I Hit the Jackpot in Torrevieja

Life-size bronze statues of a director and five musicians pay tribute to the rich musical legacy of Torrevieja.

Life-size bronze statues of a director and five musicians stand on the Paseo Vista Alegre in tribute to the rich musical legacy of Torrevieja.

This was the final week of the Tapas Crawl, the 10th Annual Ruta de Las Tapas. We set out for the town center to check out the annual Book Fair on the downtown waterfront. Florence and I are avid readers, and we were interested to see if there were many books in English available at reasonable prices. Granted, the local library has a decent English language section, mostly fiction. A range of restaurants would be serving their best tapas for whenever the hunger bug hit, but first a little shopping was in order.

The annual book fair consists of six large book kiosks on the seafront pedestrian walkway.

The annual book fair consists of six large book kiosks on the seafront pedestrian walkway.

We were surprised to learn that Suzy and Rob, purveyors of the Bargain Books shop downtown, were the only outlet for English language books in town. I would have thought there would be demand for more given the large English expat population in Torrevieja. According to Suzy, that used to be the case. However, the other businesses folded, and now she and her husband have the last remaining English language bookstore.

Tomato and cheese pizza - 7€ ($10), and plenty left over for later

Tomato and cheese pizza – 7€ ($10), and plenty left over for later

We had eaten light that morning. Then it was time to ‘tapa off’ our appetites. I was already salivating in anticipation of our return visit to La Mila-Grossa, the Argentine restaurant we had discovered the previous weekend. We made a stop at La Bella Lola, which offered an excellent toasted tomato and cheese tapa. Next stop – La Mila-Grossa Restaurant.

Empañadas with Salsa de la Abuela - As soon as the aroma hit my nostrils I knew I was in for a treat.

Empañadas with Salsa de la Abuela – The aroma told me I was in for a treat.

We started with some fine appetizers. However, we had the main courses in mind. Florence longed for a vegetarian pizza, and I planned to make a meal of the house specialty empañadas. I had sampled them the weekend before, and the anticipation was killing me. When the empañadas arrived, I inquired if they had hot sauce thinking I had spied some on a side counter. Our server, Mariano, asked if I wanted ‘picante’ – the hot stuff. Oh, yeah!

Let me interject here that I love hot, spicy food. I have not tasted a decent hot sauce since we left Mexico over a year ago. Suddenly, a plain bottle with a generic skull ‘n’ crossbones sticker appeared on our table. I was as nervous as a teenager on a first date. Could this be the moment I had been waiting for? I put a taste on my fork and licked it off. A tense moment passed, and then a small fire started on the tip of my tongue. The juices that formed in my mouth were as sensuous as my first French kiss! I thought I heard angels singing. My heart beat and breathing sped up. It was delicious!

The handsome, young Mariano made me a gift of his grandmothers salsa.

The handsome, young Mariano made me a gift of his grandmothers salsa.

I had a pleasant conversation with Mariano after we had eaten. He told me he was from a town near Mar del Plata, Argentina, where his mother lives. He now lives here in Torrevieja where his father’s family originates. As we were preparing to go, I asked if the picante sauce served with lunch could be purchased. ‘Le gusta?’ he asked, pleasantly surprised. (You like it?) Then he told me his grandmother makes it for the restaurant, and yes, I could have some.

Mariano brought a generous container of the heavenly elixir from the kitchen. I asked him how much. He handed it to me and said, ‘Esto es un regalo para usted.’ (This is a gift for you.) Mariano had given me a gift of liquid gold which I now call Salsa de la Abuela, grandmother’s salsa. I had hit the jackpot! Muchas gracias mi amigo.

Note: All photos are the copyrighted property of Florence Lince.
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7 comments on “I Hit the Jackpot in Torrevieja

  1. That’s great Mike – “as sensuous as my first French kiss!” Gotta love a great salsa. James’ sister makes one that’s to-die-for, and I know how hard it is to get a great salsa outside of Mexico and some parts of the US. Congrats! ~Terri

    • Mike Lince says:

      As much as some folks cannot take the heat of spicy food, I crave it. However, just being hot is not enough, which is why Tabasco never did much for me. It is always the homemade stuff that hits on both heat and flavor. Someday I expect our paths will cross, and when they do I hope you have a bottle of your sister-in-law’s salsa on hand! :) – Mike

  2. Awww!! Sweet! Geeeesh! I’m salivating reading this post!! Lucky!!!!!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Holly, when you finally have your custom kitchen you will have to check out some tapas recipes. You may already have your own hot sauce recipe. I look forward to the day you will post some food blog stories! – Mike

  3. What a great jackpot you got and you gained a lovely friendship as well, congratulation! :)

    • Mike Lince says:

      It is interesting that our friendship bonds in Spain have all been with people from somewhere else. My restaurateur friend is from Argentina. Our favorite grocer is Portuguese. Our host family in Alicante came from Cuba. Our internet/phone shop connection is Colombian. The bookstore contact is a Brit. The only Spaniards we have established friendships with were those we met outside of Spain during our travels. I am not sure what that says about us or the Spanish people, but so far there is not a sense of warmth that emanates from Spaniards, at least in this region on the Costa Blanca. – Mike

      • Sometimes you just don’t know what our life like, or what kind of people will meet, what thing will happen next…
        What we can do is accept it. Since I started with this blog with my limited English, I worried about I can’t get any respond, I look for any comment everyday, I just want to meet more different people and learn more, and I start build up now, although it is so slow, but I enjoy it.
        So luckily, we can appreciate it, right?
        Enjoy it! Look forward to see more interesting adventures, thanks! :)

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