GALICIA, Spain...1 week, May 2024

We arrived yesterday in Santiago de Compostela, the first of our three planned destinations during a week in the NorthWesternmost region of Spain: Galicia.

This was my third visit to Santiago, but the others were long ago and I don’t recall much about the food, other than the octopus, the base of what is probably the most famous dish of this city and the surrounding area. Seafood immediately comes to mind when thoughts turn to Galicia (the v variety boggles the mind) but the region is also celebrated for its beef, cheese, and sweets… Walking into a “gourmet” shop a few minutes after arriving, I was awe struck not only at the diversity of the offerings, but how different they are as compared to other regions of Spain. Spirits, cheeses, conserved seafood…it’s almost like being in a different country!! I cannot wait to explore further.

Unfortunately, the typically rainy weather of “Green Spain,” is very much in evidence, which kind of inhibits aimless wandering. But last night, before dinner, I stopped into the Santiago outpost of FRINSA, celebrated for its tinned seafood:-everything from sea urchin and sardines to various types of clams and scallops, some of whose names were new to me.
I bought a dozen tins of ventresca, the belly of the tuna caught in the seas off Cantabria and of a different species than the red tuna of Andalucia. Don’t want to cart those tins back to your hotel: No problem. As I experienced in Madrid, gourmet shops will often offer to deliver your items at no charge, in this case to my hotel.

Our first dinner in Santiago was at ABASTOS 2.0, a restaurant with three sections–bar, terrace and dining room. We ate in the dining room, across the street from the Mercado de Abastos, the city’s principal food market.

The restaurant was recommended to me by Maribel, our HO incomparable expert on all things Spain. The dinner proved to be a perfect introduction to the wonders of Galician food!
It was difficult to decide, as so many dishes tempted and, in fact, our waiter dissuaded me from ordering an extra dish, saying it would be excessive. (The razor clams will wait until another day; soon!)

We loved this restaurant, and I could happily dine here every night of our stay in the city. Close to perfection in the welcome, the service, and the food:

The language here is Gallego:

My first course, percebes (24 euro) the barnacles extracted from sea cliffs at great peril by specialized percebeiros. Article with photos: The “battle between man and the waves:”

It takes some work to extract the meat from the carapace, but it’s not difficult once the waiter offers instruction:


The dark bread, “made with sea water!!” was terrific (no pic).

My partner chose veal; we both were a bit disappointed but that may be because Americans are used to very tender beef; this had decent enough flavor but was not tender. It was also cooked too rare for my partner, who thought it would be bad form to ask the waiter to send it back to the kitchen. Potatoes were wonderful.

Interior of the dining room. Casual and very convivial with excellent service; our waiter, Frank, stands in the rear.

I loved this place!!

Terrace across the street; surely the weather “dampened” the experience for these diners!!

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Sorry the weather has limited your wanderings, but very happy that you enjoyed Abastos 2.0.

I thought of you today as we were having an aperitivo at La Máquina on Jorge Juan and discovered that this week was “percebe gallego” week there. We’ll have to go back for a complete meal while it lasts.
At El Corte Inglés this week they’re priced at 97 euros. But lucky you, having them almost at the source!
Do I remember that you may have had them at Etxebarri?

We’ve seen the percebeiros in action (some are women), and it is indeed an extremely dangerous enterprise.
Do you remember the Anthony Bourdain episode in Asturias with José Andrés when Bourdain was waiting for Andrés in the dining room of their Cangas hotel and Andrés had gone percebes harvesting?

It looks like your partner’s dish wasn’t vaca rubia gallega, which should have been tender. Do you remember what it was called on the menu?

Keep exploring and enjoying your feasts and hope the weather improves significantly, but then, it’s Green Spain for a reason!

One of the aspects of Galician dining that I enjoy most is the heavenly bread! I think the Gallegos do bread the best.

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YUMMMM!!! Eat EVERYTHING but just stay away from the oysters!!! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
HAVE A SAFE AND FUN TIME!
BTW, long standing ’ Toronto chowhound ’ - ESTUFARIAN with wife and two girls are also in town! Don’t be surprised if you bump into them ( One elderly gentleman with white silver hair with three ladies tagging along ).

That beef actually does not look as red as I would expect in Spain. It is not ‘bad form’ to ask for more cooking. If you asked for ketchup, that would be bad form.

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Steve I know you are right; tonight at a grill restaurant (ASADOR GONZABA=excellent) the woman seated next us, who appeared to be a regular, did ask for her steak to be returned for further cooking.

Just checking in.
Full report to follow.
Too busy wining and dining - but with two ‘newbies’ this is mostly a greatest hits visit, rather than exploratory.
Highlight so far was the teardrop peas we found at the market (they also had percebes but we don’t have cooking facilities).
And my hair is ‘Arctic Blond’.

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Good to know that you can still find tear drop peas in Galicia. Apparently the ones you find in Galicia come from la Finca de los Cuervos near Teo, A Coruña. How were they priced?

They’re still on the menu of a few restaurants here in Madrid, but I imagine that by the end of the month they’ll disappear.

SEXY!!! :ok_hand: :+1: :star_struck:
…Lucky you!! I’m getting BALD!! :joy:

@erica1,
The meat looked fairly normally “rare” to me, as one would typically be presented with the txuleta in the Basque Country and Navarra. In a recent txuleta experience in Bizkaia (the fabulous Mikel Bengoa in Meñaka), we were presented with a little hot grill to warm each piece up or to cook it more to our liking. Same happened at Horma Onda, also in Bizkaia, on top of the hill above Azurmendi.

Yes, it’s ok to ask to have it further cooked, especially as Santiago de Compostela restaurants are quite used to many non-Spanish diners who aren’t used to it cooked very rare (which is exactly how we like it, but not our guests).

Also glad you like my suggestion of Asador Gonzaba, especially for your partner, who happily accompanies you to your many seafood extravaganzas. :grinning:

I’m actually still in Barcelona (not Galicia). Sorry for the confusion.
Had the peas at both Enigma and Mont Bar - but also found them (and Percebes) at Mercat del Ninot 20 euros for (I’m guessing) 100 gms. (they only had two punnets left).

At Enigma and Mont Bar, they were most likely from the Maresme coast, near Sant Andreu de Llaveneras, as the catalán chefs prefer to feature their home grown products. and these, I believe, have a slightly longer growing season in the spring.

Enigma specifically mentioned Maresme; Mont Bar didn’t identify origin.
Cocina Hermanos Torres also served us Maresme.
But served ‘straight from the punnet’ was our favourite version! Nothing to distract us from the pure taste.

My final course at ABASTOS 2.O.
Octopus has become almost ubiquitous on menus of certain restaurants in New York City, my hometown. I’ve liked it, and ordered it often.

ABASTOS 2.0 put octopus (pulpo) on another level entirely, for me. This was, with no doubt, the best octopus I’d ever eaten. Not only the taste, but the texture was on another plane from those I’d tried in the US, even in the many Greek restaurants in NYC.

I wish I knew the reasons for the vast differences between those renditions and this one. Is it the freshness of the product? The manner of cooking? Something else, or all of those and more?

Suffice to say that this “Polbo a Grella,” in the local language, (16.50 euro for a large serving) was a dish I will not soon forget. the tenderness of the meat, offset by the charred edges, served with with starchy potatoes on top of a dark green vegetable that our wonderful server, Frank, described as a cross between cabbage and kale that he named “Berton,” if I got the name right.

I’ve not yet tried pulpo anywhere else in Galicia on this trip so have no means to compare but I hope I can close to this experience.

Wonderful restaurant in every respect!!



The final bill, with one glass of wine: 76.50 euro.

Breakfast, included with the room at our hotel, was mediocre to say the least. (No doubt I’ve been spoiled by the superb breakfasts I’ve enjoyed during my last few stays at hotels in Madrid, Jerez, Cordoba and Vejer). Present me with a spread of what I call “industrial” sliced cheeses and pork products, false orange juice, and pan Bimbo-like white bread and its hard to not run, screaming, from the scene (ok…slight exaggeration here). The only alternative, and a happy thought, would be to sample a few empanadas from a nearby shop but unfortunately the hotels’ location precludes that…

So I decided to supplement the breakfast, which my partner enjoys, with something tasty. I ventured out yesterday to find, among the scrim of tourist-oriented shops along the casco historico’s Rua de Franco (interesting that this name remains on streets in this region, the birthplace of El Caudillo), that there was one that stood out, at #52; I did not note the full name, but it has the word “cesta,” in the title. Unlike most of the other shops I passed, which all seem to sell similar products geared to tourists, including various creamy orejo spirits in fluorescent colors.

Over and over again, you’ll see these spirits and, at every fourth store, a woman brandishing a tray piled with samples of the city’s namesake pastry, the almond-based Tarta de Santiago.
You could gain 5 pounds in a weekend availing yourself of all those free samples!!! That cake is delicious!!

Be careful here, however; “Tarta de Santiago,” with DOP status, is the one to seek out, rather than the “tarta de almendra,” without the seal. The latter contains a smaller percentage of almonds and is made with four ingredients, including “hojaldre,” as opposed to the three in the original recipe. (The things you learn when you have time to swan around and chat about food with any knowledgeable local so inclined.),

I bought a cured cheese from Cebreiro, storable at room temperature for two weeks, according to the salesperson. This was my first introduction to the world of Galician cheeses and if any are as delicious as this one, we are in for many treats in the week ahead. Along with chunks of the round-shaped loaf of local bread, this was a good breakfast!

Another purchase at that shop was a bottle of liqueur, made in Ourense from the fruit of the elder bush; the name is “licor de sabugueiro.” The brand is Carabunas. Brief online reading told me that the popular spirit, St. Germain, has this berry as its base, but this 44-proof spirit is cherry red in color. Delicious and, according to the seller, this shop is the only source in Santiago’s historic core.

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erica1,
I think that cross between cabbage and kale must have been BERZA gallega

So glad you enjoyed Abastos 2.0. I think the difference in the quality of the polvo there was the skill in preparation.

The store at Rua do Franco 52 is “A Cesta Tenda”.

Our Cebreiro cheese, bought in Cebreiro at the source, didn’t last unrefrigerated even for a few days. Hope you have better luck.
I’m sure you’ve seen “tetilla” cheese all over the place (in the shape of a female boob). It’s very, very common.

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Maribel, I did see the tetilla, all over the place, but I thought it might be very mild, so I took the Cebreiro. Oh my goodness, the world of Galician cheeses…which one should I look for next? Not to worry about storage, the Cebreiro is about half finished already!!

You are amazing!! You even know the shop!!! its a cut above the others. Another one I liked a lot is La Boca, owned by Argentinian Gallegos (near Frinsa) …that is where I received the tutorial about the tarta de Santiago…they also sell empanadas but they buy them from someplace else. I bought a tuna empanada which they heated up for me but by the time I walked back to the hotel it was almost cold…

Should I know that empanadas need to be eaten on the spot?
I would like to sample a few varieties this week since it is such a ubiquitous symbol of Galicia. Very interesting how the South American versions may have been introduced by Galician migrants. My goodness, everywhere you look you find another interesting food story that you need to read up on!!!

Today was supposed to be an in-depth exploration of the Mercado de Abastos. Little did I realize that today is EL DIA DE LAS LETRAS GALLEGAS, a commemoration of Galician literature, and most markets, and museums and sights, are shut tight!

The take-away here is to make sure you become aware of local holidays when you make your travel plans!!! I walked around for a few hours and it was stunning to see many locals dressed in traditional clothing, with much singing and a parade, followed by a mass in the church adjacent to our hotel. The sun even peeked through for a few minutes and it’s incredible how the city appeared to shine in the sunlight…with all of the plants beginning to bud. Glorious.



I will save our dinner at ASADOR GONZABA for later description.
We liked the restaurant very much and would recommend, even though we are not used to the difference in the steak between here and even in the Basque region…

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Hi erica1,
I’m embarrassed to say that I sometimes eat my empanadas cold (for breakfast!). What was your empanada filled with?

Glad you’ve already tackled the Cebrerio!

You should look for Arzúa Ulloa next.

Those are beautiful Galician costumes. Yes, it’s very, very important to do one’s research about local festivals, so as to plan your itineraries around them (to join in with the fun or to avoid them). I can’t tell you how many pilgrims come through Pamplona during the Sanfermines not realizing what’s going on, not prepared for the non-stop revelry (noise!!!) and also not realizing that the albergue in town isn’t open during the fiesta.

I’m assuming you’ve already heard plenty of gaiteros (Galician bagpipers). I love the music of Carlos Nuñez (“celtic sea”) and Susana Seivante. I have all their recordings.

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Maribel you are a wonder!
I will look for those two artists. I love bagpipes. I wish I had done much more reading about Galicia and the Celtic links, and so much else. I did not even bring a guidebook.

Tomorrow I hope to make an early visit to the market and will buy the Arzua Ulloa. Our plan is to pick up the rental car at Sixt at the train station and drive to La Toja. So we can have the morning for the market, this lazy person will need to set the alarm to rouse herself. Dinner tonight is at LA TAFONA.

I bought the tuna empanada and it was better than expected, while warm. I am often found at the breakfast table at home devouring cold pizza, so why should empanadas be any different? I think the market is the answer to my question of where to buy the best xxxxx…I am so excited to get there tomorrow morning! When I visited today, the “restaurant” stalls were open and, my goodness, that looks like a fantastic place to take breakfast or snacks…a long line of little eateries with very tempting menus. Each one was doing good business with what appeared to be local persons, having beers and having fun over seafood, empanadas, and much else…I wish I had had the appetite to take a seat.

The prices here seem very much less than in other parts of Spain I’ve visited. And the exceptional quality of the seafood. I really feel as if I am in a different world than in Madrid, for example, or the South. It’s so new to me. I will forever be amazed at how different the regions of Spain are from one another. I can only see the differences in food but I imagine that there is so much else that distinguishes Galicia from everywhere else…

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erica1,
Get thee to the market tomorrow morning!!
And look for the market stand, “Máis Que Queixos”

The stereotypes of gallegos and their superstitions, their inscrutability and their indecisiveness.

There’s a gallego restaurant here in Chamberí called “ni subo ni bajo”, referring to when meeting a gallego on the staircase, one never knows whether he´s going to go up or going to go own (or something like that…).

"«Cuando ves a un gallego en la escalera no sabes si sube o si baja»

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Yes, Ma’am!!!
Will rouse and get myself to the market early tomorrow!!
First stop will be Mais Que Queixos, and will discover what else awaits!!!

And then we will be off to La Toja for dinner tomorrow night at CULLER DE PAU!!

I have changed A TAFONA to LUME for tonight. I think that the long tasting menu would be just that…too long, given that tomorrow night we plan on CULLER DE PAU.

The male person at A TAFONA on the phone was incredibly kind when I explained the situation. (Notice that the blame here has been placed on the partner, when I am the one who is all aquiver at the idea of getting up so early with market basket in hand!!). Normally A TAFONA, like so many restaurants these days, both here and in the US, take a fee for cancellation less than 24 hours in advance. But it’s the response here in Spain that is so different…so much more empathetic. I do understand why they need to put that caveat into the booking process.

What do the other HO’s feel about this charge? If you cancel less than 24 hours in advance, how do you feel about being charged a fee of up to 50 euro per person? Do the restaurants actually levy this charge?

erica1,
I think that was a very wise choice, to switch to Lume. You’ll still be able to sample Lucía Freitas designed dishes but without having two long tasting menus 2 nights in a row. I know that we can no longer do that.

I feel that the cancellation charge is perfectly justified. And some Michelin starred restaurants require as much as 78 hours in advance to cancel. There has been such an avalanche of “no shows” lately, that the restaurant owners have been forced to do this.

I deal with this all the time, and I hear complaints constantly about the high number of “no shows” at restaurants. There have been several documented cases of small, boutique restaurants facing no shows of up to 40 people on a single day, and when the restaurant has called to confirm, no one answers the phone and when the restaurant has attempted a cancellation charge on the c.c. left, the c.c. has been cancelled. It’s a significant loss to a small business.

Here’s an example:

Actually at some of the Basque 3 stars, the cancellation fee would be the cost of the entire degustation menu.
An example from Arzak:

    • Cancellation policy: In case you are unable to come on the day of your reservation, please send an email to reservas@arzak.es at least 48 hours in advance. No cancellations shall be accepted by phone. For cancellations made later or in case of no-show, €280 per guest shall be charged to the credit or debit card entered during the reservation process to cover reservation management fees and economic loss.*

An example from Mugaritz:

  • Cancelation Policy: If you need to cancel your reservation, please do it up to 3 days in advance the booked date by sending an email to reservas@mugaritz.com and calling us + 34 943 522 455 or + 34 943 518 343. In case the reservation is cancelled 1 or 2 day before the booked date, a fee of 130€ per person will be charged to the card. In case the reservation is cancelled on the booked date, or if there is a no-, a fee of 200€ per person will be charged to the card.*

and here’s the verdict on a recent court case regarding Amelia of San Sebastián´s cancellation penalty.

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