Eating in Northern Spain – 5 Reasons you Must Go Now

Beer/Drinks, Travels

A recent trip to the Basque region in Northern Spain showcased why this part of the world is at the top of the list for international culinary delights.  It a gorgeous place with warm temperatures and beautiful beaches but the real draw to this part of the world is the food.  Here are my top 5 reasons why anyone with taste buds should plan a trip immediately.

  1. Ham.  It’s everywhere.   Greasy, succulent and all you could whamant from a pig is hanging from the ceiling in a store on nearly every corner of Northern Spain.  I’m from North Carolina and love my Eastern Style BBQ but we have nothing on Jamón ibérico.  Our first night in Bilbao, my friends and I ordered a plate of ibérico ham as a starter.  It came with some crackers that you could roll your ham around to eat.  No one needed those crackers (though they too were delicious).  The ham stood out on its own and raised the bar from what we should expect during our week in Spain.
  2. pinxPintxos.  I was looking everywhere for tapas it the Basque region, this sytle of eating small bites is called pintxos, or pinchos.  The word apparently comes from the Spanish verb “to pierce” which makes sense because many times these yummy and often quite decadentpinx2  “bites” were held together with a toothpick.  You go into a cafe, tripping over your feet because your eyes are immediately drawn to a bar filled with colorful, tempting treats.  After looking it up online, we learned the right way to eat Pintxos is to first ask for a plate.  The “pintxos bartender” will either give you a plate to fill yourself or fill the plate with whatever you’d like.  Either way is dangerous because you want it all.  And you never tire of wanting it all.  I put my public health career aside and dove right in.  I think in three days in San Sebastian we must have stopped for pintxos at least twice a day.
  3. Stars. There are nearly 40 Michelin Star restaurants in the Basque country.  Sacapn Sebastian in particular is overrun with them and thank goodness for us, we were able to get a table last minute at Mirador de Ulía.  The restaurant is on a hill, very high above the town.  A picturesque setting for a proposal (we saw one) and delicious food.  From amuse-bouche to desert, I revealed in the delights including a lobster cappuccino (see picture – served with grapefbeefruit); beef tenderloin with leeks; and a desert with chocolate on chocolate.  Our second Michelin stop was at Auga in Gijon.  First, the plates were impressive.  Food was served on what appeared to be slabs of stone, which added to the creativity of the menu.  Here seafood was the centerpiece for my meal.  I adored the Galician Scallop, with Cauliflower Purée, Celery and Seaweed.  One was not enough but I was quickly satisfied by my fisscalloph, a line-caught Hake embellished with “Potato Soup”, Citrus and Cfishardamom.  Other dinner highlights were “Gran Reserva Iberian Acorn-fed Ham” and the most succulent suckling pig any of us had ever tasted.  Kudos to Michelin for continuing to raise the bar on gastronomy dining experiences!
  4. Cider or Sidra.  Humor me.  The Cider in Northern Spain is unique, especially in Asturias.  In fact, it is said to be the best cider in Europecider.  It is unique in how it is served – poured from as high as a waiter can extend their arm, and into a glass below.  Only a small amount is poured at a time – just enough for a sip.  This is the way you drink (and drink, and drink) cider in Asturias. At one restaurant in Gijon, we ordered cider with a quite creative dispenser that emulated a man pouring it for you at your table (see photo).  The pouring from high up is truly an art and there are even competitions in the region.
  5. Ham.  I’m serious about the ham.  And you will be too as soon as you have your first taste in the Basque Region.  hammm

In the time it took you to read this blog, you could go online and book your flight.  Your taste buds will thank you.

Croatia Delights the Senses

Beer/Drinks, Travels

After nearly two weeks in Croatia, I think I may have finger on what really constitutes as Croatian food.  Why has this been so hard?  Let me explain.

So much of the culinary delights remind me of Italy.  Everywhere along the Dalmatiapizzan coast, you can find pizza, pasta, gelato and all kinds of seafood.  With the
turquoise Adriatic Sea in the background, I was confused as to what country I was actually visiting.  I had this notion of meats and vegetables like other Eastern European countries I had visited.  I also had this vision of something unique and different – not margarita pizza or stracciatella ice cream.


How could I complain though when this food was so good?  The olive oil was so smooth and the local wines octapussurprisedly succulent.  In Dubrovnik, Pizzeria Dominica and their lovely staff were a warm welcome with great pizzas and delicious local Dingac.  Mea Culpa was inviting with especially good baked pizzas.  And a food tour in Dubrovnik highlighted the best of local seafood including black risotto (squid ink black, very black) and octopus salad.

We took several day trips while staying in Dubrovnik including a wine tour in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina and a tour around the coastal towns in Montenegro.  In Trebinje, we experienced a few unexpected surprises: first, some amazing wine, equally as good as in Croatia.  Also, our dinner at a local restaurant earned five stars.  I had a pasta with chicken and mushrooms with pastaa certain something that really hit the spot.  My husband’s dish of “Cereal chicken” – chicken breaded in cereal flakes – seems so simple but was miles ahead of any “breaded” chicken we’d both ever tasted.  Is Bosnia a hidden culinary gem?

As we moved from Dubrovnik to Hvar, one of the country’s 1200 islands off of the mainland, we continued our culinary delights inmussels seafood and Italian cuisine.  A few highlights were the mussels at Macondo and the truffle ravioli at Black Pepper.  Both evenings were relaxing with very good atmosphere and food.  And both evenings we visited the local cake shop Nonica for desert.  The Hvar cake – an olive oil like doughnut cake – was my favorite.

The last day in Hvar we took a trip to see the inside of the island – the secret Hvar.  Our lunch was local Croaitan peka.  Finally, something unique.  We were told Peka is the style of cooking “under the ironpeka bell”.  Chefs cook meat and vegetables underneath an iron lid for 2 to 4 hours in a wood burning stove.  On this day we had the option of veal, lamb, octopus or chicken peka.  Each were cooked with potatoes.  I choose lamb and it was not a choice I regretted. Finally the tastes of the hearty meats I was anticipating.  So very earthy and delicious.

After arriving in Split, our next stop, a day trip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, afforded new culinary delights.  The local dish, cevapi did not disappoint.  mostaryumThe dish of grilled mince meat (lamb, sausage, etc) was accompanied by a delicious pita like bread, onions and the most amazing cheese sauce that was easy to mistake for butter.  It was so good that my husband asked for a side of his own and we are excited to try and make it ourselves.  This local dish was amazing and Bosnia was creating a reputation for some amazing food.  Even better, this dish was only 7 Euros.

Back in Split, there were more local favorites to try.  At a nearby gravyKonoba, which means a local restaurant, I tried veal and gnocchi with a thick like gravy sauce.  This was the hearty type of Eastern European dish I was expecting but on such hot days, I was beginning to see why the coastal towns like Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split faired on the lighter side for meals.  Tucked on a side street inside the famed Diocletian’s Palace, Trattoria Bajamont offered amazing calamari.

The last stop of the trip was Zagreb, the capital city located far from the coast.  A sampling of strukli at La Struk captured my heart.  Strukli, a local dish, is the comfort food of all comfort foods. The dishes, layers of soft dough, cheeses and something sweet or salty (walnuts and honey were my something sweet) are served in hot lasagne like plates.  This was one of the most unexpected favorites of the entire trip.

strukliZagreb also offered some of the best truffle dishes including a very large plate of truffle gnocchi for lunch one day.  It couldn’t get any better than this.  Too, prices were cheaper in Zagreb.  This huge dish of truffle gnocchi, with shaved truffles on top, was under 10 Euros.


So what is Croatian food?  I shall define it as a mix of Italian dishes, succulent seafood and hearty meats, all with soul and character.

Now, I diet.

Keep that fridge stocked for the ladies, fellas!

Beer/Drinks, Funny

I haven’t giggled this hard in a while.  I don’t know how I haven’t seen this, but I guess this is super old (like 2008!).  Mr. Chi City’s fantastic guide to making women comfortable when they come back to your place.  “Even when they bring they kids!”

Watch until the end for this gem:

…oh yeah, one more thing.  To the makers of kool aid, would you niggas stop putting the juice all the way to the top?!  Cause when I twist the motherfucking cap, the shit explodes like a goddamn grenade.   Then I got blue juice all over my white carpet.  Look, I appreciate you trying to give me as much juice for the value, but look – put the juice down here and I won’t miss it.  I mean these motherfuckers are like 5 for a dollar.  Thank you.

Tears.  Truth. (NSFW/language)