My philosophy is that when you’re in a country you should eat the local cuisine, except, of course, when you’re “at home” – wherever that may be – in which case you are allowed to sample any nationality of food available to you, on the principle that sticking to one kind in this modern world is boring, and anyway eating Italian or Thai or whatever brings back happy memories!
You might think that visiting Sevilla didn’t qualify as “foreign” for me, since I already live in Spain, but Canarian cuisine, although it owes a lot to Spain (and also to the Moors – because of the conquests (of Spain by the Moors, and in turn, of the Canaries by Spain) not because of the proximity of the islands to Africa – is different in many ways. The relative isolation of the islands historically, and simply because they are islands, meant that resources for traditional dishes had to be sourced locally.
These days tapas can be eaten in any major city of the world, and in lots of smaller towns too, and what you find in Tenerife, generally, is what you can find almost anywhere – Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, marinated anchovies, potato croquettes (with ham or fish usually), salpicón (a bit like cheviche) of tuna or octopus, meatballs, mushrooms or prawns in garlic. These dishes are pretty standard, but what we found in Sevilla was that they do them with a twist, and the very best way is to let my friend, Maria (anyone wanting to employ her as a t.v. food critic please contact her through me!) talk you through a typical lunch we enjoyed a couple of weeks back.
Mouth watering now? That was just one lunch!
On our first night, lured in by the promise of cheap (but in the end non-existent) mojitos, we were just a little disappointed to be served very ordinary food. It wasn’t bad, it was just ordinary, except for the sweetest, juiciest pineapple ever for dessert. My disappointment wasn’t huge. I have lived almost all of my life in touristy places, so my expectations weren’t over-high, but happily for me, for the rest of the time, they were so far exceeded as make me quite giddy! Sevilla was, quite simply, a feast of tapas and finger foods, and not only that, but very reasonably priced too – especially considering that the purchase tax there is three times that I’m used to in the Canary Islands!
I have an aversion to bars PR-ing but in the case of Ramon at Bar Jacaranda I’m SO glad he did! In the first place, the food was marvellous, and in the second, the irrepressible Ramon did it with such charm and good humor it didn’t feel like I was being PR-ed : Tenerife bars do you note? Jacaranda is one of those tiny, “hole-in-the-wall” bars, where we perched on stools at trendy tables outside. Passing through this little square late at night it was so quiet and deserted that you would have no idea that there was even a bar there. Their meatballs were quite simply the best I ever had, rich and flavoured with cumin (Moorish leftover I guess?) to give them that extra umpff, the tuna salad was ample, with a dressing much less acidic than I’m used to,and, well the goats’ cheese drizzled with a caramel sauce – don’t get me started! and after, Ramon lived up to his promise by giving us shots of yummy caramel vodka to finish.
Wandering Sevilla’s narrow and ever-surprising streets night and day, we were assailed by the irresistible smell of fish and batter each time we returned to our hostel. To nostrils educated in the north of England there is no more tempting aroma I can tell you, and the day we popped into its source, a corner shop, decorated inside and out with traditional and spotless tiles of blue and white, and came out with paper cones full of fried fish and seafood was another “not-disappointed” occasion. We took them to the park and picnicked in a wee garden surrounded by more of Andalucia’s iconic tiling.
However, I leave the best for last, as one should. You can’t visit Sevilla without experiencing flamenco, and we spent time selecting the venue we thought best suited our budget and seemed least touristy, Bar Huelva Ocho in Calle Huelva, Alfalfa….. more about that another post. The utter and unexpected delight was that the small bar we chose had tapas to-die-for. We sussed out the location during the day, and left with the impression that, well, there were a few tapas, but Sunday was a quiet night, so maybe not so much. Okay with us, we wanted to experience flamenco, we weren’t especially going for the food, but we did decide to eat there because we were advised to go early to get the best places. All I can say is, if these were tapas on a slow night then I must go back on a busy one! There was goats’ cheese with apple jam, delicate crêpes filled with cod and slices of pork in a sauce I can’t remember (*slaps hand* – too busy scoffing to make notes!). So good was it that we returned the next night just for the food, and on a visit where you want to experience as much as possible that’s the ultimate praise I think.
Since we walked everywhere it was a treat to wash down all this wonderful food with wine without fear or guilt. We quaffed tinto de verano, red wine mixed with sparkling lemonade (ok, so technically it wasn’t verano/summer, but refreshment was needed at Fall temperatures of over 35ºC!), and Maria introduced me to rebujito which is manzanilla (an Andalucian wine like dry sherry) topped up with fizzy lemonade too, refreshing without being sweet.
As a footnote, we spent each day searching for pringá, which, we had been advised, was a must-try local dish, but though we asked in every bar we entered (including some in which we didn’t eat) we couldn’t find hide nor hair of it. Looking back, it strikes me that maybe this traditional, Andalucian dish is being by-passed in favour of more sophisticated cuisine, which is, of course, a shame. It was described to us in one bar as being a left-over dish, something like bubble & squeak is to the English, and that’s not something you often find on a menu either. Wikipedia, however, doesn’t describe it that way. All I can say is, I simply have to go back to Sevilla to take up the search again!