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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

As soon as we heard that Ministry of Sound were going to be appearing in Santa Cruz on the first Saturday night of Carnaval 2011 it was a foregone conclusion. We would be there.

There was much debate over how we would get in and out of the city, tales of traffic mayhem being rife, but the prospect of long walks, a bus ride dressed as Hit Girl and Brother Jack, another long walk and no idea of how we would get home again settled it. We’d take our chances and drive into the city.

I drew the designated driver short straw and we set off around 10.40pm to give ourselves plenty of time to check out all the venues in the city before heading to Plaza Europa to share the Ministry of Sound experience. As it turned out, driving into the city couldn’t have been easier. We arrived at the bus station car park to find plenty of spaces (the Canarios don’t tend to like paying for parking when an empty pedestrian crossing costs nothing) and with the final touches applied to our costumes, headed off into the surreal pandemonium that is carnival.

Everywhere we went, the sights and smells of food assailed us, from candy floss and sugared almonds at the fairground, through baked potatoes and hot dogs along the paseo marítima to the amazing food stall in Plaza Candelaria with its Desperate Dan– sized montaditos and its rotating barbecue on which half suckling pigs sizzled.

Everyone who wasn’t eating, and most of those who were, were drinking, and the ground was littered with carrier bags bulging with bags of ice, bottles of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Arehucas, cans of Red Bull and bottles of coke from which groups were serving themselves generous refills in between salsas. Beer stalls lined every street, their counters propped up by escapees from a drug-induced nightmare, and a giant plastic lime with its top half sliced and opened served as a bar for a mojito mixing barman dressed as a bee.

We made our way first to Plaza Principe where a very traditional band was just warming up a crowd who were enjoying their salsa under the stars. Next it was on to the small stage below the Plaza where a rock band were belting out Spanish and US classic rock anthems to a select gathering. As the clock ticked towards Ministry of Sound time we headed to the main stage at Plaza Candelaria where thousands of fancy dress clad revellers were getting into their stride to the Maquinería boy band who were belting out a lively stream of carnival favourites accompanied by some very nifty dance moves.

By now, the Carnaval spirit had us by the throat and there was only one place that we needed to be. As the lasers scanned the night sky, and over a steady dance beat, a deep voice intoned a monologue that told us of a night when it was written that a new generation would come and dance until the ground shook.
As the volume pumped up and the Ministry of Sound roadshow took to the stage, the prophecy came true.

Unfortunately, my flip camera also shook and the microphone gave up the ghost on the volume. So with suitable apologies to Ministry of Sound for failing to capture the full force of your music, here’s a taster of Santa Cruz Carnaval 2011 . the food, the music and the people.

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As a Canary Islands resident, using the local airline to island hop between Tenerife and its neighbours is an easy, convenient, time saving and economical way to travel.

With flights lasting 30 to 45 minutes, there’s barely time in between take off and landing for the flight attendants to make one swift traverse of the aisle, so by way of an in-flight service passengers are treated to a plastic cup of water and a Binter Canarias chocolate wafer biscuit. I don’t claim to be a biscuit aficionado, but these are something special.

A few weeks ago we had arranged a flying (literal and metaphorical) trip to La Palma with good friends Linda and Robert and we arrived at the Tenerife North Airport for the 6.30pm flight to be met with the knowledge that flights were being delayed and cancelled due to a storm which was in full flow across the Canary Islands.
The two flights before ours were cancelled but amazingly, we were called to gate, boarded and took off just a half hour behind schedule.

The airline operates with a fleet of ATR-72 airlines which can take off and land from short runways but which are not very good at smoothing out air pockets. That Wednesday night as we headed off over the Atlantic Ocean, the plane was buffeting and rocking us around like the crew of early Star Trek episodes on the bridge during a battle scene.
As the contents of my stomach began to feel as if they may make a break for freedom at any moment and the rain lashed the windows from the storm, an announcement came over the public address system that, due to turbulence, the in-flight service would not be available on our flight.

Twenty minutes later we could feel the aircraft descending and the buffeting increased significantly. I looked around at my fellow passengers. Some were chatting to their neighbours as if this was the most normal flight they had ever been on, others had their heads in their hands, and the lady directly across the aisle from me had her eyes closed, Rosary Beads threaded through her fingers and was silently mouthing a prayer.
I felt surprisingly calm and accepting of what was increasingly looking like my final few minutes of life and I smiled an apologetic smile at Linda for being inadvertently instrumental in her and Robert’s demise. No words passed between any of us.

Then we began to climb again and the pilot informed us that we were returning to Tenerife as conditions for landing on La Palma were too difficult.
It’s hard to say whether my disappointment was more for the fact that our planned break was being swallowed by the storm or that we now faced a further 30 minute flight back to Tenerife at the mercy of the gods.
And just to add insult to injury, I hadn’t even had my biscuit.

When the wheels finally touched down back at Tenerife we re-arranged our flight for the following morning in the hopes that the storm would have abated by then. It did not.
We started to board at 7.10 am the following morning while the rain bounced off the runway and when we finally took off, it was to a near repeat of the previous night’s flight. We rocked and buffeted our way across the Atlantic while the fasten seat belts sign remained resolutely illuminated and the Binter biscuit was nowhere to be seen.

Thirty minutes later we landed at La Palma airport where the rain had stopped and a clear sunrise was taxiing behind us on the runway. The relief at once more being on terra firma where the sun was shining was as palpable as a cream cake onto which the flight attendant placed a cherry, or should I say a chocolate biscuit, as we left the aircraft.
Fitting reward for still being alive I felt.

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At Al Campo yesterday they had this wonderful stand with all the vegetable ingredients for puchero – a traditional Spanish stew. Incidentally, for all you veggies, the translation of puchero as a vegetable stew is a huge misnomer because it contains beef and pork.

I thought it was brilliant that there was a special display to save you gathering all your own ingredients and it’s very typical of the habits of the masses here – it’s post Christmas, so everyone will be using up their leftover cuts of meat to make puchero.

The stand had all the ingredients except the meat and the chickpeas:  cabbage, corncob, pumpkin, chayote, French beans, sweet potato, pears, marrow or courgette, carrot, leek, garlic, onion and tomato.
To make puchero, chickpeas, beef, pork, saffron and thyme are added to the above and the whole lot are simmered into a warming, fragrant stew which is usually served with fresh crusty bread.

For hikers, there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of puchero at the end of a long walk when the sweat is drying and the chill of the mountain air kicks in. And I have it on very good authority that the best puchero on the island is to be found at Casa Lala in Arico Viejo.

I have yet to try Casa Lala myself and will have to try out a new walking route that ties in with finishing there, but we’re planning a walk around the Erjos Pools soon and I might just pop into Bar Las Fleytas to try theirs…watch this space.

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We’re not sweet eaters as such. That’s not to say we don’t like sugar ‘n’ spice and all things nice, it’s just that these days we might as well miss out the middle man and simply staple any slices of cake straight on to the waistline.

We do actually buy a bar of chocolate every second week and with an iron-willed discipline limit ourselves to two squares which are eaten with relish post lunch.

However, a few years ago friends, who throw caution to the wind in the sweetie eating stakes, introduced us to the pleasures of turrón and now this Christmas treat from Jijona is a regular addition to our cupboards over the festive season.

It’s probably this simple cake that sparks the first feelings of Christmas on Tenerife as a dizzying array of boxes and varieties take the place of the rather more healthy fruit selection in the local supermarket. And the selection is dizzying. I’ve watched Canarios, fingernails being chewed furiously, trying to decide for upwards of 30 minutes which flavour to opt for.

We’ve tried caramel flavour, coconut flavour, cherry flavour and cream. But we always return to the classic yema tostada made from almonds, honey and egg yolk.

Round about 3.30pm, when creativity and enthusiasm is flagging badly, a cup of coffee accompanied by a finger slice of yema tostada provides just enough of a boost to get us through another three to four hours work.

In that respect it’s not a treat at all, it’s an essential Christmas work tool…honest.

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I feel like I’ve been watching back to back movies in some dingy cinema for weeks and have finally emerged, blinking into the sunlight.
I’m not complaining (okay, that’s clearly a lie) but I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to meet my Simonseeks deadlines for their Tenerife pages that I’ve neglected everything else, including this blog, Twitter, Facebook, hiking, cooking and most importantly of all – R and R.

So when Jack’s sister and her boyfriend arrived on Tenerife for a two week holiday which coincided with hitting the second of three arduous deadlines, it was time to cut loose and take a break.

We’ve been hearing great things about a band called Traveller who regularly play Friday nights at the Tajinaste restaurant outside Los Gigantes so I figured I’d kill three birds with one stone – see Traveller, eat at the Tajinaste restaurant which I could then review for Simonseeks and have a good night out with Rhonda and Graeme.

But with typical bad timing, the day before we were due to see them, I got a mailshot from  Traveller to say that the new management of Tajinaste were closing for refurbishment…no band to watch, no restaurant to review and a disappointment for our night out in the west.
Except that it wasn’t really. Sure it would have been great to see a good live band but not seeing one didn’t spoil our night.
We headed into the resort to eat at Domingos and then to the Pilgrim for a few drinks. Domingos was pretty much full but it’s fair to say that the rest of the resort was very quiet. It was a great night and we enjoyed ourselves but to be honest, there was really not very much there in the way of bars and if I was on holiday in the resort, I guess I’d be heading elsewhere for my Friday night out.

Playa de la Arena

Most bar owners blame the lack of after-dark customers in Playa de la Arena on the proliferation of all-inclusive hotels in the resort but a few nights later Rhonda and Graeme were in Route 66 in Puerto Santiago where, with the usual full house, they watched the excellent Old Dogs New Tricks. One of the things that they noticed was the number of people in the audience wearing tell tale all-inclusive wrist bands.
It seems that if you give them a good enough reason, people will give up their free beer and bring you their custom. If you don’t, they won’t.

Fast forward to last Saturday night when Rhonda and Graeme came over to Puerto de la Cruz for a change of scene.
After spending the afternoon testing tapas we headed back into town around 8.30 pm and arrived in a packed Plaza Charco where every seat around the red hot braziers was taken. We had to sit on the harbour wall to eat our roasted chestnuts hors-d’oevre and drink our vino del país aperitif.  There was no entertainment, no live band or cabaret – just the old fishing town, the chestnuts, the wine and that old Puerto charm.

Blanco Bar

After eating we headed into Blanco Bar where some tables in the courtyards were still vacant and we tried a new instant favourite cocktail – Bailey’s Colada – courtesy of the bar staff, before relocating to the downstairs bar to see a local band. We watched and listened for a while before moving on to Limbo where we arrived at the upstairs bar to find that even standing room was limited. It was packed to beyond capacity.
A couple of rounds of beer and much gawping (mainly from me) at the group of young seven footer basketball players who were standing at the bar like Aragorns amongst the hobbits of the Shire, it was on to the next venue.

Courtyard entrance to Limbo

No Saturday night out in Puerto is complete without a visit to Azucar, the town’s liveliest Cuban bar and despite its temporary relocation to the ground floor while the former gentleman’s club upstairs is refurbished, it was good to see the place still packed to the rafters with people of all ages and a range of nationalities.

Suan Chill

After the madness and salsa of Azucar it was time to chill out so around 2 am, just as the town was beginning to reach its Saturday night zenith, we headed for Suan Chill where  we settled in amongst the sequined cushions and relaxed until fatigue got the better of us at around 3.20am and we headed for a taxi home.

The contrast between our two nights out couldn’t have been more marked, as indeed is the contrast between the two areas.
Happily, despite the move to all-inclusive by many of its hotels, Puerto has a thriving local population who don’t rely on bars laying on good entertainment to get them out into the town at night.  I really like Playa de la Arena and think it’s a lovely family resort but if you want night life, it’s not going to deliver the goods, or at least, not until the bar owners stop bitching about all-inclusive and start giving holidaymakers something other than sports coverage and Karaoke to leave their hotels for.

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It has been a really nice week for catching up with friends from the UK.

At the beginning of the week we went to see Chris and Alan from tenerife.co.uk who are holidaying with their families in Playa Paraíso. For 24 luxurious hours we enjoyed the excellent hospitality of the Roca Nivaria Hotel and managed to combine fun and relaxation with work. I feel certain that were I to be permanently ensconced in such a peel-me-a-grape environment that I could produce some of my best work…

Then yesterday we went into Santa Cruz to meet up with Sarah and Denise who are currently enjoying a free week’s holiday in Golf Del Sur which Denise won in a competition in the UK. Not, I hasten to add, one of Tenerife Magazine’s incredible free holiday prizes; this one had nothing to do with us.

Meeting up a little after 1pm it was the perfect opportunity to combine showing Sarah and Denise around the city with enjoying lunch. How fortuitous then that their visit just happened to coincide with the Ruta del Chicharro tapas route; a stroll around the city taking in tasty tapas served with cold Dorada beers in some of the city’s oldest and newest eateries. Throw into the mix an ambient temperature of around 25°C and the resident Santa Cruz sunshine and you’ve got what amounts to a perfect Friday in the city.

First stop was the Noria District and the Museo bar/restaurant under the arches. A table on their sunny terrace; four tapas of sweet potato and cod in mojo sauce served with garlic bread and kept company by four Doradas, and the endless chat and catch-up could begin. Time slipped by as it always does when we meet Sarah and next thing we knew, four different tapas winged their way to the table – montaditos (small toasted breads) with garlic sausage and cheese. We explained that two of our number didn’t eat meat and in two glints of the waiter’s smile montaditos with seafood arrived in addition to the sausage ones.

The bill came to a princely €10 and we moved along a few hundred metres to the terrace of El Marques de la Noria to receive the most artistically beautiful and tastiest of the day’s tapas.
A single wooden skewer lay across the plate which held a crispy chunk of sweet roasted potato with an apple puree and caviar coating; and a deep fried, battered prawn with jamón Iberico (the girls gave us their jamón – the benefits of lunching with non meat eaters). The skewer was sealed with a cherry tomato and drizzled with a raspberry and a rich soya sauce.
Looking too good to eat and tasting even better, we again drained our Doradas, left the €10 settlement and moved on to our next venue.

Strolling back along Antonio Dominguez Alfonso, cutting through Plaza Principe past the Belles Artes Museum and onto Imeldo Seris, our guests were enthralled by the architecture, the flora and the beauty of this city about which so little makes it onto the tourist radar.
This is Denise’s first visit to Tenerife and she was thrilled to be out of the Karaoke bars and burger and chips offerings of Golf Del Sur and experiencing some of the ‘real Tenerife’.

As usual, Jack and I were in full tour guide mode and the compulsory potted history of the island was being delivered as we arrived at one of the capital’s iconic traditional restaurants; La Hierbita.

A hotch potch of tiny rooms on varying levels with original wooden floors and ceilings, we made our way through the ground floor to the back room bar, then out into the back alley and along a couple of doors to the second part of the restaurant. We climbed the narrow stairs and took the table in the window from which, the waiter helpfully pointed out, you could throw crumbs onto passing pedestrians. We resisted the crumb throwing impulse and settled instead to perusing the cornucopia of antiques that fill this personality-rich restaurant.
This time our tapas consisted of a small dish of cherne (grouper) fish in onion and potato sauce and was served with bread and mojo sauces.

Appetites sated and time slipping dangerously close to Sarah and Denise’s bus departure, we made our way back past the lake of Plaza España where we stopped for the customary photo shoot at the statue to the fallen, and made it back to the bus station in time for a choc ice postre and fond farewells.

Santa Cruz – discover it before everyone else does!

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The normally sedate dining room was in uproar.
An American drawl was loudly berating the fact that the steak on his plate was tougher than the leather on his shoes and at the pastries cart a physical fight had broken out between two families over the last of the chocolate éclairs. In the midst of hair pulling and screaming, a woman’s voice was heard to tearfully proclaim ”It’s the only bloody decent food we’ve had all week!”
This was Kenya circa 1990 and the last time I ate dinner in a hotel buffet…until last weekend.

When we first began to travel beyond the Greek Islands it didn’t take us long to realise that hotel food was largely geared to the palates of guests, the vast majority of whom appeared to want to forget the fact that they were anywhere other than home except when it came to sunbathing. We very quickly dumped half board options in favour of room and breakfast and opted instead to explore local eateries.

The distinctive tower of Hotel Isabel, Costa Adeje

So it wasn’t without a certain amount of trepidation that, last weekend, we checked into the Hotel Isabel in Costa Adeje on a half board basis because, on an assignment to review the hotel, we knew that food was to be an essential element.

The fact that this was one of the busiest weekends of the year for holidays on Tenerife and the hotel was filled to capacity, did nothing to allay our nerves. As we walked past the hotel dining room at 7pm on our way to the summer carnaval in Playa de Las Américas and saw it was already pretty full, we hoped that by the time we got back at least most of the guests would have eaten, even if we were facing the equivalent of the aftermath of a swarm of locusts with nothing left but cold chips, limp lettuce and metallic-tasting frozen mixed veg’.

We were wrong – on both counts.
When we finally arrived at the dining room it was still packed, but we were immediately shown to a clean table. Heading to the food counters, I couldn’t begin to take in the choice of food available.
At either end of the vast counter there were two cooking stations; one was grilling and roasting chicken and meat and the other was baking fresh pizza and garlic bread and simmering sauces for pasta.
On three large islands in front of the hot plates were salad ingredients like cold chicken, ham and seafood; chopped fresh onions, tomatoes and green peppers; a choice of three different types of washed lettuce; coleslaws, sweetcorn, pastas and shredded carrot; hard boiled eggs…I really can’t remember them all.
Food mountains of fresh rolls lay alongside huge soup tureens which were sending saliva-inducing aromas steaming into the atmosphere.

At this point my decision-making skills had a panic attack so I filled a plate with salad ingredients and headed back to our table. My second assault on the buffet took me along the hotplates which held five different styles of cooked potatoes; lamb, beef, chicken and fish dishes; vegetables; sauces and more pasta dishes. Everything was piping hot and although none of the trays was even close to empty, fresh supplies were being poured in continuously.
This was not what I had expected.

One of the pretty plazas at Hotel Isabel

I finally plumped for pork chops from the griddle,which were succulent, smoky and tender. My only disappointment was the mixed vegetables I’d chosen which I’m pretty sure were frozen. Vowing to opt for a single veg’ the following night, I finished up and headed to the sweets section where a chef was busy peeling, chopping and serving an entire plantation’s worth of tropical fruits. Then, trying not to look at the cheesecakes and pastries en route, it was onto the ice cream section where six flavours of ice cream, unknown varieties of yoghurt, sumptuously sinful chocolate decorations and half a dozen bottles of assorted spirits and liqueurs from which to choose ensured that the next two weeks would be spent on rice and salads.

For families, I can see how half or full board must be an extremely attractive option; the children we saw in the dining room over our weekend at the Hotel Isabel had smiles on their faces as wide as the mounds of chips, spaghetti or six kinds of ice cream on their plates.

Hotel buffets have certainly moved on since the War of the Chocolate Éclairs all those years ago, at least, they have in Tenerife. I wonder what the hotel buffets in Kenya are like nowadays…?

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Tito's Bodeguita, Puerto de la Cruz

Isn’t it funny how sometimes places can be on your doorstep but, for one reason or another it can take you an eternity to check them out and realise you’ve been missing a real gem?
Well that’s how it was with our lunch venue yesterday.

We drive past the 17th century Ermita de San Nicolas every week on our way to La Villa to do the shopping and regularly remark on how lovely it looks and how we must go there. A large, white monastic frontage with a concealed courtyard, the Ermita was closed for a long time and we bemoaned the fact that we’d never tried its restaurant.

Then a couple of months ago it re-opened as Tito’s Bodeguita and this time we promised ourselves that we’d definitely go. Well yesterday was the exact excuse we’d been looking for as it was our 20th wedding anniversary and we’d given over the entire day to ourselves. So after a morning exploring a section of the north coast, we quickly showered and headed off to Tito’s for lunch.

We’d popped our heads around the courtyard entrance on Monday to confirm that they opened on Tuesdays and had spotted 2 or 3 tables occupied in the courtyard so we half thought that we might be the only ones there when we arrived shortly after 2.30 pm yesterday. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Revueltos de Bacalao

As we entered the beautiful courtyard, we could see that most of the tables were occupied. We spotted an empty table alongside the bubbling fountain and settled in to survey the surroundings.
To one side the two storey house stood, its carved wooden balcony, lattice screens and wooden shutters overlooking the courtyard. At right angles to the main house, a row of small buildings extended beyond the courtyard in which we were sitting, house leeks growing in profusion on the red Arabic tiled roofs.
To our left a raised platform held more occupied tables and beyond them was a large beer garden with wooden benches and tables.
Behind us, the old Ermita now housed an inside dining room, an extremely well-stocked bodega, a party dining room and kitchens from which four or five waiting staff busied themselves carrying plates of food and bottles of wine.

Centre stage in the courtyard itself was a large stone fountain in which flowering water lilies idly floated. An elegant palm tree towered alongside the fountain, a large menu pinned to its sizeable trunk. Bordering the courtyard, a scented chaos of colour cascaded from wooden planters and rock gardens while a large magnolia and a drago tree held aerial court.

Solomillo de cerdo con albóndigas

Within moments of sitting down we were brought menus and we dithered over our choices. In the end, Jack plumped for solomillo de cerdo con albóndigas casera (pork steak with home-made meatballs) and I opted for revuelto de bacalao (scrambled eggs with cod).
A basket filled to capacity with fresh, crusty bread and a dish of home-made almogrote arrived with our beers and we tucked into both, now completely chilled in our sunny afternoon surroundings.

When the main dishes arrived they were beautifully presented and tasted sensational. Jack’s succulent pork was coated in a savoury sauce and the albóndigas that accompanied it turned out not to be meatballs, but large tasty dumplings.
My cod scrambled eggs were an onion, potato, cod and eggs rosti and were lip-smackingly good.
To round off, we both ordered the vanilla ice which was creamy vanilla ice cream surrounded by huge, fresh blackcurrents lightly dusted with icing sugar.

It’s fair to say the food was some of the best we’ve ever eaten in Tenerife, the surroundings were idyllic and when the bill came it was €30 – quite possibly the best €15 a head we’ve ever spent in a restaurant.

It’s amazing what you can discover on your doorstep and amongst a plethora of very good restaurants in Puerto, it’s a real hidden gem which you’d never find if someone didn’t tell you about it.
Aren’t you glad we’re here to do all this research for you 🙂  ?

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Sunset views over Las Vistas beach from The Watermelon's terrace

When Chris Clarkson and Alan Gilmour of tenerife.co.uk came to visit from the UK last week, Jack and I jumped at the chance of spending an evening in the bright lights of Los Cristianos. So we checked into The Pearly Grey Ocean Club Resort in Calleo Salvaje, joined John Beckley of Sorted Sites and headed to The Watermelon Tapas Bar/Restaurant in the chic San Telmo district of Los Cristianos.

Although we were extremely impressed with the rather chic décor (frosted glass sheet water fountain, Gaudi-esque tiled mosaics on the walls and stone benches and sleek, silver and black furnishings) and the fabulous views from the terrace over Las Vistas beach and the sun setting behind La Gomera; we were less impressed with the food and the service.
There was a good ten minute delay between the first two dishes arriving and the other three which meant that Jack and I either had to start eating before everyone else or Jack’s scrambled eggs with chistorras (Canarian sausage) and mushrooms was headed to the stone cold zone.

My toasted bread with smoked salmon and tomatoes served with rocket and parmesan was beautifully presented but was bland and there was too much bread. The other specials when they arrived were kebabs served in foil parcels with fresh vegetables and everyone seemed to enjoy them but they lacked any real wow factor.
The house red wine on the other hand was delicious and slipped down very easily.

Postres proved to be a bit disappointing but that was more a case of confused recommendation rather than any fault with the food. Alan and I being chocolate lovers, I asked the waitress to recommend the chocoholic’s choice and after a great deal of chatting and an admittance that she didn’t particularly like chocolate herself, she told us to go for dish number one. When it arrived, dish number one turned out to be mainly ice cream with some chocolate shortcake slices. Alan and I waited for everyone else’s to arrive, convinced that this wasn’t the one we ordered but it took so long that our ice cream began to melt so we started eating. Dish number four when it finally arrived for everyone else turned out to be hot chocolate fudge cake covered in chocolate sauce and served with ice cream – d’oh!

I didn’t see the bill but I wouldn’t mind betting it wasn’t cheap.
The atmosphere was lively and the venue was unsurpassable but for me, the culinary offerings had a touch of the Emperor’s new clothes about them.

Dinner over, we lingered over that delicious red before heading back towards the Arona Gran Hotel, where Chris and Alan were staying, and heading into Legend’s Snooker Club. While Tenerife Magazine took on Tenerife.co.uk on the pool table, Carol and I reminisced about our misspent youth in the clubs of Manchester and we all chilled out over some more drinks in the über-friendly atmosphere before Jack and I got a taxi back to our fabulous room in Pearly Grey.

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Picking wild freesias for the house this morning reminded me that it’s just a week since I was doing the same thing for Jo’s birthday party in Los Aceviños on La Gomera – which is where the freesia’s came from several years ago.
Like today, it was a beautiful spring morning and the sun was blazing down on the terrace as preparations got underway for the party.

Deliberating over summer pudding prep' the night before the party - notice the use of red wine to help with decision making

We’d already made the summer puddings the night before and they were sitting in the fridge with weights pressing down on them, ready to be turned out. We’d de-frosted the fish and prawns for the Caribbean curry; and the home made lemon ice cream was in the freezer for first freeze stage. We’d filled large platters with slivers of jamon Serrano and slices of smoked salmon and cream cheese roulade; we’d taken the brie out of the fridge to warm and we’d whipped up a big bowl of hummus. The neighbours were bringing homemade breads, goat’s cheese and salads.
Now it was time to get the garden and terrace ready.

A casual approach to party seating - notice the early 'guest' trying out the cushion.

Jo wanted the party to mainly congregate around her ‘new’ garden; the widest part of the terrace. So we carried the table and chairs out from the kitchen and placed them on the terrace, scattering cushions onto the flat stones and a small rug onto the ledge of the mountain for extra seating.
Then we cleared and swept the main terrace and Jo sprinkled glitter that she’d bought from the Chinese supermarket.
In what used to be the old ‘shed’, Jo had cleared the floor space and placed a fat log beneath the arbour where the jasmine and vine were just establishing themselves around the new fairy lights.

With everything ready, we cracked a beer and sat in the new garden, liberally applying factor 30 to our already-pink arms and faces and breathing in the amazing view over the valley.
At 4pm the first of the guests arrived and the cava corks began to pop. As we chatted, we felt a drop of rain and looked up to see bruma (low cloud) beginning to wisp its way across the valley. Ignoring the spits of rain in the firm belief that, if we didn’t acknowledge them they didn’t exist, we carried on chatting until we could no longer ignore the fact that it was in fact raining.

As more guests arrived, we grabbed the table and chairs and made a hasty retreat to the terrace just in time for the heavens to open. The valley entirely disappeared from view in dense bruma and the temperature slowly fell, sending factor 30-coated arms into fleeces.

There was nothing else for it; it was time to break out Steve’s home brewed cider – central heating for adults.
More guests arrived, laden with food goodies and the cava and wine flowed freely alongside the cider. As darkness fell and the smallest members of the party were whisked away to bed, the terrace fairy lights were switched on, Jack and I whipped up the Caribbean curry with rice; and the summer puddings were turned out and served with big dollops of lemon ice cream and whipped cream.

The summer pudding turned out pretty well.

By 11.30pm the clouds had cleared to be replaced by the twinkling lights of the valley and, suitable fuelled by Steve’s cider, the guests began to wend their way into the forest and the darkness, leaving just five of us to try our best to defeat the cider and polish off the summer pudding and ice cream.

No DJ spinning sounds of the seventies that we all thought were crap at the time; no streamers with big, glittery ‘50 Today’ signs on them and most of all; no anonymous room in a pub with egg butties and shop bought quiche. Just the mountains, the rain forest, friends and neighbours and good, home cooked food.

Happy Birthday, Jo!

If you’ve never been to La Gomera, take a look at this but take my advice – watch it with the volume off, voice-over man is just awful!

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