We continue eating our way through the Iberian peninsula. You can read Part I here. ¡Vamos!
We fell in love with Seville the moment we arrived. We had loved Barcelona and San Sebastian -- and would go back to both in a heartbeat -- but we also really enjoyed the feeling of Sevilla. With its sunny plazas, bright stucco buildings, orange trees, festive tiles and Moorish ironwork, Sevilla was filled with a languid, sleepy beauty.
A signature dish of this part of Spain, the area called Andalucia, is a cold soup called salmorejo. It's like a gazpacho but with bread blended in, so it's thick and hearty but still refreshing on a hot afternoon. It's usually topped with a swirl of olive oil and some shredded ham; sometimes there's hard-boiled egg as well. (You might recall that our first-ever Cover to Cover Challenge included a recipe for salmorejo, from Team Saveur.)
We really enjoyed the classic salmorejo we had in Seville. We also had an avant-garde version at one restaurant, which was bright green and blended with apples, arugula and black olives. The less said about that one, the better.
How could we possibly talk about food in Spain without mentioning jamón ibérico? The cured ham might as well be the national food of Spain. We ate it too many times to count while we were there. You see tapas bars everywhere with huge legs of cured jam hanging from the ceiling. It's sliced paper-thin and served unadorned. It's rich and fatty and salty and amazing.
Our favorite jamón outing was in the city of Seville, at a small corner bar called El Rinconcillo. The place opened in 1670, so you kinda figure they know what they're doing. It has a wonderful old-world feel, with shelves of dusty sherry bottles stacked to the ceiling and barrels of aged vermouth behind the bar.
We ordered a plate of jamón with pieces of savory Manchego cheese, chased by small glasses of dry sherry. Our bartender sliced the ham from a hulking shank behind the bar, and tallied up our tab writing in chalk on the bar itself -- just as they've done at El Rinconcillo for nearly 350 years.
The Duck from Contenedor
Contenedor, a hip restaurant in Seville, is all about slow food -- sourcing ingredients organically and locally, sometimes from its own backyard garden. The menu, scrawled on a chalkboard, changes daily. The restaurant itself is a funky, eclectic space with an open kitchen, and it sits on a corner in a neighborhood called La Alameda, a 20-minute walk from downtown. Contenedor is very popular -- we were turned away the first night we tried to eat there. The next day, armed with reservations, we returned for dinner.
We had a fantastic meal comprising four or five dishes. (There were even fresh green vegetables! After days of bread and ham, we'd never been so happy to see some broccolini.)
But there's only one thing you really need to know about Contenedor, and everyone who mentions the restaurant will say the same three words: "Get the duck."
The duck at Contenedor is one of the only dishes that's always on the restaurant's ever-changing seasonal menu. It's a perfectly crispy, perfectly juicy duck leg sitting on a bed of crispy rice. We're not sure if the preparation of the dish is always the same or not: The night we had it, it was served with savory sautéed mushrooms and scented with cardamom.
Tapas in Granada
In Granada, where we spent the final leg of our trip, the tapas aren't just omnipresent -- they're free. Yes, Granada is one of the last places that still holds onto the tradition of providing free tapas to bar patrons. Walk in, order your drink, and the bartender will hand you a plate of house tapas. Maybe it's a plate of fried calamari. Or a little sandwich. Or a meatball. It's considered a gift, so you don't get to choose (although we did go to one bar that let you order from a list of free tapas).
We found it utterly charming. Also, you might think that bars with free tapas would jack up the price of the drinks, but the wine and beer was the same dirt-cheap prices we found throughout Spain (which is to say, glasses of wine tended to be about 2.50 euros -- with the dollar at about 1:1 right now, that is INSANE).
Our favorite spot was probably Los Diamantes. A tiny fluorescent-lit room on a somewhat dingy street corner, it has all the ambiance of a veterinarian's waiting room. But when we elbowed our way to the bar and ordered two cold glasses of beer, and bartender set out a plate of lightly fried anchovies -- still hot and crisp from the oil -- we dove in with smiles on our faces.
And that's all, Bittens! Have you been to Spain? What did you eat that you loved? Tell us in the comments!