Coming down from the mountains the other day with the outside temperature gradually rising to 16 to 17 degrees, we felt in need of something substantial to warm us up. It was 12.15, and early to eat by standards here, where lunch isn’t really served until around 1.30, but outside my first choice, Rincon Gomero, just below the village of La Esperanza, the sign said open at 1pm. and we were too cold and hungry to wait, so we crossed the autopista to the outskirts of La Laguna in search of a guachinche which Cristina knew. A guachinche is a family-run restaurant, many are open only as long as the produce of the last grape harvest lasts, being a way for a very small producer to sell his wine, but others are more or less always open, or at least open as often as they can or want to be. This one wasn’t because the owner had a doctor’s appointment, that’s the way it is. So we went off in search of sustenance elsewhere, but not before we admired the view from the vacant lot next to the guachinche, where the sweeping panorama took in the Mercedes Mountains, and the villages of Tegueste and Tejina before meeting the ocean in the distance.
Though it was warmer down here (but still something just under 2,000 ft above sea level) it was a bit misty and threatening more drizzle, so the photos aren’t too clear, but they do show you the contrast between the crystal clear skies and the stark, volcanic landscape through which we’d driven (see previous post) and this luxuriantly green farmland, which, for me, is the heart of this island.
But admiring vistas, even as impressive as this one, wasn’t satisfying our hunger pangs, and it was then that Cristina remembered that we were just around the corner from Portezuelo and what I now know is a locally famous restaurant called Casa Tomás. This restaurant, judging from the wording on their website, must have begun life as a guachinche, certainly it was not the full-time family business it now is, but you can read all about that on their website, which you will also find in English. Now it is what is generally described as a tipico, a restaurant specializing in local dishes, no frills, but excellent value for money.
I left the ordering to Cristina, except for the glass of local red wine for me, as she was driving, and she did us proud! Happily, we had arrived just before the lunchtime rush, so the word escaldón had no sooner been uttered than it was in a steaming bowl on the table between us, and we tucked in with vigor. Escaldón is, well, hard to say what category of dish it falls into. It’s made from gofio, which is the traditional flour here in the Canary Islands, made from toasted grains. The grain can be either wheat or maize, but the toasting gives it a very distinctive flavor. In making escaldón it’s mixed with stock, and in the one in front of us, it was also mixed with shredded chunks of meat and just a hint of mint. The menu, translating it into English, actually calls it a soup, although it isn’t listed with the other soups, and it’s solid, like a porridge kind of consistency, but very warming like soup. However you like to describe it, it was delicious and warming, and exactly what we needed to warm us up, and I felt a bit like a child in a Dickensian poorhouse, gobbling as if I’d been starved for a week!
Had I realized just how generous the next platter was going to be I might have held back on the escaldón a bit, but thus I blew dessert. Costillas y piñas is what you see in the photo above – salted pork spare ribs, which have been soaked to remove the excess salt, obviously, and simmered until the meat just falls off the bones…..I swear I can taste them now! They are served with chunks of corn (the piñas) and green mojo on a bed of local potatoes – a hearty, traditional dish, which, as suspected left no room for dessert :=( But not to worry, having found Casa Tomás there is no doubt I will be returning! As we sat back, and I wondered if I could actually move, I glanced around, and every table had made the same choice. Costillas y piñas is the house speciality, so hardly surprising then that they do it to perfection! You can make out in the photo above that the tables around us were almost all empty when our dish arrived, by the time we were finished the place was full, and people were still arriving.
One of the things I Love (note the capital L) about living here is that you are never, ever rushed by waiters, no matter how busy a restaurant is. You could linger over your coffee for an hour, and still feel totally welcome. It’s part of the rhythm of island life. The other pleasant thing is the price. This particular feast cost us around €10 a head.