Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lunchtime at roadside

After Júzcar and Cartajima my faith and blood sugar levels were running a bit low. Luckily the strength of the Gentleman's character rescued the situation (and the the interior of our Audi - I would have probably started chomping on that next). We settled for lunch at one of those numerous ventas that line the Spanish highways.

Ventas are exactly what they look like: family-run roadside restaurants offering fuss-free home-cooked meals. The original clientele they catered for was without a doubt the truck-drivers on their endless journeys. They don't look much and sometimes the appearance is just downright sad. The table cloths dancing alone in the wind at tables no-one's sitting in. The owner and his mate at the corner table staring into abyss in silence, cigarette burning off one after another.

But the food is home-cooked and sometimes genuinely excellent. We got lucky and we found one just like that. The kitchen was run by Maman and the menu boasted mouth-watering options, each more tempting than the next. The focus here at the barren mountain land was on game (Deer! Wild boar! Goat!) and on the local pork (obviously) - including some less popular options too (The whole head! Snout!)

To start with we had a couple of tapas. Fish salad turned out to be mayo-based salad of crab stick, cabbage and pineapple. Bizarre, but in its fruitiness rather refreshing combination. 

Boqerones en vinagre came with generous amount of garlic. Surprisingly it worked and was not at all too overpowering. Next time I too will be more daring with my recipe.

But the hands down winner of this round was chicharrones, a dish these only popular around here. Fried pork rind, por favor!

I've noticed blogging affects the way (and what) I eat. The goal is after all to demystify the food of Andalusia (and rest of the world) and to encourage people to occasionally opt out of that safe bet of steak and chips. "That I've already had, must have something else" - approach also forces myself to stay excited and open-minded. Open-minded to a point  I was toying with the idea of snout, simply because of its curiosity value in a photograph. But wild board won in the end - after I heard it would come with chestnuts. I loooove chestnuts and have had them a lot in France where they are often served with game. My expectations (and hunger) were high as I fantasized about a pot of chestnuts stewed with steaming chunks of slowly braised wild boar...

... but in reality the boar came with those chips and pickled vegetables even a truly good restaurants seem to love in Spain (as experiences in Nerja, El Chorro and Ronda among other places have proven).

In addition to strength of character The Gentleman has started to show signs of envy-evoking self-restraint. He wasn't going to have anything else to eat. Until the waiter came along with his recommendation of roasted suckling pig ("but is good!"). And right he was - succulent, fatty deliciousness all the way down to the trotters.

Even I couldn't have stomached a dessert... but seeing how the chestnutty crème caramel was promised to be "so goood!" how could we argue (anyone starting to see a pattern emerging?). And sure, what a light way to finish a lunch that was...

The wines were the house wines from Baron Ley, produced in Ronda region. And proved that they have character(s) and (lots of) personality. There are good ones and then the kind we had today. Though I'm sure the red one would have developed to give a lot more flattering first impression had it been left to breathe for, say, about three years.

At this point our ambitious plan was to head home.But then the waiter came over with digestives. I think you can already guess how that conversation went... Yep, "but is gooood!". So, a round of Ruavieja, that yellowish green liquor with thick, syrup-like consistency it was. This drink, originally from Galicia, is something restaurants often bring over after a meal on the house.

Then it was definitely time to head home and enjoy some siesta. And the total for the lunch? 41 euros. Now that if something is goood!

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