Hotel Palacio de Los Velada, Avila, Spain, March 30, 2013—
WHEN IN SPAIN, one eats suckling pig. At least we do. We dined on cochimillo last night, in Madrid, and we did so again tonight, an hour's drive and an age away, in Avila. It was a scientific experiment, devised to search the pure truth. This requires finesse, discipline, and care. It isn't easy, but someone has to do it.
Last night we ate at what the Guinness Book of Records lists as the Oldest Restaurant in the World. We've eaten at other Oldest Restaurants in the World, in Rouen for example, but I wouldn't dream of quibbling. When we left the restaurant we looked in on the kitchen, where a Filipino cook who spoke perfect American English was cleaning up after the last service. He pointed out the handsome tiled wood-burning oven where our piglet had been cooked: the original oven he assures us. Well, then, I said, be careful with it, it does a great job, you wouldn't warn the place burning down on its account.
Goya waited tables here, it"s said, while waiting to qualify for the art academy — that would have been in the 1790s, I suppose. The place reeks of nistory, and does a fine job of maintaining its reputation for authenticity. Our pork was succulent, a little inaccessible for cradling and little bones, thoroughly satisfying. One must eat here, once or twice; one does not need to return on every visit to Madrid, I think.
TONIGHT IN THE COLD NORTH, in Avila, after a walk around the upper Old City, and attendance at the Sabato Sacro procession, we stopped in at a place I"ve been wanting to try, in a building whose hotel accommodated us very nicely a few years back. here I began with Sopa de Fideos, thin but substantial soup with angel hair pasta cut short, and went on to the suckling pig.
If Botin works successfully to maintain its reputation, this place works just as hard to develop its. I thought the pork just as well chosen just as well stores and prepared, just as well cooked and served as last night"s, and perhaps to slightly better effect. The flesh was a little dry, but there was no extraneous juice left on the plate. The skin was crackling-dry and resonant, but not leathery or difficult. Slight edge to Avila, I think.
Tinto, of course, t Hugh one of these days I'd like to try a white Rhone with this dish
• Restaurant Botin, C/de Los Cuchilleros, Madrid; 913.664.217; •Las Cancelas, Cruz Viejo, 6, Avila, Spain, 9184.108.40.206
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