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The Sidra Museum in Nava

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Sidra has been a big part of our Asturian experience — from learning the art of the Escanciado, to sitting with friends at one of the many sidrerías on Calle Gascona. There’s something grandly social about cider, and we’ve made sure to drink as much as possible.

So it was a given that we’d eventually find our way the Museum of Cider in Nava — smack in the heart of the Comarca de la Sidra. It may not be the best museum I’ve ever seen, but that didn’t preclude it from being a lot of fun.

We were given apples at the entrance desk, which we placed in a crazy Mousetrap like contraption, to see how they’re diced, pressed, fermented and bottled into delicious, alcoholic sidra.
[Coolness Factor: 7 out of 10]

From there, we were introduced to the various machines used throughout the ages for cider production. A bunch of old, wooden devices that look just about how you’d think they’d look.
[Coolness Factor: 4 out of 10]

With high-hopes we entered a room with loud music and flashing lights, and encountered a video about Asturians and their love of cider. A video which was apparently recorded in 1985, if the hairstyles and background music were anything to go by.
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Old woman buying cider at the grocery!
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Mullet dude drinking cider at the bar!
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Business lady with the cider in her fridge!
[Coolness Factor: 1 out of 10]
[Hilarity Factor: 9 out of 10]

Laughing muscles fully exercised, we now came upon the interactive portion of the museum. A magical bagpipe: “Press here” for flute function! Traditional Asturian games, like “Throw Ball at Screen”, and “Throw Ring at Board”. We spent quite a bit of time here, because we had paid €5 apiece to get into the museum, and damned if we weren’t going to get our money’s worth.
[Coolness Factor: 8 out of 10]

At the end of our tour through the Cider Museum, we were rewarded with a sampling of the drink, and a chance to try and pour it ourselves. I think the girl working there was surprised by my Escanciando Skillz. As I was pouring cider flawlessly into my glass, I gave her a little wink and she fainted dead on the spot.
[Personal Coolness Factor: 10 out of 10]

Honestly, if you want an overview of cider production, you’re better off going to the Gaitero Sidrería in nearby Villaviciosa. But I won’t deny we had a good time in Nava; it’s nice to occasionally visit a museum which is more “fun” than “educative”.

Location of Nava on our Day Trips Map

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October 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm Comments (0)

Al Fondo Hay Sitio – Music Bar

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On a rainy Saturday night, I went to a bar which a couple friends had recommended. Al Fondo Hay Sitio… There’s Room at the Back. It was a fun evening out. The bar had a great atmosphere with live rock music, a good selection of beers and an abundance of tapas, which the waiter insisted I try. “Picante, ¡SÍ!” Bowls of fruit were on the tables, and a guest book was at the door; funny little touches that give the bar a unique feel.

Tapas Libre Oviedo

Al Fondo Hay Sitio is found at the bottom of Calle Oscura, Oviedo’s most lively party street. I had taken Jürgen’s younger brother with me. He’s two meters tall, about 6’7″, and his height caused a minor sensation at the bar. Within minutes we were talking and trading rounds with a big group, and the bartender even invited us to a beer before we left, at which point I hazily remember declaring “Favorite Bar EVER”.

And the music is great, too. I had been walking by one early evening, and heard Arcade Fire’s new album blasting from the speakers, the same day it had been released. If that’s your style of music, then this is a bar you’ll feel right at home in.

I don’t know if there’s a connection, but Al Fondo Hay Sitio is also the name of a massively popular Peruvian telenovela.

Location on our Oviedo Map
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Al Fondo Hay Sitio
Corn Spain
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October 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm Comments (2)

Los Caserinos – Milk & Cheese Straight from the Farm

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While Jürgen’s family was visiting from Germany, we spent a day driving around the Comarca de la Sidra and ended up in a tiny town called Grases, which home to Los Caserinos: a family-owned farm that’s been making cheese and milk for nearly a century.

Goatse

We took a tour of the farm and were introduced to the cows and goats which produce the Caserinos’ milk. The goats were especially cool; well over a hundred snow-white Saanen goats, who were utterly unconcerned by our presence. One of the smaller ones even tried to suck on my finger, which apparently resembles a goat tit. The tiny household sidrería was also interesting, with an apple press and antique tools used to produce the cider which is an ingredient in some of their cheeses.

The most best part of the tour, though, was hearing about the history of the farm. Our guide was the grandson of the original founder, and showed us pictures of his kids. Four generations of life among the cows and goats. His grandfather had been a casero, or caretaker, at the house of a rich family from the area; caserino is the diminutive form, and became the family’s nickname.

If you can’t make it to Grases to see the farm, you can visit Los Caserinos at their stand in the Mercado Fontán, where they have a Milk Machine: just put your bottle in the dispenser, feed the machine a Euro and get a liter of cool, fresh milk straight from the farm. And I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent cheeses they offer. Goat cheese, cow cheese, mixed, blue cheese, mixed with cider. We were able to try them all at the end of our tour, and ended up buying more than a little.

Location of Los Caserinos on our Day Trips Map
Los Caserinos (nicely done) Website
More information about the Mercado Fontán

Los Caserinos
Cabra
Cow Bell Asturias
Milk Cows
Euter Fabrik
Talking Cow
Sidraria Privada
Spanish Wooden Shoes
Branding Asturias
Leche Fresca Oviedo
Fresh Milk Vending Machine
Milk Boy

Books about Asturias

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October 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm Comments (3)

Restaurante La Más Barata

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On Calle Cimadeville, just past the open arch of the Ayuntamiento building, La Más Barata is one of Oviedo’s most famous and popular restaurants.

Paella Negra

We were excited to check it out, mostly because its name translates as “The Cheapest”, and we’re eternally on a budget. But the name turned out to be a bit of a misnomer; La Más Barata wasn’t anywhere close to the most barata meal we’ve had in Oviedo. But it’s not crazy expensive, either, and we had a good experience.

The restaurant is most known for its rice dishes. I had a delicious serving of black rice with squid tips cooked in ink, but Juergen’s plate, tenderloin with french fries, wasn’t very interesting. So if you go, you should probably stick with the house specialty: rice. The paella we saw on other tables looked incredible.

La Más Barata also has a popular bar/lounge where you can snack on tapas and tostas. Here, the prices really are cheap. The tostas are huge and packed with great toppings, and the atmosphere is perfect, too; crowded and loud, but overly so.

Location of La Más Barata on our Oviedo Map
Official Website

Mas Barata Oviedo
Squid Paella
Salsa Cabrales

Collection of Fun Online Games

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October 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm Comments (2)

Carbayón – The Pastry

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Carbayón is a word with various meanings to the people of Oviedo. First and foremost, it refers to a beloved oak tree which had been the symbol of Oviedo for centuries, until it was torn down to make room for Calle Uria in 1879. The term “carbayón” can also refer to a native of Oviedo.

Carbayon

But the third definition of carbayón is my favorite: “disgustingly sweet almond pastry”. When the oak tree was uprooted 130 years ago, it was a traumatic event for the sentimental people of Oviedo. A baker at the Camilo de Blas Pastelería honored the city’s fallen symbol by inventing a pastry bearing its name. The sugary treat immediately won awards, and has become a cherished part of Oviedo culture in its own right.

The carbayón is a puff pastry, filled with a mixture of egg, ground almonds, cognac, and sugar, and covered with a crusty syrup of lemon juice, syrup and cinnamon. If that description didn’t make you shiver in delight, you must not have a sense of taste. Carbayones aren’t exactly cheap, even a small one will set you back about €1.20, but they’re worth it.

The original bakery, Camilo de Blas Pastelería, is still one of the best places in the city to buy carbayones, or other sweet, baked goods. Found on C/ Jovellanos, the rustic feel, marbled floors and delicious creations inside the bakery are a throw-back to simpler times. You won’t walk out empty-handed.

Location on our Oviedo Map

Dulces Oviedo
Camilo de Blas
Camilo Oviedo
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October 1, 2010 at 7:14 pm Comment (1)

Pizzería La Competencia on the Ruta del Vino

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Here’s a tip for young entrepreneurs. Want to make sure your new bar is massively popular? Offer free slices of pizza with every drink. And make the drinks crazy-cheap.

Pizzeria-La-Competencia

It works for Pizzería La Competencia, on Calle de Manuel Pedregal, a street otherwise known as Oviedo’s “Wine Route”. I couldn’t believe my ears when the waitress said “€2.20”, after setting down two large glasses of wine and two pieces of pizza. Just to make sure, we ordered another round. Yep, that was the price!

But, we wanted to make extra-extra-sure, so we ordered another round. All in the service of providing accurate information to our loyal readers.

As you might expect, this place gets really crowded in the evenings, and patience is required to find a seat. The perfect spot to start out a long night.

Pizzería La Competencia
Calle de Manuel Pedregal 3

Location on our Oviedo Map

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September 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm Comment (1)

Mesón Casa Pedro and the Infamous Cachopo

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After sitting down at the popular Mesón Casa Pedro on Calle Asturias, we did like everyone else and ordered the cachopo. A delicious breaded, fried “sandwich” of ham and cheese, cachopo is similar to Cordon Bleu. Just a lot bigger.

We had been told that a single cachopo was plenty for two people to share, but still: I hadn’t been expecting a portion of food roughly the size of a healthy eight-month-old baby. When our waitress lowered the plate down onto our table, a task which would have been easier using a crane, I nearly spit out my wine. I nearly asked her if she was insane.

Cachopo

Cachopo is a really popular dish here in Asturias. How popular? Well, there’s a website dedicated to it. In Oviedo, Casa Pedro is one of the best restaurants to try it out. Just make sure to fast for two days beforehand, and bring a friend or three.

Mesón Casa Pedro
Calle de Asturias, 39
Location on our Oviedo Map

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September 13, 2010 at 10:12 am Comments (5)

El Yantar de Campomanes

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On a recommendation, we decided to try out the menú del día at El Yantar de Campomanes, a rustic restaurant serving up traditional Asturian fare on the southern side of the city center.

El Yantar de Campomanes

When the waiter set down my first plate, a rich garbanzo bean stew with cabbage and shrimps, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was enough to nourish Kenya for a week! Instead of presenting rational serving sizes, many restaurants in Asturias offer up an entire pot and allow you to scoop out whatever amount you’d like. It makes me wonder what’s done with the left-overs, because there are always plenty. I mean, I’m an fairly large guy and have a healthy appetite, but there’s no way I could finish even half of what they put down in front of me. And that’s just the first course!

For the second plate, I had fried conger eel and Jürgen enjoyed pig’s cheeks. Our sensible American and German palates are accustomed to hamburgers and schnitzels, so this was a very adventurous meal. But, may the lords of mundane eating forgive us, it was delicious!

El Yantar offers two huge plates along with bread, wine, dessert and coffee for a total price tag of €11. Although I never need to see another garbanzo bean in my life, we both loved this restaurant.

El Yantar de Campomanes
Calle de Campomanes, 24
Location on our Oviedo Map

Garbanzo Asturias
Fabada
Pork Cheeks
Conger EEl
Arroz con Leche
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September 3, 2010 at 9:56 am Comments (3)

La Sidrería de El Gaitero

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Looking for a Hotel in Villavicioas?

It didn’t take much time for us to develop an appreciation for cider, the favorite drink of Asturias. In the few weeks, we put down a fair share of bottles and improved at escanciando: the tricky art of pouring cider. So, it was soon time to visit a sidrería and see how the drink is produced.

Sidra Champagne

The most famous brand of Asturian cider is El Gaitero, whose distillery is found in Villaviciosa, the capital of the Cider Region. The company has over a hundred years of history and our free tour through the process was fascinating.

As we moved from room to room, we learned about the history of cider-making, from the complex machinery of the past to today’s computerized filtration systems. The production method, which we saw from beginning to end, is straightforward: washing and chopping small, ugly apples too sweet for eating, then pressing the juice out of them, which is then fermented and filtered until the final product is ready. The discarded apple flesh is sold to farmers for cattle feed.

The mammoth barrels used to store the cider during fermentation were the tour’s highlight, over 100 years in age and of at least eight meters in height. The largest bear the names of Spanish provinces and countries of the world, paying homage to the places which most love cider. I was pleased to see the Estados Unidos among them. Represent!

At the end, we sampled a glass of the Sidra Extra, El Gaitero’s delicious sparkling cider. And then we sampled a few more glasses, while chatting with the tour guide. She recommended October as the best time to visit the distillery, when the production process is in full swing.

Location on our Asturias Map
El Gaitero’s Website

Sidra Barrel Office
Antique Gas Sidra
Sidra Bottle Filling
Apple Belt
Apple Pump
Apple press
Asturias Sidra
El-Gaitero-Villaviciosa
Sidra Asturias
Sidra Bodega
Sidra Bottles
El Gaitero
Sidra Sevilla
Sidra USA
Lady Love Sidra
El-Gaitero-Asturias.jpg
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August 22, 2010 at 11:02 am Comments (7)

El Mercado del Fontán

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The largest market in Oviedo is found in the Plaza del Fontán, which has been home to the city’s food merchants since the mid-16th century. In the middle ages, the plaza was still on the outskirts of the small city, and bordered a small lake filled by natural springs, which gave the plaza its name. The lake is gone but the focus on food remains.

After the lake was drained, a proper market hall was finally built in 1885. With a pale green exterior and oddly shaped arches, the Mercado del Fontán certainly sticks out. It’s not as big as other central markets around Spain, but there’s still plenty to be had.

Stands hawking fresh fish from the Bay of Biscay, including huge bonitos, join those dedicated to meat and vegetables. One of the more popular spots offers fresh milk out of a vending machine, from a nearby farm called Los Caserinos. There’s a restaurant on the upper floor, and a few stands are dedicated entirely to Asturian products. Everything is fresh and looks delicious, making it all too easy to drop a ton of cash here.

Take a look at our pics, and try not to get hungry!

Location on our Oviedo Map

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August 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm Comments (5)

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The Sidra Museum in Nava Sidra has been a big part of our Asturian experience -- from learning the art of the Escanciado, to sitting with friends at one of the many sidreras on Calle Gascona. There's something grandly social about cider, and we've made sure to drink as much as possible.
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