A simple hostal menu

I picked up my virtual trek pace a bit and so zoomed out of León. The GPS trace I found online splits just west of León and merges again at Hospital de Órbigo, about 20 miles from middle of León. I “took” the northern route and so passed through Villadangos del Paramo. There I found Hostal (guesthouse or hostel) Libertad (freedom or liberty) which has an embedded restaurant. While there was no website or online menu there was a photo of the menu on a chalkboard. I decided it would be interesting if I could translate it myself without the aid of any machine translation. However it was a bit of a ‘cheat’ because the menu had some minimal English translation also written in.

I don’t normally reproduce images in my posts that I find via Google Maps. But this is a simple image and I’m not appropriating any intellectual property by posting it. Furthermore if any of you Dear Readers happen to pass through Villadangos del Paramo I’m probably the Hostal Libertad, which I assume they won’t mind.

Somehow, after running this image through Photoshop and then WordPress it’s not as clear as I saw, but it gets the point across. It’s a bit difficult to read the handwritten script under the best of cases. But also I had a tough time distinguishing a’s for e’s. So the point is, really, that one needs to know the words internally so an ambiguous writing of the word still gets through.

So anyway here’s the fairly simple menu:

Menú del día    10€

That’s not too bad if the portions are large to feed a hungry pilgrim who’s just walked 25km.

(Pan, bebida, postre y café)

Great, I wonder what the drink (bebida) and postre (dessert) really are.

Horario: 13:00-16:00 / 19:00-23:00 h

Interesting, late lunch and late supper.

OK, in the table below is the Spanish (my transcription from the chalkboard, with a few spell checks against Spanish dictionaries), this restaurant’s terse English and my translation (machine and human) and some comments:

Lentejas estofades Lentils stew of lentils (I suppose I can’t imagine lentils anyway except a stew)
Ensalada mixte Mixed Salad mixed salad
Puerros con vinagreta Leeks vinaigrette leeks with vinaigrette
Espagueti con atún Espeguetti with tuna (the writer doesn’t know spaghetti is the translation) spaghetti with tuna
Merluza en salsa Hake in sauce hake in sauce
Lacón con pimientos pork (illegible, not visible on chalkboard) pork shoulder
Huevos fritos con salchicha Fried eggs with sausage fried eggs with sausage
Fritos de pescado Fried eggs (illegible, all not visible on chalkboard, but what I can see is wrong) fried fish

These are all quite ordinary items so I’d choose:  Espagueti con atún (a bit of carbo loading if doing long walk) and Lacón con pimientos. I suppose this is all filling enough to make up for a moderate calorie burn of 200cals/mile and 15 miles. But think about, typical human needs about 2000 calories/day just to stay alive, so this meal is not going to provide enough of the daily + exercise requirements.

Hey Joost (from the movie The Way) what else did you eat and not lose any weight.





a consultar about cecina

Even though I’ve now marched past León on my virtual trek I’m slowly plodding through the restaurant menus I found there. One menu, for the restaurant attached to Royal Collegiate of Saint Isidoro Hotel, has an English version as well as the Spanish. This is relatively rare and provides a unique opportunity to compare online machine translation of Spanish to the same material written in English. Of course, and as I found, the English text on a webpage may be different than the Spanish; after all it is aimed at a different audience and probably is not just a translation from the Spanish. Nonetheless a careful analysis may provide some interesting clues.

So I’ll start with a menu phrase, a consultar, which appears in three places (Spanish in first column, Google Translate in second, English from the website in third):

Pescado del Día (a consultar) Fish of the Day (to consult) Fish of the Day
Postre del día (a consultar) Dessert of the day (to consult) Dessert of the day
Domingo: Arroz / Fideuá (A consultar) Sunday: Rice / Fideuá (On request) Sunday: Rice / Fideuá (To consult)

Now consultar is a typical Spanish verb which has various meanings (the sense of the literal translation (in black) is marked in green:

  1. to consult (to seek advice from) (to refer for information to)
  2. to discuss with (to talk about)
  3. to look up (to look for)

or (Google translations of Spanish definition in green)

  1. Pedir información, opinión o consejo sobre una determinada materia (Ask for information, opinion or advice on a certain subject)
  2. Buscar información en una fuente de documentación (Search information in a documentation source)

Note that Google translated this differently as either ‘to consult’ or ‘on request’. Now to my sense the ‘on request’ makes less sense, either compared to dictionary definitions or that  por encargo is more common on menus for ‘on request’. Unfortunately the author of the English part on the website doesn’t provide an English equivalent in two cases and ‘to consult’ (the most literal translation) in the third.

So we’re really left without a good English equivalent. I would submit ‘ask your server’ as the common phrase you’d see in USA for these items. IOW, the X del día is a common phrase (less so in Spain) and ‘of the day’ in the USA. In most cases it means what the chef was interested in making today or what ingredients might have been available. So the customer can’t know, from the menu, what the item is and thus has to ask (btw, I don’t think this is the same as the “specials” often rattled off by servers so that wouldn’t be my preferred translation.).

So if I’m right (and I am getting the context right, if not the translation) this presents another interesting flaw in my project. There is NO way to read the menu and determine what this item is – you will have to speak to the server or the chef to find out and, of course, that requires some amount of fluency in both speaking and hearing Spanish (perhaps another type of aided communication app on a smartphone might work but unlikely the server would know how to use it; I tried this in China and totally confused a cab driver). My sister dismissed the idea of my project in lieu of just learning to speak and hear Spanish conversationally and maybe focus a bit more of restaurant and food vocabulary. I think this is a fine idea, but: a) it takes a lot of work I’d prefer software to do, and, b) I’ve actually tried and for some reason, despite modest fluency in a couple of other languages than English I just cannot hear Spanish (the sounds and the speed really confuse me, I watch movies with subtitles and rarely “hear” words I even know and know, from the subtitles, were in the audible portion). And like the jokes some more Spanish fluent people made about my sister my pronunciation would be awful and at minimum irritate a native Spanish speaker or very likely totally confuse them. So I have to try to continue on my path of using software (not brainware) to navigate menus. Perhaps I’ll just have to skip the del día items or perhaps see them on another table and point.

So on to cecina.

This is a common item on menus I’ve encountered before but it tends to be more feature on menus in Castilla y León. In fact this geographical interest is so strong there is also the specific Cecina de León, an IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida, EU equivalent protected geographical indication).  This specific item even has its own website (https://www.cecinadeleon.org/) explaining how it must be produced.

It’s not actually a mystery of what this is (although for a long time it was unavailable in the USA; oh, and now it appears actual cecina from Spain is still not available in USA so this is an imitation made in the style of León) but now you can buy it online where it is described:

Tender sliced cured beef with a deep red color and rich smoky flavor is León’s answer to jamón. This is cecina, a premium cut of beef cured with sea salt and smoked over oakwood with no preservatives. Cecina is Spain’s culinary secret, just as worthy of culinary acclaim as Spain’s famous hams. And like jamón, over thousands of years the people of Spain have transformed the curing of beef from a necessity to an art, creating a delicate, flavorful meat unlike any other in the world.

In another article I was saw it described as ‘chipped beef’ which would possibly be close but certainly an insult to this seriously expensive dried meat.

So, what should the translation be? Or is this one of those terms, say like chorizo or lomo, that you just have to know what it is?

But Google thinks it has the answer. Most of the time (and often it doesn’t translate cecina at all) Google thinks it is ‘jerky’. While the official description about its elaboración (method/recipe of production) has various similarities to most recipes for making jerky the best descriptions I can find is that jerky is not that equivalent.

So what does the English version of the menu at this restaurant say? Here are a couple of references, again with Spanish in first column, Google Translate in second and website English translation in third:

Ofrecemos servicios de corte de jamón/cecina, quesos artesanos al corte, cervezas artesanas… We offer ham / cecina cutting services, cut artisan cheeses, craft beers … We offer professional ham / beef jerky cutting services, sliced local artisan cheeses, craft beers and more.

Note that in this case Google didn’t translation cecina at all but the website does refer to it as ‘beef jerky’ and the human translation otherwise seems very close to the original Spanish.

And another reference:

Lunes: Salmorejo con Cecina IGP. Monday:  Salmorejo with Cecina IGP. Monday: Salmorejo with Smooked Beef  IGP.

Note that ‘smooked’ is in the menu itself as is another typo ‘Thuesday’ which certainly makes it look likely this is the work of a person.

And then our final reference:

El menú del cabildo es una
salmorejo de tomates de mansilla con cecina IGP, puerros de sahagun, escalibada de pimientos del Bierzo…
The menu of the cabildo is a
salmorejo de tomates de mansilla with cecina IGP, leeks of sahagun, escalivada of peppers of the Bierzo …
The Cabildo menu is a proposal ‘Salmorejo’ or cold-tomato soup made with local ‘Mansilla’ tomatoes and beef-jerky, ‘Sahagun’ leeks, ‘Escalivada’ or roasted vegetables on flat rustic bread and made with local ‘Bierzo’ peppers…

So here we see beef jerky again. So either the author believes calling it jerky will best describe it to an English speaking person or they had to use some dictionary lookup, which, btw, lists: ‘smoked’, ‘cured’ and ‘salted’ meat (each as a separate term when the elaboración explains ALL these steps are involved in creating cecina).

Now the imitation online stuff refers to cecina as “The “beef version” of jamón” and the picture shows a solid piece of meat whereas the elaboración  is quite clear the meat must be thinly sliced before any other processing so a solid ham-like chunk certainly doesn’t match the IGP definition.

And, finally, our sometimes reliable English version of Wikipedia adds this information in its description:

is made by curing beef, horse or (less frequently) goat, rabbit, or hare

Emphasis on ‘horse’! Since I’ve also found this item on a different León menu: Cecina de Burro. Now burro might be a brand or a geographical reference but it might also be, in fact its literal translation, ‘donkey’.  Pure beasts, work in the hot sun and when they’re worn out they end up on the table – no thanks.

So finally I might end up calling cecina “thin slice of mystery meat cured in salt, then dried (by heat or sun) and (usually, but not always) smoked”. So I think a consultar ties in nicely with cecina and strongly recommends spoken fluency to find out what you’re eating (or at least know the phrase ¿Qué animal es este de.

Quick progress note: Passed León

I haven’t found time to do any posts (nor much menu research) but I have managed to keep plodding away on virtual trek and thus have “zipped” (a highly relative term) past León without commenting on a single restaurant. So 298.8 miles on foot and 6832.2 on bike (unfortunately exercise equipment not the more fun real thing).

My initial research to develop a list of restaurants with online menus was disappointing. My simplistic notion was that León was a large and sophisticated city and thus more likely to have upscale restaurants than previous cities along the Camino. But the initial results proved that assumption wrong.

I’ve developed a new technique, at least for cities, to find online menus. Instead of using Google Maps (works for smaller towns with just a few restaurants) I now use one of the crowdsource rating sites (to avoid a plug I won’t mention which). While I’ve had enough experience with rankings in USA restaurants I can visit to be skeptical of rankings they generally correlate. However, better ranked restaurants are not necessarily more likely to have websites or especially online menus.

So combining all the factors my list of menus to investigate, for León, is no larger than my list from Palencia (source of my previous posts). This is surprising since León is about three times the population. That said, León has less population than the second largest city in my midwest flyover state (Lincoln, Nebraska) and significantly smaller than my home city (or Columbus Ohio where I recently dined and have yet to post). So perhaps it’s not too surprising León doesn’t have that many larger restaurants that have online menus.

Now a question might be, what good does it do a restaurant to bother with an online menu? I think that in the USA it’s quite important but apparently that belief isn’t (at least fully) shared in Spain. This suggests to me comensales (guests) are more likely local and don’t decide where to eat based on websites. For my purpose it’s disappointing because I don’t get more diverse source material. What I have already learned is that restaurant food terminology is highly variable, by region or location, in Spain and thus to obtain the best corpus to generate my translator needs content from a geographically broad selection. But, obviously restaurants don’t have (or not have) online menus for that purpose.

So I have just begun to look at the León restaurant menus I did find. I’ve started in ranking order and thus hit two expensive and more sophisticated restaurants right away. Both have a strong showing in what would be labeled either as molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine. So, despite a huge number of photos of a large number of dishes both of the top three restaurants only have a degustacion (tasting) menu online thus providing only a limited amount of raw data for my analysis and corpus.

So I can relate a few interesting translation issues (again this means where the machine translation, usually Google, doesn’t make the best choices, at least in menu context, or the terms on the menu don’t actually have a translation).

Menú seminal Weekly menu

This is the first time I’ve seen this on any menu even though it’s basically the same as degustacion (tasting) but with a time of year context, as they explain:

Nuestra oferta se compone exclusivamente de este menú degustación, que define la sensibilidad por la cocina y el respeto hacia el producto.

El ritmo frenético del mercado, propicia que en este menú entren y salgan productos constantemente, lo que impide en ocasiones que este siempre actualizado.

Our offer consists exclusively of this tasting menu, which defines the sensitivity for cooking and respect for the product.

The frenetic pace of the market, encourages this menu to constantly enter and exit products, which sometimes prevents it from being updated.

Note: Generally I’ve found that Google actually translates full sentence prose more effectively than the one line items on menus. Perhaps this does indicate their claim of using context actually does help.

So here are two items from this menu (the only restaurant in León with a Michelin star) that required more research than simple translation:

ciervo asado con castañas, patata y trompetas de los Muertos roasted deer with chestnuts, potatoes and trumpets of the dead
queso de El Palacio con brevas El Palacio cheese (artisan sheep cheese) with figs

In the first item ‘trumpets of the dead’ is actually a good translation but unhelpful. It turns out this is a particular type of mushroom (Craterellus cornucopioides) whose name stems from the fact that the edible one resembles a lethal one so I suppose this is a bit like eating fugu in Japan (which I’ve done and it was another bland white fish with a tiny bit of tingle). OTOH, queso de El Palacio is just a particular cheese that is a local specialty of León.

From another menu of the top-ranked restaurant, with more traditional Spain offerings rather than the Spain influenced modernist cuisine had a few carta (a la carte menu) and thus more content. Here are a couple of examples:


con huevo frito y pimentón


with fried egg and paprika

Pisto is just the name of a dish and thus one of those items, like gazpacho or paella, that really doesn’t have any kind of translation and thus one must know what it is. It is a vegetable stew (or thick sauce) that resembles ratatouille.



“como en Asturias”


“as in Asturias”

is another example of a particular dish, cachopo, that you just have to know what it is (Two large veal fillets and includes ham and cheese. The dish is eaten fried and hot after being breaded in eggs and breadcrumbs) before you decide to order it or not. Like most dishes there are multiple recetas (recipes) so often Google searches for a term like this will result in finding a receta instead of a description but if you’re a foodie that may be more helpful anyway.

LENGUA CURADA con lascas de queso y aceite de pimentón CURED LANGUAGE with cheese flakes and paprika oil

lengua is one of those words where the most probable literal translation is wrong in this context. In fact the most “obvious” literal translation is correct, i.e. ‘tongue’ which then can mean ‘language’. For menus it is ‘tongue’.


con langostinos


with prawns

Here Google had no translation but Google searches quickly revealed ‘velvet crab, Necora puber‘. As an informal observation, especially in regards to seafood, I’ve noticed that the Spanish term often is directly derived from the scientific (Latin) name of the creature. So as a hint this might be a good place to start searching.

And this one was probably the worst (least helpful) translation:


al Prieto Picudo


to Prieto Picudo

I can’t even quite decide why the poor translation occurs as there is little literal connection. albóndigas is fairly common on menus (plus a cognate of its Italian counterpart) so one I immediately recognized as ‘meatballs’, although in some menus in Spain it may be an item closer to ‘meatloaf’. Nothing about it translates to either ‘device’ or ‘beds’. Likewise venado has a simple (and presumably correct in this context) literal translation of ‘deer’ or as also listed as a culinary sense, ‘venison’. So literal translation would be much more useful, in this case. But Prieto Picudo has no translation but is easily found via searches as a particular type of grape local to  Castile and León (DO Tierra de Leon).

And finally a term I’ve often seen that doesn’t appear in dictionaries but can be deduced if one knows about rules in Spanish for making diminutives from base words:


de conejo



Google failed to translation chuletillas but this I’ve previously found as the diminutive of chuleta (rib) so one can conclude these are simply small ribs, which would obviously be true when found a rabbit, but often this term is also used for very young (unweaned) lambs (lechazo or cordero lechal) or pigs (cochinillo or lechón) where leche (milk) is the key part of these terms.

So while I’ve fallen behind in posts at least I can provide a bit of information about food terms from León.

Observations from menus from restaurants in city of Palencia

I’m falling behind in doing posts about interesting things I find on menus so I decided to do two different things.

First, normally I would not manually extract corresponding English (usually from Google translate, sometimes from searches or dictionary lookups) and Spanish words or phrases and then collate the results across multiple menus. This I’ll do thoroughly, someday, with a more comprehensive approach using custom software and a corpus (of these kinds of extractions), critically with the “certainty” (expressed as a probability) that the translation is correct. Only with this very careful approach can I use “big data” effect (i.e. small wrong details wash out with lots of instances of word pairs) to get most accurate translations, or, in some cases, confusing translations that take a lot of research to decide (such as exactly what cut is solomillo). But because I’m behind I decided to go do the manual extraction and collation and analysis for many menus I studied in Palencia.

Second, normally I’d make a post on individual menus about what items are interesting, either the strange machine translations (or lack thereof) or items that required more than translation (such as recognizing a term is really a classic dish (recipe) or an ingredient from specific location or type of preparation). And such posts, of both necessity (lack of time to create) and less raw information are shorter than this consolidated post will be.

So instead I’ll really blast you, Dear Reader, with a vast amount of observations from all these menus at once. Since this is a lot of work my actual information may be in less than complete sentences and/or with explanation.

So here we go.

First, I made a list of some words/terms that can be very confusing (at least to me) since there is only minor spelling difference between words that are quite different, e.g. o. pata (leg) pato (duck) pavo (turkey). So here are some more:

  1. azafrán (saffron) azúcar (sugar)
  2. calidad (quality) caliente (hot)
  3. fresa (strawberry) and fresca (fresh, could be fresco)
  4. fríos (cold) and fritos (fried); both are adjectives so o might be a and s might not be included.
  5. frita (fried, masculine frito is less confusing) and fruta (fruits)
  6. mollejas (gizzards, sweetbreads) and mollete (a soft round white flatbread)
  7. oreja (ear) orejones (dried apricot) oveja (sheep)
  8. picada (minced) and picante (spicy)
  9. piña (pineapple) and piñones (pine nuts)
  10. roja (red) and rosa (pink)
  11. vieiras (scallops) and Viernes (Friday); zamburiñas frequently refer to scallops nominally of the “variegated” type (Chlamys varia) which stumps Google
  12. añejo (aged) and añojo (yearling, e.g. veal)
  13. cocina is usually kitchen (can also mean cuisine) whereas cocida usually means cooked (sometimes boiled); also cocinada is used as cooked.
  14. especiada (spice) especialidad (specialty) espinaca (spinach) espárrago (asparagus) espagueti (spaghetti)

These are more different in spelling but still easy to confuse or misunderstand:

  1. confitado can mean confit (the process, so confited if that were a word), but also candied as a modifier of some other ingredient and then confitura is jam which really isn’t same thing as confit
  2. guisantes (peas) and guisadas (stewed) and guisos/guistoes (stews)
  3. lima (lime) and limón (lemon, but sometimes also lime)
  4. melocotón (peach) and melon (melon) membrillo (quince or quince jelly)
  5. plátano (banana) and plato (dishes)
  6. postre (dessert) and potro (horse)
  7. tarta (cake, sometimes pie) and taza (cup, usually for hot drink, copa for cold drink)
  8. ternera (usually veal, but often can be beef) terrina (terrine, a cooking dish)
  9. tiempo (time) ande tierno (tender)
  10. agridulce (sweet and sour) and aguacate (avocado)
  11. alcachofa (artichoke) and alcaparras (capers)
  12. lomo (generically loin portion of any animal) or lomo (a special cured pork product)
  13. bacon and beicon both are used for ‘bacon’ but lacón is something entirely different (cured ham shoulder)

And here are a bunch of observations that I find interesting in food terminology in Spain’s menus.

  1. bellota rarely means literal ‘acorn’ and usually refers to special pigs fed on acorns and thus rather expensive type of ham
  2. tabla (a serving board/plank/platter) is not the obvious cognate ‘table’ which is actually mesa
  3. bollería can refer to the place (‘bakery’, then on a menu implying something from a bakery) or directly translated as ‘pastries’
  4. bola literally translates as ‘ball’, which makes sense as a term for a ‘scoop’ of ice cream
  5. bodega, in Spain, is not a store so it is a ‘winery’ (or place with wine)
  6. caldo is not the obvious cognate ‘cold’ (which unobviously is frio) but is a ‘broth’ or ‘stock’
  7. cogollos is frequently translated as ‘hearts’ (which is more likely corazón if from an animal) but it may be the ‘center’ (of a leafy vegetable, hence ‘heart’) or ‘buds’ or ‘shoots’ (of a vegetable)
  8. yema most often would refer to the ‘yolk’ of an egg, but it may also mean ‘buds’ or ‘shoots’ (as does cogollo as previously mentioned)
  9. garbardine is not a fabric but means literally ‘overcoat’, i.e. some sort of batter coating
  10. anchovies can be referred to as anchoas or boquerones where usually anchoa is the preserved version and boquerones is the “fresh” one, though both words equally apply as the name of the fish itself
  11. dorado is usually ‘gilt-head bream’ not the adjective golden. It’s not clear if, in Spain, it really is the same fish as mahi-mahi (dolphinfish) which may be the meaning of dorado outside of Spain
  12. empanado usually means breaded (form preceding masculine noun, otherwise empanada) in Spain; whereas empanada is a particular filled pastry elsewhere (and sometimes in Spain as well). It is derived from empanar which can be either ‘to coat in breadcrumbs or pastry’ which adds to the confusion
  13. galleta is often translated as ‘biscuit’ which is confusing to Americans (not Brits) since UK biscuit really is US cookie and galleta is cookie in Spain (not something like the southern US biscuit)
  14. guindilla (usually a specific pepper but used generically as hot pepper) or pimienta (or pimiento) may be any pepper or a specific type of pepper
  15. jijas is a particular mix of meat and spices to be used in making sausage, but it also may be itself cooked and then served, usually as a tapa
  16. jugo and zumo both can be translated as ‘juice’ but zumo is almost always the beverage and jugo is the juice derived from something else via cooking
  17. manillas has numerous translations (handles/hands, feet; trotters) but manos usually means hands but either on menus this usually means ‘pig feet’ (oh yum, almost as good as chicken feet I had in China)
  18. just módena often appears on menus, but it refers to balsamic vinegar which is famously from Modena in Italy and thus this name
  19. paletas translates as ‘shoulder’ or ‘shoulder blade’ (and other things) as does paletilla which probably means paletilla is the diminutive and thus from a smaller animal (say piglet verse mature pig)
  20. pata de mulo is not the unappetizing leg of a mule but instead a particular cheese
  21. perrito is the diminutive of perro (thus small dog or puppy) but appears on some menus (sometimes followed by caliente) as the term for hot dog, I guess a literal reverse translation; OTOH puerro is a leek
  22. pez refers to the animal (fish) vs pescado as the recipe ingredient (fish) and often a section of a carta
  23. boletus (a genus of mushroom-producing fungi) is often on menus rather than setas or champiñones or hongos (less common in Spain than elsewhere); generally setas are more “wild” (like porcini or Chanterelles) and champiñones are more cultivated (like button or cremini); hard to say what you’ll get and you might not like some fungi under a particular name
  24. ternera, usually translated as ‘veal’, may also be any cut from a cow, albeit typically from younger cattle
  25. vegetal can refer to vegetables sides or to the vegetarian dishes
  26. ventresca, nominally the belly portion of a fish and bonito (a specific type of fish) often can be referring to tuna (atún)
  27. de corral (literally of the ‘yard’ or ‘farmyard’) is the Spanish version of the trendy term ‘free range’, usually in reference to chickens
  28. calamares, sepia, chipirones, chopitos, puntillitas, quisquillas all refer to preparations of a squid-like animal with most the difference being size and source of the animal, or sometimes the method of preparation. rabas which is literally tails and most often since as rabo (sometimes with de buey) is ‘oxtail’ can also refer as “rings” of the squid body
  29. chuleta and chuletillas are both (usually) chops (aka ribs) with bone attached. The main difference is chuletillas are (typically) smaller (as implied by being a diminutive of chuleta) and usually in reference to unweaned animals (mostly lamb (lechazo) but might be suckling pig or veal)
  30. sausages go by a variety of names: embutido, salchicha, salchichón; sometimes chorizo is used generically to mean any sausage and worse sometimes morcilla is also used generically as sausage (or with misleading translated as pudding)
  31. the verb guisar (to stew) leads to several different terms for stews or stewed (as a modifier); guisad{a|o} is usually ‘stewed’ whereas guisos or guisotes are ‘stews’, but then estofado (from verb estofar which is also ‘to stew’ ) is also stew/stewed; menestra is sometimes used generically as stew, but it usually implies a vegetable stew and often a particular recipe.
  32. a la brasa (‘grilled’, usually directly over coals), a la parrilla (‘grilled’, usually on a grate over fire), a la plancha (‘grilled’, but on iron plate not directly over fire), ahumado (‘smoked’, not necessarily with cooking at same time), al carbon (cooked over charcoal); parrillada de X often appears and seems to be a serving of ‘grilled’ X (mostly likely vegetables rather than meat)
  33. Have fun figuring out bocadillos, bocaditos, bocados, bocatas and chapatas which are all some variation of “snacks”, usually in the form of sandwiches (usually small) with rolls or loaf bread rather than sliced bread. Just to make things more fun, pepito is a small meat sandwich (whereas pepita is a seed, or in Mexico a pumpkin seed)
  34. And don’t even get me started on the confusion between Spain and Mexico on: torta, tortitas, tostada, tostas and  especially tortilla and as previously mentioned empanada.

So I hope this post (plus the now updated glossary (merged these Palencia derived terms with the previous set) shows how much can be learned (and left as questions) by close examination of a bunch of menus. It may be a pain to do the tedious mechanical work but it all provides a lot of interesting exercises in trying to learn Spanish, specifically in food and Spain context.


Blog note

After consolidating terms from numerous menus, plus the recent post about restaurant terms, I substantially updated the page under the tab RESTAURANT PHRASES. The main change was the addition of a list of phrases which I’ll include here for convenience. Enjoy!


In this list the notation {x|y} means this word occurs with either x or y in this position, usually this is gender in adjectives, so {a|o}. [x] means optional, most often [s].

a elegir to choose [from]
a tu elección at your choice
acompañad{a|o}[s] accompanied
al centro in the center (of table, i.e. for sharing)
al estilo X in the style of X
al gusto to taste (doneness), i.e. cooked to order
al peso by weight
bebida[s] drinks
carta the a la carte menu
casa literally house, from this restaurant
caser{a|o} homemade
combinados combinations
degustación tasting/taste (often a separate menu)
del día of the day
diario daily (available item or open)
elaboración preparation
eliges tú los ingredientes you choose the ingredients
en temporada in season
entrantes starters (aka appetizers)
especialidad specialties
horario hours (as in when it is open)
incluid{a|o}[s] included
ingredientes ingredients
mesa table (different from tabla)
para acabar to finish (after main part of meal)
para comer to eat (main part of menu)
para compartir to share
para picar to nibble on (aka snacks or appetizers)
por encargo on request
postres desserts
precio[s] price
primeros [platos] (primer) first course
segundos [platos] second course
selección/seleccionado selection/selected
servido [con] served [with]
surtido assortment
tabla board/plank or platter (usually an assortment, often of ham)
unidad unit (abbreviation uds)
vari{e|a}d{a|o}[s] assorted, varied, variety

para picar and other restaurant phrases

Despite my lack of posts I have been continuing to study menus from restaurants in Spain, at the moment from a large list of restaurants in the city of Palencia. In that work I’ve thought of probably half a dozen posts I’d like to write. But posts are harder than study. I need concentrated time without interruptions and real focus. Study is mostly mechanical and I can do bits and pieces at a time, easily stopping and restarting later. I don’t know about you but I have to finish what I start, in one sitting, when it comes to posts. Of course 😉 if I did shorter posts maybe I wouldn’t have this problem. But, alas, I accumulate so much material it’s hard to neglect it all.

But there is a potentially relatively brief topic about some phrases one finds on many menus. The phrases are simple, but the literal translation of various machine translations aren’t very helpful. So let’s start with this one.

A menu was basically divided into three sections with these phrases (with Google translations):

para picar algo to chop something
para comer to eat
para acabar to finish

I doubt I’ll be doing any chopping while dining in a restaurant. Just para picar is more common than including the algo part, so what does this mean? para is just a preposition meaning ‘for’ or somewhat more helpful in this context ‘in order to’. picar has a host of meanings: to chop, mince, grind, cut, crush {to divide into pieces}; to sting, bite {by an animal}; to peck at {birds}; to break up (big pieces), chip (small pieces) {mining}; to punch; to needle {colloquial) to antagonize}; to spur on {horse racing}; to goad, prod {bullfighting}; to play staccato {music}; to rot, corrode, rust; to key in {computing} to eat, nibble on {(colloquial) to snack on}

Now we’re not bullfighting or mining or horse racing, so probably the sense related to eating best applies. While ‘to nibble on’ is the obvious dictionary definition to use the sense for this ‘to snack on’ probably fits best.

That then makes the following section, para comer (to eat) make more sense. After nibbling some snacks we’re ready for some serious eating. And para acabar precedes desserts, coffees and after-dinner drinks so that has an easy fit.

So let’s look at a few others which do translate reasonably well via machine literal translation:

a elegir to choose
para compartir to share
por encargo on request
a tu elección at your choice
eliges tú los ingredientes you choose the ingredients

Despite both a elegir and a tu elección having ‘choose’ or ‘choice’ they seem to have quite different purposes in menus. a elegir usually precedes a list where one may choose one item whereas a tu elección seems to allow one to “customize” an item.

And here are a few more

al peso

al peso usually is in the pricing section, i.e. one can order an amount (by weight) of something and then the price will be determined by that weight. casero or casera (if preceding a feminine noun) is quite common and best translates as ‘homemade’ although often the mechanical translations just say ‘home’ or ‘house’ (for those translations that “claim” context sensitivity, not word-by-word literal) but of course that is the word that is the stem of this, casa. While ‘homemade’ clearly means made in this establishment it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘made from scratch’, or, IOW, it may just be assembled from purchased elements.

And, even though this is another post, some menus like to use brand names as the simple label of the item, especially at one establishment for desserts. So I learned MAGNUM MOMENTS is not some strange loanwords in Spanish, but just a European brand of ice cream in a particular portion and COPA BRASIL or DELISS LATTE are the names of packaged ice cream treats. Literal translation (or no translation at all as Google stumbled on these) isn’t going to help you much in picking one.

There are other phrases I’ve encountered but these where just in a few of the menus from a couple of restaurants. Someday I’ll have to complete a full list.

At home menu to translate

Sometimes one doesn’t have to leave home to encounter menus that need translation. In this case the menu is German, not Spanish and in Omaha Nebraska, not Hamburg Germany where the chef trained for several years. One of our favorite restaurants, Dolce, has an inspired chef Anothony Kueper. He loves his usual menu but also loves to do special menus which he emails to his loyal fans.

In this case it turns out it was his wife’s birthday. And she is from Germany and much of her family came for her birthday. And Chef Kueper worked several years in a one-star restaurant in Hamburg (that gained its second star while he was working there). So it became his task to create a special menu, with wine pairings, for his wife and her family and then share it with his loyal customers.

Now frankly, originally I was completely unenthusiastic about this when my wife wanted to do it. I’ve made both business and recreational trips to Germany, and, well, uh, frankly, I wasn’t impressed with the cuisine. In fact, in my last trip for a week in Köln we ate most often at an Italian restaurant run by Bulgarians instead of the German selections.

But I was blown away by Chef Kueper’s dishes. As one of a few tables trying the special menu the chef came out to explain each dish. Of course, local is a big deal and it turns out via my wife’s connection to the state agricultural organization had actually visited several of these local suppliers. Being able to converse with the chef wasn’t critical to the meal (since the menu was fixed and we had no choices to make so translation didn’t really matter) BUT it certainly made the meal more interesting.

But the point of this post was my attempt to actually figure out what the menu items were! I know just a tiny bit of German but had little success reading the menu (like I got rotkohl and obviously spätzle). AND, critically, despite having considerable time between courses using a smartphone and its available resources only helped a bit in decided what the menu items were. When they actually arrived and were explained by Chef Kueper there was only a limited comparison to what I found on my phone, not contradictions per se (mostly) but just inadequate descriptions online. Had we had to make choices, especially with limited time to study a multi-item menu it would have been tough.

Since my blog is about food in Spain a bunch of German translations are irrelevant but just for fun I’ll list the items in the excellent meal we enjoyed:

Jakobsmuscheln · Zwiebeln
Saffran Soße · fritierter Spinat

Königsberger Klopse
Servietten Knödel · Kapern · Sahne

Tafelspitzsülze · Frisee
sauce vert · Ei

Spanferkel · Spätzle
Rotkohl · Apfelgelee

Schwarzwälder Kirschotorte

You can have fun trying to figure this out. The second item was amazing and the spanferkel (local, a supplier we’ve visited) was outstanding.


Entered León Province

I’m finally out of Palencia province and now in León province in autonomous community of Castile and León. “in”, of course, is to be taken figuratively, not literally, as I just finished enough miles on treadmill in the basement to reach Sahagún, the first town along the Camino on east side of León province. 259.98 miles from the start. That’s not many miles for ten months but I’ll also hit another milestone of 6000 miles on stationary bicycle which isn’t too shabby, in fact, more than I used to do for real when I lived in California and real biking outside was feasible.

Now my “progress” on the virtual trek is boring content so I’d hoped to bring you some new tidbits of information about menus, but, alas I couldn’t find any. Between Trip Advisor and Google I had nearly 20 candidate establishments who have food but none have any online menus. Thus I have no source material to examine. And while the pictures (from the few web sites) or geo-located on Google show plenty of food there are no words. This is disappointing since all the small towns all through Palencia haven’t had menus to translate. I didn’t even see a photo of the blackboards outside restaurants that frequently are menus. And the only photo I found of a menu was the English menu and thus not interesting.

So rather than leave you with nothing about translations I also found the 15 most interesting things to do in Sahagún (effectively all related to religion) and so extracted a few words. Silly me for not knowing Iglesia since it is rather common.

Arte Sacro Sacred Art
Castillo Castle
Iglesia Church
Carcel Jail
Monasterio Monastery
Museo Museum
Oficina Office
Palacio Palace
Puente Bridge
Ruta Route
Santuario Sanctuary
Semana Santa Holy Week
Turismo Tourism

So the trek across Castile is still rather boring so I’m actually glad I’m only doing the virtual version.

cata de vinos

I’ve been spending a lot (too much?) time trying to mine Spanish terms associated with wine. Discovering a large list of these is only somewhat useful for reading menus in Spain which is the primary purpose of my project. But sometimes you look where the light is, not where your keys are (this is a cliche in USA, perhaps not obvious to others).

Anyway cata de vinos is not quite what it says literally. The literal translation is simple – ‘wine tasting’, something rather obvious that any of us do when we drink wine, at a restaurant or at a party or wherever. BUT, there is a more formal meaning which is spelled out in this Spanish language Wikipedia article.  This is the kind of tasting “professionals” do to write all those articles (or a description of a particular wine on a menu) in all that wonderful (and frankly somewhat snobbish) wine jargon.

Any kind of tasting that involves comparative analysis requires training but also requires a vocabulary that can be fairly precisely defined and used by different tasters in the same way. We amateur wine “tasters” often don’t really know these terms.

I was surprised to find a number of fairly detailed sources, in Spanish (both the terms and definitions) covering “official” cata de vinos. While many of these terms would not have a precise (or sometimes any) meaning to us amateurs it’s still worthwhile to attempt to dig them out.

So this has been a long duration for me doing this since I found such rich and extensive, but difficult to process sources. By now I’d hoped to provide a more complete post on this subject but I’m still not done so this is just a fragment to demonstrate some of the issues of decoding vocabulary like this, especially for a non Spanish-speaker.

The source I’ll discuss here is Vocabulario del Vino that is reached by the Glosario tab at a site © 2011-2017 Enominer.  Try as I have I can’t actually figure out who/what Enomier is! (no translation I can find)    It is a web domain name as per https://www.enominer.com/ but it doesn’t have an About… to actually figure out what this is. I suspect it’s a publisher of magazines about wine but that’s just a guess. The page name containing the glossary is diccivino.html which, again I’m guessing, I think just a contraction of diccionario and vino. And in the many searches I’ve done trying to expand on the definitions here I seem to have encountered very similar lists at other URLs so despite the © at this site (no idea if it really is their copyrighted material or a copy from elsewhere) some/all of this glossary is published elsewhere on the web. Which, btw, doesn’t help me when I search to just find what I already have as text from this glossary. The sub-heading under the name at this site just says:

cultura del vino, desarrollo rural y ciencias de la tierra Wine culture, rural development and Earth sciences

As explanation of their glossary the webpage explains that it is presenting a formal terminology.

Toda ciencia o materia cuenta con un conjunto ordenado y sistemático de términos y de su correspondiente significado.

La viticultura y la enología no son una excepción.

Aún siendo comúnmente admitido que la cata de vinos es una acción de los sentidos que aprecian sensaciones de aromas y sabor con un contenido más subjetivo que objetivo,
no es menos cierto que hay un conjunto de normas y reglas no escritas que permiten traducir las apreciaciones sensoriales que influyen principalmente en la cata de un vino (vista, olfato y gusto) en valores que pueden comprobarse de una forma objetiva.

All science or matter has an ordered and systematic set of terms and their corresponding meaning.

Viticulture and winemaking are no exception.

Although it is commonly accepted that wine tasting is an action of the senses that appreciate sensations of aromas and flavor with a more subjective than objective content,
it is no less true that there is a set of rules and unwritten rules that allow the translation of sensory appreciations that influence mainly in the tasting of a wine (sight, smell and taste) in values ​​that can be checked in an objective way.

They divide their glossary in four sets:

Términos relativos al color Color-related terms
Términos relativos al aroma. Terms related to the aroma
Términos relativos al sabor. Terms related to taste
Otros términos. Other terms

So I’ve been churning through these using both Google and Microsoft to do the translations. So as a fragment of this work here are a few terms (from the sabor/taste set under R):


Vino oxidado, licoroso y seco. Es un defecto en los vinos de mesa, pero no en los vinos generosos.

stale Rancio

Rusty, dry and dried wine. It is a flaw in table wines, but not in generous wines.

Oxidized wine, liqueur and dry. It is a defect in table wines, but not in generous wines. 

Purple text is the Google Translation and black text is the Microsoft (inside MSWord translation). Note that Google doesn’t translate rancio to ANY English word. This has been common in analyzing the cata terms as many don’t seem to have a direct English equivalent and thus require a lot of research to make a guess. Microsoft picked ‘stale’. Looking at my usual two online dictionaries, spanishdict.com and Oxford I get a variety of English terms for rancio:  rancid (the obvious cognate), mellow (interesting this is the wine sense), ancient, long-established, stale (bread sense), antiquated, old-fashioned, sour and unpleasant. That’s a lot to choose from to decide what rancio means in the cata sense; IOW, how would a professional taster apply this term and if they were also fluent in English what English term would they use?

So we look at how it is defined. In the first phrase of the definition:

Vino oxidado, licoroso y seco.

Google and Microsoft have some significant difference. MSFT translates oxidado as ‘rusty’ (a valid dictionary literal translation) but Google uses the more appropriate ‘oxidized’. Even a somewhat amateur taster like me is familiar with ‘oxidized’ as a flaw in wine and ‘rusty’ is a chemical oxidation process but not likely to really apply in this case.  Likewise for licoroso  MSFT and Google disagree and in my research I think both are wrong (although Google’s liqueur  is closer.  licoroso is a concept that doesn’t really have a single English equivalent, only a definition which is ‘strong; of high alcoholic content’.

So we still haven’t quite got this figured out but the critical clue lies in the next sentence and the words vinos generosos. Both Google and Microsoft translate this literally (generous wines) BUT in this case this is a very specific word pair that really means a type of sherry as explained in this source which indicates generoso is a regulated term of Consejo Regulador.

Now actually this issue (sherry versus table wines) has occurred many times in studying the cata vocabulary.  I’ve learned that Spain is actually the leading wine producer (by volume) in the world, surpassing both France and Spain and also easily California (which as a former citizen, to me, is US, when it comes to wine). Simply put the fortified sherry wines are quite different from the lower alcohol table wines and thus tastes, aroma (bouquet) and color attributes can be quite different.

So in this case this source is telling us that an acceptable (possibly desirable) taste in sherry is not attractive in table wines BUT it is hardly the same as rancid (I doubt even in sherry this is good) or oxidized or any of the other translations of rancio. So if I were forced to pick an English equivalent I would go with ‘mellow’/’ancient’. And this shows the problem – these words don’t really describe this taste but none of the other translations do either.

In short, especially trying to understand the specialized vocabulary of cata de vinos you really have to have experience tasting, in Spain, in the context of all the wines available in Spain. It’s basically not possible to translate this over to English.

And since rancio looks a lot like rancid so a non-Spanish speaker who saw this as a term describing a wine it’s unlikely they’d try it, which, according to this, they shouldn’t if it is table wine but should if it’s sherry.

I had planned to discuss several other R taste terms but this post is already too long so I’ll merely mention one more:


Es el aroma de menor intensidad que el olfato que se percibe por vía interna desde el paladar cuando respiramos por la boca con una pequeña cantidad de vino en la cavidad bucal.

Aftertaste Retronasal

It is the aroma of less intensity than the smell that is perceived by internal way from the palate when we breathe through the mouth with a small amount of wine in the oral cavity.

It is the aroma of less intensity than the smell that is perceived internally from the palate when we breathe through the mouth with a small amount of wine in the oral cavity.

Again the stuff in purple is Google’s Translation. Interestingly Microsoft actually picked a translated English word (aftertaste) for retronasal. But to my eye retronasal doesn’t even look Spanish at all and thus might be a loanword from English. In fact it is. But what does it mean? Actually finding a description of this in English wine tasting sources shows approximately the same thing as the translation (almost identical between Google and Microsoft) of the definition.

The funny thing is I didn’t know what retronasal meant BUT I’ve actually done exactly what it’s definition describes (if I was told this term I’ve forgotten but I don’t believe I ever knew it). Not long after moving to California and just as California was becoming a major player in wine (hard to believe it once was poorly regarded, decades ago) I took a course on California wines and how to do tasting at a community college in the Bay Area. We were actually taught how to do this – take a sip, hold the wine in your mouth, open your mouth slightly and breathe in. The sensation one gets is entirely different than just tasting (mouth closed) or the aftertaste (breathing in after swallowing). And if you’ve ever watched a professional tasting you see the tasters doing this (and of course, also spitting out the possibly very expensive wines they’re tasting).

Anyway this diversion in my project has taken a lot of time and hasn’t provided a great deal of material to put in my corpus for my menu translation app but it has certainly provided a lot of opportunity to see challenges in translation.

So I’ll leave you, Dear Reader, with a couple of quiz questions.


Vino con contenido carbónico perceptible al paladar y visiblemente observado al descorchar la botella. El gas carbónico procede de su propia fermentación y da sensación picante y agradable


Wine with carbonic content perceptible to the palate and visibly observed when uncork the bottle. Carbon dioxide comes from its own fermentation and gives a pungent and pleasant feeling


Vino alterado por las quiebras, que afectan al color.


It was altered by bankruptcies which affect the color.

What English equivalent would you use for aguja and quebrado?

And there are about 50 more of these just in this source!


Pastelería o repostería o confitería

added: Interestingly pastelería appears in the context of wine tasting terminology which is yet another meaning than I explored in my original version of this post. See at the bottom.

As you can see by my lack of posts I’ve been away. I was in Ohio on “personal business”, the same type of “business” Tom had in The Way. As such it wasn’t any kind of vacation but it still prevented me from research on my project and posting. At one point we thought we might be able to go to Barcelona, no not the wonderful city in Spain, but an interesting restaurant in Columbus Ohio. Based on its online menus it seems very similar to menus I’ve been studying in Spain (names of items in Spanish, descriptions in English): it has a fixed price menú del día; a chef’s tasting menu (degustación); and the standard dinner menu. Most of the terms of the menu would be a mystery to me if I had just dropped in but now most I know from my work here. Whether it is authentic tastes of Spain I don’t know, but I hope to go back some day under better circumstances.

Meanwhile I’ve returned to start doing my stationary exercise, biking and walking. After two weeks off I can tell I’ve lost some tone so it’s a bit hard to get back to my previous speed. Nonetheless I made enough miles on the treadmill to map onto my GPS track of the Camino de Santiago and thus move my “virtual” trek to Villalcázar de Sirga. Palencia. This town is large enough to show four restaurants on the Google map but none had online menus (or even web sites). One had a simple menu but it was graphical rather than text so I couldn’t extract it.

But continuing my hunt I did find an online menu, of sorts, for Confitería La Perla Alcazareña, aka, La Pastelería with the URL http://pasteleriavillasirga.com/. Just a bit of looking at this site quickly revealed Spanish words that have multiple meanings (each word) and are almost synonyms, i.e. pastelería, repostería, confitería. Any of these can be found in at least one dictionary as bakery or pastry shop or confectionery. So which is it?

Digging a bit more alos reveal additional overlapping terms (in the general theme of bakeries): panaderíadulcería, bollería, bizcochería and  galletería.

Now this easiest for me to distinguish is panaderíaWhen I did a long bicycle ride in Germany decades ago we quickly learned to distinguish bäckerei and konditorei. We stopped at our first konditorei at Eberbach on our first day out of Heidelberg. There we sat in a small park with brass sculpture ebers (boars) literally pigging out on delightful confectioneries. Later we stopped at the bäckerei to get rolls to make our lunch sandwiches and there were no sweets to be seen. In the US, if you can find a bakery at all, it probably does both, breads and sweets. And there are so many different baked sweets it’s hard to put them in categories. bollería may be a specialized panadería dealing in bollas (rolls or buns) so we won’t consider it any more.

Just for fun in this area what does pasta mean? Well it can refer to its common meaning in the USA, i.e. pasta or it can be cakes, biscuits (cookies in the UK sense) or general pastries (more often pastel (which can be cake or pie)) or even paste. No wonder these other bakery terms are confusing.

Searching multiple dictionaries and sources I arrive at the idea there are three different things that, at least pastelería and repostería can mean:

  1. the pastry (or sweet or confection) itself
  2. the place where these are produced and/or sold
  3. the process of producing these products

Oh great, covers all the bases which means one could encounter these terms in any context. But here’s my best guess (at it is a guess).

pastelería  primarily deals with cakes (pastel, torta; possibly bizcocho (sponge cakes or lady fingers – bizcochería  specializes in these) and cookies (galleta – galletería specialize in these).  repostería  primarily deals with various sweet pastries and confitería  primarily deals with filled (jam or fillings) pastries. But all of these would cover what one might find in dulcería or konditorei  in Germany or Austria.

Got that. I think it’s safe to say there is a lot of overlap but all would be easy to eat, if not overwhelmed by a sugar (azúcar) rush.

Now just for fun here’s a few things, as exercise for you Dear Reader, to figure out from the menu (really a list of productos  since this appears to be a wholesale place) at Confitería La Perla Alcazareñaalmendrados, tarta de hojaldre, amarguillos, ciegas, mantecadas, rosquillas de palo, rosquillas de baño, brazo de gitano. Only a couple of these have direct English equivalents. And you get extra credit if you can figure out the difference between rosquillas de palo and rosquillas de bañorosquillas, in general are what we’d call doughnuts/donuts here in USA, but what the difference between ‘stick’ and ‘bath’ donuts is, in Spain, remains a mystery. And then, of course, there are churros but that’s a different story.

I’ve gained a few pounds just looking at images in my searching!

As a background task for several weeks now I’ve been researching the extensive terminology (jargon) associated with vino in Spanish.  So briefly after I finished this post I encountered this addition meaning of pastelería.

It is a sweet and toasty aroma with certain features of vanilla and caramelized sugar characteristic of the freshly baked pastry. It appears in the wines of long ageing in oak wood, generally sweet, fruit of its oxidative evolution and of the contribution of the Odoríficos compounds (vanillin) of the oak containers.

This certainly is an obvious extension under the wine terminology of GLOSARIO DE TÉRMINOS RELATIVOS AL AROMA in this source.