Sunday, December 24, 2006

Oh The Food!

I know, I know. It will sound like gloating. But what else have I done in Spain? I haven't gone running, though I have walked about 100 miles since we got here. I haven't been doing any brain work, unless you include one Sudoku puzzle (I messed up the second), and a few New Yorker articles. I haven't cooked at all. I may have spread some avocado on a piece of bread, but that hardly counts as cooking. I made a few minor purchases (mostly bottled water, for which I have been criticized, albeit in a joking manner). I also bought some cookies for tonight's festivities. And some wrapping paper.
But the food. It really consumes our days and nights, and by consumes I mean it's what we do. That and the wine.
So I'll start with a few nights ago, when Middlebrow and I made our way out into the world alone, armed only with a Triana map and some recommendations.
We started the gastronomic tour at Blanco Paloma or white dove. We shared the tapa special of the day, two slices of zucchini between which was sandwiched a green substance with shrimp. The whole thing was deep fried. It was good. We also had Pollo con campiones (chicken breast with mushrooms, served, of course, on top of potatoes).
Then we went to Bar Esperanza, a brightly lit place with seating at the bar for about ten. Here we had the gambas ajillo (shrimp with garlic). It was served in a little earthenware dish which had just come off the gas range. In it were shrimp and slices of garlic swimming in olive oil. We ate this with some bread. I observed many of the other patrons consuming Ensalada Rusa. Middlebrow, being a recent visitor to Russia, commented on the fact that it basically looked how salad looked in Russia, which is like a big heap of mayonnaise. It was, in fact, potatoes, but mostly mayonnaise. It looked like mayonnaise jello. I observed with a grimace how the patron of the place opened a refrigerator to top this salad with more mayonnaise. We did not partake of this abomination.
We headed out for Casa Ruperto, home of the deep fried game hen, but it was not open. Que lastima! So we stopped at an unknown place, Cafe Tranvia and had the tortilla de la casa (tortilla of the house) which was a standard tortilla with cheese on top. But it was good.
We came home and convinced everyone to go out with us again. We made it to Los Golondrinas , which means the swallows. Here we did not eat, but had one drink before the kids officially melted down. It was only eleven!
The next night we went to Sol y Sombra, a bar with a bullfighting theme. Sol y Sombra refers to the seats at bullfights, those in full sun (sol) and those that are shaded (sombra). This was definitely my favorite bar. It was decorated with bullfighting posters, and in the back room, jamon serrano hung from the ceiling.
Here we had solomillo (pork loin) cooked with whole garlic cloves. Delicious, with the added bonus of garlic on bread. We also had gambas ajillo again, also very good. We also had merluza al jerez, a white fish cooked in sherry. It was so good. We also shared two bottles of house wine. For all that it was about $80. For six people! With two bottles of wine! I know. It's crazy!
Last night El Don y Scorpion's Tail took us out to Blanco Paloma restaurant. We had a lovely sit down dinner. The kids had chicken and patatas fritas. We had an amazing cut of beef served with duck fat (basically), and an equally delicious piece of fish. To start we shared a salad of watercress that was served with goat cheese, walnuts, pears, and an amazing raspberry dressing.
Again we had great wine. For dessert, we shared a chocolate souffle, cheesecake, and the kids had cinnamon ice cream. It may have been the best ice cream I ever tasted. But of course they only let me have the smallest taste.
We finished with a golden colored liquor made from some kind of herb. It was strong, but good.
I should mention that the table behind us was filled with Spanish women wearing reindeer horns (you know, the kind made from felt). They were having some kind of tacky gift exchange. The kids called them "The Smoking Reindeer." They gave the boys each a set of reindeer horns. I took some photos, so look for them soon on Flickr.
When we got close to home, we heard singing. There was a small band in the plaza near the apartment, singing songs. We got to hear one of the songs about Sevilla, it was even about this neighborhood, Triana. The crowd was full of people from age 10 to about 70. We watched for awhile. It was great fun. They gave us some liquor (anis, unfortunately). It was a lovely end to the evening.
Today, El Don has been outdoing himself cooking for our dinner of tapas. We will have crepes with smoked salmon (S.T. will make these), some mushrooms, Espinacas (the spinach with garbanzo beans), solomillo (Pork Loin cooked with whole cloves of garlic in red wine), Tortilla Espana (spanish tortilla made with eggs and potato), conejo (bunny!).
Tomorrow, El Don is making a type of paella with small pasta and a crazy assortment of mariscos (shrimp, calamari, oysters, mussells, etc.).
Then we will eat leftovers until we leave for Barcelona on the 27th.
Merry Christmas Eve and happy eating to all of you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Espana Update

Hola! Greetings from Spain. After more than a week, I might almost be adjusted to the time here. Maybe. But today I woke up before noon (what an accomplishment!), had some tea, and then we took Son to Torre del Oro. No, it's not a tower made of gold, but a lookout tower and a naval history museum. Son enjoyed looking at the city from the tower, and then we ran around.
We've seen some amazing stuff here, most notably Alhambra. Today we went to Alcazar Real, a lesser castle from the Moorish period, with great gardens and a maze. Son and Friend had fun.
We've mostly been eating and drinking amazing Spanish wine that we send Son and Friend down to buy at the corner store, Don Jose's. The wine costs between 2,50 E and 4 E. Yes, that's about $6 max. For great wine!
We're planning a big dinner of many varieties of Tapas for Buena Noche (christmas eve). So far we've decided on mussels, shrimp, tortilla de Espana (egg, potatoes), salmon, espinaces (spinach and garbanzo beans). Did I mention the olives? They have a store just for olives!! My favorite are the Verditas (green, raw). They are so mild. I think of them as "soft." My favorite part of the day is before dinner when we hang out, have wine and drink olives.
FYI, "buenas tardes" which means "good afternoon" lasts until around 8 pm. Then it becomes noche, or night.
Highlights from the trip:
Watching "Without a Trace" in the hotel in Madrid. I had seen it before so I could follow the story. Plus, how hard can it be. Someone's missing. The agents ask, "Donde esta? Donde esta?" But the best part was the incredibly low, macho voice that they dubbed in for Anthony LaPaglia's voice. It was hilarious.
That son's favorite part of the trip, so far (at least last night, when I asked) was "when we looked at the pictures." His favorite was Goya's "Perro semihesnueda" or something like that. It's the "Semihidden Dog." And "Saturn eating his children." That's my favorite.
Son says "si" when I ask him questions and Scorpion's Tail got him to do some reading in Spanish when we were out at the Cathedral.
Tonight Middlebrow and I are going out for Tapas in Triana. Son is staying home and having pasta with butter and cheese. Sad.
It's 7:00 pm in Triana. Son and Friend are having an "early" dinner. It's the Spanish way.
Click on my Flickr link to the right to see pics from Alhambra. I'll upload some others later.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Adios, Cha-Cha

Well, this will be the last post stateside. I am in the throes of packing and drinking coffee and reading. And socializing with Otter Butt, just for awhile before I leave.
I am SO in the throes of pre-trip mania, that I forgot today was my birthday until I went to yoga and had to write the date on my card. Funny. I guess I'm losing my memory already. And so young. And then we had to do sun salutations for the sum of my age digits. It's 11. You do the math.
So adios cha-cha. That's son's way of saying "Adios, muchacha."
We will try to blog from Friend's house in Espana. And give you updates.
Middlebrow has a Flickr account so we'll try to upload pictures too, so you can see how much fun we are having.
And don't forget to compliment me on the new shape of my eyebrows. Middlebrow is SO not equipped to be complimentary on this front. But it matters. It really does. Not as much as TV, but still.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Way TV Could Be (Can Be?)

I know I spend way too much time writing, thinking about and, more importantly, blogging about television, but I am just too enamored of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to let another week go by without examining why it is so good.

First, and I felt this way about The West Wing for the first three or four years, Sorkin et. al. shows the world not how it is, because that's way too depressing. But he shows how it could be. But more importantly, how it should be. On The West Wing, this meant we got to see how the world could be if we had a President that, I don't know, knew something about economics. Was a Christian who didn't believe in literal interpretations of the Bible. Believed in the separation of Church and State. Upheld the Constitution.

Now, and I know even as I write this it sounds ridiculous, Studio 60 demonstrates how TV could be. But wait. Maybe it's not ridiculous. How much time do most Americans spend watching TV? If TV were more intelligent, more democratic, more socially engaged, wouldn't that be beneficial for boneheads like me who spend so much time watching it?

Let's take tonight's episode, for example. As Middlebrow pointed out, this is what SNL should be. On the fake SNL, Studio 60, there was a skit about Santa being caught on the Dateline Predator cam. Funny, right? And Danny (Bradley Whitford. I heart him) made room on the show for a tribute to New Orleans complete with black and white photos and a brass section from N.O. And, more importantly, the boy got to kiss the girl. Satisfying.

This show also afforded not one but three characters the opportunity to make speeches and stand up for the First Amendment. Ed Asner!! got to make a speech about the First Amendment. On primetime television, baby.

More importantly, and this is my main point, people, so listen up: the show is not saturated in irony and sarcasm. Here's what I love: characters make speeches about the First Amendment and they are serious. They are not tongue in cheek. The show is saying that these sexy, rich people feel things and that's cool. It's smart and funny. It's okay to feel. In fact, the show goes out of its way to make you feel things. About New Orleans, for example, or the First Amendment.

And that, my friends, is why I love it. Plus I love all the actors and the witty banter. There's that too. And the blonde woman from the British Office. Did I mention Bradley Whitford? And Matthew Perry has left that other show far behind. I may heart him too.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Sign I'm Still A Runner

Somehow, in the bitter (and I mean bitter) cold that has descended on us in the past few weeks, I have lost touch with the runner inside me. Don't get me wrong, I have still been running, but inside on a treadmill. I don't hate it, but it can get boring. So I was beginning to think that maybe I'm not so much of a runner. Maybe I'm just someone who works out.

Leave it to the January edition of Runner's World to remind me that I am, in fact, a runner. Just reading the list of 2007 marathons made my heart race. And then I found the Valley of the Sun half-marathon in Mesa just before Spring Break. So I'm thinking about it. The problem? I'll be in Spain when my training should begin. I guess if I run twice a week or so when I'm in Spain the whole thing could work. Plus it will give me the chance to run in Spain. Yeah! Spain!

In other news, I'm doing pretty well on my Finishing Books I Started This Year in an Attempt to Bolster My Year-End (reading) Numbers. I finished Michael Martone by Michael Martone (hilarious), Success Stories by Russell Banks (pretty good), The Evil B.B. Chow by Steve Almond (decent), and I'm almost done with Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta. This last one is really good. I think I got bogged down in the earlier chapters, which focus more on the environment, but I'm really liking the later chapters which focus more on the "self-medication" she does, and on her journals, which are banal but fascinating. I have one or two others I need to finish, which may or may not happen this year.

I'm also done with all the grading I can do until Monday. Then it's a mad dash to the finish line. (I'm awfully fond of running metaphors as well.)