Friday, July 24, 2015

Eating (and drinking) my way through Spain Part 3 -- Fiesta feasting in Leon and Burgos

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul is a major fiesta in Spain, celebrated in various cities and towns. 
We were lucky enough to be in Leon and Burgos the last week of June so we caught the fiesta 
in both places. 

There was a dance presentation featuring adorable little girls on a stage right in front of the Cathedral of  Leon.   It all looked so familiar --  just like any "piyesta" in the Philippines. 

We wandered a few streets away from the Cathedral and found bustling Plaza de Torres de Omana, 
a small square ringed by several bars and restaurants.  Tables and chairs had spilled out on the 
plaza where people were  enjoying their pre-dinner cocktails.  Or in our case, pre-dinner ice cream cones.

When dining out,  it's normal to just order a number of raciones or portions put together, 
family style.   We ordered  picadillo,  a cazuela of zesty chorizos al vino tinto and 
alcachofas con jamon or  artichoke hearts with ham  --  our token vegetable on the table.

I enjoyed the noisy, festive,  happy atmosphere.  It was great to see families having dinner  together,  from grandparents to grandchildren.  Dinnertime in Spain starts at 9 p.m. so I guess 
bedtime for these toddlers is much later.

The next morning, we wandered on to a street market  -- my kind of scene!  There were vendors 
selling everything from Spanish fans to Spanish bikinis.  Retail chaos at its best.
Jay literally had to drag me away.

Because of the fiesta, the stately Plaza Mayor had been invaded by this giant inflatable.

Plaza San Martin with its pretty pastel coloured buildings  had such a lively and vibrant atmosphere.  This must be Leon's happening restaurant row.

We snagged  the last empty table at El Colecho taberna Leonesa in Plaza San Martin where we discovered dishes  that were different from what we had tried before.  I loved these giant leeks with jamon cooked in olive oil and drizzled with a syrupy balsamic vinegar.  The leeks were sweet,
the jamon slightly salty and the balsamic vinegar brought the acidity that tied all the
flavours together.

The waiter suggested the house specialty,  setas or mushrooms with a sauce of
queso de Valdeon,  the blue cheese made in Leon from a blend of cow and goat's milk.
This was an intense flavour experience  -- the Valdeon queso was vivid and sharp, a great
topping for the mild, earthy tasting grilled mushrooms.

From Leon, we took the train to Burgos where our room at Meson el Cid looked out on this 
gorgeous view of the Cathedral -- the third biggest in Spain.

We took our first meal in Burgos at Restaurante Rincon de Espana,  just across the Cathedral.  

Cochinillo was on the menu so of course I had to have it.  The pork was succulent, very well seasoned and the skin melted like a pool of goodness on my tongue.  
Best of all, the cochinillo drippings were sinfully good.   The little voices in my head were 
screaming  "Don't do it!!!"  
But  I went ahead and sopped up that pork fat with a chunk  of bread.  Perfecto!

To appease my conscience for all that pork lard running through my veins,  there was 
also ensalada mixta and a very fresh baked sole.  The meal at Restaurante Rincon was a real 
treat and a good introduction to what gustatory delights Burgos would have to offer.

The city was also in the midst of their fiesta for Sts. Peter and Paul.  There was a gorgeous
display of floral wreaths and offerings beneath the statue of the Virgin Mary in the 
Cathedral square.

Burgos' Plaza Mayor was one big party place with food stalls, bands, jugglers, street performers --  everyone was just out to have a great time.

I saw my old friend, San Miguel and lined up for a glass.  The San Miguel beer in Spain tastes differently from the San Miguel  beer in Manila -- and I like them both.

It was easy to get into fiesta mode -- grabbing tidbits from various food stalls and just 
walking around,  cerveza in hand was a fun way to spend the evening.  

 The hotel  staff  had told us that there would be fireworks at 11:20  p.m.  We had the best
seats for this show, right from our hotel balcony.  The awesome display lit up the Burgos sky
for more than twenty minutes -- it was just estupendo!

The next day we continued our exploration of Burgos'  food scene  by having lunch at 
Casa Ojeda, along Calle Vittoria.  This popular restaurant has a bar and deli on the ground 
floor plus a dining room on the second floor.  We opted to take our meal on the terrace overlooking 
Plaza Libertad.  

Directly across us was the massive Casa del Cordon, the stone palace of the Constables 
of Castille.  This was where Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic Monarchs 
upon his return from  the Americas.

Salud to Columbus on his return!  I hope he had a cold glass of cerveza with the King.

Aside from beer,  I wonder what the King served Christopher when they met in the palace.   
Did he eat ensalada cesar?  Pollo asado with patatas fritas?

If the King served Columbus a dish of carrillera de vaca,  it would have been a wonderful gastronomic welcome.   Carrillera de vaca are  beef cheeks cooked till falling-apart-fork-tender 
in a smooth gravy of  red wine, onions, tomatoes, garlic,  olive oil and a pinch of saffron.  
I had never had beef cheeks before and this was a mouthful of bliss.  

 The lovely and platanos-lined Paseo del Espolon is a pedestrian only avenue that runs around the perimeter of the old town of Burgos.  Everyone was out doing paseo  on this balmy summer evening.

Our own paseo led us to this little bar on Calle de la Paloma.  How about one for the road?

How about three?  Our dinner of small plates consisted of these mini bocadillos topped with 
smoked fish drizzled with garlic and olive oil, a fresh salsa of tomatoes and jamon --  and yes, 
those little pieces of meat are nothing less than chicharrones.   And not just ordinary chicharrones 
but smoked pork belly chicharrones a.ka. bacon chicharrones.  Oink, snort, oink!

Were the bacon chicharrones good?  My mother taught me never to talk when my mouth was full.

Que lastima!  Time to take the train to San Sebastian and say adios to Burgos.  
Muchas gracias por todo!

No comments:

Post a Comment