Sunday, May 31, 2015

Paradise in Puerto de la Cruz

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Jet black sand juxtaposed by icy blue waters. Fog lingering over lush emerald hills. Candy colored buildings illuminated against gray skies. Palm trees dancing in the cool breeze. While Puerto de la Cruz may not follow the traditional definition of "paradise", its unique charms assert it as just that.

Before we headed down to sunny Costa Adeje, our first stop in Tenerife was Puerto de la Cruz. Located on the northern half of the island, Puerto de la Cruz is generally much cooler and more tropical than its southern counterparts. We opted for one night in this colorful town in hopes of exploring the black sand beaches, hearing that it was generally more picturesque and authentic than Tenerife Touristlandia in the south.

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Playa Jardín

The rumors were true, and we quickly learned that Puerto de la Cruz was brimming with character. Of the city's many notable features, I was most impressed by its eye-catching colonial architecture. The town was scattered with a kaleidoscope of vibrant buildings embellished with intricate wooden balconies, adding an invigorating contrast to the gloomy skies above.

Paired with dramatic stretches of volcanic beaches, striking lush scenery and the local cuisine's explosion of fresh flavors, the verdant oasis of Puerto de la Cruz was undoubtedly a feast for the senses.

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We spent our 24 hours in Puerto de la Cruz wandering through the darling streets, shamelessly photographing every picturesque building we passed, frolicking through the black sand and feasting upon a lifetime's worth of papas arrugadas con mojo.

We also serendipitously stumbled upon a local wine festival, where we indulged on a mouthwatering array of Tenerife's best wines. As we enjoyed the live music and stellar views of the coast, we toasted to magical Tenerife (and our extraordinary luck) while we savored each glass.

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When it came time to say hasta luego to our tropical oasis, I was sad to leave behind the quaint island charm of Puerto de la Cruz. Although I desperately needed to defrost in Costa Adeje, I could have easily spent more time soaking up northern Tenerife's natural grandeur and charisma.

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Have you ever been to the Canary Islands?
Where's your favorite tropical escape?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Where to Eat in Madrid

A guide to the best places to eat in Madrid, categorized by neighborhood.

For almost three years now, I've been exploring Madrid through my tastebuds and getting to know the city one bite at a time. Unsurprisingly, I've found that Madrid is truly a food lover's dream. Between the traditional tapas, fresh fusion dishes and vast array of international cuisine, Spain's capital is abounding with exceptional eateries.

Since the only thing that makes me happier than trying new restaurants is giving fellow foodies recommendations, I've compiled a list of my favorite restaurants in Madrid categorized by neighborhood. Though this guide will surely grow within the next year, here are the restaurants that I believe to be some of the best places to eat in Madrid. ¡Que aproveche!

Where to Eat in Madrid | Adelante
Who's hungry?

LA LATINA

Juana La Loca
Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4
A lively tapas bar; home to my favorite slice of tortilla de patatas in the city

Taberna Almería
Calle de las Aguas, 9
A no-frills tapas bar with good tostas, cured meats and cheeses

Taberna El Buo
Calle del Humilladero, 4
Tortilla stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized onions. Enough said.

Taberna La Concha
Calle de la Cava Baja 7
Phenomenal tapas and tostas with an extensive gluten-free menu

Taberna Los Huevos de Lucio
Calle de la Cava Baja, 30
Famous for the best huevos rotos in Madrid

Txirimiri
Calle del Humilladero, 6
A bustling Basque pintxos bar, featuring another great tortilla


MALASAÑA

Antigua Huevería
Calle San Vicente Ferrer, 31
Classic Spanish dishes served in a darling vintage space

Bar El Pico
Calle Divino Pastor, 12
Traditional Spanish food, go for lunch on a weekday for a mouthwatering menu del día

Bodega de la Ardosa
Calle Colón, 13
Picturesque bar brimming with old world charm, one of the best tortilla de patatas in Madrid

Curry's Masala
Calle de Silva, 16 
Some of the city's highest quality Indian food, superb weekday menu del día

La Mucca
Plaza Carlos Cambronero, 7
Hip, eclectic Spanish-American fusion dishes

La Musa
Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 18
Quirky atmosphere with a funky, modern take on tapas

Ojalá
Calle de San Andrés, 1
La Musa's sister restaurant, offering a unique variety of internationally inspired dishes

Pez Tortilla
Calle de Pez, 36
Spectacular slices of gourmet tortillas (try the heavenly brie and truffle) 

Verbena
Calle Velarde, 24
Tasty tapas with a slightly hipster twist 

Where to Eat in Madrid | Adelante
Patatas bravas from Ojalá

CONDE DUQUE

Carmencita Bar
Calle San Vicente Ferrer, 51
The closest thing to classic American brunch (and 1€ mimosas!)

El Maño
Calle de la Palma, 64
A lively neighborhood tapas bar with incredible patatas bravas and delightfully cheap wine

Federal Café
Plaza de las Comendadoras, 9
My favorite brunch in Madrid; hipster/expat paradise

María Bonita
Calle Duque de Liria, 9
Some of the best Mexican food and margaritas in the city

Zombie Bar
Calle Noviciado, 14
Unbeatable burgers, fries and other comforts of home


HUERTAS

Casa González
Calle León, 12
Great wine, cured meats and cheeses: the trifecta of Spanish treats!

Casa Toni
Calle de la Cruz, 14
Family-style tapas covering all of the Spanish classics

Lateral
Plaza de Santa Ana, 12
A gourmet (yet surprisingly affordable) take on modern and traditional tapas

Where to Eat in Madrid | Adelante
Pimientos de padrón from Casa Toni

CHUECA

Arepa Olé
Calle Pelayo, 2
Serving up tasty arepas and other South American treats

La Candelita
Calle del Barquillo, 30
Latin American and Creole cuisine, go for their phenomenal brunch

Taberna Gastromaquía
Calle Pelayo, 6
Unique Spanish fusion dishes with a gourmet twist, a memorable gastronomic experience 


SOL

Bar Cerveriz
Plaza de San Miguel, 2
One of the best slices of tortilla in the city

Mesón del Champiñón
Calle Cava de San Miguel, 17
Home to incredible grilled mushrooms stuffed with chorizo, parsley and garlic

Takos al Pastor
Calle de la Abada, 2
Arguably the best tacos in Madrid, and only for 1€ a piece!

Where to Eat in Madrid | Adelante
Tortilla from Bar Cerveriz

OTHER

Maiia Thai
Calle de la Princesa, 13
My go-to Thai restaurant, serving up delectable curries and noodle dishes

Phuket Thai
Calle de Atocha, 115
Home to my favorite panang curry in Madrid

Poncelet Cheese Bar
Calle de José Abascal, 61
A divine selection of cheeses and an even more impressive wine list

Tierra Burrito
Calle Sagasta, 30
The closest thing Madrid will ever get to Chipotle


To be continued...


Have you got any other recommendations?
What are your favorite restaurants in Madrid?


Monday, May 18, 2015

A Sunny Escape to Costa Adeje, Tenerife


In the dreary depths of early spring, a healthy dose of Vitamin D was desperately needed. A tropical vacation was calling my name, and it would have been rude not to answer. In search of a sunny escape, I fled to Costa Adeje, Tenerife - a little piece of paradise in the Canary Islands. Not only was this beachy town the perfect place to defrost, but it was also the ideal spot to slow down and relax. 

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However, I mustn't sugarcoat it all, for paradise still has its limits. I had zero guilt laying out by the beach and pool all day because quite frankly, there isn't much else to do in Costa Adeje. In fact, I deliberately tried to avoid most parts of town. While the landscape and beaches are sublime, the town itself lacks any genuine character. The boardwalk along the coast is littered with tacky restaurants serving overpriced meals, trashy shops selling junky souvenirs, and sunburnt tourists getting visibly sloshed at the chiringuitos, or beach bars. 

That said, it's entirely possible to successfully avoid the tourist traps and seek out authentic and memorable experiences in Costa Adeje. Here's how to find Costa Adeje's secret paradise and enjoy a relaxing stay in the south of Tenerife.


Relax at Playa del Duque

Amongst Costa Adeje's many beaches, Playa del Duque is by far the most picturesque and pristine. Surrounded by lush palm trees and crystal clear waters, this stunning stretch of sand is the perfect place to sunbathe, go swimming or take a mid-day siesta. Here you can find some of the island's nicest hotels, an elegant promenade to stroll along, and several darling terraces to enjoy some ice cream or a refreshing cocktail. Regarded as the classiest beach in Costa Adeje, Playa del Duque makes you feel as if you're on a private beach belonging a five star resort, minus the price tag.

Playa del Duque

Go Whale Watching

Nothing embodies paradise quite like lounging on a sailboat, sipping white wine and watching dolphins pass just inches away from your boat. Add in some snacks, sunbathing and pilot whales, and you've got a recipe for perfection. 

With Tenerife Sailing Charters, we spent several hours on the ocean being chased by dolphins and getting up close and personal with a large pod of pilot whales. Spotting the whales and watching them swim so close to our boat was a truly breathtaking experience. Afterwards, we sailed to a nearby cove for snacks, drinks and snorkeling. As we basked in the sun surrounded by serene waters and the island's striking landscape, all I could feel was pure bliss. Without a doubt, whale watching in Tenerife was one of the most magical moments of the trip.

Playa de Fañabé

Stay at an Airbnb with a View

I never had much experience with Airbnb before this trip to the Canary Islands, but now I'm hooked. Paolo's apartment in Costa Adeje was the perfect escape from the touristy hub of the city. Every morning I woke up to a gorgeous view of the sea and ate breakfast outside on the spacious terrace. Because the restaurants in town were notably substandard, we also chose to stay in and cook most evenings. The apartment complex, Malibu Park, also had a large upstairs lounge area with two swimming pools and a beach bar.

While I normally prefer hotels, staying at an Airbnb in Costa Adeje gave us the freedom to make our own food, avoid the touristy hot spots, and have a delightfully more authentic experience. 

Playa la Pinta
Along Costa Adeje's boardwalk


My Costa Adeje Picks:
Favorite Activity: Whale watching
Best Shopping: Centro Comercial Plaza del Duque
Where to Get Your Ice Cream Fix: Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque
Favorite Restaurant: Barracuda Barra y Mantel
Best Beach: Playa del Duque


Have you ever been to the Canary Islands?
Where's your favorite sunny escape?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eating Gluten-Free in the Canary Islands


"I'll have the croquetas", I crooned with a grin, relishing each syllable as it bounced off my tongue. I hadn't been able to utter that phrase in over five years. As I savored each word, I could taste the creamy béchamel sauce, the crispy shell crumbling into pieces on my plate, and the tiny bits of tuna melting in my mouth. 


Since being diagnosed as a Celiac, I had surrendered to the notion of forever giving up one of my favorite tapas, classic Spanish croquetas. Croquettes are tasty morsels typically made of meat and béchamel sauce, which are then fried in olive oil. Not only are they a dangerously addicting treat, but they're also a Celiac's worst nightmare. Sometimes just the smell of them sends me into a nostalgic frenzy of insatiable hunger and psychosomatic stomach pains.

Yet here I was at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, about to bite into my first gluten-free croqueta. If Celiac disease were a game, I was about to win. Victory was going to taste so sweet.

Grilled Canarian cheese with mojo sauce

Despite their distance from the mainland of Spain, the Canary Islands are exceptionally accommodating to food allergies. Several of the traditional Canarian dishes are naturally gluten-free, and many restaurants in Tenerife and Gran Canaria can easily alter meals to cater to the needs of gluten-intolerant folk. Much to my delight and surprise, eating gluten-free in the Canary Islands was a delicious and stress-free experience.

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A tortilla de patatas with avocado and cheese

Traditional Dishes

Many classic Canarian dishes are already gluten-free friendly or can be easily altered to become sin gluten. The most ubiquitous plate is papas arrugadas con mojo, or wrinkled potatoes with a spicy mojo sauce. This dish is comprised of Canarian potatoes that are cooked in saltwater (which are usually sprinkled with a heavy dose of sea salt), served with a pungent sauce made of cumin, garlic, paprika, olive oil, vinegar and salt. The red mojo picón is made with dried red peppers, while the milder green mojo verde is made with parsley or cilantro.

Papas arrugadas with mojo picón

Another traditional dish worth ordering at every meal is grilled Canarian cheese drizzled with mojo or honey. The Canary Islands are home to a plethora of delectable goat's milk cheeses, and nothing delights the tastebuds quite like the combination of salty cheese and sweet honey. Be sure to also try the local palm honey from the island of La Gomera.

Stay away from things with gofio, which is a special type of wheat flour native to the Canary Islands. When it comes to avoiding gofio, be especially careful when ordering cheese dishes or desserts.

Grilled Canarian cheese with mojo picón, honey and mojo verde

Eating Gluten-Free in Tenerife

Wander slightly past the tourist traps of Plaza Charco in Puerto de la Cruz and you can find Casa Pache, a cozy escape from the mainstream restaurants guaranteed to serve you a subpar meal. Between the kitschy decorations, warmhearted service and quality comfort food, this authentic and decidedly offbeat eatery makes you feel like you're dining with family.

Casa Pache offers specially prepared, Celiac-friendly croquetas, calamares (squid) and chipirones (small squid). Many of their other dishes are naturally gluten-free, such as the pork ribs with corn, potatoes and green mojo sauce, the papas arrugadas con mojo, and the goat meat with sauce.

A delicious dish of goat at Casa Pache
Gluten-free tuna croquetas
Papas arrugadas with mojo
The cozy terrace of Casa Pache

Eating Gluten-Free in Gran Canaria

In the charming old town of Vegueta in Las Palmas, a hidden gastronomic heaven awaits. Head to La Hierba Luisa on Vegueta's main foodie drag, Calle Mendizábal, for unique Mediterranean meals. Not only do they serve gluten-free beer, but the staff at this hip-yet-unpretentious vegetarian restaurant are also incredibly knowledgable about accommodating food allergies. (Plus, the gluten-free falafel is out of this world!)

At Te Lo Dije Perez next to the cathedral in Las Palmas, every item that contains wheat or gluten is clearly marked on their special allergen menu. Though the selection was not particularly vast for non-seafood eaters, the papas arrugadas con mojo and grilled Canarian cheese were divine. Above all, the waiters do their part to ensure that your dining experience is safe and satisfying.

Though not technically a Spanish beer, you can still find gluten-free cerveza at La Hierba Luisa
Gluten-free falafel at La Hierba Luisa

If you're nervous about eating gluten-free in the Canary Islands because your Spanish is rusty, then print out a gluten-free restaurant card like this one to show to your waiters. If you ask if a dish is sin gluten or say "Soy Celiaca", most restaurants in the Canary Islands will know how to take care of you.

Do you have any food allergies? 
How do you survive them while traveling?