I used to have a vague prejudice against cold soups. I’d tasted several gazpachos that were more like V8 or bland salsa than a meal, so I wrote off the whole category of non-hot soups – until a fantastic chilled beet soup changed my mind completely. Now I’m all about these cool customers. Especially right now, when the produce is at its peak, and I will do anything to avoid turning on the stove.
I love a gazpacho that is well-balanced and refreshing: a little sweet, a little acidic, not too heavy on any one flavor. This recipe uses equal parts tomatoes and peaches (or any other stone fruit you have on hand; it’s also delightful with nectarines and apricots).
It’s the perfect heat-wave dinner. Add a crisp glass of white wine, and your “I hate everyone and everything” attitude will slowly start to fade.
It’s not a bad idea to double the recipe. For your future self.
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (or Cavalandia, as we dubbed it on our last trip there) is a beautiful little town less than an hour by train from Barcelona. It’s full of wineries where they produce cava, the delicious Spanish sparkling wine made using the champagne method.
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is one of our favorite Barcelona day trips because:
It’s so easy to get to (no DD’s necessary) and involves a day of walking from winery to winery to restaurant to winery
It’s very affordable (full disclosure: my palate is not refined enough to appreciate expensive champagne, and I am very happy with a 5-euro bottle of cava brut nature)
It’s a lot of fun with a group, especially folks visiting from out of town
I recommend calling or emailing wineries a few days in advance to reserve places if you want to take a tour. Or go for the DIY approach and take over a winery’s garden for a barbecue. More details on both methods below.
How to Get to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia by Train
Take the RENFE suburban train (Rodalies) R4 toward Sant Vicenç de Calders. It stops in Barcelona Sants, Barcelona Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona La Sagrera-Meridiana and Barcelona Arc de Triomf, and you can buy tickets from the machines in the station (less than 9 euros round trip). The train goes directly to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, no transfers, and the journey is about 45 minutes.
There are two trains an hour – but the times listed on the website and the real times trains actually arrive are often a few minutes off in either direction. Just to keep you on your toes. So arrive early to be safe.
You can also buy the Freixetren ticket from the machines at the station, which includes a round-trip train ticket and a tour of the Freixenet winery for 11 euros. If you’re interested in doing this, you still have to reserve a time for the tour on the Freixenet website.
Wineries to Visit in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
Freixenet and Codorníu are the biggest wineries in the area, and they have a larger international footprint than some of the smaller cellars. Both have good English tours, though you don’t get the personalized experience you have at a smaller producer. Freixenet is definitely the easiest to reach; it’s right next to the train station. Codorníu is a gorgeous property with cool modernist architecture – but it’s not within walking distance, so you’ll have to spring for a cab ride (there are usually taxis in front of the station).
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The other wineries that we’ve visited have all been stellar and within a 15-minute walk of the train station:
Gramona: Make a reservation for the historic cellar (they also have a newer facility in a different location). The staff is very nice and the tastings are excellent. (We’ve only done this tour in Spanish, and I’m not sure if they offer other languages.)
Solà Raventós: I love, love, love this place. It’s a one-man operation, and the proprietor is so nice and generous with his time (and cava) – showing you the caves, explaining each step of the process and letting you taste a wide selection of cava. We’ve visited twice and will go back again. (Tours in Spanish and Catalan.)
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Recaredo: We had such a good experience here. We took Brian’s parents when they came to visit, and our guide took tons of time to show us around and let us enjoy a few glasses. (We did this tour in English.)
Where to Eat
Ticus is in the town center, and it has a great menu del día that never disappoints (plus lots of local cavas and wines to try).
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If you call a few days in advance (or perhaps even the day before; they were very patient with the million changes we made to our reservation – and we came with a group of nearly 20), you can reserve space to relax and grill for the day… all while drinking the winery’s chilled cava on demand. The winery provides glasses and wood for the barbecues, but you have to bring everything else you need to cook and eat.
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We also saw that the winery across from Cava Giró i Giró – Cava Blancher – has a similar barbecue setup, with interior and exterior tables available on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Guess it’s almost time for another trip out to Cavalandia…
First of all, Toledo, SPAIN. All searches for “Toledo” seem to default to Ohio, which I’m sure is nice(ish) but not the topic for today.
This Semana Santa (i.e. Holy Week, i.e. the week before Easter), we took a trip to Madrid, a city that we both love, and Toledo, a city I visited briefly as a college student, and a new city for Gillian. We’ll talk about Madrid separately, but here are some food and logistics we figured out so hopefully you won’t have to.
Getting there is super easy; you’ve got two main options: bus or train. We opted for the train (AVE or AVANT), which left from Atocha and arrived at the Toledo train station in less than 30 minutes. Round-trip cost per person was 20.60€. The bus will cost you about half the price but will take you three times as long.
Side note: you can purchase train tickets online from renfe.com, but we’ve run into problems when using a non-Spanish credit/debit card. Not having a chip in our card also causes some issues when trying to buy from the machine in the train station. Bottom line: you can pay via PayPal when buying online from renfe.com and sidestep this whole mess.
There are two types of bus that can take you up to the city (I don’t recommend the walk with bags) from the Toledo train station: a red one and a blue one. The red one is a tourist bus that will take you to Plaza Zocodover for 2.50€ and picks up directly outside the exit of the train station (inside the perimeter wall). The blue one is the city bus, and lines 5, 61 and 62 will also take you to Plaza Zocodover, for 1.40€. The bus stop is outside of the perimeter wall to the right as you exit the station.
Where to eat:
As a general rule, we avoid any place that has huge picture-board menus hanging outside, and this made finding a restaurant in Toledo a challenge. We did find a few really great places that are worth mentioning:
C/Alfonso X El Sabio 2
Phone: +34 925 25 75 53 www.restaurantekumera.com
Closed December 25, 31 and January 1.
This place has a beautiful outdoor seating area on a street that seems to be off the tourist traffic heavy streets. They have an amazing mix of tapas (3.00-4.50€), tostas (7.00€), larger plates to share (8.00-13,50€), fish (12.50-15.50€) and meats (12.90-15.50€). A tosta is a large piece of bread with, for example, black olive tapenade spread, roasted red peppers and anchovies (delicious, by the way). Some of the items like cochinillo (roast suckling pig) appear a couple of times on the menu and can be ordered in smaller portions (tapas) or larger entrée portions.
Before taking the train back to Madrid we came by again for lunch and had the Menú del Día. Three courses, included wine and was 12.90€ each.
The menu was:
Primeros: (pick one)
Salad with manchego cheese cubes, seasonal fruit and dried fruits vinaigrette
Salted gulas (a tiny eels that look like pasta) with shrimp and ajillo (a spicy garlicky olive oil sauce)
Fried asparagus with Iberian ham (thinly sliced, cured ham)
Segundos: (pick one)
Grilled salmon with vegetables and teriyaki sauce
Steak and veggie skewer with blue cheese sauce
Lamb chops with garlic and parsley potato sticks
Dessert or Café
(The desserts were admittedly unimpressive, we opted for the coffee)
This place is the perfect combo of quality and price.
Though they didn’t break the bank on coming up with a name, this place was another great spot to stop. It’s divided into two floors: upstairs is more formal restaurant (reservations seemed to be a thing), and downstairs there are plenty of smaller tables and a separate tapas and wine menu. The latter is what we were looking for.
The menu includes tapas, or “raciones” (5.50- 12.50€), tostas (5€) and wine by the glass or bottle (2.50-3.50€ / 11.20-20.90€). We thought we’d get started with three “raciones,” believing we would ask for more afterwards. This did not happen. We ordered a chicken salad with cheese and a mustard dressing, mushroom croquettes and small pieces of grilled deer meat. It was nearly too much food for two people and incredibly tasty.
Total cost, including two glasses of wine, was 22.30€. Amazing. Also has a lunch Menú del Día for 10.50€ but didn’t get to check this out.
About two minutes from Plaza Zocodover is an amazing new gastronomic market that opened in September 2014. Spread over its four floors (plus a rooftop terrace) there are 19 different food and beverage establishments that include tapas, Asian fusion, fancy burgers, grilled meats, cakes, wine and cheese shops, you name it. The place is beautiful inside and has really impressive architecture, including a three-story vertical garden. We stopped at the Marisquería y pulpería (shell fish and octopus shop) and got a huge mixed plate of fried calamari, tiny squid, fish in adobo sauce and anchovies that the woman fried up right in front of us (for 10€). Wish we were there on a Wednesday because apparently the burger place does a 4€ special every week.
Next time you’re in Madrid, consider taking a side trip down to Toledo. I haven’t gone into any of the city’s incredible art, history or architecture in this post, mainly because I’d be writing for a very, very long time. We just want to make sure you don’t go hungry when you get there.
Got a place that you found on your trip? Tell us about it! Cause we might find ourselves there again real soon…
As previously reported, we recently joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We had a couple of reasons for doing so, but one of them was to push ourselves into cooking with things we don’t normally buy.
Challenge number one: Beets.
Neither of us had any experience with buying and/or cooking beets, so when basket #1 arrived with two of them we did what reasonable people do: we left them on the counter for days hoping they would prepare themselves to be eaten.
This did not work, and eventually we took to the interwebs to look for creative solutions, and I was surprised to find there are lots of amazing-looking dishes to be made using beets.
Not really following any one of them in particular, the beet preparation went like this:
The end result is pictured above and turned out surprisingly well.
The moral of the story is get out there and try cooking with something new, even (or especially) if you don’t know where to start with it. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated, but playing with a new ingredient can open the door to a variety of other ways to prepare it.
Now I’m actually looking forward to the next time beets show up in the basket so we can make something crazy, like beet and goat cheese ravioli.
I have a very important announcement to make. Brian and I just joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It’s just a few blocks away from our apartment in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona, I walk by it every day and I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to sign up.
Every Tuesday will henceforth be known as “Christmas.”
Els Bandolers de Gràcia
El Carrer Verdi 12
Phone: 93 217 27 85
Monday to Thursday: 11:00 – 22:00
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 – 22:00. Closed Sundays.
Els Bandolers de Gràcia is a great little store where you can buy produce and local artisan products, such as wine, beer, honey and chocolate. The produce comes from local and organic farms in Catalunya, and the CSA is a fantastic deal. Here’s how it works:
1. You sign up and pay a 30-euro registration fee, which includes two baskets – cestas – (you trade an empty one for a magically full one each week).
2. You choose either Tuesdays or Thursdays to pick up your cesta.
3. You pay each week when you get your basket. We signed up for the pequeña, which is still a ton of food for two people and costs 13 euros. The media is 18.50 euros and the grande is 28 euros.
We are only two weeks into our membership, and I already notice an improvement in our enthusiasm and creativity with preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s like a game show: race against the clock to figure out A) what things are and B) how to combine them in an edible fashion.
Mystery greens? Braise them with pancetta, olive oil and balsamic! Potatoes and onions? Breakfast fries! Insanely delicious ripe plums? Eat as many as you can in one sitting, then make a quick stovetop jam with the rest before they go bad! Everything else? Throw it in a pot, you’ve got yourself a stew!
If you’re looking for a CSA in Barcelona, this place is glorious.