málaga friends

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Many of you know that I consider Málaga to be my second home in Spain. For awhile I even toyed with the idea of moving there. But for now I am happy in Sevilla and always look forward to seeing my Málaga friends when I go to visit. This last Málaga getaway was a bit different in that I got to see dear friends that I don’t usually see there. And it was great.

When I first arrived I met up with David, Kasha and Kyra for an impromptu snacky lunch and quick visit. We went to a small local bar and had a lovely time catching up and then ended up at a nearby playground. Good times.
Then in the evening I FINALLY got to hang out with Thane and Bob IN MÁLAGA. We’ve met up in London and in Sevilla but it was the first time we have coincided in Málaga even though we all go there a lot, and we had a fab traditional dinner at Los Mellizos with our mutual friend Victor.
Finally, I found out that Anna & Jorge had also been invited to the Premios Andalucía de Gastronomía (which is why I was there in the first place). So after the presentation and cocktail lunch we got to spend some time together in town before I had to catch my train home.

And then there was Victor. Always Victor. Victor is always there for me when I’m in Málaga and he is one of my dearest friends. So yeah, it was a great visit. Spending time with all of these amazing people that I am privileged to call my friends – and even more amazingly – they call me their friend too. Love you guys. See you soon! xx

what you (maybe) don’t know about trip advisor

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This image comes from a much more detailed article about TripAdvisor, written two years ago (and well worth reading). What started as a type of extortion directed at hotels and restaurants back then has now extended to include local tour operators.

I recently noticed that the listing info on my TA pages, such as website links, phone numbers and email addresses, had disappeared. I also dropped 3 ranking spots overnight. Also, you can no longer answer direct questions from readers with any of that information in it – just like on AirBnB it gets filtered out.

So now only people who list their tours with Viator (TripAdvisor’s online booking app), and pay them a 25% commission, will end up with top ranking. They are also going to start factoring in monthly Viator commission earnings into their ranking algorithm, so the people paying the most commissions to TA will end up on top.

Well, I certainly can’t afford to pay a 25% commission to these bloodsuckers. For each tour I already pay 21% VAT, 15% income tax, admin fees, guide fees, and of course all that fabulous food and drink. My profit margin does not allow me to give 1/4 of it away to TripAdvisor just so I will show up at the top of their lists. Yes, I could put up my prices like many have… except, no way am I going to do that. I am totally against ripping off my guests just to appease that greedy beast, even though I know it would probably bring me more “traffic” and tours.

I can only hope that discerning travellers are going to see through this vile ruse. Many already tell me that when they see promoted Google ads they go right past them and look for the organic search results, even up to 3-4 pages. Happily I am still on the first page when people google “tapas tours seville”. Likewise, I think people are going to realise that the listed TripAdvisor “top food tour companies” in Sevilla and elsewhere are simply those who have paid to be there and have nothing to do with genuine quality.

Equally vile to me is when I see new-on-the-scene corporate food tour companies in Sevilla boasting that they “promote small local business”. No. They don’t. It’s obviously the other way round – these companies wouldn’t have a job without the bars. All the places I go to on my tours don’t actually need my business – they are all thriving family-run establishments that are always packed out. Though these days many of them are often full of copycat food tour groups, which is actually destroying what made these places special in the first place. I’ve even heard of one company that demands that bars PAY THEM to bring in tapas tour clients. WTF? It’s like living in the Upside Down.

So much greed. So little integrity. Me? I’m holding my own and working on ways to develop my food and wine experiences so that people can pay honest prices and get the best quality I can offer, as well as allowing me to make a living. I am playing the long game, even though at my age I’m not sure how long that game will actually be. These short-term opportunists disgust me, and I am certainly not going to play their game. Well, let’s see what happens.

sevilla tapas in the washington post!

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photo by Sylvie Bigar

The last time my friend Sylvie was in town we talked about her coming back to do an article about the evolution of tapas in Sevilla. For awhile it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, then suddenly it was all systems go and before long we were meeting at her hotel for what would become a fun and delicious three-day Tapeo Extremo.

As you can imagine, I was very excited to be a part of this project, but was sworn to secrecy about it until the article was published – which was yesterday! Aside from obviously being pleased at having my tapas tours mentioned in the Washington Post (!!), I was also very excited to see friends and colleagues that I admire getting some well-deserved international attention. You can read the article here…

In Seville, Spain, young chefs are creating the next generation of tapas

 

tbt & luna’s 7th birthday

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#TBT… When Luna first came to live with us she was all eyes and ears – remember that poster? She was so tiny that I thought she was only a few weeks old, but it turned out she was more like 3-4 months old. The closest the vet could determine was that she was born sometime in June so (just like with Loki) I chose the 7th for her birthday. That way all us cats have the 7th for our birthdays (Morcilla in April, me in January).

Luna is the least demanding of the cats, so I have to make a special point of remembering to pick her up and cuddle her. She’s also the one that is most like, well, a cat. Loki is a dog, and Morcilla is in a class of her own. But Luna is all cat.

Happy Birthday my pretty girl!

código de barra at vinoble

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During Vinoble there were several tastings and cooking demos. The tastings were immediately sold out as soon as they became available online, which was frustrating because the site was down most of that morning. Tickets for the demos became available an hour before the presentation, which seemed more reasonable, though in the case of the jamón demo all the tickets were gone well before the appointed time.

Anyhow… we did manage to get into this “show cooking” by a restaurant in Cádiz called Código de Barra (which has been on my “to do” list for awhile now). Chef Leon Griffioen prepared some exceptional dishes which were paired with spectaclar wines from Bodegas Piñero, Urium and Las Botas. Next time I am in Cádiz this will be my first stop. Well, after Casa Manteca. This was the menu…

  • “surprise” olives (won’t spoil the suprise)
  • yoghurt with seaweed, black pepper, evoo
  • watermelon tartare with pickled veg and manzanilla vinegar
  • Manzanilla Pasada Maruja – Bodegas Piñero
  • tortillita de camarone sticks with kimchee mayo
  • Fino En Rama – Bodegas Urium
  • langostinos al ajillo with Urium oloroso
  • Amontillado Las Botas – Bodegas Las Botas
  • tuna cheek with green beans