Tag Archives: tapas

King Alfonso X and Tapas

The Abacería L’Antiqua was full to overflowing and heaving with activity and just as we were pondering whether or not to stay a table became available and we made ourselves comfortable. The food looked good and the bar was doing brisk trade so we selected some items from the tapas menu and waited for our food to arrive.  All around the bar there were barrels of sherry and this is something else than Andalusia is famous for.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez on the coast. In Spanish, it is called Vino de Jerez and according to Spanish law, sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.

After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.  So now you know!

According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castille Alfonso the Wise (died 23rd November 1221) visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry.

There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty.  The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first.  This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.

The menu was entirely in Spanish and that made it exciting, ordering items from the list with little or no idea what they might be.  Thankfully we didn’t get any shocks and a couple of the dishes were so good that we ordered seconds.  It was a great place and it felt as though we were eating in a traditional way and not in a place created for tourists.    The bodega was a vibrant and effervescent place with people of all age groups and whole families enjoying their Sunday lunchtime gathering and we enjoyed the garrulous atmosphere and just being a part of it all.

http://apetcher.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/spain-tapas-and-pinchos/

Ciudad Rodrigo and The Hotel Molina de Águeda

A few weeks after returning from Castilla-la Mancha to the south of Madrid we were returning to Spain and this time to Castilla y Leon to the north of the capital.  We had been here in March this year to Ávila and Segovia but this time we were going further north and west, flying in to Valladolid and staying in the small city of Ciudad Rodrigo.

We had been looking forward to this because Castilla y Leon is as far away from the coastal strip as it is possible to get and is home to half of Spain’s cultural heritage sites including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over two hundred castles and eleven magnificent cathedrals.  It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, which after Chinese and Hindi is the third most common language in the World just ahead of English.

We had a late morning flight and the plane took off into a crisp blue sky with scattered clouds over fresh green fields and autumn gold deciduous woods that looked as though they were lying under a generous sprinkling of brown sugar.  As we flew south the clouds increased and there was nothing to see until we began to descend toward Valladolid where they began to break into various patchy fragments and below us we could see large colourful fields, flaming russet, steel grey, butter cream and saffron yellow broken now and again by bottle green forests, shimmering blue lakes and occasional villages with ochre tiled roofs.

Valladolid airport is only small with limited facilities but there was a sign apologising for this and promising imminent improvements.  We collected a battleship grey Seat Ibiza from the Avis rental car office and set off immediately on the two hundred-kilometre drive to Ciudad Rodrigo.

There were plenty of things to stop and see along the way but it was mid afternoon and we were in a hurry to get to our destination so we took the Autovia de Castilla and with virtually no traffic to share the road with had an easy journey all of the way. We were crossing the Meseta, the great central plain of interior Spain, which at two hundred and ten thousand square kilometres makes up forty percent of the country and has an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres. It is split in two by the Sistema Central, the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges, creating Old Castile to the north (Castilla y Leon) and New Castile to the south (Castilla La Mancha). The northern ‘submeseta’ is the higher of the two at over eight hundred metres and coming from below sea level in Lincolnshire I worried that we might require oxygen cylinders.

After about half way we passed by Salamanca and we could see its golden coloured cathedrals catching the sun and standing proud and high above the city and after that the landscape began to change. We left behind the pretty coloured fields and entered a different environment of green fields and woodlands and more and more livestock.  After a couple of hours of really enjoyable motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled city and its fortifications standing on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

I knew roughly where the hotel Molina de Águeda was and as we kept an eye open for directions Kim had a brilliant navigational fluke and spotted a half hidden sign that pointed to our destination.  As we pulled into the car park there were a few spots of rain but it came to nothing and there were blue skies above us as we unloaded the car and went inside to reception.  It was a very nice hotel indeed located in an old water mill on the river Agueda, elegantly refurbished and surrounded by woods and we had a good room on the front with a nice view of the river and the old city about a kilometre away.

http://www.hotelmolinodelagueda.com/

It was a pleasant evening, not cold, but the sort of temperature when local people feel the need to put on a coat, hat and scarf but shirt sleeve weather for those of us from northern Europe with thicker blood.  We needn’t have worried about finding somewhere to eat because there was plenty of choice and the place was really busy with families out for a Sunday night on the town.  We found a lively tapas bar where everyone was watching the ‘You’ve been framed’ bullfighting show that we had seen last month in Chinchón and the place was really hectic.

We were the only overseas visitors in the place but we didn’t feel uncomfortable and we found a table and ordered food.  Unfortunately they were so busy that they made a mistake with the order and we only got half of it but it didn’t matter, we weren’t especially hungry anyway and at least it made it a cheaper night out.

A Year in a Life – 23rd November, King Alfonso X and Tapas

We walked back to the fortress gate and to a little bodega that we had picked out earlier for lunch.  The Abacería L’Antiqua was full to overflowing and heaving with activity and just as we were pondering whether or not to stay a table became available and we made ourselves comfortable. The food looked good and the bar was doing brisk trade so we selected some items from the tapas menu and waited for our food to arrive.  All around the bar there were barrels of sherry and this is something else than Andalusia is famous for.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez on the coast. In Spanish, it is called Vino de Jerez and according to Spanish law, sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.  After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.  So now you know!

According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castille Alfonso the Wise (died 23rd November 1221) visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry.  There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty.  The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first.  This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.

The menu was entirely in Spanish and that made it exciting, ordering items from the list with little or no idea what they might be.  Thankfully we didn’t get any shocks and a couple of the dishes were so good that we ordered seconds.  It was a great place and it felt as though we were eating in a traditional way and not in a place created for tourists.    The bodega was a vibrant and effervescent place with people of all age groups and whole families enjoying their Sunday lunchtime gathering and we enjoyed the garrulous atmosphere and just being a part of it all.

http://apetcher.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/spain-tapas-and-pinchos/

A Life in a Year – 5th November, Ciudad Rodrigo and The Hotel Molina de Águeda

A few weeks after returning from Castilla-la Mancha to the south of Madrid we were returning to Spain and this time to Castilla y Leon to the north of the capital.  We had been here in March this year to Ávila and Segovia but this time we were going further north and west, flying in to Valladolid and staying in the small city of Ciudad Rodrigo.  We had been looking forward to this because Castilla y Leon is as far away from the coastal strip as it is possible to get and is home to half of Spain’s cultural heritage sites including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over two hundred castles and eleven magnificent cathedrals.  It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, which after Chinese and Hindi is the third most common language in the World just ahead of English.

We had a late morning flight and the plane took off into a crisp blue sky with scattered clouds over fresh green fields and autumn gold deciduous woods that looked as though they were lying under a generous sprinkling of brown sugar.  As we flew south the clouds increased and there was nothing to see until we began to descend toward Valladolid where they began to break into various patchy fragments and below us we could see large colourful fields, russet, grey, cream and yellow broken now and again by bottle green forests, shimmering blue lakes and occasional villages with ochre tiled roofs.

Valladolid airport is only small with limited facilities but there was a sign apologising for this and promising imminent improvements.  We collected a steel grey Seat Ibiza from the Avis rental car office and set off immediately on the two hundred-kilometre drive to Ciudad Rodrigo.

There were plenty of things to stop and see along the way but it was mid afternoon and we were in a hurry to get to our destination so we took the Autovia de Castilla and with virtually no traffic to share the road with had an easy journey all of the way. We were crossing the Meseta, the great central plain of interior Spain, which at two hundred and ten thousand square kilometres makes up forty percent of the country and has an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres. It is split in two by the Sistema Central, the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges, creating Old Castile to the north (Castilla y Leon) and New Castile to the south (Castilla La Mancha). The northern ‘submeseta’ is the higher of the two at over eight hundred metres and coming from below sea level in Lincolnshire I worried that we might require oxygen cylinders.

After about half way we passed by Salamanca and we could see its golden coloured cathedrals standing proud and high above the city and after that the landscape began to change. We left behind the pretty coloured fields and entered a different environment of green fields and woodlands and more and more livestock.  After a couple of hours of really enjoyable motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled city and its fortifications standing on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

I knew roughly where the hotel Molina de Águeda was and as we kept an eye open for directions Kim had another navigational fluke and spotted a half hidden sign that signposted our destination.  As we pulled into the car park there were a few spots of rain but it came to nothing and there were blue skies above us as we unloaded the car and went inside to reception.  It was a very nice hotel indeed located in an old water mill on the river Agueda, elegantly refurbished and surrounded by woods and we had a good room on the front with a nice view of the river and the old city about a kilometre away.

http://www.hotelmolinodelagueda.com/

It was a pleasant evening, not cold, but the sort of temperature when local people need to put on a coat, hat and scarf but shirt sleeve weather for those of us from northern Europe with thicker blood.  We needn’t have worried about finding somewhere to eat because there was plenty of choice and the place was really busy with families out for a Sunday night on the town.  We found a lively tapas bar where everyone was watching the ‘You’ve been framed’ bullfighting show that we had seen last month in Chinchón and the place was really hectic.  We were the only overseas visitors in the place but we didn’t feel uncomfortable and we found a table and ordered food.  Unfortunately they were so busy that they made a mistake with the order and we only got half of it but it didn’t matter, we weren’t especially hungry anyway and at least it made it a cheaper night out.