What I ate in Spain

the best and saltiest jamon only from Espana…

I have always wanted to go to Spain ever since I could remember. There’s something so fascinating about the people, their culture and the place itself. Something so unique and yet also so familiar. After all, we Filipinos got so much of our history from them — our food, words, religion, and (for some) even mestizo features! They seeped right into our blood and lifestyles. I mean how could they not, they were here for 300 years…

Or maybe, I just really got influenced to love them Espanol because I grew up being such a huge fan of Marimar and Thalia. I was probably seven years old and shaking my hips copying the way Marimar danced (sexily) during the opening credits. Oh my. How inappropriate for kindergarten me.

But really, this post is about authentic food! I got the chance to go to Spain last year for the World Youth Day and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences ever. One thing crossed out of my  bucket list. So let me take a stroll down memory lane while you have a scroll on my blog page!

a truck full of meat!

You know the weekend markets we have here in Manila? The ones in Salcedo and Legazpi Villages? Yes, this is basically that. Stalls were lined with fresh food like fruits, vegetables, ham, etc. The sight was even more adorable because it was mostly the old townspeople selling. Cute grandpas and grandmas. (Europe really does have an ageing population…)

These pictures were taken in a town in Caceres, a province in the southern part of Spain. Our group was hosted by this community. Really, I left a part of my heart here. The people were like the fruits in the picture below, bursting with energy and color! And so, so generous.

If I’m not mistaken, I bought and ate my first persimmon from that pile. (To be honest, I’m not sure of the name of the fruit I ate! My bad.) Eating it was probably like how Snow White felt when she took a bite from the apple… So delicate and tempting. It was a huge, dark in color and very sweet.  I held my fruit in a thin, clear plastic and its juices dripped into my arms and the plastic. I think it stained my fingers a darker shade of pink for a bit.

preoccupied with their activity

Meet Padre Jesus, one of the most endearing priests I have met in my life. He also looks SO much like Robbin Williams — only Spanish version. Up until now he messages me on Facebook and asks me how I am. He is really sweet and thoughtful.

Here he is picking some fruits. Ripe and ready to eat.

So excited and hungry while waiting for the paella to finish cooking! It’s the REAL thing! Judging from the size of the paellera (and there’s two of them!) you can tell how many people it was going to feed. A fiesta indeed.

Delicious! Look at that, so moist. The ingredients weren’t scrimped on too which makes it all the more flavorful. This wasn’t my only serving, by the way. Had at least another!

In Spain, drinking is a regular activity for practically all of them. At night when we would go out after dinner, we’d see them in town bars — even the old people — talking and bonding over a few drinks and this would last till after midnight. Their lifestyle/schedule is very different from ours. Breakfast is 10, lunch at 2, siesta, dinner at 10.

Variety of alcohol brands to choose from

On one of our World Youth Day activities where we camped out and waited for Pope Benedict, we were each given our own “foodie pack.” This is what it contained. This is food for an overnight and I swear, we couldn’t go hungry. It was so amazingly complete and the snacks were all yummy. See those cold cuts, that’s my favorite!! The saltiest jamon in the world and I didn’t get sick of it even if we ate it almost everyday there.

Yup, all for me!

These random snapshots of the food I ate in Spain does not encapsulate at all what their food is really about. I am one day going back there primarily as a food trip. Literally.🙂

Cupcake Baking!

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I love to bake. I feel like I’m in my element when I’m baking. I imagine I’m my own Ina Garten looking so graceful and inspiring while I try to whip up my dessert. Of course, this is not the case. Baking is hard work and is nerve-wracking. Gathering all the ingredients without making a mess and measuring them with precision isn’t completely relaxing. But it’s a fun kind of stress.

I enjoy baking my red velvet mini cupcakes the most. I’ve trademarked it among family and friends as the red velvet cupcake with the melted, unglamorous cream cheese frosting.  I admit I’m no kitchen goddess but at least they say my creation’s delicious. There’s something so captivating with the way the red food coloring transforms this mixture of unlikely ingredients (oil, vinegar, cocoa, egg, etc) into something so exquisite looking. When mixing’s done I scoop it into my mini cupcake pan careful not to drip outside of the holes. Every drop is too precious to waste. I wait for ten minutes looking inside the oven window now and then and get amazed every time I see it slowly spring up. It’s like a chemistry experiment, only “cooler”.

Seeing the cupcakes come to life excites me so much and the smell it gives the kitchen lifts my spirits all the more. I open the oven; take out my cupcakes, quickly spreading icing on top and straight it goes into my mouth for my first taste test, which I follow up with the second, third and fourth cupcake until I realize I’ve taken too many “taste tests”.

This is why I love baking cupcakes – I use my mind yet I lose my mind just being in the moment making them. There is nothing yummier and more fun than that!

(My red velvet cupcakes took the top tier during a wedding. What a star!)

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Aria Cucina Italiana

I often hear that Aria is one of the best dining hubs in Boracay. However, I haven’t eaten here during two times I’ve been to the island. First, because I knew it was quite expensive and second, because I don’t really associate “fine eating” with the beach life.

And so Aria has already opened its second branch in Manila at the Bonifacio High Street Central. I knew I had to swing by soon enough to taste the food here for myself. It was a Sunday when I finally did and it was a day to take advantage of this “parent meals” resto — meaning pricier-than-norm restaurants that are better off visited with parents!

Risotto allo scoglio

Risotto allo scoglio, Php 650

Seafood risotto. I’m a big lover of all kinds risotto, and because my dad is big on seafood, we got this. I loved that it had lots of seafood bits because it gave it a stronger aftertaste that lingered on my tongue. The rice was flavored with tomato and cooked just before it got too mush, giving it better texture. It was good overall but it lacked that punch. This was a subtle, safe but not an exciting risotto. (I couldn’t help but compare it to my all-time favorite seafood risotto at Amici, oozing with flavors.)

Fettina di manzo alla puttanesca

Fettina di manzo alla puttanesca, Php 540

Puttanesca means pasta in my head, but no this wasn’t pasta. This was beef tenderloin cooked in olive oil, garlic and sage. Indeed, it was very tender and soft making it easy to chew. You can taste the natural flavors of the ingredients with every bite. It was good but I dare say again that I wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t help but imagine that it was something that could simply be cooked in some homes because it didn’t need much flair.

Lapu Lapu in Aqua Pazza

Lapu Lapu in Aqua Pazza, 620

This one was more exquisite compared to the other two. It was a soup that I enjoyed as I ate more of it. I was surprised to taste a hint of spiciness that added character to it. The soup was also filled with lots of meat. It was cooked with white wine and cherry tomato sauce.

Capricciosa pizza

Capricciosa pizza, Php 580

Really, really good. If the others didn’t catch my fancy, this one was definitely the star of the show. After all, Aria is better known for its pizzas. Made with cherry tomatoes, artichokes, farmers ham, mushrooms, kalamata olives and mozzarella. Every bite was a burst of wonderful flavors in my mouth. So rich but no one element being obnoxious and distracting the others. This rarely happens I tell you, but my dad actually wanted the last piece and that says a lot (him being not at all a pizza fan).

If the basis for the meal was the pizza alone, Aria meets my expectations with flying colors. However, the others that we ordered were a bit short on spectacular. For the price that we paid, I think they could have done a better job at creating distinct flavors and at plating. The meals could have looked more visually appealing and better “decorated.” I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon, but if I do, you bet I’ll be focusing on those pizzas — lots of kinds to choose from and of which I’m more assured to be dee-licious!

Location: Upper Ground Level, East Superblock, Bonifacio High Street Central

7th Ave. corner 29th St., Bonifacio Global City