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
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
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.