Saturday, November 3, 2007
I love Santiago de Compostela
If you are ever in Santiago de Compostela, you have to take a tour of the cubiertas or roof of the famous cathedral. The tour guide will literally lead you to the top of the cathedral and you will walk out onto the sloped steps of the roof, where pilgrims for almost 1000 years would walk at the end of their pilgrimage to burn their clothes and start their life anew. If you are a sentimental fool like me, the first sight of the sky, the red terracotta roofs of the city, and the clock tower so close to you will bring tears to your eyes and you will gasp with joy, “It’s so beautiful, it’s so beautiful!”
A good place to eat after this inolvidable experience is Bierzo Enxebre where I had an inolvidable meal. The interior is warm Galician farmhouse, wood beams and stone walls where people have inexplicably stuck pennies into the crevices, making bright copper spots throughout the dining room. The food is served in traditional Galician dishware, an off-white with abstract splotches of blue and brown. The young lunchtime waiter has a gentle face and Botticelli curls, and he will smile and approve your choices, that is, he approved mine.
I couldn’t resist yet another plate of pimientos de Padrón, smaller and even more delicious than the ones Becca and I had in Sevilla. The plate seemed so big but the peppers disappeared so fast. This plate actually did hold a couple of surprises, a couple pleasantly spicy ones.
I’d walked in all set to eat the famous pulpo a la gallega, but when I saw with the mother and daughter next to me were eating, I had to ask what it was. They were costelas de porco adobadas (costillas de cerdo adobadas in Spanish or pork ribs rubbed in spices in English) on a bed of French fries. They were insane. They were all crunch, like eating pork rib popcorn. I got a half ración and the platter came overflowing with ribs, but I still ate them all. I couldn’t help it, the way you can’t help eating a tub of popcorn.
The wine was just the albariño of the house, but as good as every other albariño I’ve had here. Albariño is the typical white of this region and it’s light and young, not as fizzy as a Portuguese vinho verde but it goes down just as easy.
The waiter’s approval really hit a peak when I ordered dessert on top of the enormous meal I’d just eaten. “Please, crema de lemon con castañas.” Castañas are chestnuts and they are all over the market. The lemon custard tasted like lemon and nothing else, just cream and tart and happiness with the sweet, nutty texture of roasted chestnuts. It was “muy bueno,” just like the waiter had said. When I thought no one was watching, I scraped away at the bottom of my cup.
I felt like a beached whale, a very happy beached whale. I thanked the God I don’t believe in for my good luck and walked off towards the Museo de Peregrinaciones, the Museum of Pilgrimages.