Spain – First Avenue

I’d Tap That

Without Spain, we wouldn’t have tapas… and without tapas, we would never eat. Okay, that might be a little bit of exaggeration, but we certainly appreciate the invention of the appetizer, for without it, monstrous starter platters could not be devoured! Let’s take a look at some common Spanish tapas (according to Wikipedia – the number one source for online legitimacy) and see whether they pass the Sip Advisor taste test:

Tapas or Tapass

Albóndigas: Meatballs with sauce

Okay, we’re off to a decent start. Who doesn’t like meatballs? Well, I guess vegetarians and vegans, but do they really count?

Tortillitas de Camarones: Battered prawn fritters

Anything described as “battered” can play on my team!

Pimientos de Padrón: Small green peppers fried in olive oil or served raw (most are mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy)

Finding the spicy green peppers is like locating the toy in a box of cereal. At first, you’re really happy because you found the surprise before anyone else could get to it. Joy turns to disappointment quickly, however, when you realize the toy isn’t that great anyway, much like a spicy green pepper when you’re expecting mild!

Aceitunas: Olives, sometimes with a filling of anchovies or red bell pepper

To me, appies need to be something more than a condiment stuffed with another condiment, but I sadly don’t call the shots in the country of Spain.

fuck-you-tapas

Solomillo al Whisky: Fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil

Put the pork scallops aside and give me a couple bottles of your best marinade!

Cojonuda (superb female): A slice of Spanish morcilla with a fried quail egg over bread – it can also be prepared with a little strip of red, spicy pepper

Looked up morcilla and it is actually blood sausage, so there’s strike one. Strike two is the fried quail egg although I’m sure somewhere in the world it is a delicacy. While I can’t find anything to call the cojonuda out, I’ve decided to change the rules of baseball to suit my purpose and now all you need is two strike to retire a batter.

Cojonudo (superb male): A slice of Spanish chorizo with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread

So, there are male and female versions of cojonudo… is your sexual orientation decided by which you prefer? What if you like to swing both ways?

Pincho Moruno: A stick with spicy meat, made of pork, lamb or chicken

Nothing beats meat on a stick unless it’s spicy meat!

Appetizers

Empanadillas: Turnovers filled with meats and vegetables

Any food pocket device stuffed with more food will always shoot to the top of my favourite list. The name would have you thinking you’re about to eat a small animal, however.

Gambas: Prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers)

Poor prawns… such a small creature and still gets stuffed with any number of items.

Mejillones Rellenos: Stuffed mussels, sometimes called tigres (“tigers”) because of the spicy taste

Mrs. Sip would love her some tiger muscles, but I have to note that tiger ice cream isn’t spicy and I think this calls into the question the process of describing spice levels using animals. I feel calling them dragon muscles would be more apt.

Patatas Bravas or Papas Bravas: Fried potato dices served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce – sometimes served also with mayo or aioli

Are these like brave little potatoes… you know, in a similar vein to the Brave Little Toaster?

Tapas Bill

Chorizo a la Sidra: Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in cider

Cider, you say? Not my favourite, but it does have booze in it!

Chorizo al Vino: Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine

See above, but even better!

Calamares or Rabas: Rings of battered squid

I wonder if the Spanish can rival Greek calamari? Perhaps both countries should send me some of their finest product and I will, once and for all, get to the bottom of this ever-deepening mystery.

Zamburiñas: Renowned Galician scallops, often served in a marinera, tomato-based sauce

Renowned??? I’ll be the judge of that. Again, Spain, send some my way and we’ll send out the results as soon as our little feast has concluded!

Spain: First Avenue

First Avenue Martini

  • 1.5 oz Sherry
  • 0.5 oz Cointreau
  • Splash of Campari
  • Top with Club Soda
  • Garnish with an Orange Wedge

Sometimes I’m into the idea of tapas and other times, I loathe them. While they’re a treasure trove of variety and perfect portion size for the ladies, a dude sometimes wants something he can really sink his teeth into like a fat burger or other hearty meal. The worst is going out with a group and splitting a bunch of appies… you will not have a good time!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes: (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink was pretty good. Even when I subbed in Tonic Water for Club Soda, it wasn’t as bitter as I feared it would be, especially with the splash of Campari there to team up with the Tonic. I guess the Cointreau and Sherry balance out the sweet-bitter war and make for an interesting cocktail.

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Spain – Banana Nutbread

Surreal Skill

One of Spain’s most famous figures is artist Salvador Dali. Everything from his collection of work to his personal look was certainly bizarre, but that’s what attracted so many to him. Dali separated himself from the crowd in so many ways. Here are some of the unique aspects of his zany life:

Dali Reincarnate

Dali was the second Salvador Dali to be born into his family. Nine months before he came along, his brother (with the same name) died at the age of 22 months. When he was five, Dali was taken to his brother’s burial plot and told by his parents that he was the reincarnation of his deceased sibling. And we wonder why he turned out to be such a wacky nut! The brothers did resemble one another, with Dali later saying: “[We] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.”

Shit Just Got Surreal

Getting Prepped

In order to do his work, Dali used a few unique tactics to get in the right mood, including sleeping in a chair with a spoon standing on top of a plate on his head. When the spoon fell and hit the plate, he would awaken and quickly take notes on what he saw in his dreams. Dali would also stand on his head (a favourite position of the Sip Advisor) for long periods of time, allowing his brain to function differently than normal.

Famous Pieces

Dali’s most celebrated work is The Persistence of Memory, which features the melting clocks he is probably best known for. Dali’s talent and vision extended to many different kinds of art, including jewelry. He is famous for a number of wearable pieces, most notably The Royal Heart, comprised of pure gold adorned with 46 rubies, 42 diamonds and two emeralds.

For Love of Money

Dubbed “Avida Dollars” (an anagram for Salvador Dali) by some, Dali was known to do almost anything for money. He appeared in commercials for Lanvin chocolates, which featured the artist exclaiming his love for the treat before biting into it, which caused his eyes to cross and his mustache to curl. He also designed the Chupa Chups lollipop logo, which is subtle, colourful, and meaningful all at the same time.

avida dollars

Scam Artist

One of the best stories I’ve ever heard about Dali is how he scammed Yoko Ono (one of the most vile creatures in the known world) to the tune of $10,000. Ono, for her own inexplicable reason, wanted a strand of Dali’s mustache hair. Dali asked for $10,000 and when he was paid, sent her a dried blade of grass instead. As the fable goes, apparently Dali was worried the hair would be sued for witchcraft… proving I’m not the only one who thinks Ono is a witch!

Hail Hitler

Along with a fascination for eclectic animals (the man had an ocelot!), Dali was fixated on Adolf Hitler. He once said: “I often dreamed about Hitler as other men dreamed about women.” I mean, who am I to say what people should be dreaming about, but this one takes the cake. A later painting of Dali’s is called Hitler Masturbating and it isn’t a figurative title. Thankfully, the dictator’s (should I use that word here?) true Nazi salute is obstructed.

Demented Disney

In 1946, Dali and Walt Disney actually joined forces for an animated short, titled Destino. Based on the song by the same name, by Armando Dominguez, Dali blended his artistic style with Disney’s character work. The piece wasn’t finished until 48 years later, when Baker Bloodworth and Roy E. Disney returned to the project, which features strange figures and dreamlike images. Mrs. Sip and I were able to view this work (with free champagne) aboard one of our cruises and it was a trip, to say the least.

Paying Bills

If you ever have trouble paying for a large and expensive meal, you could try this trick, but it probably only works for someone of Dali’s stature. When the bill came to Dali’s table, no matter how many people had enjoyed the outing or how expensive it was, he was quick to pick up the tab. This wasn’t done out of generosity, however, as Dali had a trick up his sleeves (if he even work sleeves!). He would quickly do a little drawing on the cheque and because of his fame, the restaurant wouldn’t dare cash an original Dali piece of art and therefore, his meal (and his guest’s) was basically comped.

Quoted Quotables

A number of interesting quotes came from the mind of Dali. These include: “The only difference between me and the surrealists is that I am a surrealist.”; “I myself am surrealism.”; “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”; and “Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.” That about sums the man up… let’s have a drink in his honour!

Spain: Banana Nutbread

Apr 14

  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Crème de Bananes
  • 0.5 oz Sherry
  • Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Garnish with Peanuts

I enjoy dreams as much as the next person, but I can’t say that I’ve ever envisioned any of the imagery that Dali did. Love him or hate him, he was certainly a fascinating character who saw and experienced the world in a very different way than any other person. Plus, he was even turned into a Muppet on Sesame Street (Salvador Dada), a long-term goal of my own!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
While this sounds like a recipe for a delicious and nutritious dessert, it’s also the perfect cocktail for an eclectic artist like Salvador Dali. The beverage is quite tasty and it’s not overly sweet. Even Mrs. Sip liked it and trust me, if it’s too sweet, I’ll hear that… to no end!

Dominican Republic – Brash Monk

Amazing Americas

Did you know that breaking out into a round of applause when a plane lands in the Dominican Republic is an enforceable law? If your answer is no, then you’re probably also unaware that Santo Domingo, the capital of the D.R., is the first city of the Americas and where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 to create the first European settlement and Spain’s first capital across the pond. Here is that story:

Christopher Columbus

As some of us will remember, Columbus left Spain in search of new lands with three ships: the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara (aka the Niña). After weeks of sailing, Columbus and company finally landed on the island of Hispaniola (what is now split between the Dominican and Haiti) on Dec. 5, 1492.

Things started off friendly between both sides. In classic European style, though, the voyagers first took over using force (once their conquest was resisted by the natives) and later through disease, as smallpox and measles wiped out a great chunk of the Taino population.

As part of the settlement, the Dominican is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress in the Americas. These are all located in Santa Domingo’s Colonial Zone, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Heck, there’s even a Hard Rock Café there!

Once Spain conquered the Aztecs and Incas, they forgot about their holdings in the Caribbean and French pirates (think buccaneers searching for wine and cheese, rather than gold and rum) swooped in to take the neglected land. A series of peace treaties between Spain and France first gave what is now Haiti to the French and later what is now the Dominican Republic.

pirate-cat

As for Columbus, he continued to make voyages between the “New World” and “Old World,” which sounds like some sort of science fiction plot. In 1504, Columbus returned to Spain for good. He died on May 20, 1506, as a result of reactive arthritis, which could have been brought on by anything from food poisoning to sexually transmitted diseases (which one would you rather contract!?). Estimates state he was 54 years old.

And here’s where the explorer’s story takes an interesting twist that has helped his legend endure throughout the Dominican Republic, as well as around the world: both the D.R. and Spain claim to be in possession of Christopher Columbus’ remains. And both have legitimate claims to the relic.

Columbus was first buried in Valladolid, Spain, where he passed away, before being moved to the La Cartuja monastery in Seville, Spain, by request of his son Diego. Columbus had stated that he would like his final resting place to be in the New World, but no monument was grand enough yet for this request. Finally, in 1537, Christopher and Diego’s bones were shipped to Santa Domingo and placed in the cathedral there.

Later, came the aforementioned period of French rule. The Spaniards, fearing what the French would do with Columbus’ remains, moved them to Havana, Cuba. The Spanish-American War of 1898 forced the bones to be moved back to Spain, once again. This time, they were housed at the Cathedral of Seville, amongst an elaborate setting, featuring a tomb and statues.

Celebrating Columbus

In 1877, however, a box inscribed “Don Christopher Columbus” was discovered in the Santa Domingo cathedral, which contained human remains showing signs of advanced arthritis. This led the Dominicans to conclude that either Spain took the wrong remains away all those years ago, or that a bait and switch was pulled and the Spanish were in possession of bones not belonging to Columbus.

For their part, Spain had their Columbus artifacts DNA tested with experts finding that the remains in Seville are likely that of the legendary explorer. The movements of Columbus’ bones are also well-documented through their remarkable journey.

The Dominican Republic has never exhumed their version of Columbus’ remains for DNA testing, perhaps for fear that tourism, which the Caribbean nation heavily relies upon, could take a hit without the Columbus connection.

DNA Test

In the Dominican, Columbus is entombed in the Columbus Lighthouse. While recently visiting the country, Mrs. Sip and I went to this landmark with a tour group, but our guide didn’t allow us enough time to actually go into the site… he was more concerned with yapping on his phone all day and pigging out on the lunch buffet.

The truth on the subject probably lies somewhere in the middle and both countries may be in possession of Columbus remains. I suppose it’s kind of fitting that he may be resting in both worlds.

Dominican Republic: Brash Monk

Brash Monk Cocktail

  • 1 oz Mamajuana
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Espresso Vodka
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with Chocolate Slice

Columbus’ journey to the New World was made into the feature film 1492, which was released 500 years after his voyage across the Atlantic. I’ve never seen the flick and given its 39% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I just can’t see it rocketing to the top of my ‘to view’ list!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Although a strong cocktail, I enjoyed this martini. Frangelico always burns a little harsher than other liquors, but the flavours were all really nice. The drink is supposed to be garnish with a coffee bean, but given I’m anti-coffee, there was none lying around to use. Mrs. Sip didn’t leave me much milk for the recipe, but I made due with what I had… at least she left me any at all!

September 3 – Unicorn

Animal Crackers

Recently, a big deal in social media was made over Scotland’s national animal (to be revealed very shortly). That got me thinking about the rest of the world and which creatures have had the honour of proudly and respectfully representing a country. No nation will be off limits, as I am definitely going to skewer my home country. Here are some of the best selections:

Unicorn – Scotland

For some reason, a mythological animal for Scotland actually makes sense given they’re a mythological country! I’m just messin’ with ya Scots. Don’t forget, we here in Canada still have strong ties to the U.K. despite our distance from the motherland. The unicorn was actually a symbol of the Scottish royal family. The more you know *rainbow swipe*!

unicorn

Beaver – Canada

Speaking of my part of the world, we chose an animal which just begs for other citizens to make double entendres about how much we love it! Bring on the jokes, we can take them! The beaver is a very industrious animal, building their dams for shelter. They are also good recyclers, using trees that nobody needs anymore. Stupid oxygen-enabling trees!

Lion – Belgium/Bulgaria/Luxembourg/Netherlands/U.K.

Are there even lions in most of these countries (that aren’t caged in a zoo)? Did they just choose a bad ass animal to look cool among the international community, not realizing how many other countries also claimed the feline? A place like Ethiopia or Kenya having the lion as their national animal makes sense…since, you know, lions actually live there.

King Cobra – India

This is an intimidating choice, warning us all that the Indian population can be subdued with hypnotic music, but at the same time are deadly predators that can strike in an instant and cause accelerated death. If that’s really the case though, why does it take me so long to get a live person when I call for customer service?

Cobra and girl

See, cobras can be cute and cuddly!

Gallic Rooster – France

It kind of makes sense that France would relate themselves to a bunch of cocks, am I right!? I’m sure most French people are actually quite nice, but Parisians take the cake on being dicks. We once had a cab driver who refused to acknowledge our request to go to the Eiffel Tower until we flipped it and said “Tour Eiffel”… Va te faire foutre!!

Persian Cat – Iran

While most would view the Iranians with some fear and hostility, how can you do that when they picked a freakin’ fluffy cat as one of their national animals! Ma and Pa Sip have a Persian-ish cat at home and she’s a darling…unless you try to move her off the bed. Not very friendly to her fellow felines either now that I come to think about…

Dolphin – Greece

Of course the Greeks would pick the most sexual of creatures when selecting their national animal. They did, after all, invent a great deal of the carnal moves and positions in existence, rivaling the Indians and their Karma Sutra. Apparently, dolphins also play a role in Greek mythology, as helpers of mankind. Aquaman must be jealous!

funny-dolphin

Dodo – Mauritius

Good job Mauritius (wherever the hell you are) for picking an animal that has long been extinct. Perhaps your fate will be much the same. Seems like you’re asking for a rough future with your choice in animal worship.

Bull – Spain

Nothing like killing your national animal for the entertainment of screaming, blood-thirsty fans! What’s that, you also show it respect by tying up its testicles before you taunt, tease, assault, and slaughter the beast? Hmmm, you Spanish have a funny way of showing affection. At least the bull sometimes gets revenge with a thunderous gore!

Bulldog – U.K.

Scotland’s pick of the unicorn doesn’t look so bad anymore. At least it’s a majestic creature. Meanwhile, England picked one of the foulest mutts in the dog world. With a face only an owner could love and enough drool to flood an apartment, the bulldog seems an unlikely choice for people who a nation of prim and proper tea drinkers.

Drink #246: Unicorn

Unicorn Drink

  • 1 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.5 oz Brandy
  • 0.5 oz Kahlua
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Cointreau
  • Dash of Melon Liqueur
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with a Pink Marshmallow

What do you think of some of these national animals? Is there a country you wish I had targeted with my adept lampooning? I can take the heat, just as much as I can give it out! By the way, here’s a quiz on the subject of national animals (I hope you were taking notes)… enjoy!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoyed the Melon Liqueur finish. It went really well with the rest of the recipe, highlighted by the Irish Crème. Garnishing the cocktail with a Pink Marshmallow seemed like the perfect addition for a Unicorn-themed drink.