AIf in anticipation of future things, my stomach growled as our plane landed in Aviles, Asturias, over the dune-bound beach and on the runway. 21 hours after I left my home in New York for a week (debauchery and hedonism) work – it was lunch when my friends and I arrived. The plan was to eat, drink and play through the natural wonderland, which is the small region of Asturias on the north coast of Spain. All to tell the world how great it was to be here.
We quickly learned that cider houses are very popular in Asturias, as well as throughout northern Spain. We had a few dinners this week. But lunch on that first day at Tierra Astur was the biggest “meal to experience,” which meant it was just on top.
You don’t realize how big the cider barrels are until you’re inside one or climbing the stairs from cider barrels to an attic booth, each with a picnic table in a horizontal cider barrel. On the way to our booth, we passed a table with men pouring food books on the coffee table. I imagined these visitors posting while reviewing a new issue. I didn’t know these books were the menus! For us the food was pre-ordered, the menus were only for display, we were for blowing food!
Everything is served in a family style in a cider house. Some I’ve been to don’t even serve plates. Then my companions and I had a fork and a knife to help us get out of the serving plate. But this time, perhaps as a sign of a pandemic or just a different sensitivity, Basque versus Asturian, each of us had our own plate. There were eight of us eating through Asturias, so two servings of each dish weighed on our table.
The cider is traditionally poured from a bottle held above the head, splashed into an inclined glass, and the server looks you in the eye all the time. In addition to the theater, cider is enriched with oxygen and is designed to be drunk immediately and completely to enjoy the best taste. This was our first cider house dish from the trip, but the only one without a pouring ritual.
The cider in this restaurant is poured out of sight with glasses delivered to the table in a wooden tray. The cider, a meager 2 inches of it in a cup, is designed to inflate, leaving a little in the cup and placing it on the tray when you are ready for another plow. (This is because cider has traditionally been homemade and there has always been a little leftover at the bottom of your glass. Today’s commercial cider rarely has this problem. However, the tradition remains.)
After the cider, the serving started with a bowl of nice crispy bread and sausages with dried meats: sliced chorizo, salami, ham (ham), chop (dried beef) and lomo (pork fillet). There was olive oil to sprinkle on the meat on some of this great bread. At that moment we were starving and had no idea how much food was coming, so we ate everything. The meat in Spain is so good you can’t help but.
The next dish was something I had never tried before: cabracho. Basically, this is a goldfish pate or “pudding” served with a sauce based on white mayonnaise. He came with bread to spread. I had a shmear. It wasn’t my favorite dish, but it was delicious enough. After all this meat, I just wasn’t ready to fish.
Tapas style dish with fried corn fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried fried when they were cooked. Made correctly, they can be a burst of taste and texture “popping up in your mouth”. These reminded me of that.
Then came a plate of mussels stewed in a spicy cider broth. I love mussels! In addition to meat, Spain, especially northern Spain, is known for its fresh seafood. In Asturias – comes straight from the Cantabrian Sea. These mussels were served fresh brined with delicious warmth, in a spicy broth that begged for more bread to absorb, even if I didn’t have a spoon.
Almost now my hunger I ate nothing but food at the airport for 24 hours was beginning to be satisfied – but my eyes were still bigger than my stomach. Along with the mussels came plates of ubiquitous ham croquettes in Spain, those creamy, delicious, deep-fried béchamel wonders available throughout Spain. They are not to be missed!
The service was stopped here while dirty dishes were being collected. For a moment I thought it was for dessert, but I forgot I was in Spain. No, we’re finally done with the appetizers. The main dishes would begin. For a rare moment, I had a clean empty plate in front of me. Then – my absolute favorite course – lattice with ribs – came. They glistened with fat and radiated that fantastic grill of grilled beef, so even full, I dived. Crispy, tender and moist, as only great ribs can be, these were phenomenal! After thirds (but who counts?) I found the fried, sliced potatoes under the hill of meat, now damp from the ribs. I should have had more.
In the end, we decided that was enough.
Of course, there was more to eat. The salad bowl was filled regularly during meals, plates of Asturian cheese appeared and emptied quickly, and our cider glasses were often refilled, creating a half-full / half-empty puzzle that occupied our conversation between plates of food.
Then there was dessert. Fortunately, I rarely eat jam, so I didn’t have to miss all this good food, just to save space for some sweet temptations. Still, he had to try. “This” turned out to be two desserts stacked on top of each other. The very traditional Tres Frixuelos de Escanda (spelled with sugar on top) was folded and served on equally traditional Nuestras Casadielles (hazelnut handmade pies, also with sugar on top). I see why they are traditional and why people love them, but they were too sweet for me. Enough is enough.
Fortunately, after the espresso, we had a long walking tour of Aviles, something to burn all those calories. We saw beautiful markets and squares lined with tables, statues of heroes and dignitaries that popped up where only the pedestrian streets of the old section crossed amazing architecture and medieval fountains, and the crypt where the remains of Palacio (the victorious Asturian leader of the Spanish forces) Reconquista) are buried. We then crossed the barricades in a park under construction to see the statue next to Palacio, ignoring any signs forbidding us from admiring the monument to the Asturian hero.
Finally we went to the port to see Centro Niemeyer, the modern square that architect Oscar Niemeyer designed for the city. The great thing about Spain is that you can see the ancient quarter, then look across the square to see the most modern building, sometimes the old and the new are even placed next to each other, with respect for each being shared equally.
After walking miles, we returned to the old quarter and our hotel, the Palacio de Aviles, a rebuilt palace with a centuries-old history and beautiful formal gardens where you can relax to prepare for dinner. Six hours after a week of exploring Asturias and I couldn’t believe I was ready to eat again!
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