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Eating Tenerife

It was a cold, windy and of course, rainy Dublin day. Stormy weather is the best weather to leave one country for another. Even if for the shortest of time. And leaving stormy Dublin for Tenerife in December feels amazing. Who am I kiddin'? Any time is a good time to leave Dublin for Tenerife. Exact location?

Even more exact? Hotel Gran Melia Palacio De Isora. You got that right, I stayed in a place that has "palacio" in its name. I'm a fairy princess. This was my first time ever in a resort and my first “all inclusive-silver bracelet treatment”. Beside from feeling like the poster child for “privileged white girl sips cocktails by the pool” I felt a whole range of feelings that I will try to express throughout this post. Let's hope I make it.

Day one. We arrived at about 6 pm. It was cloudy and windy. Like Dublin! But warm, a warm breeze, a warm feeling in my feet, my hands, my face. A warm feeling I embrace! Palm trees in sight, none looking misplaced, and I kid you not, a smell of chocolate in the air! And then I just burst into song:

All I want is a room somewhere/ Far away from the cold night air/ With one enormous chair/ Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?/ Lots of chocolate for me to eat/ Lots of coal makin' lots of heat/ !Warm face, warm hands, warm feet/ Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?

And, just as Eliza Doolittle, I got my wish to come true! Arriving in a place that smells like chocolate?! A place that exudes chocolate and waffle smell in the air (with no chocolate waffles in sight) must be a truly magical place! By far, the most inviting first whiff of a country :D After an hour bus ride, we arrive at Palacio de Isora, amaze at the size of it (insert Steve Irwin's passionate voice here), check in and amaze at the room. Now, it's true, I haven't been in that many rooms, but this was a pretty sweet room! I loved the dim lighting, the warm, cosy atmosphere, the giant bed, the good fabrics, the big bathroom with the inviting tub, their 90-euro-to-take-home robes and the big mirrors everywhere.

After taking a shower, we got fancy and went to dinner, because hunger is a real thing and it makes people do terrible things that they almost immediately regret. Oasis. That is the name we picked out of a hat for that night. First on the list was Cipirones a la plancha con majada de ajo y perejil. As in grilled baby squid with garlic and parsley. I forgot to photograph it until the very last minute because hunger met deliciousness and I couldn't control my feelings. You've been there, you understand.

Now let me tell you what my mouth had to say about it. It felt chewy, but soft, had the most subtle, mild fishy flavour. Light on the parsley, generous on the lime, refreshing but garlicky at the same time. Simplicity is a beautiful thing. I had them with bread and butter because there is never a bad time for bread and butter. I've come to realize that I haven't been paying squids enough attention! I've been so in love with prawns all my life, I failed to acknowledge that the seafood world has more to offer! I love these little wizard hat-shaped pouches of awesomeness!

For the main course, I went with Tranco de merluza con pisto manchego y salsa de azafran con patatas asadas. Translation? Overbaked hake with ratatouille in a saffron sauce with baked potatoes.

I chose the hake because I don't like my fish to be too fishy because I am a delicate snowflake and I can't take strong, overwhelming flavours. This fish was right up my alley, nice and mild. The fish, not my alley. Now “my alley” magically transformed into a weird euphemism. Stop. Back to the fish. It was a bit overdone in some places, but hey, they did put that in the name, so it was pretty much expected. I did not eat the skin, though, because I only like crispy and this was not crispy. Flawless logic, gents! It doesn't get any better than this!

The potatoes were the 3 musketeers of this dish. Mainly, because there were 3 pieces of potato on the plate. As an official potato enthusiast, I must admit I felt the roots of disappointment slowly growing in my heart. I tried to bitch about it, but I couldn't. It was enough, it was all I needed. It was also delish! (delish - probably the “whitest” word out there, posh as fuck, very inappropriate). These potatoes claimed to be baked, I suspect them of either being baked or boiled until their interior is soft and theeeen sealed in a pan, with butter! These little bricks of joy were like Santa Claus in potato form! They come but once a year, they have a fat exterior, they're soft on the inside and they make you happy!

Now let's talk about the ratatouille because that was luscious! Saffron and ratatouille were just meant to be a couple, they should walk hand in hand on the plates of life para siempre! Sweet, glossy, peppery, delicate, distinct flavours that lived in harmony! The fact that they were tiny made them even more precious, it was like eating little gems from a puddle of gold.

Even though I've had ratatouille before, I've never had this feeling before. I recognized something, there was a very familiar, very ancient savor that both my palate and my heart reacted to. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt like the sun of my childhood was shining on my face again. A dim, yellow light in a steamy day and it smelled like summer, vegetables and care. As I kept trying to make sense of it, it hit me that this is what Anton Ego must have felt! Yes, Anton Ego from Ratatouille! Yes, the animation! No, it's not ridiculous! It's quite wonderful, actually. I felt quite wonderful. And I was reminded of love and food, and the love for food.

Para el postre - Espuma de crema catalana sobre almibar de platano y cristales de canela. In the restaurants very own translation, I give you Creme brulee mousse & a banana syrup & cinnamon crystals. I think this is quite possibly the lightest thing I have ever had in my mouth. It was like eating a cloud! A banana, cinnamon and coconut flavoured cloud! With chopped walnuts on top! Incredibly airy, light, and delightfully milky! And then you get hit by this intense banana essence that perfumes everything slowly but surely. This is the type of dessert that surrounds you and lures in until you become infatuated, seduced, smitten. A smitten kitten. The beauty of it is that you don't even know how it happened, you just know you slipped and it was good.

Day two. Waking up late is very satisfying when you know there is no need for breakfast because you get to have lunch as your first meal of the day. You crazy rebel, you. It felt like one of those days where you replace your regular cup o' tea with a tall beer and some grilled stuff. Well, guess what? There was this place called Market Grill, right by the pool! When it's meant to be, you just know it. You're gonna have to put your Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack on. Do it now. I can wait...

First choice: Shrimp & seafood roll, with wakame seaweed, pineapple, avocado cream & sweet mayo. The first batch disappeared before we knew what was happening. 4 pieces of goodness, quick-like-a-cat movements and puff, out of sight, gone! Evidently, we asked for another one, in order to understand the deliciousness that we hastily put in our faces. The second batch, was as expected as the second coming of Jesus! It took a while, is what I'm trying to say. So, by the time it landed on our table we were just as hungry and desperate as we were at the beginning of the meal! That's why it slipped my mind to take a freakin' picture of the damn thing! Twice! Thank the fat Buddha for my memory, for I cannot unsee what I have seen, and I cannot untaste what I have tasted. This was an excellent example of how a perfect balance of flavours makes little things achieve greatness. It was like a playground of fresh and creamy, chewy and soft, sweet and savoury. The ingredients worked so well together, that you hardly distinguished them separately! They were strong separately, but together they were INVINCIBLE! (read as dramatically as possible). Also, the second batch was juicier than the first one AND instead of a ketchup-smeared-plate, we got a spicy sauce-smeared-plate. Much, much better! Holy trinity alert: savoury, sweet and spicy! All rolled into one! Sing it with me: ♪ I'm a bitch/ I'm a lover... ♪ No? enough of that? Fine.

Now, we're gonna talk pork, baby! To be more exact Bruschetta de lomo/ Loin ciabatta. Marinated iberian pork loin on ciabatta, covered with roasted peppers and aioli sauce! And it looked like this:

Pork and peppers. Perfection. Pork and peppers perfection. PPP! There are no needs for many words or fancy descriptions here, it's very straight forward. The charred ciabatta, crunchy everywhere except for the top, that's been infused with the pepper sauces and has become a sponge that absorbs all the goodness and then passes it on. It reminds me of Monica's infamous “moistmaker”.

On top of that comes the brotherhood of the peppers. Red and green, sweet, sweeter and a bit bitter. Then pork meets garlic sauce and everybody lives happily ever after. Fries on the side, beer- very near and a view of a big blue pool. And I'M NOT COLD! Fuck me, am I spoiled, or what?!

Day three. There is no better breakfast than a breakfast I did not make. Not because I'm not good at it, but because I'm at my most lazy in the morning, so I would much rather be taken care of. I've had mornings where I just dropped my eggs on the floor, tryin' to get them out of the fridge, so I try to learn from that.

The breakfast place was Pangeea. Buffet style food as far as the eye can see. I must say it is both a joy and a burden to have so many choices! The selection was huge! Eggs – every way you want them, cheese, salami, ham, bacon, potatoes, veggies, salads, cereals, pancakes, waffles, churros, croissants, donuts, fruits! I couldn't even decide what to drink: coffee, tea, fresh juices, smoothies, sparkling wine?! Choose wisely, take the wine ;). I ate 2 breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner there. My advice? Go for breakfast. Have anything but the stale, oily lookin' churros, the “pancakes” (that were too thick to be crepes, not even close to the idea of pancakes, just looked unappetizing and sad) and the waffles were only ok. The croissants are top notch, fresh fruits are awesome, the eggs are delicious, the cheese is amazing! I had an orange-looking cheese, that I adored! Mildly spicy, very creamy, tasted like red pesto, maybe with a touch of fennel in there! Subtle but mouth watering! My favourite thing there!

The fresh smoothies are a thing of joy, the juices are yummy, and the sparkling wine is...well, sparkling wine in the morning, so it's good! The lunch and the dinner were so disappointing, that it makes me sad to even talk about it. For lunch I had a broccoli soup that was as boring and uneventful as a bank statement, the paella was overdone and too salty, the fish was bitter (apparently it's supposed to be that way), the mussels were drenched in lemon, you couldn't feel their natural sweetness anymore, the best thing on my plate were the peas, because no one did anything to disrupt their natural peasyness. As for dinner, the potatoes were ok, the salad was good, the lamb was overdone, stringy and tasteless, to the point where I couldn't eat it, stuffed my face with bread and butter instead. So what have we learned? Breakfast good, lunch and dinner not so much.

As I was pondering the food that I ate and the fact that nothing really blew my mind, I realized that “Eating Tenerife” is quite... misleading. I actually ate the food in a resort, in a small town in Tenerife. That is not at all the same. That day, lounging by the pool, gazing at my surroundings, I had the very precise feeling of a fake world. ♫ Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality ♫ .

A mirage, a man built the illusion. Resorts sell illusions to people that want the illusion, need the illusion, pay for the illusion. The seclusion from anything in the outside world helps maintain the fantasy that life is this clean, peaceful, perfectly painted place. A fools' paradise with organised palm trees, planted koi fish, pools as far as the eye can see, a wellness area, a sports area, a spa. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, it's relaxing, it's even necessary sometimes to shield yourself from the world and be in a bubble of wellness. It's like therapy. You relax, you unwind, you replace the ugly images with blue pools, the noisy city sounds with the sound of water and cocktail glasses cling cling-ing each other in celebration of the silence that surrounds you. It's a sanitary, tidy, unpolluted world!

It's everything the real world isn't! It's a peaceful island of reassurance. I just think... No, I feel it lacks authenticity. It lacks the unpredictability of the outside world! When we visited the beach, the first thing I felt and said was: "Even the wind blows differently here!" My feet felt that as soon as I stepped out of the resort. Even though everything around the hotel was fashioned too, they couldn't touch the ocean, baby! The ocean was wild and free, as untamed as ever! The contrast was strong with this one.

What it's really missing is the flavour of the country you are in. I don't think it makes much of a difference if you're in Spain, Italy or France while you're inside a resort and you stay there. You could be anywhere and nowhere at all. It's not wrong, it's just different kinds of travelling. There are those who just wanna relax and they go for the resort experience, there are those who go full experience, meet the locals, walk like them, talk like them, and then there's everything in the middle.

For me, this experience would have never been as colourful without a taste of that little town. I wanna see what makes it different than everything I've seen so far, or what pieces of other countries I can re-find there. On the day, we went beyond the resort's walls and into the city, we were surprised by the contrast between the two worlds.

Unlike the resort, the town was poor, small and quite sad. Oddly enough (or not!) it reminded me of areas of my own country. There were some restaurants that looked like the old-school ones that we have in the mountains, and overall, the whole town centre felt like Piata Mare, from Bacau (my hometown), many years ago. This reference will mean nothing to most of you, but those who know will completely understand. It had the same mix of stores that sell low-quality products, depressing looking buildings, small town-small scale quality. Just less... alive and kind of grumpy.

That was the general feeling until I walked into a store to buy unknown fruits! There was an explosion of life in the form of the old man who owned the store! While he was busy with some others customers we went ahead and picked a bunch of fruits. Foolishly, I grabbed a cactus fruit ignoring all the precious advice from Baloo. ♫ Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw/ When you pick a pear/ Try to use the claw ♫. Too little, too late, Baloo! I was left with a hand full of tiny hair-like thorns and I had no idea how to eat any of the fruits in my hands. So, I asked jovially, in Spanish and got that and much more! There began an enthusiastic, fast-paced conversation (my Spanish still has training wheels) that offered an answer to all my fruit related questions, a solution to get rid of the thorns and a prickly pear on the house! Add to that the infusion of joy in my system and the big smile on my face, and we have one happy experience! For 3 grumpy men that silently judge you on the street, you get one awesome one, and renounce defeat! The men here are not subtle, you can tell that they're scanning you, and you can tell where they start, where they stop and what they think in between! “These sombreros aren't big enough! Bad little white girl!” Finally, the words of Pheobe make sense!

After all this excitement, we headed to where our eyes saw the ocean, we found a lil' place that served cheese&ham toasties, beer and amazing sunsets and we enjoyed the magic of simple things.

That night we ate the fruits. First of all, aside from the prickly pear, I have no idea what I ate. They were, of course not labelled, and I of course forgot/ didn't understand their names in the first place. So, if anybody has any ideas, please, do tell. Don't leave me alone in the darkness, show me the light. Meanwhile, I have named them myself, to make this process easier and sillier.

1. “The tiniest of them all”. It was like eating grapefruit mousse, only more perfumed.

2. “El che se chupa” . This one gets its name from the precious instructions we got from el canario. He said that the way to eat it is to cut it on one end and suck the inside out. “Se chupa!” “Y si quiremos chupar los dos?” “Pues, chupan los dos”. And we laughed and laughed. I didn't take a picture for this one, cause we were to busy, chupar no es tan facile. It had passion fruit texture, it was more sour than sweet, but very fragrant.

3. “The vagina looking mofo”. I know, it's harsh, but it's true. Look for yourself:

First, it has a very intense scent. Restrain yourself from all the jokes, please keep it in yo' pants. It kinda smells like windshield washing fluid. Second, the skin is bitter. The strongest sensation you get is similar with having swallowed perfume; it leaves a very strong, sweet, pungent aftertaste. If you're gonna make pussy jokes, I guess this is truly the best time. But, wait there's more. It's generally sweet and pleasant, with a texture resembling pumpkin puree, or the combo between a banana and a very floury apple.

4. “The big orange”. Plum in texture. A mix of ripe plum, peach and mango in the taste department. I think I actually declared this one my favourite.

5. ”The one with an actual name”. On the inside it looks like a cucumber with bigger, stronger, bolder seeds. It taste like a pear and an watermelon had a baby, and that baby is more like the mother than the father, but you can still tell who's his daddy. It's soft in the middle (like a pear), fresh and hard on the outside (like a cucumber-melon hybrid, if you wish). Umph, there it is:

Day four. The last supper. Well, it was actually lunch, but you understand the impulse. What we did was go full circle, so we returned to Oasis, to our mantequilla de todos los dias, the crusty bread that demanded Ratatouille moments, and the best olives that have ever visited this lil' ol' mouth of mine. Why? Because unlike regular olives, these ones lived with garlic for the longest of time! Thus, they shared flavours, swapped fluids, brought out the best in each other and became better people along the way. I mean olives! Better olives. I know olives are not people and people are not olives. But what if they were? (insert dramatic chipmunk here)

♫ Now lemme tell 'bout these prawns I know/ they're my babies and I love them so/ That's why I know, yes, I know/ Hallelujah, I just love them so! ♫

Langostinos al ajillo/ King prawn in hot garlic oil! Prawns in the sky with diamonds, that's what it felt like. Lemme tell you the story about the piece of crusty bread that gets dipped into the magical potion that is that oil. Lemme tell you how you must hug the bread between your fingers and slowly but firmly convince those little pieces of browned garlic to hold on, because they're going somewhere where they will truly be appreciated. How breathing intensifies, hands get trembly and mouth goes watery following the road from the pan to your hungry, wanting mouth. You're almost there, when you remember you forgot the prawn; instinctively your other hand reaches for that pink, firm, sweet bastard. You grab it by the tail and then you unite everything in your mouth. You start chewing, you feel the sweetness of the prawn, the many faces of the garlic, the chives, the sprinkle of chilli, the hint of lemon, the soft, the firm, the crunch. All those sounds hit the top of your mouth and everything echoes. Everywhere. And that, ladies and gentleman, is a proper food experience.

Next: Chopitos fritos/ Fried baby squid.

A lot of them! Soft, juicy and chewy on the inside, all dressed up in crispy clothes of crunchy batter. Accompanied by a mayonnaise sauce that I found too heavy for the squids. They needed a lighter, fresher, tangy partner to balance them out. Now you now the story: girl meets squid, but girl already met prawn and is forever in love, so whatever squid would do at this point, girl's heart belongs to another. And word on the street is they've already engaged in carnal relations. So, she gives squid a sweet peck on the cheek and bids him farewell. The End.

Rodaballo a la salsa Menier con papas arrugadas y verduras/ Grilled Turbot with a Meuniere sauce served with canarian wrinkly potatoes and vegetables.

By the time the fish happened I was full. Full of awesome, but still, full. But I am human, thus unable to resist such beauty, and very willing to throw my newly acquired principles into the air and proceed to overstuffing my face. The fish was cooked perfectly, the sauce was buttery lusciousness, the veggies (carrots, green beans, celeriac) were lovely and fresh, still had a good amount of crunch in them, and the potatoes were baked whole and indeed, very wrinkly.

La torta de queso fue el final. I ended it all with the cheesecake. The cheat cheesecake that provided me with all the creaminess necessary for 3 days. Yes, my cup was full and was bound to overflow. Cheesy? You bet your ass it was.

Adios, muchisimas gracias! Che sean felices!

Señoras y Señores, this was Food Talk. Come again ;)