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Cocido is a cold weather Galician specialty, a hearty one-pot meal with all of the major food groups represented:  Meat, Potatoes, Beans, and Greens. Oh, and with filloas, Galician crepes, served as dessert. Yes, that’s a nice balanced meal.  In six visits to Galicia I had never sampled this local delicacy, but on my seventh visit, the goal was finally achieved on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the coastal city of Vigo.

img_2798We were staying at the swanky Gran Hotel Nagari Spa right in the heart of Vigo’s Valladares neighborhood along the wide boulevard lined with stately buildings and interesting sculptures. While asking about local sights and restaurants, the hotel staff mentioned that their own restaurant, Restaurante Alameda XXI, would be serving Cocido on Sunday. The restaurant had already been recommended to us by a chef friend in A Coruña, so the decision was easily made; we would relax and enjoy Sunday afternoon right in the hotel.

The restaurant’s luxurious modern décor contrasted nicely with the homey, traditional meal that was to follow.

As an aperetivo (appetizer), the kitchen sent out a tasty bite of cremoso de queso San Simón con membrillo y sesamo (creamy, smoky San Simón cheese with quince paste and sesame seeds).

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Aperetivo – a taste from the kitchen: cremoso de queso San Simón con membrillo y sesamo

First came the caldito, a thin broth which is actually the cooking liquid of the Cocido, which contained short fideo noodles and finely chopped hard-boiled egg. The broth was quite light and subtle in flavor, a surprise considering the amount of pork in the actual dish.

The broth was nice, particularly with a nice piece of Galician bread, but it was just a prelude to the star of the show that arrived next: the Cocido!

img_2788An enormous dish with enough to feed several people was placed on a small table brought over just to hold it. All of the usual suspects in a traditional Galician Cocido, sprinkled with savory paprika, were present:
lancón – salt pork
jamón –
cured ham
panceta –
bacon
costilla  pork ribs
grelos – turnip greens
repollo  cabbage
garbanzos  – chickpeas
patatas  – potatoes
morcilla – blood sausage
lomo de cerdo
– ham shoulder
oreja   pig ears
chorizo  spicy pork sausage
pollo  – chicken

Where to even begin? Well, the logical way to begin is with a small taste of everything then go back for more of the favorites. My favorites were the ribs, ham shoulder, greens, chickpeas and potatoes. There was more of the caldo (broth) in the bottom of the pan, which was perfect when spooned on top of the tender boiled potatoes, easily mashed on the plate. Cocido is probably technically considered a stew since everything is cooked together in one pot, but the ingredients remain whole and don’t stew together as a soup or traditional stew might. Despite this is my only Cocido experience, I would say this seemed to be is a very fine representation of the genre.

As a general rule, filloas are served as dessert with Cocido. Filloas are light and thin Galician crepes. Delicious freshly made filloas filled with orange compote were served over a crema de naranja (orange cream) with toasted slivered almonds, and sprinkled with a light dusting of powdered sugar. A lovely light end to a hearty meal.

The weather on this day in Vigo was spectacular for October, so the outside seating area was filled with multigenerational families enjoying their Sunday Cocido. I look forward to trying other versions of Cocido in future visits to Galicia!

Date of Visit: October 22, 2017


Restaurante Alameda XXI
Plaza de Compostela, 21, 36201 Vigo, Pontevedra (map)
+34 986 211 140

Website: www.granhotelnagari.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/granhotelnagari
Instagram: www.instagram.com/granhotelnagari
Twitter: www.twitter.com/granhotelnagari

English spoken: YES

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Bocadillo de calamares – Fried squid sandwich

Bocanegra’s bocadillo de calamares (fried squid sandwich) is already a classic in this 3 year old restaurant, making best-of lists that wax poetic about the bread (crisp with a soft large crumb), mayo (flawlessly acidic), and fresh squid (fried to crunchy perfection) that combine to make this stellar sandwich. I’m here to tell you that this sandwich lives up to the hype. But that’s not all Bocanegra is known for, not by a long shot. Chef Pablo Pizarro’s internationally inspired menu features tempting items from not only Galicia, but many other cultures as well. The Chef’s 7 course tasting menu (with wine pairings) took us on a flavorful tour around the world!

Bread service came with four types of excellent quality Galician bread (raisin walnut, brown, white and wheat), tomato and olive oil, plain olive oil, and a bowl of olives.

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Four excellent examples of Galician bread

Who doesn’t love a table-side prep? Our waiter, Toni, did not disappoint as he executed every step of the guacamole prep with great panache. Ripe avocados were mixed in a marble molcajete with precisely added tomato, red onion, Maldon sea salt, fresh squeezed lime and a healthy shot of Tabasco sauce. A perfect taste of Mexico, right in Galicia! Served with house made chips, the small portion was perfect to accompany our first pairing, “7 Cuervos”, a Galician Saison beer.

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Guacamole y Totopos – Guacamole with fried tortilla chips Guacamole made table-side – a perfect taste of Mexico right in Galicia!

 

The kitchen sent out smoked sardine on focaccia with whipped smoky San Simón da Costa cheese as an additional amuse-bouche. We’ve had a dish similar to this in other restaurants in Galicia and it’s a favorite for a reason – the rich, dense sardine is treated to a slightly sweet marinade, placed on top of a bed of creamy lightly smoky and sweet (thanks to a little hit of sugar whipped in) San Simón cheese all built on top of a baton of slightly crispy focaccia. Paired with Vermut Lustau rojo, a slightly botanical and not-too-sweet red vermouth from Jerez, in the south of Spain.

 

Focaccia, San Simón y Sardina – Focaccia, San Simon cheese and sardine

Crudo-style gently marinated seabream was dressed with lime, olive oil, red onion, cilantro sauce, and edible flowers and featured a sprinkling of tart, yet surprisingly sweet, chopped gherkin pickles. A light and refreshing dish paired nicely with 2016 Sameirás 2016, a Ribeiro blend of Treixadura, Godello, Lado and Loureira grapes.

 

Sargo Aliñado, Pepino, Lima – Marinated Seabream, gherkin, lime

Stunningly presented on beautiful plates, our fourth course was perfectly prepared merluza (hake fish) in salsa verde over mashed potatoes. Galician Padrón peppers were the main ingredient in the earthy, slightly acerbic sauce. What better to accompany this dish than some bubbly wine. Eidosela Espumoso Albariño sparkling wine (Burbujas del Atlántico – Atlantic bubles) cut right through the bitterness of the peppers.

 

Merluza, Salsa de Pimientos Verdes y Patata – Hake, Green pepper sauce and potato

Fresh oyster and razor clam tartare on a plate painted with spirulina served as the bed upon which a perfectly cooked sea bass rested. It tasted of fresh, clean sea. There was a surprise too; the oyster leaf placed as an accent is an herb actually tastes exactly like oyster. What an interesting discovery! This 2016 Godello by Godeval Cepas Vellas from Valdeorras was my favorite wine of the day. I could have sipped all afternoon long!

 

Lubina con Tartar de Ostra y Navaja – Sea bass with oyster and razor clam tartare

Our wine pairings switched from white to red with this smooth, organic Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) that called itself “sexy wine”. Our waiter described it as “potente; con cuerpo”. As such, the full-bodied 2015 Corral de Campanas paired nicely with our next plate: partridge, seared rare, over large tender white beans in a decadent pot liquor broth.

 

Perdiz y Habas – Partridge and beans

The final savory dish brought another continent’s delicious flavors to the table – Vietnamese fried egg roll stuffed with beef cheek, blood sausage and mushrooms, wrapped in lettuce with mint, basil and cilantro.

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Nem Vietnamita de Carrillera, Morcilla y Setas – Vietnamese egg roll of beef cheek, blood sausage and mushrooms
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Chef’s tasting menu plus wine pairings of the day.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any time, you will know that my favorite Galician dessert is torrija. While this Spanish version of French toast is mostly seen around Easter time in the rest of Spain, it is found all the time in Galicia. Bocanegra’s housemade creamy delicious torrija came with lemon curd and a quenelle of dulce de leche ice cream on the side. Ice cider (cidra de hielo) from Galicia’s neighbor, Asturias, was our final wine pairing. Valverán 20 Manzanas, served cold, had a pure apple flavor perfectly suited to the dessert courses.

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Torrija con Helado de Dulce de Leche – Torrija with dulce de leche ice cream

The final dessert was surprising unique: helado de zanahoria — carrot ice cream! The presentation was artful with the carrot ice cream sharing the scene with chilled dark chocolate mousse, creamy peanut butter cream, chewy marshmallow pieces, buttery cookie crumbles, and decorative edible flowers.

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Chocolate, Cacahuete y Zanahoria – Chocolate, peanut and carrot

After a relaxing cup of café con leche to finish the meal, we had the chance to speak with chef Pablo Pizarro for a few minutes to talk travel and restaurants in other parts of Galicia.

Chef Pablo Pizarro focused on his craft in Bocanegra’s open kitchen.

As the topic of conversation turned to gin and tonics, our intrepid waiter rolled over an impressive cart giving us a front row seat to another impressive show as he prepared of a couple of well-crafted cocktails. Gin & Tonics are a big deal in Spain, and a staple in all bars. It’s no wonder, with this kind of careful attention to the art of the cocktail.

Date of Visits:
October 12, 2017 (tasting menu)
October 20, 2017 (bocadillo)

Bocanegra
Riego de Agua, 33, La Coruña 15001 (map)
+34 881 895 464

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bocanegracoruna
Instagram: www.instagram.com/bocanegra_coruna
Twitter: www.twitter.com/BocanegraCoruna
Website: www.conceptonegra.com

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When traveling near or far, it is always wise to ask locals where they eat. We were first heard about La Sartén from a local friend, Fran (of FranFret Guitars), and were really pleased to finally be able to visit during our most recent trip to Galicia in October, 2017.

La Sartén is a classic Galician restaurant in the old town of La Coruña that is known for quality Galician seafood, beautiful traditional preparations, and warm service from the friendly polished staff. Located just up from Plaza María Pita, it is one of several quality restaurants located along the Plaza de España, along with other well regarded establishments such as Miga, and A Pulpería de Melide.

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After being warmly welcomed upon entering the restaurant, we were shown to a nice table in the dining room and quickly got to looking over the wine menu. From a nicely representative list of Galician wines, we selected a Ribeiro from Casal de Armán. Their Finca Misenhora is a limited edition of only 3415 bottles made of mostly Treixadura with about 5% each Godello, and Albariño grapes. Clean, crisp, yet soft in the mouth, this lovely white went extremely well with the seafood we selected from the menu.

 

Perusing La Sartén’s ample menu which features a wide variety of preparations of local Galician shellfish, seafood, salads, and rice dishes:

 

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A delicious taste of pastel de marsico (savory seafood pudding) in puff pastry from the kitchen

In the mood for classic Galician fare, zamburiñas (variegated scallops) seemed like the logical place to start. These small scallops, cooked very simply with a slight hint of tart citrus and crispy crumbles of jamón ibérico, were so delicious. Scallops, particularly these small ones, are almost always served in Galicia with their delicious half-moons of roe still attached.

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Zamburiñas a la plancha con zumo de cítricos y polvo de jamón ibérico – Grilled variegated scallops with citrus juice and Iberian ham crumbles

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La Sartén serves a fine quality Galician bread that is perfect for sopping up all of the flavorful oil on the plate. There’s even a specific word for sopping up: sopetear!

We savored every morsel of this stellar salpicón de bogavonte y centolla (cold lobster and crab salad). Pictured below is just half of the dish, there were two portions of this light and refreshing salad loaded with tender chunks of flavorful lobster and spider crab, decorated with grated hard-boiled egg.

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Nuestro salpicón de bogavonte y centolla – house cold lobster and crab salad

With several different octopus options on the menu, we opted for the pulpo a la plancha con cama de patatas cocidas y cebolla (grilled octopus on a bed of boiled potatoes and onion). Octopus tentacles, cut longways and griddled on a flat top, were perfectly tender with a lovely char from the griddle. The boiled Galician potatoes, delicious in their simplicity, were merely drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Red onions are not necessarily traditional, but the sweetness they added to this dish was inspired. This was another plate that you definitely want to sopetear with that wonderful Galician bread!

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Pulpo a la plancha con cama de patatas cocidas y cebolla – grilled octopus on a bed of boiled potatoes and onion

For dessert we took the advice of our friendly waiter and ordered the tarta de queso fria con galletas y moras (cold cheesecake with cookie crust and blackberries). Also drizzled with caramel sauce, this dessert made in house was light, creamy, and delicious.

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Tarta de queso fria con galletas y moras – cold cheesecake with cookie crust and blackberries

After thoroughly enjoying another afternoon of fine Galician wine and exceptional quality seafood, we will be sure to ask local friends for more recommendations in future visits to A Coruña!

Date of Visit: October 19, 2017


Restaurante La Sartén de Coruña
Plaza de España, 11, 15001 A Coruña (map)
+34 981 919 313

Website: www.restaurantelasarten.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/lasartenc
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, 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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Date of visit: Friday, September 23, 2016

 

La Casa Barrié – photo taken from the English Route of the Camino de Santiago that passes directly in front. Home to Bido Restaurante.

The city of A Coruña is known for having beautiful architecture and some absolutely gorgeous stately historical buildings. One of the grande dames of the Corunese cityscape is La Casa Barrié (Barrié House), built in 1916. Unique in both size and design, it occupies a large city block near the Plaza de Vigo and is built in an “eclectic” style, which is to say a mixture of different architectural styles (Classic, Baroque, and Modernist). It is within this building that Bido Restaurante is located, right on the English Route of the Camino de Santiago on one of the main thoroughfares that leads into the old part of the city.

Beginning in August of this year, social media in A Coruña started buzzing about a new restaurant set to open in late September by Chef Juan Crujeiras, founder and co-proprietor of Michelin-starred A Estación Restaurante in Cambre, Galicia. Since I was fortunate enough to have visited A Estación twice last year and enjoyed both visits immensely, I was really hoping to be able to dine at Bido during my September trip to Galicia. Alas, it wasn’t to be … the restaurant’s opening was three days after I was scheduled to leave A Coruña. When Chef Crujeiras ever so kindly invited me over to Bido for a sneak peek of the restaurant a few days before the actual opening, I was absolutely delighted to accept!

The name Bido comes from bidueiro, the Galician word for “birch”, as in the tree. The restaurant’s unique logo incorporates a graphic interpretation of a birch leaf (note the blocks that form straight line of the letter “B”, top of the letter “I” and the corners of the “D” in BIDO, below), and also makes reference to the intricate patterns often seen in the old fashioned hydraulic (cement) tile floors of which Chef Crujeiras is quite fond.

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When I arrived early on a Friday afternoon the team at Bido was buzzing about working to finalize all of the last minute details since the restaurant was actually opening in just a few more days. Table settings weren’t yet laid down, but there was already an inviting comfort to the refined airy space. Personalized with birch branches, leather chairs, and natural golden tones, the architecturally impressive interior brings a sense of nature and the outdoors into this city restaurant. While the setting at Bido is a bit more elegant than at her sister restaurant in Cambre, the atmosphere is less formal. There are no tablecloths, for example, and one can sit at the comfortable bar to enjoy a beverage and a bite to eat.

Sipping on a glass of wine at one of the comfortable high tops near the window with a lovely view out onto Calle Marcial de Adalid. Note the birch leaf motif from the logo repeats in the awning.

Bido Restaurante serves contemporary Galician cuisine in quite the same style as the dishes that are served at A Estación. A unique feature of Bido’s menu is that the main courses are all served as media raciónes (half portions), so that guests may try multiple items. As a matter of fact, several of the dishes listed in Bido’s menu are quite similar to dishes we enjoyed at A Estación and, from all accounts, they are executed with the same high level of quality.

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The current version of the menu (menu photos courtesy of Chef Crujeiras):

Para Empezar, Picar O Compartir (To start, Nibble, or Share)
Entrantes (Starters)
Principales (Main Dishes)
Y de postre qué hay? (What’s for dessert?)

 

 

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Well, I did get to try something of the food during the visit to Bido – a seafood croqueta! It was delicious!

Bido takes full advantage of the beautiful well-stocked bar that dominates the front of the restaurant with a specialty cocktail program that covers a great many of the classics. In addition to the cocktails and spirits, they offer a by-the-glass selection of unique and interesting higher end wines. Normally wines of this level are only available by the bottle, particularly in A Coruña, so this is a unique feature allowing guests to sample wines that might not otherwise be found by the glass.

Below, Chef Crujeiras poses with one of the bottles being sampled on the afternoon of my visit and with yours truly (MyLifeOnVacation) for an Instagram post.

In a recent interview on the local Galician culinary radio program Come e Fala, Chef Crujeiras expressed his excitement about this new project and commented that Bido’s opening has exceeded his expectations. With a passionate and devoted team on board (including Manual Otero, the charming maître d’ – head waiter, from A Estación who was featured in this interesting article earlier this year), this new outpost has been established in fine form. While A Estación remains as highly regarded as ever, the arrival of Bido is an absolute boon to A Coruña’s dining scene.


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: www.instagram.com/bidorestaurante
Chef Crujeiras Instagram:  www.instagram.com/crujeiras


Come e Fala Radio Program – September 9, 2016 episode featuring Chef Crujeiras

A Coruña’s Modernist Route (Ruta Modernista) – For more information on the beautiful historical modernist buildings in A Coruña , see the Coruña Turismo site – available here in English.

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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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