Sabor de Almeria is playing host to another food event this February in Mojacar. A new Ruta de Gastro-Tapas is to be held on Mojacar Playa, South between Al Punto, the Brazilian Restaurant and Cocktail Bar El Sitio from Friday 22nd February to Sunday 24th February inclusive (LUNCHTIME ONLY). A small Opening Party will be held on the evening of Thursday 21st February at El Barrio Libre from 8.00 p.m. onwards with Paella on hand. Paella ONLY available by booking in advance. [Please message El Barrio Libre via their Facebook page].
The event is organised strictly by an independent business i.e. steve homer of sabordealmeria.com who has no vested interest in any of the competing businesses and thereby no conflict of interest.
The Ruta de Gastro-Tapas is designed as a fun event to stimulate interest in tapas, food and drink in Mojacar and provide something of interest for visitors.
The voting is undertaken by the general public on each of the three days, and the final results for ALL three days will be announced on the Sunday evening at a venue to be determined. Voting slips will be made available at each of the participating bars on each day.
Voters won't have far to go to sample all the 'special' tapas (and any other fayre they wish), as all the establishments are about 100 metres apart. Ballot Boxes will be provided in all competing bars/restaurants for the voting. Voting slips will be available only in the competing bars.
The event takes place between 13.00 and 16.00 each day.
Voters MUST have tried the special tapas in each bar on the same day to vote. i.e. Fridays voting requires customers to have visited all four bars/restaurants and sampled all 'special' tapas for that day. Any voting slips with only one 'endorsement' by the competing bars will be declared NULL and void.
If there is any doubt in the Organiser's mind regarding the legitimacy of voting slips then the Organiser's has the right to cancel that vote. No argument is accepted and the Organiser's decision is final.
You will also note that the cost for the event (to the voting public) has been kept at a manageable and affordable level of 2€ per 'drink and tapa' - and therefore for all 12 tastings the entire cost is no more than a very reasonable 24.00€. To participate in previous tapas tours the cost was prohibitively expensive for many people.
Tapas originated here in Andalusia, southern Spain and not as some would have you believe in northern Spain (Galicia) as I have seen written. I think that there is a bit of a jealousy by the northerners regarding the fact that the south gets the global credit and it doesn’t surprise me in the least to see the food revolution of molecular cuisine and extravagant cooking emanating from the north. It’s their way to sort of ‘get their own back’ on the southerners. Well, perhaps that’s one possible theory.
Regardless of where you are in Spain, I am pleased to report that the tapas tradition and culture is still flourishing. It dwindled for a while in this area but due to the efforts of like-minded individuals like my dear friend Nacho Ortiz and the introduction of social media, (and maybe the economic downturn) tapas have taken on a revitalised role within the local communities. However, for a tradition and culture that has being in place for thousands of years I find it amazing that only recently (from about 2005 or 2006), have there been formal competitions established whereby local bars and restaurants compete with each other for the title of the ‘Best Tapa’. Not only does it bring trade but it is a fun (and shouldn’t be taken too seriously) event. In 2009 here in Mojacar the first ‘Ruta de Tapas’ event was born, following the shining example of Nacho’s initiative in Almeria. Curiously for some, in Mojacar the Ruta did not occur this (potentially its third year). I’m well aware of the reasons why it failed to materialise but this is not for me to report.
On a more positive note however, a new type of tapas event was introduced (by me) following a request from a bar owner to do something different to bring in custom during this economically difficult time. Enter, the Duel of the Bars – a Head to Head Challenge involving two different bars located in the same part of the resort. That event took place last week and was a resounding success, to the extent that other bars wish to also replicate the event throughout other parts of the town. This is good news indeed, but what I was most interested to see was the high quality of the tapas produced. When you see the photos you can tell these are no ordinary tapas for this area, they are Gastro-tapas, although others tell me they are nothing more than you’d expect to sample in places like Granada and in the north of Spain.
The event was resounding success for two reasons. The event was not about who won the event. The event was about getting new faces i.e. customers in to each bar during a difficult economic period. Time and time again over the three days people in each bar said “Oh I’ve never been in here” or “I’d never have thought of visiting this bar – I’m really surprised, it’s really nice I’ll come back here again.” Objective one was achieved on the first day and continued each day. The second aspect was a by-product of great gastro-tapas presentation and the use of social media. That was to ‘showcase’ to the world, including the locals who couldn’t be bothered to support the event, the quality of the dishes that were coming out of two small kitchens, and what they were missing. These were truly first class and exceptionally high quality tapas by both bars.
Now we have more events to plan and execute, each with a twist of their own. Whilst the ‘Ruta de Tapas’ in its previous form may have stalled, this new and imaginative event may just resurrect the interest in a different format of Ruta in future – something I already have planned with some interested bar owners.
Finally, one bar owner has now cleverly started to market the ‘three event tapas’ as a mini tapas dining experience for those who’d like to eat them again or for those who missed the event. It’s a smart marketing move. Like anything it all takes time but this area of the resort, Mojacar Playa South is starting to make waves and people sit up and take notice. Watch this space for something new to come.
It is unusual for me to write about my experiences on the gastro-tapas tours whereby I host a tour on foot around Almeria City, calling in at worthwhile eating establishments and introducing quality tapas to those interested enough to book. This last tour was however note-worthy, but not because it was held on a Sunday, but more so because of quality of the people whom I had the pleasure to host.
It was with some surprise that when I met up with the latest group of self-confessed foodies for a Gastro-Tapas Tour of Almeria, they were all youngsters probably no older than my two sons (my eldest is in his early thirties). The guests, all from Ireland, consisted of (clockwise from left top) - Kate, Shane, Reena, Paul (the ring leader - note how as a musician Paul is really living the musical moment), John Lennon, and Trish. And what stars they turned out to be…not only were they very knowledgeable about food, but they were delightful, beautiful people, and made the day so much fun! So, a sincere “Thank you all!” goes to the famous five for their untiring consumption of food and wine, (and beers), also for their infectious enthusiasm and their genuinely great company! I truly hope we can do another tour together in the future.
What was so interesting for me was the group’s statement that all their friends in Ireland are ‘into food’ in a big way. Never is a cookery/culinary TV programme missed, they spend much of their time sampling new foods and yes, even going on cooking vacations or some holiday which was food associated. Paul and Trish once took flights to Bari in Italy on the strength of Paul wanting to try a particular restaurant featured in a (Rick Stein?) TV programme. Also, that in Ireland, hardly a month goes past without there being some type of food and/or drink festival or event taking place locally…in their words “Ireland is always hosting them…”
This isn’t of course the only time I have met enthusiastic youngsters who like their food. For those of you who regularly follow my Facebook pages you will recall that earlier this year I hosted two Dutch interns (equally delightful people) who were from the Food Design College in the Netherlands. But hey, they are in the food business and this latest group are not in any food related industry, so for me it was doubly enjoyable.
And, for those of you readers expecting me to post details of the tours, i.e. where we went and what we ate, I have to disappoint you. It would be unwise of me to post exactly which bars and restaurants at which we stopped, or to list the countless dishes ordered and duly consumed, (otherwise I wouldn’t have a business and it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise for future guests). It is however worth mentioning that at times like these, when chefs and kitchens have been in full swing during a busy Sunday lunchtime (and they just wish to close up and go home to their families) and when a tour is squeezing in 5 establishments in less than three hours*, it is only through ‘local knowledge and contacts’ that one can gate-crash bars and restaurants literally 5 minutes before kitchen is due to close (and better still 45 minutes after the due closure time), and not only get more food but also be offered a free round of delicious dishes, as well as get to meet the head chef.
*the norm is to run tours on weekdays and only attend 4 bars and restaurants plus visits to other food related places of interest which were closed on a Sunday.For more information on the gastronomy tours I offer, go to Gastronomy Tours
For me, greengages remind me of France. So they should really as they were first grown in Moissac, France and were named Reine Claude Verte or for some, just Reine Claude (French for 'Queen Claude'). These green and sometimes yellowish plum-family fruits are truly one of my favourites. As a kid I'd travel to France with my family on the annual summer holidays. Whilst in France, my parents were driven to distraction by the fact that I'd eat only two foods - salads and fruit - both very recognisable in their make-up. I could easily identify salad leaves, tomatoes and eggs and also any variety of different fruits, with the exception of greengages which were new to me. Fifty years on and I have never forgotten the impact that greengages had on me. The taste was so much more different and enjoyable than any other plum I have experienced, and I spent the entire summer picking through the fruit bowls I was offered at the dining table targeting the greengages. I never tired of them.
Despite having lived in France in 2006 I never really saw much of the greengages again during that 50 year period, apart from one supper party. Now in Spain I have become reacquainted with them. Frankly, I still consider them to be one of the tastiest fruits around. I've never attempted to cook with them, only ever having them in their raw state, but I find they go great with a variety of different cheeses. [Cheese is my biggest culinary weakness]. They are also great for chutney's and sweet jams. I'm sure too that they make great tarts or pies but I'll leave the experts to making those for the time being.
Here we just delved into them with some English cheeses and strawberries, a bit of crusty bread and chutney.
Later I used the greengages sliced in a salad with warm goats cheese as the main star of the dish. The accompanying relish was homemade mango-chutney.
Of course being a fruit you'll wish to know what health benefits these fruits offer so here goes;
They really are an interesting fruit and if you have yet to try them I urge you to get down to the supermarket or weekly farmer's market and see for yourself.....but please leave some for me!
Can you devise a better topping for your tostada? If so write in and let me know....I'll feature the best and most creative offering, oh and it has to be inexpensive, healthy and tasty!
As you'll know from a previous blog post 'in favour of tostadas...' I have long been a fan of tostadas, bruschettas, crostinis and crostonis. This healthy option Spanish made tostada is an ideal snack at lunchtime or evening, and yes of course if you are that way inclined, for breakfast even. Half a crusty baguette, topped with grated tomato, a light goats cheese and avocado, this is one of my favourites. Sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, and drizzled in olive oil, you'll not think twice about ordering one of these when you see it pass by en route to someone else's table. Is it as good as it looks? Yes, perhaps even better especially if you haven't eaten breakfast and you've just had a 1 km hike in 38 degrees heat. Just drop me, Steve Homer, a line via this website contact details and I'll review the recipes you have on offer....then I'll share the very best with my audience and promote via Facebook!
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