Castilla y León may often be associated with being the breadbasket of Spain – cookie giant Cuétara is based out of Aguilar de Campoo (not a typo) – but it’s also renown for robust red wines, roast suckling pig and quality cuts of beef.
Left to my own devices in the city where I studied abroad, I was clueless as to where to go. My señora Aurora’s tortilla and caprese salad held me over for the five weeks she cooked for me, and we never went out for meals, save a few trips to McDonalds. I remembered a small wine bar in the shadow of the cathedral where I’d snacked on pinchos a few years ago, but the biting cold had shops and eateries shuttered at the height of the lunch time hour.
Welp, time for Foursquare.
I chose based on location, skipping a gastrobar that was a few hundred meters closer in search of something a bit more down to earth. What I got, masked in dim lighting, wood panels and even a coat of armor, was one of Pucela’s most forward-thinking kitchens.
The dishes at the bar were varied but standard – think revueltos, croquetas de la abuela, cured meats and cheeses. But I snagged a seat right in front of the dozen or so specialty tapas that had won numerous awards on the local and national level for taste and innovation. Their wine list includes the region’s DOs – Toro, Ribera de Duero, Cigales. I chose the wine of the month, called Museo and at 2.50 a glass.
My first food choice as clear – a mini hamburger of lechazo, or milk-fed lamb, with yuca chips and – get this – a red wine slushy. Served on a slate, the tender meat was juicy and full of flavor, and the burger simple.
Intrigued, I ordered an Obama en la Casa Blanca, a tapa that won the city’s Pincho de Oro in 2009. The wild-mushroom based dish arrived in a white ceramic cupola, garnished with a slow-cooked egg white and a crispy puff pastry. Racist? Perhaps, but for a blind order, I was sold.
As the waiter topped off my second glass of wine, I asked him to surprise me, attesting to liking just about everything edible. He checked with the kitchen and asked them to make me a tapa they’d not featured on the menu in years.
It tasted like dog food.
I asked a few times what exactly I was eating, as I expected some sort of tarta de galletas hybrid, but the soggy biscuit, foamy merengue and who knows what on top left me gulping down my wine and asking for the bill.
In all, three tapas and two hefty glasses of wine left me 13.40€ poorer, but the best was yet to come. A hail storm began just as I was putting on my jacket and bundling up to leave for Aurora’s, so I got another free swig of wine and a rainbow stretching over Plaza Mayor.
If you go: Los Zagales is just off of Plaza Mayor – one of my favorite squares in all of Spain – on Calle Pasión at number 13. Hours vary by season, but get there early to snag a spot at the bar – prices are higher at the tables.
This post was powered by the Typical NonSpanish project, which I’m working on with five other guiris and Caser Expat Insurance. All opinions and calories consumed are my own.