Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Operación Chuleton

Another weekend in the Picos de Europa, but this time there was not much walking being done; the objective was very different. We went to the village of Potes, which lies just inside Cantabria on the border with Asturias, and which is reached from the coast by one of the most claustrophobic narrow roads you can imagine, surrounded on both sides by walls of rock. The village lies in the fertile region known as La Liébana, and despite being at the foot of the eastern Picos it has a microclimate that makes for a respectable grape harvest. Apart from that, it’s also become a popular destination for the Brits who drive their cars off the Santander ferry every summer.

The grapes they cultivate in this area were at the heart of this weekend's visit. The last time I was there, a few years ago, the visit coincided with the Fiesta del Orujo, the spirit that results from distilling the grapes. It all seemed very civilized, you passed at leisure from one stall to another and they gave you a little shot of different orujos, sometimes straight from the still. Things change, the Fiesta del Orujo has got considerably bigger but unfortunately not better. The sponsorship of the regional government means that now they have a huge stage set up with folk dancing and even a "celebrity", Carmen Sevilla, to open the whole event. The village, whose population probably doesn't exceed 1500 people, was jammed with traffic and the enormous tent in front of the stage was equally full. The evening turned into a sort of glorified botellon as everyone went for the free drink. At least I have found a good use for an egg box, the shots of orujo fit very neatly inside; the eggs can just be thrown away. Meanwhile, the members of the jury looked very serious as they swilled glass after glass to try and pick this year’s gold medal winner.

Anyway, even this event was not my main reason for being in Potes, I was a man with a mission. The last time we were there, we ate in a restaurant not far from Potes where I can say without any doubt that they served me the biggest chuleton (T-bone steak) I have been presented with anywhere in Spain, and I've been around. I didn't manage to finish it last time, despite giving it my best attempt following the orujo aperitifs; and so a return visit was always going to be on the cards. I was a bit apprehensive, what would happen if the restaurant had changed and they presented me with a tiny piece of meat on a huge plate decorated with a brightly coloured sauce? I needn't have worried.

I have to admit that I failed again, although as always I did what I could under difficult circumstances. Failure does not always have to be unpleasant, in fact it provides the perfect excuse to try again - although maybe next time I need to do a couple of days walking first to build up my appetite.

San Vicente de la Barquera the following day


spanishben said...

Ha ha, that is INSANELY big... and I bet they asked you what was wrong with it after you failed to finish!

Graeme said...

No, they accepted my excuses. I suspect I'm not the first person that its happened to. They probably have a huge trench out the back filled with half chewed cow bones.

spanishben said...

...or very happy dogs!

Graeme said...

The huge dog at the entrance to the restaurant didn't seem to have any nutrition problems.