Month: March 2012

Sevilla & Malaga: an Ode to Travel Guides

It is quite humbling to refer to a guide book for a city in which you’ve lived for over two months. Consider this my public service announcement: sometimes those guide books can be more helpful than you’d ever imagine. Last week, my two best friends from college spent their spring break with me in Sevilla and Malaga. One of them, Rachael, insisted that she buy PHAIDON’s Wallpaper Guide to Sevilla. After much hesitation, explaining how I had already picked out some fantastic restaurants to show them, I gave in. Needless to say, even I hadn’t managed to find all of Sevilla’s hidden gastronomic gems, but our Wallpaper Guide certainly did.

We first utilized the guide book at lunch on Sunday, at Puerto Delicia. This beautiful outdoor patio was mentioned in the book for its location, as it sits right on the Guadalquivir River, overlooking the beautiful architecture of Sevilla. The food, however, impressed us just as much as the view. Sitting underneath the beaming sun with a slight breeze, we enjoyed a tomato and mozzarella salad, accompanied by field greens and pesto vinaigrette. The dish was just as beautiful as it was flavorful, and I would return to Puerto Delicia solely for that salad. We also had paella, with a perfect balance of salt, saffron and seafood, what I would consider the holy trinity when it comes to paella. Finally, our salmon a la plancha, or grilled salmon, was juicy and flavorful. We were stuffed until dinner.

¡Que Deliciosa!

We used the Wallpaper Guide twice more in Sevilla for dinner, at Contenedor and Eslava. Contenedor was well off the beaten path, but worth the walk. Here, the chef changes the menu twice a day and uses locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. While on the pricier side, I managed to legitimize my empty wallet with the fact that I was eating fresh hake, caught that same day, in a wonderfully flavored broth with fresh, local, perfectly cooked swiss chard. I will definitely be bringing my parents back to Contenedor. Meanwhile, Eslava truly gives you a bang for your buck. The three of us shared six tapas, a bottle of wine and a dessert sampler platter, for about 13 euro per person! The Wallpaper Guide recommended the duck confit, which, naturally, we ordered. I am not particular to duck confit, but this was an exception. It melted in my mouth with so much flavor, accompanied by the perfect pan sauce and roasted potatoes. I felt like I was back in DC at Founding Farmers. Ironically enough, Eslava was also ranked as the #2 restaurant (out of 611!) in Sevilla by Trip Advisor, which brings me to my next point….

Since Malaga didn’t have its own version of Wallpaper Guides, we referred to Trip Advisor while we were there. We ended up at the #1 ranked restaurant, El Tapeo de Cervantes. A Trip Advisor review gave us the head’s up for how small the restaurant would be- literally, it was a closet, with tables on both sides and about 4 feet in between each, just enough for a waiter to sneak by and deliver plates. However, the quality of the food instantly distracted us from the tight squeeze. We started with a salad of arugula, goat cheese and a compote of frutas del bosque, or fruits of the forrest (more or less, berries). I have been longing for arugula since my arrival in Spain, and this salad definitely filled my void. It was so refreshing, with many different textures and tastes. I could have eaten a second helping all by myself. Another one of my favorite dishes was the mushroom and squash risotto. When I say mushroom, I don’t mean tiny little button mushrooms. These were full on, whole, wild mushrooms. They were so tender and buttery, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The squash, another ingredient I have been missing since being in Spain, was just as tender and flavorful. Rachael gave me all of her squash because she could tell how much I was enjoying myself.

After a week of dining out for every meal, I was happy to return to my kitchenette and cafeteria. However, I will never forget the amazing meals I had the pleasure of enjoying in Spain with my friends from home, and will continue to refer to both Wallpaper Guides and Trip Advisor for the remainder of my travels. Next Wallpaper Guides trip: Amsterdam!!

Les Patisseries de Paris

But you thought I was studying abroad in Spain? Have no fear, I’m still here, but I couldn’t bare the thought of spending four months in Europe without making a trip to the land of romance and butter. If you’ve learned anything about me by now its that I will try my very best to embrace the culture (aka the cuisine) of my surroundings. You may have also learned that I have an enormous sweet tooth, which is why this post is almost completely dedicated to all things sweet in Paris.

We arrived in Paris mid day Friday, stomachs growling. The hotel was situated a little further from downtown, but very close to a metro stop, the Moulin Rouge and plenty of restaurants. Our hunger was cured by a cute little cafe called Le Petit Poucet, offering the most fabulous ham and cheese omelette with a side salad. SALAD!!!! Oh how I have longed for mixed, leafy greens with fresh vegetables. Spain doesn’t really do salads… But I digress. This meal was just the beginning to a fabulous weekend

The best way to see the city of Paris, in my opinion, is by investing in a ticket to one of the many hop-on/hop-off busses. We opted for L’Open Tour, for 32 Euro for two days. We literally managed to see every big monument, museum, landmark, quarter, you name it. I also strategically planned to get off at certain stops in order to visit two patisseries I was told I absolutely needed to try. The first was Angelina’s. Known for they’re hot chocolate, Angelina’s is a cafe and bakery offering a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, egg dishes and desserts galore. One serving of hot chocolate will run you 8 Euro, but between that and endless macarons, we decided to make that our lunch on Saturday and it was well worth it. Prepare to drool.

chocolate perfection and homemade whipped cream. this, by the way, is one serving.

the whipped cream artfully melted into the hot chocolate

only a portion of the pastry counter

After a day full of sweets we were in need of something savory for dinner. We ended up at the Eiffel Tower around 6:30 where we witnessed the structure in all its glory. The tower is magnificent during the day but at night, when it is lit up, its breathtaking (see below: photo taken from my iPhone, NO EDITING!)

and here, during the day, Michelle and I pull a Mary Kate and Ashely as we sword fight with French baguettes

The streets surrounding the Eiffel tower are lined with eateries, and we were very happy to come across and Italian restaurant where I had pizza with one of the flakiest, crunchiest crusts ever. The mozzarella cheese was creamy and rich, and the arugula added a perfect bite in both texture and flavor to to counter the cheese. Thick tomato slices burst as I bit into them, and the sweet flavor of basil lingered as I happily swallowed, bite after bite.

Sunday led us to a typical Parisian breakfast (or so I’d like to think) of crepes:

filled with strawberry jam and sliced banana, the perfect way to start a Parisian morning

Between Versailles, the Catacombes and Notre Dame, I made sure to save time to visit the Latin Quarter, a trendy area with plenty of shops and cafes, and home to the most incredible macarons I have ever tasted (and this is coming from someone who makes them from scratch, remember?). I was told to visit Une Dimanche a Paris by a friend who studied abroad here last year. Its a little off the beaten path- you have to keep your eyes out for a rotunda hidden in one of the side streets and walk down a narrow and uneven cobblestone sidewalk before you reach it- but it is a MUST GO for anyone who appreciates a good macaron. The rest of their desserts looked incredible, too. Upon entering I was beside myself. The beautiful cakes and tarts looked like mini works of art, and the entire shop had an aroma of sugar and all things sinful. Before nearly drooling over the macarons I decided to wander around the shop. Here is what I found

like an edible museum!

chocolate covered herbs and spices- peppercorns, coriander and rosemary yum!

Alas! I reached the macaron counter. A full array of colors and flavors, the perfectly rounded, cloud-like meringues were filled with cream or jam, and artfully placed so close together, reminiscent of quarters in a coin roll. I was torn by all the flavors. Do I go classic with chocolate and vanilla? Or risky and unique with lavender and salted caramel? I couldn’t have just two- this was the place for macarons after all. So I caved and ordered three, each one more different, flavorful and purely magical than the next.

pistachio, coffee and passion fruit

Okay, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the pistachio. I am a pistachio fanatic and this one was lacking in true nutty flavor. There was a strong taste of almond and the texture was perfect, but the pistachio flavor was no where to be found! The others however…. The coffee macaron tasted like I was biting into an espresso bean. It was so flavorful I began to crave the drink itself! I was bewildered. The passion fruit macaron was exactly as you would imagine passion fruit tasting, but surrounded by a crunchy almond flavored cookie, it was incredible. It was sweet and luscious and mouth watering with a kiss of spice. I savored those like I was never going to eat again.

Finally, our trip came to an end with one last visit to the crepe stand. I was sad to leave such a beautiful and delicious city but made sure to bring back macarons to savour throughout the week. I loved Paris, but Sevilla is my home and I’m happy to be back 🙂