I am a sucker for hand-written signs on blackboards set on the street. They just beg to be read. That’s exactly how I discovered our favourite restaurant in Gandia, L’Abadia. The board with their menu of the day (a very reasonable 11 Euros for 4 courses) was on Carrer Major — Gandia’s main pedestrianized shopping street — where we were walking and quite a bit off from the actual restaurant, so we would never have found L’Abadia otherwise. So when I spotted ‘granizado de limon, casero’ (lemon granita, home-made) on a board just outside the orange tree-lined Carrer Rausell, I was immediately tempted, it being an extremely hot day and we were quite thirsty. In no time at all, we were enjoying the cold sweet-sour-slightly bitter lemon syrup in finely shaved ice. Perfectly refreshing. It was much like the shaved ice topped with syrup, known as kôri in Japan, except the syrup used here was made with fresh lemons. The shop turned out to be a patisserie as well. And among the familiar sweets such as elephant ears, here known as palmeras, and ensaimadas, as well as savoury empanadillas, there was one unfamiliar pastry that caught my eye.
I’d never seen anything like it; I couldn’t help asking what it was. The pastry shop owner, who I assumed was also the baker, said it was called freixepa (pronounced frei-she-pa). I had to ask him to say it several times and finally I asked him to write it out. He explained that it was made of almonds, rather like a ‘mazapan.’. Is it a traditional Gandia sweet? I asked. No, he said. It comes from the French pastry tradition. Well, almonds –almost anything with marzipan — is to me as a red flag is to a bull. That and the rather endearing, homely shape of the pastry were enough to convince us to try it. Had the pastry been shaped otherwise, my curiosity might not have been so piqued.
And it turned out to be very nice indeed. A flaky pastry crust at the bottom was the perfect foil for the tender ground almond filling. The filling was not overly sweet, so the caramel glaze (I detected a hint of apricot and lemon) was perfect. As we left, I saw another tempting pastry in a box labelled ‘Traditional Sweet of Gandia.” But I thought I’d reserve that for another day.
Curious about the provenance of freixepa and how it is made, once I got home I searched online – but got nowhere. I might just have to ask the baker himself. That is, unless a kind reader can provide more info.
The Heras pastry shop — Pastisseria Heras — is just after the trendy corner café called Central Park on Carrer Rausell 3, perpendicular to Passeig de Germanies, the lovely and cool tree-shaded paseo in Gandia.