Category Archives: Food and Drink

The Awkward Moment

“Why?”

The conversation came to a complete halt.

Our friend stared at us, waiting for an answer.

Why don’t fussy eaters know they’re fussy eaters? How can that fact escape them?

There’s a very simple test to check whether you’re a fussy eater or not. When you pick up a menu do you peruse its contents considering everything on it because you’ll eat absolutely anything? Or do you skip lots of menu items, seeking out the handful of dishes that are the only things you’ll consider eating?

If it’s the latter, then you’re a fussy eater. It’s simple.

But not one of our friends who are fussy eaters recognise it.

When we are trying to decide where to eat they all say the same thing every time: “You choose, we’re easy, we’ll eat anything.”

Easy? Really?

Mature friend A will eat anything as long as it’s scampi, tuna steak (we introduced them to that one) or chicken in mushroom sauce. That’s it, that’s the lot.

Friend B will eat anything as long as it’s steak, or beef of some sort at a push. Friend B sometimes brings their own mustard when they go out to eat.

Friend C will eat anything as long as it’s a particular type of fish cooked and served a specific way.

We were with friend C who had asked us what we thought about a restaurant known for its creative cuisine. He was looking for new places to try after being disappointed by a place he’d dined at earlier in the week.

It was a restaurant we’ve always viewed as a bit stuffy and old fashioned so we’ve never been tempted through its doors. Our friend had asked for the same thing he asks for just about every time we’ve dined out with him. The restaurant didn’t have the dish he wanted done the way he likes it, ergo it wasn’t a good restaurant.

Seconds prior to telling us this friend C had interrogated the waitress about the dishes on the menu of the restaurant we were dining in – how they were cooked, what the ingredients were etc. complicating what should have been a simple process i.e. choosing something from a menu which was full of delicious sounding goodies.

Friend C is under the impression chefs should prepare what he wants to his specifications rather than something that is actually on the menu which is why when he asked about the restaurant with its avant-garde cuisine both of us blurted out at the same time.

“You wouldn’t like it.”

“Why?”

The question came again, this time accompanied by eyes that had visibly narrowed slightly.

The obvious and honest answer was ‘because you’re a fussy eater and there’s no way on this earth you’ll like the adventurous food they serve.’

The answer we actually gave was a mumbled mess of an explanation about how chefs in restaurants like that tend to prefer to present customers with their signature dishes without any input from the actual diner.

“But they must have a menu?”

It was getting awkward. We were being herded against the wall where the only exit was a neon signposted screaming ‘BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO FUSSY’.

We were saved by the waitress who appeared at our table to check if we were ready to order, distracting our friend from his line of enquiry. He turned his attention to the waitress, having discarded everything on the menu.

“Do you have bream cut open like a butterfly which is then grilled and served with a white wine, parsley and lemon sauce?”

Did I mention we were in a vegetarian restaurant?

The Reward System, Walk & Eat

The walk ends in the old town where it started. It wasn’t a long walk, about 10 kilometres, but it was sweaty going, straight up the hillside on a rocky old trading route that ran parallel to a solidified lava flow which had engulfed the town three centuries earlier. Then, after skirting the ridge for a brief section,  it was back down again by a different path, another trading route, which snaked its way along the  green slopes to return us to the town.

The aroma which greets us as it dances through the old streets identifies exactly what our reward will be; seafood. Lapas to be exact, washed down with an icy beer.

I don’t eat nearly enough of these grilled limpets drizzled with a mix of olive oil, garlic, cilantro and white wine. And to think on the island I grew up on we used these as fishing bait. What a waste.

Lapas

 

The False Snobs

I know who they are within seconds of one of them speaking. In this case I also know exactly where they come from… or which coast at least.

Opposite coast and opposite in so very many other ways as well.

They’re not like the people I know and grew up with in the country of my birth. Those people were down to earth and lacking airs and graces whatever their social standing or occupation.

No, they’re definitely not like that.

They’re successful and well to do. We know this because they tell us it is so.

They’re not like other tourists – they seek quality and culture. But they’ve been working hard you see, so this time they’ll relax by the pool.

It’s one of many signs that flashes like a neon light when you meet people who are not what they try to tell you they are. The neck of the bottle of wine sticking out of the ice bucket is another.

I bristle whenever someone tells me ‘I’ve been busy, so this time I’m doing nothing except relaxing.’

There’s almost an inference that people who like to fill at least some days of their well earned holiday still being active and exploring can’t have been quite as busy as those who ‘need to relax and do nothing’.

The statement tells me a lot about them.

They talk of luxury hotels and exotic destinations. Of fine food and wanting to only enjoy the best.

“There’s excellent local wine here,” I tell them.

“Yes,” one replies confidently and authoritatively. “We know, we’re enjoying a nice bottle of the local stuff right now.”

My eyes flick to the neck of the bottle and back.

The neck of the bottle speaks volumes.

It’s not local. It’s a mass produced brand name from elsewhere that is, at best, ordinary.

They don’t know this because all that’s important to them is appearance not substance.

That’s false snobs for you.

The Ten Rules of writing Tripadvisor Restaurant Reviews for Tenerife

The first rule is to try not to write anything that is actually of any use to anyone else.

The second rule is that even though you’ve only ever eaten in two restaurants on Tenerife you must state with unshakeable authority that what you are eating (usually steak) is the best on the island.

The third rule of Tripadvisor restaurant reviews for Tenerife is it doesn’t matter if a restaurant specialises in tapas, Mexican, Italian, Canarian, Spanish or seafood, at least half the reviews will be about how good or bad the steaks are.

The fourth rule is a restaurant will be classed as being excellent if a mountain of food is piled on the plate, even if said food is barely edible.

The fifth rule follows on from the fourth; the cheaper the mountain of food on the plate is, the better the restaurant is.

The sixth rule is when you write ‘a local told me of this hidden gem’, don’t mention the ‘local’ was actually a Cockney expat in a Brit bar.

The seventh rule of Tenerife restaurant reviews is to try to avoid saying what you’ve eaten… unless it was steak.

The eighth rule is when you say a restaurant was clearly good as all the ‘locals’ ate there, you mean it was full of British expats.

The ninth rule is to always complain that your bacalao encebollado wasn’t made with fresh fish. You can mention what you’ve eaten in this case as it’s a complaint.

And the tenth rule of Tenerife restaurant reviews is to seriously criticise any restaurant that serves a steak which is the slightest bit pink in the middle as they obviously don’t know how to do steaks properly.

The Dark Fado House

We’re early. There’s nobody else in the tiny restaurant/fado house.

It’s an ideal opportunity to take photos without intruding on other people – the tables with their eclectic mix of couverts, paintings on the wall showing when the house used to belong to a fado-singing prostitute (a bare breasted woman singing along to a man strumming a Portuguese guitar), the toilets (that one is prompted by the waitress who insists I take a photo of them).

It also gives me the chance to have my camera settings perfect for when the fado musicians take to their seats.

I ask A to sit at one of the two chairs set up for the guitar players against one wall and snap off a couple of shots till I’m happy that all is good to go.

We work our way through pungent cheese, black olives, salt cod and chickpeas, octopus and garlic chicken before the three fado musicians, two guitar players and a singer, take up their positions.

And then the lights go out.

It is pitch black, or nearly. All the tables have a small candle which add atmosphere but no real light. The musicians are shrouded in darkness. I can’t even see well enough to focus; I’m chasing shadows. But I click away anyway, unsure whether I’m capturing anything half decent. After a few moments I realise it doesn’t matter, this isn’t what the fado house is about.

I put down the camera and sit quietly, enchanted by haunting songs that send a shiver rippling down my spine.

Margarida Soeira, Fado House, Lisbon, Portugal