All the Best with Zita Keeley in Almeria, Spain

From filming on Holland America Line Mediteranean Cruise – MS Oosterdam




Ceuta, Spain – A Taste from All the Best with Zita Keeley

A bit from our Ceuta episode as we sailed on Holland America Line’s MS Oosterdam.



Visiting Corsica on All the Best with Zita Keeley

One of our filming stops in the Mediterranean was in Corsica. I had a short time to discover some of it’s delicacies thanks to Olivier of Coloratour and Holland America Line and the MS Oosterdam.


What a Ride in Barcelona

It was now the end of the cruise and what a place to finish … Barcelona, Spain. I had been here once before, over 15 years ago when my son was just a little boy and I really loved it. I hope I’d feel the same way this time.

A very helpful part of this cruise itinerary was that the ship would be staying in port overnight so this meant I could go back there to sleep and wouldn’t have to rush off to the airport or find a hotel. It also meant a bit more time to enjoy this exciting city.

My time would be spent with Yves Nicolier, a local food guide and “social cooker” (as he calls himself.) Yves runs cooking classes, caters, hosts dinners and basically, loves bringing people together to cook and eat. Today would be my turn and I was ready to see what we would be doing.

I knew in advance that Yves had his friend coming with his Harley Davidson motorcycle with sidecar that he’d want me to ride. Since I had an entire day to get through I held off on that adventure until later in the day when I knew I wouldn’t care what the wind did to me. But, for now, a comfortable air-conditioned van would be just right.

We headed to the restaurant Spoonik, a modern and very original dining place recently opened by Chef Jon Giraldo and Jaime Lieberman.  I was given a glass of Cava to sip while looking around and waiting for Chef Jon to arrive, a pleasant start to this visit. When the Chef came in, he quickly moved into the kitchen and invited us in with him. He explained that he always includes his guests in the kitchen to observe his first dish. Today he made a vegetarian ceviche with mango and some olive oil caviar. He sat down with us and popped open a bottle of his favorite Champagne while we talked about the restaurant and his love of cooking. While we sat, he whispered something to one of his colleagues and suddenly, the lights dimmed, the table lit up with moving lights and color and the sound of thunder and rainstorms filled the room. This unusual event is one of the scenes that can be projected while you are eating here.

After that unique experience it’s time for tapas and we head back to the Barceloneta waterfront area and a tiny looking place called Maians. The place is packed and we struggle to find a spot to stand while Yves and the owner discuss what dishes we should have. Dish after delicious looking dish arrive and I’m thinking how good it all looks. There’s a salad of tuna, codfish and anchovies in romesco sauce, (made with tomatoes, garlic, almonds hazelnuts & a small round red pepper that I don’t remember the name of),  a marinated white fish (Yves says, a mini shark) floured and fried into nuggets, a traditional looking paella (yum) and then another paella that’s a  special round rice with cuttlefish ink, clams and an aioli sauce. That dish was absolutely fabulous- salty but creamy and impossible to stop eating.

I finally get my ride in the sidecar of  the Harley  on our way to the final stop at Yves place. It’s fun zipping by the sites and the  famous Sagrada Familia basilica as we make our way to his pretty town just outside of Barcelona. The views from his rooftop are spectacular and after my cooking lesson of romesco sauce with  codfish we head up there with a glass of wine and our food and finish our day off spectacularly.

It might be many years since I had my first great experience in Barcelona but I now have had another. I truly feel at home here and thank my wonderful friend Yves for making it so.

That’s the end of another fabulous cruise thanks to Holland America and the MS Oosterdam crew.

Cheers and all the best,




Sailing into Spain and Almeria

I have been to the Andalucia region of Spain before but never to the historic city of Almeria. This is the next stop on the MS Oosterdam and where I have around 6 or so hours to find out why it’s becoming a popular holiday destination.

After disembarking the ship, I meet with my guide for the day, Virginia Maria Chocarro Cervino. (She tells me to call her Maria.) She first wants me to experience a typical breakfast in Almeria and so we head into town and the Central Market area for some churros and chocolate at Bar Barrea. If you don’t know what a churro is, it’s a fried doughy pastry type thing that here is served round and spiral shaped. The idea is to dip it into the hot chocolate and eat it. It’s decadent and delicious and I could only have a bite or two before surrendering to my crew to finish. We then made our way into the central market full of all kinds of interesting types of fish and seafood. You can pick out a fish and the market person will filet, debone, slice or whatever you want them to do for no extra cost.

One of the most important sites in Almeria is the Alcazaba fortress, built by the Caliph of Cordoba around 955 AD when the area was ruled by Muslims. Three walled areas make up the fortress. The first was for living quarters that is now gardens and pools. The 2nd was for the kings residence and the 3rd was added by the Christians when the Catholics occupied the area. It was worth the big climb up for the magnificent views of all the city and the port below.

Maria has now arranged for me to meet with Chef Jose Torrente of Restaurant Catedral where he has prepared an outdoor cooking demonstration. Located in the historic center at Catedral Square, it was quite something to be standing out on the pretty patio with the cathedral tower looming over us as he made his special cold tomato soup called Salmorejo. Different than gazpacho, this soup is made with tomatoes, red pepper, garlic, bread , olive oil, vinegar, salt and ham and chopped egg for garnish. It’s creamy and cooling on a hot July day. He then prepared one of his favorite tapas with a local St. Peter fish fried in a thin pasty and served with a garlicky white sauce and tomato jam. We all got to have some as well as a thirst quenching glass of white wine from the winery of Cristina Calvache.

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We continue on our eating journey with a walk through the narrow, twisty  streets  to La Mala Bar, a super busy, funky looking little place where Maria says the tapas are incredible. Owner Pablo Asensio is there to assure we get the best and we manage to squeeze ourselves into the bar and I get a nice cold beer, (aah),  while we wait for the dishes to come out. He keeps bringing dish after dish from seafood to meat and finally a  very special dish, a truffle omelette that is a larger plate than the normal tapas. This is raciones, a plate you share and actually pay for in Spain. Tapas are generally free and are small plates served along with your drink.

From here Maria wanted me to see the Moorish influence in Almeria so we went to Aljaima Restaurant for some traditional Moroccan/Spanish food. While we started out with just a plate of pastries and teas,  owner Mustafa Fazouli was kind enough to bring out their award winning couscous dish as well as some local red wine. What was meant to be a dessert stop turned into yet another feast. Lucky me (and crew!)

As if the day wasn’t complete enough, outside the restaurant was a 1966 (I think) convertible jaguar to take me back to the ship. I arrived at the dock in style.IMG_4483

Cheers and all the best,