I Haven’t Blogged Much This Summer—Why?

Here’s the thing: I haven’t blogged much this summer because I haven’t wanted to. 

Yep, here I am, a blogger, admitting that sometimes blogging sucks. Sometimes it’s really fun, though! You know, when you’re inspired or doing lots of things you think others will think are cool or when you have loads of things to say. The truth is, none of these things are happening right now. I’m not inspired, at least not to talk about Spain, and when I do a post about what has been really fun, practically no one responds. (See my last post.) But, as an experiment, I’ve come up with a list of reasons why I choose not to blog sometimes:

My readers won’t find it interesting.

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Old West Style—My 2014 Summer Vacation

Hey guys! So it turns out I decided to go on vacation and not post at all (!!). Nope, I didn’t schedule any posts, and I care absolutely nothing about it. I’m not the world’s most-dedicated blogger, even if I do occasionally find myself loving it. Where did I go?

I headed out west to visit my brother and his wife, who live in Nevada near Lake Tahoe. An idyllic place to live, wouldn’t you say? Yep, yep, it was pretty idyllic. Except that it was cold and rainy on our last day, but other than that, the West (with a capital W) treated us pretty darn well. Here are some of my photos, all taken on my iPhone.

Mount Tallac HikeThe beginning of a long, arduous hike up Mount Tallac

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Un Tinto, Un Toro—Toro’s Wine Festival

Did I ever mention to you that one time I (along with three others) won 30 bottles of wine at the Toro Wine Festival?

Wine from Toro's Wine FestivalUh yeah, that’s all ours

I’m a big fan of Toro wine, as you may have guessed. Toro is a small town located in the Zamora province, and its wine is divine! (Sorry for that random rhyming. Really, so sorry.) It’s not as well known as Ribera del Duero (another favorite) or Rioja, but the wines from Toro are some of my favorites, perhaps because I’ve had the chance to try so many of them. In fact, I know way more about Toro wine than any wine in the U.S.!

Every year, Toro holds a wine festival, la Feria del Vino de Toro, in its bullfighting ring. You pay €5, and you get five drink tickets. You want to know a secret, though? Hardly anyone asks for them, meaning we were able to try more than five. Shhh! It’ll be our little secret.

Toro Wine Festival

IMG_0931

This year, the Toro wine board had posted that the person who uploaded the “most original” photo to their Facebook page would win … 30 bottles of wine!

30 bottles of wine?

That seemed like, um, a lot. All for simply uploading an “original” photo? I told my companions about this contest, and my friend Luis suggested the photo—and it seemed like a winner! After all, the idea was originality, and this was original.

Un Tinto, Un Toro

We took this photo on the sands of the bullfighting ring. Do you get it yet? You can be forgiven if you don’t. Toro’s wine slogan is “Un Tinto? Un Toro!”, which means “A glass of red wine? A glass of TORO red wine!” And toro also means “bull;” thus, the bull horns.

Un Tinto, Un Toro Waterlogue

We uploaded the first photo, and then I browsed around to see others’ photos, which didn’t impress me too much. There were a few selfies, a picture of a glass of wine in the bullfighting ring, and our photo, which we all felt stood above the rest. But of course we had to wait, so we just kept drinking wine for another hour.

IMG_0934Don’t you love the handy wine-carrying pouches?

After we all were feeling sufficiently lightheaded, we set off to have lunch, tapas-style, along Toro’s main thoroughfare, Puerta del Mercado.

On Monday, I got a private message on Facebook from Toro, stating that I was the winner … Where should they send the 30 bottles of wine? It goes without saying that we’re set for wine for the foreseeable future!

Have you ever tried Toro wine? Ever been to Toro?

What American Tapas Restaurants Get Wrong

The other day, while reading my mother’s copy of Reader’s Digest, I stumbled along a “funny” quote:

What the ...?

What the …?

This shouldn’t have enraged me … but it did. Okay, perhaps “enraged” is the wrong word to use, but I was rather miffed after reading this. I even Tweeted about how this person clearly didn’t get tapas. But then I thought about it some more. This person did get tapas, except he had only had tapas in American restaurants, meaning his experience was worlds away from what real tapas are like. I guess I couldn’t blame him, though I did blame Reader’s Digest for publishing his inane comment.

The real question is—What do American restaurants do wrong when it comes to tapas? Is it even possible for them to do it right?

American restaurants serve tapas at raciones price.

In Spain there are usually a few different categories of dishes on the menu, including tapas and raciones. Tapa are individual sizes, whereas raciones are meant to be shared among 3–4 friends. In the U.S., the restaurants make you pay much more for smaller-than-raciones sizes, meaning the guy in my picture is, um, right.

Whole Foods refers to tapas as “tiny treasures of Spain.”

American restaurants hardly ever give you anything for free.

Don’t you love getting something “for free”? It’s not really free, but in many Spanish restaurants (outside of certain areas), you’ll get a free tapa when you order a drink (a beer, a glass of wine, or a soft drink). I’ve never been to a tapas restaurant in the U.S. that does this.

There is no tapeo experience.

The true Spanish tapeo experience involves walking from bar to bar to get the best thing at each particular bar. In Zamora, for example, we know the best place to get a pincho moruno (pork kabob), calamares (fried squid), and a sandwich made with pork loin and Cabrales cheese.

You go from bar to bar with a group of friends. Ponéis todos un bote, meaning you all pool your money for a kitty—you then use this money to pay at each bar instead of everyone paying for their own drinks at each place. (You must put someone in charge of this. Choose wisely.) At the end of the night, if there’s money left over, we usually just save it “for the next one.” In Spain, there is never the last round; it’s always la penúltima (next to last).

The drinks are expensive.

When I come back from Spain, I can never believe how much wine is here. You want me to pay $10 for one glass of mediocre wine?! And you’re going to serve it to me room temperature? And you’re going to fill the glass up? I know it’s not like that in nicer places, but so many places just don’t know how to serve wine. At all. In Spain, you can get a good glass of wine for €3–€4 in Madrid, and in Zamora, we pay for €1.30 for a really decent glass of Toro wine.

Beer in Spain, if not usually good, is at least cheap. There are more and more places to get craft brews, but those tend not to be your traditional tapas bars.

And stop it with all the sangría, okay? Spaniards do drink it—sometimes—but most will likely opt for a beer, wine, or even vermouth.

Paella.

I know not even to get a Valencian started on paella, so I won’t go too into too much detail. But stop with the paella crimes, okay? Just stop!

So what do American tapas restaurants actually do right?

In my opinion, not a lot. They push things like sangría, they mix up Spanish with South American, and they charge way too much for way too little. However, I can say one thing: The taste of the food is good, even if there’s too little of it to really appreciate.

What’s your experience with tapas restaurants in the U.S. or other countries besides Spain?