August 30, 2014 § 3 Comments
“Where can we go for paella?” we asked the front desk guy at our hostel. He looked at us, bewildered. “Valencia?” he finally replied. Obviously, Seville isn’t the place to have this famous Spanish rice dish… so much for that, I guess. A self-proclaimed tapas capital of the world though, some of Spain’s most imaginative tapas can be found here.
The most popular way to eat in Seville is to ir de tapas, go out for tapas. You can’t be in this city and not do a tapeo, bar crawling. A humble tradition turned international phenomenon.
The simple bread and cheese (used only to cover the glass to prevent flies from entering) has evolved to fancier feasts of foie gras and truffles. What used to go with the drink for free could actually be the star these days.
La Flor de Toranza
So instead, front desk guy pointed us to the Arenal district, a few meters away from our hostel, and there we found La Flor de Toranza (also called Casa Trifon after the founder, Don Trifon Gomez Ortiz). They had a traditional menu with specialty tapas of the fancier kind—foie gras, premium sausages, marinated turkey breast, anchovy rolls…
Anchoas con leche condensada (Anchovies with condensed milk), a curious combination caught our eyes on the menu, and so did the lomo y mansanas (salt cured pork loin and apple sandwiches). Interesting play of salty and sweet on crusty bread, the anchovy sandwich came out a winner although the ham and apples didn’t disappoint either. A restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff—a Filipino wait staff even got out to chat with us when they found out we were Filipinos. Close to Plaza Nuevo and Avenida de la Constitucion.
Sierra de Sevilla
Then we moved on to a few bars down. Sierra de Sevilla had Jamon Iberico (cured ham of the Huelva sierras) hanging at the rafters and that sealed the deal for us.
We found ourselves a table and ordered a raciones (a full plateful and not a small snack size) of this nutty cured ham sliced thin enough to melt in your mouth and a plate of Quezo Manchego from the La Mancha region.
Being a hot region of Spain, Seville is home to gazpacho but instead of the famous chilled tomato soup now popular all around Europe, I was introduced to Salmorejo, gazpacho’s richer and thicker cousin.
Topped with egg and Jamon Serrano, this creamy soup is sometimes used as a dip but is a lovely starter or even a light meal. I instantly fell in love with the fresh flavors of tomatoes, a hint of garlic and the fruity taste of olive oil blended together in this gloriously creamy cold soup.
Eating and socializing is embedded in the Spanish way of life and mealtimes here needs a bit of getting used to. A simple toast and café con leche are good enough to start their day, but they will need a pick-me-up at 10 in the morning, then lunch somewhere between 1-4pm. Most bars or restaurants close between 4-8pm for the essential siesta. And so lunch ended on our 2nd bar hop.
Walking out to Avenida de la Constitucion, we came across the gorgeous Adriatico building that housed Confiteria Filella.
Practically an institution, this confectionary shop serves exquisite traditional cakes and pastries. We walked in and were overwhelmed with a plethora of sweet goodies. We walked out with these:
Unfortunately, on April 5, Filella Isabel Gomez passed on at 74 and with it this historical shop, hopefully temporarily because if it indeed shut its doors forever, what a loss this will be for the Sevillanos and its visitors.
Bodega Santa Cruz
If you’re looking for a typical tavern where your orders are tabulated in chalk on the bar, look no further. On the corner leading up to the Giralda and just steps off the Alcazar, is Bodega Santa Cruz. When a bar spills out onto the street, you know that this is where you want to be.
With dishes such as Berrenjenas con miel (deep-fried aubergines with swirls of honey), Pringa, Lomo Chipiona and Alitas de pollo, you will not be disappointed.
Restaurante Café Alianza
We chanced upon this by accident looking to rest in between a few hours spent meandering the alleyways of Barrio Santa Cruz. We thought to sit in the shadows of orange trees and bougainvillaea and enjoy the sweets from Filella with coffee.
Then we ordered some tapas and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. It was a good place to be lazy and watch the crowds. Café Alianza is in a charming hidden square of the same name.
They boast of having the best Rabo de Toro in town. Falling off the bone soft, flavored wonderfully with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and wine, this oxtail dish could indeed be what the owner claims it to be.
Gago 6 Tapas Bar
Now, who says you can’t find good paella in Seville? Along Calle Mateos Gago, we saw this menu board and decided, what the heck… we’ve been craving.
Maybe Seville isn’t the best place for paella and this may not be the best paella but it sure did satisfy that craving—it was nice, moist and crusty. With this plate of grilled meats (beef, lamb and chicken), our meal definitely did not disappoint.
One of the many joys of traveling in Spain is the food. Seville being the heart of Andalusia has an abundance of bars and restaurants to choose from. There is no lack of recommendation, the list is plentiful but the fun is in the discovery. Walk around and go with the flow, you’ll never know what you might find.La Flor de Toranza Calle Jimios, 1-3 +34 954 22 93 15 Sierra de Sevilla Joaquin Guichot. 5 +34 954 56 12 10 Confiteria Filella Av. de la Constitucion, 2 +34 954 22 46 40 Bodega Santa Cruz Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 1A +34 954 21 32 46 Restaurante Cafe Alianza Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 9 +34 954 21 76 35 Gago 6 Tapas Bar Calle Mateos Gago, 6 +34 658 75 22 19
July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Do you ever use up all the herbs you buy? They tend to either dry up or wilt on me that I almost always have to throw away the left-overs (I know, I know… I can always freeze them – my excuse? I have yet to buy those ice trays). This salad was inspired by the need to use up the leftover dill I had wilting away on my crisper. And because canned tuna is my go to when I find myself in such a dilemma (see here and here), I obviously went that route again. And I am impressed with how this turned out, satisfying, hearty salad perfect as a main lunch or dinner meal.
The tuna can be made ahead of time and kept for other uses, making this salad the easiest ever. This is something I will be making over and over during avocado season.
With avocado’s good for you fats and the high source of protein that tuna provides, this is not only the easiest thing ever but the benefits that these yields make this real winner on all aspect. Yes?
Tuna Avocado and Feta Salad
What You Need
For the tuna:
- 1 canned tuna packed in oil
- A few sprigs of dill, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sliced olives
- 1 teaspoon pimenton dulce or smoked paprika
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Salad:
- Salad greens
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
- Feta cheese (I used the one marinated in olive oil and some herbs)
- 1 tomato, diced
What You Do:
- Drain tuna, flake apart slight with a fork and add to bowl with the chopped dill, olives, and the pimenton. Stir very gently to combine.
- Whisk together lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt and cracked pepper on a small bowl until well combined. Add honey to taste and slowly whisk in olive oil until well combined.
- Arrange salad greens, topped with tuna, feta, avocado and tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing just to coat.
June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
Occupying a tiny peninsula on the south of Spain with five coastal provinces, Cadiz is blessed with some of the best and freshest fish and shellfish provided daily by the Mediterranean Sea. Although its cuisine is typical Andalusian in character, subtle influences from the Romans, Phoenicians and the Moors spawned an exquisite regional cuisine with flavors unique to Cadiz.
Yes, the gaditanos (native of Cadiz) are meat lovers too, the pastures of the province keep it supplied with Iberico pork, goat, the local Retinto beef; however fish, fried fish, is the star.
Dredge in flour (only) and then fried in a large amount of hot olive oil. So simple yet so ridiculously addicting. Sea bream, Dover soles, sea bass, cuttlefish, dogfish, and monkfish are usually what is used for this staple.
And the place to have a taste of this fried fish is at Freiduria Las Flores, a traditional fried fish restaurant, almost an institution in Cadiz.
This fry shop serves excellent fried fish without the frills. Ordered from a counter and served in a cartucho, paper funnels. And like the dishes it serves, this shop is simple and functional. Be prepared to wait for a table especially at peak hours. Most locals order to take away.
I always leave room for dessert and if you are like me, you will love the pasteleria across the Freiduria Las Flores 2 in Calle Brasil.
Antonia Butron is famous for her savory pastries, but the empanada filled with dates comes highly recommended, and so are their cakes and roscones (sweet bread loaf).
Or how about this delicious dessert common and renowned in this part of Spain? Tocino del cielo, which means “bacon from heaven”, is so true to its name.
Traditionally made with the egg yolks that are discarded in the process of making sherry, this rich and creamy egg custard truly is a slice of heaven and a perfect way to end any meal. Definitely a must have.
Freiduria Las Flores Plaza de Topete, 4 +34 956 226 112 Freiduria Las Flores II Calle Brasil, 5 +34 956 289 378 Obrado Antonia Butron Plaza Jesus Nazarino, 5, Chiclana +34 956 401 094 Av. Ana de Viya, 16, Cadiz +34 956 284 260
June 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
After baking this scones a few years ago, bacon lover that I am, I had intended to make a savory one with bacon and cheese (because really, you can’t go wrong with bacon and cheese).
Months dragged into years, lo and behold, I finally got around to make it! I never forgot, mind you. It’s just that time flies so fast and when I tried to look for my scones post, I was horrified at how long that was already. Where did the years go?
Anyway, I saw this new recipe (below) and decided that this was a good time to make some scones. I am incidentally going on a road trip tomorrow and these babies are going with me.
What You’ll Need:
For the scones:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1-2 tsp. ground black pepper (depending on your preference)
- 8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
- 10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled into small pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk (plus up to ½ cup extra, if needed)
For the egg wash:
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp. water
What You’ll Do:
- Preheat the oven to 200° C.
- In the bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper; mix briefly to combine. Add the cubes of butter and using a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of small peas.
- Add in the grated cheese and mix just until incorporated.
- Mix in the bacon and 1 cup of the buttermilk into the flour-butter mixture. Stir by hand just until all the ingredients are incorporated. If the dough is too dry to come together, mix in the remaining buttermilk a tablespoon or two at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat the dough into an 8-inch disk. Slice the dough into 8 to 10 wedges.
- In a small bowl combine the egg and water and whisk together. Brush each wedge lightly with the egg wash.
- Transfer the scones to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
May 25, 2014 § 4 Comments
Andalusia is undeniably one of Spain’s most diverse, stunning, and enthralling region. I knew that. Yet it didn’t prepare me for Ronda.
This city in Malaga sits on a plateau of a massive rock outcrop, creating a dramatic terrain and a seriously picturesque vista.
However, its charm extends to more than just the landscape;
the cuisine, linked to a deep history, was a revelation, a real delight with more than a handful of fine restaurants and tapas bar to indulge in.
One of the most enjoyable ways to understand Andalusian food is to follow the crowds into a typical bar and try their tapas,
savored with a glass of vino tinto. Did you know that the region produces the best wines in Spain?
And the ham! The Iberico ham from Jabugo in Huelga is known to be (and I can attest to that) Spain’s best ham.
Tapas at Doña Pepa
Ten days in Morocco have induced (in us) an immense appetite for pork and where else do we go? Into a restaurant that has this on display.
Restaurante de Doña Pepa, right around the Plaza del Socorro, called out to us.
We entered and never left—our server, Javier, never gave us a chance. With his help, we ordered and devoured plate after plate of lovely Andalusian dishes (mostly pork oriented).
Our first Andalusian meal may not have been a bar hopping experience,
but every plate that came out spelled happiness, cravings satisfied and more. Then after all that, Javier delighted us with a sampling of a plateful of desserts,
ending a long day of traveling with happy spirits despite the gloomy weather.
The Breakfast at Hotel Colon
Waking up to breakfast of sublimely simple tostada con tomate y aceite (toast with crushed tomato and olive oil) is almost haunting. With just a pinch of salt, the sweetness of both tomatoes and olive oil marries into something magical. This seemingly simple, bland breakfast transforms into a delectably complex feast in the mouth. Haunting, I tell ya… haunting!
The family run, centrally located Hotel Colon seemed to be a go-to of the locals.
Halfway through breakfast, the coffee shop filled up quickly with people tucked in their favorite corner, browsing through the daily, leisurely enjoying their coffee and breakfast.
Good coffee and wondrous pastries draw crowds into this unpretentious eatery the whole day.
Rabo de Toro and Bullfighting
Ronda is where modern bullfighting began but because it is tucked away in the mountains, bullfighting season in this city is intermittent.
But that does not stop its people from celebrating the sport. It is known as the home to bullfight after all. Many establishments in this town serve superb Rabo de Toro (tail of the bull)—an Andalusian medieval dish using tails of corrida-slaughtered bulls.
Restaurante Pedro Romero, opposite the bullring, is where you want to have your first taste of the celebrated oxtail stew.
Turning out classic rondeño dishes, this restaurant, named after the legendary bullfighter from the Romero family, was a fine prelude to a profusion of Andalusian meals to come.
May 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
We’re in the middle of summer and fruity salads are my thing of late.
Nectarines. I don’t see them often in my tropical world but once in a while I chance upon them. Like last week. And so before it get all mushy, I am on apricot overload. I’d bring have it for breakfast with cottage cheese (another thing I can’t live with but, unfortunately, Nestle decided to not sell them anymore and so I wait for this whenever available). But I digress. Of course, I have to have it on my salad.
Nectarines and beef tapa is not surprisingly a winning combination. The sweet fragrant freshness of nectarines complement well with the salty, slightly sour beef. And the peppery, spicy arugula caps to the whole flavor adventure. Mangoes will be a good substitute I think for when nectarines or peaches aren’t in season.
Nectarine, Beef and Arugula Salad
What You Need:
o A few button mushrooms, sliced
o 1 pcs. nectarine, quartered
o Salt and Pepper to taste
For the dressing:
o ¼ cup Honey Cider Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
o 1-2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What You Do:
- On a frying pan, fry the beef until done. Set aside.
- On the same pan, leave just about a tablespoon of oil from the beef and discard the rest. Cook the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper.
- Combine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bottle with the cap closed tightly. Shake to combine.
- On a salad bowl, toss the nectarines, beef, mushrooms and arugula. Drizzle dressing on salad before serving.
April 26, 2014 § 2 Comments
Credits: Jessica Sprague’s DIDer Lesson 5 supplies: CarinaGardner, Crystal Wilkerson, ITM, Jessica Sprague, LivE
About a year ago in Fes, we were seating on hand carved settees overloaded with opulently bedecked cushions, in front of us was a heavy table set with ornate silverware and copperware.
The lavishness of Moroccan taste is more palpable in the walls that are decorated with mosaic tiles and the rich color wool carpet covering the floors.
Laid out was a melange of hot and cold salad to start our meal, followed by a lamb tagine, a chicken, lemon and olive dish,
and some roasted mutton (mechoui). This sumptuous meal was capped with honey drizzled fresh fruits and a cup of very sweet but refreshing mint tea.
Quite telling that Moroccans take their food seriously, yes?
A stroll through the market stalls reveals glistening stacks of olives of all colors, mounds of preserved lemons,
vibrant pyramids of spices, sacks of grains, colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Morocco is as much about food as it is historic and scenic.
An extremely sophisticated cuisine, thanks to a diverse medley of Arab, Berber, Moorish, French, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African, Iberian and Jewish influences. The interactions and exchanges with these cultures have been filtered and blended over time into flavors that have become distinctly Moroccan.
Common meals include beef, mutton, lamb, chicken, camel, rabbit and seafood. Its cooking made distinct by the subtle blend of spices not to mask but rather to enhance the flavor and aroma of its dishes.
Similar to my part of the world (Philippines), eating in Morocco is a social ritual, food is served in the middle of the table to be shared. Moroccans take great pride in their meal from purchasing the freshest ingredients to preparing these in lengths and showing these off in elaborate dishes. This sense of pride and fundamental way of life have led to eateries big and small that can really impress. From the slow cooked tagines to the kebabs and sandwiches favored in hole in the walls — a trip to Morocco will surely stir up the palate, a flavor adventure hard to forget.
In no particular order, here’s a list of staples and must tries.
A stew braised and slow cooked in an earthenware dish with a cone shape top also called a tagine. Normally served in the tagine it was cooked in, and is more often a shared dish served in the center of the table.
Adding dried fruits to meat tagines is very Moroccan – they love the combination of sweet and savory.
Although fish tagines are popular in coastal towns, Moroccans love their meats and lambs are favored in tagines.
Moroccan Mint Tea
Ubiquitous in Morocco is a drink they call Whiskey Morocco – a play in the fact that the consumption of alcohol is considered “Haraam” and is prohibited per Muslim dietary restrictions. Moroccans drink this sweet green tea and mint every day. And making it has become an art, the technique is as important as the quality of the tea itself. Often served in an engraved metal tray with small, ornate glasses boasting intricate designs, the tea is poured evenly into these glasses from a height using a typical Moroccan teapot with long, curved pouring spout. So soothing, I look forward to it every meal time. It actually is the perfect cap to a meal.
Morocco is known for its olives and preserves. Not only are olives a tasty way to start a meal, these are staple ingredients to flavor tagine dishes.
In an olive vendor, one will find olives of different shades from red to green to black. The red and green varieties go well in many tagine dishes while the black variety are stuffed with cheese and eaten as a snack or added in salads.
Preserved lemons are another key ingredient in tagines and salads. Preserved in a salt-lemon juice mixture, this brings a unique feature to many Moroccan chicken and pigeon dishes.
Breads or Khubz
Moroccans eat with their fingers, using a small piece of bread, their thumb and first two fingers pick up food. They also use it to soak up the flavorful sauce of the tagines. And a meal is never complete without bread.
Most Moroccan households do not have an oven, but almost every neighborhood has a community oven where people take their bread dough to bake.
Often you’ll see children pass by these communal ovens picking up a stack of freshly baked breads to bring home.
The most important soup in Morocco as it serves as the break of the fast during Ramadan. Drank at dusk, this tomato-based soup with chickpeas, meat, lentils and small noodles is perfect to warm the tummy before a fast.
A delicacy sometimes called bisteeya. Consistent with their fondness for combining sweet and savory, this pastry is made up of shredded chicken or, the more expensive and tastier, pigeon mixed with eggs and crushed almonds wrapped in phyllo pastry. It is then fried and topped with cinnamon and confectionary sugar. A dish you don’t want to miss.
I will say it again – Moroccans love their meat. Lamb is favored and enjoyed in many ways – with couscous in tagines, skewered grilled over charcoal, braised, or slow roasted until tender.
The more affordable beef and chicken are also popular meats that are served in a variety of ways.
The most common style of barbecuing in this part of the world is Kabab-style. It is found in most kinds of restaurants, be it the usual sit-down kind or the hole-in-the-wall grill shops.
The latter although unimpressive in appearance are guaranteed to satisfy the palate at very minimal cost.
Grilled rotisserie chicken, a favorite, and the best one I had was in a roadside eatery.
Barbecueing, Grilling, and Sandwiches
Snack restaurants or sandwich shops can be found all over Mocorro, ranging again from hole-in-the-walls to larger, sit-down establishments.
One can find all kinds of food, from the usual sandwiches, fries and even pizzas to the more Middle Eastern fare of shawarma and brochettes –
the Moroccan version of a sandwich that comes in either a baguette or a khubz, the filling usually involves choosing from a selection of meats, vegetables and sauce on display.
In coastal and port towns such as Essaouira, fresh catches of all sorts — St. Pierre (John Dory), sea bream, sardines, etc. are displayed in abundance in the fish market.
There you get to pick your fish, find your table, order your beer and enjoy the outdoor while you wait for your fish to grill.
A welcome respite after all the meat dishes eaten in lavish indoor restaurants in low light settings.
One of the legacies left by the French is in the form of Moroccan pastries. Various types exist, but many are the rich, dense confection of cinnamon, almonds and the ubiquitous orange water rolled in phyllo dough and soaked in honey.
Fresh fruits, not pastries, are typically what caps Moroccan meal. Cookies and pastries often go with afternoon tea or coffee.
While many households keep a supply of homemade sweets, these are easily purchased in pastry shops and carts on the street.
Fresh Orange Juice
Take advantage and enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed sweet orange juice everyday from one of the stalls ever present in most of Morocco. You will not regret it.
Even the grapefruits are sweetly tart – you know what I mean. ;)