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Archive for the ‘mariscos’ Category

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: 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: October 2015

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O Grove is located on the western coast of Galicia, about 45 minutes by car from Santiago de Compostela and 1.5 hours from A Coruña.

For those who don’t know, the weekends in Galicia are full of festivals. Seriously, so many festivals all throughout the year. Every city or town, large or small, has at least one festival during the year. O Grove, Galicia, is no exception to this rule.  Known as the “paraíso marisco” (shellfish paradise), O Grove has celebrated the annual Festa do Marsico (Shellfish Festival) for two weeks every October since 1963.  Each fall, for more than 50 years now, O Grove becomes a hub of activity and a gathering point for people from all over Galicia, Spain, Portugal, and the rest of the world in exaltation of the local bounty of shellfish and seafood that are abundant there.

In addition to the culinary activities, including cooking demonstrations, various cooking contests, and the tents set up for sampling all of the wonderful seafood, the fortnight’s schedule is packed with concerts nearly every night, folk dancing, traditional music, informative lectures, arts and crafts expositions, and many other family friendly activities.

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Which way should we go?  The festival is very organized with clear directions to the various tents.

These beautiful ladies proudly showing off their traditional dress before their folk dancing performance. Traditional music and folk dancing under one of the tents being broadcast on local Galician television.

The 52nd annual Shellfish Festival in O Grove, Galicia.  October 1-12, 2015

Site map of the Festa do Mariscos

Festa do Mariscos – highly organized with informative maps provided.

Price List – 2015 Festa do Marisco

Gallego – Spanish – English Menu
Ameixas – Almejas – Clams
Berberechos – Berberechos – Cockels
Camarón – Camarón – Shrimp
Cigalas – Cigalas – Langoustine (Norway lobster)
Croquetas – Croquetas – Croquettes
Marisco – Marisco – Shellfish
Mexillóns – Mejillones – Mussels
Navallas – Navajas – Razor Clams
Nécora – Nécora – Velvet Crab
Ostra – Ostra – Oysters
Pan – Pan – Bread
Percebes – Percebes – Goose Barnacles
Polbo – Pulpo – Octopus
Rodaballo – Rodaballo – Turbot
Vieira – Vieira – Sea Scallop
Zamburiñas – Zamburiñas – Bay (Variegated) Scallop
Filloas – Crepas – Crepes
Torta de Santiago – Tarta de Santiago – Santiago Cake (almond cake)

The main tent is set up next to the actual lonxa (fish market) of O Grove. The stalls that normally sell seafood as an open market during the rest of the year are transformed into one big gathering hall during these two weeks in October, where people come from all over to enjoy the seafood, shellfish, local wine, and social time with friends. The whole thing is extremely organized. Signs in Spanish and English indicate where each stand is located. Long tables line up along the entire length of the tents where friends and families gather to enjoy the culinary delights.

Finally! Seafood! Zamburiñas (variegated scallops – left) and Pulpo a Feria (fair style octopus – right). The embossed wooden pulpo plate made for a wonderful souvenier to bring home.

img_8378-2This blogger was VERY happy to be enjoying the Festa do Marisco.  I hope everyone attending the 2016 Festa has as much fun as we did last year!


The 53rd annual Festa do Marisco takes place in O Grove, Galicia, October 6-16, 2016

Festa do Marsico website (link)

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Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The old part of the city of A Coruña is full of narrow pedestrian streets and alleys lined with bars and restaurants. Every evening is a lively scene, with people spilling out into the streets enjoying themselves until all hours. In May of this year we had the pleasure of taking a cruise out of London with stops in Asturias (Gijón), Galicia (Vigo & A Coruña), and Portugal (Lisbon). After the cruise, we spent an additional day in London then returned to Coruña for a few days.

The flight from London Heathrow to A Coruña on Vueling Airlines lands at 8:40 p.m., which gives a person enough time to exit the airport, get into town, check into a hotel and still catch an amazing sunset like this one we saw on the way to dinner.

Sunset from the shore of Orzán Beach. Photo taken at 10:21 p.m.


I had noticed A Mundiña on my very first visit to A Coruña in 2014. It is located on Calle de la Estrella, one of the aforementioned pedestrian streets lined with bars and restaurants in the old part of the city. My favorite hotels in Coruña are located near here so I had passed by and noticed their refined logo on the awning over the outdoor seating area, filled always with well-heeled diners, many times. Everything I had read about this place indicated it is one of the best restaurants in Coruña for quality seafood with a focus on the freshest product from the market, prepared in a traditional manner. This year (2016), the restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

 

The menu (above) is comprised of classic Galician seafood and marisco dishes.

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This is the tastiest bowl of Caldo Gallego (Galician Stew) I’ve had in all four trips to Galicia, and it was served as a complimentary amuse here. This version was really hearty with all of the traditional ingredients (potato, salt pork, white beans, and turnip greens) working in harmony to create an intensely flavorful broth.

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We selected this nice bottle of Albariño from Bodega Santiago Ruiz (located in the Rias Baixas wine region) to accompany this seafood feast.

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Cigalas! Langoustines en route from the display case to the kitchen where they had a date with the plancha (grill).

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The same cigalas fresh off of the grill a few minutes later and finished simply with a luxurious drizzle of olive oil. Absolutely perfect. A chuparse los dedos! (Finger licking good!)

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A plate of octopus was in order for our first meal back in Galicia. Pulpo á feira con cachelos (Octopus over boiled potatoes) is about as simple as it gets, and as delicious as ever.

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When inquiring about the specialty of the house we were directed without hesitation to this dish, La Caldeirada (fish stew). Boiled potatoes under a huge portion of whatever fish happens to be fresh at the market (this day it was merluza – hake fish) with   fresh peas in a paprika garlic sauce. Another simple, hearty, and wholly Galician dish; it was so satisfying, we were left with no room for dessert.

Well, no dessert, yet we welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed these simple dark chocolate petit fours with crumbled pistachios presented with the bill.

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The close of another wonderful meal. The food was fabulous and the service so exceptionally friendly and welcoming, we didn’t want to leave … even as we were the last people out the door at nearly 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night!

 

Lucas Pérez! Screen capture of a post from A Mundiña’s Facebook page (9/1/16).

In addition to the restaurant we visited in the old town of A Coruña, A Mundiña has a secondary location just 8 km (5 miles) away in Oleiros called Pazo do Rio (Manor House on the River) where special events and celebrations are held. Just as I was preparing to finalize this post, I saw that they had a very special celebration there just today – a despedida (going away party) for Deportivo La Coruña soccer player and local hometown hero Lucas Pérez, who is leaving Coruña for London to play for the Arsenal soccer team. I think this speaks volumes for how well-regarded the restaurant is, due in equal measure to the quality of their food and the warmth with which it is served.

 

 

 


A Mundiña
Calle de la Estrella 10, A Coruña , Spain (map)
+34 881 89 93 27

A Mundiña Website:  link
A Mundiña Facebook: link
A Mundiña Twitter: link
A Mundiña YouTube: link

Bodega Santiago Ruiz Website: link
Bodega Santiago Ruiz Instagram: link

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dear reader, you may have noticed that my posts are not in chronological order. It was my original intent to write posts in the order in which they occurred, but that plan went out the window and I’ve just been writing about each place as the inspiration strikes. Today, it occurs to me that I really can’t go one more week without showing you the beautiful meal at Casa Solla that I had last year right in the middle of my walk on the Camino de Santiago, on the Portuguese Route. This was my first Michelin star fine dining experience in Galicia and it set the bar high.


On this particular Tuesday, had I walked into the town of Caldas de Reis early, around 12:30 in the afternoon. I could have continued walking in order to make for a shorter stage the following day, but decided instead to call Casa Solla to see if they had availability for lunch. They did! After a quick shower and change of clothes, I arrived at the restaurant in Poio, located just outside of Pontevedra, for my 2:30 p.m. reservation.

 Exterior signage at Casa Solla

My corner table – what a view!

I can think of no better way to kick off this afternoon meal than with this beautiful glass of Raventós i Blanc De La Finca, an elegant and serious cava (Spanish sparkling wine).

In addition to a full traditional menu, there were three tasting menus offered. After not much deliberation at all I selected the middle one, El menú gastronómicoun viaje de temporada (The gastronomic menu – a seasonal voyage), which was described as nine courses plus snacks/appetizers and chocolates served with coffee.

The table setting was clean and simple; the potted cactus made me feel right at home (since I live in Arizona where cactus abound). The first amuses to arrive were really something special. At the top left (above) is a romesco ‘peanut’, top right a cheese ‘olive’, and in the shell plate at the bottom a ‘taco’ made out of a thin slice of what tasted like radish and a tiny piece of toast with two small dollops of fish pâté. Just one or two bites each, these innovative little tastes did impress.

 

A cup of tea?  No, this was actually intensely flavored onion broth served in a beautiful  Sargadelos (or, if not Sargadelos, at least Sargadelos-like) teacup personalized with the name Casa Solla. I savored the rich, intensely flavorful, and soul warming ‘tea’ before the main courses began to arrive.

 

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Choco en ensalada cítrica (cold cuttlefish citrus salad). So light, so fresh.

Vieiras y zamburiñas en degustación (tasting of two kinds of scallops)

Served on this rock. With tweezers. There’s a first time for everything and this was definitely the first time I’d eaten with tweezers. Each separate preparation of the different types of fresh local scallops was unique, and each one was better than the last. Phenomenal.

IMG_3406Called simply la patata (the potato) on the menu, these fried potato batons were topped with “ketchup”, a tiny fried onion ring, and edible garlic flowers. Pretty and satisfying.

IMG_3409El pescado del día, esparrago blanco amargo y salsa rojo picante (Fish of the day, bitter white asparagus with spicy red sauce and macadamia nut). The fish of the day was a lovely local San Martiño (John Dory), from the ría (estuary) that I could see from my window seat.

IMG_3456Why is it that things prepared tableside seem to taste better? Perhaps even better yet when they are smoked tableside. Filloa-fajita de ‘raxo’ adobado y ahumado was takeoff of fajitas using the Galician filloa (crepe) as the tortilla dotted with sauces and edible flowers then topped with intensely flavored Galician style marinated pork that received a final bit of smoke tableside. This may have been my favorite plate of the day.

 

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When in Spain, I generally like to focus on Spanish wines but this Champagne was suggested to accompany the fish courses, and I was wise to not turn it down. With the heavier meat dishes, this Mencia (think Pinot Noir) from Ribeira Sacra region (located in the southeastern part of Galicia) made for the perfect pairing.

 

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Taco de vaca y puré de berenjena asada (Beef and roasted eggplant purée). While the menu refers to this as a ‘taco’, it was just a perfectly cooked tenderloin atop roasted eggplant purée.

 

Beautiful, simple cheese cart. While I may have wanted to spend the entire rest of the afternoon working my way through all of these cheeses, I allowed the server to make a selection of just four cheeses for me.

 

IMG_3461Three (yes, three) seasonal desserts. First (bottom) cleverly presented balls of pear “caviar” with lime zest served in this ‘imitation caviar’ tin, even served with a mother of pearl spoon for effect. The dish at the top right was simply called ‘mandarin’, an extremely light and fluffy mousse-like concoction with an lovely fresh orange flavor. The top right was my favorite, though. Lianzo de primavera (spring canvas) was a beautiful mélange of fresh spring fruits topped with ice cream quenelles and more edible flower petals served on an actual canvas. I loved the fresh, light ending to this beautiful meal.

 

The coffee service (right, above) was served with even more sweets, an assortment of chocolates in several different forms (left, above). Whimsical, fun, and delicious.

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And with that, the check arrived and signaled the end of a magnificent dining experience in Galicia. Chef Solla wasn’t in the restaurant on the day of my visit, so I did not have the pleasure of making his acquaintance. In his absence the entire team did a marvelous job, exactly as one would expect from a restaurant of this calibre.
Chef Pepe Solla is also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in my earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante and A Estación, Grupo Nove published a book in 2015, Nove e
a Nove Cociña Galega, Cociñeiros, Paisaxes e Productos
, 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 Pepe Solla is pictured on A Lanzada beach near O Grove, Galicia [the landscape], featuring local mackerel (fish) [the product] and a local fishing company committed to integrity, the sea, and the chef [the producer].

Casa Solla
Avenida de Sineiro, 7, San Salvador de Poio (Pontevedra), Spain (map)
+34 986 87 28 84

email: correo@restaurantesolla.com
Website: http://www.restaurantesolla.com

Facebook: Casa Solla
Instagram: www.instagram.com/pepesolla

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EDIT: A Estación closed in March of 2017.  See Bido Restaurante in Coruña. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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“Hola. I don’t have a reservation …. but I do follow you on Instagram”, is how I introduced myself to A Estación chef and co-owner of Beatriz Sotelo when I arrived without a reservation to this Michelin starred restaurant on a quiet Saturday afternoon last year.

I had completed my second Camino, walking the Portuguese Route from the Portuguese/Spanish border some 115 kilometers (72 miles) to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, just the day before so a celebration was in order. After we chatted about Instagram, social media in general, and the Camino for a few minutes, restaurant founder and co-owner Juan Crujeiras came out of the kitchen to say hello to chat a bit. After this extremely  warm welcome, we took a photo (below) and then it was time to embark on what was to be a fabulous meal.

 

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Juan Crujeiras, MyLifeOnVacation, Beatriz Sotelo

A Estación is located in the former train station of the town of Cambre, Galicia (hence the name; A Estación is Galician for “The Station”), just a little past the airport outside of A Coruña. As a matter of fact, it’s situated only about 1 km from the Camino Inglés that goes from A Coruña to Santiago. Behind the bar near the front entrance is a large sign for a despacho billetes (ticket office) and the “station” theme carries into the comfortable dining room which is arranged in such a way that it actually looks and feels like the interior of a train car. Charming.

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Absolutely gorgeous cheese table. Several local Galician cheeses featured, including my favorite San Simón da Costa (front center).

A Estación offers an 11 course tasting menu (with optional wine pairings available) in addition to a full menu. Many of the starters are also available in half-size (media ración) portions and items from the tasting menu can even order a la carte. Since I was dining alone and wanted to be able to try various dishes, several starters in the media ración size were chosen. All were excellent; thoughtfully prepared, perfectly executed, and among the most memorable dishes I have enjoyed in Galicia.

(left) The simple, elegant place setting. (center) What better wine to accompany this lovely Galician meal than another nice Albariño? A glass of this lovely García Caamaño from the Pazo de Rubianes winery made for a perfect pairing with the seafood dishes selected. (right) A tasty variety of snacks to start: cured local olives, seasoned popcorn, and hummus with crispy breadsticks. A second round of amuses, not pictured here, included a small piece of empanada and a cup of soup.

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Vieira marinada, caviar Persé, holandesa de cítricos y margarita

Since the scallop shell is the symbol of Saint James (Santiago), and featured prominently on all of the paths of the Camino de Santiago, it seemed only appropriate that my first dish would be a media ración of marinated vieira (scallop) served elegantly over a citrus hollandaise and topped with Spanish Persé caviar, a bit of scallion, and edible flowers (yellow daisy petals, actually). An absolutely gorgeous plate with phenomenal flavor and textures.

Salmón marinado y ahumado al momento con milhojas de manzana y requeixo de A Capela

This media ración of marinated and smoked salmon with milfollas (very thin layers) of apple stuffed with requeixo da Capela (a local sweet ricotta-like creamy cheese made with raw cow’s milk) and walnuts was up next. The salmon was revealed from under the smoky dome with a flourish. Perfectly prepared and playfully presented, this salmon and its accompaniments have been stuck in my memory ever since.

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Rape asado, arroz cremoso de pulpo y emulsión de ajada

Galicia is known for an abundance of high quality pulpo (octopus), so I didn’t hesitate to order this dish where octopus was featured twice and paired with monkfish. Thin slices of cooked octopus were arranged in a rectangle (or perhaps it was a thin slice of an octopus terrine?), topped with an intensely flavorful creamy Spanish rice studded with more chunks of octopus, a perfectly cooked piece of monkfish (rape), and a garlic emulsion garnishing the plate. I absolutely loved the combination of the flavors and textures of the pulpo and monkfish in this dish and the generous dollop of that garlic sauce.

Tarta de chocolate hecho al momento con helado de yogur y chocolate blanco y café

Everything on the dessert menu looked so tempting. One offering was even a “gin & tonic in cake form”. This is the exact moment when I was wishing for a dining companion so we could get two different desserts to share. Since there was only to be one dessert, I decided on this chocolate cake “hecha al momento“. Think of a rich chocolate lava cake, deliciously gooey in the middle, served with white chocolate frozen yogurt sprinkled with chocolate pop-rocks (what a delightful surprise!), atop a coffee sauce that was brushed on the plate.

Coffee service came with a nice little assortment of petit fours. The check presented in an elegant wooden box. 

In addition to the very warm welcome from the chefs, the entire staff was friendly, courteous, and went about their duties with a calm elegance during both of our visits. I wasn’t surprised to read earlier this year this insightful newspaper article about their maitre (maître d’ – head waiter) in the local newspaper. In the article he explains a bit about his role as head waiter at A Estación where he serves as the primary liaison between the guests and the kitchen, discreetly helping guests to ensure they have a nice time while enjoying their meals. Dining at A Estación was such a wonderful experience, I knew before this meal was even finished that I would be returning.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I did return to A Estación again. Just a few months later my husband and I visited Galicia together so that I could introduce him to my favorite little corner of Spain. We began that trip by attending the Festa do Mariscos (Shellfish Festival) in O Grove, where I just so happened to run into Chef Crujeiras who was there judging the best mussel dish cooking competition on Saturday night. We had a friendly chat and made a plan for us to visit the restaurant later in the week.

Unfortunately, I had fallen ill in O Grove on Monday night. On Wednesday evening I was still quite unwell, which tempered my excitement about returning to A Estación quite a bit. Not wanting to deprive my husband of the experience of dining here, I pulled up my bootstraps and set out to enjoy as best I could, given the circumstances. Chef Sotelo was not in the restaurant the evening of this visit but Chef Crujeiras was. It was nice to see him again and exchange a few pleasantries. After amuses that were quite similar to those received a few months earlier (and described above), we began the meal in earnest with a couple of classic appetizers.

(left) jamón Iberico (Iberian cured ham) accompanied by (center) toasted pan de molete bread and tomato jam and (left) zamburiñas (variegated scallops) with a crunchy onion topping. Two very simple, high quality dishes.

left – rape asado, arroz cremoso de berberechos, emulsión de ajo – limón
right – atun rojo a la parrilla, semillas, setas de japón y crema de apio-nabo

First to the table was the rape asado (roasted monkfish) served with a delicious creamy rice with berberechos, greens, all atop a lemon garlic cream. Next was the grilled sesame seed crusted atun (tuna) steak served with Japanese mushrooms and a creamy celery root sauce. This dish also received high marks. The sesame crust was perfectly crisp while the tuna remained rare in the middle, just as it ought to be.

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For dessert – local Galician cheeses accompanied by a glass of port wine.

While not in the mood for dessert myself, my better half opted for a cheese plate. The cheese cart this evening was quite similar to the one pictured above during my first visit, and from it came a very nicely composed plate featuring three cheeses and three sweet accompaniments. Of course, I really wish I had been feeling well enough to enjoy this second visit a bit more, but I’m so happy that my husband was able to experience A Estación for himself. He was quite impressed and I’ve no doubt we will make another return visit in the future!

Since these visits in 2015, I’ve kept up with the two chefs via social media, primarily Instagram and Facebook. In addition to social media, Chef Beatriz Sotelo can also be found in the regular media, on local Galician television as the host of her own cooking competition show called Gastrópodos. In each episode, she travels around to a different part of Galicia in a refurbished 50-year-old English bus to discover a unique ingredient common to the area she’s visiting, and then has a cook-off on the bus with a different local chef each episode. Judges aboard the bus declare a winner at the end of each episode. It’s quite entertaining, and she is a natural. The second season of Gastrópodos is airing now (the fall of 2016) on the CRTVG television network.

Chef Juan Crujeiras has also been keeping busy. Among other things, he is in the process of opening a new restaurant located in the city of A Coruña. At the time of this writing, the location of the new place has been announced (near the Plaza de Vigo), but the name has not yet been revealed (although there are hints being posted on Chef Crujerias’ Instagram account). All reports indicate it will open towards the end of September 2016. I will edit this post with the information once it is known. EDIT: About a week after this post was published, the name of the restaurant was announced.  The name is BIDO, which is the Galician word for “birch”, as in the tree. One newspaper article explained that the restaurant will feature media raciones so patrons will be able to try several dishes, which is exactly my style of dining. If I’m lucky, it will be open in time for my next visit back to Galicia in September. Best of luck to Chef Crujeiras in this new venture!

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The chefs at A Estación are also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in my earlier post about YayoDaporta Restaurante, in 2015 Grupo Nove published a book, Nove e
a Nove Cociña Galega, Cociñeiros, Paisaxes e Productos
, 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 Crujeiras is pictured next to a stream in a mountain forest near the town where he grew up in the Coruña province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the highest quality fresh-baked wheat, corn, and nut breads [the product] all baked by Mocho, the restaurant’s baker [the producer]. Chef Sotelo is pictured splashing in the sea near her hometown in the Pontevedra province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the Galiña Piñeira, a native Galician breed of chicken which is prized for the quality of its meat [the product], that was saved from extinction by a local veterinarian [the producer].

Marmontaña (sea and mountain) exemplifies Galicia itself, geographically speaking, so it seems quite appropriate that these two themes are at the heart of the cuisine at A Estación, and the soul of the restaurant itself given the provenance of the two chefs.


A Estación
Estrada da Estación, 51, Cambre (Coruña), Spain (map)
+34 981 67 69 11

email: estaciondecambre@gmail.com
Website: link                           Menu: link

A Estación Facebook: Restaurante A Estación
A Estación Instagram: www.instagram.com/aestacion

Juan Crujeiras Instagram: www.instagram.com/crujeiras
Juan Crujeiras’ new restaurant: BIDO (scheduled to open September 2016)
Marcil  de Adalid, 2-4, A Coruña, Spain (map)

Beatriz Sotelo Instagram: www.instagram.com/beatrizsotelo
Beatriz Sotelo on Gastrópodos – CRTVG: www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos

 

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