Summer in Spain: Tapas!

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Delicious little portions for you to snack as you enjoy your drink, the word Tapa is derived from ‘Tapar’ (to cover) and was originally a piece of cheese or ham to cover the wine. Our guide for the walking tour also told us another tapa origin story that many farmers when choosing what to choose from after a day of hard labor between food or drink would always choose drink and the productivity of the country went down. After the law was introduced, that a small portion of food should be served whenever anyone ordered a drink, the farmers could enjoy some drinks and still be able to work the following day.

We spent about 2 weeks of our month long summer vacation traveling from Madrid to the South of Spain and then along the coast to Barcelona. The scenery was absolutely stunning. Aside from walking tours, seeing the beautiful beaches, visiting many different mosques turned cathedrals, and touring a few Alcazars like the amazing Alhambra, we tried as many tapas places as we could find!

The first stop on our España trip was the capital city, Madrid. On our first night, we went to a random bar right conveniently located next to our hotel near Plaza de España. We ordered beer and they brought us whatever the kitchen had, which included, chicken wings and bread w/ jamon (free included with our drinks!). We wanted a bit more and ordered a plate of green peppers (pimientos) which wasn’t spicy just delicious.

Then there was another random tapas place we tried on the recommended ‘tapas’ street.
The boquerones, fried anchovies, were deelish!! I think this is when we started getting addicted to these things. Fried little fish, nice to snack on and quite satisfying.
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We celebrated one of our anniversaries in Madrid. For our anniversary dinner we went to a restaurant near Calle San Simon. There you could order tapas size portions as well. The grilled squid was one of my favorite dishes during our time in Spain.

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Fried egg, with eggplant and tomatoes on a bed of homemade fried potato chips

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Delicious grilled squid mmmmm

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Beef and potato chips

Seville
From Madrid we made our way south by train to Seville. This city is an amazing place to visit not just for all the tapas but also for all the different things to see including the Alcazar where they filmed Game of Thrones and the beautiful grand cathedral.

One great place for tapas in Seville is Las Columnas. The tapas were around 2 or 3 euros and the menu was on the wall in chalk. As soon as something was gone, it was scratched out. You could stand at the bar, at a table outside or find a seat in the corner area of the bar.

IMG_4256The co-pilot’s turn to order!

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Atun con tomate (Tuna and tomato sauce. It was so delicious we had this a few times)

We tried a fanicer tapas place where we met a Swiss guy who is now living in Seville. He gave us some great recommendations for places to visit in Andalucia.
IMG_4293 IMG_4291 La Bartola, is a Tapas place that was near our hotel in Seville. It doesn’t stay open as late as the other tapas bars but the food was excellent and reasonably priced as well.

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IMG_4001Zuchini flowers, Jamon Iberico, grilled fish

IMG_4002 These boquerones in were sprinkled with lemon rind adding some extra zest to the anchovies. Mmmm so good.

And of course we had to stop in at the oldest tapas place El Rinconcillo. It was pretty crowded and we stopped there for a few more drinks and tapas.

IMG_4307Our last tapas bar of the night for a few more snacks and dessert!

IMG_4297Lambchops, anchovy on a fresh tomato, and tuna and tomato

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We even tried a flan dessert that was similar to Filipino Leche Flan but more creamy, really thick and heavy. It was one of the most delicious desserts we tried on our vacation!

Granada
A few places we wanted to try were unfortunately closed while we were visiting Granada. On our first evening we found two tapas places right next to each other. One was full of locals and the other was full of brits. Guess which one we chose hahaha. This tapas bar was full and everyone was standing enjoying their drinks and tapas. You had to shout your order to the bartender and he brought you whatever tapa the kitchen prepared. And it was free with your drink!
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One place we visited was well reviewed for the tapas but when we finally found the place, they weren’t serving tapas. I can’t remember why exactly, but we got a drink anyways and they gave us some candy and peanuts to go along with it.

During our time in Granada we had some laundry to do. We decided not to let our hotel to do it in order to avoid the the ridiculous hotel laundry prices which included 3 euros a shirt…

While waiting for our laundry at the self serve laundry mat, we wandered in the area nearby. We found a park but it was mostly pavement and hardly any trees. It was also quite hot and we wanted to go indoors with AC.

Most of the restaurants in the area were closed for Siesta, but we found one bar that was open and serving nice cold beer and tapas! Free tapas does exist in Spain but it’s not everywhere. It was great that we found a few places that served them but we were expecting many more. I got a tuna sandwich and Yoni got fried egg over potatos. Really nice sized portions.

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From Granada we made our way through Andalucia and Almeria and we stopped whenever we pleased. That’s one of the advantages of renting a car and going on your own. Here are some photos of the other tapas we tried along the way.

Cadiz

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La Bodeguita de Plocia

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Meatballs and potatos, and tuna belly

Valencia

We went on a tapas tour with the same guides who held the free walking tour. For 10 euros we visited 3 different tapas places, for one beer and a tapa. We also tried the Agua de Valencia drink which was pretty strong. Haha

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The Bartender preparing the Aqua de Valencia

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Spanish omelette on toast with salsa (Look at how mini our beers are)

Barcelona

One tapas bar we visited was recommended to me by my aunt who traveled in Spain. This place was very popular. A bit of a fancier tapas bar, the unique sandwiches and delicious offerings made it well worth the trip out here.

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Foie gras and beef sandwich

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Mmm keep those tapas coming!

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A Korean tour group came in while we were there. Sooo many people, this place sure gets crowded but it’s not a surprise, the tapas were fantastic.

Full of history, gorgeous beaches, amazing scenery, incredible palaces (Alcazars), beautiful cathedrals and of course, delicious food, Spain is a wonderful place to visit and there is definitely something for everyone. Our trip was everything I hoped for and more and I discovered even more of my favorite Filipino things were influenced by the Spanish. We visited Spain in early July and the weather was extremely hot averaging 40C most days. It was nice to sweat after the cold, rainy weather in Sweden so we didn’t complain too much. I would love to visit Spain again!

When you visit Spain be sure to practice ordering your tapas in Spanish! You will soon get the hang of it and sometimes it’s easier than trying to make them understand what you are saying in English. There were tapas menus in English in some places but after awhile, it’s just easier to order the daily tapas on the menu written in chalk. Who knows, you might even end up enjoying ordering in Spanish 🙂

Happy travels!

Tapas places we visited in Spain!

Madrid

El sur
Calle de la Torrecilla del Leal, 12, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Tripadvisor

Seville

El Bartola
Calle San Jose 24, 41004 Seville, Spain
Tripadvisor link
We stayed just down the street form this place. Unfortunately it doesn’t stay open that late.

Las Columnas
Plaza Alameda de Hercules, 19, 41002 Seville, Spain

Cadiz

La Bodeguita de Plocia
11006, Calle Plocia, 9, 11006 Cádiz, Spain

Granada
Taberna la Tana
Placeta del Agua, 3, 18009 Granada, Spain
Tripadvisor

La Bodega Vinny
18002, Calle Sol, 13, 18002 Granada, Spain
Tripadvisor

Barcelona
Quimet y Quimet
Poeta Cabanyes 25, 08004 Barcelona, Spain
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Summer in Spain: Churros and Horchata

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When in Spain, one must try the churros!

It was my first time trying Spanish-style churros. I do have fond memories of my brothers and I eating Mexican-style churros when we visiting LA though. It was always the best when I could get my very own churro…instead of sharing haha.

Our first stop on our summer adventure this year was Madrid, Spain. While we were there we visited one of the oldest churro places, Chocolatería San Gines. It was really popular even when it was late on a weeknight.

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From these huge spiral churros, they cut a generous number of pieces. The churro on the left is the spanish-style churro and the one on the right is another type of churro which reminded us more of a Chinese donut. Haha

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The churros are served with some really thick, warm drinking chocolate, which was good because the churro itself wasn’t hot or crispy. The drinking chocolate was as if someone melted down a dark chocolate bar and added oil to it. The oil part I didn’t like so much.

I have no idea who would actually finish all of the chocolate they give you, but hats off to anyone who does. It gets really sweet after awhile and we were full of churro. Lucky for us we could walk back to our hotel to digest the delicious meal.

From Madrid we made our way to Seville by train. On our first night, I remember going to a random  bar for a drink and snack and we ordered some churros here too. They were nice, hot, and crispy, but the chocolate wasn’t as thick as the one served with the churros at the oldest churros place in Madrid.

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Nice circular churros loops.

Ok, so for the record, I think I prefer Mexican churros with the sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar minus the warm drinking chocolate. The Spanish-style churros were also delicious but they weren’t as thick or long and I missed the cinnamon and sugar. However, if you are in Spain, and feel like dessert, be sure to try the churros!

Horchata

We tried Horchata a few times while we were in Spain. I guess we thought the more we tried it, the more we would actually grow to like it haha. Don’t think that worked. We found it too sweet and chalky. Made from a special tiger nut. It’s something that one drinks cold, at the beach or at a cafe. The more chilled the drink is, the better in my opinion.
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Our tour guide explaining how horchata is made and showed us the nut that Horchata is made from.

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The donut pastry things called ‘farton’ which you dip in your horchata.

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Getting the horchata and farton ready for the tour group. Everyone wanted to try!

There is Mexican horchata as well and that one tastes more like almond milk, I think it might be made with almonds. On a walking tour in Valencia they instructed us to dip a pastry in our cups to soak up some horchata and then take a bite. The pastry with the horchata was pretty nice. However, after a few bites it became way too sweet as well. Definitely the perfect thing to share.

Churros and Horchata (with or without the farton) are just a few things to try while you are visiting Spain. Happy eating!

Chocolatería San Ginés
Madrid, Spain
Visit their website here

Chocolates Santa Catalina
Valencia, Spain
Visit their website here

Bizarre Foods Sweden

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Summer is meant for picnics in the park! In Sweden, that means there will definitely be some potatos and some herring. Swedes are all about pickled herring but it’s not for everyone. After living in Sweden for over 2.5  years now, I’ve tried many different types of herring and it’s not bad with a cracker and maybe some cream cheese. But I like anything sour 😉

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Pickled herring or ‘sill’ at a Christmas buffet back in December.

Often people back home ask me what the weirdest thing I’ve eaten in Sweden is. Before last weekend, I’d say pickled herring was one of the things. Maybe the tube caviar ‘kalles’ as well. But really, after traveling in Asia, pickled herring or sill (in Swedish) is not too bizarre.
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Kalles, caviar in a tube.

Surströmming, however, is herring that has been fermented and canned. There are apparently 2 types you can eat – one is from last year (slimy texture) and the other is ‘new’ prepared (canned) in August which is more firm. Usually it’s more of a tradition in the North of Sweden and many Swedes who live elsewhere haven’t even tried it!

Yes, there are a few videos of people trying surströmming and even puking it out, which is gross and when I heard that a Swedish guy was having a picnic to try it, I had to tag along.

This was my first introduction to Surströmming and that was enough. We were fortunate to miss the opening of the can – apparently the smell was 10x worse, but even when we got there a bit afterwards, it still stank. Actually it was only after the wind started blowing in our direction that we were all like…”WTF is that sh*t smell?!?” It smelled a bit like the garbage room actually. And they said they had even rinsed the fish in water after opening the can haha…

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That rotten, stinky fish they call Surströmming!! This one is ‘new’ prepared in August. This type you need to remove the fish bones and skin before eating. There was a surströmming ‘expert’ at the picnic who showed us how to do that (She was from the North of Sweden hehe).

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Removing the bones while trying not to touch the fish, otherwise your hands will smell like nasty garbage.

20150822_171024When you remove the bones and the skin, there isn’t really much ‘meat’ which was great for us since we really just wanted to try a tiny bit.

20150822_171859 Time for a bite!

“It’s so oniony”

The tradition is to put the surströmming on a cracker with a ton of other things – honestly if you have to eat something covered by so many other things, you know something’s wrong. This cracker or tunnbröd was covered in boiled potato, creme fraiche, tomato, chives, red onion and of course bits of surströmming.

We also tried it by itself and it really was NOT something I need to try again haha. It wasn’t the texture really, it was more the combination of the smell with the flavors of saltiness, and strong onion that wasn’t very pleasant. But hey, we were willing to try it and I’m proud of how adventurous we are. It’s just something you have to do when you are in a different culture – try different things that may seem strange and bizarre to us 🙂 and who knows maybe sometimes you might enjoy it (not the case with the surströmming though).

Happy eating!