Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fried Potatoes of My Dreams

A theme quickly emerged during my Spanish adventure and a not unpleasant one. Everything was fried. With very little effort, I had something fried every day, but only once did I have fried potatoes (well, twice when you count my return visit the next day).

And they were awesome.

Fried potatoes with eggs and chorizo. It sounds like breakfast, but it was actually dinner at a smoky bar. K and I stood for a full ten minutes watching the kitchen in action. We watched not because we wanted to, but because we couldn't figure out how to order and get a table. So we watched. And saw many dishes of papas con huevos appear and then disappear as people took them to their tables. We finally placed our own order using a combination of popularity test and whatever looked yummy. We asked some nearby diners what they were eating and decided upon papas con huevos, fried eggplant with molasses, and since we liked the look of it, a bacalao omelette (you didn't think I'd abandoned bacalao, did you?).

(NOTE: We knew we wanted eggplant, but couldn't find it on the menu (our vocabulary being rather limited). So we gestured and attempted to describe a round purple fruit to a very bewildered couple who finally made sense of our gesticulating. And yet, after all that work I've since forgotten the word for eggplant.)

But first, the potatoes, which I'll be the first to admit are not my favorite starch in the world, except for at this little cafe in Madrid, where they became my favorite starch in the world. When deep fried, the potato slices were just thick enough to be soft in the center while maintaining a super duper crispy exterior. Hit with some salt, they were so good that I walked down the street the next day with a batch as a post-dinner snack. On top of the potatoes, a the fried egg, except that it wasn't really fried, but rather poached in oil. The effect is a silky egg that you break over the potatoes, which amazingly stay crunchy, and as a topper, bits of chorizo (not raspberries as the photos may appear). Yummy!

Yes, we ate other food too. The fried eggplant was ethereal and had a melting quality which would have been spectacular had I not been so mesmerized by the
papas con huevos. I found the molasses dip a bit sweet, so ended up ditching it in favor of having eggplant fries.

As for the
balcalao omelette? We'd seen some crispy fritters at another patron's table, and they told it was the balcalao omelette, but when the omelette arrived, it looked completely different. A case of mistaken identity. The omelette was watery and harmless, but really nothing compared to the potatoes and eggs. I miss potatoes and eggs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"When we buy shoes we'll treat ourselves to yogurt."

I can't remember which of us said it, but the statement seemed to make perfect sense to M and me. Buy cute shoes. Treat selves to yogurt. Happily, we quickly found shoes. Even better, we got to sit on a sunny bench with our cups of frozen yogurt. Despite it being our third snack of the day at barely past noon, we were hungry, and the yogurt was excellent. When browsing for shoes and needing a snack, try Yogurt Bar at 2760 Octavia St., SF.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How Starbucks Failed Me

I never thought I'd so desperately wish for a Starbucks, but in Bilbao, I found myself wishing just that. It wasn't a tall nonfat latte that I craved, but rather the cup in which it was served. A disposable cup. An insulated cup. A cup that could be carried out of the shop and to my dear friends who wanted hot tea. Friends who were unfortunately sick and stuck at a hotel with no running water. Tea with honey was easy to find. Tea with honey for take away was difficult. I tried a cute little restaurant where I'd just had lunch and they waved a porcelain teacup at me. I contemplated leaving my driver's license as collateral, but figured I'd try my luck elsewhere, after all, this was a city with lots of eateries. It was approaching siesta time, but since I'd seen Starbucks all over Barcelona, I figured my chances of coming upon one in Bilbao were decent. I headed towards another side street and came upon a Chinese restaurant that was still open. I figured they had to have tea. And they did. But sadly no to-go cups. And as I walked on, I realized the all the shops were closed, except for a single bar. I asked for two teas and the bartender handed me two tea bags. So I put on my most pathetic look and said my friends were sick and really, really wanted tea, but that we didn't have hot water. Thankfully the bartender didn't ask me why, as it was quite beyond my abilities to explain that the hotel was doing plumbing maintenance. He disappeared for ten minutes and came back with two tiny plastic cups, clearly made for cold drinks. He brewed the tea, wrapped the cups in some napkins and passed them to me. The napkins were a nice thought, but did nothing insulate my hands from the squishy, on the verge of melting cup. I got strange looks walking back to the hotel, but the cups were still intact.