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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

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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It was no surprise during yesterday’s weekly shopping trip to see the rows and rows of Carnaval costumes on sale. Every year Al Campo has a huge display of fancy dress costumes and essential carnival paraphernalia such as hats, wigs, theatrical make-up, plastic guns and swords and naturally, the obligatory false breasts.

Jack and I always think that we should really get something now while there’s still a decent choice but of course, we never do. We wait a couple more weeks until Carnaval is upon us and then we spend a desultory 20 minutes perusing the cheap and nasty hippie and naughty nun outfits which are the only ones left before reverting once more to old Halloween props and active imaginations. I digress.

But yesterday, Al Campo having extended its sales floor space by about a third before Christmas and now revelling in additional displays, we encountered a new Carnaval section – the essential party ingredients – laid out in the order in which they would be consumed.
Front of stage, naturally, was the alcohol.
Shelves stacked with six packs of countless brands of beer with the central block dedicated to the pride of Tenerife – Dorada – and including its snazzy carnival design cans in six, 12 and 24 packs. Flanking right came the spirits, Jack Daniels, Guajiro rum and Smirnoff taking the leading roles with a star studded cast of hundreds of other brands in supporting roles. Then came was the sea of Coca Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up and enough Red Bull to fill every heart attack ward on the island.


Next in the order of consumption came the obligatory munchies fodder – row upon row of crisps, Quavers, roasted peanuts, Pringles, snack foods, choccie biscuits and sweeties.

And filling the rear of the aisle was a huge display dedicated to the final lap in the Carnaval circle – breakfast. In true Spanish style the displays consisted predominantly of cakes of every description; lemon sponges, almond sponges, fruit cakes, madeleines, churros and doughnuts. In a vain attempt to balance the nutritional scales were pre-packed fruit trays containing an apple, a pear, an orange, a kiwi and a banana. Flanking the cakes were shelves stacked high with little cartons of fresh juices.

The only thing missing as far as I could see, was a display of paracetamol.

You’ve got to hand it to Al Campo – they know their market.

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Any of my friends will attest to the fact that, for the past three months I’ve been about as much fun as a bout of influenza, virtually all of my waking hours being in front of a screen and a keyboard in order to meet deadlines. So the weekend before Christmas, deadlines finally achieved, Jack and I took ourselves off for a bit of R and R on Tenerife’s sunny south west coast.


The prospect of this mini holiday had been keeping me going through the final pushes of work and I’d envisaged myself lying by a Bond-esque swimming pool, cocktail in hand, soaking up the healing rays of the sun and watching my skin slowly losing its blinding white hue.
So it wasn’t without some concerns that a few days before we were due to go away I began to pick up reports of yellow alerts and first hand accounts of persistent rain in the south of the island.

On Saturday morning we headed out of the blue skies and sunshine of Puerto de la Cruz for the drive to Puerto Santiago. As we climbed higher into the cloud my heart began to sink, but when we reached the mirador above Santiago Del Teide I could see the resort of Playa de la Arena in sunshine on the coast below and we arrived at the Hotel Barceló Santiago in glorious sunshine.


You often hear about the different weather zones on Tenerife and here we were under blue skies and sunshine just a fifteen minute drive along the coast from Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje where, very unusually, it was raining heavily.

After checking in and getting into the holiday mood with a complimentary glass of chilled cava, we headed to our suite.
We’d stayed in the Hotel Barceló Santiago seven years ago and although completely blown away by its location, we’d been somewhat disappointed with our room. But clearly the hotel hadn’t stood still in those intervening years and refurbishments had transformed it beyond recognition.
As we walked through the door of room 819 it wasn’t disappointment we felt, it was elation.

The first thing we saw was the stylish en suite bathroom and walk in shower constructed in ice blue opaque glass. Beyond the bathroom was a comfortable lounge area and beyond the opaque glass screen lay the elegant, contemporary-styled bedroom which occupied a corner of the hotel’s eighth floor.
Drawing back the floor to ceiling curtains, we had panoramic views over the cliffs of Los Gigantes and the whale and dolphin watching boats which were cutting a white swathe through the shimmering turquoise of the ocean. From the other window, the views were equally impressive over La Gomera and the hotel’s fabulously stylish swimming pools and sun terraces.


After wandering over and back between views on our corner balcony, we unpacked and headed down to the buffet lunch.

I wasn’t really very hungry and so I headed for the salad bar and stacked my plate from the cold meats, salads and dressings. Unfortunately, on the way back to my table on the elegant outside terrace I caught sight of the carvery section where sirloin steaks and plump pork fillets and chops were sizzling on a griddle, then past the sweets tables (okay, admittedly my route back to the table may not have been the most direct…) where small pastries, ice creams and chocolate mousses were whispering “eat me” in seductive tones.


After my salad lunch which morphed into a three course sumptuous affair with red wine and several return trips to the buffet there was only one place to go. I chose a sunbed alongside the infinity pool with views over the Los Gigantes cliffs, applied the factor 15 and let the afternoon drift away in a pleasant doze lulled by soft Jazz melodies drifting from the pool bar, the distant chatter of a couple in the Jacuzzi and the rhythmic ebbing and flowing of the ocean.

As I lay there in the afternoon sun, the stresses and strains of the past three months began to evaporate into the ether and all I had left to worry about was how on earth I was going to be hungry enough for our 7.30 pm reservation at the Sabor Español restaurant. Now that’s what I call R and R.

P.S. If you like the look of the Hotel Barceló Santiago, you could win a  FREE week, half board for 2 persons simply by liking Tenerife Magazine on Facebook – no catch, no hidden ‘sell’, just hit the ‘like’ button and you could be lying by that pool gazing over the Los Gigantes cliffs. I’ve already hit the button several times. Well, you never know…

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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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Meson California - possibly the best Carnaval street food in the world

Last night was opening night of Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz and we headed down to the town to catch the Opening Parade which was scheduled to begin around 9pm.

Walking down Calle La Hoya we passed the usual smattering of visitors who’d made some sort of effort to get into the Carnaval spirit; the occasional feather boa slung around the neck, a neon wig or flashing sunglasses. But we were still firmly in ‘civvies’ hours – the fancy dress brigade wouldn’t begin to appear for another 3 hours or more.

On Calle Quintana the first of the food smells assailed our nostrils; the sweet, sticky smell of candy floss being spun and rolled onto a wooden stick and the perfumed almonds roasting brown in their crunchy sugar coating.
Reaching Plaza Charco, the sweet smells were replaced with the unmistakeable smoky aroma of Mesón California, possibly the best street food stall in the entire world.
As much a part of carnival tradition in Puerto de la Cruz as the High Heels Drag Marathon, Mesón California is in effect a huge Guachinche set up every year in pole position between the main stage and the harbour. Kitchen, larder, shop front and restaurant all rolled into one; a dozen men in matching T shirts cook, take orders, serve and clean up in full view of diners. It’s a magnet for foodies, photographers and everyone passing by – all are drawn to its visual, audible and olfactory presence.

Surrounded by tables and chairs with dainty red and white chequered tablecloths, the all-in-one food market takes centre stage, its rafters adorned with hanging strings of salchichas (sausages), chorizos and Jamon Serrano (cured hams).  High stools sit around a counter packed beyond capacity with glass display cabinets filled with tapas and topped with sample dishes from the inexhaustible options of available things to eat. Crates of dishes lie ready to be laden with food, flanked by towers of upturned plastic glasses, condensation covered Dorada hand pumps, loaves of bread the size of small islands, whole cheeses and row upon row of wine and spirits

In the centre of the stall is a long work-station piled high with ready-prepared food; four different types of sausages, morcilla (sweet black pudding), pinchos (kebabs of savoury pork), chips, papas pobres (poor man’s potatoes – a savoury potato, onion and pepper stew topped with fried eggs), fried green peppers, tortillas (Spanish omelettes), calamari Romano (crispy fried squid rings), croquetas (breadcrumb-coated rolls of potato with cheese or cod), chocos (cuttlefish), pork chops, chorizos and sardines.
Along one side of the work-station a small army of cooks prepare dishes for orders taken and shouted from the other side of the bench by two servers who patrol the counter like linesmen at a football match.
Two waiters move between stall and tables shouting and collecting orders from the tables.
It’s a whole carnival in its own right.

The 'tapa catalan' - just a light bite!

We grab two high stools at the counter and immediately the order-taker arrives. We order a couple of beers while my decision-making skills phone for a therapist. The beers arrive, Jack places his order and my brain is still a riot of indecision fuelled by succulent aromas and frenzied by the bewildering choice. I want to order everything. After what seems like a couple of days, I make a decision and the order is snatched from my lips and thrown across the stall.

Within minutes the food arrives. Mine is a huge chunk of bread the size of a doorstop, toasted and spread with savoury garlic and tomato paste (a tapa catalana) and topped with sausages and morcilla. Jack’s is a catalana topped with three fat, sizzling chorizos. A large, fried green pepper sits alongside each catalana, showered in chips. The side order of chips arrives and we think “D’oh!”
I’m pretty sure we make that mistake every year…

As we eat, the Latino band strikes up, vibrating the Plaza with its volume and sending shock waves up through the legs of the stool and into our throats. It’s that carnaval moment when the atmosphere suddenly hits you, a broad grin fixes itself onto your face and the adrenalin starts to pump.
The Opening Parade turns out to be a complete non-event but it doesn’t matter. In a few hours the opening party will get into swing, thousands of people in fancy dress will descend onto the beer kiosks and food stalls like locusts on ecstasy and a week of hedonistic overindulgence will begin.

For tonight our bellies are sated, ready for the party, but we’ll be back to Mesón California; Carnaval street food is just too good to resist.

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Sunday was the last day to participate in the Puerto de la Cruz Ruta de Tapas and we’d only managed to try three restaurants and six tapas so far. This was our last chance to notch up a few more.

Seafood kebab with gazpacho

We began at La Clave on Calle Puerto Viejo. A stylish Galician restaurant with tables and chairs outside and a New York-style counter inside, we’d wanted to eat here ever since it opened and the tapas route was the perfect opportunity.
We ordered our ‘one of each’ tapas and sat back with the accompanying glass of beer to study the route and see where we wanted to go next.

The food arrived; black rice with cuttlefish and ali-oli; and seafood kebab with gazpacho, all beautifully presented on plain white crockery. The seafood kebab was cooked to perfection, the gazpacho was just okay (but that’s more to do with the fact that I’m not overly keen on gazpacho) and the black rice was delicious. In the time we were there, four more tables became occupied by tapas routers clutching their blue ‘passports’ in their hands.

We’d realised that several of the participating restaurants were only serving up until 3pm and so time became a factor both in our choice of venue and in the time we could afford to linger over each stop. So, leaving a five Euro note on the counter, we downed our beers and headed to the next stop.

Cuttlefish and seafood tempura, or Tiger, Tiger!

At the top of the harbour with tables and chairs laid out on the opposite pavement is Bar-Restaurant Oregón.
Within minutes, the elegant glasses of beer had arrived and the tapas was on its way. Lying on top of a crusty piece of brocheta and striped with orange and black sauce so that it looked like tiger kebab, was a crispy cuttlefish, seafood and vegetable tempura. The sauces were mojo rojo and soy sauce and the barbecued smokey flavour of the tempura combined with the sauces was fantastic.

By now I’d noticed a couple of things; firstly I recognised several of the people who’d been at La Clave so there was a small band of us doing this food crawl, and secondly, I was beginning to feel tipsy.
The clock was ticking and we still hadn’t decided which restaurant to make our third and final so once again, a fiver was placed on the table, our passports were stamped, we downed our beers and off we went.

Mushroom hat

It was between Restaurant La Guapa which was offering stuffed calamari and stuffed peppers or Restaurant Maga which had a seafood filled shell and a mushroom hat on offer. We opted for Maga on the grounds that we’d never eaten there. When we arrived, the tables were empty, but within minutes other tapas crawlers had arrived and the terrace was buzzing.

It turned out to have been the right choice because the mushroom hat was excellent but the seafood filled shell, although small, was a real taste sensation.

Passports stamped and appetites sated we relaxed with our beers while we deliberated over which restaurant to vote for. Over the past two weekends we’ve tried eleven tapas in six restaurants and we haven’t been disappointed with any.
Eleven beers later I can honestly say  – what a brilliant way to try restaurants and food – Puerto should do this every month – hic.

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It seems that, despite the economic gloom and the pound’s freefall, 3 million Brits will still be escaping the cold and heading overseas for some sadly missed sunshine this Christmas. As always, according to ABTA, Tenerife will be one of the most popular destinations for them.
Unfortunately, as Secret Tenerife reports, Tenerife has just had its coldest autumn for 15 years and is about to have its coldest winter in years too.

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

Of course, it’s all a matter of what you’re used to. When the thermometer drops below 22°C here, all the locals and ex pats don their woolly sweaters, socks and boots and look askance at the visitors in their shorts and T shirts. The visitors in turn, think the locals are ‘loco’. But one thing that makes more of a difference than anything is the appearance, or not, of the sun and for the past month or so, Tenerife has been decidedly low on its usual quota of sunshine.

After the appalling summer in Britain this year, your heart has to go out to people who have recently come to Tenerife in search of R&R with a tan and are finding as many cloudy days as sunny ones.
It’s a perennial worry for holiday makers and one which pre-occupies them in the run up to their one or two hard earned weeks.

But for those of us who live here, short spells of bad weather are never a problem, we know the sun will be back and we’ll still be here to see it when it does, a fact that brought many of us to Tenerife in the first place.

2009 is just around the corner, time to resolve to do things differently or in some way improve your life in the coming year. Well, for all of you who, like us, decide that it’s time to leave the bad weather, the ailing pound and the stress of trying to keep your head above water in rip-off Britain and head to Tenerife’s (normally) sun kissed shores, here are a few pointers that will help you to get the best possible start to your new life:

Firstly, you’ll need a copy of ‘Tenerife Lifeline’. This book tells you all you need to know about creating a home, working, taxes, health, education, the law and government. I only wish it had been available when we were planning our move out here, it would have made life very much easier.
Secondly, you’ll need a reliable Estate Agent, one who can offer advice and information as well as a portfolio of properties. Horizon Property Group is the largest independent estate agent in the Canary Islands and will hand-hold you through the whole process.

Thirdly, you’ll need ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ to give you the full low down on all the main towns and villages on the island, the culture, the fiestas, the food, the shopping and tales from other ex-pats of their Tenerife experiences.
Finally, you’ll need to stay in touch with everyday life on ‘the reef’ by keeping up to date with the island’s best English language websites:
Secret Tenerife – wit and wisdom on everything Tinerfeño
Etenerife – holidays, business and life in the south of the island all wrapped up MyTenerifeinfo – location reports, golf, nightlife, hotel and restaurant reviews
Canary Green – how green is our island?
and of course Real Tenerife Island Drives which takes you away from the usual resorts and shows you the ‘real’ Tenerife.

Here’s to 2009 and your new life in the sun!

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