Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know! I've been catching hell from all of you in the VTB Chat Lounge lately for not writing much in 007. And I've been catching hell for the same from Big Mamma and Borat behind the scenes.
So...in an effort to publish a little sumthin' and try preserve the few Blogger buddies that I have left at this late stage, I am pleased to provide the following, largely unedited, stream of consciousness-heavy post.
Take it away, Don Pardo...
1. IS IT WRITER'S BLOCK...OR FOOD POISONING?
Pu-leeze!!! I don't do writer's block. This writing thing is as easy as breathing--and certainly, a lot easier than talking. So we can't blame my dearth of blogging on that.
Nor can we blame food poisoning. I wish that I could, but alas...there's not an Indian restaurant within 30 miles of my house.
No...the reason is simply colossal weariness. After publishing 300+ posts on the VTB, 70+ posts on Expatica (from which I've recently retired) and more than a dozen on The Spirit World (from which I'll retire after this month) over the past few years...I just kinda hit a wall of colossal weariness. "Lost the Eye of the Tiger," to quote that old guy with odd-looking face.
I therefore decided to take an unannounced blogging vacation. Not permanently, of course! That would be silly. I'd then have to do more talking permanently...which is twice as exhausting as writing.
And, ya know what? The nasty thing about relaxation is that it rarely achieves the intended goal of re-charging one's batteries. To the contrary, it causes lethargy and makes you crave more relaxation. It's a slow death by rusting. So...methinks [that was for you, Trac!] that I'd better take my hands off my belly and put them back on the keyboard.
Mystery solved! Is it writer's block or food poisoning? No and no.
"...or food poisoning?"
"...food poisoning?" Hey! How about a song?
Just can't resist those accordian players. Anyway..believe it or not, I saw this same guy play the same song live at a blues bar called The Station Tavern several times when I was studying in London in 1988.
2. HEY! TODAY'S VALENTINE'S DAY, ISN'T IT?
Well waddya know?! It *is* Valentine's Day!
Call me a hopeless romantic, but I really feel infected with VD today.
Hey! How about a song? Here's a Valentine's Day wish...from Felix, George and me...to all of you.
3. NEXT TOPIC...TAPAS TOUR 007.
For reasons that I doubt even they understand, Mr. and Mrs. The Big Finn are flying to Madrid next month solely (purportedly) for the purpose of visiting me.
When I asked TBF what he wanted to do when he arrives, he responded as follows: "We've already seen Madrid a few times, so let's spend the day eating tapas."
Clearly, he and I will be friends.
But still, a visit from a pair of VIPs like TBFs requires prep work. So I recruited my long-time friend and Madrid-area radio personality, Drew, to assist me with planning/executing a tapas tour dry-run last month. Well...it was a dry-run, but I can't honestly say that it was dry.
Please pardon my hair in the picture above and those that follow. It was very cold in Madrid, I was suffering some serious hathead, and--further aggravating matters--recently got a haircut that was far too closely-cropped for my liking.
Anyway...we started with coffee and croissants at Cafe Oriente, near the Opera House. Then had raisiny sweet wine and cookies at an old bar called "El Anciano Rey el los Vinos" (Calle Bailen, 19). Legend has it that the king's grandfather boozed there. Above we see a pale, yucky-haired me, Drew and his son Oliver. We are holding glasses of that "sweet wine."
We then wandered into the Calle Cava Baja neighborhood for a series of quickies.
We had tajadas de bacalao (battered and fried hunks of salt cod) accompanied by a hideous house wine at a bar called "Revuelta."
Then to an Andaluz-style bar called "Sanlúcar" (Calle San Isidro Labrador) for a glass--Ok, two glasses--of Manzanilla Sherry, a bowl of salmorejo (a very thick gazpacho topped with diced cured ham and hard-boiled egg) and chopitos (strips of deep-fried calamari).
Then to the highlight of our tour---Casa de Amadeo (Plaza de Cazcorro, 18).
Meet Amadeo! Cute as a button, isn't he?
Of all the tapas bars we visited that day, his was the most interesting--not just because of the food, but also (especially) because of his gregarious personality. Amadeo is like the mad great-uncle at Thanksgiving dinner who insists that you join him in eating the giblets--and then launches into a manically-animated 20 minute rant about how turkey livers are good for both longevity and virility.
Looking at the picture above, you can see the various plates and bowls of Amadeo's other tapas on display. Upon receiving your order, Amadeo will grab a handful (no spoon, no glove) of whatever, slap it onto a dish and hand it to you. Bacteria be damned! Starting from the left hand side of the bar, we see (or perhaps we don't see, but you'll need to trust me) the following: blood sausage with rice; snails (i.e., that earthenware bowl with the shiny red liquid); a large, white, oval plate of deep-fried bacon cubes (!!!); crawfish in the Amadeo's standard oily/paprika-heavy broth; and battered and fried hunks of bacalao (i.e., salt cod).
Drew is a frequent patron of his bar. So...the moment that we walked in the door, Amadeo seized Drew's hand, vigorously shook mine, and immediately poured us each a glass of "jugo de caracoles" (i.e., "snail juice").
Yes, I said "snail juice."
And here are those glasses of snail juice! The name is deceiving, however. It's not really the end product of a snail pushed through a RonCo juicer; but rather, it's the oily, paprika-heavy broth in which the snails were stewed.
Briny, spicy, earthy...probably a great tonic for someone suffering from a cold. Not bad in small quantities, although I wouldn't want to down a tumbler of it.
Aside from the snail juice and two rounds of beer (one of which was on the house...thanks, Amadeo!), we had a huge dish of stewed snails. And man-oh-man...those snails were good. Spicy, even...which is always a shock where Spanish cuisine is involved.
Those were the tapas bars that we hit (TBF...take note!). Here are some others that we wanted to hit, be didn't/couldn't:
- La Castela (Doctor Castela, 22): This, BTW, is my favorite tapas bar in the city.
- La Montería (Lope de Rueda, 35): Great salmorejo and other Andalucian-style, deep-fried fishies.
- Cerveceria Cervantes (Cervantes, 34): For shellfish and assorted pig parts. The "Torta del Casar" (a creamy cheese to be spread onto bread), Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus) and Navajas (knife clams) are highly recommended by my ex-wife.
- Casa Lucas (Calle Cava Baja, 30): For tortilla española (potato omelette).
- Txirimiri (Calle General Díaz Porlier, 91): For Basque tapas...properly called "pintxos."
- Txakoli (Calle Cava Baja, 26): More pintxos. El Almendro 13
- Almendro 13 Tel. 91 365 42 52 Metro: La Latina En la calle hay muchos más, todos más que recomendables. Os nombramos éste, por ser uno de los veteranos en la zona, dedicado a las manzanillas y los finos que puedes acompañar con sus famosos "huevos rotos" o las "roscas". Pides y te avisan a toque de campana. Ojo, cierran pronto: 24.00
- La Taberna de los Cien Vinos Nuncio, 17 Tel. 91 365 47 04 Metro: La Latina Otro de nuestros preferidos, la verdad es que la zona no tiene desperdicio. Selección de vinos, y tapas elaboradas, calidad de embutidos y tostas excelentes. Los domingos no hay cocina ... caliente, puedes intentar la cecina con aceite de oliva.
- Tempranillo Cava Baja, 38 Tel. 91 364 15 32 Metro: La Latina Amplia carta de vinos, algunos por copa, debilidad por las setas y revueltos.
- La Salamandra Alfonso VI, 6 Tel. 91 366 05 15 Metro: La Latina Vinos por copas y en botella. Excelentes tapas, que varían por temporada. La cocochas de bacalao con trompetas negras estaban exquisitas.
- Taberna Matritum Cava Alta , 17 28005 Madrid Tel. 91 365 82 37 Metro: La Latina Reciente descubrimiento a añadir a nuestra ruta croquetera. Croquetas variadas, de jamón y espinacas que puedes acompañar de una excelente y cuidada selección de vinos. Además muy recomendables los calçots con salsa romescu.
Methinks The Big Finn will leave Madrid bigger.
4. LOOKING FOR A REALLY SAVAGE, FUNNY NEW BLOG?
Well...remember Tiinakala? You know, our lurking friend from snowy Estonia. She has been quietly chugging away on her own blog, which I stumbled upon with no thanks to her.
And let me tell you...she is hilarious!
It's not for the faint-hearted. But if you like your humor wrapped in barbed-wire and marinaded in undiluted vinegar...then click HERE!
5. WHEN THE PARTY'S OVER.
That's enough. I think I've more or less fulfilled my blogging obligation for this week. Or, at least, for tonight.
Are you in the mood for one last tune? If so, then here's my favorite version of one of my favorite George songs (Billy Preston on vocals).
Forgive my flagrant abuse of YouTube in this post, but it's easier than writing. And it's definitely easier than talking.