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Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just to the east of Galicia lies the province of Asturias with the charming port city of Gijón on its northern coast. In May 2016 a family cruise included a stop in Gijón. I was very interested in this cruise stop since the Northern Route of the Camino de Santiago passes through Gijón, right along picturesque white sand San Lorenzo beach. The old fishing village (now the recreational marine port) is a short walk away through the charming old quarter where you can find shops and even a few cider bars (siderias – an experience you should seek out when in Asturias!).

But our real mission during our too-short stay in Gijón was to visit the Asturian temple of the fabada – Casa Gerardo.  Fabada is a classic Spanish dish made of large white beans (alubias), pork shoulder or ham, morcilla (blood sausage), and chorizo. Since its founding in 1882 as a roadside tavern, Casa Gerardo has been making this classic fabada at this same location. Located along a busy road in the village of Prendes, about 7 miles from the old town of Gijón, it is operated by the Morán family, father Pedro and son Marcos. They are the fourth and fifth generations, respectively, to operate the restaurant which earned a Michelin star in 1987.

Casa Gerardo’s signature fabada is firmly rooted in a historic past, but the menu veers off into modernity with deliciously executed contemporary dishes. On the printed menu, one side of the menu is labeled “dishes that remain on the menu and are now house classics”, while the other side is labeled “contemporary dishes”.  The amuse bouche that kicked off our meal certainly showed off this modern bent in fine fashion.

The first amuse was this surprising and refreshing “Margarita de Manzana”. Think of a welcome cocktail, just not in a glass. Chunks of apple soaked in tequila (!), sprinkled with salt and with a hint of citrus. The perfect palate cleanser to begin the meal.

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Amuse #1: Margarita de Manzana – our welcome “cocktail”.

Another great example of a modern take on a classic Spanish dish, this surprising savory potato “tortilla” ice cream on crispy rice was intriguing. It perfectly captured the essence of the quintessential Spanish tortilla in a completely unique and enjoyable fashion.

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Amuse #2: Tortilla (potato flavored) savory ice cream!

Consommé made of potato skins served warm and absolutely bursting with potato flavor. The bread service was exceptional. White, wheat and cornbread were offered several times throughout the meal and served with smoked butter.

Amuse #3: Potato Consommé  – Bread service

Our meal started in earnest with some of the most luxurious and flavorful jamón ibérico in all the land: jamón ibérico de bellota reserva Joselito. No need to say more, just look at it! Ok, I’ll say a bit more; Joselito is a brand name, and it is considered to be one of the very best in Spain.

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Jamón ibérico de bellota reserva Joselito – Joselito reserve acorn fed Iberian ham cured for at least 36 months.

The bocadillo crujiente de quesos, a well known staple at Casa Gerardo, are small tents of two pieces of crispy puff pastry held together with a thick line of creamy Austrian cheeses (reported to be a mixture of La Peral, Los Beyos, and cream cheese). Crunchy, creamy, salty and a little sweet – this appetizer hit all the notes and left me wanting another round.

Compango is meat with which the beans of the fabada are stewed. These croquetas contain rich little morsels of the compango in beautifully prepared croquetas.

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Croquetas del compango de la fabada (croquettes made with the meat of the fabada)

And finally, the main event! The fabada we came all this way for. Beautifully cooked alubias (large, creamy white beans – see the bottom of this post for more information on what makes these beans so special!) in a delicate yet richly flavored broth. Served with the compango on the side. While listed on the traditional side of the menu, this dish is absolutely a gourmet fabada – a Michelin star fabada – and one that will surely serve as a point of reference upon which future versions of this dish will be compared.

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Fabada de Prendes (white beans with ham, smoked morcilla (blood sausage), and chorizo)

Another traditional dish with the same creamy alubias, this time stewed with clams and garnished with parsley. We enjoyed the delicate and rich broth, which was less intense than the fabada de Prendes, given the lighter seafood flavor.

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Fabes con almejas (white beans with clams and parsley)

Lobster and monkfish salad with vinaigrette and garnished with mayonnaise sauces made of mustard, plankton (seaweed), and red pepper. Seaweed is actually a pretty common ingredient used in Spain’s northern coast. A wonderful fresh, light dish featuring seafood of the highest quality.

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Salpicón de bugre y pixín con vinagreta y mayonesas de mostaza, plancon y pimiento morrón (lobster and monkfish salad with vinaigrette and garnished with mayonnaise sauces made of mustard, plankton (seaweed), and red pepper

From the “contemporary” side of the menu, Mr. Vacation selected this beef tenderloin with quinoa, foie gras, and micro vegetables. A lovely plate with flavorful beef with a touch of decadent fois gras.

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Corte de solomillo con guiso de quinoa, foie y micro vegetales (beef tenderloin with quinoa, foie gras, and micro vegetables)

Even in Asturias we couldn’t help but select an albariño from Galicia. Pazo Baión (left) makes an elegant, slightly citrusy, albariño from 40 year old vines that we thoroughly enjoyed. Mr. Vacation opted for a glass of Beronia Reserva Edición Limitada (right) from La Rioja to accompany his steak. This classic tempranillo is a limited edition wine with less than 35,000 bottles produced.

When one thinks of the legendary dishes as Casa Gerardo, the crema de arroz con leche requeimada de Prendes comes in a close second to the fabada. Comfort food taken to a whole other level. We all absolutely loved this creamy rice pudding with a brûléed sugar top.

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Crema de arroz con leche requeimada de Prendes (rice pudding with brûléed sugar top)

Another dessert came to the table, a gift from the kitchen: Chocolate & frutos secos (chocolate and nuts). A lovely ensemble of creamy chocolate, hazelnut ice cream, chocolate cake crumbles with pistachos and marzipan. A delicious mix of flavors and textures.

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Chocolate y frutos secos (chocolate and nuts)

During the meal father Pedro Morán came by to greet the table and make sure everything was delicious. During dessert son Marcos Morán came by to say hello and chat for a bit.  I’d love to know what I was bending his ear about (left)! He was just as charming as his father and invited us back to see the kitchen (right).

Books make some of the best souvenirs. Last year Casa Gerardo published this tome, Casa Gerardo, 50 Pasos de la Cocina Contemporánea. It won a “best in the world” award for the ‘Chef’ category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This beautiful book is big and heavy with gorgeous glossy photos throughout. Way too big to carry around for the rest of our journey, so I sadly left it on the display shelf in the lobby.

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Now for more about those big beautiful white beans. Alubias are not only found in Asturias. During a subsequent trip to Galicia, I ran across a big beautiful bowl of white beans (the ones pictured to the left, in the colander) for sale in Lugo at the weekly farmer’s market. I recognized them as being very similar to the Asturian fabada beans (these were Galician fabas de Lourenzá) and inquired as to how much for ½ kilo (about a pound). The lovely woman selling them could hear my accent and first asked when I would be preparing them. Since I had 10 more days in Galicia then a flight home to the United States she kindly declined to sell them to me, explaining that these were fresh beans and they just wouldn’t last that long.

Even though I wasn’t able to bring their gorgeous cookbook (nor any fresh beans) home, I was thrilled to see that the recipes for both of their signature dishes, the fabada and the arroz con leche, are listed on the restaurant’s website.

A few months after our visit to Casa Gerardo the restaurant and family were featured in Season 1 of the new Amazon series “Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse” that debuted in September 2016. In the show Marcos reveals some of the secrets of the fabada including this: the white beans they use are fresh beans that they freeze until it’s time to use them, not dried beans that have been soaked. He mentioned another important tip: you don’t stir the beans while they are cooking – no spoon! Just shake the pot a bit. The elder Morán went on to explain the proper way to eat the fabada, but you will have to watch it to find out for yourself. It’s a really entertaining segment on the third episode, featuring chef José Andrés, who also hails from Asturias. Definitely worth watching!


Restaurante Casa Gerardo
Carretera AS-19, km9, Prendes,  Asturias, Spain
+34 985 88 77 97

Website: www.restaurantecasagerardo.es
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cateringcg
Facebook: www.facebook.com/marcos.moran.casagerardo
Twitter: www.twitter.com/cateringcg

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: Thursday, June 2, 2016

A big part of what draws me to A Coruña, and Galicia in general, is the ocean. Despite the sometimes lack of sunshine and the many cloudy, rainy days that Galicia has (and it has quite a few), the ocean is ever-present, ever-changing, and ever-beautiful.

The old part of the city of A Coruña is a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, nearly surrounded by water. In the image on the left you can see outlined in red the Paseo Marítino, Europe’s longest seafront promenade at 13 kilometers in length. In another blog post I will talk more about the wonderful experience earlier in this trip where we arrived in A Coruña by boat, onboard a cruise ship, where we enjoyed views of the city from a truly unique vantage point. Whether by boat or by land, the views of the sea from nearly any point in A Coruña are just gorgeous.

Once again, I received a recommendation on Instagram from a local foodie in Coruña. He had strongly recommended Michelin starred Restaurante Alborada during our trip to Galicia last October, but we weren’t able to get there. This time, his exact words were “Alborada tenéis que ir sí o sí!!” (“You guys have to go to Alborada, no matter what!!”). Well, ok, if you insist!

The front of Restaurante Alborada (left), signage at the front door “Alborada – Espiritu de Galicia” (Alborada – Spirit of Galicia) (top right), and the view of the sea from our table (bottom right).

 

Our lunch reservation was for 1:30, right when the restaurant opened. Mr. Vacation and I were greeted warmly as we entered and were seated at a table for two in the middle of the dining room right next to the windows with a view of the sea right out front.

As we sat down, a small wooden stand was brought over as a place to rest my purse. How elegant! At the same time, traditional Galician cuncas (wine bowls), were brought to the table not with wine, but apple juice with herbs from the campo (countryside). What an enjoyable, unique palate cleanser before the meal. It refreshed and set the stage for the meal which clearly had its roots in traditional Galician cuisine, but with some unexpected modern and inventive presentations. Next, Chef Iván Dominguez came over to the table to say hello and tell us about the dining experience at Alborada. No menus were given, but he explained that there would be five savory courses and one sweet course with an optional wine pairing. Since neither of us were driving that day, the answer to the wine pairing question was “yes”. Chef Iván spoke to us in Spanish, but several other staff members spoke English.

The wine pairings would start with the first course so we ordered a couple of glasses of the local  Estrella Galicia beer to go with the amuses, me with the Estrella Galicia 1906 Red Vintage and Mr. Vacation with the original Estrella Galicia 1906 Reserva Especial (named for the original recipe used during the year the brewery was established in A Coruña). The table was set with Sargadelos plates and then the appetizers arrived.

 

Wow. These starters really deserve their own close-up, each one truly a work of art. The kitchen could have sent these out separately and called it a “10 course tasting menu”, they were all that good. Starting at the top left and going clockwise:

  • Meat empanada – The empanada (Galician pie) is emblematic of Galicia. Nearly every restaurant we have visited, from the most humble mom and pop place up to and including those with a Michelin star, serves empanada. Not a “version of” or their “take on” an empanada, but real homemade, traditional, classic, empanadas with whatever savory meat or seafood filling they fancy, and always with that fantastic crust. Here, the empanadas came out first and were perfect paired with the Estrella Galicia beer. The rest of the appetizers followed in short order.
  • Cured caballa (mackerel) over crunchy potato w/ tomato aioli – Velvety cured mackerel, smooth aioli, and flavorful fresh herbs all married together perfectly with the delicate crunchy potato.
  • Star cracker – Made of chickpea flour and various seeds, these starfish shaped crackers were served standing up in a box of dried chickpeas. They were crafted to accompany the next item …
  • Squid ink pâté – Rich and intensely flavored, this squid ink pâté tasted perfectly of the sea.
  • Merluza (hake fish) crudo over salsa verde croquetas – More velvety fish, this time draped over a pair of perfectly executed croquetas. What I wouldn’t give to have an entire plate of these to myself!*

The bread service. While all of the bread in Galicia is excellent, the bread here at Alborada is really something special. Firstly, it arrived just before the first of the main courses fresh and piping hot out of the oven. Then our server explained that it was made with masa madre (mother dough, a term for sourdough or natural yeast dough) and sea water. See the end of the post for more information on this, but the restaurant works with a local company that goes out in a fishing boat retrofitted to collect and treat the sea water from the ocean in Coruña that is actually used in making the bread here, and it tastes wonderful.

Who doesn’t love a tableside preparation? Especially when smoke is involved. Above, pimiento de Arnoia (Arnoia peppers – they have their own festival every August in the southern part of Galicia) were grilled and smoked with rosemary on this box that was brought to the table. The Arnoia pepper was then served on fermented cream of the O Cuoto pepper (like a Padrón pepper, but not spicy). Wine pairing: Godello.

Late spring and early summer vegetables beautifully filled this bowl: fava beans, asparagus (green slivered and white) purple & white pearl onions, snap peas, button mushroom, cauliflower, baby carrot, and sun dried tomato with ham broth poured over top. So fresh, so delicious. Wine pairing: TeiraX, a small production estate winery in the Ribeiro wine region, made from old vine Treixadura grapes.

img_3406Berberechos (cockles) with mushrooms and peas. Here again, the super fresh vegetables nearly stole the show, but the berberechos held their own in this flavorful dish. This is where you are glad for that wonderful bread to sop up (sopetear in Spanish) that delicious sauce. Wine pairing: 2007 Albariño in oak.

IMG_3346Chef Iván spent a lot of time mingling with guests and cooking tableside in the dining room. Here, he is uncovering and playing the cabracho (scorpion fish) that has been steamed in salt covered with seaweed.

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Cabracho (scorpion fish) from the photo above, plated. Served with a pil pil sauce (an emulsion made from olive oil, garlic and fish, in this case the heads of  merluza (hake) fish) and spinach. The fish was so gently cooked and tender, a real treat both texturally and in flavor. Wine pairing: Jermann Pinot Grigio from Venice, Italy.

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Chincho de ternera. I may have this name wrong, so let me describe it. Beef leg meat roasted then served pressed into a round shape (surely there’s a term for this, it is just escaping me at the moment), with a rich beefy sauce over top. Dollop of horseradish on the side. The real surprise here was this braised green wheat. It was an unexpected surprise, albeit a tasty one, having wheat prepared as a green vegetable. Wine pairing: Yet another wonderful surprise, this course was served with a Jerez sherry by Apostoles, which is a minimum of 30 years old. I’ve only ever had sherry like this in a dessert context, but it went so beautifully with this rich beef. The bites and sips got smaller and smaller as I wanted to make this pairing last for as long as possible.

img_3358When asked if you want to add another course, always say YES. This is just a good general rule to follow. Other tables were being served some different, and equally interesting dishes, so was ready for whatever surprise would come from the kitchen. This bonus course ended up being an empanada filled with rich stewed rabbit and roasted eggplant on the side.  Wine pairing: Caliza Syrah, Petit Verdot from Marqués de Griñón.

Dessert was spectacular and could not have been more perfect especially on this bright summer day. Fresh fruit with strawberry gelato, toasted merengue, edible flowers with tiny bit of granola for a little crunchiness on bottom of the plate, with a lovely ‘soup’ of strawberry & manzanilla (chamomile) poured over top from a small Sargadelos pitcher. This dish was a feast for the eyes as much as the palate.

Several times during the meal Mr. Vacation commented about the level of artistry with which these dishes were composed. With the sea right out front and the bounty of the Galician products, the artists Chef Iván and the whole Alborada team, have much to draw from in creating such a wonderful experience for their guests.

img_5247Chef Iván Dominquez is also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante, A Estación, and Casa Solla, 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 Iván is pictured with his sons on the ocean [the landscape] aboard a Galician fishing boat that has been refitted by a local company [the producer] to collect and treat the sea water [the product] with an ozone and cold filtration method so that it may be used for cooking, particularly in making the bread served at Alborada.

img_3306*Remember the croquetas above? The ones with the hake fish on top? Oh, here’s another photo to remind you. Well, in early August 2016 the same group that operates Alborada opened a new open kitchen casual concept in Coruña called Arallo Taberna, right in the heart of Plaza María Pita. One of the first dishes to catch my eye on their social media accounts? Yes, those same croquetas! I’m lucky enough to be going back to Coruña shortly and will be sure to make a full blog post after I visit Arallo Taberna for myself!


Restaurante Alborada
Paseo Marítimo Alcalde Francisco Vázquez, 25, A Coruña, Spain
+34 981 92 92 01

Website: www.restaurante-alborada.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RestauranteAlboradaGalicia
Instagram: www.instagram.com/AlboradaGalicia
Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlboradaGalicia

Arallo Taberna
Plaza de María Pita, 3, A Coruña, Spain

Email: hola@arallotaberna.com
Website: www.arallotaberna.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/arallotaberna
Instagram: www.instagram.com/arallotaberna

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Date of Visit: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Obviously, Galicia has a rich seafaring tradition as reflected in the vast amount of culinary treasures that come from the sea. As a point of reference, read just about any blog post I’ve done to date to get a good sense for the shellfish and seafood that abound in the region. While Galicia is bordered on two sides by the sea with more than 700 miles of coastline, there is certainly a lot of rural and agricultural territory inland where an abundance of cattle roam free. And when I say “roam free”, I mean roam free:

Whether driving along in a car or walking along the Camino de Santiago, cows are all over rural Galicia. So much so that there are caution signs posted along the highways to advise drivers to beware. My photos show mostly dairy cows grazing out in the open, but there are plenty of other cattle that I’ve noticed in my travels throughout Galicia. A famous Galician author from Coruña, Manuel Rivas, even refers to Galicia as the “land of one million cows”. After so much seafood, it was time to finally try some of this Galician beef we had been seeing and hearing so much about.

Since I follow quite a few people in Galicia on social media, I inquired on Instagram and received a very strong recommendation for the chuletón (T-bone steak) at Divino Vinoteca from a local Coruña based foodie. As it turns out, Divino is conveniently located in the O Burgo – Culleredo area, quite near the A Coruña airport.

This display case / meat cooler (pictured on the left) is the first thing one sees upon entering Divino Vinoteca. Wow, it is an impressive sight. When I posted this photo on Instagram, a different follower from Coruña commented “The gates of heaven should open to a sight such as this! We Galicians know how to eat!”; I agree wholeheartedly and could not have said it better myself.

Much, if not all, of the beef available at Divino is the Rubia Gallega (Galician Blonde) breed of cow. Named for its red-blonde coat, the Rubia Gallega is primarily beef cattle, although their milk is also used to make a famous local cheese, called tetilla (named for its, um, unique shape – click on the link to see what I mean). Galician chuletón is so well-regarded that in a recent interview with none other than Juan Mari Arzak (owner of Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain, regularly listed as one of the best restaurant in the world), he stated that the best chuletón he’d ever had in his life was eaten in Galicia.

There were many options to choose from on the menu, but we were there for chuletón from the premium Rubio Gallego. We advised our server of our selection and he came back with this; a slate with two enormous steaks for us to choose from:

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Chuletón de buey (Beef T-bone steak) – these beautiful premium steaks came from 9 year old Rubia Gallega cows whose steaks had been aged for 3 months. The market price was listed by the kilo, and these two weighed in at 1460 and 1580 grams, respectively. That’s more than 3 pounds each, including the fat and bone. We selected the smaller one, although “small” doesn’t really seem like the proper word to describe a 3.3 pound steak!

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Our table was right next to the action in the front part of the kitchen, including a nice view of the jamonera (the apparatus that holds the jamón) and several wheels of cheese.

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Tempranillo wines, mine from Ribera del Duero and Mr. Vacation’s from la Rioja, to accompany our feast.

img_3041Croquetas as an appetizer.

I loved the flatware here. On the left (above) the casual set that accompanied the appetizer. On the right things got serious with this Laguiole-style steak knife with a brass accented handle, which arrived just in time for …

img_3050This chuletón! Seared perfectly rare, carved off the bone, extra fat removed, sliced, arranged on a warm plate, and sprinkled with coarse black and white sea salt, this made quite an impression when it was brought to the table.
img_3047A closer look at this gorgeous steak. The plate was quite warm, which allowed us to cook pieces just a bit more by laying them down upon the surface of the hot plate. We noticed that the waiter brought a small tabletop grill to a neighboring table so that one member of that party could cook individual pieces of steak more well-done to his liking.

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We ordered simple sides of cachelos (boiled potatoes) and salad to accompany the steak. Meat and potatoes, Gallego style! What can I say about that steak? It was exactly as flavorful, tender, and delicious as it looks. It’s hard to improve upon an excellent quality product that is prepared carefully and simply.

The newspaper article below was on display  in the restaurant describing a €250 steak. Thank goodness ours came in less than that! It also talks about a man who came to the restaurant and finished a 2.7kg steak alone, and goes on to mention other steakhouses in Galicia that are also serving quality Galician beef at this high level. In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words: the proprietor of Divino standing behind a whole side of aged beef, holding up a gorgeous chuletón.

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Dessert? Why not! Actually, it was really fortunate that we opted for dessert because this tiramisu (below, left) is among the best I’ve ever tasted. The lemon sorbet ice cream (below, right) was also delightful, so tart and refreshing after the richness of the steak.

Both Mr. Vacation and I agreed that this was definitely in our Top 5 restaurant steak meals. For me, I’d even say Top 3 (hey, this sounds like a good topic for a future post). I see why Divino is so renowned, not only in Galicia but in all of Spain, given the quality of the product they source and the care with which they prepare it.


Divino Vinoteca
Rúa Ramón Cabanillas s/n, Culleredo, Spain (map)
+34 881 91 44 12

Website: www.restauranteenculleredo.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/people/Divino-Vinoteca

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UPDATE: In June 2018 the restaurant moved to a new location just a few blocks away at Rúa Real 77 (map). The new restaurant location is a special one, with access from either side of the building; the main pedestrian street in this part of the city (Calle/Rúa Real) and also from the Marina side, over which the dining room has splendid views from the expanse of floor-to-cieling second floor ‘galerias’ windows.

For those who always enjoyed the convivial atmosphere in the location on Calle/Rúa Estrella, there is good news! Taberna A Mundiña opened in September 2018 in the original location as a ‘taberna’, serving a smaller menu than the restaurant with options to have a more casual bite to eat (think octopus, croquetas, shellfish, ham, tortilla, other local specialties and a variety of cheeses and desserts) to accompany their nice selection of wines by the glass.

Originally published post below:

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
Taberna: Calle de la Estrella 10, A Coruña , Spain (map)
Restaurante: Calle Real 77, 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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Sunday, October 11, 2015

When I brought Mr. Vacation to Galicia for the first time in October 2015, our primary objective was to attend the annual Festa do Mariscos in O Grove. But, really, one simply cannot go to O Grove and not go to d’Berto Restaurante. Or at least I don’t recommend it.

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So, on our first Sunday in Galicia, we visited the seafood Mecca that is d’Berto Restaurante. Just the day before we attended the Festa do Mariscos during the day and enjoyed some incredible fresh navajas (razor clams) at La Queserí Tasting Room later that night. As wonderful as the seafood on Saturday was, it really just whet our appetites for even more shellfish.

This was my second visit to d’Berto, but my husband’s first.  We were once again accompanied by José of Turismo Verde de Galicia and his lovely wife, Montse. On this visit, it was a busy Sunday lunchtime crowd (around 2 in the afternoon), compared to our previous visit just a few months earlier in May of 2015. Since that meal was so wonderful, I basically wanted to repeat it so my husband could experience it for himself.

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The case was full of beautiful fish and shellfish!

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Albariño – Terras de Lantaño.

As in most places in Galicia where shellfish is the specialty, we began with white Albariño wine.  The Rías Baixas wine region, located in the southwestern part of Galicia, is comprised of 5 sub regions. O Grove sits right in one of them, the Val do Salnés, which is known as the actual birthplace of the Albariño grape. As such, it stands to reason that the wines grown right here pair so perfectly with the foods of the region, in particular, the shellfish.

The last time we visited d’Berto, back in May of 2015, they did a tasting menu for us. This time we ordered off the menu but wanted to be sure to sample many of the same items, since they were so spectacular. We began with a couple of amuses; seafood empanada and mejillones en escabeche (mussels marinated in a vinegary sauce).

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Empanada de marisco y pescado (shellfish and fish empanada) to begin.  FYI, empanadas are meant to be eaten with your hands.

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The second amuse was this tangy bowl of mejillones en escabeche (mussels marinated in a vinegary sauce).

We ordered a parade of shellfish to be shared family style, as we did during my first visit to this award winning restaurant. Everything was just as spectacular as it was during the first visit, and this time the zamburiñas (variegated scallops) were available! Berto, the owner, makes it a point to obtain the absolute best product for the restaurant, which is prepared very simply by the kitchen (run by his sister, Marisol) in order to let the superior product shine. Service in the dining room was as friendly and efficient as it was during our first visit.

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Ostras fritas, fried oysters, just barely kissed by the frying oil.

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Tiny whole fried shrimp, so packed with flavor!

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Berberechos (cockles) cooked a su punto (just right). These were my favorite until … (see next photo) …

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Zamburiñas! What a treat! Small scallops are sold in restaurants all over Galicia as “zamburiñas“, but these are the REAL deal. Note the black shells. These were sublime.

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Navajas (Razor Clams) for the second day in a row. We would have them again the following day at Yayo Daporta. I’m willing to state that one could have Galician navajas every day and not tire of them, especially when they are as perfect as these!

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Cigalas (Langoustine) were just as sweet and rich as the last time. And just like before, that delicious char from the grill made for some time spent chupandonos los dedos – licking our fingers!

Dessert! We enjoyed a nice selection of desserts, including this seasonal castaña (chestnut) cake with caramel sauce and traditional filloas con miel (Galician crepes stuffed with custard and drizzled with honey). All served with café con leche and a small cookie. Unfortunately, this blogger neglected to capture a photo of Mr. Vacation’s delicious plate of cannoli.

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Luckily, I didn’t neglect to get a photo with the lovely Montse (on the right). She and José are such delightful company. They are ever so patient with Mr. Vacation and I, especially considering all that goes along with our limited Spanish: lots of translation, explanation, (mis)communication, a few mistakes (on our part, not theirs) but most of all, lots of laughs! We are so glad we got to spend another wonderful afternoon revisiting this fabulous feast with them and to be able to spend more time together in their beautiful homeland, Galicia.

 


d’Berto Restaurante
Avenida Teniente Domínguez, 84, O Grove, Galicia, Spain
+34 986 773 447
Website: www.dberto.com
Facebook: dBerto Restaurante

If you haven’t seen my previous blog post about d’Berto Restaurante (from May 2015), I encourage you to take a peek.  I mean, who doesn’t want to see more delicious shellfish?!

For more information on the Rías Baixas wine region you can visit:
www.riasbaixaswines.com
For more information on the Val do Salnés subregion you can visit:
http://www.rutadelvinoriasbaixas.com/en/area/val-do-salnes
http://www.osalnes.com/en/

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