Beyond the Bubble
Protip: never ask to see the menu at a Spanish restaurant. But why, you might ask. Well, a menú is in fact a 3-course set lunch meal. So if you ask for it at dinner, you will just get a funny look. And if you ask for it at lunch, a large amount of food will magically take over your table unannounced.
A traditional menú consists of a “primero plato” which is a large appetizer, “segundo plato”, or main, and finishes up with a “postre o café”, dessert or coffee. My LSA group and directors went out to one of these lunches at Hotel Rocamar in Cadaqués, northern Catalunya. It’s one of the northernmost coastal towns in Spain and the hotel is supposed to be the best in the area. It certainly was fancy, so I for one sure was glad it was all on Dartmouth’s dime.
For our primero plato, multiple plates of mussels with a buttery-herby dressing appeared on the table. Now as someone who had never eaten mussels before, this was somewhat intimidating. However, they are a lot easier to eat than you’d think, and are absolutely delicious! There was something about the soft texture of the mussels combined with the tangy flavors of the raw-onion-heavy dressing.
This was then followed by, what else but paella. Probably the most famous Spanish dish, paella is a large portion of rice that can be mixed with all kinds of things. Popular options include seafood (what we had), “mixto”, which is several types of meat and seafood, and “negro”, which is colored black from squid ink. There were whole shrimp, mussels, squid and some pieces of meat that I definitely shied away from for fear of the unknown. Paella is prepared in a large dish and individual portions are then served. The waiters sure knew how to keep us full, and vigilantly scanned the table to make sure to plate was ever left empty.
For dessert, we were served apple ice-cream in a martini glass. Definitely not the most traditional option, but interesting nonetheless. Much less sweet than normal ice-cream, it had a nice light flavor, and was certainly a change of pace from the rest of the meal.
So the next time you’re casually in Spain (or simply in a Spanish restaurant), don’t be afraid to try something new. A lot of the time when translated to English, it’s really not as scary as it sounds. Except for maybe that blood sausage. Still can’t bring myself to do it.