Before moving to Spain I never knew what a tostada is. I’ve been born and raised in the mental space of sandwiches, so every time I was seeing a tostada in a coffee shop, I was like: “that’s a nice sandwich”.
It took me a few months to understand the difference. Because, believe me, there is a difference. A tostada is more refined than a sandwich and – I’m going to be really audacious here – more mediterranean. Tostadas are an intrinsic part of the desayuno, along with a cortado (which is the name for a small coffee).
I learned this the slow way. I love working from coffee shops, and I love being able to chose my place in a coffee shop, hence, I’m there very early. That means I have to have breakfast (or desayuno) in there.
At the very beginning, I was aiming just for the coffee and a croissant, seemed more bohemian and reminded me a lot about Paris. But then I slowly segued into the local vibe, starting with the smallest tostada, the one with tomato pasta thinly spread on top of a pair of slices of bread.
After a few weeks, I advanced towards avocado pasta and started to do some mix and match. I liked it. I liked the combo between the strong taste of coffee (always double espresso, specialty beans whenever possible) and the bread covered in the tenderness of the avocado, gently pinched by the more prominent taste of the tomato pasta. I almost always had some Maldon salt on the side. I didn’t use it every time, only when I needed some detour from my regular expectations.
I’ve been eating that specific tostada, con aguacate y tomate, for more than a year, in the same coffee shop (here’s a list of the laptop friendly coffee shops in Valencia, by the way). Eventually, all the camarreras knew me, and I became friend with the owners. Most of the time, I didn’t even have to order, I was just saying: “lo de siempre“, and they knew what I wanted.
After that year I felt courageous enough to explore other coffee shops too. My work requirements became a little bit more stringent, so I needed the comfort of a co-working space too. I didn’t want to give up the nice vibe of a coffee shop, though, so eventually I found a place which was half coffee shop, half co-working space. It seemed like it was literally made for me.
Since the place just opened, I had the chance to give some feedback on the menu. After all, a year of eating and trying tostadas every single day resulted in some sort of experience. Every morning I was trying some new combination in this new place, including new types of bread, new ingredients and quantities and spices, and, in about 2-3 weeks, I came up with something that I really enjoyed. They were kind enough to name that tostada after me: “tostada Dragos”. You can have that thing right now, if you happen to be in Valencia, and go to a place called Flying Bean, just ask for “tostada Dragos”. Thank me later.
As Covid-19 hit, the entire world changed, and, with it, my tostada habits too. They changed quite drastically, actually, especially during the lockdowns (we’re still in a de-facto lockdown now, by the way) but they never disappeared. For the last few weeks, I’ve been making my own tostadas, at home. I don’t pair them with coffee, though, that part of the experience I still want to get it from a place other than my house, for reasons described in details here. But I do take the time every morning to create and enjoy my perfect tostada.
By now, you should have realized two things: first, I’m not really talking about tostadas, although, to a certain extent, I do. But it’s much more than that. It’s the consistency towards specific moments of your life. It’s caring about how you start your mornings, how you interact with other people, how you manage your expectations.
And second: that path towards the perfect tostada, well, it’s a never ending road.