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Sunday, 31 July 2011

RAZONES TO BE CONTENTO

H's friend B came over from the Netherlands so I had two crazy Dutchmen to keep me entertained. With him and his lady friend we spent some hours tasting all the food Rick Stein missed, on account of him not knowing that 'Aragon Existe'. I guess the most memorable has to be Callizos in Ainsa which is highly recommended but our lunch will be forever embedded in our minds for various reasons. Firstly, the wonderful Red Kite that made a swoop for the raw red meat the restaurant staff had presumably left out on the wall under our table to keep the tourists amused. It was quite a sight as this amazing bird of prey made a grab for it. Moments earlier and it could have been a West Highland Terrier that had been sniffing around. Then the food. This restaurant is noted for its cuisine but also for the presentation and the way the food is announced and explained everytime it arrives which kept the French family on the next table amused as we, that's H and pal and me and K, grappled with the parmesan sticks wrapped in what looked like condoms. 'No, your supposed to eat them!' they roared as they looked upon as savages. That was the starter or one of them. The olives dangling from a Bonsai were lovely as were the unfertilised eggs of an angel. Then we tucked in to some bacalao tempura which unfortunately came in the exploding version for H's mate who didn't need this kind of trauma having spent time in Bosnia and other war torn places as a journo. Said contents went all over his camera just as the Red Kite made off with more scraps. After cleaning him up with all the serviettes ( no, not napkins, but the Spanish serviettes designed to be used in their hundreds) a restaurant can muster he nearly sat in what was left of the tempura which had managed to land on his chair. Shaken but scrubbed he settled down to the next course which translated rather ominously as 'Lamb caught in the cross-fire'. It was delicious but then we felt some drops of rain. Only slight drops, nothing fancy, the kind that can keep a conversation going about whether it will or not, you know, suddenly open up and wash us and everything in sight into the river below. I was in no doubt that it would but tried to keep everyone's spirits up by saying otherwise. The conversation continued with all of us saying that 'it was going to be one of those showers that lasts a few minutes and anyway, look, it's going that way, the sky is blue over there', when suddenly the heavens did what they are supposed to do and I found myself aiding and abetting the owner who was now clinging to an enormous parasol and various wine glasses. We must have looked like a bunch of drunks going down in a sinking ship. No one could stand or walk what with the force of the wind but miraculously we made it indoors clutching various bottles and glasses and spitting leaves and twigs. We left the food to its fate and as I looked back at the remains of the garden there was one bloke, probably Aragonese, determined to finish his lunch with that stubborness they are famous for. Thankfully the restaurant put us in the basement and brought us our puddings. H's mate was OK here while the storm raged above, but his PTSD was almost triggered off by the waitress announcing that what he had in front of him was a delightful mix of goats' yoghurt, candy floss and dulce de leche which sounded the perfect antidote until she then clanged a big metal spoon against the side of his dish to evoke the 'sounds' of the Pyrenees, presumably the bell around the goat's neck as it was thrown from a great height. I had visions of him, H's mate, not the goat, in a straight jacket by the end of the meal and being attended by a priest from the nearby Opus Dei monastery we passed earlier. On top of this we had a kid ( no, not the orphaned offspring of the above, just a typical Spanish child eager to please) bouncing up and down the stairs giving us all a running commentary of how the storm was getting on and my pud had space dust in it which was unexpected, pleasurable and thank God, not being eaten by B.

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