On the way to San Sebastian from Madrid we slipped into the country around Burgos, the entrance to the Rioja (and numerous others) wine producing area. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos is a spectacular landmark here, a structure so impressive, especially considering the time it was built, the entire visual is today comparaively mind-numbing. It is a Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the official name is Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos. Its construction began in 1221, following French Gothic patterns. The building went through major changes in the 15th and 16th centuries: the spiers of the main facade, the Chapel of the Constable and dome of the cruise, elements of the advanced Gothic style which give the temple its unmistakable profile. The last works of importance (the Sacristy or the Chapel of Saint Thecla) were constructed in the 18th century, in which the Gothic portals of the main facade were also modified. The style of the cathedral is the Gothic, although it has several decorative Renaissance and Baroque elements.
Inside the cathedral are preserved works of extraordinary artists, such as architects and sculptors of the Colonia family, Simón and Francisco, the architect Juan de Vallejo, sculptors Gil de Siloé, Felipe Bigarny, Rodrigo de la Haya, Martín de la Haya, Juan de Ancheta and Juan Pascual de Mena, among others.
Most visitors to this country surely suffer a mild state of shock in viewing the city ‘centres’ parks and boulevards, and design and layout of open ‘squares’ where both locals and tourists gather at all hours of the day. And although history has dictated that churches are certainly a huge part of the design, the theme is simply powerful in it’s invitation to make oneself comfortable.
On our way to the cathedral we happened to notice a little eatery along the route named El Huerto de Roque, a “gastrobar” as they say, specializing in food typical from the Rioja region. And needless to say, they were moving a ‘plate du jour’ which offers limited choices of a starter, a main and a dessert to all, at a fixed price.
Sonja chose a starter of tomato soup, and I selected a salad with smoked anchovies. A main of fresh sea bream for her, and a hibernian acorn fed pork rib for myself. And a dessert of roasted peach filled with ice cream and floated in an almond infused, beautifully whipped cream; alongside a chocolate ganache with in-house ice cream.
Sonja’s tomato soup was delivered to the table in two dishes. One was a bowl resembling a cantaloupe melon half, scraped clean and filled with a generous scoop of olive oil ice cream. The other was a small pitcher filled with a cold, in-house prepared tomato soup that was poured over the ice cream. We agreed that we’d never tasted anything quite like it. Simply perfect.
The pork rib was presented as I would describe ‘medium rare’, as tender as soft butter and with a flavour like no other pork we’ve had placed in front of us. (Since we’ve been treated to Iberian acorn fed pork in a number of establishments, all perfect.)
Most who enjoy food as we do possess a reasonable understanding of the dessert menu. And most know the difference between sugar and a finely crafted mix of sweet leanings. The roasted peach, cookie ice cream and almond cream were an exception combination that did not leave one feeling stuffed or suffering a sugar rush.
Following our lunch we visited the cathedral, investigated the square and surrounding parks, then continued on to Haro for the night.
On the return trip from San Sebastian to Madrid we decided it was worth the effort to once again try our luck at a blind stop at Burgos and see if we could get into El Huerto de Roque for lunch. On our arrival we learned that there was a celebration of medieval days with thousands of people taking part, including parades and vendors and dancing and music and jousting and encampments and more. Everyone was dressed in period costumes, including the children.
On our first attempt to get a table we were informed that the inn was full. But our very persuasive travelling companion managed a quick negotiation and there we were. This time around the food was just as delicious as the first. We ordered croquettes, which turned out to be arancinis (deep fried rice balls) that were stuffed with rice, pumpkin and parmesan cheese and topped with a green olive pesto. The second choice was a plate of red wine braised beef cheeks with pureed potato and yams, a combination that was out of the park packed with flavour. A cheese plate closed the sitting and we were off to Madrid. See the photos below . . .