March 1, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travels in Spain

This last weekend brought with it our first road trip in awhile. Our drive took us to the city of Valladolid (located in the community of Castilla y Leon) for a Criado del Rey family reunion. I spent the drive ooh-ing and ah-ing over each little pueblo we passed, begging to stop. For some reason I never tire of getting to know new little Spanish towns. I suppose after enough whining to stop at each place along the way, I finally made a breakthrough with Jacob. We stopped in the city of Simancas, a city famous for being the site of a bloody battle between the Moors and the Christians in 934. From the highway I could see it had a castle and an old church, so needless to say, I was already convinced of its charmworthiness (not a word, I know, but it should be).

We parked and were making our way through its narrow medieval streets when we came across a shop selling local goods. Now this is the very best part of traveling around Spain, much less stopping in little pueblos – buying local goodies. The little shop was packed full of fresh veggies, lentils, chorizos and cheeses, so we picked up a little of everything, naturally. Then, we didn’t get far before coming across a little panaderia – the only thing better than shops with local goods, are shops like this that make bread and pastries unique to the city. So of course we collected an assortment of everything in site, again – little pastas (no, we’re not talking about spaghetti, but instead Spain’s little cookies that you see below), muffins, and a big slab of bread.
Now that we had stocked up enough food to feed this small village, we headed to the far side of town to take in the view of the river. The expansive Pisuerga River, which also passes through the city of Valladolid, was gushing to the brim due to recent storms, so much so that its medieval bridge seem virtually submerged in water.
Pisuerga River
From there we headed down the road only a few minutes to Valladolid where we joined some 80 Criado del Reyes for lunch (translation: 7+ hours of eating and gabbing). Our first course was served at 3:00pm, by which time I was of course starving and therefore had been stealing croquetas off of the kids’ table (with the help of Jacob´s mom – LOVE her), and no, I´m totally not above that. The meal started with a salad of salmon and cheese, followed by pimientos rellenos (one of my favorite Spanish dishes, and not to be confused with the Latin American version), and then a third dish of seafood crepes. I was marveling at how our meal had not included any meat – how could this be, Spain with no meat? At that moment, though, I noticed the unused steak knives at each of our place settings. Before I knew it, we were all being served solomillo wrapped bacon – yes folks, that’s pig wrapped in pig. Mentally, I’d already finished my meal after dish #2, so I’m afraid the solomillo wasn’t in my future.

Below is a picture of Jacob’s great grandparents – the reason for all of us reuniting. This picture was actually taken on their wedding day – apparently the wedding dresses used to be black! I only wish I had a waste like hers…I think.
Criado del Reyes
After coffees and champagne toasts, the group moved to the bar to continue the 10 years of catching up. While many were staying in town for the night, we had the drive back to Madrid to make, so it was time for us to go. So, we said goodbye the French way (a saying in Spanish that means without actually saying goodbye – go figure) because really, if we had to kiss everyone goodbye, then there´s a good chance we´d still be there doing so. Before heading home though, we took a stroll through Valladolid. I was pleasantly surprised by its bustling historic quarter full of colorful buildings with intricate balconies that reminded me much more of Northern Spain than anything I’d seen in awhile. I would liked to have stayed longer as it definitely seemed like a city worth getting to know better (particularly because I just learned it is where arroz con leche is from – now that is something that needs to be discovered!). Next time….

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