Category Archives: Food
After regulated Cuba, it was strange to jump into a city fueled by capitalism. The streets were full of delicious things to eat and there were way more than four different vegetables. We found a hostel (Hostel Home) in the Roma district close to a metro station. Our layover was for about 30 hours so we had time to see some new things. Four years before we had flown into Mexico City from Tijuana for a long weekend, we had checked out the most famous tourist sites in the city and the pyramids of Teotihuacan on that trip. This time we would just eat and do a lot of walking through the city. Making your way though the neighborhoods you never knew what you will come upon. Maybe such wonderful things as the most delicious gorditas ever right around the corner from the hostel!
There was a large political demonstration in a neighborhood park nearby. Every few minutes there was canon fire in response to the speeches that echoed through all of the downtown area. We got as close as a few blocks, then our ears couldn’t take the explosions. All the locals saw it as pretty normal.
There were some very good vegetarian options in the city. We found a super busy vegan taco cart called Por Siempre. We got some “pastor” tacos with some kind of homemade fake meat and grilled pineapple. The flavors were strong and delicious; the texture perfect! The best part was the toppings bar with salsas, potatoes, beans, and grilled onions and such. The cart blared metal music and had a spot to park your bicycle– super hip.
Another place we ate was called Vege Taco in the Coyoacan neighborhood. This small restaurant had a three course lunch option of salad, soup, tacos, and a healthy drink for around 100 pesos ($5).
Coyoacan is a beautiful, artsy neighborhood with an amazing crafts market. There was something new and exciting around every corner and I couldn’t taste half the things that I wanted. It would take years to do a proper eating tour. We also found the same amazing coffee roastery we went to last time, Cafe El Jarocho.
Back in the Roma area we found another taco restaurant (we walk a bunch then eat a bunch) and had second lunch. This is when I officially decided that pineapple was a very underrated taco topping.
Later on we stumbled into a bar in the Roma after walking a long ways.
I’m pretty sure the skulls where real. Couldn’t convince myself otherwise.
I’ve never been super into Italian food. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really found the good stuff! We CHOWED down in Italy! Italian food is based on simple, fresh ingredients and exquisite craftsmanship. Every restaurant worth its salt makes their own pasta and menus change seasonally. Thank God we walked so much to stave off too much weight gain.
Breakfast every day was cappuccino and “cornettos”, which are Italian croissants filled with Nutella!!! Yummers!
The antipasto was also amazing! Here’s some bruschetta and prosciutto with melon before lunch!
“Suppli” are basically breaded deep-fried risotto balls. I want to eat these every day for the rest of my life!
Cured meats, bread with gorgonzola truffle spread, tapenades, and veggies at the Mercate Centrale in Firenze. Definitely go there for the amazing local food choices!
The most epic meat and cheese board in the world from La Prosciutteria in Roma.
Pasta made from scratch is SO MUCH BETTER than dried boxed pasta. The pasta was really thick and rich! I tried spinach-ricotta ravioli with garlic sage cream, spaghetti a la pesto, and many more!
Last but not least, dessert! Authentic tiramisu is not very sweet with a very strong coffee flavor. This one was pistachio flavored, hence the green color.
Gelato was also a daily occurrence. This one was from Perche No! in Firenze, which I had dreamed of visiting since hearing so much about how good it was from a high school history teacher. He’s now retired and I half expected to run into him there! I can’t wait to go back to Italia with Zach someday and try all the goodies again! Until then, I’m on the hunt for suppli in California!
“Barthelona!!” we kept whispering excitedly with a lisp, the normal way of speaking in this part of Spain. But this was not Spain, this was Catalonia.
Fresh in the middle of a new independence battle, the people of Barcelona were proudly sporting their flag-striped shirts and we saw several rallies in the streets. Apparently the public was very divided on the issue, polls showing an almost perfect 50/50 split. There’s the obvious question of weather 51% is enough support to divide a nation, and opinions were free flowing, as was the wine. The reasons why Catalans want to be there own country vary, but we gathered it has a lot to do with Catalonia bringing in a large percentage of Spain’s entire GDP. There’s definitely a lot of regional pride.
We spent four days in Barcelona, walking everywhere and seeing very little of the huge city. The food was amazing as was the wine, and we did a good job exploring the eating options. The first day we had a fancy lunch at Michelin-starred Alkimia. (Make reservations in advance.) The “reinventing classic”-style food was amazing and gave Zach great inspiration to get back to work in San Diego.
After 9pm we would cruise the Gothic Quarter, scoping out new bars and tapas joints. The city was bursting with nightlife, everyone out and about.
The Sagrada Familia, Casa Battló, and other works by Antoni Gaudi are scattered about the city. Sagrada Familia, has been under construction since the 1880s. We couldn’t afford to go inside, so maybe we will come back when it’s finished (if ever!)
At the top of a steep hill, the Parque Guell (also designed by Gaudi) features many great viewpoints over looking the entire city. It’s also a great park to walk around and enjoy many talented buskers.
Since Barcelona was the end of our trip, we tried to soak up the relaxed Spanish culture as much as possible. Wine was drunk, tapas were eaten, and many more beautiful streets were explored. Returning home was bittersweet, but we know we found something special in Spain, and we’ll be back.
Granada is a magical place. The castles, cobblestone streets, and snow-covered mountains enchant. Not to mention the best thing ever, free tapas in all the bars! Every time you order a glass of wine or beer, a new plate of food shows up. We ate a lot of tapas – potato salad, “bacalao,” “jamon,” many varieties of charcuterie on bread, little fish… it was endless. There are restaurants on every corner, and all are full late into the night.
The Spanish love going out; staying up late is part of the culture. What happens is every day people wake up, and go to work at a normal time in the morning, then in the afternoon go home and take a “siesta.” After some sleep, everyone goes out for tapas after 9pm and stays out until midnight (or later). You finish the night with churros and hot chocolate, then wake up and do it all again.
The food is good, the wine is good, the people are friendly. Granada is a great place.
The main attraction in Granada is Alhambra, a super impressive fortress overlooking the city. Originally built by the Moors, the complex was a palace for many sultans and kings of various empires. All the walls are intricately carved in Islamic-style geometric patters which took centuries to complete. It took many hours for us to explore the several different buildings, castles, sanctuaries, and colorful gardens.
Another awesome place in Granada is the area Sacremonte. Situated in the hills at the edge of the city, the neighborhood is a collection of houses built inside of caves.
Flamenco in the streets
It’s also amazing how quickly you can leave Granada and be in the wilderness. We walked from our hostel in the center to the caves in only 30 minutes, seeing nothing behind them but forest and the mountains in the distance. Hiking, skiing, and many other outdoors adventures are in close proximity! What’s not to love about it?
Going Back to Africa held so many emotions and expectations for me. It’s a continent on which a year of my life has passed; not a great amount of time but it bears a great amount of significance. I was excited, hoping the continent would instantly bring back old memories, familiar sensations, that I would feel at home, that Zach would love it. Yet I knew, at the same time, that Morocco is a world away from East Africa, with a completely different culture, race, and self-perception.
Stepping off the ferry from Spain onto African soil again for the first time in three years was a relief. The FRS Ferry from Tarifa to Tangier was not at all a comfortable ride. The first 10 minutes of the journey the huge boat rocked from side to side so violently that I thought I was going to lose my lunch. And I have never been seasick in my life! Apparently it was a problem of “getting up to speed” and once we got going faster the rocking lessened. We got a taxi through the bustling medina to Hakim’s (our CS hosts’s) apartment. He immediately informed us that we got ripped off by taking the “wrong color taxi” and that we should only take blue ones because they have meters and the brown ones just name a price. Well how were we supposed to know that before he told us? Oh well. Welcome to Africa.
Tangier was, of course, wildly different from East Africa. Almost every woman wore a hijab, many completely veiled in birkahs. The call to prayer could be heard five times a day from a variety of different directions, mosques dominating the city. There were remnants of a strong foreign prescence however, as Tangiers used to be an “international zone” in the years surrounding World War II, with different sections controlled by several different European nations. It was also a popular hangout/escape for the artists/writers/druggies of the Beat generation, home to William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and a popular touring ground for the Rolling Stones and The Clash. Nowadays, a lot of the expats have gone home, and the city remains largely conservative. Alcohol is nearly impossible to find and insanely expensive. The Lonely Planet lists which bars, specifically, are okay for women to drink at, and its not very many! We took a break from the drinking scene, as our CS hosts were pretty devout Muslim non-drinkers. We did enjoy a lot of “Berber whiskey”, a.k.a. the famous Moroccan mint tea, super sweet and chock full of fresh mint leaves. Hakim and his roommates also cooked us an amazing “tajine”, basically a vegetable/meat stew slow-cooked in a special clay dish with exotic Moroccan spices. The rest of the visit was spent exploring and taking in the beautiful Islamic architecture!
San Sebastian deserves a post just about food. With 14 Michelin stars in the whole town, there’s no debating that the small city in northern Spain deserves its place among the food capitals of the world. Their staples are “pintxos” – Basque tapas-style small bites. These are available for lunch (1pm-4pm) and dinner (7pm-11pm) and range in price from 1-4 euros. All of the cold pintxos are laid out on the bar for you to look over, or you can buy hot pintxos off of the menu. Almost every bar has them and they are all good. We ate A LOT of pintxos. Here were some of our favorites!!!
Our Couchsurfing hosts where all chefs, so they generously decided to cook us up an amazing Basque-style feast. We spent the whole morning driving around the city picking up the best ingredients and wine. First was a refreshing tomato gazpacho (cold soup), then we had local tomatoes, ried padron peppers with sea salt, bread, “cocochas en salsa verde” (fish throats), and fried “bacalao” (salted cod) in tomato sauce. All sooooo delicious and paired with amazing Rioja (local) wine. I couldn’t have been happier, hanging out in the kitchen learning how to prepare these amazing dishes. This is what Couchsurfing is all about and why we love it so much!
If you like food, DO NOT MISS SAN SEBASTIAN. This was my favorite town EVER for eating. I want to go back; I want to live there. It was that good.
We were so ready for Spain. After struggling with French all we could think about was getting to a place where we understood what was going on again. I fell asleep on the Rideshare from Bordeaux and awoke to hills and green trees and houses with tiled rooftops. We had made it! San Sebastian was small and came out of nowhere, the ocean bright blue and full of surfers. The surf wasn’t good, but it was nice to be in a slightly more familiar setting.
Our Couchsurfing hosts welcomed us into their house but had to run back to work so we relaxed for awhile then headed out to grab some of the famous “pintos”, the Basque word for tapas-style small bites of food. San Sebastian is very famous for its cuisine, having more Michelin stars (14) per capita than any other city in the world. The pintxos are served for lunch (around 1-4pm) and dinner (approx 7-11pm). They cost between 1 and 4 euros each so it can add up if you are stuffing your face like we did. I was in heaven.
After having one of the most amazing eating frenzies of our lives, we needed to burn some calories so we could eat more for dinner. We headed up the trail to Monte Urgull to where an old castle and a large statue of Jesus looked down on the city. The city appeared even more beautiful than we first thought. Two beaches were split in half by the peninsula with the fortress and Jesus sculpture atop it, complemented by a large bay with a pretty little island, and bright blue water that reminded me of the Caribbean. We were ready to find jobs and move in, seriously.
We got a long nap along with everyone else in town (the Spanish do love their “siestas”), then headed out for more pinxtos. I was obsessed. My inner chef kept telling me to eat eat eat until I could eat no more. Did I mention that La Rioja, one of the premier wine regions in the world was right down the road? This meant amazing wine at amazing prices. “How much is rent here?”
Coming soon… All about Basque cuisine.