little sarah Big World

Tag: love

Feast Your Eyes

~OR~

Spanish Food Isn’t Really That Great, But The Italian Restaurants Here Are Incredible

Last night was supposed to be my last night in Spain. But then there was morning chaos and a strike at the airport, and I did not wind up getting onto any plane today. Apparently tonight will be my last night in Spain.

But we didn’t know that last night, so we celebrated. Not only that it was my last night, but that things would be okay, that we would always be able to talk and figure things out and make decisions together. We celebrated the abundance of opportunities.

Mostly we celebrated as an excuse to go to one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid The World: Paper Moon

Do you see those curling, glistening protein ribbons on top of this salad? What do you suppose that is? IT’S BACON, FRIENDS. Correction: it is the most perfectly-cooked and -seasoned bacon I’ve ever put into my mouth, and that is saying something, especially in Madrid, where “beicon” is usually a flacid, palid, bland sheet just sort of hanging off of your sandwich or burger.

And the sauce? That is a a mustard cream sauce. There’s arugula in there, guys, as well canónigos, cheese, raisins, and corn. Corn, really? With raisins? YES. Do not question the salad. Trust the salad. It is The Best Salad in the World.

Laura first introduced me to Paper Moon, when we were both living in Madrid. It’s near to her super-pijo former apartment, in the north. We went there for her birthday, and again as my last dinner before I moved back to Salt Lake. It’s a good place for last dinners. See that above? That is Pasta al Funghi—pasta, olive oil, a bit of vinegar and herbs, and an amazing variety of savory, meaty mushrooms. Oh, I love mushrooms. The salad is a must, but this was a new taste for me, and worth it. However, it pales in comparison to…

Pasta al Curry. Curry cream sauce, Friends, with chicken and thinly sliced apples, and red pepper, and maybe a bit of crack cocaine, who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised.

There was also red wine, and afterwards coffee that Kevin deemed “the best coffee so far in Madrid.” Then a long, long walk home along deserted Sunday night streets, buzzing and chatting from the caffeine and holding hands and sharing everything and never wanting the night to end.

But the night did end, Friends. And this morning we went to the airport, but I didn’t get on the plane. But I probably will tomorrow. Because it can’t all be amazing restaurants and long walks and quiet, late nights.

What I’m trying to say, Friends, is that I’m hungry. Time for lunch. See you later.

Wait, Sarah, What Are You Doing in Spain?

– Eating about a tin of olives per day

– Drinking claras and picando things in little bars and cafés

– Forcing Kevin to reorganize his room/buy basic home furnishings

– Suffering tremendous, sharp, stabbing stomach pains (unrelated to olive consumption)

– Getting my sleep cycle all messed up up so that my most awake/alert time is right now, bedtime

– Making facebook pages for Santa, Rudolph, and the rest of the gang with my chicos in Illescas

– Watching YouTube videos

– Getting tear-inducing, almost painful giggles with Kevin every night when we’re supposed to be going to bed

– (Bedtime is not our forte)

– Eating tortilla and hanging out with my compis, just like the old days

– Baking Cookies and drinking wine, just like the old days

– Missing Laura

– Searching for a way to stay

23 Candles

~OR~

“Happy birthday / Happy birthday, baby / Oh, I love you so”

— The Crests

Yay, Kevin is 23!!! That means that for nearly two whole months, I will be a mere two years older (numerically speaking) instead of the standard three years older. Then in February I turn 26 and I suppose we’ll return to the sweet cougar action to which we’ve grown so accustomed.

I took him out for a (belated) celebratory dinner at Alfredo’s Barbacoa in Cuzco. The boy has gone nearly 3 months without a decent burger, Friends. And that is a crying shame. An eagle-shedding-a-single-tear-in-front-of-the-American-flag-style crying shame.

We had crazy-rare burgers–I ordered medium rare, which came out red and juicy in the middle, and Kevin ordered rare, which was so un-cooked that the meat barely held together–plus fries, onion rings, coca-cola, and apple pie. Here’s a picture of me eating all that:

…and here’s a picture of me from two years ago, doing pretty much the same thing, in a Madrid McDonald’s:

I come to Spain and eat hamburgers. Deal with it.

But I digress–we were celebrating Kevin’s birthday! We finished the night by trying to get drunk at a nearby bar.

But we were too full to allow that much liquid into our bellies. So after one drink we called it quits, headed home on the metro and said goodnight.

*       *       *

Happy birthday, Kevin. You deserve all of the good things.

Welcome (Back) to Spain!

~OR~

I Didn’t Know It Would Feel Like Home

Well, here I am. Nothing new to report, really, other than being in Spain. Maybe it’s the fact that I lived here for a whole year, or the fact that Kevin’s apartment is just down the block and around the corner from where mine was, but things feel strangely…natural. Comfortable, even, and hardly like being on vacation at all. It just feels like living here.

Except that Kevin lives in a rough part of town…just kidding! But here’s a picture of him on “the gross part of Doctor Esquerdo” from our walk last night. Part of feeling like we were at home was going out and running errands, with me leading the way half the time.

This picture was taken right outside the Corte Inglés in Goya. This was one of the very first spots that Laura took me in Madrid, when I was fresh off the plane, ready to spend 9 months of my life teaching English and living Spanish. It’s funny, how once you get to know a place, you’ll come across places that were once so foreign to you, and they’ve become so commonplace. How when you first arrive, everywhere you go is like an island, a spot you arrive and spend sometime before twisting and winding your way to the next, unrelated spot. But in time you connect the dots, and a full map forms in your mind, and then its funny to look back and think “I had no idea where this was, and now I do.”

Then imagine finding yourself back in this formerly-uncharted but now altogether familiar land, as though almost no time at all had passed, and that’s where I’m at right now.

*       *       *

Went to the faculty dinner last night with Kevin and his coworkers from the high school. It was a warm and fitting welcome (back) to Spain–a big meal, lots of wine, conversation that I understood most (but not all) of, and even some dancing.

It’s good to be back.

A Shift of the Light

“The light shifts / the air’s quick / my belly’s thick / and full of summer”

“The nights grow / the pace slows / I let go / I’m trying to grow stronger”

“The world spins / the trees thin / now I’m beginning on my own again somewhere without you”

“And the years fly / how the years fly / and I try…to say, Goodbye”

(Lyrics by me, for a song written by Vanessa Shuput, performed one time only, late September 2009)

Home is Wherever I’m With You

The Tail End

We tried to take it all in: wide skies, late sun, long walks, soft hands

We tried to live to the fullest, take advantage, burn the midnight oil, and greet the dawn.

We tried to devour every sweet morsel, every moment. To be grateful for what we have, and to share it with friends.

Now the Summer has ended, gently this time, and you are leaving in one week.

We knew it couldn’t last, that nothing lasts forever.

I think we did our best.

Happiness

Happiness is unexpected fresh flowers and a clean mason jar. A boy who loves me. Our little apartment. Using an iced tea pitcher as a vase. Using a moonshine jar as a drinking glass. Enjoying what we have.

Happiness is fleeting, also. Or hadn’t you heard?

The Way to a Man’s Heart

…is through his stomach. Or so they say. They way to MY heart is through a man’s amazing culinary skills. I find men who can cook all that much more attractive.

Problem is…we are not great cooks. We are bakers, mostly. But we are learning. We totally roasted zucchini the other night. Yes, we did that.

Nevermind that for even the most novice cooks, roasting veggies is something that can be done without too much thought or planning, whereas we definitely had to check online for oven temperature. Maybe we thought that 325°F would be enough. Maybe we sauteed mushrooms, onions, and fake sausage before adding them to a jar of pasta sauce and called it cooking. Yes, we did that.

Also, feta cheese. Lots and lots of feta cheese. That is probably the easiest way to earn my love.

The other way to my heart is to support my merienda habit, which Kevin does. Frequently. Like this:

I sent him a text saying that I would kill for a morning bun from Tulie and returned home, sweaty and cranky from a noon-time run, to find iced coffee and streusel from the coffee shop around the corner. Plus ice water. Ice water is our new greatest pleasure. Before that it was popsicles.

We are not great cooks, but we are a pretty good match.

KoREA: Cuisine

So while I’m picnicking an hour to the north and filing it under “Travel,” others are grilling slabs of raw meat over open coals in foreign lands. That’s right, you guessed it–another guest blog from Ms. Whitney! Please enjoy, and don’t forget to tip your server.

 

Before this trip, I had no experiences with Korean food.  My friend once worked in a pan-asian fusion restaurant that was run by Koreans and they thus served kimchi fried rice (but I never had any), so that’s all I knew of before coming here.  And once people knew I was coming here, all they would mention to me was kimchi (pickled cabbage with red pepper paste), and it’s true, kimchi is a very prevalent and popular dish here.  Traditionally, it made a good winter food, as its fermentation process and resulting pickled state allowed it to “keep” for a long period of time after the harvest season.  But there is so much more to Korean food than kimchi!  My novice experience with the culinary culture has exposed me to yaki mandoo (potstickers, essentially), bibim bab (a bowl of rice with veggies and a fried egg, meat optional), cold raddish soup; these and other dishes are served in a way with which we are familiar: you order and receive.  In a different category, there is bulgogi, samgyeopsal, galbi and more; these are dishes that you order and COOK YOURSELF.

Most of the Korean restaurants we’ve been to are set up with their own miniature grills in the center of each table for 4.  They present you with an array of side dishes (bean sprouts, fish cakes, silk worms, raw cabbage salad, raddish soup, and yes, kimchi), a basket of lettuce leaves, and a plate of raw meat.  They place a bucket of white-hot coals inside your grill and you begin cooking the meat right there.  It’s kind of like being at a smaller Benihana table with yourself as the chef!  If the meat is still in slab form and not yet cut up into pieces, you wait for it to cook a little while then start cutting it up with scissors while holding it with a pair of tongs (sometimes the restaurant staff does this for you).  Once the meat is cooked, you place a couple of pieces in a lettuce leaf with whatever combination of rice and side dishes you’d like, and scarf it.

White-hot coals at a table for 4

White-hot coals at a table for 4

Meat over coals at a table for 4 (we cooked and staff intervened when necessary)

Meat and mushrooms over coals at a table for 4 (we cooked and staff intervened when necessary)

Chicken and veggies on round barrel grill

Chicken and veggies on round barrel grill (staff cooked)

Meat-Restaurant on mini square grill (we cooked)

Meat-Restaurant, gas grill (we cooked)

We assume that we haven’t encountered restaurants like this in the States because a) none of us have frequently been in the company of Koreans who would know the locations of such restaurants, and b) if such places exist, they would be quickly shut down by some jerk who didn’t allow his pork or beef to cook thoroughly before eating it, got food poisoning, and filed a crippling lawsuit against the restaurant to gain compensation for his self-inflicted illness.  But now that I know what to look for, I will keep my eyes out (especially in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood).

SNACKS AND TREATS:

I have also sampled a small variety of street vendor foods.  There is Miss Jin’s Top burger (two hamburger patties, one thick slice of ham, three fried eggs, layer after layer of cabbage, and condiments) and a couple local kebab-eries, but these foods you can find in many cities of the world.  A few things I hadn’t seen before coming here include rice-balls filled with red bean paste, spiral potato slices on a stick and many popsicle/ice cream bar variations:

Andrew, Daniel and I try spiral potatoes on a stick

Andrew, Daniel and I try spiral potatoes on a stick

Tim devours corn on the cob ice cream (encased in a corn-shaped "cone" with real kernels of corn!)

Tim devours corn on the cob ice cream (encased in a corn-shaped "cone" with real kernels of corn!)

Milkshake in a bag

This ice cream is essentially a milkshake in a bag; sold as a solid frozen block of ice cream, you mush it up and then drink it through the top. Also good for icing bee stings, as seen here (Korean bumblebees can sting you through your jeans, I've learned).

I’ve also sampled a number of Korean sodas.  The one I’m holding below actually tasted like pine:

Korean sodas, from left: Coke's version of "milkis" (milky-colored Sprite-like soda), Chilsung cider (also similar to Sprite), and my pine-flavored drink.

Korean sodas, from left: Coke's version of "milkis" (milky-colored Sprite-like soda), Chilsung cider (also similar to Sprite), and my pine-flavored drink.

They also have here, as I was pleasantly surprised to find, Baskin Robbins.  On behalf of a traveling American who has grown somewhat weary of gustatory surprises that necessitate trying (read: silk worms), thank you, ice cream gods, for delivering to  us the wonderful American ice cream cake!

Baskin Robbins Rainbow cake for Daniel's birthday

Baskin Robbins Rainbow ice cream cake for Daniel's birthday

We celebrated Daniel’s 22nd birthday with a good old-fashioned American tradition.  I feel so pampered!