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Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world

Month

July 2012

Sea Anemones and Flipper with old Spanish Men : interesante!

Our first foodie day trip took us to Vejer de la Frontera about an hour south of Cadiz, which according to the Sunday Times is ‘the most food obsessed little town in Andalucia’.

The town itself, a peak of white Moorish houses perched high up on a hill, has that typically Spanish ‘lost in time’ feel. Due to the seemingly random layout, wandering the warren of cobbled streets provides an exciting experience, as what appears to be a completely dead end abandoned street will suddenly open out into a bustling square with cafes and shops.

We paused for a pick me up of the recommended ortigas fritas (deep-fried sea anemones). Galas words of anticipation, ‘I’m very intrigued by these,’ sums them up perfectly. Admittedly, the thought of eating those blobby wormy looking things you find at the bottom of the sea is a bit strange. However, for seafood enthusiasts, they are very similar to fried whole baby squids. The batter was more like a fried breadcrumb shell, and biting into them is a gooey experience. After finishing the platter we decided that yes, we did like them; although I wouldn’t recommend to fussy eaters nor to those who aren’t too keen on seafood in general!

Intriguing sea anemones

Onwards for something sweet to follow from Pasteleria Galvan for a taste of the town’s speciality tortas vejeriegas. The shop was opened in 1942 by Jose Galvan whose mission was endulzar la vida a sus moradores (to sweeten the lives of the villagers). The walls are plastered with old photos and articles, including details of rationing from the post war era, when Galvan asked for 100kg of sugar a month to make 30,000 pieces. That’s a lot of cakes, enough to feed the whole town!

And feed the whole town they do: my inquisitiveness paid off as, after peering in to the van outside being loaded with cakes galore, we got talking to a vejeriega (a local) who explained that they were being transported to another shop in the new town and to various bars and restaurants. This friendly chap turned out to be the grandson of the founder himself, who in turn pointed out his father inside the shop and his brother loading the van. In fact, the whole family is involved.

The town speciality waiting to sweeten the population

The speciality tortas vejeriegas are a biscuity, cakey snack made with cinnamon, flour, lard and sugar, traditionally taken for merienda (the Spanish afternoon snack). With an almost chalky layer on the outside and crunchy in the middle, every bite was an experience. They wouldn’t be my favourite choice in a cake shop, but they were still tasty and again very intriguing.

With an hour to spare before our bus home, we decided to have a late afternoon glass of tinto (red wine) in a local bar. We were greeted by a table of rowdy old local men playing cards: very cliche but very much authentic! One of the more bizarre experiences of my life, we sipped our tinto (only 1 euro!) and watched the film Flipper dubbed in Spanish with the bar man and some electricians.

It may have been the heat, or the sheer randomness of the experience, but when we left the bar we were rather tipsy and ambled down the hillside to catch our bus giggling away and stopping off to pick up some wild fennel for a future dinner and some giant corn stems to use as walking sticks!

Stealing some fennel for dinner!

So, our first adventure was a huge success, and back in time to cook a dinner of calamare a la plancha (calamari cooked on a hot plate).

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“I carried a watermelon” : The guirris have Landed!

Despite myself, I often chuckle away when carting a watermelon around the local supermarket. To a local tarifeño this must appear strange, as the anecdote ‘I carried a watermelon’ has little meaning to them, coming from the American classic Dirty Dancing.

As I have mentioned, last summer was spent with Gala (no melon pun intended!) in Tarifa, the southern-most town in Spain, to which we have returned for the summer season before departing on our food tour. Upon arriving in this Andalucían kite surfing spot first time round, we decided that we were rather peckish. Keen to fully immerse ourselves in to the local culture, we decided to avoid touristy restaurants and set off to the nearby supermarket to buy our Spanish-style lunch. Though blend in we did not… In fact we caused quite a scene, screaming out the fact that we were guirris (local word for ‘foreigner’). In Spanish supermarkets, they have a particular system for weighing and pricing their fruit and veg. We, Brits abroad, were not aware of this and when it came to the check out we were sent back to weigh the melon, dropping it on the way and holding up the queue. So much of a kafuffle we caused that later on that week we met some locals who greeted us with “Oh, you’re the girls with the watermelon!”

To further highlight the fact that we were the new girls in town, we decided we would like to enjoy our watermelon on the beach. From experience and now as seasoned tarifeñas, we know that this is a BIG no no! Nicknamed ‘el pueblo del viento’ (town of the wind) and thus infamous for its strong gusts, Tarifa’s beaches are not the ideal location to eat your watermelon, for which the Spanish translation is sandía… and sandy it was! Our harmonious idea of munching on juicy watermelon on a sunny beach was replaced by the harsh reality of two girls being whipped by sand, hair blowing everywhere, and crunching on gritty watermelon. Delightful!

So, some friendly advice to English picnickers: quaint may be the idea of transporting this  ritual to the sun, sea and sand; but it is not nearly as easy as it looks. Sandy fruit, sweaty meat, …. NOT ideal!

Though I do recommend the watermelons here: very juicy and the perfect accompaniment to the hot sun. Locals sell them from vans and from every street corner. The owner of this van was extremely proud that I took a photo of his prized possessions!

Watermelons being sold out of a roadside van

Watch out Tarifa, the girris have landed, and they’re here to stay (for now)!

Welcome to the Melting Pot!

So, aqui estamos (here we are) in Tarifa! Greeted in to our new apartment by our flat mate’s tiny kitten, Suzie, who we speak to in French and who needs constant attention day and night; this journey has sure got off to a bizarre start! I was given the perfect book for a graduation present called ‘The food of Spain: a journey for food lovers’. It quotes that ‘the three major influences on the cuisine of a country are its geography, its history and its personality.’ Spain’s immense variety in all three areas makes for an astonishing range of flavour within Spanish cuisine and culture. Our first experiences on this journey have most certainly illustrated this diversity. Our housemate is Moroccan and we converse in a mixture of French, Spanish and English providing plenty of different cuisines to explore

As new arrivals, we were made to feel very en casa. Our first dinner was simple yet extremely tasty: roasted vegetables and potatoes ‘Moroccan style’ with an array of spices including cumin and saffron. Topped off with a squeeze of lemon from our own lemon tree in the courtyard, a zest of Spain was added, creating a dish that negotiated two complimenting cuisines.

Day two hosted the arrival of our friend Tom, adding some Polish in to the equation. However we decided to abandon our international roots this evening and enjoyed a very local Spanish dining experience: tapas, of course! With many a tasca (tapas bar) to explore, we ironically chose Bar Frances where the bar staff are French. Here we sat and indulged in our favourites including tortillitas de camarones (flat and crispy golden fritters stuffed full with tiny shrimp) and chicharrones (Pork cooked in lard) which may not sound very appetising, but is absolutely delicious!

So, voila, here we are on a food trail of Spanish cuisine, yet already the international influences are cropping up, and I am sure they will continue to do so every step of the way!

What do you get when you cross Two Blondes, an Elephant and a Monkey?

… the entourage of ComoManger’s Food Tour!

So, my bags are packed and I’m ready to travel the beaten track in to the culinary wilderness of Andalucía. However, I shall not be travelling alone: staying with various international friendly faces on the way along with an interesting little amalgamation of characters…

Introducing the ComoManger Entourage:

A Taste of What’s to Come
  • Alex Crossley (myself): A self-declared food enthusiast, I like to punctuate my life with tasty treats and outbursts of song. I have been planning this tour for months, gathering advice and recommendations from friends, family and strangers, magazines and books. The fact that lift-off is on the horizon is therefore extremely exciting! The world of food retail has fascinated me from an early age, and I am looking forward to gaining some valuable experience and discovering many more favourite places and dishes.
  • Gala Macdonald Polanco: My crazy, curly-haired friend! Having lived together in Spain in the same room for 3 months last year without a single cross word, this set up provides great standing for the  tour ahead. With a mutual love for food, crazy dancing and both being a little bit weird in our own way, it’s a great match. Gala was very giddy when a few months back I popped the question ‘so, do you fancy joining me on my tour?’ Though to be honest, it isn’t exactly an unappealing proposition is it! Since then, it’s been nonstop pining for the culinary trail. Always full of life and ready to grab any opportunity, I couldn’t think of a better companion for the road!
The Elephant

The Elephant: A wonderful concept, two cracking chaps, one very handy bag! ElephantBranded is the business venture of two Bath boys, James Boon and Tim Mendelssohn. With the one for one idea, purchasing one of these trendy bags (made by local people from recycled local materials) gives a school bag stuffed full with goodies to a child who really needs it. Very ethical, but also very practical: perfect size for all airline hand luggage, lightweight and very sturdy, the ‘Elephant’ will be escorting me on my way and carting home all of my market buys!

I love mine, get yours at www.elephantbranded.com

Monkey ready for an adventure!

Monkey: Yes, the PG Tips Monkey! This fine little fellow is already very cultured as he travelled France with me last year. Look out for him, he has a tendency to crop up in scenic photographs, adding a bit of extra charm!

Andalucía

… where it all begins; and what a place to start…

From the mountains and hills rolling down to the seaside, with influences from the Romans to the North African Moors; this region offers a colourful blend of flavours and tasting opportunities that I am eager to explore, from top to bottom.

And at the bottom we really are starting: in the southernmost town in Spain, Tarifa! Last year we were lucky enough to stumble upon this gem which will be our base for a few weeks whilst exploring the local area (packing in a trip to Morocco with some locals). Then it’s off all aboard meandering our way up on a tapas trail through Spain, onwards to discover the mysteries of the Basque country, hopping over the border to explore the culturally rich cities and picturesque villages of France: the culinary heart of Europe, the land that I love. Oh the possibilities…the world is our oyster and I already have itchy feet!

Meanwhile, although this food tour is self-constructed, it is not possible without some friendly advice. So whether you are local or have visited somewhere with that ‘je ne sais quoi’ or even if you spot an article to forward to me, I would love you to share your experiences (be you friend, acquaintance, family or stranger!) To keep updated and to give some advice please ‘like’ our facebook page: www.facebook.com/Comomanger

Otherwise, see you en route, and I guess all that is left to say is ‘bon appétit… buen provecho… ENJOY!’

Related articles: http://afewclickslater.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/the-elephant-has-just-stepped-outside/

A Graduate’s Tribute to Golden Bath

So, my time in Bath has come to an end and another chapter in my life is over. There is many a thing that I will miss about this golden city: not only my friends from all over the world, but more so (as I know I will congregate elsewhere with those I have met) the exquisite Georgian buildings that host some of the friendliest and cosy cafés, eateries and bars England has to offer.

The Golden City in all it’s Glory (http://www.london2see.co.uk)

I will most certainly be back, and here are a few highlights that I will somehow manage to pack in to each weekend visit:

Chandos Deli: How I have not already featured this momentous part of my time in Bath is beyond me. Conveniently situated on my morning walk to lectures, stopping off here has become a ritual and no longer having it in my daily life is rather sad. The wide range of foods including award-winning sandwiches, coffee, fresh bread, patisserie and fine wines to name a few are frequently available for tasters; and the knowledgeable staff are extremely friendly and accommodating, always with smiles on their faces and the majority of them knowing my regular order of ‘hot chocolate with extra chocolate flakes on top.’ Frothy and creamy, yet as chocolaty as can be (non of this watery milky substance that pretends to be hot chocolate), this is without a doubt the best hot chocolate I have tasted, which is saying rather a lot as I drink it everywhere I go! The Chandos brownie and lemon polenta cake are also musts as accompaniments!

mojitos in jam jars: vintage!

Opium Bar: This was a favourite Thursday night haunt for final year students sipping cocktails attempting to be sophisticated before stumbling over the alleyway to the less sophisticated, but host to many happy memories: Kitsch! The vintage decor creates a perfect ambiance for catching up with friends and enjoying exotic-flavoured mojitos, previously featured: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/mojitos-in-jam-jars-vintage/

Same, Same But Different: A tiny relaxed café, always bustling and full of Latino character. Having frequently taken coffee and yummy breakfasts here, my friend Pia and I decided to see if they could keep their standards up through to the evening. And, to put it simply, yes they did. First we shared a few tapas, including the thinnest but tastiest fried calamari imaginable. Following this was slow cooked pork on a parmesan and sweet potato risotto: simply divine! We couldn’t resist finishing off with warm chocolate brownie and ice cream. Left very much to enjoy the intimate home-from-home ambiance, we took our time and felt extremely at ease. So there you have it: perfect for all occasions breakfast, coffee, lunch and dinner!

Cavendish Cooks: How lucky we were to have this eatery on our doorstep (literally: it was next door!) With their friendly neighbourly smiles and the daily scent of whatever was brewing up in the kitchen wafting through our front door, these cooks will be sorely missed. Definitely worth the little walk out of the town centre, you can also pick up delicious home-made takeaways. Here is my earlier review: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/161/

Hall and Woodhouse has punctuated our final year at university: from tea and cake in the potting shed, to delicious hearty and homemade fish finger sandwiches in the common room, to special occasion dinners in the restaurant, to a glass of wine on the Mediterranean-feel roof terrace with a view of Bath’s rooftops. This adventurous enterprise manages to use the vast space to its advantage, creating cosy individual areas and escaping the canteen-like atmosphere that big spaces often create. Perfect for every occasion!

Society Café:  This airy corner café has only recently opened, therefore I fear that the majority of my fellow graduates have not had the opportunity to visit, but anyone still in Bath should definitely get on the band wagon! Here’s my previous rave about the chic and friendly haunt: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/haut-societe-for-the-everyday-onlooker/

There are many more places I have absolutely loved, but these are a few gems in a haystack of golden glory!

So, ta ta for now, Bath: it’s been a pleasure!

Ta ta for now Bath, we’re off on a food tour!

A Whistle-Stop Island Tour of Croatia’s Culinary Culture

Croatia’s Dalmatian islands have a rustic feel untouched by the 21st Century: just my cup of tea! Across the Adriatic from Italy and bordered by five other countries, Croatia forms a melting pot of culinary cultures dominated by seafood of the Mediterranean and the contrasting central European hearty schnitzel and strudel. The ice cream gives Italian gelati a serious run for its money: every street corner offering an array of flavours from Kinder Bueno to my favourite Lemon (not sorbet, but real creamy lemon ice cream: unbeatable!)

Enjoying ice cream on the marble streets of Dubrovnik

‘Everyone tuck in!’ and a visit to Narnia (Dubrovnik)

When in Dubrovnik, ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, last year with my family; we stumbled across a pavement jam-packed with wooden tables; a canopy of white umbrellas above, the shiniest outdoor floor I have ever seen below and a picture perfect view of the harbour. Adding to the unpretentious atmosphere we were served up with large metal pots full of baby squids and giant prawns for everyone to dig in. Returning this year with my friends, having raved about it nonstop I worried that it may have changed for the worse and prices soared due to the recent wave of tourists. But no, to my delight the same vibrant bustling atmosphere and moderate prices remained and we enjoyed a relaxed taste of the sea. (Lokanda Peskarija)

Bustling Lokanda Peskarija

Having read about Buza bar in the guide-book, we set off in search of this Narnia-like hole-in-the-wall. Unfortunately it seemed that it was more like Narnia than anticipated, in that it was only accessible to a chosen few. (In other words, we couldn’t find it!) However, the inquisitive Ellen decided to lead us back to the main square down a random abandoned street. Her inkling was rewarded as we found our hole in the city walls, ventured down some stone steps, which opened out to a striking land of rocks leading down to the crashing waves and the vast open sea. Choosing our table on the edge of the rocks, we sipped our cocktails and admired the stars.

An Atmospheric Dinner and a much Needed Five a Day Dosage (Korcula)

An atmospheric dinner

The above photograph is the restaurant Gradski Podrum. The location of this restaurant could not be more atmospheric, with tables dotted around a beautiful square and surrounded by the city walls. There was even a full band practice taking place in an adjoining square, topping of the ambiance.

After dinner, inquisitive as ever, we peered through an archway in the city wall to find a fruit and veg shop, the perfect remedy for pretending to be healthy on holiday! We picked our five-a-day-fix from the mass of colour in crates and ambled along the seafront trying (and failing) to elegantly munch away.

Final stop of the evening’s adventure involved climbing up a ladder, again rather inelegantly, to a cocktail bar on the top of a watchtower with a panoramic view of the sea and mountains of the neighbouring island one way, and the patchwork quilt of Korcula town’s terracotta tiles the other. A round of cocktails ranging from creamy White Russians to a bright blue concoction was the perfect end to a perfect evening.

Royal Treatment, Cocktails and Dancing in the Sunset (Hvar)

Further up the islands in the party town of Hvar, we did not completely abandon our taste buds to make way for dancing the night away (although we managed to fit this in as well on the island Carpe Diem club). Our friends who were already nestled in to Hvar life took us up a narrow street of steps to Dalmatino Restaurant. Following a rather dramatic episode a few nights before, they had built up a healthy friendship with the owners, resulting in us being treated not only with a charming setting on a terrace of a busy backstreet, but plenty of drinks to add to the merriment. This very typically Croatian meal kicked off with a bang: a shot of local rogacica (Carob Brandy).

During background reading about the country’s cuisine, one particular dish caught my attention: Dalmation Pasticada. This dish of beef cooked in vinegar, wine and prunes is enjoyed by Croatians on Holy Days and special occasions. The chef of this local restaurant (who we later discovered was the owner’s mother) gave the dish her own intriguing twist by adding orange, carrot and apple. The beef fell apart with a touch and the extremely rich sauce was complimented with hints of fruitiness. Accompanied by homemade gnocchi, faithful to the island’s Italian influence, this dish was a perfect illustration of the eclectic culinary culture of Croatia.

Dalmatino: streets of Hvar

As previously stated, my entries not only observe outstanding food and drink, but also special locations. The final stop of my mini tour of Croatia was the much-loved Hula Hula Bar, host to the most stunning sunsets and best pre-dinner cocktail parties on the island. This chilled out bar, spread over the rocks of Hvar’s shoreline, provides sun beds and drinks during the day. Yet at 6pm the transformation begins and Hvar’s creatures of the night flock to soak up the evening sun and atmosphere with DJ’s, the constant spray of champagne and dancing in beachwear. With wooden platforms out in to the sea, the majority of visitors end up in the turquoise blue waters to cool down. It’s carefree, it’s fun, and it’s not to be missed!

Sunset at Hula Hula Hvar

For more information (locations etc) about any of the above recommendations, don’t hesitate to comment or contact me!

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