Codfish with basil hummus – La Azotea, Sevilla, Spain

basilhummuscodThe Barrio de Santa Cruz is perhaps the most enigmatic neighborhood in Sevilla. A gorgeous maze of winding streets that fills with tourists all day long and all year long. Bordering the world heritage Giralda, it is bound to fill with hungry visitors at any time of day. Exactly an area I would rather avoid unless there is good reason to visit one of its ever so busy restaurants.  In the case of the Azotea, there was. Highly recommended by Juanma, a good friend from Sevilla, I couldn’t say no and so  I headed there hoping to find something interesting  to eat.

I sat at one of its outdoor tables feeling like one more tourist; hungry and very distracted by all the beauty Sevilla has to offer. It was hot and a tall glass of tinto de verano was in order. I looked through the menu and found an eclectic selection of traditional food and some more unusual dishes like the Bacalao con hummus de albahaca, codfish with basil hummus for €8.00, a braised fillet of flaky cod covered with a light béchamel sprinkled with chopped almonds, all  served over homemade basil hummus.  I knew it had to be good if Juanma had recommended it and,  I have to admit, it was outstanding! 

azoteawaiterLa Azotea

Calle Mateos Gago  8

Sevilla,

Tel: 954 215 878

 

 

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Swordfish in orange wine – Casa Paco, Sevilla.

sworfish1

Down south in Andalucia, you’ll often  notice an arab flair to the food you’ll eat. Adding nuts and fruit gives some dishes a flavorful touch that results in a lighter and sometimes citrusy  meal. Such is the case of a fantastic swordfish  I had in Sevilla where tapas are plentiful and cheap; much cheaper than  anywhere else in  Spain.

Pez espada (swordfish) has been a part of Spanish cuisine for centuries. A meaty and somewhat oily fish that is usually grilled  but  at Casa Paco in Sevilla it’s  sautéed  and then simmered in orange wine, a white wine that has been infused with orange rind.  Of course, the oranges used are the famous Seville ones known for their bitter taste which are commonly used to make marmalade and wine. To give their pez espada al vino de naranja  an even more Andalusian touch, they add chopped dates and pine nuts, thus  incorporating different textures  to create  a great combination of perfectly moist fish with some crunch and  a sweet and sour taste. All for only  €3.50!

Price range €4-€11

casapacoCasa Paco

Alameda de Hércules 23

Sevilla

Spain

Tel:34 954 900 148

 

Suquet de rape y almejas – Boca Grande, Barcelona

suquetxSuquet is a typical  stew that was originally made with leftovers from the local fish markets along Costa Brava.  Fishermen took home all the beaten up fish they couldn’t sell and came up with their own casserole. For a long time, Suquet a term that in catalá means juice, was considered a poor man’s meal but soon after, it  became a staple of Catalunya’s cuisine.  Nothing compares to it! It’s not a soupy dish like bouillabaisse or cataplana, but  more like a  Catalonian “tease”of a seafood delicacy that will leave you wanting more.

At Boca Grande, it’s one of its specialties and for good reason: they make some of the best in town! Although pricey  for €27,   it’s well worth it.  Among the varieties offered, I picked the suquet de rape y almejas – made with perfectly cooked morsels of meaty monkfish and tender clams served over a creamy mix of potato foam and seafood broth sprinkled with pine nuts. Light yet succulent, absolutely delicious! I could’ve easily ordered seconds but I had to contain myself. After all, I am in trendy Barcelona, not Disney World!

bocagrande3Boca Grande

Passatge da la Concepció 12

Barcelona, 08008

Phone: 93/467–5149

Website: http://www.bocagrande.cat

 

 

 

Fried eggs with Iberian ham and chopped asparagus La Pepita, Barcelona, Spain

friedeggslapepitaUnlike  in the Unitied States, in Spain eggs are mostly served as a main course and not just for breakfast.  In many restaurants around the country, you’ll find a variety of  choices like the “tortilla”, an omelet made with potatoes and onions or the “huevos a la flamenca”  , baked eggs with vegetables and ham or chorizo.  But one of the most popular options is huevos fritos or huevos rotos – fried eggs.  They have been a staple of Spanish cuisine for centuries, even renowned Spanish painter Diego Velazquez painted  Vieja friendo huevos – Old woman frying eggs  back in 1618, and playwright and poet Lope de Vega mentions this dish in a letter he wrote to the Duque de Sessa around the same time. Also known as huevos estrellados, this dish  is  served almost everywhere in an assortment of variations.  The trick is how they are  fried, which usually happens to be in plenty  of oil allowing  for a crust to form around the egg white while keeping the yolk runny. La Pepita’s are one great choice served with homemade potato chips, thin slices of Iberian ham –  and chopped asparagus for €10. Just make sure you have plenty of bread within reach!

lapepitavitrinaLa  Pepita

Carrer de Córsega 343

08037 Barcelona

Tel 932 38 48 93

Website: http://www.lapepitabcn.com

 

Baked cod with aliolí and quince meringue – Las Fernández – Barcelona, Spain

cod fernandezSmack in the middle of ciutat vella, Las Fernaández will surprise you with its delicious homemade fare. From the outside, it might look like a hole in the wall but wait until you walk through its funky red door. Red walls everywhere – they say this color stimulates your appetite so it might be a deliberate move to make patrons eat as much as they can. But truly, their food alone can make you do it without any help. A menu that is just as eclectic as its decor:  daily seafood stews, innovative salads such as the ensalada de espinacas con confit de pato, fresh spinach with duck confit  and apple  for €11.50 or the rollitos de lacón con aguacate  for €6.50,  broiled pork shoulder ham rolls stuffed with avocado in a creamy béchamel sauce, among many others. I chose the bacalao con alioli de membrillo al horno, codfish fillet covered in a light alioli and quince merengue au gratin for €12.00. The unorthodox combination of the tangy alioli sauce and the quince gives the fluffy meringue a unique sweet and sour taste that will have you coming back for more, even if you decide to blindfold yourself to avoid all that red.

 

fernadezfachadaLas Fernández

Carrer de les Carretes 11

Barcelona 08002

Tel: 934 43 20 43

 

 

 

 

Ensalada de Ventresca- Café Emma, Barcelona

ventrescaI took an early flight to Barcelona and  was starving by the time I arrived. As soon as I dropped off my stuff off at the hotel, I went anxiously searching for a good place to eat but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. In Spain, most people have lunch around  2 pm so  at noon, I knew  the options would be few and far between. Luckily, I spotted an older woman who looked liked a local and asked her where to go.  She kindly recommended a small brasserie called Cafe Emma down the street on Career de Pau Claris. So, I followed her suggestion and headed for what  happened to be a  very cute eatery named just like my daughter. It was bound to be good!

As I ordered a small caña ( glass of draft beer), I was served some toast and sardine mousse made with mustard and tarragon, slightly pungent yet smooth enough to pair well with the ice cold  beer. On the menu,  I chose one of my favorite salads – ensalada de ventresca which could easily be compared to a Niçoise but, in this Spanish version, the key element is the tuna belly or ventresca. This salad is served with black olives, onions,tomatoes, sliced boiled potatoes,  hard boiled egg and scallions. All dressed with a mild combination of white wine mustard, olive oil and tarragon. Trust me, once you try ventresca, you’ll never want any other kind of tuna. 

Cafe Emma

Carrer de Pau Claris, 142,

08009 Barcelona

Phone:932 15 12 16

Hours · 8:00 am – 12:30 am

http://www.cafe-emma.com

 

 

 

Alkalde – Madrid, Spain

chipironesFor over fifty years, Alkalde has been serving some of the best in Basque cuisine to local patrons in elegant  Salamanca neighborhood. Right on calle Jorge Juan, showcasing a  lovely  terrace of traditional linen covered tables and hip Ghost chairs, this eatery holds  a cool combination of classic and modern decor. A sort of keeping up with the times approach that is also reflected in the menu where the main stars are old favorites that have been slightly updated like the chipirones served over a bed of caramelized onions, gently braised baby squid  exquisitely tender and succulent, and of course excellent for bread dipping, something you’ll find yourself doing quite often in Spain.terrace

croquetasThe croquetas de jamón were plentiful delicious morsels of creamy béchamel and tiny bits of ham. And of course we had to order the revuelto de boletus,  scrambled eggs with local mushrooms that have a distinctive nutty punch.  Why would you order scrambled eggs at a restaurant like this? Well, don’t ask and just do it, it’s worth every bite.foie

For the main course, we chose the foie  a la brasa, light and fluffy liver mousse grilled  over quinoa and a touch of pumpkin sauce.  As far as the lamb dish – cordero prensado, I was very surprised when it was served.  lambterrine

Although it resembled a terrine, it was simply pressed  in that shape served with a dressing of gooseberries.As I carved my fork through it, moist and tender flakes of meat fell apart onto a light sauce dotted with tiny diced apples. Another great Spanish delicacy!

 

alkaldesignX

Alkalde

Calle  Jorge Juan 10

Madrid, Spain

Tel: 915763359

Website: http://www.alkalderestaurante.com

 

 

 

 

Swine – Coral Gables, Florida

brisket

Swine: the name says it all ! Once you pass through its door, you’ll feel like you’re somewhere in the deep south like Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. Tall wooden shelves stacked with chopped lumber and  jars of pickled “everything”, a warm lit long communal table in the center surrounded by  individual ones upstairs and downstairs, somewhat reminiscent of an old southern beer hall.

lightspickled

An extensive menu of mostly swine in its various barbecued forms.  I picked the 1/2 lb  14-hour smoked brisket that was melt in your mouth delicious, served with South Carolina stoneground  grits for $28.  Side dishes such as mac and cheese, made with 5 different types of cheese, bacon and a crusty herb  top for $10, were still that: mac and cheese .Alternatives for those who don’t eat meat are just a few but well worth a try like the shrimp with grits.  When first served, the Florida pink were overcooked but  quickly replaced with a delicious fresh batch that made this dish a very comforting one, in spite of the Virginia ham bit overload.

shrimp&gritsStarters such as the fried green tomatoes and the kale salad were spot on.  Four slices of crunchy fried green tomatoes served with arugula and shavings of Manchego cheese for $13.   Seasoned with a cider vinaigrette, the kale salad came with apples and raisins and delicious, of course, cornbread croutons for $13.fried green tomatoes

The dessert was a refreshing bite called slice of heaven, a homemade pie made with rich raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice-cream dusted with chopped hazelnuts on a sweet crust for $9.

All in all, Swine is a great take on the very best in southern cuisine we desperately need down in Florida. Whenever foreigners criticize American food, I always respond: You haven’t tried southern!

pie

 

Swine

2415 Ponce de Leon Boulevard

Coral Gables, FL 331

786 360-6433

http://www.runpigrun.com

 

 

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

bruss

As a kid, I  could not stand the sight of Brussels sprouts. Don’t ask me what happened but somehow they’ve become my favorite side dish!  They’re high in  vitamin C and have fair amounts of vitamin A and  B-6. They also contain iron, calcium and magnesium. Here’s a simple and delicious recipe I hope you enjoy.

1 lb small Brussels sprouts cut in half

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup of diced pancetta

1/2 tsp sea salt 

1/4 tsp pepper 

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 400 .  Place the Brussels sprouts in a bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to cover evenly and place in a baking sheet on a lower rack of the oven. Roast for 10-15 minutes and toss. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until done.  As soon as you take them out of the oven, pour in the balsamic vinegar , mix well and serve.

 

 

Azenhas Do Mar – Sintra, Portugal

clamsretouchedRight outside one of Portugal’s most enchanting towns – Sintra-  stands Azenhas Do Mar  on the rocky Atlantic coast. A big fish sign welcomes you into what feels almost like a boathouse hanging from a cliff. Wooden ceilings and enormous windows surround you with a breathtaking spectacle of   waves that  gently beat against the rocks.  This, combined with the  soothing nautical atmosphere of whitewashed wooden chairs and white linens, makes for  the perfect setting to relax and enjoy a good “seafarer’s ” meal.

azbreadA menu consisting of mostly fish and seafood, as well as a few meat choices, was no surprise but the attention to detail in the presentation and the service certainly was. As we sat down, the waiter kindly placed on our table a small platter with olives and local cheese, as well as  a basket of warm crusty bread. Soon after, we were poured some lovely chilled Alvarinho wine as we were offered to look at  the menu.

From a cornucopia of  fresh oysters, barnacles, octopus, shrimp, lobster and, of course, cod fish, I gave into my weakness for clams. These  famous  amêijoas á Bulhão Pato did not disappoint. The name is a tribute to a 19th century Portuguese poet named Raimundo António Bulhão Pato who was very much a gourmand.

azsignThese perfectly  cooked small  clams are served in a succulent broth made with white wine, garlic, fresh coriander and lemon. Some of the most flavorful ones I have ever tried and it’s  certainly no coincidence that this dish is considered one of the seven wonders of  Portuguese gastronomy. 

The hilly trip along the coast was worth every minute, not just for the sights, but for the chance to taste this fantastic dish.                        azocean

 

azenhasdomarRestaurante Piscina Azenhas do Mar
Azenhas do Mar 2705-104
Colares – Sintra

P (+351) 219 280 739
azenhas-do-mar@sapo.pt