The Gastronomic Roadrunner meets up with old friends on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Mar Menor
Visits to ‘La Cabaña de Saura’, the Playa Honda beach bar and the Malvasía Restaurant
Marín and her secular dance
It was time to go to Levante, driven by affection, in search of the pending hugs after three years of waiting for times of pandemic.
In The Algar (Cartagena, Murcia) the air and the sun were the same as always but they seemed different multiplied by the immense joy of the encounter with Clara and Pepe and their children: Clara and her husband Raúl; David and his wife, Olga. What a joy to see those you love again after so long! Pray in the popular wisdom that the time you are not with the ones you love is time you lose from being happy.
Clara, Pepe and their family are builders of affection and welcome, burners of fires of life and enjoyment around you. They run a curious delicatessen shop, Saura’s Cabin, in this small town belonging to the municipality of Cartagena of almost 8 thousand inhabitants. Opposite in the sleepy dream of time is the restaurant of the same name that only opened in summer and became an amazing influx of people, the summer event in the area, just a month and a half and long queues to taste the simple well done: Michirones, rabbit with tomato, seafood, zarangollos… Now it has been closed for three years and probably his future will be a beautiful memory of what happened for many years.
The other saura’s cabin, the wine cellar, is bustling with the last sales of the day when we arrive. A few foreigners get advice and buy different references of Spanish wine served by David and Raúl. Clara and Pepe welcome us with their permanent cordiality and her open smile. They belong to a relative that she falls in love with.
They have a section for tastings and tastings most welcoming and warm, with a splendid wine cellar. Everything awaits us ready with a Prussian order and a lot of taste and we get ready for dinner while the rest of the friends at the table arrive: Loli and Alfredo; Marian and Peter. The Marins, who do I like to call the saura, are truly special and have prepared a table for dinner that looks like the anatomy of good taste: shrimp from Santa Pola, Mediterranean crayfish, Clara’s sublime salad, difficult to find at this point; grouper very well accompanied by an outrageously good tomato sauce. The wine escort carried the reflection of friendship: a cava brut nature from the Ferret Guasch winery, Montes Obarenes 2017 from the Gómez Cruzado winery, for me one of the great whites from La Rioja, and a Cerrado del Castillo 2016 from Señorío de Cuzcurrita.
The dinner takes place between conversations postponed and affections displayed, dispensed as flags of hospitality among the circle of friends. In La Cabaña de Saura the emotions of life are kept.
Night falls on “our scarce and prudent dreams” as the poet from A Coruña, Lois Pereiro, used to say.
Cartagena and Playa Honda
The morning has chosen its color, a blue dotted with clouds that offer changing skies. The temperature is hot for the time of year, summer seems ready to prolong its stay. Alfredo and Pedro offer us a brief catamaran navigation to explore the bay of Cartagena. The port has that breath of history, of many stories that have been going through centuries. Castles, batteries, industrial profiles give a clear idea of the strategic assembly between the military and the commercial. Behind us there is an imposing view of the seafront. Alfredo points out the walls built by Carlos III that supposed the defensive belt of the city and tells us that some of the old barracks are now teaching and university spaces. The sea respects us and allows us to return to port in dead calm.
After navigation, history, the imperial past embodied in one of the architectural jewels of the city: the archaeological site of the Roman Theater, built by the grandsons of Emperor Augustus, Gaius and Lucius Caesar a few years before Christ and which remained hidden for centuries. Baths, temples and streets make up this spectacular excavation that illuminates the city of an exultant imperial past.
Noon is approaching and you have to go to Playa Honda where Pedro has arranged for the same alignment, aperitif and food in his beach bar. Here to eat and drink is to create a space.
Playa Honda is a recitation of gentle waves and palm trees that give it a certain tropical air. We settle in a corner of the establishment while they arrive mullet roe with toasted almonds and breathing under a soda shirt, a bottle of albariño awaits us Grand Novás 2019, as if they wanted to pay homage to those of those western lands. Crystal clear wine that gives off aromas of fresh herbs; sweet, balanced, pleasant. The rest of the food arrives while we continue celebrating the meeting in this small homeland of welcomes: a tomato salad that tastes like it should taste seasoned with an extraordinary oil from Aubocasa, delicious.
Pepe, with the countenance of a magician, takes off a sobrassada from Extrem Pure Extremadura very tasty that draws a unanimous applause. This concert for well-tuned instruments continues with some very well grilled sardines and some boiled potatoes from the area that we water with the same oil. The food, the conversation and the wine are gaining height while the sun is taking possession of everything and the profile of the islands of La Perdiguera and El Barón with its infinite horizon. “That moment has come when the hours, the minutes, the seconds lived are filled with us,” wrote Rafael Alberti.
The afternoon stagnates time under a calm and balmy breeze. We now walk around the vicinity of our hotel surrounded by golf courses where a few dozen Anglo-Saxons hit balls looking for the precision of their hole. Everything here is warm, it has the appearance of a friendly refuge, a hospitable oasis. A terrace, sparkling coffee and fresh water give us shelter and rest. Peace and harmony are breathed in this sensitive light and in the silence interrupted by birdsong that sound like a cheerful polonaise by Chopin. “Only the birds know how to put music to silence without blurring it” (Lorenzo Oliván).
In Malvasia Restaurant (1 Repsol sun, Michelin Bib Gourmand), is the place where friendship happens. We have arranged to have dinner with Peter Montiel, curious about the kitchen, tireless inquirer, always willing to try, to know, to find; also in the knowledge of wines he equally challenges your curiosity and knowledge of it. Pedro is affable, cordialof those people who enter your life through the front door.
We want to try their menu, which by the way has a very competitive price: €38.50. The opening is some smoked sardines with leek and pepper tear, a great banana. The salmon taco with yuzu and mango continues, it is surprising and the point of the fish is excellent. Another banner is grilled artichoke with cream of foie, ham and parmesan, glorious. Some very creamy croquettes and to close Mediterranean tuna and grilled Iberian pork chop with potato emulsion. Splendid dinner in an unbeatable liquid company: Juvé & Camps Millesimé, Capellanía 2017 by Marqués de Murrieta and a local wine, a Valtosca Syrah 2020 by Casa Castillo.
Here we are crew members of the same journey: brotherhood and wine. We all profess the same belief: happiness is not happiness if it is not shared and for this reason we prepare our toasts by appealing to the decalogue of Alvaro Mutis: “Don’t drink alone. Don’t do it with strangers. Don’t drink drinks you don’t know about.” Together we celebrate this expected reunion.
After midnight we hug, we say goodbye, we retire under a clear sky where the stars seem to be each one to their own and a soft west wind brings us an aroma of saltpeter coming from the two seas, the Major and the Minor. It will be time to see each other again before so much time passes.
The morning wakes us up with its pale line and its everyday sounds, we have to go home. In the car the mediterranean landscape is moving away from usthe soul of this land and that of our friends is imprinted in our eyes, in our hearts that are beating throughout the entire trip back to Madrid.