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May 2006

Latin Sandwich Cafe {From The Raving Dish}

Dscf0896 It's the small spots with simple names that always snare me, and the Latin Sandwich Cafe is a prime example. Located on Elston Avenue, the unassuming Chilean restaurant is the kind of off-the-grid place that always made me pause when I drove by, mostly due to the creativity-free name. It's really as simple as "The Latin Sandwich Cafe." Done and done.

The casual name stuck in my head all the same, and when I heard the swirling rumors about how fantastic the food was, I finally mustered up a free afternoon to go explore the menu.

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Battle of the Brownies {From the Raving Dish}

Dscf0877 It seems I always walk that very fine line between good and bad. I can go weeks and weeks on an internal high, created completely by aimless walks about town, white-hot yoga sessions, loads of smoothies and not an ounce of sugar in sight. Then I fall off the wagon and somehow manage to plow through vats of gooey cakes, cookies and candies like the curly-headed female version of Willy Wonka at the Chocolate Factory. Just like that, all my good intentions are out the door and I'm back to square one; a very fat and sassy square one, mind you.

Needless to say, after a week of smart eating and mad exercising, I was walking home from one of my sweaty Bikram yoga classes when I sashayed past a 7-11. I had noticed the last time I was in there that it was hawking some mighty fudgy brownies by the front register, and the image of that hulking piece of chocolate had seared itself into the back of my skull. Especially because the cost was a mere $1.39 and good ol' 7-11 is always open for late night cravings. I decided to give it a go.

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Green Food in Spain--Are You Out There???

Dscf1119After happily devouring my hundredth flaky croissant today, I stopped dead in my tracks wondering exactly what vegetables I have consumed in the past three weeks? Sars to letcha know, not too many.  Spain just really isn't a place where I can say I've eaten healthy (Bali on the other hand is a whole different story).  If I did a play by play of my various meals, they seem to be loaded with cheese, every form of bread, cream, octopus, chocolates, gelato, vino, paella,  cherries, yogurt, strawberries, granola, grapes, pizza, crepes, fried rice, cortados, and the random speckling of salads (very few).  So, now what I am going to attempt to do for my next 3 weeks here is explore the healthy side of Spain---starting with brilliant  stalks of asparagus from my favorite restaurant so far, Cerveceria Catalana.  These perfectly cooked vegetables are by far one of the best things I've put in my mouth since arrival and SO SIMPLE.  They're just cooked up in some olive oil and then tossed with a bit of sea salt.  Done and done.  Stay tuned for more green news--if it is to be found, I will track it down~~

Vino Blanco and Chokes in Poble Sec

Dscf1008I never knew that marinated artichokes and white wine could make me so happy.  Here in sunny Spain, the vino blanco runs a mere $1.25 euro per glass and it's quite easy to fuel up on several glasses come eating time.  One of my favorite hoods, Poble Sec, has these tiny seafood bars that whip out all seafood-style tapas and the one I discovered had the best marinated artichokes I've ever had.  They were doused in vinegar and went nicely with my wine, and I was gonna order a plate of shrimp to go with them, but after a bite of the chokes, I had to have a few more.  I sat in the outdoor cafe for hours drinking wine, nibbling on artichokes and watching the little kiddies at the next table chow down on little slivers of anchovies.  It's a very different way of eating here and I love it.  Def. my favorite part about this country~

Foot Long Scrambled Egg Sandwiches

Dscf1062What I miss most about my  life in Chicago is egg sandwiches.  This nifty concoction is dinner for me two or three nights out of the week and I love my eggs scrambled, tossed on a lightly toasted bun that's been slathered with Hellman's mayo and topped with a thin slice of tomato (only if they're in season, though).  Black pepper throughout, of course.  Here, though, it's a whole other story and the other day, I was finally jammin' out some laundry when I tripped upon this dive bar that was rollin' out some awesome scrambled egg sandwiches.  Thank God!  When I took the first bite, it was like tiny floods of joy in my mouth...I didn't realize how much I'd been craving eggs.  Here, though, the soft scrambled eggs came out in a foot long baguette (the sandwich is called a flauta, ie: "long like a flute") and the toasted bread is smeared with roasted tomato.  Not a lick of mayo or black pepper to be found.  Seriously, though...that sandwich and a steamy cortado was one of my best meals here---for about 3 bones, at that.  I did actually ask for a side of mayo which caused mass confusion in the entire bar and a few minutes later (sandwich half gone) a little wedge of butter showed up at my table. No loss, though--the secret is the roasted tomato that's rubbed on the bread.  Great tip for someone who should ease up on the mayo~~

A Bakery Called Paul

Dscf1058Right around the corner from my hotel is THE bakery of all bakeries.  It's simply titled Paul and I can tell you that after weeks of wandering every side street, dark gangway, and narrow alley in this city, this is the place I have been looking for.  The first time I entered, I had to turn around and walk right out because I was so overwhelmed with joy (no kidding, I was literally panting).  Every single item in the cases were hard-core homemade (for some reason a lot of pastries here look like what you'd find at a regular old grocery store in the states)--oh, but not Paul.  The cakes, cookies, pies, breads, and pastries look like something a brilliant home cook would whip together (like a Spanish Sweet Mandy B's).  Everything flies out of the cases like hot cakes and the locals line up by the handfuls, choking the tiny space with their wide-eyes.  I love it all~

Cafe Blossom and a Whole Lotta Sushi {From The Raving Dish}

Dscf0867 Unless I hear the words, "You must go eat here," straight from an in-the-know foodie's mouth, it's tough for me to choose which new sushi house to frequent. There are just so many peppering the streets and, after all, Kaze Sushi is a three-minute walk from my house.

But, I got really lucky a few weeks ago during a meeting I was conducting with a local filmmaker. We'd met up at a small coffeehouse and were discussing the potential of his upcoming film when the conversation was quickly diverted to food (of course). Who cares about making movies when there's food to gossip about?

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Pizzas L'avia in El Ravel--Paella for 4.20 euro

Dscf1066One of my favorite foods in the entire world is that glorious Spanish dish called paella...and I have found the ultimate version down a tiny back alley in the La Ravel neighborhood.  I was strolling through the very ethnic (Indo/Pak mostly) 'hood this weekend (I'm feeling like I was in the equivalent of The Red Light District in Amsterdam) and happened to get a glance of this steaming hot dish being brought out of the kitchen of a small, very rustic eatery.  Thank God for peripheral vision, no?  Of course I had to try it (I was actually on my way to the port to have paella at one of my favorite restaurants I discovered on my last trip here, but this was just far to tempting).  Anyway, I grabbed a small, wobbly table in back (always gotta go off-radar) and proceeded to order a just-baked spinach empenada, a huge platter of this seafood, chicken and pork paella and a ridiculously delicious creme Catalan with piles of whipped cream for about 7 euros TOTAL.  Totally the best deal I have come across all over town and it turns out this little eatery is one of the oldest pizzerias in town.  They had wood-fired pizzas, a hodge-podge of homemade desserts (oddly enough, that is hard to come by here), various meat and vegetable dishes, pans of pasta and gigantic slabs of crusty bread on display and I only wish this very special place was closer to my hotel.  Truly a find--I'm just so at home in restaurants like this--not a tourist in site, you know?
Pizzas L'avia
C/ la Cera 33

Polleria Urgell and Chicken Memories

Dscf1014In almost every foreign city I travel to, I always happen across a chicken house.  Here, they're called Polleria's and I found a doozie of one over in the Poble Sec area.  I'm not usually a chicken eater, but when I tumble across a dive like this, I have to imbibe (I've done the same in France, Greece, Mexico and Italy).  Polleria Urgell has been slinging out juicy, slow-roasted chicken since 1965 and it's about the only thing they sell.  On any given day, you might find a batch of potatoes, onions and peppers that have been cooking in the dripping chicken fat at the bottom of the slow-roaster (usually, these containers are gone by midday, though--and there is definitely another greedy soul waiting to snatch these if you don't act quick) or a small selection of salads, but the jaw dropping material (the chickens themselves) are on constant rotation throughout the day and make for a fantastic dinner (especially when you stuff bite-sized tears of tender meat between a soft croissant and devour whilst on a wide terrace overlooking a beautiful Spanish avenue watching the sun disappear).  That night of chicken bliss has been my one and only meat-based meal and it was totally worth it~

Drinking Black Water in Spain--

Dscf0977_1I've tried giving them up, I really have.  But, when in Spain, do as they Spaniards do.  Actually, if I drank as much coffee as they seem to, I'd be flying to the moon by 10 a.m. This tiny cortado (small espresso cut in half with hot milk) is enough to fuel me for an entire afternoon and if I have two of them, holy moly!  Watch out~ and there is nothing like a chocolate stuffed croissant to go right along with it.  I've gotten into the daily routine of having one at around 9 am and then I'm usually good, unless things at work get wildly hectic...then I just run downstairs and slam another one.  I've been trying to eat/drink at different cafes every single day, but I've broken that self-imposed rule a few times--especially when I located the perfect veggie sandwich with homemade french fries right across the sreet from the production office.  But, every meal here is better than the next and the more Spanish I learn, the more the world of food seems to open up~