Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Almería: Spain’s Hidden Tapa Paradise

Like I mentioned in my last post, Road to Almería, I had a great two years living there. I have always known that Spain is famous for its tapas but I had no idea that I was placed in the secret culinary mecca of Spanish Tapas.

Almost every single restaurant in Almería is a tapa restaurant. There during the mid day meal you can order the menu del dia. Which consists of a drink, first course, second course, bread, coffee or dessert for less than 10 euros! Since I am a vegetarian most of the time I was not able to enjoy the menu del dia. I always went for the tapas instead.

So, what makes Almeria’s tapas different from tapas in the rest of Spain? They are technically free! That’s right. Free. You decide what you want to drink (beer, wine, soda, tinto de verano) and your tapa comes free with the drink. The most I ever paid for a tapa there was 2.60. You can go out for a night on the town and have 3 plates of food and 3 drinks and pay less than 10 euros!  Since Almeria is on the coast, it has some of the freshest seafood you will eat in Spain, and everything costs the same.

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This is a typical Almerienese tapa called migas, literally crumbs, it is made of bread crumbs that are fried together.
It is usually served with a few small fried fish and a fried pepper, this one was made with ham.
I have a few favorite restaurants there. But my most favorite just happens to be the first place my parents and I went to for lunch on the beach. It is called La Cabaña del Tío Tom (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, why? who knows…) Get there early if you want to be seated right away because there is always a line for both lunch and dinner services.

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My favorite! Last time I went to Almeria to visit a friend I went with a guy who was visiting his
girlfriend in Almeria. On the way we were talking about where we wanted to go first when
we arrived....we both said Tio Tom's.
This restaurant is great because it has a massive menu that includes everything from paella, sandwiches, toasts, baked potatoes, meat (even half a chicken!) and lots of seafood. Here, there is something for everyone. And, did I mention, that the tapas are huge? When you can get half a chicken and a beer for 2.50, I think that is the definition of a good deal!

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My friend Alaina and me. She is just as much a foodie as I am. She sent me a picture of a tapa she and her boyfriend
had one night....sauteed blood and onions. 
My go to tapa here is called El Probe (The taste/sample). It has 1 or 2 fried peppers, french fries, a fried egg, bacon, caramelized onions, bread and ali oli sauce. For me, it is the perfect start to a meal after spending the day on the beach.

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So, if you are ever in need of a beach/foodie vacation look no further than Almeria, Spain. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Road to Almería

I’m going to take you back 3 years to when I was first applying to come to Spain. Filling out the application and having to decide on the top 3 places I would like to be placed was incredibly difficult. I thought about Salamanca which is where I studied abroad but ultimately decided to try something completely different. I wanted to live in a big city so I requested Cataluña, Andalucía and Aragon, hoping to be placed in Barcelona. In the end I consider myself very lucky not to have been in Barcelona because their language assistants didn’t get paid until January!

I remember the day I received my placement letter perfectly. All that month I spent most of my time sitting by the window waiting to see the mail man come. As soon as I saw him round the corner I would run out the door to see if he had my letter. The day it arrived I remember dropping everything to read it in the street. It was like being accepted to college all over again! It had some general information and midway through it had the address of my school written like this:

CEIP Concordia
C/Italíca S/N.
(04110) Campohermoso (Almería)

At this point I had no idea how to read a Spanish address so I didn’t know if the town was Campohermoso or Almería. The first thing I did when I got back inside was to do a Google search for Almería. You cannot imagine my excitement when I saw the little red dot pointing to the southern coast of Spain. Thoughts of becoming a beach bum began to race through my head.

Almeria map


I later found some very limited information on Campohermoso, turns out it is a farming town where most of Spain’s cucumbers, melons and the famous Raf tomatoes come from. Luckily, I was able to live in Almería just a 7 minute walk to the beach! It was great; I had really nice roommates, great coworkers and lived in a perfect little beach town.

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Always a beautiful sunset on the beach!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I’m Back!

After a break of a little over a month I am excited to be back in the game! I decided to stop with the blog for a little bit because I needed to study for my Arabic final exam and also things at work were getting pretty busy. Now that things are calmed down I am excited to be able to share some stories with you. The first one I have coming up is about the town I first lived in when I moved to Spain. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Insiders Abroad Feature

This is a little top 3 list feature I did for Insiders Abroad. I am working on a piece for their quarterly magazine so stay tuned for that!

http://insidersabroad.com/spain/blogs/expat-blog/posts/expat-spotlight-allisons-top-3-tips-for-spain

 

Note: The first question has a typo and should say Valencia instead of Madrid.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday Snapshot

Here is my Sunday Snapshot I did for another travel blog called A Cruising Couple. It is from one of the coolest travel experience I have had....camping in the Sahara Desert.

You can see my snapshot here
And read about my awesome trip to Morocco here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Recipe: Roasted Baby Artichokes

I am very lucky to live in a place that has so much agriculture. On the train ride to work I can see fields of all sorts of vegetables. One of the cheapest things here are artichokes. At the vegetable stand I go to you can get a kilo for just over 1 euro! So, usually about once a week here we have artichokes in some form.

Last time I was at the stand, I tried to pick out the smallest artichokes I could find because I wanted to try roasting them which is something new for me. Now, it is officially my favorite way! Paired with a homemade hollandaise or alioli it is a great side dish.

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Just out of the oven! I couldn't wait to try one, they smelled so good!

Ingredients:
6 small artichokes
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbs fresh rosemary
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit or about 200 Celsius.
2. Fill a large bowl with water and the lemon juice and set aside. While you are preparing the artichokes, put them in this bowl so they don’t turn brown.
3. Cut the stem leaving about 1/4 inch to the base of the artichoke.
4. Take off the outer, harder leaves. stop once the leaves become thin and easily bendable.
5. With a vegetable peeler, peel what is left of the stem and any remaining pieces of the leaves that you removed.
6. Cut the tops of the artichokes off. Even though these are the soft leaves, they still have a pointy tip that you do not want to eat.
7. Cut the artichokes in half.
8. drain the water, and pat dry the artichokes.
9. mince the garlic and the rosemary together and add it to a large bowl with the olive oil.
10. Toss the artichokes together with the garlic, rosemary, olive oil and red pepper flakes if you are using them.
11. Put the artichokes on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, making sure they are not touching. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top of the artichokes.
12. Cook for 20 minutes or until the artichokes are golden brown and the leaves have started to separate from each other.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spanish Food Epiphany

One food that I have hated all my life are olives. I have always found them to be just salty and sour, especially my dad’s favorite, dried. Yuck! Spain is one of the biggest exporters of olive oil and olives are served with everything here. When I first arrived I avoided them like the plague. They were tossed into salads, on sandwiches and sitting there menacingly on my plate trying to contaminate my tapa with its salty juices.

My first year in Almeria I lived with an American girl and her boyfriend was at our house a lot. The only plus about that was he was from a small town outside of Almeria where his family had a lot of orange, lemon and olive trees. So, one weekend after they got back with bags and bags of free oranges they also brought some home pressed olive oil and a few jars of Manzanilla olives. Everyone was raging about how good they were. I wasn’t convinced. During a dinner party (a few drinks may have been involved) they convinced me to try one. And you know what? It was pretty darn good!

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A night out with my roommates in Almeria
That was my one and only olive for awhile until I went out tapeando with a friend one night. During a lull in the conversation she looked down and said: “I thought you hated olives…” I didn’t even realize I had eaten the ones on my plate! After that I could not be stopped. I was buying olives at the markets and going through about a jar a week by myself! I have since calmed down and enjoy olives in more reasonable quantities…and I consider myself very lucky to be living in a country with such fresh and delicious olives!

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yum :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: Tips to Enjoy the Fun!

Believe it or not Las Fallas can be stressful. There are so many things to see and do and so little time for it! Now, I’m definitely not an expert, but I have survived 3 years of Las Fallas. Each year has helped me learn how to truly enjoy the festival. I’ve compiled a little list of my favorite tips and tricks so you wont be overwhelmed by Las Fallas.

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Someone is a little stressed out...
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See the video of these lights below
1. Stay hydrated!
This is the most important thing for any big out door fest and Fallas is no different. Make sure you have a big bottle of water with you at all times because you will be out walking in the sun all day.

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The winning Falla Infantil. See it on fire here
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See this on fire here
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See the video of this below
2. Eat all the buñuelos!
The magical thing about Fallas is all the churros/buñuelos/porras trucks that appear all over the city. Churros con chocolate is a very famous Spanish breakfast of a fried dough stick dipped in hot chocolate sauce. Porras are a fatter version that are softer. Buñuelos de calabaza are a Valencian delicacy. They are fried pumpkin doughnuts and they are delicious! Eat as many as you can!

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Buñuelos...yum
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Churros....yum
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Me after eating all the churros and Buñuelos
3. Don’t try to see everything!
During the festival there are concerts, fireworks, light shows, traditional music and dancing, parties, parades and over 700 fallas to see. It is literally impossible to see everything. Instead of getting stressed out about trying to see everything, get a schedule of the events and decide which are most important for you. You will enjoy everything much more if you are not always worrying about missing something.

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See the video of the traditional dancing below
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4. See it with a newbie!
If you have the chance to visit Las Fallas more than once, you should try to bring someone who has never seen it before. I remember my second year my parents came to visit and seeing their reactions to everything was so much fun!

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I would like to point out that I had a fever that day....
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Even Obama can't escape Las Fallas
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5. Have fun!
The festival is only a few days, enjoy it!

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Why not?
This was not the winning light display, but it was many people's favorite

Traditional music and dancing in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento



This was the winning display.