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Archive for the ‘Galicia’ Category

Date of visit: Saturday, April 29, 2017

“Galicia is Different.” That phrase is seen a lot in social media and it’s quite true. Galicia is full of unique places, people and things to do. One unique place to visit is the aldea (village) of Fofán. We first visited Monica and Juan’s charming stone house in the hills of the O Salnés region in 2015 (read all about that visit here). Since then, the industrious couple have made many noteworthy changes to their quirky little agrochic haven:

1.  The 2016 fall harvest was fruitful with the arrival of this sweet little bundle to Fofán – baby Carmen! This captivating little beauty loves everyone who visits.

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Juan, baby Carmen, and Monica welcome visitors to their home in Fofán.

2. Two guest rooms have been welcoming visitors in the main house for some time now via AirBnB. Both done in clean, crisp white, guests will feel quite at home in either of these rooms on the house’s main floor. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to sleep here and wake up to that delicious, fresh-baked bread smell wafting in from the kitchen just down the hall!

3. Monica now hosts bread making classes in the kitchen at Fofán. The home’s kitchen isn’t for show – it’s a true working kitchen. Monica continues to make her legendary pan de calabaza (pumpkin bread), and now offers various bread making classes by appointment. We participated in an “international” bread making class. Other classes are geared towards artisan bread, pastry, Galician empanadas, and even classes for kids to come and try their hand at crafting homemade bread.

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Here I am getting my hands dirty making Chinese ‘bao‘ buns, stuffed with a delicious mix of ground chicken, ginger, garlic, and scallion. The bao were then placed in a bamboo steamer for about 20 minutes until ready. The best part of the class? Sampling the delicious product!

The Chinese bao and Italian foccaccia that we made during the class are on the left. Monica’s signature bread, the pan de calabaza is on the right.

Delicious homemade Focaccia in three easy steps:
Make the dough.
Spread it out by hand with good olive oil and fresh herbs (rosemary here).
Bake to perfection in the oven with a bit of steam.

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Monica and MyLifeOnVacation pose with the freshly griddled Tunisian black olive flatbread.

4. Monica and Juan are frequent international travelers so inspiration from exotic locales feels right at home in the aldea. As pictured above, we made Tunisian flatbread, Italian focaccia, and Chinese bao during the international bread making class. We then learned about some of that international luxury was also coming to the lower level of the house in the form of a Turkish bath / hammam. The basement was extended to be the home of the new sauna. Since this photo was taken, in April 2017, the construction has been completed: windows and doors of the cellar (pictured below) were installed and the Turkish bath / hammam is operational at the time of publication of this post.

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The basement at Fofán, now home to a relaxing Turkish bath.

5. A bonus of the basement expansion is this gorgeous new terrace above, situated right off of the kitchen. With a quaint white picket fence, ample seating, gorgeous Portuguese tiles, and fantastic hillside views, this is a completely inviting place to relax and soak in the peace and tranquility of the aldea below.

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Visitors will enjoy this beautiful large patio overlooking the entire village. One can actually see the ocean from the house! Looks like the perfect spot to enjoy a bottle of wine.

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How about a closer look at that Portuguese tile on the new terrace? Gorgeous! And our Eferro zocos (wooden clogs – in this case sandals and boots) look great too! I’m wearing newly acquired sandals and Monica is sporting her custom-made wedding boots.

6. The wide variety of trees and plants impressed us during our first visit back in 2015 – more than 30 different varieties. Since then there are even more plants, trees and crops being planted. In addition to the existing greenhouse, two new structures are now on the property in Fofán: a bunny hutch and chicken coop!

Cute bunnies in the hutch and productive heritage chickens in the coop.

You never know what’s going to be growing in the village: During our visit, fresh herbs, artichokes and strawberries were in season. We enjoyed sampling the sweet fresh picked strawberries immensely.

7. There are hórreos all over Galicia, but very few have been transformed into a comfortable guest room that one can stay in.  Talk about a unique opportunity at Fofán!

8. But the most notable change since our 2015 visit has got to be the acquisition of Galicia’s “largest bottle of Albariño”!  It was originally a boat (constructed in 1999 to promote the Camino de Santiago) and is now affixed to the land here in Fofán. A local artist from Coruña was brought in to paint the “label” of the wine bottle. Since these photos were taken in April 2017, all of the construction work has been completed and the bottle is ready for guests to stay in this utterly unique lodging.

The local newspaper published this great article titled “Sleeping inside a bottle” in June 2016, which shows the final look of the bottle inside and out. In addition to offering the entire bottle for guests to rent overnight, they plan to also use the sitting area to host wine tastings, or other events, in the garden. Let me guess …. tastings of Albariño wine??

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Photo courtesy of MadeinFofán.

As mentioned above, one can actually see the ocean from Made in Fofán.  As the map above illustrates, they are conveniently located to a variety of interesting towns in the O Salnés region:

 

 

 

  • Meaño (13 minute drive) The closest destination wineries are in Meaño, a mere 13 minutes away from Fofán.
  • Cambados (15 minute drive) The noble old town of Cambados is known as the “Capital of Albariño” and was named a “Cidade Europea de Vino 2017” (2017 European Wine City). Their annual Albariño wine festival, the first weekend in August, is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year in the region.
  • Portonovo (18 minute drive) Just on the other side of Sanxenxo is the beautiful Baltar Beach in the town of Portonovo. Calm waters welcome visitors of all ages.
  • Sanxenxo (20 minute drive) In the mood for a party atmosphere? Look no further than Sanxenxo, the “Marbella of Galicia”. Expensive yachts populate the marina and Silgar Beach fills with local and international tourists all summer long. From here one can even catch a boat to explore the island of Ons.
  • Combarro (21 minute drive) Try Combarro for a quiet and quaint atmospheric fishing village with a beautiful port and winding alleyways.
  • O Grove (30 minute drive) O Grove is known as the “paraiso de marisco” shellfish paradise and worth a visit explore and enjoy their many beaches (especially the longest, Lanzada Beach) and many (many!) seafood restaurants.


Made in Fofán
Lugar de Fofán 8, Armenteria
Meis, Galicia, Spain
+34 622 098 721

Website: www.madeinfofan.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/madeinfofan
Twitter: www.twitter.com/madeinfofan
Email: madeinfofan@gmail.com

See links to AirBnB listings here: SleepInFofán

English spoken: Yes

For more information on the O Salnés region, please visit: www.osalnes.com/en

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Date of visit: Friday, April 28, 2017

(Image credit: National Geographic)

Galicia’s Costa da Morte (Coast of Death), stretches all along the northwestern coast of Galicia from the village of Muros (the “x” at the bottom of the photo to the left) all the way up to the village of Malpica (the “4” at the top of the photo). While the name is a bit unfortunate for marketing purposes, visitors to the Costa da Morte need not be afraid. It’s named for the numerous shipwrecks that used to take place back in ye olde seafaring days. The miles and miles of coastline is a nature lover’s paradise with unspoiled rocky shores and gorgeous views aplenty. The map to the left is borrowed from this National Geographic article that goes into more specifics about the many sights to see on this part of Galicia’s coastline.

We enjoyed a lovely full day exploring the Costa da Morte, including a visit to the lighthouse at the End of the World (in Fisterra), fabulous lunch at O’Fragon Restaurante (read more about that here) and stops at the Ézaro waterfall (near Cee), and Muxía.  As evening approached we made our way to As Garzas Restaurant near Malpica, and enjoyed watching a perfect sunset right from our table against the windows of the front dining room.

This Michelin starred restaurant is situated in the main floor of a bungalow style house just meters from the rocky shore. As soon as we entered, María José Sánchez, wife of Chef Fernando Agrasar, made us feel right at home. She runs the front of the house and speaks English wonderfully. After our warm welcome, she very helpfully explained various menu items. As was the case earlier in the day, we opted to order a la carte rather than taking advantage of either of Chef Agrasar’s extremely appetizing tasting menus featuring their contemporary Galician fare.

 

As Garzas menu above. A la carte in the center and tasting menus on the right.

 

Getting things started was an aperitif of empanada casera de xouba (homemade mackerel empanada) served on these darling fish shaped wooden plates. This was the lightest, crunchiest empanada pastry I’ve had.

 

The Galician bread on the left side of the serving tray, described as “pan de toda la vida” (good old Galician bread), had a really satisfyingly crispy crust and wonderful flavor. The bread on the right side of the serving tray was another excellent house made bread with frutos rojos y pasas (nuts and raisins). Beautifully presented sweet cream Prestes butter with sal negra (black salt) paired perfectly with these honest artisan breads. There was a symphony of crunching coming from our table with the crispy empanada and these two excellent breads. Hands down, this ended up being the best bread of the trip. Given the overall excellent quality of Galician bread in general, this is high praise, indeed.

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Cheers to a wonderful day on the Costa da Morte and a beautiful evening at As Garzas.

Serious and elegant white blend from the subzone of Gomariz in the Ribeiro D.O, the 2013 Salvaxe is made from old vines (between 60 and 80 years old) of Lado, Silveiriña, Albariño, Godello, and Treixadura grapes. This small production wine paired perfectly with the seafood options that made up our meal.

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Croquetas caseras de bacalao al Pil-Pil (Salt cod aioli croquettes).  These croquetas satisfied with a creamy, mild flavored cod.

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Zamburinas, verduritas tostadas, aguacate y espuma de puerros (Variegated scallops, roasted vegetables, avocado and leek foam)

The whole menu is brimming with fresh seafood, the specialty of the house. Mr. Vacation proclaimed “This is why you come to Galicia!” when this stunning plate of local sweet grilled scallops and cold grilled vegetables accented by a sweet leek sauce, avocado purée, fresh peas, and tomato jam hit the table. A stunning dish.

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Cigalas y alcachofas estofadas (Langoustine and stuffed artichokes)

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Vieira con parmentier de champiñón (Scallop with mushroom bisque). This was so incredibly flavorful. Pass more of that bread to sopetear (sop up), por favor!

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Raya y asado de sus espinas (Skate fish and broth of the bones). The fish here and in the dish below were both perfectly done, a su punto.  The skate accompanied by intensely flavored spinach.

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Merluza, puerros asados, su caldo y perlas de trufa (Hake, roasted leek, its broth and truffle pearls)

All of the homemade desserts were tempting, but in the end we selected two of our favorite desserts of this trip: torrija and chocolate soufflé.

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Torrija de pan de frutas con helado de flan de huevo (Fruited bread torrija with egg flan ice cream)

Torrija has been discussed many times in this blog (like here and here) – it’s my favorite Galician dessert. As Garzas’ version is similar in style to the one we had at Bido in A Coruña, cool and creamy on the inside with a crunchy darkly caramelized sugar top.

Soufflé Coulant de chocolate con natillas caseras (Chocolate soufflé with homemade custard). This trip to Galicia was book-ended by visits to Paris, so soufflé was one of the themes of our trip. This excellent version of decadent rich chocolate soufflé with a vanilla sauce was on par with those we had in France.

More tasty treats with coffee service was the perfect end to the evening’s luxurious meal.

We felt so at home here at As Garzas. That is, if our home featured beautiful embroidered linen napkins, gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean, impressive tableware, and the highest quality wine and seafood! It was so difficult to leave. As it turns out, one actually doesn’t have to leave after a wonderful evening – As Garzas is also a bed and breakfast with 4 guest rooms just upstairs from the dining room! The thought of that bread for breakfast in the morning is so tempting. Next time we will have to stay overnight to fully enjoy this beautiful home and the warm hospitality offered within.


As Garzas
Porto Barizo, 40, 15113 Barizo – Malpica, A Coruña (map)
+34 981 721 765

Website: www.asgarzas.com
Website B&B: www.asgarzas.com/es/alojamiento/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/As-Garzas
Instagram: www.instagram.com/asgarzas

English spoken: YES

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Date of visit: Friday, April 28, 2017

img_8356Fisterra, Galicia (Finisterre in Spanish) is known as “the end of the world” by pilgrims who carry on with their pilgrimage to the sea after arriving at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Whichever name you call it by, it’s a beautiful place where the rocky coast of Galicia meets the Atlantic Ocean to complete this legendary, epic journey. Perched high above the end of the world on a hillside in the aldea (village) of San Martiño de Arriba, sits Ó’Fragón Restaurante.

It’s an uphill drive to get there (the restaurant’s website offers a YouTube video of the trip to help guide you there!), then  a zigzagging walk down a concrete path to get to the minimalist modern building that houses Ó’Fragón.  The contemporary building is starkly beautiful with light wood and bare concrete interior, perfect in that it doesn’t draw any attention away from the spectacular sea views through the floor-to-ceiling windows nor the equally spectacular food that will be served.

Photos from the parking area. Restaurant entrance is down the zigzag path.

 

Clean and minimal, nothing distracts from that incredible view!

The menu is not extensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Fresh, top quality Galician products make up the menu items. They are listed, quite proudly, first in Gallego, then in Spanish and English. If you have the time, the tasting menu at €35 per person with optional wine pairings only €15 more is a tremendous deal, given the quality of the fare and exceptional list of carefully curated Galician wines Ó’Fragón offers. We ended up ordering a la carte as we had a dinner reservation later that night to consider (at As Garzas in Malpica, Galicia), but next time I will take advantage of the tasting menu without hesitation.

The regular menu (left), that gorgeous view (middle), and the tasting menu (right)

 

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Fran expertly opens the bottle of sparkling Galician wine with nary a whisper.

Our host for the afternoon was Fran Insua Fernández. Fran has been a restaurateur in Fisterra since 2003. He is not only the owner but also runs the front of house and speaks excellent English. The original location of Ó’Fragón was down in the middle of the town of Fisterra, relocating up the hill to San Martiño de Arriba in December 2015.

I was very interested in tasting a sparkling Galician wine. Fran recommended this clean and fruity Eidosela Albariño (100%) Extra Brut from the Rías Baixas region, made in the Champagne method. Another dining companion enjoyed this 2015 Pazo de Seoane Rosal (an Albariño, Caíño, Treixadura, Loureiro blend also from the Rías Baixas). Mr. Vacation had a taste for a “mezclado”, red and white vermouth over ice. Of course, Galician Nordesía gin made the mezclado even better, and is made by the same folks that I visited in the fall at Vía Romana.

Albariño sparkling wine, Pazo de Seoane Rosal, and a mezclado.

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Tomates Ecoloxicos, Xeado de Queixo Azul “Prestes” – Organic Tomatoes, Prestes Blue Cheese Ice Cream

This first dish so perfectly defined what this restaurant is all about: light and refreshing. Organic tomatoes with Prestes blue cheese ice cream was a uniquely delicious combination with the cheese flavor shining through the creamy cool ice cream atop perfectly ripe juicy tomatoes. The melting ice cream and tomato broth made the best sauce on the plate, perfect for dipping with the hearty Galician white and flax-seed bread.

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Croques ó Vapor – Steamed Cockles

Simply steamed berberechos (the Spanish word for cockles) dressed tableside with good quality local Galician olive oil. That’s it. That’s all you need, or want, when dealing with such high quality product.

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Longueiróns á Tixola – Pan Cooked Razor Clams

These magnificent mollusks are local razor clams. So local, in fact, that you can even see the beach from which they were harvested in the photo below. Similar to a navaja (traditional razor clam), the longueirón has a straighter shell and a lighter sandy color. If the croques above are Galicia on a plate, these longueirones are Fisterra on a plate.

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This beach here, as seen from the restaurant’s patio, is where the longueiróns are harvested.  It doesn’t get much more local!

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Arroz Carnaroli, Croques, Queixo – Carnaroli Rice, Cockels, Cheese

Toasted rice cooked just al dente risotto style in a light, not soupy, sauce. Absolutely delicious with a generous amount of those same tender, sweet cockles we enjoyed as an appetizer.

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Solombo de Tenreira “Costa da Morte” (POUCO FEITO) – Veal Sirloin from “Costa da Morte” (SERVED RARE)

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Estrela Mencía red wine.

This veal was a real treat for the meat lover at the table. The menu made it very clear that it would be served rare. Rare it was – and it was absolutely perfect served that way. This gorgeous hunk of meat sat atop scalloped potatoes with thyme and roasted red and orange peppers on the side. The icing on the cake was the pink sea salt. It was made pink in-house by soaking the sea salt flakes for 24 hours in red wine from the Ribeira Sacra region.

Speaking of red wine, Mr. Vacation selected this Estrela wine from the Amandi subzone of the Ribeira Sacra wine region. This medium bodied red Mencía paired nicely with the veal dish.

 

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Guiso de Polbo con Patacas Novas – Octopus Stew with New Potatoes

More Galician favorites here: humble octopus and potatoes are brought together into a flavorful, richly satisfying stew. With a sprinkle of good paprika and that wonderful Galician bread at the ready to take advantage of that juice on the plate!

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Ameixas Babosas na nosa “Mariñeira” – Babosa Clams in our own “Marinera” sauce

Ó’Fragón presents their own unique take on the classic dish Clams Marinera by omitting the tomatoes that usually make a sauce for fresh babosa clams (a Galician variety).  The just-barely-there sauce was a fragrant mix of caramelized onions, black pepper, white wine, and clam broth. So lightly dressed, the clams remained at center stage on the plate.

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Dessert and Cheese menu

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Xeado Cremoso de Limón – Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

This was anything but a traditional lemon ice cream. As much as we loved the flavor we found the texture was perhaps the most interesting aspect of this dessert; creamy like a lemon sherbet, but with a marshmallow-like consistency.

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Biscoito de Laranxa Amarga-Mandarina – Bitter Orange Cake-Tangerine

Fran advised that this wasn’t an ordinary cake. This would be a lightened up cake. A cake that’s been turned inside out, so that the ‘cake’ (more like a crumbled cookie) is the base but the cream and the orange would be the stars: one scoop of orange sorbet and two quenelles of bitter orange heavy whipped cream each decorated with a caramelized mandarin orange slice. Very unique and, true to Fran’s word, very light.

Fran at work (left) and taking a moment for a photo op (right).

With the clean, streamlined preparations of first class Galician products accompanied by fine Galician wines, Fran has truly created a unique and relaxing space for memorable destination dining. Way back in a 2010 interview with La Voz de Galicia newspaper, he stated that he had the idea to create a kind of gastronomic temple in his hometown of Fisterra (“facer en Fisterra unha especie de templo gastronómico”). That is precisely what he has done here on this hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the world.


Ó’Fragón Restaurante
Lugar San Martiño de Arriba, 22, 15154 Fisterra (map)
+34 981 740 429

Website: www.ofragon.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ofragon/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/ofragon_restaurante

English spoken: YES

Our reservation was made 3 weeks in advance via email for our springtime visit. If you plan to visit in summer, I would recommend booking at least that much in advance.

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Date of visit: Thursday, April 27, 2017

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Bido Restaurante exterior – located on the ground floor of the stately La Casa Barrié building in A Coruña.

Se come muy bien en Galicia” is a common refrain that you will hear over and over again when you spend any amount of time in Spain. It means “one eats very well in Galicia”.  This could not be a truer statement; with the high quality of local products (shellfish, fish, beef, etc.) and the passion with which local chefs prepare them, one does indeed eat very well in Galicia. And within Galicia, one eats extremely well in the city of A Coruña.

Coruña has a dynamic dining scene and one of the highest profile restaurant openings of late was the opening of Bido Restaurant last September. If you remember back to my blog post from last fall, I was able to stop by Bido a couple of days before the actual opening, but had to wait 7 months before returning to experience an entire meal. I’m happy to report that it was totally worth the wait!

The restaurant’s impressive bar is the first thing one notices upon entering the restaurant as it dominates one wall of the dining room. Along with the striking chandelier, one also notices a list of wines by the glass prominently displayed on the wall next to the bar. They proudly offer quality, higher end wines by the glass, a somewhat uncommon occurrence in Galicia. A quote at the bottom of the wine list assures us that “All you need is a glass of wine – by Bido”.

While Bido’s current menu contains subtle references to Chef Crujeiras’ former restaurant venture, A Estación, in the artwork and in many of the menu items, the physical menu itself is uniquely “Bido” – the pages actually roll up into a sumptuous custom leather sleeve, a nod to the many other touches of tawny leather around the restaurant.  Seasonal main courses at Bido are served as raciónes cortas (smaller portions) so that guests may try multiple items. Some appetizers may be up-sized to be a main course, offering plenty of flexibility in creating a unique dining experience.

 

We enjoyed the view from our table near the window as the parade of bread and snacks arrived. The bread in Galicia is hearty and amazing. The breadbasket here at Bido is no exception. The traditional white bread was lovely but the brown bread really stole the show as a wonderful example of the resurgence of a formerly unsung local hero: the chestnut. This bread came from a new shop that has opened in A Coruña called Castañam (a play on the Spanish words (chestnut) castaña and (yummy) ñam). It specializes in products made with Galician chestnuts, including this bread made from chestnut flour that is served at Bido and other nice restaurants in Coruña. The bread was accompanied by good quality Galician butter, an assortment of olives (big green Galician olives, black olives from Aragón) with confit garlic, and slightly addictive bacalao (salt cod) cream with cracker sticks. Then came refreshing bowls of salmorejo, a Spanish chilled soup made of pureed tomato, bread and potato that Saveur magazine calls “gazpacho’s richer, deeper cousin”.

 

For starters the croquetas de temporada (seasonal croquettes – seafood on this day) were a must. Fresh, hot, creamy, and bursting with seafood flavor, these stellar croquetas were slightly spicy and extremely satisfying. Also very satisfying was the empanada casera del día, made in-house with xouba (small Galician sardines) over caramelized onions in a crust of thin dough. Galician empanadas are traditionally meant to be eaten with your hands, but the crust on this version was delicate enough that we picked up our knives and forks.

A behind the scenes look into Bido’s kitchen! Eva cheerfully prepares that delicious xouba empanada. (Photo by Crujeiras – used with permission)

With such a nice list of wines by the glass, we ordered three different Galician whites to kick off our meal. Above left: Cíes, a lovely limited production old vines Albariño from Meaño in the Rías Baixas region. Above right: Avancia, another old vines white, a Godello grown in Valdeorras, made by Jorge Ordoñez who was the first person to bring Godello wine to the United States in the 1990s.

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The third white was the KomoKabras Albariño from the Entre os Rios winery.  I was excited to see this still on Bido’s wine by the glass menu since a few days later we would be staying at the Casa Rural (B&B) where the winery is located. We had a wonderful stay and really enjoyed visiting the winery … that will be another blog post!

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Smoked marinated salmon over fresh spinach leaves with drops of green apple vinagrette and burrata de requeixo da A Capela.  (Requeixo is a soft raw milk creamy Galician cheese similar to mascarpone made in A Capela, not far from A Coruña)

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Ravioli Bogavante (lobster ravioli)

Huge chunks of lobster wrapped in extremely delicate thin pasta over ratatouille bathed in a seafood sauce. We used the good Galician bread to sopetear (sop up) all of that flavorful sauce!

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When we weren’t familiar with the seasonal fish salmonete (red mullet), they brought a fresh one out to show us.

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Bido’s international cheese cart. This day it featured cheeses from France, England, Spain, and Galicia.

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The classic yet modern interior decór at Bido is enhanced by the vintage hexagon tile floor. It went very nicely with my newly acquired Eferro wooden sandals (purchased at their new storefront in A Coruña – more info from my visit to the original location in Merza here).  #ihavethisthingwithfloors

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Pescado del Día, arroz negro y emulsion de “allada” – fish of the day (salmonete = red mullet)

The plated version of the fish of the day (salmonete = red mullet) was served over black rice with an aioli-like garlic emulsion.  The fish was perfectly prepared and thoroughly enjoyed.

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To accompany Mr. Vacation’s solomillo (sirloin steak), he selected this Almirez Toro (Tempranillo) from Teso la Monja (located in the province of Zamora, Spain).

Chef Crujeiras does it all! Here he is delivering solomillo to the table which was topped with foie gras and shavings of last-of-the-season truffles(!), served with roasted potatoes and brocollini. So rich and delicious!

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Canelón de galo Celta, pesto de queso San Simón da Costa, setas de temporada y salsa de asado – Celta chicken cannelloni, San Simón cheese pesto, seasonal mushrooms and pan reduction sauce.

Listed on the menu as an appetizer, I requested the cannelloni as a main course. The kitchen was happy to up-size the portion and I am so glad they did – this dish ended up being my favorite plate of the day. So deliciously rich, this savory chicken (Galo Celta, a Galician heritage breed chicken), smokey San Simón da Costa cheese, mushrooms, pan reduction sauce, and a nice shaving of Parmesan cheese on top packed an umami punch. There may have even been truffle oil and foie gras inside (recipes I found online call for both). It was truly a fantastic dish.

Chef Crujeiras generously brought over a round of Tostado de Costeira, a lovely dessert wine from the Ribeiro wine region (located in the central part of southern Galicia, just to the east of the Rías Baixas). It’s a naturally sweet wine made from Treixadura grapes, served cold, with flavors of honey and raisin that paired perfectly with the parade of desserts that followed.

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Milhojas de Vainilla – Napoleon (or millefeuille, in French)

A classic dessert of vanilla cream between two layers of puff pastry served over a spiced chocolate sauce with Guanaja chocolate ice cream on the side.

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Limón – Lemon dessert

Lemon curd between two rows of toasted meringue and topped with lemon sorbet, sprinkled with lime zest. Creamy, tart and extremely refreshing.

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Torrija de Brioche Caramelizada – Caramelized Galician French Toast

All of Bido’s desserts are made in-house. Each was delicious, but this brioche torrija was my favorite. The torrija was custardy and creamy on the inside, with a crunchy sugar brûléed top (and bottom!), and served over a pecan cream sauce with fresh apple ice cream on the side. The ice cream tasted like fresh applesauce, making for a super refreshing contrast to the richness of the torrija.

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Beautiful dessert sampler.

Just when we thought our incredible meal had come to a close, this beautiful dessert sampler on a Portuguese painted tile arrived along with the elegant coffee service. Piña colada marinated pineapple chunks; Nata (thick whipped cream) with licór café (coffee flavored liquor) in the shot glasses; and bizcocho praliné (dried praline cake) with crema de nuez (walnut cream).

We had such an enjoyable afternoon! Bido is comfortable, yet refined. The service is warm and welcoming, yet professional as led by Manual Otero, the charming maître d’ who came to Bido from A Estación. The food is approachable, yet elevated. Even a humble chicken dish skyrocketed to the top of the list when prepared by Chef Crujeiras’ skilled kitchen. Se come muy bien en Bido! 

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 Chef Crujeiras takes a moment to say hello.  Thanks to the entire team at Bido for a wonderful afternoon!

Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you wish to dine during the prime hours (2:30 – 4pm and after 9pm in the evening).  Contact the restaurant at least a couple of weeks in advance for a mid-week reservations, and perhaps even a month or two for a weekend reservation.

 


Bido Restaurante
Marcial  de Adalid 2, A Coruña, Spain (
map)
+34 881 92 28 47

Website: www.bidorestaurante.es
Facebook:
www.facebook.com/bido-restaurante
Bido Instagram:
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Date of Visit:  Friday, September 14, 2016

There are many routes to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago. In 2015 the Camino de Invierno was named an official camino route. The name means “Winter Route”, named as such because it is the route that Pilgrims of yore would take to avoid the snow in O Cebreiro, located on the French Route. The Camino de Invierno passes through the Ribeira Sacra wine region, including the town of Chantada. A mere 3 kilometers before arriving into Chantada pilgrims will pass right by the front door of Vía Romana Adegas e Viñedos (Ví­a Romana Winery and Vineyards), that I visited with José of Turismo Verde de Galicia last September.

Map on the left showing Chantada in the geographical center of Galicia. Map on the right showing the path of the Camino de Invierno. Vía Romana is being pointed to.

img_2914-1Before a pilgrim can pass by this charming winery, he or she must first make the climb up from the village of Belesar after having crossed the Río Miño (as seen in this photo), then make the ascent of 131 meters (430 feet) to the winery. The rest of us might find it easier to arrive by car zipping up the zig-zagging road to the winery.

Galicia is home to several distinct wine regions, one of them being the Ribeira Sacra in the province of Lugo. There approximately 2,900 hectares of vineyards in the Ribera Sacra wine region, which is comprised of five sub-regions: Amandi, Chantada, Quiroga-Bibei, Riberas do Miño and Riberas do Sil. Ví­a Romana is situated in the sub-region of Chantada, on the west side of the gorge created by the Rí­o Miño. It enjoy spectacular views of the river and the terraced wineries all along both sides.

 

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Galicia’s wine regions. The Ribeira Sacra in blue.

 

Stunning views from the Vía Romana winery of the Río Miño and the steep land terraced with vineyards in the Ribeira Sacra wine region.

img_2898-1The location is absolutely beautiful, but it does present some difficulties (I mean, look at the photos just above and to the left that show just how steep those hills are!).  Over the centuries that grapes have been cultivated here, strategies (such as terracing) have been implemented to allow the wineries to thrive and grow. The steep terrain and slate soil guarantee good drainage for the vines, but also necessitates that the grapes are harvested by hand. Each fall during the vendimia (grape harvesting time), grapes are cut by hand and carried by workers up the steep hillsides to the winery. Because of the difficulties in these areas, they use a phrase locally to describe it: viticultura heroica (heroic viniculture).

Vía Romana is most well known for their red wine, made from the mencía grape, which results in an intensely colored, velvety aromatic wine. Vía Romana produces Galicia’s first certified vegan wine, their Mencí­a Añada 2015. We toured around the entire facility and learned about all stages of the winemaking process, from where the grapes are crushed, stored (in stainless steel and in barrels), bottled, aged, and boxed for shipping:

Next we enjoyed a tasting of several different wines (as well as posing with a giant bottle of wine!).  We were also introduced to the line of Nordesía vermouth and María Castaña, a sweet chestnut wine, both produced by affiliated companies.

The Nordesía vermouths are quite popular in Galicia. The red is made with mencía grapes and the white made from albariño grapes. A mix of the red and white over ice (called a “mezclado”) makes for quite a refreshing aperitivo or afternoon drink. The sweet dessert wine made with toasted chestnuts, María Castaña, is another delightful sipper.

I look forward to visiting the Ribeira Sacra wine region again, to discover even more wonderful small production wineries in this enchanting location.


Via Romana Adegas e Viñedos
A Ermida – Belesar s/n, Chantada, Galicia
+34 982 454 069 – call to arrange a visit
Visits offered: Monday – Friday from 10am – 1pm and 4pm – 7pm
Saturday from 11am – 2pm and 5pm – 8pm

Website: www.viaromana.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ViaRomana
Instagram: www.instagram.com/ViaRomana_es
Email: viaromana@viaromana.es

More information on the Ribeira Sacra wine region at www.riberiasacra.org

More information on the Camino de Invierno at:
https://www.gronze.com/camino-invierno
https://www.csj.org.uk/planning-your-pilgrimage/routes-to-santiago/routes-in-spain/camino-de-invierno/

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Date of visit: Sunday, September 18, 2016

When visiting O Grove, Galicia, one can’t help but be impressed by the number of beaches on this gorgeous peninsula. More than 15 beaches with almost 10 kilometers (6 miles) of sand line the shores at various points ranging in size from very long, such as La Lanzada beach (2.5 kilometers / 1.5 miles long!), to the very small, such as the beach at Porto Meloxo (a mere 100 meters / 325 feet in length).  In front of the tiny beach at Porto Meloxo is where you find Taberna Meloxeira.

There is always a long list of restaurants waiting to be visited and checked off whenever I visit Galicia. Taberna Meloxeira had been on this list for a while now and I was excited to finally able to make it there for a relaxed Sunday evening supper last fall. While my visit was in the evening, I would actually recommend going during the day to enjoy the view of the wooden boardwalk and the small Porto Meloxo beach right out front. You might even take a stroll before or after dining along the boardwalk that meanders over to the Port of Meloxo, a charming little fishing port dotted with small fishing boats.

Inside the small comfortable restaurant the wait staff is extremely friendly and helpful. In no time at all I was ready to peruse the menu with a glass of water, albariño wine, and a tasty little empanada appetizer. Immediate seating was available on this Sunday evening, but most other days of the week are booked out in advance at this charming small eatery (there are 9 tables with seating for about 30).

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The menus at Meloxeira Taberna are so cute! Whimsically done in the style of old fashioned Rubio educational workbooks (cuadernillos Rubio), used in Spanish schools since the late 1950’s. Within, the menu contains something for everyone: for the adults, menu items are printed in schoolhouse cursive style. For the kids, there are games to be played, pictures to be drawn, and even a little bit of homework to be done if they get bored. Ok, maybe all of the fun and games are for the adults too!

Fun and games aside, the menu (above) is a treat to peruse featuring a wide variety of Asian fusion dishes along with more traditional Galician items. Lists of appetizers, ceviches, fish, wok dishes, and meats fill the pages. There is a short list of wines printed on the cover of the menu, and the restaurant also dedicated an entire wall (actually a chalkboard) to speak directly to us, the diner, about the various drink options. Titled “And what is it that you like?”, the board discusses the wines available, suggests cava if you are feeling like something a little bubbly, Jerez if you are the adventurous sort, and even a gin & tonic if you might want to visit the beach later. It closes with an invitation to drink, eat, enjoy, relax, and smile. What a lovely welcome!

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A large chalkboard decorates one wall. The evening of my visit, it closed with a welcoming message inviting guests to drink, eat, enjoy, relax, and smile!

It was quite difficult to pick just a few items to try, but the waitress was truly helpful in explaining various dishes to help the selection process along. To begin, La Presa de bellota ahumada, cured and smoked Iberian ham that was served in an absolutely stunning presentation with jewel-like drops of salsas made of: Sriracha, wasabi, mango, peas and radiccio. This plate was stunningly beautiful, but it was even more delicious! The ham was silky and tender, with a light smoky flavor. Mixing and matching the flavors from the various sauces was a flavorful adventure. A really wonderful dish.

 

The next course was zamburiñas Thai a la brasa (grilled Thai variegated scallops). Delicious, fresh from the sea local scallops with a flavorful Thai sauce were perfectly satisfying.

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Zamburiñas Thai a la brasa (grilled Thai scallops)

For the main course, Arroz Thai salteado con gambas y vegetales (Thai rice sautéed with shrimp and vegetables). Very flavorful with a nice punch of fresh herbs and lime to brighten up this savory rice dish that had a nice subtle hint of smokiness from the fire wok in which it was prepared. Meloxeira is also known for their ceviche dishes, no surprise given the quality of the local Galician fish that is used. Ceviche will definitely be on the list to order during my next visit!

 

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Arroz Thai salteado con gambas y vegetales (Thai rice sautéed with shrimp and vegetables)

Just a few days earlier I experienced my first “Torrija” (see the previous post from Culler de Pau), which is a Galician dessert that is more or less a very custardy French toast. That description doesn’t do it justice at all, and when I saw it on the menu at Taberna Meloxeira, I couldn’t wait to try their version!  The Torrija was served hot, caramelized, and with a generous scoop of excellent quality vanilla ice cream.  A lovely close to a very nice meal.

 

 

Torrija caliente con helado de vainilla (hot Torrija with vanilla ice cream)

 

In the few short years it has been open, Taberna Meloxiera has earned a stellar reputation as a place to have a good time, enjoying the inventive menu, quality products, and friendly, knowledgeable service. They have been listed in the Guia Repsol and were recently recommended by Michelin star chef Pepe Solla (of Casa Solla in nearby Poio, Galicia). Well deserved!


Taberna Meloxeira
Rúa Porto Meloxo 100, O Grove, Galicia (map)
+34 886 161 389

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taberna.meloxeira
email: tabernameloxeira@gmail.com

English spoken: Yes

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Date of visit: Thursday, September 15, 2016

With an afternoon free in O Grove, I jumped at the chance to make a reservation at Restaurante Culler de Pau on a beautiful day in mid-September this year. From my table right against the wall to wall windows in a stark white building perched upon a hilltop, I enjoyed an expansive view of bateas (large wooden rafts that float in the waters of Galician inlets where shellfish are cultivated) on the Ría de Arousa.

In addition to possessing one of Galicia’s 13 Michelin stars in 2016, Javier Olleros is known for being one of the most admired chefs in Galicia. Chef Olleros is also part of GrupoNove. As mentioned in earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante, A Estación, Casa Solla, and Alborada, Grupo Nove published a book in 2015, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally. In the book, Chef Olleros is pictured amongst the boulders of picturesque Con Negro beach located on the westernmost edge of the O Grove peninsula (with stunning sunsets as it faces the Atlantic Ocean – map) [the landscape] holding a bouquet of fresh herbs [the product] representing the organic wild and cultivated herbs and a Galician variety of tender corn that are cultivated and foraged for by two local nearby farms [the producers] specifically for Culler de Pau.

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Expansive views of the bateas in the Ría de Arousa from the dining room of Culler de Pau.

Of the two tasting menus offered, I opted for the shorter 6 course menu, mostly based upon time … it would take about 1.5 hours for the shorter menu as opposed to the 13 course menu that would take approximately 2.5 hours. An optional pairing of 4 wines was offered as well. Upon making my selection, the aperativos (appetizers) began to arrive. First, olives were placed on the table then a small cup of gazpacho (chilled soup) made with the broth of mussels and a variety of small cherry tomatoes. It was fresh, light, and tasted of summer.

Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009

The first wine of the afternoon was this Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009, a dry sparkling cava from the Alt Penedès wine region (near Barcelona).

Bonito de Burela, encurditos, vinagrete de tomate (tuna from the northern coast of Galicia, pickles, tomato vinaigrette)

The first course was a beautiful and absolutely delicious plate of bonito de Burela (tuna from a town called Burela, located on the northern coast of Galicia) with tiny pickled vegetables and a tomato jam accenting two creamy sauces.

The next wine was this Finca Meixeman Guímaro, a Mencia from the Ribeira Sacra wine region.  It was paired with the following two courses.


Huevo, queso San Simón y migas de pan (egg, San Simón cheese, bread crumbs)

Pictured above, a fresh farm sous vide to 63° egg at the bottom of a pool of smoky San Simón cheese ‘bisque’ topped with crunchy seasoned bread crumbs. This was my favorite dish of the day. When I spoke with Chef Olleros at the end of my meal we talked about this dish and how, despite the fact that I’d obviously never had it (or anything quite like it) before, it seemed familiar – like my favorite comfort food. I would not hesitate to make a return trip to Culler de Pau just to have this again. Not a drop went to waste as I utilized the organic white & wheat local bread to sopetear (sop up) every bit!

Merluza, salsa ‘meunière’ y quinoa (hake fish, meunière sauce and quinoa)

Perfectly cooked merluza (hake fish) over a meunière sauce with a dollop of pil pil (an emulsion made from olive oil, garlic and fish broth, in this case most likely the same merluza) and a bit of quinoa on the side was straightforward, perfectly prepared, and absolutely lovely.

Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva – what a unique pairing for roast beef!

Rather than a red wine to accompany roast beef, the next wine pairing broke with usual tradition. A white wine from La Rioja was selected. It was quite a surprise, but this 2003 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva totally worked as a pairing with this next savory dish.

Solomillo de vaca (como roast beef), zanahoria y guiso de champinon (beef sirloin (like roast beef), carrot and stewed mushrooms)

They referred to this beef sirloin as “like roast beef”, and it was – but imagine the most tender, flavorful roast beef you’ve ever had over an intensely beefy pan sauce. Really delicious. The sides, while small, were exceedingly flavorful. A stripe of carrot and grapefruit cream along one side, stewed mushrooms wrapped in Swiss chard, and (my favorite little taste) pasta in salsa de vaina de grelo (turnip green sauce) accompanied the beef.

As we moved into the dessert courses, I noticed that the playlist was including quite a bit of Frank Sinatra. “My Way” started, as if on cue, when the dessert wine pairing was presented, a 2009 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos from Hungary.

Fresas con limón albahaca (strawberries with lemon and basil)

Strawberries macerated with lemon and basil topped with fresh blackberries and basil ice cream with an accent of coconut citrus foam. Perfectly refreshing and so lovely to enjoy in the last gasp of summer.

Torrija caramelizada, café, cacao y leche cruda (caramelized torrija, coffee, cocoa and raw milk)

Torrija is a classic Galician dessert, and one I had not yet tasted. What a way to be introduced! It’s basically an extremely custardy french toast (this one stuck me as more of a bread pudding) made of sweet brioche. This version (I had a couple of others after this) had an extremely soft, creamy custard interior (other versions had more obvious bread cubes), and a delicious burnt sugar crust. Served in a puddle of coffee flavored cream with some crunchy chocolate bits and a quenelle of raw milk ice cream, this was an exceptional dessert.

It was truly a pleasure to spend a few minutes chatting with Javi Olleros after this wonderful meal. In a relatively short time we covered a wide range of topics; the importance of teamwork in his restaurant (the team is everything at Culler de Pau; on social media the first hashtag they use is #equipocullerdepau (teamcullerdepau) and on the restaurant’s website, “team” is listed above “chef”), the theme of utilizing the best seasonal products from the region, how food can trigger memories, and the idea of maintaining Galicia’s unique identity while it develops as a culinary and touristic destination. Chef Olleros is extremely passionate about all of these topics, and it’s easy to see after meeting him why it is that he is so deeply respected by his peers in the Galician culinary scene.

MyLifeOnVacation and Javi Olleros


Restaurante Culler de Pau
Calle Reboredo 73, O Grove, Spain (map)
+34 986 732 275

Website: www.cullerdepau.com/en/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/restaurantecullerdepau
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cullerdepau
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/RestCullerdepau

I also spoke with Chef Olleros about his appearance on a recent episode of the Galician gastronomic television program Gastrópodos, hosted by Chef Beatriz Sotelo of Restaurante A Estación. They explored a bit of O Grove (which hosts an annual seafood festival) and shared much information about local centola (centolla -crab). We even got to see Berto from D’Berto Restaurante as a judge during the cooking competition of the show!

View the O Grove – A Centola episode of Gastrópodos here: http://www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos/

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