How could I forget to mention another experience that shines a little light on our lack of trust in basic things here in Spain? On Sunday night, Kris, Amin, Phil, and I decided to hit up Rafa's crazy little sangria and tapas restaurant in the Barri Gotic. We've been diehard fans since the first time that our friend Antonio (a Medieval History Fulbright researcher) introduced us to this hole in the wall spot. It's partly due to Rafa, and partly due to this amazing sangria.
Rafa, or Rafael, is a man in his mid-50s from Malaga. He has half of his teeth, a long stringy gray pony tail, a collection of strangely printed t-shirts that wreak of days old sweat grime, not to mention his vibrancy that alone beats out any other establishment with sheer character. Because in "Rafa's house", you are treated like family. He talks to us about how we remind him of his children who aren't nearby, he dances for us and sings merrily to tunes that play in his head, and he pours up a mad "De Puta Madre" pitcher of sangria, as he calls it (excuse the language).
Now, in honor of our three months in Spain coming to a close - with FC Barcelona's win over Real Madrid earlier that Sunday night WOOHOOOOO! - we knew our real closure would come at Rafa's place. He welcomed us by pointing with a toilet paper wrapped pointer finger, to a table against the far wall and and began on a pitcher of sangria and his house spicy potatoes. We looked at the menu and picked out various items to sample. Since we'd never had more than the potatoes, we thought a sampling was in order: Amin ordered some mussels, Kris ordered a "bomba"(mashed potatoes and meat in a ball that is deep fried and served with spicy sauce), and we ordered the stuffed red peppers and chicken croquettes. It was going to be the perfect cap to the perfect soccer match that ended the perfect autumn of 2009.
But soon, that lovely idea was gone. Kris' bomb was frozen solid in the middle. Our chicken croquettes were too, and the stringy chicken meat looked raw. Amin scored big on his mussels, but he had a stomach ache so he didn't indulge in any sangria. Feeling bad about the frozen food, Rafa offered us fried calamari. Phil is allergic to shellfish and seafood in general, so he couldn't have any. We ordered another potatoes to tide us all over. Kris was brought a strange tuna pizza pie. As Rafa sat and explained how sorry he was about the food after describing how scrumptious the other items were, Kris noticed a colorful design on his placemat. Upon looking up and seeing Rafa's toilet paper finger blood-drenched, he realized it was blood dripping off of his hand. He freaked, Rafa turned, embarrassed, and ran to re-bandage. We were laughing hysterically now. Well, all of us except Kris, whose face said it all...he was over it. But after a minute or two of calming him down, he decided it would be fine if he tried the tuna pie since he was still famished. A bite or two in, he looked down at the napkin that had wrapped his fork and knife. It was sitting on his lap. Dropping his utensils, he shrieked. Holding up his napkin, there were blood smears. Just then, Rafa came back with our original chicken croquettes that had been half-chewed and were now little balls of deep fried nastiness (he just threw them back into the fryer even though we'd bitten off parts - GROSS). We were over it now, so we asked for the check, and assured Rafa it was okay, since he seemed mortified.
It was an epic frozen and bloody tapa adventure into a cuisine that we already despised, and that, along with our elevator adventure, has us yearning for the comforts of being in a land where that food would have been comped and the elevator would have been the size of a suburban.