We were leaving Lekeitio this morning for Madrid, where we would spend a few days prior to flying home. This meant another haul through the plains of Castile and Leon to the capitol, where we would be accompanied by 90's tunes (as invariably played on Spanish radio stations) and large quantities of curiously flavored chewing gum. We blew through Vitoria, Burgos and Lerma on the AI, headed down to Madrid.
Around 2:00 lunch time, we found ourself in one of the many small (but at one point terrifically important) towns out in the dusty desert. This area of Castile and Leon is renowned for its roast lamb, another in a long line of Spanish towns with a curious and slightly distressing affinity for eating babies. Ananda de Duero is especially renowned for its roast lamb, but as it was about a 20 minute detour from the freeway and we wanted to get to Madrid, we wrote it off.
As we blew up the highway past Ananda de Duero, we saw a heavily advertised restaurant next to a hotel and decided to stop there. Upon getting inside, we found ourselves in a restaurant that appeared to have been lifted out of 1965 Arizona (on the tourist trail) and dropped directly into the dusty not-much of Spain. Wood beams, animal heads, and a tan and orange color scheme figured. I was immediately rather charmed.
They had a full service and rather large restaurant, and we decided to go with that option, mostly because dad was totally down for lamb. As we sat down and perused the menu, we noticed everyone around us was chowing down with gusto upon cave-man sized portions of roast lamb, little lamb legs poking up out of their bowls. Paydirt or profoundly disturbing, depending on how you see it. (I reiterate my public service announcement that vegans should avoid the Iberian peninsula at all costs).
For starters, we had a tremendous Spanish style salad with the usual tuna, asparagus, tomato, and sardine. A green salad in Spain inevitably entails a tremendous amount of delicious oil packed tuna and some white asparagus (green asparagus appears to be outlawed). I will definitely die of iodine poisoning in Spain.
My main course was artichoke hearts with clams, a simple and surprisingly delicious dish. It reminded me almost of a Chinese dish with its delicately flavored wine sauce. The clams were perfectly cooked, and the tender asparagus hearts provided a perfect complement that hadn't occurred to me before. I'm going to have to learn how to make this.
My mom had Castilian soup, a traditional dish on these dry plains. It even comes in it's own distinctive bowl! As she discovered, it's not exactly a *light* dish - this appeared to be bean and bread soup with an incredible quantity of miscellaneous pig parts in it, some unidentifiable. The flavor was porky, fatty, and rich. It's soul food for the pig obsessed Castilian. I derived great pleasure from watching Mom carefully examine her spoonful in an attempt to ID what, exactly, that thing was.
My dad had the cordero, or roasted lamb. A giant portion of lamb came in a bowl (catching the gamey and delicious juice,) a plantitive little leg sticking out the top. This is the kind of food Castilian kings probably ate around their tremendous dining tables, grunting and scratching themselves and throwing bones to the dogs. It was needless to say very tasty indeed, with tender, uber-rich meat and crispy, delicious skin.
After lunch, I explored the large and incredibly kitschy gift shop attached to the restaurant, which featured every Spanish themed piece o 'crap imaginable to man. Stuffed bulls, curious gummy candy, baked goods from every inch of Castile, pickled pork feet, you name it they got it, along with obscene Basque t-shirts.
I wandered over to the ice-cream freezer and was reduced to laughter when I saw what was on offer. Surely you can spot it the ever-so subtle racism. Also: a strawberry ice cream pop in the shape of feet? The cheesecake love disc?
They also had a healthy sized specimen of Castile and Leon's punch cake - a marzipan sponge cake filled with cream. It is delicious.
We were soon back on the road, headed toward Madrid. Which I will discuss tomorrow.