Have you ever listened to this album by Miles Davis? It’s one of my favorites and sets the mood for so many things – a romantic dinner, a quiet conversation, time alone with your special someone. Add it to your playlist and thank me later, ok?
Now that you’ve got that going, let me share some of my impressions of Spain, or more accurately, Barcelona.
- The dogs here are rarely on leashes, although their owners always seem to have one slung over their shoulders. The dogs are very well behaved and never run into the street or approach strangers even when a stranger is missing their own dog and more than willing to give a pat.
- Fashion observations: women wear tights and stockings far more than at home. They also rock tight, little leather jackets, while people of all ages have those super light down jackets in a rainbow of colors. Happily, I haven’t seen a single pair of Uggs.
- Far too many people smoke cigarettes, just like in Paris. The only other unpleasant aroma has been a vague sewer smell that wafts around in a mild, yet noticeable way.
- Speaking of smells, it’s weird – the Mediterranean doesn’t have that briny smell that announces its presence like the Atlantic. There’s no “sea air” that I could discern.
- Children seem to be very well loved here. Parents are affectionate and attentive without resorting to that helicopter approach which is so prevalent in the U.S.
- Everyone has either a scooter, a bike or a soccer ball.
- Scarves are oversize and wound repeatedly around the necks of both men and women.
- Running seems to be a pretty big activity here and I got lucky with a boardwalk of sorts and parks super close to our apartment. I ran every day.
- Chefs use a generous amount of salt and pastry is far more delicate than I imagined.
- I’d like to come back here again.
It’s been amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to Barcelona’s late night schedule. I can only explain it as a magical alignment of being an early person and having the advantage of a six hour time difference. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me and I haven’t struggled at all with this temporary life of sleeping until 10:00 a.m. and beginning dinner at 11:00 p.m.
We’ve been doing our best to try new things and eat as much traditional food as possible. For Griffin this translates to jamon, while I’m more inclined to sample as much seafood as I can get in my mouth. Here are few particularly tasty items we’ve enjoyed – and one we determined was not for us.
After spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.
With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.
For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.
The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.
Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!
- I will take a funicular ride to these trails and take a run – hopefully twice!
- There will be wine with lunch…followed by late afternoon naps.
- I will spend hours outdoors walking around to see as many of Gaudi’s buildings as possible.
- Should there be rain, I will check out the Picasso museum.
- I will take in my first professional soccer match with my soccer playing son.
- The beach will be our front yard.
- I will take pictures -lots of pictures!
- Jamon will be a major part of my diet.
- I will soak in the experience of being in a city and country which are new to me.
- My appreciation of all the good things in my life will radiate.
Have you been to Rhinebeck? Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free. It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.
Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing. At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door. Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door. It was a lovely table.
A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items. We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains. Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.
The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick. Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.
Scallops with ramp risotto
Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves. I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée. The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully. Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical. I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain. I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious! We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.
Although I was charmed by the myth that Barcelona is pronounced with a th sound rather than a soft c as an accommodation for a long since dead member of the Spanish royal family, I’m going to probably pronounce it with a c sound. At least until I’ve had a few glasses of Rioja, that is. After that, bets are off.
My long awaited trip with middle son is finally approaching so it’s time to start gathering ideas about what to do and see and taste in Barcelona. It’s our first visit to Spain and I think we’re both getting pretty excited. To be perfectly honest, I’m anticipating the time away from
all of my work responsibilities almost as much as I am the time I’ll be spending on the beach sipping Albarino. Despite the lack of snow, it’s been a long winter, folks.
Yesterday I advised my son that it was time to begin considering activities for our trip, what sort of things might you like to do?, I asked. His answer: hangout and eat. Actually, it might have been “eat and hangout.” Well, sounds like this is going to be just the sort of vacation I’m looking for!
Now, obviously we’re going to check out some of the sights like the nearly completed Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and the Picasso Museum. We’ve also got tickets for a soccer match which should be a blast. Beyond that, though? We’ve got nothing. I came across a cool website recently called Vayable which looks like it might be just the ticket for G and me if we feel like we want to add a little structure to a day or an evening. A gourmet tapas tour or a bicycle ride to some wineries would be an enjoyable to experience a new city and its cuisine.
Tell me – What would you do if you had a few days in Barcelona? Keep in mind that I don’t like being indoors, unless it is pissing rain, and I like staying active so some physical activity needs to be part of the itinerary. Ok – go!
Filed under Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, Events, family, Food, Spain, Spring, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine
Cheesecake Machismo’r Frankencake. Image:alloveralbany.com
Today’s run was brought to you by thoughts of love and dessert. Or maybe I should say, love of dessert. As Jeter and counted the miles, I considered my tendency to generally be a fairly generous person. I’m not a hoarder and I don’t feel the need to accumulate much in life, happily sharing things which come my way. With one exception.
I do not like to share my dessert. There’s something lost to me when I allow someone to get their fork or spoon all up in my cheesecake or creme brûlée. I know it sounds horrible, but it’s the honest to god truth. I just don’t get the same satisfaction in my indulgence when I’m not the exclusive consumer. I am unsatisfied, I guess. I want it all.
Being unsatisfied sucks, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as being dissatisfied. In my mind, dissatisfaction is worse. It’s like something occurred that actively inspired a negative feeling. Instead of satisfying you, it did something contrary. While being unsatisfied still leaves the possibility of satisfaction to occur, the state of dissatisfaction means that you’ve arrived at precisely the opposite destination.
What do you think? Which do you find to be more satisfying – dissatisfaction or unsatisfaction? And, most importantly, are you the kind of person who makes it a habit to share dessert?