Thursday, July 2, 2009

Upon my return from Spain...

I'm not going to lie. For the first two and a half days of my trip to Málaga, Spain, the trip seemed to be a bit of a bust. Not that the city wasn't lovely (it was) or the museums phenomenal (the Museo Picasso now ranks as one of my favorite galleries ever) or the weather divine (hot, but not humid, with sunny skies that were so blue it seemed out of a travel commercial). But something about Málaga hadn't quite grabbed me the way other cities have. Part of the way through my final day in southern Spain, it hit me what the problem was. The food had been fine. Just fine. Not spectacular, not that different from the tapas joints that dot Washington, DC. In other cities, there have been foods so good that they not only make your toes curl, but they make you want to return to that city just to eat.

And I'd had such high hopes for Spain, for the tapas and the olives and the seafood and the paella. They were all fine. I even went as far as to boldly state that while the flan at the lovely Cafe Moka on Calle San Bernardo el Viejo was delicious, it wasn't as good as my mother's. Wednesday afternoon, I'd resigned myself to a vacation of culinary adequacy, but not fireworks.

But then, in the bottom of the ninth of my vacation, Málaga came through in the clutch with a homerun.

Espetos de sardinas. Sardines on a skewer, an Andalucian specialty. Nothing more than whole, fresh sardines, tossed with salt, racked up and grilled over an open flame. Served on a plate with a wedge of lemon.

I had mine at an outdoor shack on the beach, on a bright and clear day. I stared out at the Mediterranean, downed two cold San Miguels, dipped the fresh bread they serve with it into the sardine and lemon juice, and didn't need my book. The afternoon I spent eating espetos was worth the entire trip to Málaga, and would be worth returning for.

Toes? Consider yourselves curled.

Before I dug in. Or maybe after one small bite to confirm that it was indeed food heaven.

The aftermath.

The view from my table.



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