Posts Tagged ‘guidebook’

Sustenance for the long walk to Santiago de Compostela

Full disclosure first: We did NOT walk one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. But last spring, when we were in northern Spain to research a guidebook, we did see pilgrims everywhere.

Guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. Pilgrims have been walking across Europe to Santiago de Compostela, ever since the tomb of St. James the Apostle was discovered around 814 A.D. Pilgrims often carry walking sticks with scallop shells, the symbol of Santiago. Alas, they also often throw rain ponchos over their backpacks. There’s a good reason the north is called “green Spain.” It rains a lot.

Two of the main routes from France (the Camino del Norte and the Camino Aragónese) converge in Navarra and La Rioja, continuing west across the rugged northern mountains to Galicia. The pilgrimage routes are marked with a scallop shell, and in some places the path parallels the modern paved highway. Many towns along the route were founded as way stations for the pilgrims, like the colorful Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and they usually have hostels where pilgrims can spend the night. Generally, though, the pilgrims are required to hit the road by 8 a.m., rain or shine.

Santiago cathedral

Many bars and restaurants, naturally, have special discounted pilgrim menus of hearty, earthy dishes to give them the energy to keep going. Whenever we would stop at one of these pilgrim restaurants, we’d feel a little guilty after a day in the car, but we couldn’t resist the food either. One of the most sustaining dishes is called patatas a la riojana, or Rioja-style potatoes, and we still find our adaptation the perfect bowl to lift body and spirit on a cold and rainy day.

More in the next post…


02 2010

Summer’s bequest: blueberry bread pudding

Please forgive the shameless plug, but the second edition of our locavore book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Massachusetts, has just been published by Globe Pequot Press. We love researching the farmstands, restaurants, bakeries, fishmongers, chocolatiers, and cheesemakers that are featured in the book. Food people are some of the nicest and most generous folk in the world, and they remind us that we don’t have to go to exotic locales for wonderful tastes. We are already at work on the next edition.

Of all the great places in the book, Tower Hill Botanic Garden (11 French Drive, Boylston, MA 01505, 508-869-6111,, home base of the Worcester County Horticultural Society, is one of the best places to learn about New England heirloom apples. The society maintains one of the most comprehensive collections of New England heirloom apple trees in its orchard and even sells scions for grafting in the spring.

Ironically, the delicious recipe that Cecile Collier, chef at the botanic garden’s Twigs Cafe, shared with us for Food Lovers is for blueberry bread pudding. Craving a little taste of summer, we made one this week with our last cup of frozen berries.

With apologies to Massachusetts, we confess to being Maine wild blueberry chauvinists. David grew up in coastal Maine, and spent many backbreaking summer days raking wild blueberries for the local cannery. We’re both convinced that the flavor of one tiny wild blueberry is greater than the flavor of a half dozen larger cultivated berries. So during the brief season from late July into mid-August, we drive up to Maine and buy them from enterprising pickers who sell along the side of Route 1. What we can’t eat immediately, we save by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing. Within an hour they’re ready for heavy-duty freezer bags. When we pulled them out six months later for this recipe, they were as tasty as they were in August.



4 eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
7 to 8 slices of stale bread, crusts removed
1 cup blueberries
Nutmeg to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine and blend eggs, half-and-half, milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla.

2. Tear up bread and mix with blueberries. Place in a 9-by-5-inch bread pan. Pour egg mixture over bread and berries in pan. Sprinkle with nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sugar.

3. Place loaf pan into a larger baking pan that has been filled halfway with hot water. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until pudding is set and top is browned.

4. Serve pudding warm, pairing each dish with a small sidecar of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4.


02 2010