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Yes, there were oranges.  Lots of them!

But what I’ll remember most about my trip to Valencia (aside from the sunshine and excellent company) is the 5-course lunch I had at the Seu Xerea “lounge restaurant.”  It was easily the best 12 Euros I have ever spent.  Delicious, fresh, high-quality, creative dishes fusing Mediterranean and Asian flavors.  I also discovered a fabulous Spanish beer in the process.  That’s my idea of a perfect meal…and the perfect prelude to a siesta.

First course:

Seared octopus with creamy polenta, sesame seeds, and chives

Second course:

Mixed greens with seared chicken breast, mung bean sprouts, radish, sesame vinaigrette, and citrus aioli

Third course:

Green Thai fish curry with snow peas, mung bean sprouts, chives, coconut milk, and sea salt

Fourth course:

Asian “fideos,” i.e., lo mein with grilled calamari, shitake mushrooms, carrots, and bell peppers.

Fifth course:

Strawberry soup with basil ice cream and sesame garnish

And to wash it all down:

An ice-cold Alahambra Reserva 1925, a delicious full-flavored amber lager

Muchas gracias, Valencia! I will never forget you.

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Oh.  Wow.

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soft amaretti

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According to the legend of Amaretti di Saronno, the Cardinal of Milan unexpectedly visited the Italian town of Saronno in 1718.  In his honor, two young lovers, Giuseppe and Osolina, quickly baked up a mixture of sugar, apricot kernels, and egg whites, creating crisp, airy cookies with a bittersweet almond flavor.  To symbolize their love, they wrapped the cookies in pairs in colorful paper.  The Cardinal was so pleased with the cookie, he blessed the couple, and they lived happily ever after, passing their recipe on for generations.

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Credit: Koboko

What it’s called: Kaesekrainer (“kay-ze-kryner”), aka Krainer Wurst

What it is:  Smoked sausage made from a minimum of 68% pork, 12% beef, 10-20% Emmentaler cheese, and not more than 20% ham/bacon or 5% water.  Spices include seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic. 

What it tastes like: Similar to the American version of “Polish Kielbasa,” except it’s injected with Swiss cheese throughout.  Salty, a tad garlicky, and totally addictive (especially after a night on the town).

How to eat it: Very carefully.  The molten cheese can be explosive, so chomp with caution.  Like most delicious things, it is a bit of a mess.  Order it “hot dog”-style (inside a hollowed out mini-baguette) to save your clothing.  Traditional condiments include spicy mustard, freshly grated horseradish, or curry ketchup. 

Where to find it: Kaesekrainer has been popular at Austrian sausage stands since the 1980s, and hails originally from Slovenia (where, according to wikipedia, it is a national dish).  It is also popular in Australia and New Zealand, where it is known as the “kransky,” thanks to Slovenian immigrants who arrived there in the 1940s and ’50s.

If you can’t make it that far: You could try the “3 Cheese Bite” (cheddar, American, and mozzarella) at 7-11…but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Look:

Proof that some things just get lost in translation.

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