A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Aug. 24.

Granada, Part One - The difference in Granada is instantly visible. It's located in Andalusia, Spain's Southern region and the area previously inhabited by the Moors. Thus, the Muslim influence is far more pronounced and in fact, central to the city's character. Women in burqas populate the streets, teterias, or tea shops, line the blocks, and the aromas of spices and fruity tobaccos drift through the districts. It's also home to the Alhambra, a mind-boggingly intricate 14th century Muslim palace and one of the world's most beautiful landmarks.

When we arrived in Granada though, I was too hungry and tired to take in the culture. It was only in the zeakness of this state can I rationalize what I did. Instead of seeking out some authentic and delicious secret of Spain, I settled on Bocatta, the local answer to Subway. (Though they also have Subway.) I thought Bocatta, a fast-food spot we'd seen in Barcelona and Madrid, might be an improvement from the weak fare most chains serve up back home. Apparently however, nothing was lost in translation. My bocadillo of jamon serrano wasn't terrible, but it was more expensive and smaller, with worse bread and meat, than any nearby bar serving the same thing. Disappointed, I wrote off the meal as a moment of excess optimism. Dinner was better, simpler and cheaper fortunately. We found a supermarket where we bought chorizo and turkey at the deli counter, some cucumbers and fruits, and a 65 cent bottle of wine. Best of all, the wine was surprisingly good, at least for the price.

Reinvograted the next day, Vince and I visited the Mercado San Agustin, Granada's version of the Mercat de la Boqueria. Again, we had tons of choices for fresh breads, produce, meats, cheeses, and seafood, with about a hundred and fifty vendors to select from. As each one specialized in one area, we walked around, comparing prices and assembling our lunch piecemeal. Today, it was a sandwich of burado, a cheese made from sheep's milk and a fat-free ham. The ham was average and bland, but the cheese wowed me, the best of the trip thus far.

After lunch, we went to tackle the Alhambra, our main reason for visiting Granada. It was as awe-inspiring as I remembered, with the walls of the Alcazabar palace being the highlight. They were as naturally harmonious as Fibonacci numbers, producing elegant symmetries that dazzled the eye. The Generalife, the sultan's retreat was also beautiful, with its plentiful flower gardens and fountains. After spending five hours touring the site, we decided to maintain the Arabic theme for dinner. Vince's guidebook recommended Al-Andalus, which specialized in kebab and shawarma, just like about forty percent of the restaurants in Granada. My shawarma mixto, with a mix of chicken, beef, salad, yogurt and mushrooms, proved to be a true standout though. In fact, I'd say it's the best shawarma I've had. Its best feature was by far the yogurt, which was creamy and deeply flavorful, but the cuts of beef were also a cut above the rest.


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