Masia del Mar

Just up the coast from where we stayed in Tenerife is a small fishing village called La Caleta, there’s hardly anything there: a few houses clinging to a small bay, villas here and there and a handful of bars and restaurants. And ocean views to die for.
Masia del Mar is an inauspicious doorway in a side street that opens out into an old fashioned, relaxed family restaurant, fish bubbling away in tanks to the front, an open plan kitchen to the side, all industry and warmth. The best seats, if the weather allows, are on the terrace which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and on this occasion, we were ushered to a nice table with good views.
The restaurant was busy which is a always a good sign on a Sunday night in December. We ordered some house cava to get the ball rolling and then a bottle of Canarian Viduenos white, which was exceptionally good for the modest price. We’ve found Canarians will always try to sell you a local wine (and we would always request local produce) and although they are oddly more expensive than mainland wines, it’s worth giving them a try.
It’s pretty easy ordering food here, the seafood is spankingly fresh so you can’t go wrong, unless you don’t like fish of course, in which case you are in the wrong place!
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To begin with, we ordered the obligatory padron peppers and a plate of baby squid, fried in a light as air batter, well seasoned and piled high. It’s worth noting that starters are good value and over ordering is a danger as portions can be large. These were served with the local Mojo dipping sauces, one fiery, one cool and soothing.
For mains, we decided to share the house speciality, seafood paella. All Spanish restaurants would lay claim to their paella being the best in the area, but we’ve eaten here before and we know that their paella is certainly the best we’ve ever tasted. Packed with seafood, the secret is the stock: deeply fishy, speaking of the ocean, the product of a long, slow process. The rice is sticky, moist and a vivid amber colour, not just a sideshow for the seafood, but demanding attention.
Service is businesslike and friendly, not much English spoken but very easy to get by with a bit of Spanglish on the go. Masia del Mar is a place of simple pleasures, food to calm the soul and nourish the spirit, elegant and timeless, you get the feeling they’ve been doing the same thing well for years and will continue to do so in years to come.

Tasca el Callejon

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A return trip, pre Christmas, to the warmth of the Canary Islands, saw us visit the capital city of Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Projecting all the grandeur of a big Spanish City, Santa Cruz definitely had a South American twist to it, betraying some of its history perhaps as there are strong geographical, historical and, in turn, culinary links with South America.
Either way, we got the bus from the touristy south of the island, about an hour by bus up the dramatic Atlantic Coast highway. We had no set agenda as the bus bowled Northwards at a hair raising pace, but had read about an interesting tapas place run by renowned Canarian chef Braulio Simancas, so we hunted it out when we arrived.
Tasca el Callejon is tucked away in a quiet side street away from the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfare but thanks to google maps we found it right away—gotta love technology. Too chilly today to sit outside (there was a storm brewing), we settled at the bar which is always the best place to sit in a tapas bar I think and the very friendly, mostly Spanish speaking waitress presented menus with English translations, although I like think we would have got away with the Spanish menu.
We took in the old world style of the restaurant: rich dark wood, impressive original brass coffee machine/urn, newspapers on sticks, if there was a grandfather clock, it would be ticking away in the corner. In short, a lovely place to while away an hour or two over a long lunch. We ordered a bottle of the Canarian vino blanco to get things underway—crisp and fresh—a bargain at 12 Euro, and got down to the menu.
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We ordered just three dishes: hand carved iberico ham with crisp tomato and garlic bread, irresistible croquettes spiked with chilli and finally, pork loin, tender and unctuous with figs. The portions were good sized and we were sensibly advised by the waitress that three would suffice and she was right. The Iberico fat stuck to the roof of your mouth as it should and melted delightfully, the croquettes popped with aromatic steam when cut with a fork and the pork loin was a revelation, sticky and sweet, served with hand cut rosemary potato fries.
I rued not trying other dishes on the menu that caught my eye, but that would have been pure greed: slow cooked veal cheeks, local smoked salmon with coriander…It’s times like this that only a tasting menu will do, but what we did have was both delicious and filling. Finishing off with a coffee and an outrageously large ‘ Spanish Cardinal Mendoza brandy— Christmas in a glass, delivering warmth and spice—we were happy as Larry perched at the bar jealously observing a large Christmas party as they arrived, surely to be treated to a long, late and lovely festive lunch.
We reluctantly paid the bill and left, anonymous diners hurrying back to a concrete bus station, clocking the steely grey storm clouds gathering, as the bus left the station, speeding southwards.

Canary Islands

I’ll be honest.

We didn’t have great expectations about the food in the Canary Islands, or more specifically Tenerife, when we booked our cheeky week in the sun a few weeks ago. It’s not the sort of place that one hears a lot about in foodie circles but we knew the weather would be good and we would have a chilled out time and that was good enough for me. On consulting Trip Advisor, we knew there were some decent places near where we were staying but again if I’m being totally straight, I don’t trust Trip Advisor these days – the reviews veer from 10/10 to ‘never again’ – pretty much across the board. I take TA with a pinch of salt and rough rule of thumb.

Anyway.

I’m pleased to report that the food in Tenerife was satisfyingly Spanish when you hunted down the authentic places. Of course it caters for the mass market tourists who flock to the island and as a consequence the cuisine wasn’t as 100% authentic as mainland Spain, but very good in parts. We stayed in a fairly newly developed (as in 10 years or so) part of the island called Costa Adeje that’s a fairly quiet spot, away from the lively resorts, perfect for couples and families, away from the hedonistic 18-30 types.

Here are my food highlights:

What’s not to like about a yielding tube of spanking fresh calamari in a burning hot crispy outer? That’s right, nothing. Especially with an ice cold rosado after a long hot day in the sun. And why not throw in some pimiento de Padron whilst you’re at it? Go on then.

At La Vieja ( recommended on Twitter whilst we were there – thank you Twitter), how about a gigantic tray of grilled seafood with enough garlic to sink a French battleship? Why not, it’s fresh and washed down with a local Lanzarote blanco. It’s what we will dream about all winter long.

Tenerife is big on two sauces called Mojo (pronounced Mo-ko). It’s here where you begin to see the  South American and Portugese references in Canarian cooking. The red sauce is piquant but not off the scale and the green sauce is like a thin guacamole. Served as a pre starter with bread they are heavily laced with garlic and hard to resist. Good with fish too.

Nice swanky lunch at The Mirador (look out tower I think). This more expensive but worth it meal was a delightful affair with fresh Dorada and tuna escabeche (more Portugese vibes) overlooking an azure ocean. My dorada (sea bream) was delicate and cooked to perfection and J’s tuna meaty and satisfying.

The shared starter was the inevitable padron peppers (there is a theme here) with a perfectly dry and crisp local Canarian rosado.

A trip to Spain wouldn’t be complete without Paella. And what a Paella this was. The highly recommended Masia del mar, right on the seafront in La Calieta, was the perfectly relaxed  Spanish family restaurant where the seafood was sat waiting on ice or in tanks to be cooked and the diners sipped wine aimlessly, waiting to be served and enjoying the views.

The paella was the best I’ve ever had: deep fishy notes underpinned the freshness of the fish, clearly the fish stock was of the highest quality. It was moist, satisfying and incredibly good value at twenty eight euros for two (about £12 each). And on top that, the lovely wife was serenaded by four cabarellos which oddly, but touchingly  really made our evening.

To sum up, there’s cheap and cheerful pizza (that’s actually ok), decent but cheap Bocadillo sandwiches with Serrano ham and Manchego and amazingly fresh seafood that’s out of the top drawer. It’s not all ropey tourist crap – but don’t panic there’s plenty of that if you care to seek it out – but overall Tenerife caters for all tastes, including food snobs like me.

Finally, more Padrons – what can I say, I’m obsessed.