Reminiscing about Coffee in Spain


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On the left above, is one of the several cups of coffee I had the first day I was in Spain; the photo on the right was taken just before heading to the airport to return home.

Just about a year ago, we had a great time visiting Allison in Spain. She was employed by a program that places native English speakers as teachers in secondary schools. During her week of spring vacation, Roy, Jennifer, and I met her in Madrid. We spent a couple days there, drove a rental car to Portugal, and then returned to Spain where we explored Seville, Barcelona, and finally Ibiza. A few weeks ago I woke up to the fact that I hadn’t done much sharing of our trip, so I blogged about Mannequins, Markets, and Tortilla Espanola. Here is my documentation of how I fell in love with  Cafe con Leche and some of the delicious things I ate while sipping it.

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Roy and I flew into Madrid within minutes of when Allison landed there from Ibiza. We had agreed on where to meet ahead of time by using the map on the airport website. I was excited to see her, but also so impressed at her ability to figure out the subway system and guide us to our Airbnb apartment. After dropping off our suitcases, we explored our neighborhood and discovered a little cafe just down the street. It was there that I had my very first Spanish breakfast and cup of coffee. I followed Allison’s lead and ordered Pan Con Tomate ( bread with tomato) and a side of jamon iberico (Spain’s famous ham) just for the fun of it. Basically a DIY deal, it was up to me to slather the grated tomato onto toasted bread which had been rubbed with a little garlic. Then I sprinkled it with coarse salt and drizzled it with olive oil. If that wasn’t delicious enough, I added some of the ham on top and thought it was about the best breakfast I ever had. The cafe con leche was just the thing I needed for my jet lag. It’s made by pouring a shot of espresso into a cup and then filling the rest of it up with warm milk. The designs seen on top are achieved by pouring the milk in second with an experienced steady hand and using a toothpick to coax it into shapes such as hearts. I found coffee made this way so yummy, that I wanted to stop and have a cup of it every chance we got.

Pan con Tomate:

Toasted slices of baguette

1 clove garlic

1 tomato

Olive oil to drizzle

Coarse salt to sprinkle

Optional: Spanish ham or sausage, manchengo cheese

Slice and toast pieces of baguette. Lightly run the garlic clove over the top. Grate the tomato into a bowl, discarding the skin. Slather the tomato pulp on the toast. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Nice additions are the Spanish ham or sausage and manchengo cheese; either can be found in a specialty store or Whole Foods.

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The next day Jennifer joined us and it was her turn to deal with jet lag. A friend of Allison’s had told her about a bar in one of the Madrid neighborhoods that had great food. We took the subway over to it and found it was just a “hole in the wall”, but the food really was delicious. We munched on crusty bread, triangles of manchego cheese, and an impossibly tender meat dish that must have cooked in its perfectly spiced sauce for several hours. I attempted a similar dish in a post written soon after we returned,  Tapas Inspired Braised Meat in Port Wine Sauce . While we were eating lunch, Jennifer ordered a coffee. It was delivered to her as a shot of espresso in a glass. I was surprised, but found out later that serving coffee that way was not uncommon.

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At the tail end of our trip, we ended up in Ibiza. It’s a legendary place for Europe’s rich and famous to frolic, but Allison worked their during the off season and never was fully exposed to how riotous it is reported to be! It seemed pretty tame while we were there, but there was no denying how absolutely breathtaking the raw beauty of the island was. For a sample of Ibiza photos, visit this post on Allison’s entertaining blog Naptime with Yasmine. One afternoon after wandering about, we stopped to watch the sunset and grabbed (of course!) a cup of coffee. We also ordered a slice of Allison’s favorite dessert, Flao. It is sort of like a cheese cake in a pie crust. The version Allison liked best was made from goat cheese and flecked with minced spearmint. Click here for a recipe I found on the web . I’m also going to post a photo of recipe I downloaded from http://www.Ibiza.Travel because I think it might be more authentic to what we sampled. Full disclosure: I have not tried making this yet, but hope to make it for Allison some day!


Now, a year after our trip, I still drink my coffee with half a cup of warm milk in it. The other half is rarely actual espresso; the majority of the time it’s just regular American coffee. Thank goodness for microwaves – right?

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s coffee traveling experiences – please feel free to comment!

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Mannequins, Markets, and Tortilla Espanola

tortilla with water mark

Ever feel like life is a roller coaster and every time is starts to slow down, it takes off again? In my case, perhaps a speeding train would be more like it. For the last year or so, I just seem to be headed to one experience after another. Throughout it all, I have enjoyed taking photos, but I haven’t taken the time to pause and do anything with them. Currently, my husband and I are living the dream (O.K. – maybe his dream!) of traveling around the United States in a motor home. Check out our travel blog at Yates RV Adventures. A couple of weeks ago, we were staying at a RV “resort” in Naples, Florida. These parks typically are a mix of prefab homes and recreational vehicles. As I was passing one of the homes, I was startled to see a mannequin guarding the door. My memory was jolted back to another mannequin I had seen when we were in Spain visiting my daughter Allison just several months ago. All of a sudden I realized I had tons of photos and lots of experiences from that trip that I had never shared or done anything with because the train I was on never slowed down. The Spanish mannequin I remembered was looking out onto the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. It was the first of the many fabulous markets we encountered on that trip. It had booth after booth of beautiful produce, meat, and seafood. Best of all, it had delicious ready made food that could be eaten right there or taken away for a meal at home. One dish every market in Spain had was Tortilla Espanola. This Spanish tortilla is basically a very yummy potato torte and is a common every day food in Spain. A wedge of it could be an entre, or cut in squares and served with aioli, it is often part of a tapas spread. The lady of the house where Allison was staying made it for us one night for supper and I saw how simple and easy it was to make. In this post are photos of some markets we saw on our travels. Below them is a recipe for Tortilla Espanola.

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The classy senorita on the left overlooks the Mercado de San Miguel. The American mannequin on the right surveys the trailer park.


Above is the beautiful Mercado de San Miguel, a wonderful market in San Miguel Plaza in Madrid.


This is a shot of my daughter Jennifer walking into a market in Porto, Portugal. Whether they were big or small, these places of commerce offered fresh meat and produce and we thought they were all charming.


The Mercado de Ribeira in Lisbon, Portugal had the largest food court we had ever seen. The market area was in one side of the building, and the Time Out Food Hall was in the other half.


Beautiful greens in the famous La Boqueria on La Rambla in Barcelona.


The Mercat Nou in Ibiza, Spain sold every thing from tea and liquor made from local herbs to their famous salt and honey.

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Of course the market in Ibiza had an offering of take away foods, including a Spanish Tortilla.

Ingredients and Procedure for Tortilla Espanola:


Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla:

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 medium sized onion, peeled and sliced

4 eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch pepper

pinch saffron (optional)


Ingredients for Garlic Lemon Sauce:

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 clove garlic, put through press or finely minced

pinch Spanish paprika

pinch saffron (optional)


Procedure for Spanish tortilla:

In a skillet, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set the onions aside in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 of olive oil and the sliced potatoes to the pan. Cook, covered, over fairly low heat for 20 to 25 minutes – gently turning over once at 10 minutes. Potatoes will be done when they are easily pierced with a fork but still retain their shape. Carefully remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the onions in the bowl. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Whisk the eggs, salt, paprika, pepper, and saffron together. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and onions. Gently mix the to coat the potatoes and onions. Add the potato mixture to the pan and cook over low heat. As the tortilla slowly sets up, run a rubber spatula along the sides to create a rounded edge. When the tortilla is almost completely firm, remove the pan from the heat. Place a plate on top of the skillet and using pot holders or a kitchen towel to prevent being burned, flip the pan over so that the tortilla is on the plate. Then slide the tortilla off the plate and onto the skillet. Place back on low heat and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and either cut into slices as a main dish or small squares as part of a tapas spread.


Procedure for Garlic Lemon Sauce

Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, and saffron.


I’d love to hear anyone else’s experiences with the markets in Spain or Portugal!

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