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Sevilla and Granada - Low End Theory in Spain Part I

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Sevilla and Granada - Low End Theory in Spain Part I

Low End Theory | Jul 11, 2002 07:27 PM

Hey International chowhounds, I’m distilling my ten day Spanish culinary odyssey into three installments. A heavy debt is owed to previous International posts, the excellent “Lonely Planet World Food - Spain” and yes, even “Rick Steve’s Spain and Portugal 2002” – a useful resource even though it's a little heavy on vegetarian recs.

Sevilla is a paradise for low end theorists, it’s cheaper and less touristy than Madrid or Barcelona. I stayed in Triana, the neighbourhood on the other side of the river. Tapas here were unbeatable, the tascas were packed with locals and made essentially no concessions to the non-Spaniard. Better than in the Arenal neighbourhood near the bullring where you’ll find more out-of-towners – it’s only a short walk across the river to Triana and well worth the effort. Many thanks to Kathryn Callaghan for her terrific recs, most of the addresses are in her second post:

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Tapas highlights:

- Outstanding caracoles (snails, no sand!) and deep-fried codornices (quail) at Casa Ruperto.
- Cola de toro (oxtail) at Bar Oliva
- Great espinacas y garbanzes (chickpeas and spinach) at Albahaca on Calle Corro. This dish is a consistent winner. At Albahaca it was particularly rich with wine.
- Croquetas de bacalao (salt cod) at Taberna Alfredo. Fried food is awesome in Sevilla.
- In the Arenal, Meson 5 Jotas has fantastic salmorejo (thick tomato soup ~ gazpacho). This comes sprinkled with heavenly diced jamon and crumbled hard-boiled egg, it was the best gazpacho I had in Spain.

One more chowhoundly tip in Triana. Try the classic breakfast of pan y manteca = bread and lard. Add cafe and you’ll spend a princely 2 euros or so at Bar Miami on Calle San Jacinto not far from the river. I tried four different kinds of manteca, favourites were mixed with Roquefort or with jamon of course. One bowlful was bright red with paprika – yeah. Lots of crusty old characters at the bar, clearly a place for locals.

The best meal I ate in Spain was at La Taberna Alabadero on Calle Zaragoza. There are branches in Madrid near the Opera House and in D.C. – chowhounds there take note! Initially the linen and fancy schmancy setting had the low end theorist worried – not one’s usual habitat. I ordered the menu del dia, which incidentally is the cheapest option for lunch everywhere in Spain (it’s required by law). Predictably few options, but I liked my boquerones y ensalada (anchovies and salad) to begin. The next dish was otherworldly – bacalao al pil pil, the classic preparation of salt cod with garlic and olive oil. Rehydrated bacalao is – unbelievably – almost better than fresh fish, juicy and only slightly salty with a perfect firm yet delicate texture. Fittingly, it is now a luxury food rather than a preserved protein source for the peasantry. The garlic-y sauce was very subtle and the capsicum rich veges a tasty complement. Postres – desserts – are generally forgettable in Spain but my sopa de frutas was original, fresh and very slightly minty. Not bad for 10 euros or so, don’t miss it!

Took a day trip to Granada to see the wondrous Alhambra. Success here with the local specialty tortilla Sacromonte, named for the Gypsy neighbourhood. As well as the canonical sheeps brains – delightful fluffy texture – it contained both green and white pickled-tasting asparagus. I ate this at Casa Torcuato, a tremendous restaurant in the Jewish Albayzin neighbourhood (Calle Carniceros, the local woman I asked knew where it was). Lots of workbooted patrons which is always a good sign.

One last tip – if the summer heat is overwhelming, either limon granizado or the cooling and calorically satisfying horchata/orxata is your best option (particularly as Spanish ice cream is generally just so-so). Unlike the familiar Mexican rice milk Spanish horchata is made with chufa, a.k.a. tiger nut or earth almond - a tuber. Most of the time this is commercially outsourced but it you find a real horchateria it will be even better – there’s one in Granada on the south side of Plaza Nueva called Helado. This was my favourite horchata, it contained icy chunks that were perfect in the scorching weather.

Enjoy your trip and happy eating,

Low End Theory

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