Springing forward tonight – the bonus being that when the cats start pestering for brekkie tomorrow at 7am it will actually be 8am. Sort of…
So remember last year when I won the Premio Fogones for Difusión Gastronómica? Well, this year I was invited to attend the ceremony and the swish reception afterwards but… had to work! I had a tapas tour booked before I knew about the awards and, well, this is what I do. And it somehow seemed fitting that the reason I couldn’t attend was because I was out doing what got me the award last year in the first place. Anyhoo… I decided to stop by after saying goodnight to my guests to see if the party was still going. And it was!
Well, as soon as I walked in the door I was bear-hugged by Antonio Cruz (left) who was clearly still on cloud 9 after having won the Best Front of House award for Becerrita Restaurant (that’s Jesús Becerra beside him). I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving, as Antonio has devoted his life to this often difficult work, and I have never seen him be anything but super professional as well as naturally friendly and helpful.
My “heir” Javier Compás proudly shows off his award, as I (also proudly) retire to the position of Premios Fogones emeriti. Although I was sorry to miss the event, I really did have a great tapas tour, leaving four lovely people totally in love with Sevilla’s food and wine. But I was glad that I was able to pop in briefly on my way home (albiet underdressed for the occasion) to say hi and congratulate the friends that were still there. Nice night.
I met the lovely Ania @ania_marchlik a few years ago in Las Teresas, and so it seemed fitting that while we were out celebrating her 10th Anniversary of living in Sevilla that we would end up there. Though we started off the day’s celebrations revisiting another spot with fond memories for both of us – the Corral de Conde – a “patio de vecinos” where Ania and her friend María once hosted a Peirogy Party in the fabulous courtyeard there. Then we stopped off at another of Ania’s favourite places, Taberna Quitapenas, before heading for a sumptuous lunch across the street at La Quinta.
Before and After (no more wine… oh hey! cava!)
It was after lunch that we found ourselves at Las Teresas, sitting at the very spot where we first met. We had a nice chat with Rafael, enjoyed some of his perfectly sliced jamón and then, as so often happens, we ended up at The Office (AKA La Azotea) for a Penúltima.
TUG-O-JAMÓN – yep, kinda drunk at this point
Ania has gone from acquaintance to work colleague (she is also part of my fab We Love Tapas team) to cherished friend. I can always count on her honesty and discretion and, besides that, we always have so much fun together. So happy we met.
So there I was – as usual – making last minute bodega visit plans via Twitter and WhatsApp the day before my trip… and mostly that worked out, except that two of the bodegas I wanted to visit weren’t available at such short notice. Really, it was probably enough seeing five bodegas in two and a half days, but I am always left wanting more. I think I might plan a longer stay in Jerez soon and make day trips to Sanlúcar and El Puerto while there, and keep it down to one bodega a day. Well, maybe two now and then… 😉
This time the bodegas were all very special in their own way, as bodegas tend to be, but there were also a couple of totally blow-me-away moments. I’ll write about this more over on my BRAND NEW Sherry Educator pages on Sevilla Tapas. But please be patient, because it may take awhile to get them set up properly. You can have a look now, but things are very much still “under construction”.
Meanwhile, a sneak peak of where I visited this time…
Bar Las Teresas yesterday, and a chilled late Sunday afternoon vibe. I stopped by after a lunchtime tapas tour for a penúllitma and a chat with the guys. This is one of the many family-run bars in Sevilla that I’ve developed a close friendship with over the past 24 years. Seeing these bars now being overrun by greedy copycat food tour operators is really heartbreaking. But there are still occasional moments like this.
This takes me back to a subject near and dear to my heart …. the many tapas bars I have come to know and love during the many years in Sevilla. And since starting my Sevilla Tapas Tours many of them have also become places I have enjoyed a working relationship with. This is a job I created for myself that I love, and one that has developed organically since I began the original Sevilla Tapas website in 2007. Then in 2014 I created We Love Tapas as a complimentary “sister company” so I could offer a slightly different style of food & wine tours that would maintain the quality of the ones I had built up over the years.
It was while I was developing We Love Tapas that I first noticed a huge increase in the number of food tours being offered in Sevilla. And upon closer inspection I saw that some of them were actually blatant copies of my own tours. A little further research showed how the copycats had previously been in touch with me for information, or had even sent “clients” on my tours so they could see what I did, where I went, etc. And I found this disturbing. Not because I have a problem with healthy competition – something that can indeed keep you on your toes and stay aware of changes in the market. But because many of these new tours were cutting corners and were so inferior in quality that they were an embarrassment. It always seriously upsets me that someone would ever leave Sevilla thinking the food here is anything less than amazing.
Well, that’s the free market for you. And as I say, nothing wrong with competition perse. BUT… what the fuck is it about people who just copy tours without a care for the bars themselves? I mean, I have personally known all of the bars that have ended up being a part of my food tours for many many years. I know the owners, the staff, we already had a relationship. And we also respect each other. So I’ve never asked them to give me a “deal” on prices, I’ve never insulted them by saying I was “supporting” them and was “good for their business”. Frankly, none of the places I go to on my tours need my business because they are always busy and buzzy… which is WHY I go to them. I love them.
Let me repeat. I LOVE them.
So when I see many of the aspects of why I love them being abused and eroded by thoughtless and greedy tour operators it pisses me off. I don’t have formulaic scripted food tours like these other ones. Mine are very personal and they vary a lot, depending on the number of people and client preferences. For example, there are bars I will only go to with two clients, and other bars I know are good for larger groups of up to 6, because they have the space and we won’t “stick out” like a group of tourists. Which is to say that I respect the “ecosystem” of these bars.
Because these types of bars do have their own “ecosystem”, many having been developed over generations, with family and friends and regular clients that are a part of the fabric of what makes them so special. Of course these are the places that everyone wants to visit. But what I do is choose the ones that I think work well for visiting, and for the others I give a list to my clients and recommend they go on their own.
Something that these Copycat Food Tour Operators haven’t seemed to figure out (duh) is that … you can’t just fill the same bars with more and more tourist tours and expect them to remain “authentic” and “local”! Also guys, there are MORE THAN 3000 TAPAS BARS IN SEVILLA. Surely if you are a new company starting out you should look to find your own favourite bars, and make yourself appear unique by not just doing what others are doing. Think about it.
As always, I smelled it before I saw it. And then I had to search around until I found the source. The FIRST AZAHAR OF THE YEAR was spotted in Plaza Nueva at dusk (which explains out of focus, dimly lit shot) and marks my happiest time of year in Sevilla. Wish you could all smell it too.
It seems like this year the annual orange harvest is taking a lot longer than usual. It’s rare to see trees full of fruit – especially in the centre of town – at the end of February. Not only are the oranges somewhat past their prime, but they become a hazard for people walking below.
I came across this group picking oranges in Plaza Santa Cruz at midnight, on my way home from a tapas tour. No sign of The Dude of course, with all this going on. It was also the first time I recall seeing people harvesting so late at night. Budget cuts perhaps? Who knows?
So guess who has been invited to be a judge at a major sherry event in London? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same person who is now a complete nervous wreck (but in a good way?). I’ve done judging events before, but this is BIG TIME. Will be spending the entire of March boning up on, well, everything. Eek!
Stuff like this just makes my day. After a couple of hours sorting out “papeles” at the social security office for my online digital certificate, and then setting up appointments for blood tests and my next oncology appointment, it was definitely BEER O’CLOCK. But then I remembered reading about a place I’d never been to (yep, there are still a few of them out there) so Peter and I walked over to the Abacería Puerta Carmona. I had only expected to have a quick beer and go home, instead we met a lovely guy called Chía who offered us manzanilla en rama and mango vermouth… and well, we had to stick around after that. Tried a few tapas, had a great time. Love my job. 🙂