Eyes on the Fries

So goodI have a thing about people lining up for food. If I see a line, I feel a very strong compulsion to stop whatever I’m doing and get in it. Because what do those people know that I don’t know? Following the mob isn’t always the wisest of choices, but seriously, what’s at the front of that line and how do I eat it?

So when I saw a line for a place that specializes in fries called Las Fritas when I was walking around in Barcelona, I was in that line almost instantly. I had never heard of this place, and French fries don’t exactly scream authentic Spanish food, but look at that line. It must be good!

(The line doesn’t look that long in the picture; it was actually quite a bit longer when I got there.  I just didn’t take a photo right away.)

There are times when the wisdom of the crowd fails me — this was not one of those times. These were spectacular fries.

So damn good

You can choose from a selection of sauces and toppings; in an attempt to keep things vaguely authentic, I went with salsa brava, which is a spicy tomato-based sauce that’s often found on top of fried potatoes in a dish called patatas bravas.  So this isn’t quite as inauthentic as you’d think (which is what I’ll keep telling myself to justify eating this about a billion more times before I leave Barcelona).

Though the fries were supposedly Belgian-style, they weren’t quite like any fry I’ve had before, Belgian or otherwise. Thickly cut and aggressively crispy, they were almost like a cross between a fry and a chip.  They were constantly dancing on the razor’s edge of being too crispy, but without ever crossing that line. It’s a perfect balance of crunchy exterior and fluffy interior.

As good as those fries were (and they were very, very good), it’s the brava sauce that really makes this something special.  It was slightly spicy, with just the right amount of vibrancy from the vinegar, a hint of smokiness, and a mild garlicky bite.

It was an absolutely perfect dipping sauce for fries. Where can I buy this sauce? Because I want to dip everything in it.  Everything.

McDonald’s Around the World: Spain Edition

McDonald's SpainWho can say no to ham croquettes at McDonald’s?  Or chicken wings?  Well, most people, probably — not this guy.

I’m not very smart, you see.  As most people would reasonably imagine, neither of these things were very good.

Um...

The croquettes were probably the better of the two.   They were sort of okay, though the exterior wasn’t particularly crispy, and the interior was unpleasantly gummy, without much flavour other than a generic saltiness.

Or at least I thought it was salty, until I tasted the wings and learned the true definition of that word.

So much salt

I honestly think those wings might have been the saltiest thing I’ve ever eaten. They were fine otherwise — nice and crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. But holy jeez, I’m surprised I didn’t have a stroke right there on the spot. They were so salty they actually kind of burned my tongue.

Nope

I was craving something sweet after that salt overload, so I got the Nocilla McFlurry (Nocilla is basically a Spanish version of Nutella).  I had high hopes for this one; if you put enough Nutella on literally anything, it’ll eventually become delicious.  But that’s the problem — there wasn’t enough of it, and the little pieces of brownie they mixed in were overly chewy and completely tasteless.

The ice cream itself wasn’t even particularly creamy, so all in all: boo-urns, McDonald’s Spain.  Boo-urns.

What the…?

How is this okay??In case you’re wondering, I bought this candy from a vending machine at a Spanish bus station in the year 2017. I literally did a double-take when I first saw it.

If you can get past the horrifying racism, it actually tasted pretty good! Kind of like peanut M&M’s, but without the candy shell and with a thinner layer of decent-quality dark chocolate.

But, you know, horrifying racism and all that.

On Zaragoza

MuseumNote: Thanks to a bunch of terrorist douchebags, the chronology of this blog is a bit messed up. This and the next few posts were actually written before that whole fiasco, which is why this is written as though I’m still in Zaragoza.

I wound up in Zaragoza pretty much at random; the initial plan was to go to San Sebastian between Madrid and Barcelona.  It turns out I’m a cheapo and can’t afford San Sebastian, so plan B it is: spending a few nights in Zaragoza, a medium-sized city about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona.

It’s not exactly the first place place you think of when you visit Spain (I hadn’t even heard of it until recently), but I’m actually quite enjoying my time here.

There’s a quiet to it that I find immensely appealing after the teeming hordes of Madrid.  It’s endearingly unflashy; unlike Madrid, which is just wall-to-wall tourists wherever you go, it feels like a place where real people live.

And yet it’s not without its more touristy pleasures. Statues? Yeah, it’s got statues.

Statue in Zaragoza, Spain

Old churches? And how.

Church in Zaragoza, Spain

Museums? Several.

Museum in Zaragoza, Spain

It’s very easy to head straight for the more well-known hotspots like Madrid and Barcelona, but I think there’s something to be said for going to a city like Zaragoza. It’s not as exciting, but you get a much better sense of how the locals actually live.

On Being in the Middle of a Terrorist Attack

TerrorSo I’m assuming you’ve heard the news about Barcelona by now. I’m a few days ahead with my posts, so you wouldn’t know it by reading this blog, but I’ve been in Barcelona for the last few days.

And I was right in the area where it went down when it went down.

I was in a big department store called Corte Engles in a hugely popular area called Plaça de Catalunya, and I was heading out onto the street when everyone started running and screaming. This was a huge crowd — maybe like a hundred people or so — and this wasn’t just “hey, is something happening?” screaming.  They were the screams of pure terror.

I had no idea what was going on, but obviously I ran, because holy shit. Hopefully you’ve never been in a crowd that’s screaming bloody murder and running for their lives, because let me tell you: it is terrifying. It might have been the scariest moment of my life.

Waiting in a department store

The crowd flooded into the department store. After a couple of minutes, the security gates were shuttered and the place was locked down. No one seemed to know what was going on; it hadn’t even hit the news yet.  I texted a few friends and relatives to let them know I was okay, and I could barely even type — my hands were shaking so much from the adrenaline.

The square outside, normally packed with hundreds of people, was now eerily empty, save for the police and their cars.

Scary

We eventually learned that some stupid fucking idiot drove a van into a crowd, killing and injuring dozens.

About an hour later they let us out; we were escorted to a police barricade where hundreds of concerned onlookers and journalists were congregating.

Waiting

My cousin is actually in Barcelona, and by sheer horrible luck was in the same area, on the other side of the square. We couldn’t get to each other at this point, but we arranged to meet at her apartment, which was about ten minutes away.

As I was heading there, the sidewalks were packed and the roads almost empty, save for the occasional cop car or motorcycle screaming by. My Google map was updated with a big red circle labeled “terrorist attack.” It was marking the exact spot I had just come from.

I’m sorry to be swearing so much in this post; I’m not a big swearer, but non-profanity just doesn’t seem right in this situation.  Holy fucking shit.

I got to my cousin’s place and we hung out there for a while. I had a knot in my stomach for hours. For most of the evening, we could hear sirens outside and helicopters overhead. We kept anxiously checking Twitter and various news sites to see what was going on. Eventually, things seemed to calm down and I headed back to my Airbnb on the outskirts of the city, promising to text my cousin as soon as I got there. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be staying in the suburbs. It sounds stupid, but I felt uneasy in the city.

Panic

I’m obviously not the only one who feels that way; near the subway station around my Airbnb, there’s a main road that heads out of the city. It was bumper to bumper. This was around 10:00 PM. It was like something out of a movie.

I have one more day here before I fly out, and I don’t even know that I have it in me to head back into the city tomorrow. I might just hang out around the Airbnb.

I wish I could say that the terrorists have failed; that they haven’t scared me. But that’s not true. I’m rattled. I’m more than rattled.

I wasn’t exactly where it happened. I was nearby, but (thankfully) I was never in immediate danger. I didn’t have to witness the grizzly aftermath. But being that close to it is hugely unsettling.

To be honest, there’s a part of me that’s tempted to cancel the rest of my Europe plans and head straight to Asia.

Hey, terrorists, here’s an idea: why don’t you stop being stupid jerks?

Sweet, sweet grease

When I got back home, I went to the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon near the apartment and got a plate of fries, bacon, and eggs.  Because after a day like that, you need a big greasy plate of comfort food and a beer to wash it down.

Yikes.

Anyway, back to silly food posts starting tomorrow.