Catchup Chronicles #5: Spain
One of my favorite countries in the world to visit food-wise has to be Spain. The food there is simply mind-blowing and out of this world. All the countless "tapas bars" that I'd been to in the States simply don't do it justice - the taste in Spain is just so much fresher and potent.
Indeed, I never was a huge fan of paella until I tasted the real deal in Spain, after which I was hooked. I guess the versions I had in the States were simply too bland and undercooked (at that time, it was just a boring seafood on rice). In Spain, my perception was duly corrected, with the olive oil and saffron bursting from the pan. (mmm...) Chilled gazpacho soup was always one of my favorites as a kid, but it wasn't until I had it in Madrid did I realize how much more thicker, garlicky, and oily it could be (I loved it so much that it became obligatory for me to order at nearly every single meal in Spain - sometimes asking for refills). And I had had steak tartare in Paris and in the States several times before, but none of these compared to the steak tartare I had in Ibiza; it was just a pungent eruption of spices (again, I loved it so much that I ordered it again the following evening at another restaurant, and it still tasted just as powerfully). My only regret here is not having taken more photos to share.
Well, if you ever hit Madrid, it's obligatory to head out to all the tapas bars. My favorite one had to be La Casa Del Abuelo (12 Calle de la Victoria, 91-521-23-19) for their gambas al ajillo: fresh little shrimp sizzling in a tiny little pan of olive oil and garlic. Head to the bar, stand and peel your shrimp (throw your shells on the ground), and eat. It's so simple, and yet I was utterly stunned (yes, I ordered another). Then head off to the next tapas bar! (Ham and more gazpacho figured in prominently that night.)
Spain is seriously paradise for food. The great thing is that Thai Airways (cheap fares yet Star Alliance mileage accruable) runs flights out there from Singapore, requiring stops in Bangkok and Rome, both of which of course also gastronomic heavens (read: stopover in both spots for some good eating). Want an extension to that? Pop on over to Morocco from Spain, and you've got yourself one heck of a food tour.