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A Travel Dispatch
And, "Gin & Tonicas" - The Great Equalizer
I tried something new this week and included an additional audio version of the newsletter should you like to listen and be transported instead. I hope you like it!
The weather is warm and sunny here and my summer freckles have sprouted early. I’m not complaining.
Portugal is a magical place. In Lisbon, each morning we drank coffees in the square and slammed creamy, flaky Pastel de Natas into our mouths and then wandered from kiosk to kiosk drinking morning beers when we felt weary. At one of those kiosks, we stumbled upon an incredible fried squid sandwich with spicy aioli showered with lime zest. It’s a sandwich worth a trip to Lisbon. Of course we also ate tinned fish, and garlicky shrimp and clams at Cervejaria Ramiro, followed by their Prego (a steak sandwich on a bun with mustard) for dessert as is custom. I walked many hills.
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In Porto, there were even more hills and the Douro River, but no kiosks. I loved it just as much. There was also more shrimp, but surprisingly incredible pizza, pasta and sushi. Yes, that’s correct. Always ask people working in restaurants where to eat. On Saturday, we rented a car and took a day trip to the coast. About one hour south will land you at Praia Costa Nova with beautifully colored striped houses and a dramatic shoreline. It was warm enough to sit outside and have an “afternoon beer” while watching the surf crash against the jetty. Have you seen the incredible show 100 Foot Wave, where surfer Sebastian Steudtner broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed? That beach is about 2 hours south of where we were. It’s a beautiful and moving series.
We arrived in Madrid late Sunday afternoon and were greeted by our friend Gill with a cup of incredible olive oil from his farm and a jar of marmalade from Valencia. He had us over for an afternoon snack and made me a big salad because up until that point, I had not done a good job of eating green things. He also poured a beautiful bottle of sparkling red wine from Slovenia and put out cucumbers, soft cheese and crackers. Immediately, I felt at home.
We are staying at our friend Molly’s apartment and I’m very much looking forward to getting back in the kitchen this week for a bit. We are hosting Gill and our new friend Joe for heavy snacks this evening. Paid subscribers will receive a recipe as a result of our definitely drinking sherry evening. As well as my top stops in Madrid.
Last night, we ended up at a small bar in the neighborhood and ordered “gin and tonicas.” In addition to sherry, that is what we drink here. Of course there were potato chips too. We ended up talking for a long time with a gentleman named Jim from Vashon Island in Washington. He was on a similar trip to ours - meaning an extended time in Europe and flying-by-the-seat-of- your pants plans kind of time. He saw we ordered a gin and tonic and did the same. There have been many moments like these in the week or so that we’ve been over here. In Lisbon, we had a hilarious conversation in English and Italian with a couple from Bari and we all laughed so hard over the pure absurdity of not speaking each other's languages nearly at all. It is the best kind of laugh. I wished them a Buon Natale.
At the end of our drinks with Jim, he insisted on picking up the tab for our gin and tonicas. Instead of refusing and the ridiculous back and forth placating of “no, how could we?!” We did. Instead, I promised to pick up someone else's tab for gin and tonics while we’re on this journey.
I wrote about my love for gin and tonicas and salty snacks in Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food, so I’ve included it here for you. Do me a favor and buy a stranger a drink this week. I’ll do the same.
“Gin and Tonicas” with Salty Snacks
Chad and I drink “gin and tonicas” in the summer and by the gobletful. That’s how we had them in Madrid (and what they, and we now, call them) and we’ve been making them this way ever since. We love using
Máhon gin, which is made in Menorca and is the only gin with a DOC. It’s particularly piney in flavor, so it’s best mixed with tonic and not used in negronis. No collins glass or limes in our version either. We take ours with crushed ice in a deep wineglass with a big wedge of lemon. On a porch, on a deck, or on a dock, there is no denying this is a sublime sundowner. I enjoy this with potato chips, triscuits and cheddar cheese, pretzels, cold fried chicken, or something else you deem appropriately salty and snacky.
6 ounces (180 ml) gin, such as Máhon or Hendricks
(more botanical), Beefeater (straight-up dry), or
8 ounces (240 ml) tonic water
2 lemon wedges, for serving
Fill two large goblet-like wineglasses with crushed ice. Add 3 ounces (90 ml) gin to each glass (I like them stiff, what can I say?) and top with the tonic. Stir and squeeze a lemon wedge into each glass, then stir again and serve. Cheers.