“Is it beer o’clock?” enquires one of the group sprawled on sunbeds…
Some murmurs of agreement and then “who has the kitty?”…I struggle to my feet, The DJ is upright and blinking against the Catalonian sun. We shuffle off…10 feet to the little beach bar, placing our order in Spanglais before we ferry mojito’s, beers and café con leche back to the prone bodies with outstretched arms. It’s hard going this holiday lark.
“What time is Mr Rocket arriving?” enquires Mata. I respond with a vague thought that he should be here by now and then the phone call confirms he is wandering along the seafront in search of us. The Marmoset, opens one eye… then closes it again and Stepney slumbers on. The DJ (who has a special birthday and for which we are in Spain celebrating) goes in search of Rocket and returns with his quarry who happily plonks himself onto a sunbed and orders a beer, as our thoughts turn to our evening meal.
A suggestion had been put forward that perhaps Pintxos might be the thing and a few likely venues were discussed. Pintxos are a sort of Tapas that originated in the Basque region and we know from our shack in France they are hugely popular across the Basque country – we now find that they are very popular across northern Spain and of course in Catalonia. These are very tasty bites, often served on pieces of bread with a cocktail stick through them – a pintxo in basque means a stick or a thorn. The snacks are laid out on the bar and you help yourself, saving the stick as this is used to calculate the bill. Small sticks are one price, larger or different shape sticks are another and little dishes containing the likes of padron peppers yet another. The bar staff then simply count the sticks and dishes. It’s simple, civilized and a delicious lunch or supper, other times it’s something you can just graze on with a beer.
At this point I should add that this all occurred on our wedding anniversary and Rocket, who adores Pintxos, was delighted with the opportunity to celebrate with one of his favourite meals… he was less delighted when later that night, having retired to bed a little before his errant wife (who went dancing and consumed what seemed to be pints of bacardi and coke (rude not to) ‘she’ careered into the bedroom and whilst attempting to charge her mobile phone, fell over a table and then demanded his urgent assistance with said charging task. All this inconvenience, was off set by some further fabulous eating experiences such as the Catalan Octopus, perfectly fresh squid, fabulous seafood and plates of meltingly good Iberico ham, so he thankfully overlooked the matter.
The selection in the ‘Tavernas del Donostiarra’ http://www.visitsitges.com/en/sitges/bares-en-sitges/bar-donostiarra was plentiful and freshly made – the trick is go to a very busy place as you will see the trays of pintxos being constantly refreshed. One of the most popular ones on our table was a sort of burger – we think of pork and beef, really well seasoned. The merguez sausage went down a storm as did the deep fried peppers stuffed with Brandade de Morue (mashed salted cod) hugely popular in southern France and northern Spain.
This sort of food is great for times when friends are coming over and makes for a particularly good way of using things up. Small quantities of things left in the fridge, creatively whipped up and served, for example; a little tuna mayonnaise with some boiled egg and an anchovy or some spiced sausage, topped with chopped tomato drizzled with olive oil… a little mashed blue cheese and a toasted walnut or some crisp bacon…the possibilities are endless.
I was in conversation with our friend The Orchid Farmer whilst languishing on the sun soaked terrace of our apartment as we supped aperitifs, we were on the subject of waste. The Orchid Farmer being a cook of some renown was waxing lyrical about waste and how with a few basic skills you can use up leftovers, a subject also close to my heart. We warmed to our theme and decided this should all be committed to typed pages, to be fastened together as a book. The Orchid Farmer and I discussed concepts and banged on generally about frugality whilst supping away on our chilled Cava and picking our way through some delectable little snacks…the irony not lost on us, we burst out laughing and even came up with a canny title for our forthcoming publication… to be kept entirely secret in case we ever write the thing!
’12 go mad in Sitges’ was a magnificent way to celebrate with friends, with the food very often taking centre stage. My personal highlights, a stunning and classically Spanish dish of hake with clams at ‘La Nansa’ http://www.restaurantlanansa.com/nova/ of which I sadly have no picture, such was my joy, I was busy tucking in!
This, closely followed by the Tuna Carpaccio served up at ‘Fragata’.