Posts Tagged With: Asturias

El Molín de Mingo {Asturias} – Pitu Nation

El Molín de Mingo PituWhen Mrs Ziggy asked me what we are going to eat in Asturias three months before the trip, I just took a deep breath and smiled.  Where do I start?  We initially picked Asturias for its sheer beauty and the mesmerizing Picos de Europa.  The plan was to hike and explore and hope for some good Asturian food.  Food I didnt know much about a year ago.  I didnt realize we picked one of the most desirable, and respected cuisines in Spain.  José Andrés and many of the most famous Spanish chefs agree.  Andrés after all took Anthony Bourdain there on the final episodes of Parts Unknown.  And an entire chapter is devoted on Asturias in the excellent Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture.  The pressure was on, to produce some memorable meals.

El Molín de Mingo at the foot of the Picos, became the first booking priority.  The seemingly middle of nowhere location, and the drive to it, meant you are not exactly going to a tourist trap.  The slightly terrified family, especially the kids in the back know the drill.  They’ve been there before.  Stay quiet, something good is coming.  On the drive back, we wondered if we ever took leftovers back on vacation.

El Molín de Mingo outside

If you think the portions are large in NYC, you should come to Asturias.  The notion that the bigger the plate the worst the quality is challenged here big time.  As usual our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ordered too much.  Leaving those plates there was criminal.  After the meal I spent many moments thinking about that Pitu in the hotel fridge, while driving the Asturias countryside.  Calculating and managing.  Thats how my mind works

We started with a local specialty I didnt know much about, Tortos de maiz.  A variety of fried tortilla-like flatbreads topped with either bacalao, chorizo, blood sausage, egg and ham, and cheese and caramelized onions.  All very good.  The mixed salad, we couldnt finish even though we ordered half, was especially fresh, and with roughly 17 different ingredients.  Since we already indulged in the Fabada a few times, we tried the Pote Asturiano this time.  Yet another delectable bean stew with collard greens and a variety of sausages on the side.

El Molín de Mingo Tortos

We didnt witness it but apparently there are these giant 7 feet chickens roaming around the area answering to the name Pitu.  Pitu Caleya Con Arroz, a rice dish made with those chickens is a local specialty and locals swear by El Molin de Mingo’s version.  Even local Michelin heavyweights try to replicate it.  Its unlike any stew you will ever eat. Nice depth, and simply addictive. You can almost taste the history and love that goes into the dish.   With that said, the Jabali Estofado, a slow roasted, super juicy wild boar with fried potato, was just as exceptional.  We took both home.

Reservations are a must.  English is limited so let your host make the reservations if you dont speak the language.  They are only open for 4 days a week.  Try to go for lunch since its tricky to get to.  This is a major Go!

El Molín de Mingo BeansEl Molín de Mingo Dessert

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Guernica in Luanco – Unexpected Theme

Guernica - Scallops

A series of unanticipated themes can emerge during ones travels.  Sometimes you discover them during the research process, and sometimes they come totally unexpected.  A particular food, wine, or even a song that will remind you of a place every time you listen to it in the future.  LP – Lost on You for example takes me to Sicily.  Its my yoga.  And I can sort of see pesto becoming one of the subjects of the next trip.  But this was a different type of theme.  An educational and sober one.  Guernica, a subject I didnt know much about prior to the trip, became the theme throughout the last trip.

On April 26th, 1937, the Basque town of Guernica was bombed by the Nazis as a favor to General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.  It was a market day, and the first bombardment of this kind on civilians.  It was essentially target practice for the Nazis.  Guernica is the subject of a mural size painting by Pablo Picasso housed in Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid which we saw on our first night in Spain.  Its arguably his most famous and important work.  A week later we went to the actual town of Guernica and learned more about the event, and why they chose this town.

Guernica Rice Dish

Guernica, the ultra popular seafood mecca in Luanco, Asturias was an accidental continuation of the theme.  I dont recall how I stumbled upon it, but do recall the saliva inducing images that sold me, and my anticipation for seafood cravings at this point of the trip.  We took a 50 km detour from Oviedo and pretty much planned the entire day around this lunch.  But calling it after the painting and catastrophe always felt a bit odd to me.  I figured maybe I would understand it better once we get there, but that never happened.

Guernica - Octopus

But as soon as you come in, you get hit with this in your face confirmation that you are in the right place and nothing can go wrong.  Absolutely packed with locals, families enjoying lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  3:30 is lunch in this part of the world.  Pixin (monkfish) and clam infused rice dishes that can feed a small village flying everywhere.  Do they have more for us?  You betcha!  We couldnt get enough of the rice dishes (meat or seafood) in Asturias, but this was a particular umami highlight.

There was also simply grilled fresh sea bass with garlic.  This is not the Turkey farmed Branzini served all over New York City.  And when you look up Spanish Pulpo in the food bible there ought to be a picture of this Octopus.  This one had the texture and flavor to match the look.  And then you start to remember why you are here in the first place.  The images!  These Zamburinas were simply phenomenal.  Still kicking myself for having them only once but we didnt see them much on menus in the north.  Go!

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10 Tips for Asturias

IMG_8939Heard of Asturias?  The forgotten Spanish region of Asturias is an absolute stunner and a culinary paradise.  We came primarily to get a glimpse of the magnificent Picos de Europa, but turns out it’s so much more than that.

10.  Check the Covadonga Webcam.   Before going up to the lakes of Covadonga, check the webcam.  It may be clear down below, but heavy fog on top.  Ideally stay in or near Cangas de Onis for at least 3 days and go up on a sunny day.  Webcam:  http://webcamsdeasturias.com/webcam.php?id=159

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9.  Sunday is Fungus Day at Cangas de Onís.  Its not a big market, but a very important one, in front of the main church in Cangas de Onís.  This is where you can taste the funky local Cabrales cheese among many other products.  And if you speak Spanish, maybe make a friend and get invited to see a cave where Cabrales is aged.

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8.  Read up and look for “Indianos”.  Back in the day Spaniards who lived close to the sea in the north, sailed to South America to seek better fortune.  At the turn of the 20th century, feeling homesick, many of those who accumulated wealth came back.  And to show their legacy, they built these lavish colorful homes (“Indianos”).  They would even typically have palm trees as a symbol of their previous tropical homes.  You can visit the chief Indiano at Colombres (Indiano Archive Foundation) and see them in Ribadesella and pretty much all over.

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7.  Visit a Sidreria or 5.  This is perhaps obvious to some, but its importance needs to be stressed.  We travel for “Different”.  And your visit will be incomplete if you dont spend the proper time practically bathing in cider in a cider house.  Read about the proper way to drink it, its not just about the pouring.  Visit Plaza De Requejo in Mieres.  Check out Sidrería Carroceu in Ribadesella (try shrimp in garlic, and mussels topped with tomato sauce, a local specialty)

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6.  Try a Cachopo.  This item can be criminally overlooked when researching this region.  The Asturias answer to, ok, there’s nothing quite like this out there.  Two mammoth fried veal fillets sandwiching ham, cheese, and anything else they opt to stuff in there.  And one the best places to try it is Chigre El Antoju Sidrería in Llanes

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5.  Take your time at Sanctuary of Covadonga.  Dont confuse this for just a church hence a quick attraction.  You may need to walk a little from your parking spot.  You’ll want to take pictures of it every time you look from every angle.  You must visit the Holy Cave across where you may get the best shot of the church.  And most importantly, dont even think about missing this.

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4.  Follow the Oviedo Escultura trail.  Oviedo and its unique statues is a free open air museum.  Well at least on a Sunday when you can park for free.  You’ll see a statue with a story in every park, square, or in front of important monuments including one of Woody Allen (Much of Vicky Cristina Barcelona was filmed in Oviedo).  But the most famous of the bunch is a little girl wearing a red dress sitting on a bench in the park.  Read about Mafalda to see why she’s larger than life 

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3.  Have a leisurely lunch at El Molín de Mingo.  In Asturias, you have these 7 feet chickens roaming around answering to the name Pitu.  Pitu de Caleya is one of the many delicious local specialties and this is where you try it.  Packed places this hidden are packed for a reason.  Always busy therefore reservations are essential, and sometimes only open on weekends.  A little easier to get to via Arriondas as opposed to Cangas de Onis

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2.  Mix it up at Casa Marcial and Guernica.  The location and setting of Marcial is worth the schlep alone to this two Michelin in the mountains.  The fixed menu options will allow you to mix crafty ingredient driven starters (like the best mussel you’ll ever have) with elevated local specialties like Fabada and Pitu de Caleya.  For seafood head to Luanco for the great rice dishes of Guernica

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1.  Read Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding.  A full chapter on Asturias, Basque and other regions you may come across.

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