It is no secret that Spain stole my heart over 3 years ago. I can't wait to go back. It is such a colourful country - its scenery, culture, drink and food.
Oh, the food. I couldn't get enough. Paella, tapas, churros, café con leche and Sangria. Those seemed to be on my daily menu. You might think - don't you get sick of eating the same thing every day. But interestingly enough, it was always slightly different.
Breakfast - Desayuno
This didn't really change. It consists of café con leche (think more like a latte), churros, fresh-squeezed orange juice - and yes, it's fresh. My girls were so in awe of the orange juice machine that would juice oranges right on the spot. I call this a breakfast of champions. If you ever travel to Marid, I'll tell you where one great spot. It was a popular spot for the locals - a meeting spot of all the retired abuelos (grandparents).
Lunch and Dinner - Almuerzo y Cena
I interchanged them based on how hungry or how hot I was. Eating heavy meals when it's hot it's not advisable - unless you can partake in a siesta, which you will see most business shut down for it. As a general recommendation - Tapas as a lighter fare. Paella for the heavier meal.
The name is common, but the food is far from it. So many variations, so many choices - vegetarian, various meats, seafood, cheeses, gluten-free. Always ask the server which ones are their favourite. Not the most popular, but their favourite. You might be surprised by what you get. Some of the best tapas I've had, I never would have thought to order.
The main event - You may find some here but unless the Safron (a spice) is from Spanish is just not the same. And it needs to be cooked in a cast-iron pan, and it will take 20 mins to cook. A proper restaurant will make it fresh just for you. There should not be paellas just sitting there waiting to be served. Find the little spots that look like holes in the wall, but busy with people - likely that's a good local spot where the place might not look like much. One of the best paellas, when I got talking to the server, he told me they are all proud of their paella. And that they take turns. We loved the paella so much, we returned the following day to get a different one. Returned out, the server the day before, was the cook today. They have pride in what they serve.
So how is Paella different? Depends on what you want in it. You can just get chicken, or seafood, beef, pork, or a mix of all. I preferred the Paella Mixta. The mixed paella - a little bit of everything. Now, if you want a whole other type of Paella - ask for Paella Negra???? (Black Paella) - why is it called that? Because the rice itself is black. Nope. Not a brand new type of rice ou have never seen but rather it is cooked in the ink of the octopus. Yes, paella can have octopus in it, but not necessarily the ink of it. Be adventurous and try. I liked it, but it wasn't my favourite, but I am glad I tried it. It was very different than regular paella.
Sangria y Tinto de Verano
And you can't have paella without a jar of Sangria (by the way, you need to bring a jar home if you can fit it - they come in different colours - wait till you see your favourite colour). Again, like paellas, Sangrias varies with each restaurant. Sall the depends on the wine used, how much citrus fruit is added, and canela (cinnamon sticks) - yup. It has cinnamon. Depends how much juice/water it is added. Try it them all. Maybe have a glass.
And if you don't feel like having a full-bodied Sangria, give a Vino De Tinto a try. It's a lightly carbonated version of the Sangria - the baby sister to the Sangria. Slightly sweeter, and a lot lighter. Fortunately, I have been able to find one of the best Tinto de Verano here in Canada - Lolea. It is made in Spain. Just chill it for a few hours, and then serve it over ice with some slices of orange. You'd think I have shares in this company since I recommend it all the time. I don't.
Are you hungry now? Do you have a favourite dish you have tried while abroad? What food are you dying to try? Have you had paella before? Where did you have it, and what do you think of it?