November 10, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Spain

Yesterday was Jacob’s 34th birthday, so we decided to head out to a familiar spot – Patones de Arriba. The last time we went was probably a year and a half ago, and I had forgotten how much I loved the little city of slate.

Patones de Arriba is about 50 minutes north of Madrid and sits at the top of a long windy road that creeps its way up a large mountainside. The city is entirely made of slate – cobbley slate streets, slate bricked houses, and roofs made of….oh wait, the roofs are not slate….you would think, but no. Peculiar. Meandering through the narrow little streets filled with homeless cats transports you to another place – a place that hardly seems Spanish, or really like anything that you’ve ever seen. On the hillsides behind the town you can see the remains of what must have been a larger town – the hills are speckled with the ruins of old slate homes and the walls that surrounded them. It looks like a wonderland of history and is hard to stare at without getting lost in imagining what the town must have been like hundreds of years ago.

We first stopped for aperitivos at a modern looking Spanish bar at the mouth of the pueblo. It was called Rincon de Patones. It had yummy tapas and warm, neighborly service (Jacob and I were starting to get used to being treated as strangers after our trip to Lupiana, but this certainly wasn’t the case at this place).

Following our aperitivos, we headed up the maze of streets to another restaurant called El Abuelo Manolo where we had reserved a table for two by a window overlooking the rocky hills. I was mesmerized by the view during the entire lunch, taking breaks from day dreaming only occasionally in order to take bites of the obsession-worthy homemade croquetas, empanadas and finally my cappuccino which was truly a piece of art.

I think I enjoyed Patones de Arriba even more the second time than the first…maybe because there’s so much to discover, both in the town and on the mountains surrounding it. My mom, aunt and cousin will be coming out for Thanksgiving in two weeks, so I think I might need to return again very soon!

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November 8, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Spain

We’ve managed to secure the date and locations for the big day, which will indeed be going down here in Spain. The ceremony will be taking place at a church right next to Retiro Park, while the reception will be held about 40 minutes northwest of Madrid in a town called Lupiana in the province of Guadalajara.

Last weekend we headed out to the monastery, where the reception will be held, for the second time in order to check it out and start planning more details. It was as beautiful if not more beautiful than I had remembered it. Maybe it was something about the Fall weather – the leaves changing color, the howl of the wind through through the hollowed out church full of trees…it was all very romantic and peaceful.

We first checked out the cloisters where we will be holding dinner. It was rather brisk out, so it was hard to imagine the corridors full of people on a hot Spanish summer night. I did my best though to imagine the warmly lit hallways, the sound of live music and of course lush floral centerpieces that in no will way resemble anything done in Spain. Outside the cloisters is where we will be holding the dancing for the evening. There you will find flower filled gardens and an expansive view of the valley below, which cradles the sweet little Lupiana village. Also on the property of the monastery is an old church, which has long since been destroyed and now has an open roof and is filled with trees and ivy. If you look closely, you can see where old artwork and tapestries might have decorated the cold stone walls.

After wandering aimlessly on the monastery grounds wrapped up in our thoughts of the big day that is just over eight months away, we hopped in the car and headed down the mountainside to the valley below to see the little town of Lupiana. After a quick search online, I’ve discovered that only some 225 people call it home, which was surely no surprise as we clearly received many sideways looks as we walked through the small streets of the town (I’m sure that me being a blond American didn’t blow our cover at all…). I loved the little town though as it had an abundance of darling Spanish grandpas with their messenger caps and canes, sitting on benches just watching the world go by.

Given the miniature size of Lupiana, it was hardly the place to expect to find possible hotels for guests, so we stopped by the city of Guadalajara on the way back home to see what they had to offer. I was admittedly unimpressed by the city, although sure, they did have more hotels. My assumption is that most out-of-towners will stay in Madrid making the journey to and from by using our rented buses. Those from Spain, however, may choose to stay out in Guadalara (I am personally thinking that we will head back into Madrid).

Lots more planning to come! I am very excited to have the opportunity to have a wedding in such a romantic place, but it sure isn’t easy when my family is on the other side of the world. Eight+ months to go….

November 5, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

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Well, it’s about time I write a post dedicated to the Spanish tortilla. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you’ve surely tried la tortilla española (or often called tortilla patata) and know that it bares zero resemblance to its Mexican counterpart – ZERO (ok, they’re both round). While I personally don’t discriminate against any tortilla española, it is true that some are less than impressive than others. This is not the case with Jacobo’s mother’s tortilla however. Like every other Spanish mom, SHE has the best tortilla – but in this case it really is true!! While it’s a labor intensive effort, perfecting your tortilla making skills is a worthwhile endeavor. Let’s get started! Go out and get yourself:

    5 extra large eggs
    5 large yellow potatoes
    1 yellow onion
    Olive oil – duh (this should just be assumed with all Spanish cuisine)
    Salt

Let’s first discuss the frying pan issue, just to get it out of the way. Make sure that you have a medium sized frying pan along with a light-weight plate that can easily cover and fit over the top. You will need to flip the tortilla onto this plate. Alternatively, you can just buy a frittata pan, which will certainly make your life a lot easier. Lastly, you could just reduce the recipe and use a smaller pan and plate to make flipping easier.

Ok, now for the good stuff. First, you’re going to want to dice the onion and then saute it in olive oil. The trick here is that you saute it on extra low heat for about it hour – or until they are clear, soft and golden brown. Be patient and let them cook away while you move on to the next step.

Now beat all five of your eggs together adding five pinches of salt (one pinch per egg). Set aside.

With the onions still cooking, and your eggs all beaten up, get your frier ready (if you have one) or fill up a large pan with olive oil (or if you don’t want to use olive oil, you can use canola or something cheaper, it just won’t be as good 😉 ). To determine when you should start heating up the oil will depend on how quickly you slice potatoes (if you’re like me, it could take days), because your next step will be to tackle the laborious task of peeling and slicing. Be sure to start heating up your oil at some point so that it is hot once you’re done with the potatoes. Once you’ve finished thinly slicing the potatoes, add them to the hot oil. Make sure that the potato slices are sizzling – if they are, then turn down the heat a bit as you want to make sure that you don’t completely fry the potatoes (potatoes should sizzle, but not McDonald’s french-fry-style), but instead cook them slowly until they are soft and pliable.

Keep checking that onion, giving it a little stir here and there. How’s it looking?

Once your potatoes are done (you may have to do a few batches), drain them on paper towels. Once cooled, add them to your egg mixture and mash the potatoes into fine mushy bits (such technical terms I use, I know).
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Once your onions are finally done POUR them through a fine strainer and preserve the oil you’ve used to saute them (this is part of the trick!). Add your drained onions to the egg/potato mixture and combine. Meanwhile, go back to that pan you used for the onions and add the onion oil (imagine that yummy flavor!). You will use this pan to make your tortilla.
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You may want to add just a touch extra olive oil to the pan so that you can move the oil around the bottom and cover the pan thoroughly. Once you’ve done this, add your mixture. You will want to cook the tortilla on medium or so and just continually check the edges until you see that the bottom has started to become solid. Now you will want to make sure you have your plate ready, along with an oven mitt and maybe even a towel over your “turning hand” – this is just in case any hot oil comes out.

And now it’s time for the big climax. Place the plate on top with one hand, hold the pan with the other (and the oven mitt). You may want to do this over a bowl, just in case you lose some of the tortilla. Ready, set, flip!

Add a touch of extra olive oil to the pan so that it covers the pan like last time, and then carefully slide the half-cooked tortilla back into the pan and cook until the other side has become solid. The most delicious tortillas have a golden yellow cooked outside, but a soft gooey inside! A true expert will only have to flip the tortilla once to get it cooked perfectly on both sides, but feel free to flip away until you get yours just right.

Once cooled (as it is usually served room temperature), you can either cut it into pie like slices (as is often the case at restaurants), or into cubes (as you will usually find at people’s homes as an aperitivo).

Enjoy!

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