españa, saturday day 4: "ask for our dishes out of letter"

Ronda felt very familiar, not only visually but rhythmically: living in Siena for half a year in 2000, you got used to the busloads of tourists showing up at 10 or 11 in the morning, cluelessly oozing their way through the streets in disoriented, overwhelmed clumps until 18:00, then rushing through a 45-minute dinner and being gone by 19:00.

Ronda seemed very much the same way. We encountered no tourists after dark until we ended up going to Casa Maria for our final meal out in Ronda. This was the place that the Nelske said was kind of special and that we should check it out "but she hadn't been there in a long time" (not foreshadowing this time), and I looked on TripAdvisor and found out it was "#1 of 183 Restaurants in Ronda", which is not always a good thing, but it does usually seem to mean that you'll have a pretty good customer service experience and decent food.

So we went to Casa Maria after tapas at Almocábar, and were led upstairs to the dining room, where immediately a couple of warning bells went off, triggered by (for starters) the enormous English menu on the wall:

Which didn't used to be there. Also the three other tables with diners at them were speaking Americano really loudly, at each other. In other words, three tables full of Americans who had been strangers when they started the meal were now bonded by proximity, tourism and volume, and were kind of barking/howling/whining at each other the way my adorable countrymen seem to do.

That feels harsh. But they're the only people in the restaurant, sitting one foot away from each other, literally shouting with strained but obligatory enthusiasm and camaraderie. Timewise I was really grateful that they were discussing the desserts that were in front of them ("Oh. My. God. These. Cherries. Are. Sooooooo. Boozy!!!!!! I swear to God if I have any more of them I'm going to be totally WASTED!!!" Peals of laughter. "I know, right?" "They're going to have to carry us out of here!!!" Which seemed unlikely given the sizes of everyone involved and the comparatively svelte dimensions of the staircase, but OMG that sounds so bitchy!!!!).

There were no Spaniards in the room. And the regulation Spanish tapas bar TV that was present was playing some kind of baaad internet radio, no images. And though we'd just had tapas at Almocábar, our waitress really really really wanted us to order 4 plates of food. Un poco de todo.

The whole thing was weird, and a little pressurized, and felt 100% like a tourist trap. But as the Captain said, "Well, really, what can we do at this point. We get the poco de todo", so we did, and....somehow it was all really delicious. expertly roasted asparagus (asparagus season just started); queso frito con mermelata (fried goat cheese with quince marmalade); pan con tomate y sal de volcán ) bread with tomato and volcanic salt; and fabas con trufa y piñones (fava beans with pine nuts and a shitload of black truffle). The Americans left, some actual Spanish people showed up. We had a nice dinner I think. Afterwards the Captain re-connected with the owner/chef ("Hey you're the vegetarian from Norway who lived in the old farmhouse"...mmm, kind of) they sent us off into the night with a bottle of their house wine. Etc.

More later.

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