Cadiz Part III

Clean, refreshed and ready for a full evening I lazily drifted from my room to the common area after a hearty nap.  There, I checked my e-mail, chatted with the other hostel goers and then decided to set out for a snack.  After a leisurely walk exploring the narrow, winding streets around the hostel I eventually made my way back to my favorite greasy spoon.  Just up the alleyway and around the corner from the hostel…the place was a small bustling tapas restaurant with a large wrap around bar showcasing their various tapas options.  With an old style half door into the kitchen three older gentleman worked the bar in a bustle of commotion.  Taking orders, scooping plates of tapas, pouring beers and joking along with the customers. The place was affordable which, combined with it’s diverse selection of seafood/heavy foods, made for a delightful combination.

During previous visits I’d tried their albondigas, beef stuffed cuttlefish and whole wine steamed cuttlefish.  This time I went for something different:

Always one for an adventure I dove into their escargot. The snails were delicious once you got over their appearance and the the realization that they looked just like the garden snails that had plagued our gardens when I was growing up.  I’ve had escargot a number of times in a variety of countries.  Each time, however, they’ve been prepared in very different ways. This was no exception.  They were cooked in a brothy tomato sauce with slight meat undertones not unlike the sauce the local albondigas was served in. With a glass of local beer, tooth pick, plate of green olives and small loaf of bread, I made quick work of the hearty bowl of snails while relaxing and reflecting on the events of the day.

With my palate wet I made my way back into the city and towards the beach where several of the others had mentioned they might be.  After a brief walk I found the beach and before long had stumbled onto a small group – mostly made up of those temporarily working at the hostel.  There I was quickly welcomed into the group as we all sat on a beautiful sand beach, reclining against the seawall while enjoying a beautiful, warm winter day.

One of the guys had brought a guitar, while one of the girls had brought a bottle of champagne. After the guys tossed a ball around for a bit and the rest of us chatted, we cracked open the bottle of champagne, passing it around as one of the guys played a few guitar licks.

After relaxing and enjoying the beach for a while the sun began to set and we all decided it was time to head back to the hostel.  I made my way back where I caught up with the hostelers I knew, met several new faces, and exchanged a variety of horrible, entertaining, delightful and periodically hysterically offensive stories.

Casa Caracol is one of those delightful hostels that’s small enough and personal enough that the owner can usually be found working, socializing, or generally instigating a good time.   Nick – our patron – was usually somewhere to be found and always had fantastic stories, a smart quip for a silly question or a hearty argument for a good debate.

By 7 we had begun to gather, preparing our various contributions to the Christmas potluck. To my relief and as one might imagine, most of those on the road over Christmas aren’t overly religious. The hostel staff and most of my fellow travelers were no exception. Not a fan or believer myself, I was happy to spend the evening with a crowd who took it for what it was. ..A terrific excuse for good food, a great party and camraderie. As people pulled up youtube music videos for music we sat discussing music, shouting out requests and generally teasing each other for our picks.

I conferred with Aaron – a fellow traveler and chef from New York –  on how best to cook the kilo of small shrimp, potatoes, garlic and peppers I’d picked up. I eventually decided on pan frying them in oil.  As I set to frying the small shrimp whole others created a variety of delicious eats.  There was a huge bowl of curry, a platter of taters, green olives, a large bowl of fruit, deviled eggs, a huge Spanish omlette and other foods I can’t recall…not to mention a multitude of Spanish wines and bottles of beer. Even a few pitchers of mojito mix.The following is a quick walk through in the lead up to the meal:

Before long the periodic nibbling gave way to a full onslaught and within 30 minutes we’d left a devastated table behind, cleaned out most of the food and been reduced to a near food coma. With cigarette smoke heavy in the air we all sat around chatting, breaking periodically for spurts of dancing or wildly re-enacted stories.

As the night carried on (and got progressively more ridiculous) the music got louder, the wine stronger and the stories grew more and more comical.  All set to the backdrop of the seasonally decorated hostel mascot (yes, that’s a donkey doll with a beard and Indian headdress on) and Christmas tree.  I learned various Peruvian card games, cleaned up in a few games of B.S. and learned new and interesting facts about France.

Eventually we elected to set off to one of the local bars – as I recall it was about 2AM or so – but not before we picked up and helped Nick carry a large refrigerator box.  With the box in tow on our heads we made our way through the streets towards the heart of downtown….pausing briefly to gift the box to one of the local homeless men that Nick had befriended. Cardboard box delivered we made our way up a small hill before reaching a number of trendy local clubs.  The mixture of people was engaging and the scene was entertaining. We danced, continued to drink and generally had an amazing time. Sometime around 5:30 we eventually found our way back to the hostel and crawled into bed.

By 1 pm I crawled out of my bunk bed. After taking some flack for snoring heavily I washed up, managed to get my shoes on, ate a quick snack and set out into the city.

The city itself is beautiful in an old, compact, historical sort of way.  I started by wrapping along the peninsula’s coast towards the tip where I’d failed to explore during previous forays. As I passed the main Cathedral I quickly rounded the point and came across the paved walkway that hopped from small searock formation to searock formation as it gently curved out towards the city’s main fortress.  However, before making my way out onto the walkway I paused to take in a spectacular sand carving of a dragon at rest.

After enjoying the artwork for a while I continued out along the walkway as the sandy beaches quickly fell away.  Before long I found myself at the locked doors of the fortress surrounded by a small rocky area just above water level on either side of the raised causeway. To my delight the small waves came crashing in, slowly winding through a series of tunnels under the rocks which had been slowly warn away by the tide’s incessant pummeling. In several places the broken waves came rushing in before eventually crashing against a hollowed-out tunnel which forced the seawater up in a geyserlike fashion.  Always eager for a reason to pause and relax I kicked off my backpack and rested for a while.

Moments like that one are the subtle joys of travel that remind you why life is worth living to its fullest.  After my brief respite and musings I wound my way back down the long walkway before finding another spot too good to pass up.  With beautiful white sand beaches, clear blue waters, beautiful weather and gorgeous, clear blue skies I quickly found myself reclining once more…

A bit sandy but feeling positively amazing I wound along the beach taking in the rest of the old port which now stood vigilant guard over a fishing fleet of small boats. From the beach I set off around the tip of the peninsula before eventually cutting back towards the inland side of the point.  Before long I found myself in a large, beautiful park full of well fed cats, beautifully manicured trees cut in giant cones, amazing spirals and a multitude of other shapes. All decorated with blooming flowers and centered around a small park cafe which was open.  For 4 Euro I snagged a quick soda, 2 chicken skewers and a side of potatoes and then set off through the rest of the park.

After leaving the park I continued along the coast.  As the walls were more protected and no longer faced outwards toward the harsh open ocean, the cement breakwaters were replaced by the city’s old, unadorned defensive wall.  All lined by a beautiful tree-lined walkway and decorated with beautiful wrought iron lamps.

Eventually my path led me back into the beautiful inner city streets.  Paved with cobblestones and lined with lamps the city streets sport an abundance of beautiful painted windows, small flower-laden window sills and countless power lines, wires, and laundry lines stretched across the small gaps between the buildings that the streets create.

Eventually I found my way back to the hostel where I settled in for drinks and the usual evening hostel revelries.  Tomorrow I leave for Grenada.

Eager to see more photos of the places outlined in this post?  View the complete album here!

Crab, Oysters, Shrimp & Pasta for $14 a Plate

Table with Crab Dinner

Listen to this post:

Crab, Oysters, Shrimp & Pasta for $14 Audio

The Challenge?

To cook a seafood meal for three, for under $20 a piece with fresh seafood purchased at the local Chinese Cultural Center (best seafood in town). Actual per person cost? Less than $14. This post is a follow up on my earlier, “How To Eat Like a Millionaire on a College Budget” post.

The ingredients?

  • 2 Live Dungeness Crabs
  • 1.5 Pounds of headless Shrimp
  • 3 chunks of fresh Garlic
  • 1 set of fresh Green Onions
  • 1 bag of Fettuccine Pasta
  • 1/2 bottle of Pasta Sauce
  • 6 leftover button top mushrooms
  • 1 bag of frozen chopped Spinach
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Several Limes
  • Several Lemons
  • Garlic Powder
  • Italian Seasoning Mix
  • Parsley Flakes
  • Rosemary

Please note that the cost of the seasonings, olive oil, and butter is not included in the cost because of their multi-use nature.

Without further delay, here’s the video walk through with guest presenters Nathaniel Berger and Charles Trahern.

Post Mortem
The meal was fantastic.  I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally overcooked the Spinach, which was the biggest disappointment, but still very edible.  The shrimp were also slightly overcooked for my taste (I prefer most of my food on the rarer side) but still very flavorful. The crab was absolutely fantastic – packed with flavor and perfectly cooked. The pasta was delicious with a little fuller flavor than standard pasta. The oysters were fantastic.  Fresh, good sized, and full of flavor – remember the salt and lime, it’s a must!

As always, thanks for tuning in!  Please post questions, thoughts and feedback in the comment section – I value your feedback and insights!

Strange Food & Odd Ideas

Feeling lazy? Listen to this post instead:

Listen to this post

I like odd food. So long as the smell is good, I can usually master my eyes/mind and down most things. Occasionally I’ll find a texture that’s over the top, but the smell is the real decider for me.  This pension for the bizarre and my love of cooking has gotten me in trouble a few times. The most famous of which involved sliced banana in a conventional roast stew (the meat was still good, but my god the banana tasted like nasty bloody slush).

Last night I got into one of my moods.  I was hankering for something new and odd.  Not just slightly odd, but the type of thing I hadn’t had before.  The type of thing that would expand my horizons. I tried to satiate it by trying a new Indian place but that didn’t even come close.  As the minutes ticked by I found myself browsing the food channel, before eventually giving in. It was 9:35 and I couldn’t resist the urge any longer.  I had to experiment. I tossed my shirt back on, recruited Jenny my roommate and we set off for the local Sprouts super market.

By 9:50 I was prowling the supermarket isles looking for something that might satiate my impulsive quest. Eventually I found two objects that seemed as though they might work.  Giblets and pigs feet. I didn’t have any idea on how to cook the pigs feet and had a hunch they required a lot of time so I decided to go with the Giblets.  For those of you unfamiliar; the Giblets are the heart, liver, gizzard etc. from turkeys & chickens.   While a bit unusual and outside the realm of the average American’s diet, it was still far from odd enough.  So instead of following conventional wisdom I decided I was going to have my own go at it..ala impulse.

Giblets in my cart I wandered through the supermarket pondering what to do.  Before long I had a pineapple, lemon, apple, clove of garlic, and bushel of red radishes in my cart.  By this point Jenny had sighed in disbelief and written it off to another of my usual antics.  After some playful gaffing by the grocery attendant we made our way back to the apartment and I began the adventure.

My ingredients were as follows:

  1. Set of Giblets (Chunked into smaller pieces)
  2. One pineapple
  3. One apple
  4. One clove of garlic
  5. Half of a lemon and lemon peel
  6. Brown sugar
  7. Butter
  8. Shiraz wine

The following is the video record of the process:

I really was shocked that it turned out edible.

All in all it’s not something I’d go out of my way to cook again, but it was decent enough that I saved the remaining half portion for a later snack.   The heart was the best of the batch with a full, more mild flavor.  The liver was strong, but still good so long as you like the taste of liver.  The gizzard’s texture was a bit much, but also tasted decent. The Shiraz added an oak undertone to the whole thing which did not compliment the other tastes very well.

A fun adventure!  On that note, I’d love to hear your suggestions for odd foods and your own personal experiences.  Cooked something equally bizarre?  Have a fun story?  I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading.

Tips & Tricks: Save Money on Food

Gas prices are skyrocketing and though it’s just starting food prices are probably going to follow suit. Last night after doing a bit of reading on the widespread impact current increases in gas prices will have on the cost of every day goods I wandered into the kitchen for a midnight snack. As I stood there staring staring blankly at the odd assortment of foodstuffs my room mate and I have accumulated I had a college flashback.

Sometimes life’s little lessons come at you in the most entertaining of ways – four boys, 1 apartment, 1 fridge. Three Americans and one Taiwanese exchange student. We not only went through a lot of food we went through a lot of a weird food, and a lot of beer. Unfortunately, we also forgot about our fair share of food. Stuff that got pushed to the back, or placed in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge and then sat forgotten for months. When time came to clean the fridge we made all sorts of interesting discoveries. I’ll leave out most of the details (yes, we had a molded stew) and skip to the important part – the fruit.

At the beginning of Spring semester one of us had decided to eat healthy, picked up some pears and apples, then proceeded to forget about them in the produce drawers at the bottom of the fridge. Four months later we re-discovered them, and to our surprise they were still good. Not only were they still good, they seemed fresh. Which brings me to today’s tip.

We all forget about food, and most of us could be significantly better about eating the stuff we put in our fridge. Unfortunately we all goof and usually end up throwing out a pretty notable amount of spoiled food each year.

TIP: Lower the temperature in your fridge to just above freezing. While it will spike your electrical costs slightly, the amount you’ll probably save on spoiled food will more than make up for it. It will be especially useful in preserving fruit and vegetables. A lower fridge temperature will result in firmer, longer lasting, fresher tasting fruit and vegetables. This is the same technique used by florists and produce packing/transport plants. It’s just an odd quirk that it’s never really made its way into consumer behavior.

When adjusting your fridge’s temperature make sure not to lower it too low. The two best indicators I’ve found are pre-packaged roughage (Spinach/Lettuce etc.) and Milk. If you’re over cooling the roughage will develop ice crystals and wilt a bit. Milk will separate (nasty).

Happy shopping!

Fish, A Frying Pan and $9

Howdy all,

I’ve decided to follow up on my previous post in which I shared my technique for cooking a live Dungeness crab, shrimp, squash and salad for $15. For today’s project I chose salmon, sole, yams, and a side salad. Total project cost is about $9. In usual form my focus is on simplicity, price and how to use your frying pan/microwave to cook anything you can dream up.

Instead of writing out a step by step I’ve recorded a video of the process. Additional comments, information, options and directions are included below.


  • .7 pounds of fresh salmon (skin on) – on sale for 5.99 pound – cost approx $4
  • .2 pounds of fresh sole – cost $1.00
  • 1 lemon – cost $.70
  • 1 yam – cost approx $1
  • 1 bunch of onion chives – $.60
  • 1/4 white onion – $.50
  • 1/2 bag pre-mix leftover spring salad – cost $1.25
  • Odds and ends herbs/salt/pepper – not priced.
  • 1 quick pour of open white wine I had on hand – not priced/necessary.

I tend to have a cavernous appetite and as a result the portions I cook are often fairly large. If you have a small/medium appetite you could easily cut out the sole, or reduce the size of the salmon portion in order to drop the price of the meal. For the super price conscientious you might also substitute lemon juice in a bottle for the real deal. While effecting the taste somewhat (I used half of a whole lemon with the peel on as flavoring) a few drops would still allow for sufficient flavoring. I have not tested this recipe on other types of fish, but it should work with almost any mild fish including trout and tilapia.

Spices – In this recipe the primary flavoring comes from salt, pepper, lemon and onions. However, if you have rosemary, sage, or other spices like those shown in the video feel free to apply them. As you do so, just follow a simple rule – how will this taste with fish, onion, and pepper?

Cooking time – fish cooks extremely fast and tends to be pretty thin. Keep an eye on it. You want it to be moist and flaky, but if you overcook it, it will fall apart and you will end up with more of a soup than a fillet.

I hope this was helpful!