The Zamoran Invasion

Mario called it The Zamoran Invasion. My friend’s Spanish husband referred to it as The Spanish Invasion. Whatever you want to call it, invasion or otherwise, it was definitely chaotic. But also fun. We showed our guests, my in-laws, quite a few places and events, all of which I’ll get around to discussing eventually, but for now I’d just like to list a few stray observations:

Shouting about green spaces

A Zamoran, invading


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Anniversary Dinner at Madrid’s Teatro Real

Madrid’s Teatro Real Restaurant was the perfect place for Mario and me to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Elegant, glamorous, and ethereally silent, this restaurant is located on the second floor of the royal theater and is itself decidedly royal.

The Teatro Real, or Royal Theater, was originally built in 1850 in front of the royal palace. It served as the city’s opera house and housed the Madrid Royal Conservatory until 1925. There were several periods of reconstruction, but the theater opened for good again 1997. It hosts opera, concerts, and ballet and is home to the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Choir. Its many halls are decorated with works of art from the Prado and Reina Sofia museums.

Teatro Real Salón Naranja

The Salón Naranja is decorated with the portraits of Juan Carlos and Sofía

To enter the restaurant, you must walk through a few different salones, or rooms, all of which hhae a color theme.

Teatro Real Salón Verde

The restaurant itself is also magnificent. The starry ceiling replicates Madrid’s much-advertised cielo.

Teatro Real Restaurant Madrid

Source: Atrapalo

And although the restaurant has a capacity of 200, we were the only diners for a good hour! We ate early for Spain, at the elderly hour of 9 p.m.

We ordered the menú de degustación, which wasn’t really a tasting menu, but we got a good idea of what the restaurant does well. (Hint: most everything.)

To start we had a taco de salmón, with a bit of mustard and tarragon. I forgot to get a picture!

Teatro Real Restaurant Salmorejo

Next was perhaps my favorite plate of the night, salmorejo cordobés con virutas de jamón ibérico y huevo, salmorejo with shaved ham and egg . Salmorejo is a purée consisting of tomato, bread, oil, garlic, and vinegar, originating from Córdoba, Andalucía. This was breathtakingly good: creamy, tangy, and rich. The ham was obviously Iberian. I couldn’t stop telling Mario that I never wanted this dish to end!

Teatro Real Restaurant Esparragos

Next: espárragos blancos con huevo escalfado y aceite de piñones, white asparagus with poached egg and pine nut oil. There were also salmon eggs, perched atop. The egg itself was not salted, but once you bit into the salmon egg, it let out a perfectly juicy pop! of saltiness. The asparagus itself was perfectly cooked, and didn’t have the sometimes unpleasant texture of canned asparagus, which is a common dish in Spain.

Teatro Real Restaurant Fish

Now for the fish: corvina al horno con mejillones en salsa de coco y lima, oven-baked corvina with mussels in a coconut-lime sauce. The coconut and lime worked perfectly to complement the delicate taste of the corvina, and the onions were caramelized to perfection.

Teatro Real Restaurant Presa Ibérica

This dish was presa ibérica con mojo canario y patatitas confitadas, Iberian pork with Canarian mojo sauce and a caramelized potato.The meat was delicate, tender, and full of flavor, including thyme and sea salt. The mojo sauce went perfectly with the potato and the meat, giving it just a slight kick. After this dish, we were more than full. But there was still dessert …

Teatro Real Restaurant Dessert

Our dessert was light and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s day: piña colada en texturas, different textures of piña colada. There were dehydrated bits of sweet pineapple atop coconut cream with a pineapple sorbet underneath. Delicious!

Teatro Real Restaurant Chocolate Truffles

And lastly, just in case weren’t stuffed enough, they served us two decadent dark-chocolate truffles and candied orange peel. The chocolate was to’-die-for good, and the candied orange peel lent it just a hit of tartness and acidity.

All of this came with white wine to start and red to finish. The white was Fray Germán, a Verdejo, and the red was Ribera del Duero, Valdubón. The red was really quite full-bodied and rich, but as red-wine enthusiasts, we found it enjoyable.

Teatro Real Restaunt Couples

Here’s to one great year and many more! It was a meal worth repeating. (Next year, perhaps?)

Surprise: Spain’s Most Popular Dish Isn’t Paella

And while we’re at it, the most popular drink certainly isn’t sangría.

Paella Sign

Source: No Hurries, No Worries

Go to any touristy town in Spain, and you’ll inevitably see them—the signs outside restaurants offering different types of paella. Yellow, black, with seafood, without seafood, authentic, decidedly inauthentic—you’ll see it all. After all, all Spaniards love paella and it eat it all the time, right? It could even be called Spain’s national dish, no? And if you have it alongside a pitcher of sangría, all the better.

Source: The Food Network

Uh, not exactly.

Let’s not even get into what an “authentic” paella is, because the last thing I want are some angry Valencianos (or adopted Valencianos) leaving comments about how ignorant I am about paella. The truth is, though, they’d be right. Even after having lived in Spain on and off since 2008, I can count the number of times I’ve eaten paella on one hand.

Eating Paella

Photographic evidence

But people do eat paella in Spain, there’s no denying that. Obviously the idea came from somewhere. According to Saveur Magazine, the original paella “probably dates to the early 1800s and consists of saffron-scented rice cooked with rabbit, chicken, local snails called vaquetes, and three types of beans.” Rice itself has a long history in Valencia, as the Moors planted it there more than 1,300 years ago! And it thus became a ritual there, cooking rice-based dishes in the countryside over an open fire. It took a while for it to become the popular tourist dish it is today.

But I heartily believe that paella, as good as it has the potential to be, is not the dish Spaniards eat the most often, nor is it the most-consumed dish. What is? you ask. Good question. I have a theory:


Tortilla española. This egg-and-potato omelet (with or without onions) is, in my experience, the most commonly-served dish in Spain. It’s ubiquitous in bars and on tapas menus, and the truth is that it has the potential to be truly delightful, although it’s easy to screw up. It’s also—and this is key!—easy to transport, and Spaniards often make a bocadillo with it, something I at first found strange but now find genius.

There could be other contenders for the crown (jamón, cocido, gazpacho, chorizo), but I think that they are not eaten quite as often. Good jamón is expensive, cocido requires a lot of prep, gazpacho is more of a summer dish, etc. The thing about tortilla is that it’s inexpensive (potatoes, eggs, onion, olive oil, and salt are not pricey ingredients), filling, and—if made right—delicious. It meets all the requirements. (Okay, my requirements.)

But what about sangría? Do I mean to tell you that most Spaniards don’t order it when they go out to dinner with friends?

They might. I’m not saying it never happens, because I too have partaken in a jarra with friends. But honestly, I think cañas are the most popular drink to order at bars. (Or as those Sevillanos would say, cervecitas.) Wine is popular too, and gin and tonics are the thing to order at a bar de copas, but the most popular by far is the caña, a small glass of beer from the tap, generally around 200 centiliters.

Caña   tortilla

Tortilla + una caña + croquetas

So the next time you visit that tapas bar in the US, think twice about what is, as they say, “typical Spanish.”

What do you think Spain’s national food is? Drink?

Vino de Toro—There’s More than Just Rioja in Spain

Go into any bar in Madrid and ask for a glass of (red) wine, and they’ll likely give you an option: Rioja or Ribera del Duero? If it’s a wine bar, they’ll likely have other options, but most of the time you’re going to be offered one of these two Denominaciones de Origen, or Designations of Origin. But Spain’s wine selection goes way beyond these two regions to include ones like Valdepeñas, Somontano, Jumilla, and even Madrid. Today, I want to talk about my favorite region:

Denominación de Origen Toro

Source: Vinotic


Un Tinto Un Toro

¿Un tinto? ¡Un Toro!

Toro wines have a long history, starting before the Romans arrived on the Iberian peninsula. It is indeed plausible that when Cantabri’s (Celts) and Astures’ (Hispano-Celts) villages were raided, the invaders looked to steal their wine. The Romans and the Visigoths also left their marks. During the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth century, Toro wine was sold outside of the region and royal privileges were granted to them. There was a great demand for the wine at this time, especially among the pilgrims walking along El Camino de Santiago, so much so that King Alfonso IX of León ceded Toro territory to Cathedral of Santiago so that they would make their wine there as well!

Fun fact: in fourteenth-century Seville, the king prohibited selling any wine but Toro!

Toro wines are made from the tinta de Toro grape and are known for being full-bodied, powerful wines with rather high alcohol levels (14% is normal). If you like tannin-rich wine, these are the wines for you!

In honor of today’s Feria del Vino de Toro, I’d like to list some of my favorite wineries from the region (keeping in mind I haven’t tried them all!).

1. Elias Mora


I know I’ve mentioned them before, but if you’re looking for quality + price, they’re your people! Also the winery is run by women, which is always a plus. Their regular wine, aged six months in American oak, is delicious and runs about €6 a bottle in Zamora!

2. Cyan

Cyan Roble

Source: Bodega Cyan

Cyan was founded in 1999, but it is indeed one of Toro’s most recognized wines, as I have found it in my dear old Indiana. Nonetheless, they only produce about 150,000 bottles per year, helping them to maintain their quality standards.

Check out their Cyan Roble for low-cost, high-enjoyment wine!

3. Estancia Piedra

Estancia Piedra Roja

Source: Cofre Regalo Estancia Enológica

Estancia Piedra was actually started by a Scot, Grant Stein. In Scottish, Stein means piedra or rock, thus the name Estancia Piedra.

For a real treat, try the Piedra Platino, which spends 18 months aging in oak barrels and another 36 months before it goes on sale. You won’t regret it.

4. Numanthia

Numanthia Winery

Funnily enough, I’ve only ever had Numanthia wines in the States, as it can get rather pricey and my parents footed the bill. Forbes called it “Spain’s best red wine.” Robert Parker gave Numanthia’s Termanthia wine a perfect 100 in 2004, one of only nine Spanish wines to receive such a score.

5. Liberalia

Liberalia Toro Tres

Liberalia takes its name from the festival of Liber Pater and his consort Libera. Liber Pater was an ancient god of fertility and wine. We drank Liberalia Cuatro on Thanksgiving, the perfect accompaniment to a fine roast turkey!

6. Románico


The 2010 Teso La Monja Románico wine, produced by the Eguren family, is an entry-level wine, but Robert Parker valued it at 92 points. If you’re ever in Zamora, ask for it!

7. Matsu

Matsu Wine

Matsu first caught my eye because of their intriguing bottle art, quite different from most. The youngest wine shows a young man, the slightly aged wine shows a middle-aged man, and the oldest shows a rather decrepit old man. Matsu is a Japanese word that can be translated as “wait.” All their wines are naturally cultivated; they do not use herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides.

So the next time you’re visiting a wine shop in Spain (or anywhere else for that matter), try asking yourself the following: “¿Un tinto? ¡Un Toro!