I’ve been doing sherry tastings at various venues over the past few years, but recently I found a great place – and a great “biz partner” – that allows me to start offering them on a regular basis. But why stop there? To wit, I am now offering late afternoon sherry tastings and also regional wine tastings, perfectly paired with tasty tapas. Check em out…
During the last Vinoble (in May 2016) one of my best “souvenirs” was buying one of these very cool pins that had been designed by Carmen from Bodeguas Gutiérrez Colosía, but shortly after I posted this photo, it went missing and I was heart broken. Then when I knew I’d be visiting El Puerto de Santa María again this week I asked Carmen if she had any left. And she did. ONE. Which she left for me at her fabulous tapas and sherry bar Bespoke. 🙂
And of course while we were there we had to try a couple of sherry cocktails…
While I was making my plans to go to Copa Jerez I thought – hey! – why not do another quick overnight getaway to El Puerto de Santa María too? I was last there briefly a year ago for an afternoon sherry event, and before that I had spent a November morning visiting bodegas with Julie & Steve – that was in 2014 (!). But I hadn’t spent more than a few hours in town since an overnight stay in November 2013, and there were a couple of new restaurants I wanted to check out, so I booked a room at quirky and charming Casa de Huéspedes, where I had stayed before. Then it turned out that Tomoko wanted to join us, so another room was booked, and we arrived early evening, after having spent the day at Copa Jerez.
Casa de Huespedes was just as charming as I remembered, and so were our lovely hosts Carlos and Myriam. After settling in and having a bit of rest we went out for dinner at La Bodeguilla del Bar Jamón, a place I’d been dreaming about since my first visit there in 2013 (and which had also been the venue for the sherry event last summer). We sat outside on the terrace with a welcome breeze and ate very well. Afterwards we popped over to Bespoke to pick up my It’s Sherry Time pin and also have a couple of sherry cocktails. By the time we got back to Casa Huéspedes, Tomoko and I had clocked over 16,000 fitbit steps and were more than ready for our (comfy) beds.
La Bodeguilla del Bar Jamón:
• signature jamón tosta with garlicky olive oil and tomato
• salt cod and pepper scrambled eggs
• breaded prawns, peppers and onions with jamón
• presa Ibérica with jamón and chips
Next morning, after a light brekkie at Casa Huéspedes, we made plans for the day. Unfortunately it was already too late to make it for the bodega tour at Gutiérrez Colosía, and the owner of Bodegas Grant was out of town, so we decided to just go out and see what happened. We had booked El Faro for lunch, but there were still a couple of hours until then, so we walked over to the market, and then to Bodegas Obregon, finally stopping at Ángel León’s new Taberna del Chef del Mar, housed in the site of his original michelin star Poniente (which is now located in larger digs across town). We’d all heard mixed things about the Taberna but decided to find out for ourselves, with a couple of pre-lunch dishes. Verdict? Very tasty, excellent execution, great service… but?… just not worth the prices. We’ve had better ceviche in Sevilla for half the price (that small bowl was 15€) and 2€ per croqueta? Seriously? It’s a shame because the place is very pleasant and the rest of the menu looked good too.
La Taberna del Chef del Mar:
• cuttlefish croquetas
Tomoko getting a shot of THAT tempura urta.
Then we got a taxi over to El Faro for our “main course”. We were happy to discover that there is now a tapas menu other than at the bar – one of the formerly unused patios has been transformed into a bright and cheerful tapas area. All I knew was that I wanted to try THAT tempura fish we’d seen prepared during the Tempura vs Fritura competition the day before at Copa Jerez. We started off ordering a few dishes to share, but it turned out that the tempura fish version offered on the tapas menu didn’t include the wonderful “whole fish” presentation you see here. But then it turned out that we could also order restaurant menu items in the tapas area! So we quickly revised our order to include only the Almadraba tuna tartare and then THAT fish. In this case it was urta and it was perfect. Weirdly served with salmorejo as a “dipping sauce”… we chose to drink the soup and just have the tempura urta on its own. The tuna tartare looked like rubies and was served with wasabi, ginger and horseradish. Heaven.
• tuna almadraba tartare
• tempura urta with salmorejo
Peter, Fernando and Tomoko, in the El Faro bodega
By then we were stuffed! But we didn’t want to leave without thanking chef Fernando Córdoba, and when he found out that Tomoko and I are sherry educators he took us to see his bodega. A very generous and caring person – we felt honoured that he spent so much time with us.
There was a bit of a Death March back to the centre of town after that, in the blazing late afternoon HEAT, but we managed to take a look inside Toro Tapas, the new bar inside Bodegas Osborne, before collecting our bags at the Casa Huéspedes and heading to the train station.
Foolishly or otherwise, we decided to stop for a last quick COLD ONE at Bar Apolo on the way, thinking we had plenty of time. And we may have had it not been 40º and we hadn’t had luggage… we arrived at the station with about two minutes to spare and then found out the escalators were out of service (!!). One final sprint up the stairs got us onto the train and literally 30 seconds later it pulled out of the station. Phew!
I was a bit “last minute” getting things organized to attend this year’s Copa Jerez. Actually, what happened was that both my friend Tomoko @fu_yan and I had made the same mistake while registering online, so it turned out that we weren’t registered at all! Thankfully the good people at the Consejo Regulador said we could get passes for the second day of the two-day event (the first day was fully booked), and would be able to attend the forums and showroom. I got to Jerez on the first day (to save having to take a 7am train on Tuesday) and I’m so glad I did.
What happened was this! Another Jerez friend Pilar @enosherry was working as a guide/translator with the Copa Jerez international competitors and was told she’d be leaving them at the Claustros de Santo Domingo for a sold-out concert & cata, and then would pick them up afterwards to take them to the dinner venue at the end of the first day’s activities. We arranged to meet up at La Moderna across from the Claustros while the concert was on, and Tomoko and I decided to go a bit earlier to have a snack. Then while we were waiting for Pilar she sent us a message saying that there were a few empty seats at the concert and we should come over.
The “concert & cata” format has been kicking around the sherry triangle for awhile, with different sherries paired with different flamenco styles, but this night it was extra special. Josep Roca was our host along with Diego del Morao on guitar. But not just any guitar – this one was the last guitar Paco de Lucía had commissioned, but sadly never got to play as he tragically died before it was completed. I have to say it was a very moving and beautiful (and delicious!) experience. Also perfectly coordinated with a small army of waiters bringing the next sherry to us just as the next musical piece began. Well done, Consejo!
I hadn’t planned on going to the feria in Córdoba this year. But when I saw Roma @artsylife posting pics from Málaga on her Instagram, and when she said she wouldn’t make it to Sevilla this visit, we decided to meet up for a day in Córdoba. So Peter and I caught an early train and, after meeting up with Roma for a nice lunch at La Regadera (warning: never try to eat at any ferias) we got a taxi to the fairground. And well, it was HOT. But we managed to find a couple of nice air-conditioned casetas to enjoy a cold beer and watch people dancing. Like in Jerez (and unlike Sevilla) the casetas in Córdoba are all open to the public. But unlike any other feria I’ve been too, many also have A/C. Bliss. Click through to see more pics…
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?
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
After a two-hour BUS RIDE FROM HELL we arrived in Sanlúcar with just time to drop off our bags and make it to the first bodega visit. Much later we returned to the hotel to find this lovely room and lovely view. So far not as rainy as I’d feared. More later…
Stayed for the first time at Hotel Convento in Cádiz and, faulty shower door issues aside, we really enjoyed it. Located a short walk from the train station, it’s also close to lots of bars, central squares, and the Cathedral. The courtyard is stunning, and our room was quite spacious, clean and comfortable.
Full review coming soon on Azahar Spain.
So you really can’t go to Cádiz without taking this iconic postcard shot of the Cathedral with the pastel painted houses on the left, the sea in front of you, and preferably with a cooperative seagull passing by. Could’ve done without the ugly building crane on the left, but oh well.
And just below this viewing spot dwell a crazy number of “sea cats”, who always look to be thriving. In fact, there are little cat houses put out for them, with food and water dishes outside them. Given the number of orange cats roaming around (even more out of camera shot) there must have been at least one big ginger tom out there having a good time recently.
Just above “cat city” I spotted several seagulls vying for ownership over a whack of small fish that were laying across one of the boulders. Clearly tossed there by someone. And then one of them posed nicely for me…