On my recent trip to Spain, my sister and I skipped the usual introduction to Spanish culture bypassing Madrid and Barcelona and ventured to Andalucia or southern Spain. Spain is well-known for their tapas bars–tourists love the small plates that come with the drinks. Tapas in the past were free and we did receive a free tapas one night, but generally there is a tapas menu nowadays. J and I generally ate tapas every night except the night in Seville we decided to go Italian–which was a very good decision it turns out.
After exploring the Alhambra all day, J & I decided to go to Damasquero Bar in Granada down several sets of very steep stairs from our hotel, The Alhambra Palace Hotel in the Barrio del Realejo area. It was small and comfy. We ordered the Alhambra Especial beer and bocadillas for a late lunch. While waiting we were surprised with a small plate of bread, cheese and tomato with green olives. The bocadillas were hearty if plain with ham (jamon) and cheese (queso) with raw onions on sliced hero bread. Truthfully–the tapas and beer were my favorite parts of the meal.
After trekking through Granada all afternoon and evening, it was closing on dinner time (for us–not the Spaniards) but we wanted to try churros. I think every culture has a fried dough specialty and churros were on the shortlist of things to eat here in Spain. We came upon the Alhambra Cafeteria that just serves churros y cholcolat. OMG–so yummy. We made the mistake of asking for two orders–it’s too big a serving for two but we did our best to finish it. The churros are served with warmed dark chocolate to dip the churros in. The chocolate is like warm pudding–thick and creamy. It wasn’t too sweet, but a perfect complement to the light and airy fried churros. After eating three churros–we just ate the chocolate–we didn’t want to waste the delishness. We didn’t need dinner after that–churros were enough.
Our first night in Seville after traveling from Granada was spent checking into the hotel, buying tickets for a flamenco performance at Casa de la Guitarra, and going to Bar Alfalfa for tapas. My sister did her homework and she searched out some good places to eat while we were in Spain. Bar Alfalfa was a few minutes away from our hotel in the Santa Cruz area of Seville. Santa Cruz is known for its tapas bars and restaurants. Bar Alfalfa is a small corner establishment with legs of ham (jamon) hanging from the ceiling. There are only a few tables and short menu, but it was very tasty. We ordered local wines from the Andalucia region–whatever the bartender recommended. Two wines and three tapas later–we were stuffed and feeling relaxed. We ordered beef carpaccio (a first for me), a brusquetta recommended by the staff and a salsa dish more like cold tomato sauce (thick and flavorful) topped with pine nuts and olive oil to dip olive oil crackers or bread.
We spent a total of five nights in Seville and we visited one tapas bar twice, Patanchón on the corner of Calle Mateos Gago just before the road opens up to the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes where the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda are located. Again we requested local wines from the region and we just tried 2-3 tapas portion meals. The shrimp just sizzled in the garlic infused oil when it arrived at the table. Just dipping the bread in the oil was delicious. The cheese croquettes are similar to Spanish rice balls with cheese–crispy, fried, and melty manchego cheese inside. The dipping sauce is close to ketchup, but not quite ketchup.
Throughout our stay we grabbed fruit to carry around with protein bars to eat on the go (especially on our field trip days to Cordoba and Ronda) and we treated ourselves every night with tapas and sweets. Two or three……okay maybe four times we ate gelato–creamy, luscious gelato. I stuck with my favorite flavor chocolate. J tried different flavors: kinder and creme brulee. I hate to admit that several days lunch or dinner was just french fries–that’s right, a fry shop called Patatas Queen which had the best french fries I’ve ever had. I do not understand how with our fast food culture that fry shops haven’t taken hold in the USA. I’ve come across fry stands all over Europe–Brussels and Amsterdam in particular. Eating fries out of a paper cone with a sauce of choice (ketchup, mayo, curry ketchup, fritesauce & so on)–just sitting in the Plaza del Salvador people watching from the steps of the Basilica. The perfectly crisp, golden salty fries were just awesome.
The Plaza San Francisco has a Robles Laredo pastry shop on the square. It’s located in a beautiful art deco architecture style building. The inside desert cases just showcase sweet after sweet–we stopped for coffee and a dessert that looked like a fried dough, but it’s actually a ricotta/custard like cake. Mine had a cinnamon sugar and J’s had a maple syrup glaze. We forgot to ask for milk in our coffee, but it was so good that we drank it black with some sugar and it was delicious. After a Ronda field trip, we decided to actually sit for a traditional meal–an Italian restaurant on Calle Mateos Gago, Osteria L’Oca Giuliva, it was quite simply the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. We tried the Crostini with fresh mozzarella and Parma ham. The cheese was melty and the ham was sliced paper-thin and it just melted in the mouth. Probably one the best meals we’d had eaten all week. Our entrees were just as yummy–a good size without being too much: too much food or too much sauce. I’ve never had gnocchi and J tried one–she said it was the best gnocchi she’s ever had. Well, we shared that opinion with a server and we received complimentary limoncello shots with our check. Yum!
Our last night in Seville left us with the idea of trying a different tapas bar. We stopped at La Catedral Bar. We ordered three tapas and the standout dish for us was the fried goat cheese with honey glaze. The goat cheese was tangy and soft with the sweet honey glaze drizzled over the crispy breaded coating that pulled it together with the toasted bread. The Iberico ham was good–J liked it better than I did.
I look forward to returning to Spain–not only to visit Barcelona and Madrid but to revisit the Andalucia region. I loved the energy of Seville. I stepped out of my comfort zone in terms of trying new foods and I enjoyed the experience.