lunch at To-Bar

lunch at To-Bar

A note about Retired in Spain before this post actually begins…

I began this blog as a promise to friends and family back home that I would report on our adventures. I had rules in mind when I started, but those rules have evolved as time passes. I want this blog to be not only a record of our time here in Spain, but a help to others who might want to move here. So – my mental rule about not dwelling on individual restaurants has morphed into…if it’s great, post it!

We first heard about To-Bar from our conversation exchange partner. She hounded us every week about it, saying we HAD to check it out. We finally did. It’s behind the green door on a street near the Mercado. Like many places here, it looks like nothing from the street. We made a reservation, then showed up, not really knowing what to expect. As is still typical for us, we were there at 1:00, and we were the only ones in the restaurant for a while.

When we arrived, all of the tables were set up with carafes of red wine and half loaves of bread. The waiter arrived. Upon our request for white wine, he returned with a bottle and left it on the table. He also brought a selection of sausages—morcillo (Spanish blood pudding), mortadella, and spicy Iberian sausage—and toppings for the bread—aioli and a tomato/red pepper paste. We had a choice of seafood paella or not-seafood paella. We chose the seafood.

Then the real food started coming.

And coming.

  • Thin fried rice paper topped with tuna, goat cheese, cucumber, tomato, olives, and pickled onion.
  • Tempura fried vegetable. After several exchanges with the waitress and some help from google translator, we determined it was aubergine (eggplant). With a honey and red wine reduction.
  • Steamed bao bread with fresh grated tomato, tuna, and wilted baby spinach.
  • Shrimp. A lot of work to peel, but SWEET!
  • Pulpo Galicia: octopus on a bed of polenta with oil and spices.
  • THEN paella! With mussels, shrimp, and octopus.

By this time, the restaurant was packed – and LOUD. As I looked around the restaurant, I wondered how on earth these people could return to work after a lunch like this.

But we weren’t finished yet:

  • Dessert: a light sponge cake topped with sweetened condensed milk and a very light and fluffy chocolate mousse.
  • Alicante sweet wine
  • And – finally – coffee

Then the bill: 15€ per person, plus a whopping 5€ for the wine.

We finally finished and left 2 hours later, with the other diners still going strong.

Vale!

 

bar tales

bar tales

As Texans, we are always appreciative of a good margarita. The best one we’ve found in Alicante so far is the one at the Gourmet Experience at El Corte Ingles. Expensive by Alicante standards at 6 Euros, it is nonetheless excellent! And when Darin, our favorite waitress, is working, we get sample mango margaritas with la cuenta.

I’ve already posted about the disappointing pina-rita at Tia Juana’s. Last week, we stumbled onto Cactus Alicante, where the kitchen was not open, but the margarita was excellent, if a little sweet.

As we’ve ventured beyond Alicante, we’ve had other alcohol-related adventures.

Note: in Andalusia, even the seco wines are somewhat sweet.

In Jaen, we taught the bartender how to make a Rus Blanco with a dusty bottle of Tia Maria. With that successful experience under our belt, we settled into the lounge area of our hotel in Cordoba one evening for Tia Maria and cream. When the waitress seemed confused, we were able to convey that we were wanting a coffee liqueur, glasses with ice, and cold milk. She returned with Kahlua (even better), the glasses with ice, and the cold milk. She was amazed at our creation, I think mostly at the use of cold milk.

We tried again the next night, with a different waitress. We asked for Kahlua. She insisted they didn’t have it. After several exchanges, we settled for Tia Maria. This time, she brought warm milk. Not the same, as the ice melted quickly, but yummy dessert drink nonetheless.

Our last evening in Cordoba, we followed the desk clerk’s recommendation for Italian. The food was excellent, but they had no concept of Chianti. We settled for a local red. When in Spain…

Vale!

a perfect Saturday in Alicante

a perfect Saturday in Alicante

People wonder what we do here, and yesterday was as typical as any other.

We woke up to a perfect sunny day. We lingered over coffee and a leisurely breakfast while we caught up on life back home via email, Facebook, and our various news feeds.

About noon, we left, heading across Plaza Luceros to an area we haven’t explored yet. We made note of a driving school and a possible Spanish language school. Todd spotted a pet store: We’ve been looking for an animal rescue where we can volunteer, so we went in. Since they apparently focused on cats, Todd didn’t stay long. The shopkeeper didn’t speak enough English to help me – she thought we wanted to get a pet – so she went out onto the street to pull in a local who spoke more English. They conferred. She looked something up on her computer. He looked something up on his cell phone. After comparing notes, she wrote down a name and phone number. They mentioned ASOKA. I told them I had emailed them but gotten no response. They were not surprised. At this point, several friends came in, and they were recruited to be sure all was translated properly. We left with a possible volunteering contact. Vale!

At this point, we headed down the Rambla to one of our favorite places: Taverna San Pascual. We lingered over the newspaper and 2 liters of sangria, dates wrapped in bacon, potatos bravas, mushrooms sautéed in garlic, and ensalada mixta. Antonio takes good care of us!

While there, we got to chatting with an American girl from Chicago. Turns out Cristina is teaching in a town just up the coast. She loved her 2 years of teaching in Madrid, but teaching in Alicante region has not been as good. So she’ll be returning to Chicago this summer. She’s 32, and that’s tough when you’re on your own. Our experience so far is that the expats here are mostly retired, with a smattering of college students.

After soaking up the sun at the Taverna, we headed to another favorite place: Canada Coffee. We treated ourselves to an afternoon coffee and a pastry and listened to the assorted English conversations going on around us – a little touch of home.

Back at the apartment, we cruised Netflix while I organized pictures and worked on the blog.

A lovely, leisurely day in paradise! Vale!

 

Pina-ritas at La Tia Juana

Pina-ritas at La Tia Juana

Why wouldn’t we want to try a restaurant with the punny name La Tia Juana that purports to serve real Mexican food?

The décor was all tacky border, so we felt somewhat at home.

We ordered margaritas, of course. (Those of you who know me know that I have never acquired a taste for beer.)

The margaritas arrived: they looked a lovely green, but there were Sol bottles upturned in them. Upon tasting, they were more pineapple than citrus – WHAT???

We had a word with the waiter: these are NOT margaritas; they are micheladas. He offered to bring a drink with tequila. We agreed. Next appeared a glass of beer with a shot of tequila in it…The man at the next table informed the waiter that I didn’t want beer. We gave up and ordered sangria.

Todd was able to pull the beer bottles out of the “margaritas.” They were still not margaritas: too much pina and not enough citrus. So he drank the beer and I drank the “margaritas.”

In the meantime, at the table behind me, the guy dropped the beer bottle out of his margarita. Cleanup promptly ensued, but they never brought him another beer. I took over one of ours, and he raised his glass in salute.

As we were eating our rather tasty (but not authentic Mexican) food, another “margarita” arrived – courtesy of the guy at the table behind me.

So, the tally: we had each had 3 glasses of wine earlier at the InterNations mixer down the street + 3 “margaritas” and a sangria for me; 3 bottles of beer + another large beer with tequila for Todd.

Vale!

A leisurely lunch at La Mascleta

A leisurely lunch at La Mascleta

Now that the rain’s over and the wind has calmed down, we’re finally roaming beyond our neighborhood into the town.

We came upon an arroz restaurant: La Mascleta. We stopped in for lunch and were greeted enthusiastically by the owner.

No English menu. He spoke NO English. Todd started using his phone to translate the dishes, most of which had no translation. Romero (we found out his name later) came over and told us we wanted paella, probably with mariscos. When he mentioned octopus, I told him no. He disappeared, then returned with two artichokes in hand to see if those were okay. Todd added the calamari with blood sausage as an appetizer, and we settled in with our wine and beer.

While we waited, we admired the menu. Every surface of wall was covered with bullfighting memorabilia and professional quality photos of Fogueres.

Romero brought us two types of bread with mustard alioli, a refreshing change from the mayonnaise disguised as alioli normally served here with everything. The calamari arrived in a rich stew. Romero then brought us a board with two types of salad – “from me.” One was salmon and the other was crab with mayonnaise. And then: a plate full of clams in a rich butter sauce!

When the paella arrived, it was in a pan as big as our table. No plates – just eat from the pan! Shrimp, octopus (he had said atun, but we didn’t find it) and artichoke. Enough for four people, even without the appetizers! We worked at it as long as we could, then told him basta.

But we weren’t done yet. Romero arrived with two shot glasses of what turned out to be home-made rice milk liqueur with cinnamon sprinkled on top. When we asked him about it, he brought out the bottle, then came out with a bottle of whiskey infused with lemon and cinnamon, as well as a dessert that was some kind of raisin-based cookie-dough-textured wonderfulness. When we asked him what it was, he brought out a package of raisins and sprinkled several onto the plate. When Romero realized Todd was interested in whiskey, he brought out a bottle of 48% from Bhutan, of all places!

At this point, Romero’s son Daniel came into the restaurant. Introductions all around, then more rice-milk liqueur. We visited with Daniel while he ate. He has a house in the mountains outside of Alicante, but lives in Peru and travels all over making documentaries, mostly using drones. He was spending Christmas and another month at home, then headed to Thailand. He had lived in Shanghai for a while, apparently going to school.

It was the kind of meal we envisioned in Spain: friendly, leisurely, endless.

Vale!