..........a blog about food, travel, gardening, and living the good life in Arizona.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blooming gratitude

When we left on our trip 12 days ago, my four Christmas cactus were just pushing out tiny buds. Today they are blooming in all their varied colors. This is my favorite one, the color just bowls me over. Even when we're not traveling before my most-loved holiday, it seems as though the days prior, just creep up on me, slowly, and then one day, the cactus bloom and I know it's that time... to plan the menus, to start cooking, and to make my mental list of all that I'm grateful for... a very long list it is, beginning here.

"If the only prayer you say in your life is 'thank you,' that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart

Friday, November 16, 2012

No ordinary tapas

Mo Gastrotapas... we discovered this restaurant on Trip Advisor's website for Nerja restaurants... it was ranked #1 in Nerja and we soon found out why. The food is that good! The restaurant is named after Montserrat Mayor Heimer, thus Mo, who trained with the top chefs of Spain including Ferran Adria of El Bulli. The photo above is of Mo as a little girl and is a wallpaper sized photo in the restaurant along with a modern eclectic design in orange and lime green and an industrial touch of concrete panels and textured walls. Beyond the welcoming modern interior, Mo's menu is an exquisite expression of classic small bites of tapas… artistic, beautiful constructions of the most glorious food imaginable from split grilled shrimp on a fish cake with piquant sauce served on an artful pick to a wondrous meal of dorado wrapped in nearly sheer zucchini ribbons and bacon, stuffed with a tomato confit, and resting in a pool of buttery saffron sauce. Each plate is a stunning presentation of color, texture and flavor, evidence of the thoughtful consideration brought to every dish. 

And then there are all the little additions throughout the meal… did I mention those? from the welcoming amuse bouche of the croquette del dia to the finishing touch of a vanilla-scented buttercream cup over sweet wine… scoopable with a flattened, macerated raisin on a decorative skewer. You scoop out the cream with the raisin and then sip the wine. Sheer billance! We ate at Mo Gastro twice during our stay and it was without a doubt, one of the highlights of our trip to Nerja! Tapas photos below:

Sadly I don't remember the names of these different tapas, but they were all amazing!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Friends, tapas and time

One of our first adventures in Nerja was attending the annual end-of-year bash of the American International Club of Nerja (AICN ) held at the Hotel Rural Alamazara in Frigiliana. We joined about 50, mostly British and a handful of Americans, enjoying a scrumptious dinner, dancing to live music and bidding on silent auction items to raise money for a local Spanish charity. (I’ll post later about the sculpture I bid on and won… just love it!)

Weeks before we headed to Spain, we stumbled upon a link to the AICN website and after a bit of email exchange managed to wrangle an invitation to attend their event. What a fun time! We soon realized we had a lot in common with many of the members; the use of “gypsy” in my blog title is no accident. We ultimately made a few new friends with whom we re-connected for lunch today in Nerja (photo). Jean, from New Hampshire, who has lived here for nearly a decade and Herb & Trish, from Omaha and Scotland, who’ve been here half that time are all three intimately familiar with the pros and cons of living here, the paperwork and bureaucracy involved and, of course, all there is to enjoy in Andalucia. We can’t help asking them a million questions!

The Restaurant El Puente where this photo was taken, serves tapas and dinner both inside, and on their terrace outdoors. Since it was again a lovely, sunny day, we ate outdoors staying over 4 hours chatting, eating tapas and drinking Spanish wine with our new friends. We spent only $14.00 for the 2 of us and so enjoyed the Spanish tradition of waiters never interrupting table conversation to whisk plates away, turn our table over or hurry us in any way… it’s just so darn civilized! There was no rush for us to leave, no check to figure out. You just tell the cashier what you had to eat and drink and they tally it up, you pay and you’re on your way. Love that.

Tonight, more tapas at Mo’s Gastrotapas… a wonderful place worthy of a blog post of its own. Tomorrow, Almunecar for market day and lunch by the sea with Americans!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bolsas galore!

The street market in Nerja is held every Tuesday and is much like a flea market in the states. We found lots of great treasures to bring home including nice Spanish leather goods for a song. Here is Jack with 2 of his new bolsas (handbags) one hanging on each side of him. The center one was bought in Italy on our last trip. Man bags are not that popular here in Spain, but they are in Italy... Jack loves them as they hold all the goodies he needs especially useful for travel. Though one day in Lincoln, he carried his to Walmart after yoga class and got the dirtiest look from a matronly woman who obviously thought she'd just about seen it all as she shook her head in wonderment... what the heck is the world coming to!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Epic fail...

I guess it’s a good thing to have an epic fail the first day of a vacation…gives one an opportunity to get the inevitable out of the way; then proceed while secretly hoping there won’t be another to top the one you’re currently sharing with the world in a blog post. Here it is in any case: In the small town of Nerja, Spain, there is a popular tourist area known as the Balcon… a centrally located cliff outcropping that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea favored by tourists for its beautiful vistas of the sea, beaches and rock formations below. There is a swank hotel there and many little shops and sidewalk cafes arranged around tourist-friendly walk streets… “walk streets” being the key words. Who knew?? Not us – that wasn’t in the guide book! Jack, in his technological wisdom purchased a European GPS (for which I’m mostly thankful) so we wouldn’t get lost when we impulsively decide to search out xyz. This day the GPS led us directly to our destination, the Balcon, without the cyber knowledge that the streets leading up to it were, in fact, walk streets. A quick turn here, then left and suddenly we’re driving on a sidewalk-like narrow road… welcome to walk streets, as in NO CARS ALLOWED!!! Signs? Maybe, but in Spanish, we wouldn’t have noticed. Once you’re on a walk street, there is no turning around, you are committed… suffering under the scowls of pedestrians who curse you under their breath as they move off the street they know that you are not supposed to be driving on. At this point, we are completely aware that we have totally screwed up… Jack is sweating and swearing and I’m slouched way down in the passenger seat as we move ahead praying for a way out… now we are in the heart of the plaza where no cars are allowed EVER… we are a shocking display of wrongness and bad tourist form… nothing to do but keep moving… suddenly the road ends at cement pillars evenly spaced across the road to prevent passage… as in no egress and no ingress. Well, actually the egress is possibly, maybe, yes!! thankfully just wide enough to allow our little Spanish rental car to squeeze through… we hold our breath and are soon free of walk-street hell. Jack drives a little faster now on the regular streets, eager (as I am) to leave this episode behind us, so grateful that the only casualty has been our (now questionably savvy) tourist egos. Please pass the sangria, mi amigos.

Friday, November 9, 2012

We arrived!

in Nerja, Spain, yesterday and after settling into our rented condo and eating a light dinner, I fell asleep for 15 hours!! Some very strong coffee brought me back to life this morning… caffeine: proof that God loves me. It’s raining today but the sun pokes through every once in a while. The gardens are beautiful with all kinds of cactus and flowering plants: lantana, hibiscus, angel trumpets, roses, flowering vines all blooming and everything is green; the smell of wet earth and scented geraniums is intoxicating. The sea is gray and the sky, misty, but overall very comfortable here in the European cradle of laid-backness. More exploring tomorrow!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Soup for Dinner

Jack made this shrimp bisque last night for dinner... rich and yummy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beach Bound

Burriana Beach in Nerja, Spain...just one of the pristine beaches on the Costa Del Sol. Only 4 more sleeps and we'll be walking on this one! I'll be blogging from there and towns nearby while we explore southern Spain. Though we've been to Spain several times before this trip, we've not been to this area so are excited to see how it differs from Barcelona, Madrid and Granada. Hopefully our limited Spanish will help!