I love trying new food. I also believe when you’re in Rome (go on…), you should do as the Romans do so while in Asturias, I shall do as the Asturians do. A traditional Austrian dish throughout Gijon is called Cachopo. Cachopo consists of ham and cheese sandwiched between two large veal fillets, then breaded and fried and served over a bed of french fries and topped with vegetables, often red bell pepper and mushrooms. Whaaaaaaat? Yes.
I had read up on some of the local dishes when we first arrived in Gijon and discovered a restaurant with highly rated Cachopo very near to the airbnb we started our adventure at in Cimadevilla district (the oldest neighborhood in town). This was when the national curfew was still in place and restaurants had to close indoor dining service at 9pm (outdoor at 10). We knew Spain was known for their late dinners as we had seen plenty of people in restaurants in the evenings.
So, one night, we headed to the small restaurant called Bar Begona to try Cachopo. As we entered, no one was in fact eating, rather we found 70- and 80-year-old men were drinking and socializing, but stopped for a moment to concentrate on us (or so I felt). We could tell we were in the place to be, we just weren’t there at the right time. We weren’t going to turn around and leave, so we sat down and the waitress came over. We indicated we wanted to eat (this was at 8pm). She informed us they closed at 9pm. Phil asked if we could eat, “Podemos comer?” to which she essentially said “You tell me?” and pointed to her watch. We said Vale (Spanish for okay) and ordered the Cachopo. We waited somewhat awkwardly, at a table smack dab in the middle of the bar, surrounded by the old Spanish men. The Spanish fellows reminded Phil of his Papa (his Italian grandfather) and said when his buddy Jason comes for a visit, he’s going to take him there so they can old man it up. When in Asturias…
As we waited, the old Spaniards drank more and talked louder and seemed to forget we were there. We had some vino tinto (red wine) while we waited and eased in a bit. An older couple, who I assume owned the place were in and out of the kitchen. She (I referred to her repeatedly as Abuela to Phil) passed around some delicious bites to each table. They tasted similar to a crestless ham and cheese quiche but were so much better. Abuela eyed us curiously. Not quite a stink eye but not welcoming either.
The Cachopo was ordered as a shared dish and we have discovered you can typically share most entrees on a menu here. We were glad we did as when it arrived at the table it was huge and beautiful and covered in lovely red peppers, green peas, and mushrooms. Phil doesn’t like mushrooms and I’ve only seen him eat them on rare occasion if a dish is truly delicious. This was one of them.
After the experience at Bar Begona, we became more accustomed to Spanish meal times. Breakfast (desayuno) is eaten anywhere from 8-11am, lunch is eaten at 2-3pm (comida), and dinner (cena) between 9pm-midnight. We knew of their later eating times but putting it into practice has taken time, as of this post we are still getting used to the timing of eating. We had not realized that lunch was the largest meal of the day, typically consisting of several courses and wine, with dinner being a much smaller one. Phil had mentioned wanting to return to Bar Begona for the Cachopo at lunch sometime so we could have a proper dining experience there.
Our wedding anniversary is Wednesday and we’d planned to go out then but we were both onboard with moving it up a bit. To Abuela’s we went! We arrived at Bar Begona just after 2pm. We were seated in their small dining room, which we had not seen on our first visit, with wall adorned with watercolor paintings of topless mermaids, and I mean every one of the dozen or so that adorned the walls.
An ensalada mixta to start, followed by the Cachopo and a bottle of vino rosado to accompany the meal. The Cachopo was even better than the first time and I could tell Abuela’s comida Cachopo was pan fried with love. Cutting into the giant, golden beauty revealed the melty cheese and jamon hiding inside. The veal reminded me of really tender, thin, chicken-fried steak. To end the meal, we shared a crust-less cheesecake at the waitress’s recommendation, and each had a cafe solo. The meal left us with a pleasant, warm, and inviting feeling (maybe the wine had something to do with that?) and we left quite pleased and satisfied.
As has become our routine, we took a long, leisurely post-meal walk home along the waterfront, stopping a couple of times to sit on a bench and watch the waves and the passersby. Being able to take our time in most all that we do has been an amazing experience. We have to remind ourselves (or at least, Phil has to remind me), that we can take our time as we don’t have to be anywhere. We can do whatever we want and I don’t need to feel guilty about having a giant lunch on a Monday and then taking it easy the rest of the day. I can savor each experience without rushing onto the next. That’s what this life is for, right?