Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Only Drink You Need for Summer in Spain

Horchata can be found throughout the world made with different ingredients. The one that the Spanish enjoy is made from the Chufa or Tigernut. They have known about this nut for more than 3,000 years. The origin is from Central and Northern Africa and it is said that the nut was brought to Spain in the 8th century by the Arabs, who used the nut to make horchata for special occasions. Now, the nut flourishes in Southern and Eastern Spain as well as Northern Morocco. It is planted in April and May and harvested in November.

Horchata is most common in the Comunidad Valenciana. Before refrigeration was common, horchata was made in the mountains surrounding Valencia and stored in snow to keep it cold as it was brought down to sell in the city. Now a days, you can find horchata in almost every bar, and even in carts specifically selling the drink on the street. It is the perfect summer drink because it is cold and refreshing. It comes in liquid form, or my favorite, icy form. Horchata is traditionally pared with a sweet, tube shaped pastry called a Farton which is usually dunked into the drink before being eaten. Many of Spain’s Chufas are grown in a town called Alboraya near Valencia. Here you can spend a day on a Horchata tour learning about how the nut is farmed and even take a class on how to make the drink before trying some of the freshest horchata de chufa in all of Spain.


Horchata is a surprisingly healthy drink. Since it is made with nuts, it has a lot of protein. It also has a high content of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, complex carbohydrates and vitamins E and C. Many people who are lactose intolerant use horchata as a substitute for milk.

horchata to go

Even if you are not planning a trip to Spain anytime soon you can make horchata at home. Believe it or not it is very easy! All you need is some tigernuts, water, sugar, a cinnamon stick and lemon zest. It takes some time for the flavors to blend together but it is well worth the wait! Order some here if you aren’t in Spain.


There are many places in Valencia to get authentic homemade horchata. My favorite just happens to be the oldest in the city. Horchateria Santa Catalina is just off the Plaza de la Reina near the Santa Catalina Church. The shop is inside an old house that says it has “more than 200 years of tradition.” Inside you can see some beautiful architecture and great examples of ceramic tiles that are traditional in Valencia. Oh, and the horchata is pretty good too!

horchateria santa catalina 

You can hear me read a shorter version of this post and learn some other cool things about Valencia on The Spain Uncovered Podcast.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spain’s (Secret) Hobbit-inspired Meals

Spains hobbit meals

Flashback to high school Spanish class…pictures of breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods are on the overhead projector (I’m feeling old now!) and we are playing Mata Moscas to see if our class can win a fiesta day (AKA a class where we pig out on chips) after we finish our next exam. I remember this unit very clearly (probably because it was about food!) We were taught that breakfast is called  el desayuno, lunch is el almuerzo and dinner is la cena. And that’s it. Needless to say, we totally won that fiesta day. How could we not when we had only 3 meals to remember?

Imagine my surprise (read: delight) when I arrived in Spain and found out that there are two secret meals that we never learned about, leading me to the conclusion…

…the Spanish eat like hobbits.


Here is a little cheat sheet to help you know what and when to eat. Note: These are from my experiences. I am sure that other parts of Spain have slightly different variations.
Breakfast (desayuno): This is the first meal of the day, eaten right after you wake up. Usually, something light is eaten like coffee or tea with cookies, a pastry or toast.
My pick: A café con leche and a croissant or palmera
Palmera and coffee

Second Breakfast (almuerzo): Usually eaten between 10am-12pm.  From my experiences, sandwiches are the most popular. A lot of restaurants will have offers for half or full almuerzos for 3,5 and 5 euros respectively. These include a beer, soda, or coffee and a cheese, ham, tuna or tortilla sandwich.
My pick: Coca-cola with a tortilla sandwich
tortilla sandwich
Lunch (la Comida): This is where you get your money’s worth! It’s usually eaten between 1-3pm Eating at a restaurant for la comida will give you a ton of food. I’m talking a 3 course meal plus a drink for anywhere between 6-18 euros!
My pick (menus change daily, but these are my favorite combinations): drink: Fanta Naranja 1st course: salad or gazpacho 2nd course: vegetable paella 3rd course: flan or coffee
Veggie Paella
Afternoon Tea (Merienda): Merienda is similar to breakfast. It is usually something light to tide you over until dinner. At restaurants you can often see them advertising the same offers for desayuno and merienda. Usually Merienda is eaten between 5-7pm.
My pick: Tomato toast with a café con leche
Tomato Toast
Dinner (la cena): La Cena can go on for 3 or more hours here! Usually it starts around 9pm and goes until 12am or later. This is the meal that probably most widely varies in all of Spain. My favorite dinner activity in Almeria was tapeando with my friends, where we would spend hours restaurant hopping. 
My pick: berenjenas con miel, pimientos de padron, and patatas bravas and vino…lot’s of vino.
tapa dinner
So, the Spaniard’s don’t have quite as many meals as the hobbits. But, who knows? There might be a few other secret ones I haven’t discovered yet!

Want your very own hobbit clock?
Click here to get a personalized one!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Barcelona Eat Guide Giveaway!

This is the first year of my three years in Spain that I haven’t been able to go to Barcelona. I’m pretty bummed about it because it is one of my favorite cities in Spain. I usually spend all day walking around looking at the pretty buildings and stopping about every 45 minutes to snack on something.
Finding a good restaurant in a city that big and touristy can sometimes be tougher than it seems. I have been tricked a few times thinking that I was getting a good deal, or eating where the locals are only to find out I got stuck with the tourist prices and menu.

Fidua or noodle paella

Luckily for you, future Barcelona travelers, I have two copies of this amazing e-book from the authors of The Spain Scoop about restaurants in Barcelona to give away! It was written by an American and her husband who is from Barcelona, so you can get a true locals perspective of where the best restaurants are. It has tons of Spanish/Catalan listings and some other cuisines, too, for the days when you just don’t feel in the mood for Spanish food. There are lots of different price points and restaurants from all over the city. It is a great resource to have on your phone, ipad, kindle or whatever other device you have.

Regina and Adrian, the authors of Barcelona Eat Guide


One of my favorite parts is reading the little stories the authors have about each restaurant from the first time they tried it. I have a bunch of places bookmarked to try when I make it back to Barcelona (hopefully) soon!

What food are you most interested to try in Barcelona?

UPDATE: The contest is over and the winners have been notified. :) If you didn't win you can still get your very own copy here

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not A Care in the World

I’ve been going through my pictures on my computer trying to organize them. It is so much fun looking through all my previous adventures!

One of my favorite memories of being in Milan last year was spending a few hours by this fountain. It was such a hot day so we decided to get some gelato and put our feet in and relax while people watching.There were two little boys having the time of their lives playing in the fountain not caring at all that they were surrounded by people. One of my favorite pictures of the trip is of one of the boys playing.

fountainfountain 3feetkid playingfountain 2kids playing

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Valencia’s Royal Gardens in Photos

The other day my friend and I decided to go on a walk. She suggested the Royal Gardens (also called Viveros Gardens). I have lived in Valencia for a little over a year and this was my first visit. I will definitely be back soon for a relaxing day away from the buzz of the city.
(click on the pictures to see them full sized and as a slide show)

big and smallbaby peacocks
black catduck pond treebig fountaincolorful parrot blurrygatefountaincolorful parrot 3blue parrokeatgreen white tree
grey cockateilparrot eating2kid statue colorpink treered flowers 2pink white flowersroots 3red flowers 4roses and fountainrosepink flowers 2treeyellow cockateil close upthunderhead 2succulent flowers 3statue

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cost of Living in Valencia Via COMO Consulting Spain


Here is my survey about life and how much it costs in Valencia. This website is relatively new but incredibly helpful for people thinking of making the move from tourist to expat. Definitely check it out if you are thinking of coming here long-term or are just curious how much it costs to live in various places in Spain.


Click here for my story.

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.

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.

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!

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.


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