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Posts Tagged ‘pinchos’

As we ate breakfast on the terrace yesterday morning, the sun was being very coy.
Typical. Pretty much all summer the default setting for our weather has been clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. But Friday was the start of the annual craft fair of Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava and if belly of the donkey was going to make a re-appearance anywhere, it would be there.

800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to the east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living in the shadow of Tenerife’s mountainous spine, and more often than not, beneath a sea of clouds. It may mean that Pinolere is never going to topple Playa de Las Americas as Tenerife’s number one tourist destination, but the clouds bring high humidity ensuring that everything here grows in abundance.

Birdsong whistles (€3) make great gifts for kids

But yesterday, as we snaked our way high above the coast of Puerto de la Cruz, the sun finally broke free and the clouds ran for their lives leaving another glorious day in the La Orotava Valley.
Even though it was barely 11.30am when we arrived, the car parking was choc a bloc and we ended up parking on a small dirt track which led off to fincas set amongst the vines of the valley. Bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to bring ropes and crampons, we toiled up a near-vertical street, back to the site of the craft fair wishing that the clouds had chosen to descend as sweat trickled down our backs.

The last time we visited the fair, the trademark bruma (cloud) had entirely obscured its location but yesterday, under clear skies, the true beauty of our surroundings was nothing less than awesome. The emerald, forest-clad slopes of the upper La Orotava Valley rose to dizzying heights in a shimmering heat haze beyond the thatched roofs and vines of the hamlet.

A Crafty Piece of Work
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, the community have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only recently that they’ve ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw.

25 years ago Pinolere made plans to introduce a new aspect to their local fiestas and came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to the Canary Islands’ largest showcase for crafts made from traditional produce.

Handmade ceramic dolls, €24

The Pinolere Craft Fair is set in 10,000 square metres of terraces and pathways that meander as randomly as the surrounding barrancos and contain hundreds of stalls filled with jewellery; woven baskets; clothes; hand carved furniture; ceramics; pottery; toys; herbs and spices; cheeses; jams and mojos; cakes; glassware; cane furniture; iron and copper ornaments…the list is endless.

As we made our way up level after level filled with stalls, the stone-built thatched houses provided small exhibitions on the history of wheat production in the area and a short-lived refuge from the hot sun.
Arriving finally at the top level we reached the welcome sight of a large guachinche where the aroma of sizzling pork pinchos (kebabs) and the sight of condensation running down the side of cold beer bottles was too much to resist. Finding a small section of vacant wall we sat down to enjoy our pinchos and beer and peruse our collection of purchases while gawping at the incredible scenery.

Our haul of goodies

It’s probably a good job that Pinolere doesn’t enjoy this kind of weather continuously or the fields of wheat, vines, vegetables and cereals would soon get replaced by villas and apartments and we’d have lost something really, really special.

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When was the last time you walked away from a Tenerife bar, having just bought your round, with a grin on your face as wide as the crater?

For me, it was Sunday at the fiestas of San Antonio Abad in La Matanza where we took our friend Bob along for the ride.

We found a pavement to park on (not just acceptable at these affairs but positively de rigeur) and set off up a street that, were it ever to snow here, would prove a good practice ground for the down hill ski slalom; picking our way over evidence that much of the livestock had also used this route.

Why can't you just have a cat like everyone else?

We wondered through row upon row of horses from Shetlands to pure bred Arabs and Andalusians tethered alongside donkeys and mules that looked like they’d arrived at the party and no-one had told them it was formal wear.
Then it was over the road, past the pens of goats where tiny, fluffy kids were busy redefining the cute scale, to the stalls where mighty oxen were tethered, drooled over by butchers.

We lined the small street of San Antonio opposite the church and watched as the livestock paraded its way to the trophy table and locals wondered past with their various pets which they’d brought along for the San Antonio blessing. You have to hand it to these people, when it comes to choice of pets they’re not tied by convention. As we stood there we spotted pet iguanas, snakes, chinchilla rabbits (on leads) and a couple of eagles.
An hour or so into the proceedings it was time for some liquid refreshment and I fought my way through the farmers and musicians to the bar of a chiringuito and ordered three red wines. The barman asked if I wanted a quarter or half litre and as it was the first of the day I plumped for the quarter.
He reached into the large fridge and pulled out a chilled ¼ litre carafe into which he siphoned some home produced vino del país and, grabbing 3 small plastic glasses on the way back, he placed them on the bar and said “ €1.50 please”.

Standing room only at the bar and a distinct lack of women...

The grin remained on our faces as we sat on the wall in the sunshine and made very short work of the immensely quaffable ¼ litre. In fact, we made very short work of the next 2 carafes too – well, everyone has to get their round in, it’s only polite.

Feeling very mellow by this time we decided it was probably sensible to get something to eat and set off in search of some pinchos. Unfortunately, every bar we went to had run out of pinchos and was only offering carne fiesta (spicy pork chunks – come to think of it, not unlike pinchos). Eventually we were forced to declare at the final and largest of the chiringuitos that carne fiesta would suffice nicely, especially as this particular establishment was peppering the dishes liberally with home made chips.

Drink and ride

Squashed onto a narrow pavement bordering the main thoroughfare for the livestock, Jack ordered the food and the wine, which arrived in a Pepsi bottle – not as classy as the last place.
As we devoured the savoury pork chunks and drank our wine a steady procession of caballeros pranced and stamped their way to the spot right in front of us. One of the barmen was dispensing large glasses of wine to each rider, many of whom we recognised as fellow imbibers from the other chiringuito. Where they’d been positively unsteady on their feet, they now looked perfectly at home in the saddle and drained every glass in one.

There were one or two very nervous moments as horse buttocks backed close to Bob’s toes while he was trying to photograph a particularly attractive female rider – the words “serve” and “right” come to mind – bringing an exciting and dangerous finale to the afternoon’s proceedings.

If Guardia Civil had thought to get the breath tests out along the La Matanza to Puerto road on Sunday they’d have financed their next three fiestas – assuming they have jurisdiction over four legged vehicles.

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The neon street temperatures may have fallen to 20° C and the sock box may have been retrieved from underneath the bed where it lives for a good eight months of the year, but autumn in the north of Tenerife brings more than adequate compensation for the official end to long summer days.

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

Not least, November brings the year’s new wine harvest, reason enough on its own for a fiesta, but throw in to the mix the happy chronological co-incidence of the celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day (fiesta de San Andrés) and you’ve got all the excuses you need for a very merry affair indeed.

On Saturday afternoon we headed up to Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife’s north coast to watch how their youth like to celebrate this time of year.
First they take their town’s tradition of rolling wine barrels down its impossibly steep streets on wooden boards pulled by oxen, then they add a little Jackass element and what they come up with is ‘arrastre de las tablas’ or riding the boards. From the top of Calle del Plano (the sort of street that sends a small cramp to the calves at the mere sight of it) teenage lads sit on waxed, wooden trays and career down at breakneck speed, negotiating a small undulation at the halfway mark that bounces the tray off the road’s surface and sends it ever faster towards a heap of old tyres at the bottom of the street.

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; its like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; it's like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

It’s addictively good fun to watch, particularly as the afternoon progresses and the town’s daredevils take to their boards, resolutely refusing to attempt any slow down before smashing into the tyres, travelling several feet into the air and landing in a heap of sprawled limbs amongst the rubber.
It’s the sort of event that would have UK and US lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of juicy law suits that would lead perfunctorily to a complete ban on the event.
Luckily, the Tinerfeños don’t have a litigious bone in their bodies and have never allowed the likelihood of personal injury to get in the way of having a good time.

Later, we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz for the rather more sedate, but much more participatory celebrations.
In Plaza Charco small children ran across the cobbled surface pulling long strings of empty cans and assorted pieces of metal, providing endless ‘cute’ poses for grinning mums and dads to capture for posterity.
Around the harbour, the air was filled with the fragrant smoke of chestnuts being roasted on open coals, sardines sizzling on grills and succulent pinchos (skewered beef and pork) browning on hot plates as food stalls did a brisk trade with the hundreds of visitors and residents occupying the al fresco tables and chairs.

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Proving to be extremely popular were the rows of ‘bodega’ stalls where, for 50 cents a time, you could sample any number of excellent wines from local wine producers. It was a difficult choice and I have to admit, the type of ‘nibbles’ that were being offered by each bodega had considerable influence over which stall was favoured by our custom.
After half a dozen varieties of both red and white had been tasted and points awarded, I would have had a go on one of Icod’s ‘tablas’ had one been handy. Thankfully for all concerned none was, and we headed off to one of the food stalls for pinchos, crusty bread, spicey mojo sauces and roasted chestnuts to soak up the alcohol. Of course, you can’t have chestnuts without wine and so we ordered a small carafe of the new ‘vino del país‘, or country wine, just to see how it compared with its more upmarket cousins.

Fiesta de San Andrés…one of my favourite Tenerife fiestas, hic!

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