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!!


The Art of the Croqueta

I have been in Sevilla for almost a month now, and whenever my friends and I go out to dinner one thing remains constant: we look to see if the restaurant offers croquetas.

Croquetas, or in English (and French), Croquettes are small, fried mouthfuls of heaven. The base is similar to a bechemel sauce, although the Spanish use olive oil instead of butter. Flour, spices and meat is added to the hot oil and once the mixture is cooled, you add eggs, form them into logs or balls, coat them in egg and bread crumbs and fry. Most croquetas are made with Spanish jamón (Iberico ham), but can also be made with bacalao (cod), chicken or shrimp. My favorite is the jamón.

Anyway, as my friends and I begin to scan a traditional tapas menu in Sevilla, las croquetas (or lackthereof) always catch our eye. We have been in search of  Sevilla’s best croqueta, using the following criteria:

1. Size- the bigger the better!

2. Texture- creamy, but with enough thickness that you know there is actual meat inside and not just milk and flour

3. Crispness- when you bite into a great crotqueta you need to hear the crunch on the outside but be greeted on the inside by a smooth filling.

4. Temperature- piping hot, please!

5. Dipping sauce- a perfect croqueta doesn’t need a dipping sauce because the it should be flavorful enough, but it is never a bad accompaniment, and could make or break the dish overall

I am hoping to find the “Ultimate Croqueta” by the time I return to the United States, and will review and describe in detail when I do. Until then, feast your eyes (pun intended) on some images of typical croquetas, and check out a classic croqueta recipe here (in English!). They are not the prettiest things to photograph, but thanks to Google Images I’d day these ones are pretty mouthwatering

Culture & Cuisine

Week two in Sevilla has lead me to more touring, eating and loving life.

I had no idea there was so much history in this city, or such good food and beautiful views that you can experience at the same time!

This week we toured El Catedral, the world’s third largest church, and largest Gothic church. It was simply beautiful. In the center you will find La Giralda, a belltower that overlooks the entire city of Sevilla. Interestingly enough, in order to climb the bell tower, you will embark on a winding ramp, rather than a staircase, because horses used to be brought to the top, and goodness knows how well horses can climb stairs.

After I finally caught my breath, it was taken away again by the magnificent view of Sevilla. You can literally see everything, at an amazing angle. And when the clock strikes on the hour, you will be the first to hear the bells go off… right above your head. Here are some pictures from my tour:

inside the cathedral

view from the top of La Giralda

view of La Plaza de Toros (bull ring) from La Giralda

In between all my touring, I’ve eaten some incredible meals worth photographing. I’ve fallen in love with revueltas, or scrambled eggs with vegetables and serrano ham, but more ham and veggies than eggs. My drink of choice (other than café con leche) has become tinto de verano, a red wine spritzer with either orange or lemon juice (orange, please!). And my friends and I have began the battle of the frozen yogurt shops, Llao Llao vs. Yogurtlandia. Llao Llao is more of a traditional frozen yogurt shop, with tart yogurt and plenty of fruit and granola-like toppings. Yogurtlandia, however, brings the creaminess of soft serve together with liquid toppings such as Nutella, Pistachio or my personal favorite, Turrón. It really depends what you’re looking for, but I could settle for either just about any day of the week.

Pan Mediteraneo. Toasted bread with smooth aioli, juicy pork, salty cured Serrano ham and a fried egg. One word: NOM

We needed a break from Spanish Tapas and found an amazing Italian restaurant, Casa Nostra. My Pizza Vegetal had tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts and some of the best mozzarella cheese I have ever tasted!

The Battle of the Froyo Shops Part I: Llao Llao's Sanum (parfait) with yogurt, three types of fruit, two crunches, honey and one salsa

Battle of the Froyo Shops Part II: Yogurtlandia's yogurt with pistachio (not pictured but it's there!) and turrón toppings, and crumbled amaretti cookies

Me enjoying a delicious lunch of revueltas with asparagus and ham, and a beautiful salad with shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, artichoke hearts and more!

So I’d say I’m having a pretty amazing cultural and gastronomic experience abroad. But I’ll wait for you to be the judge, when your mouth finally stops watering!

La Semana Primera en Sevilla

I have officially been in Spain for one week now but it feels like years. Having to adjust to a 6-hour different time zone, eating meals 3 hours later than usual, and walking around a foreign city until you physically can’t bend your legs is a lot to ask out of one girl! However, I’ve been loving every minute of it.

So I know this is a food blog and most of the posts are restaurant reviews or recipes, but my time in Spain is worthy of documentation, and without any sort of kitchen other than a microwave and minifridge, my cooking endeavors will be limited. I can, however, rave about the food I’ve been eating for the past week at tapas restaurants.

Tapas, or small plates, are the way people eat in Spain. You start off your day with a piece of toast and some café con leche- my new drink of choice. You will then eat a hefty lunch of vegetables, potatoes, meats, cheeses- whatever you please at a restaurant- around 2 pm. Some of the most common tapas include tortilla española- a quiche-like egg dish filled with onions and potatoes, croquetas- fried balls of potato with either ham, fish or chicken, patatas bravas- fried potatoes covered in a creamy aioli and spicy red sauce, paella- a tradional rice dish with seafood and saffron, and montaditos- small sandwiches usually with ham and cheese. Lunch is always followed by dessert and a siesta, or nap time. Like little children!

Dinner is usually a smaller portion of tapas not eaten until 9:30 or 10. But after such a large lunch, you won’t be hungry until around then and won’t want anything big anyway. And that is how the Spaniards stay so thin; tapas and walking and LOTS of coffee.

Anyway, I haven’t really had a chance to photograph any of the food I’ve eaten and to be honest, tapas in America are much more flavorful, but hey, when in Sevilla, right? I’ve been seeing and photographing some other beautiful sights though. Here is a little taste:

Las Cetas, or the mushrooms

Bridge over the river

El Catedral

La Plaza de España

Gardens inside Alcazar