Camino de Santiago Day 10: Logrono to Najera

9 04 2018

Day Ten! My body is in full efficiency mode, feet are good muscles are toned, the poles are like another set of limbs working to take the pressure off my joints. And I have rhythm!

We got up early enough to get Suzy’s bag set to ship out by 8 since the Pension was unattended in the morning. Although there was rain forecast when we left we saw none. Right down the road we saw cafe Picasso advertising breakfast for 2,80 coffee, fresh squeezed juice and a jamon and pepper sandwich that was freshly prepared, absolutely delicious. As we sat there easing into the day we glanced outside and it was pouring. Despite the big day ahead we took our time with breakfast and miraculously when we were ready to go the rain was light, not dumping like before. Sophia the cafe server even agreed to help Suzy get minutes from the Orange store for her phone, it wasn’t open until much later in the morning, but Suzy gave her some cash and she sweetly agreed to load the minutes for her later in the day.

The walk out of Logrono was tedious. With the rain constant we had hats and hoods on and it was often hard to look up to see the signs for the Camino. We passed by a protest for a trial we heard about at the court and almost got lost a few blocks down. Remember that rain doesn’t always fall down, Today it was falling AT us sideways and soon my pants were soaked and I was a bit chilly without another layer underneath. We saw a dog dressed very fancy wearing a shirt and corduroy pants, he looked warmer than we were.

With the rain we stop less to look around and I don’t take as many photos since my phone is wrapped up in plastic. We did get a break in the rain after a rest stop that had facilities and had a chance to watch some swans and ducks.

We just kept walking and walking until we saw the town of Navarette. Suzy made up a fun marching song and we marched on up to the town. We kept on the Camino not wanting to stop at he very first cafe we saw but we found very little on the route, lots of shuttered homes and abandoned buildings. We eventually left the route and found some banks where I got cash but Suzy was still unable to exchange dollars. She has enough for now but he plan is to try to get another hotel in a big town to do an exchange later in the trip. We did find a cute cafe but they had limited food, our breakfast was holding us over but we got two beers and a big piece of pork belly that they heated for us, delicious! we could feel the meat reenergizing our muscles. Sadly our clothes had not dried but we put them back on and plodded on.

Amazingly the rain had stopped but it was really cold at first, the wind was whipping and temperatures seemed to have dropped. There were lots of vineyards with pinkish soil and a good deal of mud. We stopped briefly in Ventosa for a beverage but we found each time we stopped we seemed to be get even colder.

We walked on and walked and walked. We missed a sign once and ended up at the bottom of a muddy hill only to see footsteps heading the wrong way and realized our error. And we walked. I was irritated to see that we were still far from the town it seemed endless as we wife past factories and industrial parts of town but eventually we made it to the Puerta de Najera hostel. The place is awesome, a great group of pilgrims were there and two pilgrim families merged. Somehow of course Heino and Marc and Helena were there and as we enjoyed some wine with the pilgrims there we met new ones! Gigi from San Francisco greeted us as we’d met on the Camigas blog and we met Z, Alyssa and Andi who were to my excitement playing left right center (although sadly not for money). We shared some wine which was available for sale at the hostel. Mary came in and gave us the brilliant idea to microwave a potato and cover it with cheese. Suzy and I headed out in search of the grocery store which is seconds from the hostel but went down the wrong street to our good fortune though as we found a place that serves the mushrooms like we had in Logrono and a fancy butcher where we got some lomo!

We finally found the grocer also and created a little feast of bonito tuna, white asparagus, local cheese and my favorite boquerones. And a bottle of El Coto Rioja crianza. At 10 they shut the lights and now we have survived the 6:30 am rustle and shuffle as pilgrims rush out of here. It’s 7:15 am now and maybe five of us are left, and it’s still dark out. Suzy has been wondering where they got the night vision goggles they must have ;). We like to take our time and ease into the day. I did brush my teeth early today and there were people lined up and waiting, so I’m cool to leave later. We have a mellow walk today anyway…

Oh I failed to mention that yesterday’s walk was 20.1 miles including our walk through the town. 🙂





A Grateful Harvest: Scalloping in Nantucket

14 11 2012

So here I am in San Francisco waiting for Dungeness crab season to start tomorrow, but I really wish I was out east, in Nantucket to be precise.

I would like to call myself a scalloper… HA!  I have been scalloping exactly twice on what were sure to be the two nicest and warmest days of the season, so although I do appreciate the grueling nature of the industry there is no way I really understand the extent of the cold days with freezing icy wind gusting as the loyal scallopers trudge away to get scallops on your table.

My mother loves scallops, but as a kid I was never a fan, I found them chewy and mostly flavorless.  Most of the time you see scallops in a restaurant they are breaded, overcooked and way too big.  I was not intrigued by them until I worked at Rubicon and Jardiniere with Traci Des Jardins.  Des Jardins is famous for her truffled scallop dish, a heap of creamy and buttery mashed potatoes in the center, that relies on some amazingly flavorful tubers, surrounded in a delicate yet hauntingly flavorful truffle nage and finally garnished with a ring of golden seared scallops.  A “nage” by the way means “in the swim” how amazingly appropriate right?  Anyway the dish was and is absolutely delicious.  Another thing I learned about scallops around the same time was the term day boat, meaning that the boats harvesting the scallops return each day to port to offload them.  It’s a pretty important distinction as scallops do not live as long as clams or other shellfish once caught.  They must be shucked while live and either kept on ice of flash frozen which of course changes their delicate texture.  Having quality scallops as an ingredient of course makes the dish that much better.

Fast forward to last year, December 2011, when I had the opportunity to scallop with my friend Bruce, a commercial scalloper on Nantucket!  Nantucket Bay Scallops are famous internationally due to their very delicate texture and pure sweet flavor.  I find other scallops to be more neutral in flavor and with less of that fresh salty tang of the ocean.  With wine we talk about terroir, but oyster and shellfish purveyors and writer have now coined the word (not sure who to attribute it to, but it’s clever!) “merroir” meaning that oysters, clams and of course scallops taste distinctly different depending on where they originate.  Just like wine the maritime “weather” and climate have a lot to do with how the shellfish grows, the microorganisms, sea life and micro-elements and minerals in the water also affect the flavor in ways hard to define.  Since bivalves filter water to eat they are conduits of flavor even more than grapevines.  They really are made of the fine mixture of what the sea diffuses into them more than any creature I can think of!  As a result of the unique characteristics of Nantucket, Nantucket Bay Scallops garner a higher price per pound due to the limited supply.  The price varies annually but this year’s season opened paying scallopers $10/lb with retail prices ranging from $14-$17.95.

Nantucket regulates scallop fishing in order to preserve the next year’s harvest.  Many consumers actually scallop with their families but there are strict guidelines as to days allowed, quantities and permits are needed.  Also every scallop harvested either commercially or recreationally must have a raised annual growth ring to show it is one year minimum in age or fit a size requirement.  This ensures a healthy population to spawn for the next season.  Recreational scalloping starts October 1 annually.  During the season you will see entire families in their waders working the shallows with inter tubes that suspend wire baskets, raking in up to a bushel a week.  The commercial season begins November 1 and runs until March 31.  Scallopers can harvest up to five cases per day, which can bring in about $400 for that type of haul.  That said, the scallop season is what many commercial scallopers rely on as their only source of winter income, and there are days that are easy and scallops are plentiful, but there are days that are rough both in terms of weather and the catch.

Our day began very early as I was picked up before dawn to get out on the water.  It was unseasonably warm for December 2, which was also the first day of the annual Christmas Stroll.  We headed out in a truck with a big rusted out flatbed, no stranger to seawater.  I was outfitted in Grunden’s orange pants and some waterproof boots, a heavy sweater and Carhaart jacket, orange waterproof slicker, glove liners and large orange gloves and a warm hat as we set off from Nantucket harbor just before dawn.  Scallopers have to wait until 6:30am to start scalloping, so most like to be at the area they plan to dredge by then.  The cue to start is the horn of the first Steamship ferry as it leaves Nantucket for Hyannis at 6:30am.  The whistle blew and we started working.  The process is relatively simple but time consuming and takes a good deal of strength.  The dredges are released behind the boat in groups so as not to get tangled up and the boat moves slowly along as these weighted nets scrape the bottom of the harbor.   When it seems enough time has passed they are cranked up onto a sorting table and emptied of hopefully scallops.  When the first heaping dredge full of the sea came up and was dumped on the table it included everything imaginable, sea stars, eelgrass, rocks, clams, fish, mud all writhing around and soaking wet.  And the most amazing thing, as the first haul was emptied onto the sorting area, a heap of scallops chattered away as they snapped open and shut repeatedly in the early light of dawn.  It was my job to help sort through the mess and retrieve the scallops, all at the same time while checking to be sure they had the growth ring and were old enough.  I had trouble believing that normally Bruce does all of this solo, it’s a lot of work, and quite honestly having me there was more of a hindrance than help as he had to coach me quite a bit.  “Is this one old enough?  How about this one?”, I’d say to which he’d reply, “Make a decision!”  Master of efficiency, he commented that I should never have to touch one scallop twice, it either goes in the basket or over the side.  We took a pause after we had reset the dredges and he shucked one for me.   He turned the scallop smooth side down.  The smooth side is the one normally resting on the bottom on the sand, so it’s clean of algae or muck.  Grabbing the scallop knife from in between some of the worn wooden boards on the boat, he stuck the scallop knife between the hinges of the shells, slipped the knife all the way around while pressing it up on the top of the shell to unhinge the muscle as cleanly as possible, popped up the shell and discarded the ring of eyes around the edge, scraped off the internal organs and finally removed the bottom part of the muscle.  It was amazingly fresh and delicious, almost magical.  It could not have been a more perfect bite and moment.

We scalloped until about 9:30 which was not that long considering we were able to fill our 5 permitted boxes.  We headed back to the dock, unloaded and then headed to get a coffee and deliver the scallops to Nantucket Seafoods.  They have a small market but generally the scallops we harvested would be shucked that day and sent next day air to restaurants around the country.  Part of our batch was actually going to San Francisco!  I got home exhausted, took a nap, showered and headed into town for the festivities of Christmas Stroll.  The streets were aglow with lighted trees and every store was decked out for the holidays.  Scallop shell lights were hung all over the town and strands of them were for sale for about $100-$199 a strand!  I sat down at a wonderful upscale restaurant called The Pearl to get some dinner in the midst of a boisterous crowd of adults on a Santa crawl wearing hideous holiday sweaters.  On the menu there was a local Nantucket bay scallop trio of ceviche/crudo.  Remembering my first sweet taste of scallop that morning, I was mesmerized.  These could very well be the same scallops that Bruce and I had harvested just a few hours ago!  So I had to order them although they price made me cringe with a pang of guilt.  They arrived and had been handled in the most delicate way, taking care in all three preparations not to overshadow their texture or flavor.  I savored every morsel of what at most must have been four or five good sized scallops.  As I sat there fully engaged with the meal, I was struck by my incredible day, full circle from harvesting scallops that morning to sitting here with my glass of Gruner Veltliner and enjoying these delightful morsels in elegance.  $10 a pound and a lot of exhausting work for Bruce who was just at the beginning of a long and arduous winter of scalloping with many cold days ahead.  And here I was savoring a small dish costing if I recall correctly about $22-25, but crafted with the utmost respect and care.  I could not have been more thankful to enjoy both sides of the spectrum.  After I was warm with wine and my palate sated by scallops and other delicacies, I asked for the check.  After all my concern about the money I was spending after on my first humbling day harvesting scallops, I was told that some revelers I had befriended (not in ugly sweaters) had secretly paid for my entire meal and had already left.  So this Thanksgiving I will be toasting the fisherman and farmers who work tirelessly to bring food to our tables, all of those chefs and cooks who respectfully prepare those ingredients to give us great pleasure, and all of those who understand and remind me when I least expect it, that every moment of life is a gift.

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To watch a video of scallops snapping

To watch a video how scallops are harvested

To order Nantucket Bay Scallops http://nantucketseafood.net/  

More info on scallops http://www.nantuckettodayonline.com/novdec09/scallops.html

What to drink with scallops?  With lighter preparations scallops are great with crisp whites.  I would love something like a Gruner Veltliner from Austria for a scallop crudo or ceviche, or a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc if you are making something spicy or citrusy.  If the scallops are caramelized with a slightly sweet preparation try an off dry aromatic white like the Schlossgut Diel Riesling Classic from the Nahe in Germany.  The great thing is with richer preparations (think mushrooms, truffle, red wine beurre rouge, etc, you can even pair scallops with Pinot Noir.  I am hoping to find some good options this Friday at Farallon’s Pinot Fest!  The consumer tasting is Saturday for tickets and information http://www.farallonrestaurant.com/pinotfest.html





Wilco pairs well with Charcuterie

3 09 2008

Although I thought that $85 for a concert was a bit pricey (come on I’m used to free concerts in my park!  www.strictlybluegrass.com) I figured I had enough of listening to Tom Petty and Steve Winwood and Radiohead from my windows and wanted to actually experience the Outside Lands Festival, so Sunday the 24th of August I headed over.

I am always a bit wary of these events, first the bathroom situation.  It’s important to go early before they get icky and try not to go at all if it can be helped.  Thus beer intake must be very carefully monitored.  Second issue is usually the food.  It drives my husband crazy, but if I can’t find something truly delicious to eat, I often opt not to eat at all.  Then that brings you back to the beer intake, without food you drink more beer, and then have to go to the restroom and that is NOT GOOD.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had reasonable, ok they were $7, not reasonable but at least decent beer, Sierra Nevada, and they were even offering Foggy Bridge wines from my friend Daryl Groom.  There was also Winehaven, a selection of very good wine brands under a tent complete with some of my friends in the business, Bonny Doon, Peay, Trinchero, they were swamped with customers who were all willing to pay for premium wine.  This piqued my interest, and then I saw it.  Food nirvana at a huge concert, the Fatted Calf charcuterie and Hog Island Oyster Co.  I was able to get a delicious charcuterie plate for $15, it was huge, and well worth it.  Two Hog Island folks noticed my Cochon t shirt (New Orleans’ hot spot for the hog www.cochonrestaurant.com), then another girl came by wearing the same shirt and then a third person commented on it, foodies running rampant.  I was very impressed to find that the foodie city by the bay doesn’t scrimp when it comes to live music.

And the music wasn’t bad either!  Mother Hips were good followed by Drive by Truckers, great, and I only saw a short set but Bon Iver was really interesting and really got the crowd going.  The best though was Wilco, an amazing performance and they played longer than expected.  All in all a good although pricey afternoon.





Great Eats at Alemany Flea Market

4 08 2008

The Alemany Flea Market is every Sunday rain or shine (their very good value farmers market is held Saturdays). Although it may seem inundated with used tool salesmen, there are always some great finds too if you look hard enough! Today I longed for some really cool boots (too big!) but ended up with a cool sewing table and antique washboard. Ideally you’d arrive at the market early to get all the deals, but luckily I am a late riser so I got there late, 11am, so by the time I was done with my shopping I was famished. Ok let me be honest, I started eyeing the taco stand before I even started shopping!

So today I tried El Huarache Loco. And it made my day! Although the horchata was weak, I was presented with a huarache asada, an oval shaped tortilla stuffed with a thin layer of black bean, topped with cheese, cilantro, onion, and salsa. Sounded somewhat simple and mundane until I saw the tortilla press and masa lying in wait. And then it arrived! I asked for what ended up being some of the most deliciously spicy red salsa, not quite typical, but really great. The term “tortilla” didn’t do the dish justice as it was amazingly fresh, savory, a bit briny in a great way and filled with just the right amount of black bean. Eat it fast as it gets a bit soggy but it is just amazing. The balance of the flavorings on top was just ideal. I can’t wait to try their pork posole next time!





Chapa’s Party Marinades

3 08 2008

I recently held the third annual birthday party in Golden Gate Park for my husband Michael. Every year gets a bit easier to run as I climb the learning curve, so I figured I would share my tips for a successful barbecue!

This year I was pressed for time and only had 6 hours to actually prepare the food, 9:30 til 3:30am the night before!  Despite that, the marinades were on long enough considering that they were served at midday or later. 

My general “rule” of thumb is to experiment!  Try creating balance of acid, sweetness, spice and salt.  I try using something with acidity like vinegar, citrus, etc., something with sweetness like molasses, honey, etc., and then balance the marinade with spice or salt.  You can boost flavor with garlic and onions, but I have a friend who is allergic so I opted to leave them out of most, this also saves a lot of chopping!  The best part is that you can’t make a mistake, but here are some of my recipes.  Don’t worry about being overly accurate with measurements and try mixing and matching these with different cuts of meat!  Enjoy!

OTHER TIPS

  • I use Ziploc bags for marinades, they take up much less space in your refrigerator and your cooler.  Place the bags on a tray with sides in case you get a leak! 
  • I did not use chicken as I find it hard to cook chicken to the proper temperature on a busy grill. 
  • Try to make sure all meats are cooked to the proper temperature to prevent illness and always keep them sufficiently cooled.  Do not reuse meats that have been out of the cooler.
  • Prevent cross contamination by using a tub of bleach and water or cleaners to make sure you don’t spread juices from each item around, have a separate cooler for raw foods and one for salads.  Be sure to have a separate platter for raw foods and those that come off the grill.
  • Marinades are NOT sauces.  Throw them away right after you remove the meat, if you cook the meat properly it won’t need a sauce, or you can make a separate sauce or salsa beforehand.

Old Bay Pork Ribs

1 lb Pork Ribs, 1 tbs Mustard seed, 1 tbs Old Bay Seasoning, 1/4 cup Cane Syrup, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup

Second Wind Steak

1 flap steak/hangar steak, rub steak with 1 cup of unused ground coffee, salt and pepper.  Fill bag with 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 cup pomegranate molasses, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 molasses.  The acids in the coffee help to make the meat more tender and give your party goers a kick!

Cilantro Shrimp

Cover shrimp in lime, garlic, cilantro, chipotle powder and water.

Fajitas

Skirt steak, 2 cups lime juice, 3-4 cloves crushed garlic, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, chipotle powder to taste.  Be sure to slice the skirt steak across the grain to make it more tender.  Serve with raw chopped cilantro, onions, casero (Mexican cheese) and salsas.

Asian Inspired Pork Loin

1 cup soy sauce, 1 large clove ginger (no need to peel just slice into dime sized rounds, 3-6 cloves crushed garlic, 2 chopped scallions, 3 tbs sesame seeds, cover with water.

Cherry Pork Loin

1 cup cherry juice, 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses, 1 cup pomegranate juice, 5 cloves, 1 tbs molasses, 1 tbs balsamic.  You use the cherries to make a separate sauce with a bit of butter, salt, and molasses.





Vinos de Madrid

16 07 2008

In November 2007, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Salon de los Vinos de Madrid, a tasting of DO Madrid wines conveniently held in… Madrid.  It was a short trip, my second visit, but here are some tips on the wines and where to go if you find yourself there.   

 

 

While Madrid may evoke images of a cosmopolitan nation’s capital full of museums and cultural opportunities, most consumers and even wine industry professionals do not think of Madrid as a wine region.  They may picture themselves drinking a glass of Spanish wine with some tapas at a bar table at the Plaza Mayor, but many don’t even know that wines from Madrid exist, so let me let you in on a secret, Madrid wines have incredible potential, so get to know them!

Although wines have been made in Madrid since ancient times, 13th century, the challenges that Spain faced due to phylloxera, World War I, the Spanish Civil War and World War II followed by financial depression through the 70s squelched the wine culture somewhat.  Many vineyards were abandoned and never replanted, and abandoned cellars abound.  The good news is there is a resurgence in wine growing that is accompanied by increased understanding of viticultural techniques and cleaner winemaking.  What used to be rustic table wine is gaining finesse and has the potential to compete on the world wine market.  The Spanish government recognized the strides that local producers have made by rewarding the Denominacion de Origen Vinos de Madrid in 1990, and wines continue to improve.  It won’t be long until these wines catch on both abroad and in the local market.

All types of wine are made including sparkling, Cava, but the best wines seem to be reds.  A blending of traditional grape varieties, Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) with international varieties, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is proving to be successful.  Joven wines, those without barrel age are bright and fruity with softer tannins and less concentration.  They tend to be simple and quaffable and offer great value.  Crianza wines, aged a minimum of six months in barrel and a full year in bottle, are a bit richer but still very drinkable and reserve styles tend to be more concentrated and fruit driven.  Roses are bright and fruity and whites tend to be lightly aromatic and fresh and include some native varieties such as the Malvar, grown only in Madrid.

Three sub-regions make up the Madrid appellation, Arganda in the Southeast, Navalcarnero due south of the city and San Martin to the Southwest.  While many of the 41 producers of Vinos de Madrid are note yet exported to the United States, it won’t be long until they are discovered.  Some producers have limited distribution and are worth searching out.

Bodega Ecologica Andres Morate is a find, Vino Bosquera 2006 is a Joven blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that has great intensity and balance and Esther Crianza 2004 a rich spicy wine with a very long and rich finish made  of also of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. (www.andresmorate.com) 

Bodegas Ricardo Benito produces some of the most elegant and refined wines of the DO including Duan 2004 a very intense blackcurrant flavored blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and a truly great wine called Asido 2003 aged in new Alliers medium toast barrels.  The wine has very refined flavors and great balance of fruit and oak.  (www.ricardobenito.com) 

Gosalbez Orti is a newcomer started in 2000 producing wines from organically grown grapes under the Qubel label.  Paciencia is 70% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 10% Garnacha .  Excepcion is 100% Garnacha, but my favorite was Nature, mostly Tempranillo with some Cabernet Sauvignon, really concentrated with violet aromas and incredible minerality.  They even have a wine shop and tasting area available for private tastings, the first in their town to offer tastings the potential for enotourism is great considering it is a mere 35 minute drive from Madrid.  (www.qubel.com) 

Vinos Jeromin straddles the bar between tradition and innovation with wines like their Felix Martinez Reserva Cepas Viejas (old vines) 85% Tempranillo and 15% Syrah from 75-80 year old vines.  The wine is really concentrated and spicy with rich anise and berry flavors.  They also make the standout white of the region, an oak fermented Malvar, Puerta del Sol 2006 and a very tasty Rosado (rose) as well under the Puerta de Alcala label.  (vinosjeromin.com) 

The wines from Madrid match expertly with the traditional cuisine, tapas like jamon Iberico and lomo, roasted meats, lamb and pork, and some of the lighter reds are perfectly at home paired with fish.

Although they may be a bit hard to find, Wines of Madrid although elusive are worth searching out and offer a great range of flavors.  

Vinosdemadrid.es

Food Tips!

Oldest restaurant in Madrid Restaurante Botin, Casa Fundada en 1725, Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, botin@restaurantebotin.com specializes in roasted suckling pig

Paradis great spot for lunch incredible calamari (Calamarcitos a la Plancha) near the Palace Hotel, another nice hotel is the Villa Real Hotel

Try Lechal, one year old baby lamb that is fed only herbs and milk, we had it at the Molino de Cantaranas in the Araganda subregion Hotel Molino de Cantarranas Crta. M-204 Km. 2 Tielmes, Madrid

Merluza is a common and delicious fish, known in English as Hake

Don’t miss the Jamon Iberico and lomo

Casa Lucio is in the heart of old Madrid, delicious boquerones (Spanish anchovies), lomo and Jamon Iberico and incredible roasted steak.  President Clinton had visited the night before and the owner was very proud!

Try La Venencia, the oldest sherry bar in Madrid, they keep tabs of what you eat with chalk on the counter!

 





Welcome to my BLOG!

16 07 2008

I have finally decided to start blogging.  Why you may ask?  Well, I have a lot to say.  I plan to use these pages to share my suggestions for wines, spirits, places to travel, things to do, and occasionally for other fun pursuits.  I hope to add in some blogs about my past endeavors to get to know those of you I don’t know and to update everyone on what’s going on with me.  I will also share with you some great tips from my journeys past and present!  Thanks in advance for listening!