las bodegas de sanlúcar

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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…

Bodegas José Piñedo

Bodegas Cota 45

Bodegas Alonso

Bodegas Yuste

Bodegas Las Cigarreras

eating out in sanlúcar…

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… was mostly disappointing this time round. The first day we just had a few very mediocre tapas here and there (the tortillitas de camarones at Casa Balbino – pictured above – being the exception). The second day we went to a new “gastrobar” that was quite nice, but you know… gastrobar. But third day lucky! Following a tip by José Caireles (whose bodega of the same name we weren’t able to visit this time) we ended up at the best hole-in-the-wall spot ever. The Peña Bética de Carlos serves up super fresh fried fish in a no-nonsense tiny space that also houses a local fan branch of the Sevilla’s Bétis football team.

Carlos cooks up perfectly fried fish and seafood in the small kitchen behind the bar, while brothers Manuel and Carmelo take care of the customers. There are about eight tables, all of which had reserved signs on them when we walked in around 1.30 pm on a Thursday. We managed to squeeze into a small spot at the bar and within minutes all tables and any standing space between them and the bar were full. It was organized chaos. I couldn’t believe this all ran so smoothly with just 3 people, but later Manuel told me it used to be just him and Carlos. Then when things started getting busy his brother Carmelo joined the team.

Not all of these dishes were ours. The couple standing next to us at the bar let me take photos of their prawns and salmoretes, even offering to share their dishes with us. All of it was delicious, but that big fat cuttlefish in the middle of the collage was definitely the star of the show. What a great experience, so much more fun than one of the expensive touristy beach restaurants in Bajo de Guía. Thanks again José!

the ecosystem of a tapas bar

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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.

 

sherry saturday

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Yep… ANOTHER Sherry Saturday! But unlike last Saturday, this time I was actually working. Back in December 2015 I spent a lovely Christmas Day afternoon with Becky, Scott and family at La Azotea. Since then Becky and I have kept in touch via social media (check her Instagram – @havepaprika) and a few months ago Scott got in touch about booking a Sherry & Tapas Tour for himself and buddy Richard, who would be celebrating his big 5-OH. And today was the day.

Although I love all my tours I have to say that the Sherry & Tapas tour is both my most challenging and possibly most gratifying. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could do them every day because I am always a bit exhausted afterwards… a LOT of talking goes on. But today was fabulous. The boys not only ate and drank very well, they also learned a lot about sherry, so they can now show off to their friends back in London.  😉

Great day guys – thank you!

sandals 2017!

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So there I was this afternoon, just hanging around after lunch and wondering what to do next, after having spent the entire morning in front of the computer… and then I picked up my phone to check on Instagram and BAM! I saw that it was 27 DEGREES outside!!! It sure didn’t feel that warm inside. So it was time to dust off the ol’ sandals and take them out for a stroll.

I must’ve known this was about to happen soon, because on Monday I found a new nail colour for this year, and this morning I decided to try it out. Thus, I was all set to just slip on the sandals today. We went out in search of azahar, but so far it seems there is still none to be found in the city centre. Instead we ended up having a beer with our friend Juan at La Azotea (AKA The Office) before heading home again. So this is it. It will be difficult to get those  happy toes back into shoes if the weather cools off again. But it’s actually looking pretty good for the time being. Happy me with happy toes.