A new twist on dinner and a show

Pedraza Spain By Geri Dreiling

March 2011

Pedraza is a medieval village bathed in faint pink and earthy tan. Gray stone walls ring the settlement and Spanish tiles that vary in shades of red, orange and brown cap the buildings inside.  Located about an hour’s drive northwest of Madrid, the restored village that dates from the 12th century rises up from a plateau and provides sweeping views of the countryside and the Sierra of Guadarrama. When I visited in March with E and his parents, the peaks of the sierra were capped with snow.

There were two reasons for our visit to Pedraza. One was to see Pedraza’s castle which I will detail in a subsequent post. The second was to experience the food. We didn’t make the trek to enjoy the wildlife – but we did end up being treated to quite a show.

Pedraza is part of the “costa del cordero” or lamb coast of Spain.  The area is famous for the way meat, and especially roast veal, is prepared. We had lunch reservations at the Hosteria de Pedraza, one of the many asadores – restaurants specializing in roast meat—where tourists stop to eat.

We arrived in Pedraza in early afternoon. After visiting Segovia earlier that day, we were hungry. We parked the car in a spot just outside the village walls. If you’re a visiting American, I recommend leaving your car there. The village dates back to the time of horses, carts, knights and peasants and so the narrow streets will claim your rear view mirror as a souvenir. (For more tourist information, there is a Spanish-language site.)

As we made our way to Hosteria de Pedraza, we passed through the Plaza Mayor, a village square formed by two-story buildings with small balconies that faced into a large, central courtyard. As we passed through, boys who couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old kicked a soccer ball.

Plaza Mayor Pedraza A Big Bird

We stopped to look at the bell tower of San Juan Bautista church. The prominent landmark is a popular spot not only with worshippers and tourists but also with the storks. A massive nest had been built on top of the tower and was happily occupied by one of the birds.

This visit to Spain introduced me to white storks in the wild. An adult stork can be three-to-four-feet long and stand three-to-four-feet high. In flight, the wingspan is an impressive five-to-seven feet.

The stork is indeed a big bird and the nest is equally impressive.

A stork’s nest can be two-and-a-half to almost five feet in diameter and between three and six-and-a-half-feet deep. As I contemplated the fact that a nest could be the size of Jacuzzi, I concluded that there would be plenty of room for newborns needing a home. I understood now why a stork might be chosen as the answer to the universal childhood question, “Where do babies come from?”

Little did I know that there might be another reason for the stork-and-baby tale.

The Lamb Coast

When we arrived at Hosteria de Pedraza, we were seated in the enclosed porch surrounded with large windows that provided a spectacular view of the countryside and the trees that had grown up near the property.

We ordered the specialty: roast lamb. According to Foods from Spain, the typical preparation in this region is to slowly cook a baby lamb that has only been fed its mother’s milk, in a dome shaped, wood-fired oven for about four hours with only a cup of water and some salt as seasoning. It is quartered and served in an earthenware dish with its juices keeping the meat moist.

It is tender and flavorful, even if you do feel somewhat guilty about eating it. As we discussed the merits of the meat, I noticed a stork. It landed in a nest that had been built in a tree near our balcony perch.

“Look, a stork!” I exclaimed excitedly.

As my travel companions turned to look, a second stork landed. We smiled and then froze.

The storks, channeling their inner Marvin Gaye, immediately proceeded to, well, get it on. With birds that big, there was no doubt that it was stork sexy time and we had front row seats to the love show.

Dumbfounded. Embarrassed. Mortified. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when trying to describe my reaction. E’s mother, however, laughed heartily. She pointed first at me, then her husband and finally her son and said:

“Rojo!”

“Rojo!”

“Rojo!”

Yes, we were red-faced and blushing. I still have no idea what I said, if I said anything. Today, the best way to summarize it is to quote my teenage daughter:  “That’s awkward.”

Fortunately, the dessert arrived shortly thereafter — chocolate cannelloni with orange mousse cream drizzled with warm chocolate sauce. Our attention was now focused on sweets rather than storks.  

The meal was one of the best I’ve ever had. The entertainment was the most surprising. It was an unforgettable moment during a most memorable trip.  

Sierra of Guadarrama