and they even have a curry sauce. All in all, it is inexpensive (13.90€) and worth the trip out to the shore. As it says in their brochure, "If you want to taste the really Chinese food, came and visit us."

If you are in the mood for food from the other side of Asia, check out Bengal Tandoori on Rua Pendôa 11 in Sintra. It's got a sort of bizarre combination of Indian and Italian food, but it works if you have friends with different tastes. As far as Italian goes, the spaghetti/rigatoni con carne is recommended. As far as Indian goes, check out the chicken tikka masala (very saucy, not like others that we've had, but very delicious), the malai kofta (specialty of the house -- veggie patties sort of like falafel with a creamy and spiced sauce), veg soup (that's really what it's called, and it's good), and the paneer naan (flatbread stuffed with homemade cheese and cilantro). Avoid the tap water.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Death of a Portuguese Chicken =(

I was in Vallecas today, and was looking forward to some tasty Portuguese-style pollo asado (roasted chicken) and was shocked to find that the establishment that sells said chicken (I think it's called something like Quinto Pollo -- avenida de Monte Igueldo, metro stop: Puente de Vallecas) has closed the restaurant portion of its business. Needless to say, some serious decision-making ensued as we were forced to eat in another establishment. There are a few other restaurants in the area that sell pollo asado, but avoid Kikirikí (Ecuadorian-style pollo asado) at all costs. You are better off in the Chinese joint (also on avenida de Monte Igueldo) that has "POLLO ASADO" in big letters on the windows but is clearly a Chinese place. They sell all sorts of Chinese dishes as well as roasted chickens (1/2 or whole). I know its not the same as eating Portuguese chicken, but the fried noodles (tallarines tres delicias) are tasty.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mini-bite :: La Gloria de Montera

The other night, at La Gloria de Montera, I had a delicious dessert. Fresh strawberry soup with a scoop of tarragon ice cream. I know it sounds weird, but it is amazing. The "ice cream" tastes a bit more like a sorbet, but it is tasty. Give it a try. =)

Chocolatísimo dessert @ La Gloria de Montera

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La Bambola :: Take 2

If you want some tasty Italian food, check out La Bambola (numerous locations -- see website for the one closest to you!). The spaghetti bolognese is delicious, and their selva nera (black forest) dessert is especially tasty -- chocolate cake layered with mousse, fresh cherries, and cherry liquor, and topped with thin curls of chocolate. I won't bore you by recapping what I said last time about La Bambola, but you can see the full blog entry here.

Asian Food in Madrid

Ok, in general, my experience with Asian food in Madrid has not been good. If you are in the mood for Asian food, I recommend that you do some research first, and ask around to see what the opinions are of certain establishments. I have had some seriously bad food, but there are three places that I have visited that have had really great food. The first place, Rey de Tallarines, has excellent homemade noodles and tasty green curry (see entire blog entry here). The second place, Bangkok, has delicious pad thai and let me tell you, it is a HUGE portion of noodles. And thirdly, if you are looking for Indian cuisine, check out Tandoori's for delicious curries and vegetarian dishes (see entire blog entry here). I know it can get tough here if you are craving a little Asian flavor, but don't worry, good Asian food in Madrid DOES exist. =)
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