This was totally a birthday to remember. A couple of weeks ago my dear friend Eduardo said he wanted to take me on a mystery birthday trip (yay!). Then I found out my new pal Carl would be in town and so he came along with us. Having spent my “unbirthday” with Carl the day before I wasn’t feeling too chipper, and the weather wasn’t helping (all grey and drizzly), but I ADORE day trips so I was quite happy to seet off to parts unknown.
First stop was Jabugo, THE home of jamón Ibérico de bellota. Once there I was hoping I’d actually be visiting the dehesa and see the piggies in person (bucket list item), but the closest I got was that sculpture up there. Still, we had a wonderful and very informative visit to the 5 Jotas bodega, finishing up with a glass of fino and a fab snack of jamón. On the way back to the car we stopped at a little shop to pick up some jamón to take home and then it was off to our next mystery stop.
We arrived at Linares de la Sierra (population 300) via a narrow winding road with spectacular views, which were occasionally and dramatically cut off by sudden fog. Once there we made our way to Mesón Arrieros for lunch. To call this place a hidden gem is an understatement. You are NEVER just going to happen upon this place, you will always make a specific effort to do so. And it will always be worth the effort. We were welcomed by biz (and life) partners, chef Luismi and front of house wiz Adela. Once seated Adela suggested we start with a manzanilla en rama from Barbadillo… she couldn’t have been more spot on. What a refreshing and delicious way to start a meal. We agreed to just let Adela bring us WHATEVER… and it was amazing. Starting with probably my favourite dish of the day, marinated pork liver dressed with onions and cilantro oil. This was followed by presa Ibérica carpaccio, with foie… grilled boletus mushrooms with scrambled eggs, garlic oil and cilantro… melted goat cheese on country bread, topped with a drizzle of local honey and a sprinkling of same herbs the goats eat… a comforting tomato soup with cumin, mint, oregano and a dollop of fig jam… presa Ibérico burger with peach jam… and a birthday cheesecake! After all this it was time for a walk.
Luckily the misty drizzle had subsided by then, and we wandered over to the Plaza de le Fuente (fountain square) where the village women still go to wash clothes in the public fountain. Around the fountain you can see washboard edging in stone. We even saw a pair of jeans that had been left, and some soap suds floating on the surface. A village pup wisely chose to use a different nearby fountain to drink from. After that we made our climb back up, passing through the Plaza de Toros. Which is really just a normal square all year round, but during the local Feria sand is put down and barriers are put up. The stone burladeros (where you can hide from a charging bull) are there year round though. Edu and Carl posed behind one and ended up looking like a human version of whack-a-mole. We got back to the car just as the sun was setting and made our way home. But of course there had to be a penúltima (or two)…
La Penúltima. That “next to last one” that can go on for as long as you can manage. In this case we ended up back in Sevilla at one of my favourite spots, La Azotea in barrio Santa Cruz. I love all the Azotea locations, but this one has been dubbed The Office because it’s open all day and I often have meetings there. But this time it was *just* for a penúltima. We started off with a bottle of lovely cava, with a snack of crispy tempura prawns with kimchi sauce. Then we were asked if we were in a hurry as Juan and Jeanine (the owners, and also my friends) wanted to invite us to a second bottle of cava! Well, how could we refuse? At this point Carl did his impersonation of a dodgy jamón seller and we knew it was time to head home. So my two gentlemen friends escorted me back to my neighbourhood, where we oh-so-wisely decided to have yet another penúltima at La Bodega Alfalfa, specifically so Carl could try their version of marinated pork liver with cilantro. It all gets a bit fuzzy after that. After saying our farewells the boys went off in search of further trouble, and I came home to my cosy bed and my cats.
Thank you Edu and Carl for a fabulous birthday!
ps… click on the collages to embiggen
The Macarena barrio is a hodge-podge of grand old churches, seen-better-days houses and squares, and trendy new shops and restaurants. Yesterday I headed out on a “day trip” to this part of town with my intrepid travelling friends Ang & Ryan (Jets Like Taxis), who are always up for anything new. My main objective was to visit a fabulous new craft centre called Rompemoldes but, as usual, we ended up exploring further afield (in search of tapas, natch).
It was a fab afternoon filled with new sights, great food, beautiful blue skies and lots of walking and talking. Am really going to miss Ang & Ryan when they leave Sevilla next week, heading off on new adventures and challenges. It’s been great having such lovely neighbours these past couple of months.
El Aljarafe is Arabic for “knoll”, and is the name for the cluster of villages dotting the hills just outside Sevilla. I rarely venture out there other than to go to IKEA (in Castilleja de la Cuesta), mostly because it’s a pain to get to by bus. It would actually be fun to do a day trip to some of the little villages out there some time if I can convince someone with a car to do this with me. But I digress…
I’ve only been to Salteras once, about 12 years ago, when I was invited to a special lunch at one of the “parrilla” restaurants there. About thirty years ago the first one – La Bodega – opened in Salteras and was such a great success that soon other places started copying its “formula” of offering a simple menu based on BBQ grilled meats served with “papas arrugás” and “mojo picón”. These are small potatoes boiled in a small amount of very salty water leaving the skins wrinkled and sparkling with salt, which are then dipped in a spicy Canarian sauce. Soon Salteras was full of these establishments and became THE place to go for fabulous meat & potato meals. Since then the menus have become more extensive while the number of restaurants has diminished. Now there are about five left and yesterday I decided to go out there and try one out.
After a bit of online research I chose La Resolana because I liked the look of their website and I especially liked that they had a “tapas corner”, which meant that Peter and I could try more dishes. So we trekked down to the bus station just in time to catch the 1pm to Salteras and when the bus driver pulled out of the station and put on some rock-a-billy music it started to feel like a proper Road Trip. We got held up for awhile in a village just outside of Camas when the main road became blocked by a funeral procession. I’d never seen this before and got one of those odd “I’m living in Spain” moments as I watched a crowd of at least fifty people walking slowly behind a hearse, with half a dozen pallbearers in the lead. It was a sad and beautiful sight.
If you go to Salteras from Sevilla by car it would take you about ten minutes. The bus takes about 25 minutes (or 35 with funeral) and we stopped in places I didn’t even know existed. Luckily we had been told which stop in Salteras to get off at, which ended up being just a few minutes walk to La Resolana. And well, we had a wonderful lunch. As it was a hot afternoon in August the place was pretty quiet, though I’m told it’s always packed out during the rest of the year. I can see why. The service was great, the food excellent, and at one point when a Twitter friend asked me exactly which part of the pig “pluma” comes from (yes, I tweeted the whole lunch) one of the chefs brought me out a book showing me the different pork cuts. After that we got some boozy sorbets on the house and I got to take photos of everyone for Sevilla Tapas. If you want to see all the great stuff we had to eat then have a look here:
It was only after I got home that I realised this had actually been another of my 20th anniversary day trip! And I’m now keen to explore El Aljarafe a bit more. If I can find someone to take me…
[also posted on the azahar sevilla blog]
I’ve been wanting to go back to Sanlúcar de Barrameda since I last went with my Sister Sue back in December 2008. For some reason both Susan and I thought it would be a good idea to drive out to Sanlúcar for lunch just ten days after my third cancer op… and well, although it was MUCH better than sitting around the house – and we did have a fabulous lunch on the beach – it turned out that my massive incision and the surrounding innards were not at all happy about the extra moving and shaking. Memories of Susan trying in vain to avoid any sort of pothole or bump in the road (cos man it hurt!) and then me shuffling gingerly to the restaurant and back to the car without seeing much of the town at all. But in spite of all that, very fond memories. I mean, lunch on the beach in December… are you kidding???
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when my twitter friends and neighbours Anna & Jorge offered to take me out for a day trip to Sanlúcar to celebrate my 20th anniversary in Spain. Yes! Peter came too, and we headed out early on a Sunday morning. First stop was a walk along the beach and a tapita and beer starter at Casa Juan, the restaurant Susan and I had gone to 3 1/2 years earlier. Then we drove back into town to try the Very Best Tortillitas de Camarones In The World at Casa Balbino. After that a rather so-so tapa experience elsewhere, redeemed by a visit to the beautiful Hotel del Duques de Media Sedonia with an amazing view over the town, where we enjoyed a nice after-lunch drink in the shade of covered terrace. And then home again. More pics here…