Archives for posts with tag: Tapas

This last week, Julia and I were blessed with the best kind of busyness that visits from friends bring.

First, my bubbly, eternally optimistic and adorable friend since the 4th grade, Lindsey, flew in for a couple of days before continuing on to see her sister who is studying abroad in Rome. Her trip could aptly be described with the word “whirlwind.” We fit in a lot in the few days she was here as she admirably adapted to the time change while sight-seeing, tapas hopping and dodging rain drops.

Lindsey enjoying the audio guide and scrutinizing the bricks in the Alcázar, to determine if they were originally carved or molded.

I’ve found that I have not become tired of visiting the sights in Sevilla yet. They seem to take on fresh aspects through each person’s eyes with whom I share them. For instance, Lindsey is currently a Museum Studies grad student. Her thoughtful observations and scrutiny of detail deepened my historical appreciation for familiar sights such as the Alcázar, Cathedral and Plaza de España. She also fell in love with the tile that is abundant in the architecture here. On her last day, we went on a quest for keepsake tiles that she could take home, and she ended up with two tiles from the 1820s that we found in an antiques shop! Now I can’t stop noticing the beautiful tile everywhere I go.

Lindsey’s love affair with tile began in the Alcázar

We discovered a Labyrinth in the Alcázar gardens during Lindsey’s visit. I’ve been to the Alcázar close to 10 times, and had never noticed it before. It was a true challenge to find our way out of the maze!

The day after Lindsey departed for Italy, Julia’s and I’s warm and kind-hearted college roommate, Lauren, flew in from Ghana. She was there on a spring break trip with her Occupational Therapy graduate studies program at USC. She came to us exhausted but entirely enthusiastic about seeing our adopted home city. We toured her around the usual suspects (Alcázar, Cathedral, Plaza de España…) but found a unique way to see María Luísa park, the gardens where the Plaza de España is located. We rented a three-person bicycle and pedaled our hearts out for 30 minutes! I would recommend the experience, especially to travelers weary of walking tours. Another alternative would be row-boating in the Plaza de España, which I wrote about here.

We braved the Labyrinth once more with Lauren.

Our three-seater bike’s dashboard, with map and bell

Of course, Julia and I did our due diligence in sharing the city’s culinary gems we’ve discovered with our visitors. Here are some pictures from some of our sweet times…

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring in Sevilla, which means that ice cream season is upon us! Rayas Helados is a newer discovery for Julia and I, but is currently my vote for best in the city

Chicken with Roquefort sauce and potatoes at Café Levíes (I’ve neglected to write about this place before, but it is one of our go-to places). This is a tapas portion, which costs about 3 euros. It’s a good example of how cheap going out to eat in Spain can be, without sacrificing quality!

These little squares, called Torrijas de Miel, taste like cold French toast dipped in honey. They are a traditional Lenten sweet. We bought these from the bakery Los Angelitos, which I’ve written about before here.

I’ve praised the Spanish tortilla with garlic mayo and the piripis (below) at Bodeguita Antonio Romero before here and here, but I thought Lauren’s pictures of these dishes captured them well.

Piripis from Bodeguita Antonio Romero

I’ve also written about chocolate y churros before when we had them in Granada, here. Julia and I have happily discovered the churro stand on the Arenal side of the Triana bridge in Sevilla. It is open 8pm-8am on the weekends, making it a perfect late-night dance fuel or sugary finish to a Triana neighborhood tapas tour. The chocolate is balanced between too thick and too thin, and the churros, in their greasy glory, stand up well to the chocolate in their complementary role.

Chocolate with its trusty sidekick, churros!

A full week of hosting these fun friends left us with many great memories, new experiences in this amazing city and disbelief that their visits are over already!

We had an interesting finish to the week on Saturday night. Having sent Lauren off on her journey back to the States on Friday, we were having a tranquil night in on Saturday when we heard a commotion outside our window. Thinking it was probably a protest or parade on the main avenue a block from our house, which occur frequently, we were surprised to see this from our balcony…

Wow! It seems that during Lent we will get a glimpse of what Semana Santa at the end of April will look like!

Besos,

Jenna

Helen, the other language assistant at my school, was Julia’s and I’s first official out-of-town visitor who hadn’t been to Sevilla before! Julia and I felt a great responsibility to give her a wow-worthy tour of the city we love. She put her day completely in our hands, and we attempted to blend together an itinerary of history and culture, sights and activity and of course, fabulous food to give her a slice of Sevilla life!

11:30am, Alcázar

The Alcázar, former Moorish fortress and later Catholic palace, is an opulent display of mudéjar architecture (architecture heavily influenced by Islamic design but not necesarily built by Muslims). Exquisite tile and plaster work, sprawling gardens, and gurgling fountains feed the visitor’s imagination to give an idea of how a by-gone era defined luxury. The fortress walls today serve to block out the noise of traffic and crowds, creating a modern tranquil escape in Sevilla’s city center.

1 pm, Lunch

Spanish tortilla with garlicky mayo

We decided to take Helen to a tapas place close to our apartment called Bodeguita Antonio Romero. I’ve already praised their delicious piripi montaditos in a previous post. They also happen to serve the best Spanish tortilla I’ve tried (not to be confused with the flour tortillas in Mexican cuisine, Spanish tortillas are kind of like a sliced potato omelet). Being a vegetarian in Spain, Helen has become a Spanish tortilla connoisseur since it is often the only menu item without meat in many places. To our delight, she gave this tortilla her seal of approval.

2:30pm, Plaza de España in María Luisa Park

The Plaza de España was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition that took place in Sevilla. It’s moat has been under reconstruction for the past several months, but serendipitously opened in time for the beautiful day we had yesterday. We took advantage of the non-cold to hop in a rental row boat for some unique perspectives of the Plaza.

Julia and Helen, launching our row boat

Fellow boaters in the Plaza’s moat

Plaza de España tower

Many horse carts park and wait for clients in the Plaza

We really enjoyed this pony and donkey. They seemed to have formed a special alliance being dwarfed by all of the horses around them.

4:30pm, Feria de Gastronomía y Artesanía

Advertisement for the Feria de Gastronomía y Artesanía

After our row boat excursion, we were met by our friend Joanna, and all together we ventured to this Feria de Gastronomía y Artesanía, or Gastronomy and Crafts Fair, where we found lots of samples to nibble. Julia and I picked up an orange balsamic vinegar- orange trees are everywhere in Sevilla!

6pm, Ending the day on a sweet note at the Dos Jotas Mesón

Almond, vanilla and chocolate montecados from Filella bakery

Samples proved to not be sufficient enough to sate our hunger after all of our excursioning, so we attempted to stop at a café for something more substantial. The good weather combined with a Saturday evening resulted in a complete people jam in the city center. We resorted to retiring to our apartment, where we had a stockpile of cookies from the nun’s cookie fair we attended last weekend, and we supplemented those with some montecados, popular powdery Spanish cookies, from one of our favorite bakeries. I will be posting more about montecados, and other Spanish sweets, in honor of the Christmas season soon!

With the weather as our co-conspirer, Julia and I had a lovely time playing tour guides for Helen!

Besos,

Jenna

 


Sevilla is especially busy today because it’s a work holiday here in Spain (Constitution Day). There is also a holiday on Wednesday (Day of the Immaculate Conception). This produces what the people here call a “puente” or “bridge,” where lots of people get Tuesday off too. Hence, a super long weekend and perfect travel opportunity. Julia and I were scared away by the snow forecasts for Madrid and the Spanish air controller’s strike, and decided to have a “stay-cation” here in town. Here are some of the foodie adventures we got into while staying put…

Thurs. Night: Sushi…finally!

Since we’re close to the Sevilla airport, we get lots of guests passing through on their way to an early next-morning flight. Such was the case on last Thursday night. Our guest and a couple of her friends had plans to go to Japanese for dinner, and Julia and I tagged along. We hadn’t had sushi since we arrived in Spain! It was a welcome change from our usual fare.

Beautifully presented and great tasting!

We thought the mochi ball might resemble the Trader Joe’s frozen mochi ice cream. Sadly, it was a far far cry. Extremely chewy and tasteless except for the blizzard of shredded coconut coating it.

Fri.: Tattoos and some extraordinary sandwiches

Friday began with some excitement as Julia and I accompanied another language assistant, our friend Joanna, to get a tattoo! She had made her appointment about a month ago at a place near our apartment, and Friday was the big day! Having had little breakfast and with the tattoo finishing around 3pm, we knew we needed to get our friend some food. We returned to a place our neighbors took us to, called the Patio San Eloy. It has an exquisite tile-filled interior and fantastic sandwiches, and as the spaz that I am, I didn’t get pictures of either. However, I snapped a pic of our extremely cheesy “salad” we ordered…

A little lettuce with our 3 cheeses: brie, manchego and “queso fresco” (fresh cheese). In case that wasn’t enough dairy, the salad dressing is a runny tangy yogurt.

We capped the meal off with a stop at the most charming bakery in Sevilla, called La Campana. It was established in 1885, and the servers still wear pale blue and white old-fashioned uniforms reminiscent of soda shop outfits. We had some unique sweets from their impressive pastry case…

Pez de nata=cream fish. Not-too-sweet pastry sandwiching whipped cream.

Turquesa: rolled chocolate sponge cake with light piped cream on top

Once our freshly-tattooed friend was on her way, we met up with some of our neighbor’s friends (the neighbors are out of town), and they took us to a bar called Bodeguita Antonio Romero. Once there, they proceeded to order one after another of knock-out dishes. One of their favorites at this particular location is the piripi, a montadito, or little sandwich, made up of pork chop, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce and ali-oli (garlic-tinged mayo). Sound familiar? They tasted like fresh BLTs on mini baguettes.

A tapas order of piripis

Sunday: Taken by storm

A monstrous storm moved in on Sunday, covering the city in a blanket of hard rain, thunder and lightening. Julia and I attempted to make it to church in the morning, but missed our usual bus. Dampened by the prospect of arriving late and the pelting rain drops, we comforted our mishap with a trip to a little café under our apartment (literally, the first floor of our apartment building). Our goal is to try all of the places in our immediate proximity, so we were able to cross this one off our list. The decor is nothing special, but their chocolate had a good consistency (not too thick, not too thin) and their churros were light enough to not induce a chronic stomach ache for the rest of the day.

The Spanish language uses commands in many more contexts than the US. For example, this sign directs its reader to “Order chocolate with churros.”

Monday: To market nuns go

The convents in and around Sevilla had a special market this morning to sell baked goods for the approaching holiday season. We had to wait 15 minutes in a long line of Spaniards to just enter the market area. Tables wrapped around the periphery of the market hall were stacked high with boxes filled with all kinds of sweets, and people were grabbing them up quickly.

Some of the nuns’ more unusual baked goods

Julia and I made several laps before carefully deciding on our purchases. We brought home a variety cookie box and some mantas (fried dough dripping with honey).

Mantas

Variety cookie box. I love the cartoon nun in the bottom right-hand corner!

Wishing everyone a sweet start of December!

Besos,

Jenna

 

 


Yesterday, a couple of friends and I took advantage of a sunny day to travel outside of Sevilla to a little town called Carmona. As one of our Spanish friends described it, Carmona is a “pueblo, pueblo, pueblo.” Translation: it’s itty bitty! But it is known for its quality tapas as well as some Roman ruins that were discovered on the outskirts of the town in 1885 that date back to the 1st century BC!!! Here is a photo record of our time in Carmona…

Exploring the ancient ruins…

The ruins included several tombs, as well as an amphitheater where archeologists guess gladiator fights took place! Any statue or pottery remains were inside the little museum on-sight, so the tombs were basically empty pits. Still, it was very interesting to see what’s left and imagine people in that spot over 2000 years ago!

Our tapas trail began when 2 girls from the group were brave enough to approach a gang of older men, tricked out with newsboy caps, tweed and Ray-Ban sunglasses (the elderly man uniform of Spain), to ask for a recommendation. They pointed us to a place near-by.

Another older man greeted us at the restaurant, and helped us arrange tables for our larger group. Then, he proceeded to go inside, return with a glass of red wine, and plant himself in a chair in the sun facing the plaza, letting a younger man working there take care of our table. What a work day!

We had a tapas sampler that was beautifully presented and had some stand-out dishes- the calamari and the Russian salad (cold potato salad) were very good.

After basking in the sun a bit, we moved on to Round 2 of our Tapas Trail experience. The second place was closer to a typical tapas experience- no fancy presentations, just simple platters of food. Their croquetas*, fried potatoes and bread were all amazing. Plus, the tables of the cafe sit in the shade of a part of the ancient city wall!

Papas bravas= fried potatoes with a “spicy” sauce (in Spain, their heat tolerance is generally very low, so when you see “spicy” on the menu, you should translate that as mild to perhaps not spicy at all), and a generous amount of mayonnaise (also a note on Spanish mayo- the quality of Spanish mayo is much better than the US. Many people grew up here with their mom’s homemade mayo, and so they don’t accept gloppy stuff that tastes like Best Foods)!

A close-up of some croquetas and fries.

*Croquetas= a cooked filling (like ham, cheese, spinach, etc.) mixed with bechamel (a French white sauce), coated with breadcrumbs and fried. There are many variations on croquetas in Spain, and a lot of them are delicious! Also, their fries are no McDonalds fare- they’re often fried in olive oil, which I think gives them a less greasy and crunchier exterior. Since they’re freshly made, they also taste more like an actual potato.

I would recommend Carmona to anyone who visits Spain and is interested in seeing a little town outside of the big cities. It was such an easy day-trip from Sevilla. We had plenty to do for the afternoon, and returned to Sevilla with our bellies very satisfied! Ending the trip with some ice cream was the sweet ending to the day…

Besos,

Jenna


The prospect of our long weekends here in Sevilla from the perspective of Thursday night can seem a bit daunting in figuring out how we will fill up the many hours without deadlines, commutes and early bedtimes. After our initial “hallelujahs!” at the end of the work week, we turn to pondering this “problem.” Since our social circle is still small, this can seem especially challenging.  Here is how this weekend unfolded…

FRI.: A little bit of culture…

Chilling in the museum gallery.

At the moment, there is an exhibition of a wildlife photographer’s work near the Alcázar. Julia and I went to take a peek. The collection is titled “A Zebra in My Bed.” Though there were no beds to be found in her pictures, there were lots of incredible nature shots. The exhibit is organized around 6 high-def TV screens set to slide-shows of the photos. Each TV screen represent a a “theme” of wildlife that the photographer focused on: Intelligence-looks, love-maternity, beauty-black and white, connection-pairs, fascination-birds and power-action and the photographs were grouped accordingly. It was impressive! Here is a link that shows just a few of her photos: http://www.elcorreoweb.es/agendadesevilla/106186/exposicion/cebra/cama/marina/cano/foro/biodiversidad.

That night, we also attended the European Film Festival that’s been in Sevilla for the past week with one of our neighbors. We saw a film which was an hour and a half of interviews with a 91-year old Spanish woman! It was certainly a linguistic challenge for Julia and I.

SAT.: Deep sea encounters…

Pulpo a la gallega

On Saturday, a friend from our program was in town, and so went to lunch…around 3pm of course! Julia was brave enough to order the pulpo (translation=octopus) a la gallega, which involves a drenching of olive oil and a showering of sweet paprika. The dish was a bit intimidating, especially without the cooked potatoes that sometimes accompany the octopus. Needless to say, there were a couple of tentacles left on the plate when we left. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste!

SUN.: Rain, rain, rain…

Riding the tranvía

We found a church in an outer neighborhood of Sevilla (Protestant churches are few and far between here in predominately Catholic Spain), and it’s a bit of a public transportation adventure to get there for Sunday morning services (not that Julia and I have any lack of experience on public transpo thanks to our commutes!). Here’s a pic Julia snapped of me on the tram outside of our apartment.

Today was the first really rainy day we’ve had here. This meant 2 things…

Julia at the Starbucks across from our apartment. No peppermint mochas and eggnog lattes here- Starbucks decided that toffee nut lattes and praline mochas are more to the Spanish taste.

Holiday drinks at Starbucks and…

Santa penguin socks!!!

Have a jolly pre-holiday day!

Besos,

Jenna

I love to cook. And to try other people’s cooking! Having been in Spain before, there was some food I was looking forward to re-visiting. Take, for example, these humble but amazingly rich and delicious dates wrapped in bacon. They’re like the gelato of the tapas world. I tried to make them at home before, and achieving perfectly-textured bacon and non-crunchy dates was challenging. Thus, I give a lot of credit to this little tapas place in the Santa Cruz barrio in Sevilla for getting them just right…

One of my new favorite places is the Bar Alfalfa that I mentioned before. Here’s an example of what they offer for lunch…This is a tostada with Roquefort cheese and walnuts. In Sevilla, you can find Roquefort (a kind of blue cheese) on everything- chicken, pork, potatoes and so on. Also, most people here use a fork and knife when we uncouth Americans might just pick something up to eat, like in the case of this tostada, or pizza. It’s a cultural adjustment!

If you come to visit Spain (which you should! And visit me!), this is a super-typical breakfast: a tostada with tomato pulp and olive oil (tostada con tomate y aceite), fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a shot glass-size of café con leche. The coffee is more concentrated here, and usually very good, but I have to admit I miss Starbucks-sized coffees already.

Finally, the English translations of the menus here are often amusing enough to make the interminable waits for the waiters here pass quickly. For example, one restaurant listed sangría as “bleeding cup”- doesn’t that sound appetizing? A friend in my orientation ordered a “sweet pancake” from a menu, and here’s what she got…

Aren’t the sprinkles a cute touch?

More (many more!) food pics to come!

Besos,

Jenna