A simple country menu

I happened to notice this small restaurant (see menu below) as I was examining the small town of Hornillos del Camino in Burgos Province as I just passed through on my virtual trek, now at a distance of 193.8 miles. It’s a rather inconspicuous place (in fact, somewhat hard to find) but has some interesting info in its Google listing. So here’s it’s simple menu (hand copied from photo, translated by Microsoft) and you can see a couple of the dishes (shown in blue in menu) in the photos on Google maps. This one is fairly easy to translate with just modest amount of learning Spanish; I only missed remolacha (beet, not a favorite for me) from memory.

Based on the photos I think I’d need more food after walking all day. As much as the Camino fascinates me, frankly, this part of it is really boring and this small town is uninteresting. But that may be part of the trip, plenty of opportunity to be contemplative here rather than exciting sight-seeing tourism.

Note: In case you’re not using to using Google Maps go to maps.google.com in your browser and then search for Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain. You’ll see the Green Tree as a POI indicator – click on that to bring up the information page with photos.

Neson    4.8    ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗


Calle San Pedro, 30, 09230 Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain


Menu del día           9.5₡

Primero: First
Sopa del día Soup of the Day
Ensalada de queso de cabra con fresas y remolacha Goat cheese salad with strawberries and beetroot
Hummus de la casa con verdura y pan Hummus of the House with vegetables and bread
Segundo: Second
Currie de verduras Currie of Vegetables
Risotto de Espárragos Asparagus Risotto
Kimchi con Albondigas o Tofu Kimchi with meatballs or Tofu
Postre: Dessert
Postre de día Day Dessert
Pudín de pan y mantequilla Bread pudding and butter
Yogur con fruta y miel Yogurt with fruit and honey

No Cabecilla Asada for me, thank you

On my virtual trek of the Camino de Santiago I’ve almost made it to Burgos. So I’ve started digging through menus there. In order to find anything useful I need restaurants that have websites with text menus. There are 379 possible (according to Trip Adviser) and I’ve dug through 28 of them so far.

I encountered an item, Cabecilla Asada, that mystified me. Now that I’m writing the post I actually can’t find that item again but I recorded in my notes that cabecilla (asada is easy, i.e. roasted or grilled) translate, via Google Translate, to nipples, knives, nuggets and heads, depending on the context.

So here are a few of the translations:

Spanishdict.com says “cloth padding on one’s head”, Oxford says (with Google Translate of its definition):

Persona que está al frente de un grupo o movimiento, especialmente si es de protesta u oposición contra algo. leader: Person who is in front of a group or movement, especially if it is a protest or opposition against something.

and DLE has various definitions that match. But this isn’t much help. Somehow in doing searches I encountered cabecillas de lechal al horno which finally got me on the right track. lechal (various forms) I’ve encountered before – this is a unweaned young animal usually referring to a pig or lamb. But the search results also turned up a different variant: Cabezas de Cordero Asadas al Horno .

And cabezas is the key here. This is more simply ‘head’. But ‘head of suckling lamb”, you’re kidding, right?

But no once I’d worked the problem this far I found two recetas and photos: here and here. Yep, it’s a lamb’s head split in half and grilled (don’t believe me, follow the links to photos).

I suppose this is some kind of delicacy and maybe I’d eat it if seeing it (the brains in the skull) weren’t obvious what it was, but frankly I think I’ll pass on this. It may be wonderful but I’m just not that fond of unusual animal parts.

And the point of this is that it does help to know even fairly obscure terms used on menus. Without the ability for full conversation, who knows, I might order this. And then be unpleasantly shocked. Others may love this but I’m glad I’ll now have cabecilla in my corpus to warn me away.

Added later:

When I was composing this post I couldn’t find the online menu where I’d gotten a mention of Cabecilla Asada, but now I found it again (here).  This item actually appears twice, in the trailer of several of the pages of this restaurant and on the Especialidades linked page. In one case (for exact same Spanish) Google Translate said (for cabecilla) ‘heads’ and in the trailer mention it says ‘nipples’. And I found the other page (here) where a very similar item, cabecillas de lechal asadas al horno, is mentioned and it translates as ‘knives’. Also interesting in the original Spanish (and translation) is the redundancy of asadas and al horno (either would do).


Menú peregrino

This post was going to start as one of my milestones on my virtual trek but along the way I found something more interesting. In terms of milestones I just passed through the small village of Villambistia and while doing my usual search and investigation of either restaurants or albergues/hotels I found this delightful place: Casa de los deseos (I guess the literal translation of ‘home of the wishes’ could make sense, but deseo has a few other meanings). A search for it in maps.google.com will get you information or you can use this coordinate as the search in Google maps: 42°24’15.6″N 3°15’37.1″W.

On the satellite view it appears to be an empty lot (a bit ambiguous on the Street View) but the photos that Google has associated with Casa de los deseos show a charming place that looks quite new, so perhaps it has been built since the last satellite photo of this village. In one of the photos the following menu for peregrinos (pilgrims) is clearly visible and I’ve copied it for here. It’s a simple menu which is typical of the fairly cheap, but hardy food options for trekkers.

* Espaguetis – Macarrones

con tomate – carbonara

* Legumbres

Garbanzos, alubias, lentejas

* Ensalada Mixta

Tomate, lechuga, maiz, zanahoria

* Lasaña

* Filetes de lomo con pimientos

* Pechuga de pollo con pimientos

* Huevos fritos

* Tortilla francesa

* Pollo asado

* Panini

Pan, agua o Vino



Despite having no fluency in Spanish I did recognize most of this, either simply as cognates to English or as a consequence of short-term memory acquisition of some food terms in Spain doing these blog posts and my project. zanahoria (carrot) and lentejas (lentils) are the two items I couldn’t remember. A ELEGIR is not obvious but I’ve mentioned this in other posts (to choose). lomo, the subject of one of my earlier posts is probably the cured meat, not the loin of some unmentioned animal, but this is probably something one would want to ask (or see at some other table).

I was a bit mystified by Tortilla francesa. As I’ve mentioned just the plain term tortilla is seriously different in Spain (potato and egg dish) than anywhere in the western hemisphere (masa flatbread). It’s often qualified as tortilla española but it’s such a common dish on the Camino it is usually seen on menus just as tortilla. This blog post and this blog post, here at WordPress.com, have a  nice explanation of these two egg dishes and the difference. I suppose I should have done the ah-ha moment and thought francesa might be the omelet.

For me I think I’d be hungry enough I’d go for 2 PLATOS and choose Pollo asado (probably simple grilled chicken, I’m guessing dark meat since chicken breast (pechuga de pollo) is a different item) and the Ensalada Mixta.  If the Legumbres dish had included chorizo I’d go for that as the usual hearty meal for trekkers, but I think they’d mention that if it did. And, for me, not much of a tossup between agua o Vino. (The bar in this place looked fun to so I suspect they’d have some decent ordinary vino.) cerveza I’d skip in any of these places since that’s one area where I’m spoiled with great craft beer in the USA (nearby Iowa has the most breweries per capita of any state) and it’s almost always watery lager found in Spain.

8,95€ isn’t cheap but it’s hard to find an actual sit-down restaurant in small towns we visit while geodashing in USA that would be much less. But this is one very appealing part of the Camino, the support found in these tiny villages, such as Villambistia. There is a trail here in Nebraska, the Cowboy Trail, that doesn’t look much different (than the Camino) in terms of the walking but it’s around 30-50 miles between towns that even have a restaurant and even further between towns with overnight accommodations. So trekker there can only work if you have a support team with a car (also, needless to say, there is no public transportation to take you to some town). So finding not just the usual albergue but this very nice one would almost make it worth visiting Villambistia.


Menú degustación

Degustación literally means ‘tasting’.  Many of the restaurant menu’s I’m studying, especially the more “upscale” (AKA “expensive”) restaurants offer this kind of menu. Like the Menu del Dia this is a fixed price (prix fixe) but whereas the del Dia seems to be the more common items of the restaurants the degustación seems to be their showcase items.

In the USA ‘tasting menus’ have become more common over the decades I’ve been going to better restaurants. The first memorable one I recall was here in Omaha, at a restaurant specializing in fish with an excellent Peruvian chef (thus some of the Spanish influence). I recall my first time there – we received an invitation for a New Year’s Eve tasting menu (with wine pairing, of course, which is not as obvious that is part of the menus in Spain). The food was excellent and since I was just starting a weight loss program I was pleased, despite relatively high cost, that the portions were small and incredibly tasty. The most beautiful tasting menu I ever had was in a restaurant in Beijing, near the Grand Hyatt (I couldn’t find its name). Bizarrely that place was straight out of LA and possibly the fanciest restaurant in my experience, thankfully on expense account on business travel (although China has AMAZING value at its restaurants, the same place in LA would have been 500% more expensive). It was amazing and a lot of fun as well as tasty, to be surprised by incredible dishes.

The inspiration for this post is my continuing search for restaurants in other regions of Spain, than northern Spain which has been my primary focus. So I looked at Cartagena in Murcia, near the Mediterranean coast with the assumption I’d see either local items or more seafood influence. The menu that is the source of this post comes from Magoga (website) and its tasting menu.

As a small digression, triggered by the idea that one item from this menu seems to relate (after some translation research) to molecular gastronomy. In many ways Spain is the prime mover on this. For many years elBulli (now closed, but still has website) and Ferran Adrià was the top ranked restaurant in the world. More recently the world’s top restaurant has been French Laundry in Napa Valley California. I’ve never been able to afford (or at least justify the luxury) of dining there with the price of their tasting menu and wine pairings easily exceeding $500 per person.

OTOH, my first encounter with fine dining was also in Napa (when I still lived in the San Francisco Bay Area) at Domaine Chandon, which as I was searching for its link, now, sadly, seems to be closed. Domaine Chandon was my first luxury restaurant and over the years it began my personal indicator of inflation and what I could afford. It was always expensive but still reachable (with Silicon Valley high tech salary) for at least special occasions. After my initial visit I returned to treat my sister on her birthday. A better foodie than me she taught me that discussing the menu (even off menu items) with servers enriched the experience. Some of the servers I encountered were students at the nearby California Culinary Academy (undoubtedly working at Domaine Chandon for handsome tips plus experience at top notch restaurant). These people were very knowledgeable about the menu and thus discussing it with them added to the experience. I still can remember the fabulous house smoked trout appetizer that I would have never ordered without the pitch from the waiter. But as I’ve grown older and been lucky enough to eat at many fine restaurants I’ve become more disappointed. Domaine Chandon was a special occasion for me and an delightful experience. At one visit we were joined by some golfers at an adjacent table. Unlike us this was routine for them and they wolfed down their food like I would eat at a fast food restaurant. That made me realize I’m not one of the 1% and thus unlikely to ever enjoy the tasting menu at French Laundry (which I saw on a foodie show, but have never been able to afford in person) so elBulli was also a place I only “virtually” experienced through a TV special.

Be that as it is Magoga (and others I’ve seen) I might be able to experience if I could somehow get to Spain.

But on to some items from the menu itself.

Snacks Snacks

I guess the word for ‘snacks’ in Cartagena is snacks, no idea what this item might be. But this item is a bit more interesting:

Langostinos, coliflor, pomelo y crema de sus cabezas Prawns, cauliflower, grapefruit and cream of their heads

Yes, cabezas does literally mean ‘heads’ and I assume this applies to the langostinos, not the coliflor or pomelo.  I know enough cooking to use the shells from peeled shrimp to boil in water and reduce to use as a tasty base for a sauce, but with research it appears adding the actual heads of the shrimp enriches the shrimp stock even more. The only time I was invited to eat the head of a shrimp was a beautiful bento box in Japan (I declined, still not that adventuresome diner).

Ensalada de cebolla asada y salazones Salad of roasted and salted onions

salazones was a mystery, literally it simply means ‘salted’. But salted what, the onions? The photo at the website didn’t clarify this but it was an interesting presentation in a “submarine” ceramic plate.

Papada de chato, guisante del campo de Cartagena y trufa melanosporum Double chin, pea from the field of Cartagena and truffle melanosporum

This is a perfect item for research. papada does literally translate as ‘dewlap’ or ‘double chin’. chato was a bit harder to find but it appears to be a breed (the source says “brood”) of pig unique to Murcia. “local” is a big deal in contemporary cuisine. As far as I can tell chato is not DO but does seem to be something “local”. One of my other experiences with ‘tasting menus’ was another restaurant, here in Omaha, that, by invitation only, did special items, with the wine pairings, where the chef explained each item, down to the actual supplier of the ingredients and the sommelier then explained his wine choice to go with the item – a lot of food but a bit too pricey for our routine consumption. I can’t quite imagine eating the double chin of any pig but I’m told (not having direct experience) these odds bits of the animal are more tasty than the common cuts (please, recall my post on Iberian “secret”, something similar to skirt steak, that is available online for about $60/lb, sorry, I’ll skip that).

Colmenillas a la crema y alcachofas en dos texturas Morello with cream and artichokes in two textures

Google Translate got colmenilla correct in other parts of the menu from this restaurant so I have no idea why it picked ‘morello’ than simply ‘morel’ which, interestingly for me, led to my first attempt at a food dictionary. I once visited a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea California where the menu was entirely in Italian. Fortunately everyone there spoke English so I was to inquire about one of the dishes and had this fabulous veal dish with morels (the more favorable Italian dried). Coming to Nebraska one of my in-laws harvested morels in the wild around here but they were nowhere near as good as I had in Carmal.

But it was really the en dos texturas that inspired this post. A search for just texturas revealed little, but en texturas did lead to this source:

Spherification is a spectacular cooking technique we introduced at elBulli in 2003 which enables us to prepare recipes that no-one had even imagined before. It consists of the controlled gelification of a liquid which, submerged in a bath, forms spheres.

I recognized the name Ferran Adriá from my virtual experience with elBulli (I watch a lot of foodie TV even if I’ve never visited these places). So this is my guess, that the restaurant in Cartagena was probably influenced by elBulli, so I think my guess as to the meaning of en texturas is at least plausible.

And then there is this item from the tasting menu:

Arroz de conejo y butifarra Rabbit and butifarra rice

A search for butifarra yielded this plausible result, but there it is called botifarra. That is the Catalan term for this sausage and the more general term in Spain is butifarra. Another item:

Pichón de Bresse con su jugo Pigeon of Bresse with its juice

yielded, via search:

The pigeon of Bresse is a pigeon brood coming from the village of Bresse, in France, where they are reared in small farms under strict legislative controls. They are birds with Denomination of Origin.

Again this shows one of the challenges of interpreting menus. I suppose some people have heard of Bresse, as a source of pigeons, but I had to do some research to figure this out.

And finally:

Milhojas de avellanas y cuatro especias Hazelnut and four spices millefeuille

I am guessing Google Translate is correct and mihojas is millefeuille.  But unless you’re more skilled than me as pastry converting a Spanish term to a French term doesn’t help much. At this the article on millefeuille seems to be an adequate description of what is otherwise, sometimes, called a Napolean.

So this was a fun menu to analyze (and probably a very tasty one to actually consume) but it does show some of the challenge of figuring out menus in Spain. The online source for the restaurant didn’t list the precio for this menu but I’d guess it is enough that I’d really want to understand what I was getting before I’d decide I could splurge on it.

Speaking of that I also received this recommendation to try this place, Au Courant, for my next special occasion, my 20th wedding anniversary next week. It will be a splurge but $55 (before wine pairing) is probably cheaper than flying to Cartagena and trying the menú degustación at Magoga which I can at least dream of doing.











Note to Google Translate: Salmorejo is not Gazpacho

Most of the restaurant menus I’ve been studying come from northern part of Spain, specifically along the route of the Camino de Santiago. The food vocabulary varies in different parts so I thought I’d take a look elsewhere. So I went way south to Granada in the autonomous community of Andalusia. Just as a random pick I’m looking at the carta of Fogón Galicia, an interesting name for a restaurant a long way from Galicia. On their Entrantes page I found this item, originally from Andalusia, (Spanish from website, English via Google Translate, as usual):

Salmorejo gazpacho
El Salmorejo es una crema de tomate de origen cordobés que se toma fría The Salmorejo is a tomato cream of Cordovan origin that is cold

This is a very helpful website since it appears most of the items have their own separate pages, with nice pictures, such as this one for their salmorejo (click for image) so it’s excellent description of numerous items.

But the point of this post is that Google incorrectly translated salmorejo as gazpacho. There is some similarity but there are key differences as well. And as I’ve mentioned in other posts there simply is no English translation, for either salmorejo or gazpacho. Gazpacho is widely available in USA and known to most foodies. And it is just gazpacho, not some English translation. Interestingly Google Translate did not translate salmorejo, at all (actually correct) in the second line which is the description (also a useful feature of this website, short descriptions of the items). On the actual page for salmorejo at this website they list the ingredientes:

Aceite de oliva – Agua – Ajos – Huevos – Jamón serrano – Pan – Sal – Tomate Olive oil – Water – Garlic – Eggs – Serrano ham – Bread – Salt – Tomato

I’ve had gazpacho in multiple restaurants and I’ve even made it for myself. What I consider is the key ingredient (other than the tomato base) is pepino (cucumber). I’m well aware of this as I don’t like cucumbers but somehow do like them in the combination of gazpacho. Here’s a good description of gazpacho and its typical ingredients and preparation. And likewise here’s a description of salmorejo. To my thinking salmorejo is just a thicker gazpacho without the vegetables so without actual tasting it this looks less interesting than gazpacho.

So this was my main theme of this post but I’ll continue with a few other interesting things from this menu.

Huevos rotos con patatas y lomo de orza Broken eggs with potatoes and pot loin
Lecho de patatas fritas con huevos rotos y lomo de orza Bed of fried potatoes with broken eggs and pot loin

When I first saw “pot loin” I assumed this might be a typo but in fact orza does seem to literally be ‘pot’. The picture didn’t clear this up but interesting in Google translated lomo de orza as ‘pork loin’ so this is another of the Google Translate mysteries as to why it gets different results for exactly the same Spanish (and I don’t have to go searching for what pot loin might be). And Google Translate is really confused by this term as it appears again in Entrantes and there it becomes ‘baguette loin’.

Revuelto de bacalao dorado Golden cod scrambled
El revuelto de Bacalao Dorado del Fogón de Galicia utiliza la receta original portuguesa para la confección de este plato cuyos ingredientes principales son el bacalao y los huevos. The scrambled eggs from Bacalao Dorado del Fogón de Galicia uses the original Portuguese recipe for the preparation of this dish whose main ingredients are cod and eggs.

I include this item because in this case dorado really does mean ‘golden’. It’s also the name of a fish (often translated as gilt-head bream) and thus a mistake by Google Translate, but here it’s correct. But even the picture doesn’t really show why they’re calling this golden cod.

Pimientos de padrón fritos Fried bell peppers
Exquisitos Pimientos de Padrón fritos en el Fogón de Galicia. Con todo el sabor y la calidad en un entrante apetitoso y sorprendente… Exquisite Padrón Peppers fried in the Galician Fogon. With all the flavor and quality in an appetizing and surprising appetizer …

It’s a bit surprising that Google translated padrón as ‘bell peppers’, since: a) that’s not what this pepper is (yes it is sorta bell shaped but much smaller and different taste than standard “bell” peppers), and, b) it shouldn’t be translated at all since padrón is just padrón.

And wrapping up (for now, lots more to study on this menu) Google stumbled over habitas which I found for sale online as ‘baby broad beans’ and chanquetes which I found online as ‘transparent goby’ and cazón en adobo didn’t get translated but in context trozos de cazón de primera calidad it was translated to ‘pieces of premium quality dogfish‘, confirmed in this recipe.

Always adventures in translation.

No translation – just have to know

I’ve been distracted for over a week and so have fallen behind in my research and virtual trek. The painful toe has held me to hardly any progress along the Camino but I am now a mile outside Santo Domingo de La Calzada and so it was time to look forward to any restaurants there with online menus. I’ve explored one, Los Caballeros, which revealed a few interesting translation challenges. As my regular readers already know I’m developing a corpus of matching pairs of English and (Iberian) Spanish food terms to eventually drive an app to aid travelers in decoding menus in Spain.

Most menus of restaurants in Spain don’t have their own English translation so I’m dependent on Google Translate [GT] (sometimes other tools) to show the English. Google does a credible job but makes interesting mistakes. And it is those mistakes, either failure to translate at all or a silly-looking translation where I start a bit deeper research.

For instance, GT didn’t translate membrilo which is understandable since this is actually a misspelling (or typo) in the online menu for the actual term membrillo which often appears on menus and translates to ‘quince tree’ (this appears to be another case where the plant is masculine and the fruit of that plant is feminine but I’ve rarely seen membrilla and several dictionaries didn’t recognize it (the authoritative one did). So mystery solved in trivial fashion, but let’s continue to see what we find.

Carpaccio de Solomillo de Ternera con Crujientes de Patata y Lascas de Queso Beef Fillet Carpaccio with Potato Crisps and Cheese Flakes

The interesting term to discuss is carpaccio which you can see GT didn’t translate. The main reason for this is this word is not Spanish, in fact it is a loanword from Italian and is the same word in English. So if you’re looking for a translation you’re not going to find it, the word just is itself. But what is it? This is where you also need to be a bit of a foodie to make sense of menus. I’ve only had carpaccio a few times and interestingly the description of it in online sources only partially matches. IOW, you have to know what this food item is to decide to order it (and I know people who aren’t keen on raw meat and I’d have some reservations tied to the care of food handling in the restaurant). And what about alioli, another loanword from Italian. Most foodies would know this one but I doubt my parents would have known when they were in Spain (or even Italy).  And what about this one:

Bacalao a la Plancha con Sofrito y Verduras al Wok Grilled Cod with Sofrito and Vegetables al Wok  (image)

Now soffritto (or its French cousin mirepoix) is probably familiar to most people who watch lots of cooking shows but I was surprised to see it actually on the menu since usually this is just a base for sauces. The sofrito in Spain is not only spelled a bit differently but appears to be a somewhat different item:

In Spanish cuisine, sofrito consists of garlic, onion, paprika, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.

In case you’re not a foodie, mirepoix (AKA as holy trinity colloquially in USA) is onions, celery and carrots – not paprika or garlic, definitely not tomatoes.

So you get the idea. Some terms that seem to baffle Google Translate are just cooking terms (either direct loanwords or something close) that you’ll just have to know in order to understand what the item is. And then there is something like chorizo. Probably the majority of people in the USA would know something about what this is, but most likely they’re also familiar with the Mexican version of this sausage which is fairly different from the version in Spain, which in turn emphasizes different recipes for the sausage from different areas. GT doesn’t quite get morcilla right (‘black pudding’?). This too is a famous “blood” sausage in Spain and it is quite dark, hence ‘black’ isn’t too far off but ‘pudding’ doesn’t make much sense. And some people might be put off by such an item so it’s appropriate that a traveler actually know what morcilla is and not depend on any form of translation.

Morcilla con Compota de Manzana y Reducción de Vino Tinto Black pudding with Apple Compote and Red Wine Reduction

A few other terms from this menu are some sort of regional reference. The D.O. and D.O.P. is becoming more widespread as branding. It’s not really a big mystery (I’m still convinced the San Marzano tomatoes we grow here in midwest are equivalent to the D.O.C. ones from Italy). So here are a few from this menu: A) Jamón Ibérico de Bellota D.O. Guijuelo, they made this easy (on this menu, not always shown this way) to clue you that Guijuelo is just a geographical reference; (the province of Salamanca in the autonomous community of Castilla y León (which is next door to our current location) – knowing some geography of Spain can be handy to a traveler). And of course you already knew what the Ibérico de Bellota reference means, didn’t you, since it’s about the single most common you’ll encounter (and pay extra for) [in you don’t know, it’s your homework assignment to look it up]. BTW: D.O. Guijuelo is not that big a deal as it appears 60% of the Ibérico comes from there so this is about equivalent to saying “pork from Iowa”; B) Anchoas del Cantábrico is another geographical reference that Google did translate as ‘Cantabrian’ but so what? This online source selling a 4Oz jar of these for $9.99 claims “Cantabrian anchovies are renowned for their quality, …; nothing like the typical anchovies found in supermarkets.” and this had better be true for this price, hopefully less in Spain; C) Pera de Rincón which it turns out has a longer DOP designation, Denominación de Origen Protegida Rincón de Soto, and appears to be a big deal; and last D) Espárragos Extra de la Ribera (GT says: Asparagus Extra of the Bank) – I’ve seen de la Ribera before and already learned that while Ribera translating to ‘bank’ (or sometimes, more helpfully, river bank) is nominally correct this usually is a reference to the bank of the Ebro River whose “bottomland” (as we’d call ribera here) is premium area for a variety of vegetables, note that Espárragos is seen on menu (in northern Spain) also with the designation of de Navarra or de Tudela which almost always refers to the same thing as  de la Ribera, i.e. the famous thick stalks of white asparagus. Now all this may seem to be foodie trivia BUT you’re probably going to pay extra for items with these fancy qualifiers and you’re not going to get a helpful translation from your phone on these so you just need to know.

And here are a couple of other foodie terms from this menu (btw: I consider myself a capable foodie but sometimes miss these as well). Briefly: A) Ensalada de Pularda Confitada where pularda translates to the French term poularde which is then close to the English term pullet, IOW, a young chicken; B) Semifrío de Chocolate where semifrío translates to the Italian semifreddo which doesn’t have any direct English translation, again you just have to know what this is; and, C) the considerably more obscure, Pimientos Rellenos de Brandada de Bacalao where brandada translates to the French equivalent brandade which is ” an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil eaten in winter with bread or potatoes”.

I’m running out of time (and you, Dear Reader, out of patience or interest) so I’ll briefly mention a couple other items that have no translation and appear on this restaurant’s menu: A) Cameros, a particular type of cheese; B) Ajoblanco, a particular kind of soup, sometimes known as “white gazpacho”; C) Pochas, a unique type of bean that looks like ordinary beans, but is “fresh”, meaning it is removed from the green seed pod (like sweet peas) without drying and then cooked – this is very common in this part of Spain; and, D) Caparrón, which is a type of stew with multiple recipes based on a particular bean.

There are even more examples of these, just on this single example of a menu, and these pose a particular challenge to a menu assistance tool (smartphone app). It’s not going to help to translate more accurately than Google Translate (which will certainly be the goal in other cases, such as GT missing apiopia which is the somewhat obscure celeriac. An explanation must be provided (possibly picture even better, getting public access to those is a challenge) and the explanation has to be short enough to help while quickly scanning an menu but sufficient for you to decide if you want to try the item.

For example,

Manitas de Cerdo a la Riojana Handy pig in the Riojana

you know a la Riojana is just in the style of La Rioja (whatever that happens to be, but again something you’d just have to know) but what the heck is a ‘handy pig’? manitas does literally translate to ‘handy’ or more often ‘handyman’ but that doesn’t tell us much. Perhaps this is a better reference and I’d definitely want to know these are pig’s trotter which still takes a bit of thinking to translate that to ‘feet’.  GT doesn’t help you much with callos, which in one case it doesn’t translate at all and in another it translates to calluses. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post so I don’t need to remind you this really, crudely, is ‘guts’. I suspect, unless you’re a totally adventurous eater, you’d want to know this one.

And then finally, this is the item that triggered my research for this post:

Pan de Cristal con Aceite de Oliva y Jamón Ibérico Glass bread with olive oil and Iberian ham
Pan de Cristal con Mozzarella de Búfala y Rúcula Crystal Bread with Mozzarella de Búfala and Rúcula

Google Translate can’t quite make up its mind whether this is ‘glass’ or ‘crystal’ bread. Since I’ve done quite a bit of baking I had to figure this one out. Basically it’s just a variation on ciabatta (a term that probably wouldn’t have been widely known in USA until a couple of decades ago when fast food places starting using it for a bun):

If you have visited Barcelona or the Catalonia region, maybe you have tasted Pan de Cristal, which is the local version of the ciabatta bread. I say it’s a version because there are many things that make this bread so special. The main difference is that the crust is thinner, crispier and more delicate than a ciabatta, and the crumb is lighter and more opened than a ciabatta.

While this description explains the terminology I had to dig a bit to find how the dough itself is altered. Basically sugar and a little olive oil are added. Breads without diary or fat or sweeteners are referred to as “lean breads” (ciabatta itself would fall in this category) and breads with these additions are referred to as “rich breads” (most notably brioche, the famous “cake” of Marie Antoinette’s saying). Like ciabatta it has to be a very wet dough. So this one I’m going to try since I really like crispy crusts.

And, in the second entry you have the interesting  de Búfala, which foodies know as the specific (and best) way to make Mozzarella, i.e. from buffalo milk. And GT missed translating Rúcula to ‘rocket’, which in case you don’t already know is another term for arugula, another term most people in USA wouldn’t have known a few decades ago. Food seems to be the great globalizer for all of us.

So just a single menu of a single restaurant exposes all these challenges, which are also somewhat regional. It gives me a lot to think about as to how I can build my menu assistant app. And it should challenge you, Dear Reader, that unless you’re fluent in Spanish so you can ask about menu items, learning some of this kind of food knowledge will make your menu selections more effective (both getting what you do want and avoiding what you don’t want and knowing if the price is justified).

And one final term from this menu that faked me out:

Tataki de Cerdo Ibérico con Escabeche de Apionabo Iberian Pork Tataki with Pickled Apiopia

Even though tataki doesn’t have a tx in it I leaped to the WRONG conclusion this might be a Basque term. A little research shows it isn’t Spanish but from way on the other side of the world, i.e. Japan. You might have to be chef level of foodie to know this one.


Eating seasonal small dog in Spain – a story of hongo y seta

Actually I didn’t really find ‘small dog’ on a menu even though Google decided to translate perrochicos as ‘doggy’. But one can never be sure what is eaten in other countries. After all I did see ‘dog’ (in English) on menus of street vendors on Wangfujing Street in Beijing (along with scorpions and starfish-on-a-stick).

So why am I off on this strange tack?

I was looking at another menu of a restaurant in Logroño, that goes by the somewhat unusual name of Asador El Tahiti (website), another of the famous dining district, Laurel Street. In this case asador is actually a type of restaurant specializing in grilled food or as Google translates a la brasa ‘to the Brazil’. Come on, Google, a la brasa is one of the various terms somewhat interchangeable with ‘grill’ but in this case it means the food is actually grilled in contact with wood or charcoal fire (unlike a la plancha which is grilling on hot iron). Even I, illiterate in Spanish, know this!

Anyway this restaurant has its menu online but in the unfortunate format, first, in a PDF (not subject to Google Translate) and, even worse, it’s just an image of their menu which means there is no text to select and paste in my analysis documents. This is too bad because the carta is available in both Spanish and English which is always handy for creating word/phrase pairs to feed into my corpus. So, unable to get anything from the menu I at least grabbed some text (from the HTML) on the page that contains the links to the PDF menus. And there I found this fun entry:

Platos de temporada: espárragos, setas, hongos, perrochicos Seasonal dishes: asparagus, mushrooms, mushrooms, doggy

Here note the pair where Google translates perrochicos to ‘doggy‘.  Amusing, so what is the correct translation since ‘doggy’ is unlikely. My standard go-to dictionary, Oxford Spanish, doesn’t have an entry for perrochico but instead suggested I look at perro chico.  All right. I recall in the movie The Way Jobst being called perro which he didn’t understand but was subtitled to ‘dog’ so I vaguely remembered that and anticipated something like that for perro chico. This produced this confusing entry with indication this is usage in Spain:

Perra chica (moneda) Bitch girl (currency)

so all Oxford did was convert perro chico to the feminine perra chica and add the confusing (moneda) which does literally translate to ‘currency’ (really meaning a unit of, like a dollar). Now why Google decided to call this ‘bitch girl’ is amusing but it’s literal and the use of ‘bitch’ is not derogatory but actually what female dogs are called (go check out a dog show and see this term used in that sense). And chica doesn’t have a listing (except a colloquial usage in Mexico) but chico has various meanings that would imply young person and in the -o ending as ‘boy’ so it makes sense Google would decided the -a ending means ‘girl’.

So this was a dead end and I was left with my only other strategy for determining what  perrochico might be. And that is search which didn’t reveal much except there seems to be a town of that name. So as I usually do I added another search term to supply context, i.e. temporada. As a spoiler adding seta would have been better. But I did manage to find this link, Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo.

And this seems to be the answer that fits the context. Normally I don’t accept a single source but this just matches too well.

Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo Perrechicos, the mushroom queen of May


El perrechico, protagonista del campo en mayo The perrechico, protagonist of the field in May


El perrechico, identificación de esta seta en el norte de España, es una variedad extraordinaria, de carne blanca y muy tierna lo que la convierte en una de las setas más reputadas de la gastronomía tradicional asturiana.

Esta seta también recibe el nombre de “mixernó” en Cataluña, “usón” en Aragón, o seta de San Jorge en el resto de España.

The perrechico, identification of this mushroom in the north of Spain, is an extraordinary variety of white meat and very tender which makes it one of the most reputable mushrooms of traditional Asturian cuisine.

This mushroom also receives the name of “mixernó” in Catalonia, “usón” in Aragón, or seta de San Jorge in the rest of Spain.


La seta comienza a estar presente en el campo a principios del mes de abril si bien es en mayo cuando, masivamente, en grandes colonias circulares, conocidas como “corros de brujas”, comienza a extenderse por todos los campos de Asturias que tengas las características que propicien la proliferación de este manjar.

En las mejores temporadas, el perrechico puede llegar hasta el final del verano lo que indicará el carácter extraordinario de la temporada.

The mushroom begins to be present in the field at the beginning of the month of April although it is in May when, massively, in large circular colonies, known as “corros de brujas”, it begins to spread throughout all the fields of Asturias that have the characteristics that propitiate the proliferation of this delicacy.

In the best seasons, the perrechico can arrive until the end of the summer which will indicate the extraordinary character of the season.

IOW, this is a seasonal mushroom which is a delicacy and local to northern Spain. Which fits in very well with the other items on this restaurant’s webpage.

So it would appear mystery solved and for me an interesting new source (an online with numerous pages about food items). AND, it presents a clue to another common translation issue: hongo vs seta as mushroom. I’ve mentioned this before with two points: 1) hongo is primarily used outside Spain for mushroom (still true), and, 2) hongo is the cultivated (round button type) mushroom vs seta is the more wild type (like shiitake or chanterelles), which is probably wrong. Here is a more likely explanation:

Diferencias entre los hongos y las setas Differences between mushrooms and mushrooms
La confusión entre hongo y seta es habitual y puede ser que hasta algo común entre los aficionados al mundo micológico sin llegar a profundizar en el mismo, es decir todos aquellos que conocen el nombre de la seta o del hongo pero que mucha más intenso y próximo es su conocimiento gastronómico que la tipología exacta de lo degustado. The confusion between fungus and mushroom is common and may even be something common among fans of the mycological world without going deeply into it, ie all those who know the name of the mushroom or fungus but much more intense and closer it is your gastronomic knowledge that the exact typology of what is tasted.
En realidad, la diferencia es sencilla de interpretar ya que las setas son las fructificaciones de los hongos.

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana.

Actually, the difference is simple to interpret since the mushrooms are the fruiting of the mushrooms.

That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

Todavía más sencillo es diferenciar un hongo de una seta teniendo en cuenta que el primero está bajo tierra y el segundo sobre la misma, a simple vista del aficionado y lo que, por norma general, termina en casa después de pasar un día en el campo. Even more simple is to differentiate a mushroom from a mushroom considering that the first one is underground and the second one on the same one, at the naked eye of the amateur and what, as a rule, ends at home after spending a day in the field .

It’s fun to see Google Translate notion of the title line, i.e. differences between mushrooms and mushrooms; IOW, Google thinks both hongo and seta equally translate to mushroom. But I choose to believe the answer presented in this text especially this part:

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana. That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, as a common, but not always, “rule”. A plant that produces an edible part is often named such that the plant is masculine (-o) and the fruit is feminine (-a) [recall this discussion about olivo vs oliva]. So hongo is the actual fungus growing underground and seta is the fruiting body or what most of us would actually think of as ‘mushroom’.

It is good to clear this up but I suspect if you see hongo on a menu in Spain just think mushroom. After all the webpage (snippet, above) that started this digression listed BOTH as menu items which means I’m back where I started – why? Is there a difference? Perhaps hongo as cultivated and seta as wild is not entirely wrong. I doubt both would be listed if somehow some mushrooms weren’t called hongo and others called seta.

So still not resolved!




Another Logroño Menu

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m stuck in midwest USA and unable to actually be trekking along the Camino so I convert training miles on a treadmill into virtual trek. Unfortunately I’ve sustained a painful toe injury I’m allowing to heal before resuming my virtual trek. So instead of encountering new restaurants and menus I’m going back to some I’d found before. Once again I’m looking for eccentricities in machine translation as well as interesting challenges for more informed translation.

My latest menu comes from Restasurante Mesón Cid in Logroño,  They use an interesting approach showing six menus at different prices with different selections. They don’t show a carta and instead suggest:

Para individuales le recomendamos consultar los platos de temporada. For individuals we recommend consulting the seasonal dishes.

This is a good tip but again shows the fundamental flaw in my approach, i.e. an app to very accurately translate and describe menus without requiring conversational Spanish fluency. No luck on “consulting”, I would guess, so I’d be stuck with the fixed menus.

Now it’s not my goal to harp on flaws in machine translation (in this case Google Translate since the webpage (unlike PDFs I often find) is accessible to Google BUT it’s interesting to consider some of the issues. Machine translation is wonderfully useful but it has its flaws. So simply trusting that translation might leave you with a real surprise on your plate. So, here’s a couple of things for this menu:

  1. I’ve encountered this before but it works out poorly on this page that something about the HTML structure of the page confuses Google and so after translation it has “broken” the formatting of the page, which in this case means nearby items on the menu have been run together in a jumble that is hard (impossible in one case) to decipher. Perhaps a photo and OCR of a printed menu, then with translation might avoid this problem.
  2. Since this source has six different menus, sometimes with the same items, all embedded in a single HTML page I get to observe the strange effect, sometimes trivial, sometimes significant that the same words in the same page (overall context) produce different translations (including in some case none). As a trivial example, Croquetas caseras translates to ‘homemade croquettes’ (the normal English translation but in another case to ‘croquettes homemade’. This is not a problem understanding what the item is but it’s interesting that in one case Google can properly reverse the word order as Spanish does to the English variety but in the other case it can’t. Why? I have no clue and reading some of the technical material about Google Translate revealed no answer (to me, at least).  For this one, Cogote de merluza, the problem is a bit worse. This comes out as ‘Cogote Hake’ and ‘Cockle of Hake’, neither of which is very helpful. One literal translation of cogote is nape (as of the neck) but I’ve encountered this enough on menus that I think, even though there is a different term for this, this mostly means ‘cheek’ (when referring to fish). At the very least it’s something you’d like to know.
  3. Since there are multiple examples of exactly the same dish I quickly notice that the a la X construct is very inconsistently handled. In particular, the a la plancha (something you just need to know, grilling but on iron rather than directly over fire) went through, correctly as grilled, strangely as ‘to the plate’ (pure literal and not helpful), ‘to the grill’ (better but clumsy) and not even translated at all! This is just interesting as basically this is so common I suspect any customer would just know this anyway.
  4. A minor differences in the column heading (per menu) produce different translations: a) Segundo plato (a elegir) translates to ‘Second course (to choose)’ but Segundo plato translates to ‘Main course’ (when in this case (and many others) is more accurate) but it shows that the notion Google somehow looks at “context” in its AI based translation has interesting consequences.
  5. The cochinillo in Cochinillo asado gets translated to ‘piglet’ in one case and ‘suckling pig’ in another. Neither is misleading (as to what the dish really is) and in fact deciding which is more accurate is tough. Here I face the same challenge as Google, finding both usages in a corpus, which should be used? In a more trivial example asado in Cordero asado comes out as ‘roast’ vs ‘roasted’, again in irrelevant difference for interpreting the menu but curious why Google Translate has this difference.

Now on to some of the more interesting translation issues.

  1. Embutidos de Salamanca leaves me wondering what a salamanca sausage might be. But this same word appears in Jamón de Salamanca so it’s probably a proper noun, either brand (like Campos in previous post) or in this case a place name (a capital city of province of same name).  While the restaurant called out this particular designation all I can find is that it’s another variety of Iberian (which is also listed on the menu).  And so what, then, about Embutidos de Guijuelo. Guijuelo is another city and a DO, but basically it too is just another Iberian. There is definitely difference in the pricing of these menus so knowing whatever subtle difference there is between just generic Ibérico and Salamanca and Guijuelo (and probably even more designations). This is a really big deal in Spain, especially the Jamón, so: a) learn the difference (if you can) before plunking down dinero, or, b) if you choose to experiment and buy the more expensive one at least know you’re doing that and try to savor the difference you paid for.
  2. Google just missed this one as it is easy to lookup: Navajas o Langostinos a la plancha translated to Navajas or prawns to the grill’. navajas isn’t that hard, literally ‘razor’ or in the context of food, ‘razor clams’. And there is that clumsy ‘to the grill’ translation instead of ‘grilled razor clams and prawns’. Plus there is the ongoing issue of whether Langostino really is ‘prawn’ (vs gamba which is also on this menu). In Spain, langostino, gamba and quisquilla seem only to describe size, not the actual type of shrimp species, but in Italy or Chile it’s a quite different critter (and more premium).
  3. Pulpo a la gallega  (Galacian style octopus) and Espárragos de Navarra (Navarran asparagus, a somewhat unique variety, usually white) are just regional designations and you get to guess (or know from your much smarter app) what these really mean.
  4.  Chuletón, which is still a bit of mystery to me got translated in one instance as the common translation, T-bone steak, but in another case as ‘trowel’. I can’t find any connection that leads to that translation and I doubt I’d want to eat one. It must be some colloquial thing that perhaps a T-bone looks a bit like a trowel?
  5. And Google did the unfortunate non-translation under pescados (fish) of rape to rape. This also seems to be generally translated as monkfish. OTOH, now try to figure out what a monkfish is? IOW, translating doesn’t help much, you need to know what monkfish is (and in Spain, as it’s different than other places) before you’d pick that over dorado (which Google got right, ‘gilt-head’ in one place and just golden in another and just dorado in another, again why the inconsistency?) or lubina (seabass).
  6. This one, Sorbete de helado de limón al cava (Sorbet of lemon ice cream with cava) is a bit confusing (at least to me since I think of sorbet and ice cream as different desserts, not one as a preparation made from the other). In case you haven’t encountered wines from Spain before cava is another name for prosecco; oh, you don’t know that well both are an incorrect name for champagne. Champagne is a DO and can only come from France (as I once learned at a French owned sparkling wine producer in Napa California).  I’ve had all four and can’t tell much difference (at least good ones) and it sounds like a great thing to add to lemon ice cream. BUT, helado isn’t always ice cream (thus resolving my first comment) and instead can just mean ‘frozen’ so both sherbet and ice cream are helado, although generally helado does mean ice cream. Either way everyone likes helado.

There are a few more interesting bits but as usual I’ve gone on too long so I’ll undoubtedly pick up more translations challenges in the next menu.


Challenging menu to decode

While I’m continuing to work on the GallinaBlanca diccionario (almost done) I’m getting close to the next town on the Camino so I decided to try to work on another menu from a Logroño restaurant. It’s an interesting website as there are actually three different restaurants, with some common connection:  KABANOVA, PASIÓN POR TI, and LETRAS DE LAUREL. In addition to menus (unfortunately in PDF’s so Google Translate doesn’t work) there are numerous photos of their Especialidades (Specialties), some of which are fairly mystifying exactly what the item is.

I’ve decoded most of the three menus from Kabanova – MENÚ GASTRONÓMICO (Gourmet Menu, an 11 dish tasting menu), MENÚ PASIÓN (???, Pasión is literally passion, but really the name of the common grupo that runs these), and NUESTRO MENÚ DEL MEDIODÍA (Our midday Menu). It’s this midday menu that I’ll discuss in this post. I’ve mentioned menu del Dia before; it’s an economical way to order several courses from a limited menu. While it most often is referred to as  it is often most likely to only be offered at lunchtime (really around 14:30) and on weekdays only, so calling it mediodía actually makes a lot of sense.

Menú para 1 persona DE LUNES A VIERNES Menu for 1 person from Monday to Friday

The menu basically has these five parts:

APERITIVO de la casa. Aperitif of the House
POSTRES incluye un postre casero DESSERTS include a homemade desert
Incluye 1/3 botella Tinto Reciente DOC Rioja, agua mineral y ración de pan Includes 1/3 fresh bottle of wine DOC Rioja, mineral water and bread ration

Many restaurants will have Entrantes (instead of the Apertivo) on their menu del Dia, but judging from the pictures and other information this establishment is putting its bar forward rather than some small plate.

The first item under PRIMEROS had some fun translation to do:

Menestra fresca de verduritas de Calahorra con su velouté, crispy de alcachofa y polvo de jamón Fresh stew of Calahorra vegetables with its velouté, crispy artichoke and ham powder

I’ve mentioned that literal translation won’t work to decode many items on menus in Spain so we see a few examples of that here: 1) Calahorra doesn’t have an English translation because it’s actually the name of the second largest city in La Rioja which has as its major activity the growing and distribution of prized vegetables so using this term is emphasizing the quality and freshness of the verduritas (vegetables) used; note that  is a diminutive one of the three standard dictionary term verdura; 2) velouté doesn’t translate to English because it’s actually a French cooking term (one of the five “mother” sauces); 3) crispy is interesting since it’s already an English word and not Spanish, I guess they thought this sounded appealing, and, 4) polvo de jamón (ham powder) actually does seem to be what its literal translation implies. I found a number of receta on the Net for this and it’s just ground-up ham after drying in an oven that is used like a seasoning from a shaker. Menestra fresca itself has numerous recipes but basically it’s a stew of multiple vegetables (you can find lots of images of it on the Net).

Another item is interesting:

Ensalada de la Ribera con rulo de queso cabra. Riverside salad with goat cheese curler

Yes, de la Ribera translates to riverside which doesn’t tell you anything.  However, this link gives you a good picture and explanation of this common salad in Basque areas. The lettuce, which looks like romaine, is not and actually is a specialty in this part of Spain, often called COGOLLOS DE TUDELA (buds (really cores) of Tudela (which is a municipality of Navarre). It has is connected to de la Ribera because it is grown surroundings of the Ebro river banks.

This is a curious item:

Nuestro plato de cuchara del día Our dish of spoon of the day

A dish of spoon, sounds odd. Actually I’ve encountered this labeling before and it basically means a dish that would be eaten with a spoon, like a soup but possibly something else than sopa (soup) and so therefore labeled more generally than sopa. IOW, you have no idea, from the menu, what this will be. Since this would be one of the three choices under PRIMEROS you’d really have to discuss this item with your server or just opt for one of the other two choices or take your chances.

So, IOW, to understand and decide which of the three PRIMEROS you’d order requires knowing a lot more about food in Spain than your literal translation dictionary is going to tell you. And again, for me, the challenge is how any app for a smartphone could explain all this (or how the search would work because the exact wording would vary from menu to menu even for the same items).

I’ll wrap up with just a couple more interesting items (and this menu is this restaurant’s shortest one so lots to decode here, as you might not want just the limited choices of menu del Dia.

Bacalao confitado en aceite Arbequina sobre cama de pisto. Cod confit in Arbequina oil on ratatouille bed

Arbequina is another word that has no translation to English. That’s because it is a particular cultivar of olive, that is, you just have to know what it is.

Carrillera de ibérico 36H con manzana, zurracapote y su crujiente. Iberian cheek 36H with apple, mulled and crispy

mulled is an interesting translation of zurracapote which is actually a wine drink (similar to the more familiar Sangria). And, no clue what the 36H means?

Secreto ibérico a la brasa con salsa Teriyaki y piña caramelizada Grilled Iberian secret with Teriyaki sauce and caramelized pineapple

‘secret’ is the literal translation of secreto but what is it – sounds close to what might be called “mystery meat” here. But in fact it is a very expensive ($51/lb) cut (usually from pig and while different at different butchers usually is from the shoulder) that is similar to skirt steak. And I’ve already mentioned you would know that ibérico (Iberian) is the very prized “black” pig. Most likely, given everything else about this restaurant it probably is the de bellota type (essentially free-range and the most expensive pork) but  ibérico alone doesn’t imply that, so again you might want to ask.

There is a lot more to the menu for this restaurant and even more for other two associated restaurants so I recommend this site (scroll down enough to see the images) as one to consider.  Maybe you can figure out what Vieira gallega con sus rabas de bogavante is or GinTonic riojano is or especially oído cocina is (all have pictures in the  Especialidades. And I’m still trying to decide what I think is a lingote de cordero (either ingot or slug of lamb) – is this a cut of the lamb or a quantity indication or a preparation? I couldn’t find that and the photo doesn’t make it clear either.

BTW: This website also has a blog and this post really boosts Logroño as a foodie stop, especially (as I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere) “both in the mythical Laurel Street”. And, interestingly, while backtracking to include this in my post I discovered another blog post which tries to explain oído cocina.

A challenging menu

I use this blog to report some stories about my Spain food project. I am trying to create first a corpus, then a good delivery mechanism (like smartphone app) for the most robust, complete and accurate translation of menus one would encounter in Spain. This is not just a question of finding literal translation of individual words (as we’ll see later in this post). Many terms simply don’t have an English equivalent. In some cases it’s like – what is the English word for gazpacho? Well, ‘ur, it’s gazpacho. That’s commonly known but what about ajoarriero or pochas or gamba de Huelva? If you can find these at all in some translation dictionary it may not help much as you really need to know, from a culinary point of view, what these items are.

I’ve mostly been working from an online dictionary written in Spanish for cooks in Spain to get a lot of my raw material. But menus may be different, more colloquial, local terms, alternate spelling (is alcahofas a typo or an alternate to the word for artichoke that has an additional ‘c’) and so forth, so I need to continue to primarily collect my corpus from those source. So I have a fairly long list of URLs for restaurants in Logroño La Rioja, along the Camino de Santiago that I am using as focus for finding restaurants as I do a “virtual” hike along the Camino.

So this is the one I did today, Taberna Herrerías (website, which has one of my favorite things, its “address” in GPS coordinates (+42° 28′ 3.14″, -2° 26′ 38.21 easy to find on maps; try GoogleMaps and you’ll also get a POI for the restaurant, click on that and you’ll get lots of photos for your virtual visit)). This carta took me a long time to decipher and so too much to include in just one post. I’ll mention a few interesting bits.

First, in the menu category Verduras de temporada (Vegetables of the season) was this item (with Google Translate):

Pisto con huevo batido Pisto with beaten egg

Oops, Google doesn’t know what pisto is; and neither does spanishdict.com.  Oops, small digression. I do the work and then come back to do posts and I double-check my claims. In this case I made some mistake that would have given me an answer right away than the roundabout story I have hear (clue, spanishdict does translate this, I must not have done my initial search correctly). Anyway, doing Google search on pisto, my usual thing if I don’t find a term in my chosen dictionaries was fairly useless because all the results were related to pistochio (is pisto a nickname for these?). So I did my usual thing of supplementing search term with ‘beaten egg’ and then I began to get some results, eventually leading to a recipe (amazing there is a domain (recetapisto.com)  just for this). Reading that I eventually learned this dish is fairly close to ratatouille which, though loanword in English, is known to most foodies. And, the reverse lookup of ratatouille does yield pisto (which isn’t, now, a surprise, given the forward lookup of pisto yields ratatouille). So I may have missed a clue, duh, to make this easier, but at least I got there.

Then under entrantes (starters) is this item:

Jamón y lomo de bellota Ham and loin of acorn

Now Google may (humorously) think this is body parts from an acorn but it takes about 10 minutes looking at food in Spain to quickly learn about jamón ibérico de bellota. You can drop over a thousand dollars buying about 12 pounds of this at Amazon (for years you couldn’t get it at all in the U.S.). This is ham from a specific breed of pigs that, we could say, are “free range” and eat a lot of acorns they find (sometimes the pigs would be prepped with even more acorns). So what’s the point here? This menu item left out the jamón ibérico de part because everyone would already known that (IOW, a) ham and loin are likely to be from animal, mostly likely a pig, and, b) this is so famous just the shorthand of bellota is sufficient). But if you were right off the plane in Spain and jetlagged and only had a simple dictionary (since you don’t know any Spanish) you would probably be confused.

Now let’s look at this one:

Caparrón de Anguiano Caparrón de Anguiano

Real good translation there, Google – helps a lot (didn’t even translate de which is trivial). When you get a blank like this (in dictionaries as well) chances are this is some highly specific and probably regional term. Fortunately it doesn’t get confused with the wrong things so eventually I arrived at this description, which is a bit of a rant about finding the real thing, i.e. a very special kind of bean. But knowing this is a bean doesn’t give me much clue what the menu item is. A bit more digging led to this recipe (complete with picture). Ah, bean soup with cerdo ibérico and chorizo instead of leftover ham. This is a fairly special set of ingredients so it would be interested to see how a fairly mundane dish would taste at this restaurant.

So now a fairly simple one:

Langostino y gamba de Huelva Shrimp and shrimp from Huelva

Once again Google was mystified by Huelva but at least spanishdict knew it was a city in the Canary Islands (a clue, but doesn’t decode this menu item). Long story short, here’s the answer:

The White Shrimp of Huelva is an exclusive species of this seafood that is only found on the coast of the towns that are located between the mouths of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers and that has very special characteristics.

But, don’t assume a search for ‘white shrimp’ will help any since that turns up a creature from oceans off the coast of North America, not anywhere near the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers.

And, finally (there are more but out of time (and your reading patience)) there is:

Taco bacalao a la riojana Cod taco a la riojana

Ah, a fish taco, that sounds good. Now any use of a la X is a clue this is some sort of qualifier about how the cod is preferred. And you’re in Logroño which is in La Rioja – you might just guess this, cod in the characteristic style of La Rioja. But what is that? Well, if you could ask your server you could find out. Or if you had a WiFi connection you could find this (there are numerous receta online). But if you had your simple little dictionary, paper or smartphone, I doubt you’d learn much.

But then the fun part is taco. As this is effectively now an English word (at least in most parts of U.S.) we know what it is – something wrapped inside a folded tortilla. So I wondered if the Mexican taco had reverse invaded Spain and without any authoritative answer it seems unlikely (although, when I went down this road before I found now there are “genuine” Mexican restaurants in some of Spain’s cities where you actually could get a taco or enchilada or whatever). I’ve already mentioned tortilla is entirely something different in Spain than in western hemisphere. I really doubt you can fold an egg and potato “omelet” into a taco. But this was a tough one to track down until I found this (from the trusty Oxford dictionary, Spanish edition)

Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut.

I can’t be certain (maybe with even more searching I could reach definite conclusion) but some of the pictures I found, searching for recetas (recipes) of ‘bacalao a la riojana’ certainly looked like this sounds. So since taco in the western hemisphere sense is unlikely for this menu item I’m going with the Oxford translation.

Now, as side question, after getting these clues and learning this (assuming I’m right), plus getting even more information about the recipe and how this dish is prepared how would I get this information into my app (my dream to build someday) and you to find it. That’s an entirely different kind of question.