So I’ve been promising for a while now that I will mention some sneaky nut hideouts that I discovered while in Spain, so here goes [see my next post on this topic too].
In my previous post about tapas here, I broke the dreaded news that those who share my impressive array of allergies may be restricted to the more boring of tapas options. One of the stock standard, best-selling tapas options is patatas bravas, which is available in almost every (if not every) tapas restaurant. Patatas bravas is a dish of cut up potatoes covered in sauce. *yum*
I ordered this side dish for the first time at a tapas restaurant in the famous La Boqueria markets in Barcelona. Forgive me for going on a tangent, but these markets are amazing. The fruit juices, of which there is almost every possible fruit combination you could possibly imagine, are delicious. Skip the stalls at the very front of the markets, as they are overpriced and not as good as the inner stalls. Beware because pickpocketing is rife in the markets, as they are so crowded and busy. Most importantly, the restaurants inside, which border the markets and open out into a courtyard on the right-hand side, are some of the best restaurants in Barcelona. You’re welcome.
Now let me backtrack to the point of my story. I ordered the patatas bravas and showed my nut translation sign. The waiter had the typical little snicker at my sign and gave me the go ahead for everything I had ordered, including the patatas bravas. Not knowing what to expect of this delectable sounding dish, I received potatoes, cut into little pieces, abundantly dripping in a sauce of a sweet-chilli/aioli variety. It was very tasty, messy, and thoroughly enjoyable.
BUT this is why you need to be careful. Now I don’t know about you, but I personally never assume that just because a dish is Allergian-friendly the first 3, 4 or 5 times that I order it, that it will also be on the 6th, 7th or 8th time too. Well let me clarify that. In my home country Australia, I know when I do and don’t need to check, and there are many standard dishes that I wouldn’t question at all e.g. certain pastas. But until I thoroughly know and understand the cooking style and ingredients used in a country, I don’t adopt such a trusting attitude overseas and always double check JIC [just in case]. And luckily for that..
The second time I ordered patatas bravas, I faced a very different scenario to the first. I was at a restaurant in Plaça Reial in Barcelona. I ordered grilled chicken breast, along with patatas bravas to share with the BF; giving the waitress my nut translation sign JIC. The waitress told me I couldn’t have the patatas bravas, as it contained nuts. I found this quite surprising. Potatoes and hot chips are always the safest Allergian-friendly food for me. In fact sometimes, this is the only thing I CAN eat. It is my safety blanket. I never possibly thought that this would contain nuts.
I clarified what the ingredient was that contained nuts, given that I am used to being lost in translation (or having non-Allergians miscategorise something as nuts). Was this simply another bean/nut mix-up? The waitress told me that the potatoes were covered in romesco sauce, which is a nut and capsicum sauce traditional to Catalonia. Typically, the sauce is made from a mixture of almonds, pine nuts and/or hazelnuts. My understanding is that romesco sauce is commonly used in patatas bravas, or served with seafood, poultry or red meat.
It was lucky that I had first ordered a dish containing romesco sauce at a semi-fancy restaurant, with an obviously clued-in waitress. Some less-knowledgeable waiter or waitress may not have realised there were nuts in the sauce, or may not have even connected the nut allergy dot to the romesco sauce dot.
Some might criticise me for not having researched this before I came to Spain, given how commonly romesco sauce is used in Spanish cooking. As fellow Allergians might agree, it is hard to know where to look for this sort of information. And this was one inspiration for writing this blog. Always BEWARE and don’t assume that just because one restaurant’s patatas bravas is Allergian-safe, that they all are!