August 9, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

javea, spainI’ve got a little secret to share: a little place called Jávea in the province of Alicante. I probably shouldn’t be telling you about this secret, but you’ll just keep it between you and me, right?

Located on the eastern coast of Spain, the beach town of 30,000 people stands out among the hundreds of other coastal pueblos. I can’t quite put my finger on just one thing – perhaps it’s the manicured and well-kept streets, or maybe the attractive quintessentially Spanish homes, or even the white-pebbled beaches. Then of course you can’t avoid falling in love with the rocky hillsides that jet out of the lush vineyard-covered valleys. Somehow, little Jávea blends the classy charm of Northern Spain and the laid-back vibe of the South.

I was hypnotized. And hardly taking any pictures. Guilty as charged.

We stayed at a friend’s sprawling vacation home that hangs on the hillside facing the sea. From there, we watched as sail boats swirled around in the bay. The next day, we were on one of those sailboats, jumping off the back into the salty Mediterranean waters, spying blue- and silver-tinted fish under the sea, and noshing on fried almonds.

It was horrible. Horribly horrible. I wouldn’t recommend it. Forget that I told you about any of this.
beach in javea spain

August 4, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

Because Tenerife happens to be more than just mojo and bananas, here are some other shots from my recent trip to the popular Spanish Island.

houses in tenerife
San Francisco-style painted house in Santiago del Teide.

Ginormous koi fish at our hotel. (Not really Tenerife-ish, but they’re pretty, so why not?)
banana in tenerife, spain
Me, a banana and some Germans. Sounds about pretty much par for the course on the trip.
cactus in tenerife spain
Creepy cactus.
lapas, limpets or sea snails in tenerife spain
These are lapas, which I just learned are called limpets in English. Do you know what those are????? Well I didn’t either until about 30 seconds ago. They are seawater snails. Excuse me while I go wash my mouth out. Sick, sick, sick. (And no, I didn’t like them.)
oldest tree in tenerife spain
Apparently this tree is at least 1000 years old. The palm tree is trying to give it a run for its money, though.
old women in tenerife spain
Gosh, I wonder why I don’t just love Spanish grandmas. (Shortly after trying to slyly take this picture, one of the grandmas turned and gave me the look of death, sending me scurrying in the other direction.)
pilot whales in tenerife spain
Whale/dolphin watching, we came across these dolphin-like pilot whales. I suppose we got our money’s worth?
landscape of tenerife spain
A rare moment on our trip when the sun peeked through the clouds.
cheap lunch in tenerife spain
Our entire AMAZING lunch in the town of Garachico only came to 18.20€. IN. SANE.

August 2, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Food and wine, Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

The Island of Tenerife is covered in bananas – plátanos, to be exact. They’re everywhere you look.

Now I’m not bananas for bananas, but I make a mean banana bread, so when visiting Tenerife recently I was kind of thrilled at the prospect of trying all sorts of fruit-based desserts (and non-fruit-based desserts – all desserts really).

Tene-huh? Located off the western coast of Africa (but technically Spain), Tenerife is an island of contrasts – from the El Teide volcano (Spain’s highest point) to the dry, cactus-covered shorelines. It’s Spain meets Hawaii meets Arizona.

The Canary Islands archipelago also happens to be an old stopping point for ships making journeys to the Americas. I suppose it’s no wonder, then, that language accents and cuisine got all garbled up in the process. Listening to a Canarian speak might sound more like someone from Puerto Rico than Spain (not surprising considering the thousands of Canarians who’ve emigrated Latin America). And some of the cuisine may not remind you of the typical Spanish fare that I never seem to stop babbling about.

With that in mind, I came prepared to do my usual food research (step one: eat, step two: eat, step three: repeat). Scouring the menus, however, I was lost and confused by the lack of banana-related dishes – and by lack, I mean none. This place is the banana capital of the world (according to me) – how can they not have banana everything?

But somewhere between scuba diving with turtles (monumental day for me) and feeding a donkey, I discovered that other amazing non-banana dishes do exist in Las Canarias – specifically, mojo. Not pronounced mo-jo à la Austin Powers, but rather mo-ho. Initial thoughts upon trying this Canarian specialty: what bananas?!?

Typically served as two different sauces (although more than two exist), the zesty red and green mojos transported me to another place. Between the familiar flavor of cilantro in the green, and the spicy kick of the red, the tastes were more reminiscent of the Mexican food I’m used to than that of traditional Spanish cuisine. While the sauces are often eaten with anything, from fish, to chicken, they are most famously served with the Islands’ small potatoes.

They aren’t just your regular tortilla potatoes, though. They’re papas arrugadas, or wrinkly potatoes. The smooth-as-butter textured taters typically soak in salt water before being set out to dry. The resulting “wrinkly” potato has a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and a salty skin that makes it taste like it came straight from the sea. Dipped in some of that mojo and you’ve got yourself an irresistible combination. I’m not going to lie – I’d drink the sauces if no one was looking. Maybe lick the bowl too.

Meanwhile, aboard our whale-watching boat, we were finally served the seemingly unpopular plátanos. No sugar added, no fancy sauce, nothing fried or doused in whip cream, just your basic banana – peel and all. And I couldn’t have been happier. I cradled the forgotten fruit in my hands, took a picture with it, and threw it in my bag, committed to eating it and giving it its much deserved attention later.

The next day, while traversing the Island, we came upon – surprise – more banana plantations, at which point I demanded we stop. With newfound affection, I snuck up to the roped-off plants. Banana in hand, I peeled it open and savored every last bite, contemplating how it might taste with some mojo.

July 20, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Trips to the US

Announcement: I’m heavily considering giving up my professional pursuits to just dig shellfish. Perhaps I’m not entirely serious, but what is the deal with me and mollusks? I’m kind of obsessed.

Initially, I didn’t have any intentions of shellfishing when heading north of San Francisco to Tomales Bay a couple of weeks ago. But when my friend mentioned sun, picnic, wine and shuck-em-yourself oysters, all decision-making abilities got washed out with the tide. Plus, given my lifetime of summers spent clam digging, and my obsession with the marsicadoras in Galicia, I suppose it was no surprise that I ended up playing with oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company.

And so there I sat, shucking shellfish like it was my job (and I wasn’t half bad at, I must say), washing them down with white wine, hummus and organic cherries. Several oysters and a wicked sunburn later, we headed down the road to the famously quaint restaurant Nick’s Cove. Alone at the bar, the bartender entertained us with magic tricks while we sipped on more wine (making the tricks seem that much more magical, of course). In typical Bay Area fashion, the sun blazed at our picnic location, but just five minutes away at Nick’s, we found ourselves in the middle of a chilly fog bank.

With that, I leave you with some Tomales Bay eye candy. And now, after nearly four weeks in the US, I will return to my regularly scheduled euro blogging (you know – subject matter that includes musings on mullets and Spanish country western fiestas). I do hope I didn’t bore you all these last weeks with too many shots of shellfish and beaches – but really, isn’t the West Coast spectacular???!!!

July 5, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

Vashon Island, just a ferry’s ride away from Seattle, is and always will be my ultimate sanctuary. Frozen in time, nothing ever really changes there – not the landscape, not the picture-perfect sunsets, not the row of stationary bikes taking in the view of the water, not even my 92-year-old grandma. Vashon somehow seems like a parallel universe where everything slows down and moves with the tide. In fact, I often spend my days there measuring the hours based on the shifting sea. Relaxation is inevitable.

I’m thinking pictures might get the point across a tad better than words, so without further ado, here’s handful of shots from my recent trip.

Never a dull sunset.

Clams I dug from my grandparents’ beach. I’m pretty much a professional clam-digger.

Peonies in the garden.

I moved the crab’s rock. He wasn’t happy about this.

Ukulele lessons – the strum-in is tempting, but I think I’ll pass.

Life ring or peace sign?