(Don’t forget, there are lots more photos posted here.
On the final leg of this journey, in a plane heading to Dallas (!), on the return to Portland. Not sure why American routes NY-PDX trips this way, I know they could go through Chicago, but, it is what it is.
I had hoped to do more regular posts, if not every day, then every other. But that was not meant to be. Seemed like there were very few free moments–exploring Santiago, Florence, Rome, visiting with Carlos, Cosimo, Rebecca (and Lidia and Allen in Rome for a couple of lunches) and just being in these wonderful places, there just wasn’t enough time. In Santiago, Carlos and I rarely got to sleep before 1 or 2am–it was 5 or later after the Festa in Couso–and I have been literally exhausted most of this trip. Then I came down with an awful cold in Florence which hung out for at least a week or more and that stole whatever extra energy I might have had for writing. I’ll try to fill in some gaps over the next few days. Crap, I still have some things from Rio to scribble down.
Ok, the food in Galicia was pretty awful which is pretty funny considering it was food that was one of the primary reasons Carlos and I decided to go there (see the first post on Galicia in the archive). Galcia is Spain’s seafood horn of plenty.
Zoom in and you’ll see that they are clusters of shellfish “farms” where mussels and other such creatures are cultivated…there are thousands of these floating platforms up and down the coast.
We tried 10 or 15 different restaurants over our week in Santiago, and with the exception of two, all were disappointing and went on the “Don’t Go Back” list. We did find a couple of more informal “tapas” places we wandered into more than a couple of times, partly for the food, for me, largely for the beer or wine, and especially, just to soak up some of the local customs and ambience.
Galicia was, and maybe still is, a very impoverished region of Spain. The food still reflects this rather spartan approach to nourishment: lots of boiled potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip greens, called grelos, and so on. Salt must have been too expensive in the old days, and it doesn’t occur much in comida galega. This is one of the reasons why so many dishes tasted so flat. One night I ordered a plate of steamed mussels, and that is exactly what I got: steamed mussels…no salt, no seasoning of any kind, no oil, no garlic….N-A-D-A. Had they been seasoned in the least, they would have been spectacular since I’m sure they were very fresh. But for me, they were blah. I managed to score a bit of salt and used that some, but even that didn’t wake them up much. My steamed mussels at home, even made with bivalves bought at Safeway are a million times tastier….
Another ubiquitous offering in Santiago is the empanada, but don’t think of little turnovers as we are used to from Argentina, but rather, think of a very thin pie, filled with some type of savory filling, no more than a quarter of an inch thick with the entire pie perhaps an inch to an inch and a half, and sometimes delightfully golden brown.
One morning I saw these being delivered to restaurants from a pushcart loaded with trays of empanadas. Carlos ordered one of thesa at a favorite bar called the Gato Negro and he found it delicious; I think the filling was chicken. On our next visit to this humble place which seemed to only attract locals and was, interestingly, maybe the only non-smoking place we entered in all of Galicia, Carlos ordered another slice of empanada. But, surprise! This time the filling was not chicken, not tuna, but instead, the nasty, ever-present pulpo, or octopus! It was amusing to see him pick out the tiny tentacles, and then nibble on the pastry. Yuk, I would have never have eaten even just the pastry, contaminated as it was with tentacle juice and stray sucker molecules! Brave man.
Our first night in town we stopped into one of at least 30 restaurants along the main drag leading from the cathedral, Rua Franco. This place, Taberna do Bispo was mentioned in some of the reading I’d done on Santiago, so we wanted to sample some of their very appealing tapas displayed across the bar. We picked four or five items and drank a couple glasses of wine.
The one actual restaurant we returned to twice was Casa Manolo, and, unfortunately, we only found it toward the end of the trip. It is apparently a fairly new place with a very contemporary interior.