Monday, February 20, 2012
Hopefully today will be a day when everything returns to normal. My cold is just about gone so I will head back to the gym shortly. I will meet with Melissa at 4:30 and will mosey over to the CIVAC meeting a little after 8:00.
Yesterday was truly a magical day. Magic was omnipresent and not all of it was accomplished with cards. Brian and Ofelia came by for us at 1:30 and we head south to the Albufera where La Matandeta is located. In truth it is about five kilometers south of the center of the city. We passed by La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias and five minutes later it was as if we were in another place in another time. We passed rice field after rice field and there was not a building in site. As we approached the restaurant we could see the modern skyline of Valencia that stood in stark contrast to the rural setting we were seeing through the car’s windshield. The parking lot was not crowded, although it would be later. We walked passed a barking dog and made our way to the front entrance of the restaurant.
The door was covered with all kinds of awards proclaiming this particular restaurant as one of the best in Valencia and in all of Spain. We walked past a waiting area that was populated by enormous stuffed animals and we walked into the dining room proper. We were warmly greeted and show to our round table for six. In addition to the four of use we were awaiting the arrival of Juanra, the real estate agent who had found Brian and Ofelia their current apartment and his girlfriend, Adela. Adela teaches French at the University of Valencia. No sooner were we settled at our table when Manolito, the four year old son of the owners, sat down at a table near the entrance along with his young friend, Santi. Ofelia went over to take a picture with him and I followed.
The two youngsters were having a quick bite prior to heading off to see an ice show. I had brought some kid stuff along with me and I did a couple of heart balloons with smiley faces for the two young ones. They seemed to be pleased with their unexpected gift. After taking another picture or two we returned to our table. A few minutes later María Dolores, one of the owners came to our table to warmly greet Ofelia and Brian and to say hello to Susan and me. We chatted for a bit and while we were chatting Juanra and Adela arrived.
Brian had pre-ordered two paellas for all of us. The restaurant requests that you do that because the paellas are cooked over a wood fire and they want to make sure that they have sufficient wood set aside for the preparation of the paellas. We ordered three appetizers – a stuffed artichoke, some octopus cooked over a wood fire and a salad that in addition to the lettuces and tomatoes was topped with two different sorbets. There was also a basket filled with fresh baked bread and a homemade crock of paté. We ordered a bottle of wine from an extensive wine list. We focused on the section that was called vino de autor and we chose a wine called Sexto Elemento. The production of this wine, made entirely from Bobal grapes, was limited to one thousand bottles. It was a hearty red with a silky mouth feel and we made both bottles magically disappear.
When we had finished our appetizers the serving dishes, our plates and our silverware were cleared and, in anticipation of our two paellas, new plates were set out and our new place setting included a rather large tablespoon the better to eat paella with. One of our paellas was a traditional Valencian on made with duck, chicken and rabbit. The second was a seafood paella replete with mussels, shrimp and squid. La Matandeta is reputed to make the best paella in all of Valencia and based on the two that I sampled yesterday I would say they deserve the award. Try as we might we could not finish off both paellas and I am sure that Brian and Ofelia will thoroughly enjoy the leftovers. After the table was again cleared and we were waiting for dessert, I made some trinkets for Adela. I made my napkin rose, a pearl dog, a butterfly and a jumping frog. One of the waitresses saw what was going on and was very much taken with my little creations. I made a rose and a dog for her and she walked away very happy.
Dessert arrived in the form of a sinful chocolate birthday cake. The entire restaurant sang Happy Birthday to Ofelia. A little girl from a neighboring table came over and helped Ofelia blow out her candles. To reward the little one for a job well done I made a balloon heart for her, also. In addition to the cake there were two plates of fresh fruit and a bottle of champagne made its appearance at our table. All of us ordered coffee and several of us had an after dinner liqueur. The table was then cleared and María Dolores joined us and I proceeded to do a half a dozen magic effects.
Our little birthday celebration ended a bit after 5:00 and we said our goodbyes to Juanra and Adela. The four of us got into Brian’s car and we headed to the small nearby town of Palmar. We did a quick tour of the city, which appears to have at least fifteen restaurants and on the way back stopped at one of the lookout points of the Albufera, so that we could enjoy the view and shoot a picture or two. When Brian dropped us off at our door it was 7:00 o’clock.
Our evening was uneventful. Susan worked on the photos she had taken during the day, I did some writing on the computer and the both of us watched a little TV before we closed the book on one of the best days we had ever spent in Valencia. We got to experience the magic of food, friendship as well as the magic spell that nature can cast. Wow!
What a wonderful narration and pictures. We felt as if I were right there enjoying the birthday dinner with all of you. Thank you for sharing them.
Angela and Paul Oberle