tenía cáncer

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Five years ago I wrote a blog post about having seen this graffiti four years previously on a wall near the train station in Jerez. Something had moved me to take a photo of it. I think it was the heart under the sad message “I have cancer” that made it so poignant. Then a couple of days later I suddenly doubled over in pain and the rest, as they say, is history. Something I obviously hope will remain history.

I don’t know what made me think of this graffiti when I was back in Jerez for feria last week, but on the way back to the station I decided to have a look for it…. and there it was! Well, sort of. I thought that because I hadn’t noticed it again in over nine years that it had probably been painted over. And it turns out it had been, but not by another layer of graffiti as I had suspected. Someone just blanked it out with white paint.

I have to admit that at first this kind of gave me the shivers, especially as you can still see a ghost of the message showing through. I’ve often wondered if the person who created the original had actually had cancer, or if someone they loved did, or… well, there are many possible scenarios. Likewise now I am wondering why the graffiti was painted over. Did the artist (or their loved one) die? Or did they get better and this was a way of wiping out this spectre of their past? Or was it simply that the bar next door just didn’t like it being there?

Anyhow, I much prefer this modified version I made of it four years ago. It was a bold statement then as I still hadn’t reached “five year club” status. Though I think that no matter how many years go by there is always a “for now” lurking there when I think “I don’t have cancer”, because really, how do I know? Only the next PET scan can say for sure. Perhaps better to just think “I had cancer” (tenía cáncer) and keep hoping for the best while continuing to carpe that diem.

tim

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I met Tim @Biltawulf last year when he and his friend Ed came on a tapas tour with me. Then earlier this year Tim got in touch again – he was planning another trip to Sevilla, this time to celebrate his 40th birthday with four friends from London. I was looking for something different for him, and in the end took them out on Saturday afternoon for a Tasting Triana Tour. But as Tim arrived a day earlier than his friends, we met up on Friday afternoon too and he helped me with some Tapas Research. This turned into an impromptu tapeo, starting with cold beers in the sun before heading to Sahumo (which had a new tapas menu I was keen to try out), with a short detour to La Cata Ciega across the street, as we got there before Sahumo was open.

The next day was the tapas tour and then, after Tim’s friends left early Sunday afternoon, we met up again for yet another impromptu tapeo, this time taking in Casa Morales, Abacería Antigua de San Lorenzo and Eslava, finishing with a birthday cake and cava. Then it was time for Tim to catch his flight home. Looking forward to getting together again, either here or in London. Good ol’ Twitter does it again.

As you can see, the tapas tour was a serious affair. Birthday treats at Eslava.

drunk shopping!

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You know how it goes… you have that one extra glass of wine at lunch and then on your way home you see something in a shop window that catches your eye. Luckily it wasn’t shoes (that never works out well – tipsy feet are much less fussy than sober ones) but these super cute, and totally unnecessary plates. Actually it’s a fish dinner plate, a fish soup bowl, and two smaller plain blue plates in between. They make me smile. What’s the best/worst thing you’ve ever bought while under the influence?

tío pepe challenge 2017

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[click on image to enlarge]

As everyone knows, Tío Pepe is the flagship brand of Bodegas González Byass, probably the biggest of the Jerez sherry houses. The annual Tío Pepe Challenge is a competition for bartenders to mix and present sherry based cocktails, and this year’s Grand Final, featuring eight bartenders from the Americas and Europe, was held on May 17th at GB’s bodega in Jerez.

The setting, in one of the cathedral-like bodegas that has been converted for events and functions, was suitably magnificent, and many of the great and the good from the world of sherry were in attendance as the eight competitors (who all seemed remarkably young) were put through their paces in front of the esteemed panel of judges. The competition started with a blind tasting test of 4 sherries, followed by a test/demonstration of their skills with the venencia, before the main event – the mixing of the sherry cocktails.

Each contestant in turn had seven minutes to mix two cocktails – an Adonis (a mix of fino, vermouth and orange bitters invented in the 1880s in honour of the first Broadway musical to pass 500 performances), and a signature cocktail of their own, during which they demonstrated that cocktail mixing is, among other things, a form of theatre. This meant lots of tasting for the judges (with some samples of various other cocktails for the audience too), but they finally arrived at their verdict.

And the winner… Joao Vicente of the Alto Bar in Berlin for his Jerez Sin Fronteras (black tea infused Tío Pepe, Nectar PX, Nomad Whisky).

feria de jerez 2017

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The plan had been to pop over to Jerez for the day, take in the feria during the afternoon, and then return to Sevilla in the evening. Then my friend Tomoko @TomokoTours told me about the Tío Pepe Challenge finals happening that evening and I scored an invitation for me and Peter. In theory we could have still come home on the last train while buying the tickets online I thought I’d just check to see if there were any hotels available at a reasonable rate – and there was!

An hour later, with a hastily packed bag and after last-minute “leaving cats overnight prep”, we were in a taxi to the train station. First stop (after checking into our hotel) was meeting up with Tomoko for a pre-feria lunch. Experience has taught me that it’s best not to try and eat at any ferias, so we had a bite at Tabanco Las Bandarillas before catching a bus up to the fair grounds. I was all ready to spend a happy hour or so taking photos of all the beautiful horses but… there weren’t any. I mean, there were the commercial horse carriages that you can hire for a ride around the grounds, but I didn’t see any individual riders other than a small group of them as we were leaving. I first noticed this dearth of horses a couple of years ago, and was told it was due to the heat wave that was going on at the time, and that the horse owners didn’t want to risk the health of their magnificent beasts. But this time, and also last year, were practically horseless, without the excuse of a heat wave. Has anyone else noticed this?

the feriamobile

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One of these could come in handy for taking in all the nearby ferias in May. Unusually, Sevilla’s famous Feria de Abril mostly took place in May too this year as it traditionally begins two weeks after Easter Sunday. I tend to prefer the smaller ferias and will try to get to at least a couple of these ones. Maybe see you there?

  • Jerez de la Frontera  May 13 – 20
  • Dos Hermanas May 18 – 21
  • Córdoba May 20 – 27
  • Sanlúcar de Barrameda May 23 – 28
  • El Puerto de Santa María May 24 – 29

pasta lover?

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Ever since I discovered the joys of online grocery shopping I also discovered that El Corte Inglés tends to throw in a couple of “gift items” with each purchase. This time it seems we hit the “jackpot” with some B&J cookie dough ice cream, a package of sugar-laden chocolate granola, a DULCE caffé latte thing and… Pasta Lover Pasta!

I have no intention of going anywhere near the first three items mentioned. But in the interest of gastronomy and science, today Peter and I decided to give the pasta thing a go, if only to find out why it was somehow better to cook spaguetti in a microwave for 5 minutes and smear some packaged sauce on it, rather than boiling it for 9 minutes and then adding something nice on top. Here we take you through the steps…

For those of you who think it is FAR TOO MUCH WORK to boil some water in a pot, with Pasta Lover all you have to do is add water to the plastic pasta tub and pop it in the microwave for five minutes. Then you shake out the excess liquid using the lid, which also functions as a strainer, and which would be a great idea if half the pasta didn’t slide out into the sink in the process. So after scooping the pasta out of the sink and adding it to what was left in the plastic container, you then open an extra-large “ketchup packet” of Pasta Lover Sauce made with 100% Natural Ingredients, plop it on top of your oddly textured pasta and there you go.

Trust me, if you are actually a pasta lover – or any sort of food lover – you will NEVER want to eat this. In fact I can’t understand why anyone at all would want to eat this. At the most it shaves off maybe 4 minutes of prep time. And the price – 2.25€ single serving – is NOT cheap. WTF?

caroline & sonja

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That’s the three of us – Caroline, Sonja and me – getting nicely squiffy last Sunday afternoon in Sevilla. Where to start with these two? Caroline first got in touch with me mid-September 2011, asking about booking a tapas tour for the end of that month. And since then they just keep coming back! To date they have taken THREE different tapas tours with me. The last couple of visits we just ended up meeting for tapas, and they have always been happy to help me out doing Tapas Research. Which is really what we were doing on Sunday. Honest. So five visits in total. So far.

On this occasion Caroline was here to celebrate a Very Important Birthday and she had invited 15 other friends to join her. I helped her with organizing the group dinners, and then we finally were able to get together, just the three of us. It’s funny how time goes by but then you meet up with people again and it just feels so comfortable. Anyhow, I am now being threatened with a SIXTH VISIT 🙂 in September. Can’t wait. xx