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Posts Tagged ‘Tapas’

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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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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Then you’re lucky you stumbled across this, particularly if it’s your first time to Tenerife.

The economic crisis is deepening, prospects are bleak, the pound has today fallen against the dollar and remains on its knees against the euro and the yen.

So if you’re going to invest in a holiday abroad, it’s imperative that you get it right.

Some holiday brochures will tell you about golden beaches, romantic sunsets and organised tours to Mount Teide. I copied this piece of in-depth insight to the island from a popular tour operator’s website today:
Tenerife is making a comeback. It’s bigger and better than ever before, with 2 bar strips, a waterpark, loads of beaches and even its own volcano.”

With that level of information, how on earth can you make an informed decision about where to stay and when to go?
How do you know where to find Tenerife’s hidden treasures; that little gem of a place off the tourist trail that has everything you’re looking for?

Where can you find the best seafood lunch on the island or the best tapas in the south?
How do you know where to go to pay the same as locals do and not ‘tourist’ prices?
What about the best nudist beaches or where the cool set go?
Is there going to be a local fiesta while you’re there and if so, where and when do you go to catch the best of it?

Well now you can get answers to these and hundreds more questions by flicking through the pages of Tenerife’s first truly comprehensive, brand new guide; ‘Going Native in Tenerife’.

Going Native in Tenerife’ has 200 pages written with insight and passion by authors who have spent years treading the streets of every town and village, trekking along goat trails in the mountains and revelling at fiestas until dawn (all in the name of research). In short, exploring the Tenerife that visitors and even most residents never see…the Tenerife which lies beyond the holiday brochures.

If you only get one holiday in Tenerife in 2009, make sure it’s the best it can possibly be.

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Christmas has come early this year for anyone on Tenerife who enjoys the social and culinary joys of eating tapas.
From today (17th October) until November 2nd, Puerto de la Cruz is staging its second ‘Ruta De Tapas’ or tapas route (tricky translation, that one) which this year they’re calling ‘Un Mar de Sabores’ (A sea of flavours). What that means, is that 25 of the town’s restaurants will be offering one or two speciality tapas dishes for the embarrassing sum of €2.50 each…including a drink! Okay, clearly at that price the dishes are going to be on the ‘pequeño’ side and you’re unlikely to get drunk, unless you go for all 25 establishments and 50 dishes in the one go…hmmm, there’s an idea…but hey, that’s still good value in anybody’s book.

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

And we’re not just talking ‘boquerónes’ and ‘tortilla Español’ here, Bodega de Guapa on Calle Viejo is offering ‘berenjena rellena de salmón ahumedo y queso de cabra’ (aubergine stuffed with smoked salmon and goat’s cheese); the Ébano Café on Plaza Iglesia is offering ‘solomillo de cerdo a la mostaza’ (pork steak with mustard) and Régulo in the Ranilla District is offering ‘huevos estrellos’ (starry eggs!).
You can pick up a map showing all participating restaurants and their locations from the Cámara office on Plaza Europa (where the tourist office used to be), from the Town Hall and from the offices of ALCIPC in Plaza Charco.

So if you plan to be on Tenerife in the next couple of weeks come and enjoy this tapas extravaganza.

¡Buen Provecho!

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