Posts Tagged With: Jose Maria Segovia

The 15 Best Things we Ate in Spain

Better late than never I suppose.   In order of the places visited…

Dry rice with pigeon at Lakasa (Madrid) – Starting with the best meal in Madrid and a challenge.  Hard to pick from a flawless meal with so many hits (Cecina, Hake, steak, clams), but this rice dish was the most memorable.  Tender, succulent bird, on top of flavor packed, socarrat filled rice.  First of many amazing rice dishes on this trip.

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Shrimp and Garlic La Casa del Abuelo (Madrid) – Years ago, Ramiro in Lisbon introduced us to the wonderful world of Shrimp swimming in sizzling garlic sauce, and we’ve been looking for this dish ever since.  La Casa del Abuelo is famous for it and I can see why.  The shrimp was plentiful and plump.  What they lacked in crispiness, they more than made up in flavor

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Cocochas de Merluza con Yema de Huevo at El Paraguas (Madrid) – This was exceptional although its not exactly clear what it was.  The restaurant translates it to “Hake’s Barbel in green sauce and egg yolk”.  Confusing because Barbel is a another fish, and Cocochas is the second chin or jaw of a fish which we had in Getaria some time later and it looked nothing like this.  Whatever it was, it was excellent. and I would go back just for this.

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Suckling Pig at Jose Maria (Segovia) – When in Segovia, a carnivore foodie experience like no other awaits.  From the theatrical presentation to the cutting with a plate, to the crispiness and juiciness of the meat.  A rather simple cooking process but the result is heavenly.  Thats because these guys got this thing down to a science.  From the weight of the pig, to the timing of the kill and what it had for breakfast on days 4 to 6.  And dont leave town without trying the Segovian beans.

Jose Maria in Action

Dessert Sampler at El Almacén (Avila) – Overlooking the dramatic walls of Avila is this mature gem producing splendid meats (although really on the rare side) and other creative dishes.  But it was the shockingly good dessert sampler that will make me come back.

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Farinato at Mesón Cervantes (Salamanca) – Salamanca, an underrated university town is not exactly known for its cuisine.  But one of the local specialties is Farinato, sausage made of lard, bread, and onions.  Its usually served with fried eggs and/or potatoes.  A local took us to this place on the main square for one of the best Farinato renditions in town.  I was also considering listing the Tostas (open sandwiches) at the uber local Taberna Dionisos

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Cachopo at Chigre El Antoju Sidrería (Llanes) – The formidable Cachopo can be criminally overlooked when researching Asturias.  How to describe this dish.  Its like a veal schnitzel gone horribly great.  Two mammoth fried veal fillets sandwiching ham, cheese, and whatever else in season.  And one of the best places to try it is this popular Sidrería in Llanes where you’ll be bathing in Sidra even if you didnt order it.

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Pitu de Caleya at El Molín de Mingo (Peruyes) – In the country side of Asturias, apparently there are these 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’s exceptional depth.  Another must try is the Jabali Estofado, a slow roasted, super juicy wild boar that can be served with fried potato.  This place is well off the beaten path but well worth finding.

El Molín de Mingo Pitu

Fabada at Casa Marcial (Arriondas) – The Michelin crowned Casa Marcial produced one of the most memorable meals we ever had.  The set menu is a smart blend of inventive starters and perfected classic mains like the Fabada.  Calling it a bean stew doesnt feel right.  But it is. And you need to try it.  Other than the occasional showing at Despana, I havent seen it in NYC.

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Seafood Rice at Guernica (Luanco) – Once you step inside this local seafood mecca, there’s no mistaken its signature dish, as you see it served all over.  We opted for the Pixin (monkfish) and clam infused rice dish (there are choices) which was stellar and huge.  Its a good place for families and groups.  And I also wouldnt miss the best of the trip octopus, and scallops.

Guernica Rice Dish

Seafood Soup at Adolfo (Comillas) – Sometimes its the unplanned spur of the moment finds that are most memorable.  After we finished admiring El Capricho, one of Gaudi’s only works outside of Barcelona, we found Adolfo where seafood reigns supreme.  For us four it was a mega bowl of soup with heaps of fresh seafood, and quite cheaper than anticipated.  And the squid wasnt too shabby either.

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Turbot at Elkano (Getaria) – A fish experience like no other.  Tourists take expensive taxi rides from San Sebastian to eat here, while we just rolled from our hotel/winery nearby (The brilliant Gaintza).  The grilled Turbot dominates the entire fishing village, but at Elkano, they perfected it.  The owner, if around, will present the fish and explain the various textures and flavors from its parts.  This is also a good place to try Kokotxas (fish cheeks)

Elkano Turbot

Bonito at Mayflower (Getaria) – It was tough to choose from this fisheria featuring one of the most sought after terraces in town.  We’ve had two great meals here and we tried most of the menu pretty much.  So I turned to Mrs Ziggy on this one, and she fondly remembers the Bonito del Norte, the Tuna of the North that is essentially the best canned albacore you’ll ever eat.  The peppers and Galician octopus need to be ordered as well.

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Wild mushrooms with Foie and egg yolk at Araneta (Zestoa) –  This is a simple looking Asador up on the mountains, very popular with locals.  About 20 minute drive from Getaria.  Here you can get a fantastic Ribeye, and an even better wild mushrooms with Foie and egg.  When you have a group of mushroom haters (the rest of my family) wipe a mushroom plate clean you know you got something very special.

Araneta Mushroom Foie

Steak at Néstor Bar (San Sebastian) – How to describe Néstor Bar?  Imagine a dimly lit, romantic room.  Soothing, easy listening in the background, mixed with the occasional laughter of a young loving couple celebrating their 5th anniversary.  And a waiter that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed.  Now imagine the opposite of that and you have Néstor Bar.  Wait for your “table” in chaos, until you get standing room counter for the 4 of you, but can only fit two and half.  But once you taste the steak, with tomato salad, and green peppers, you go “F$&ck Romance”

Néstor Bar Steak

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Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jose Maria {Segovia} – The Suckling King

Jose Maria in ActionSegovia, the perfect tourist town.  How often do you come across places with such sheer beauty and plenty of unique attractions to boot.  Its rich history plays an important global role, and its essentially one giant lesson in Spanish history.  Which is why its best viewed with a guide.  Its monuments are not only important and UNESCOd for good reason, but they are a feast to the eyes.  The aqueduct alone is worthy of the train ticket from Madrid, even if you’ve seen such aqueducts before.  And then you have the Cochinillo (Suckling Pig).

No one knows how it all started, but everyone knows who popularized it.  In the 1930’s Don Candido started carving Cochinillo with a plate while everyone else watched with Love Eye Emojis followed by Cash Eye Emojis.  Today Meson de Candido is still going strong, while many others all over Segovia are now doing the same thing.  And gastrofreaks from all over flock here not for the Aqueduct or the castles, but for the baby pig.  The whole scene is a little disturbing in a way.  Baby pigs featured on window displays, sometimes provocatively, akin to the red light district in Amsterdam.  I figured if my kids ever become vegan, this would be the reason.

But if Don Candido put the Cochinillo on the map, Jose Maria put it on the Google Map.  Today, Jose Maria is the Taj Mahal of the pig pilgrimage and you can feel it when you are 50 feet away from the 5 room restaurant.  It doesn take much Google searching to see videos of Mr Maria plate carving that thing while proudly wearing his medal.  In 2002 Maria, who owns his own breeding farm, founded PROCOSE, an association devoted to the promotion of the Suckling Pig of Segovia.  He converted the pig into a cultural icon.

The mural behind us serves as a reminder for all the plates Jose Maria used to break in the past.  But it wasn’t clear whether it was accidental or did he throw them Greek style when he was done.  But today the carving is so theatrical that everything including time pauses for that 10 seconds.  He cuts and plates it with the plate.  The flesh maintains much of the juiciness.  The skin is crispier than crisp but still chewy.  And its all rather simple.  You expect something more complicated from such fame, but its really just a suckling pig simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  The reason it works so well, is the quality of the main ingredient.  These guys got this thing down to a science.  From the weight of the pig, to the timing of the kill and what it had for breakfast days 4 to 6.

But there were other surprises contributing to this most memorable meal, starting with the Iberico meat and cheese platter.  While we liked the Jamon and Chorizo alright, it was the dryer more textured Lomo (cured tenderloin) that won.  And then came the Judiones, some of the most massive, creamiest white beans you will ever eat.  Part of a stew of course, a relative of the Asturian Fabada we couldnt get enough.

And I dont normally get excited or even remember house wines, but this house red had the Aroma and complexity of a pungent full bodied aged red.  Even Mrs Z couldnt help herself and had a glass too many.  After the meal while we were walking, she suddenly paused, and turned to me frantically “Did you find the Chorizo?!?”  Translation (after 25 years of marriage):  We didnt have dessert.  Did you find a nice Churros place?

Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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