Friday, April 23, 2010

Spain Trip Part 8: Small Town Andalucia

Part 1: Brussels Layover
Part 2: Calçots Somewhere in Catalonia
Part 3: The House of Garlic Mayonnaise
Part 4: Spanish-Italian Fusion in the Countryside
Part 5: Barcelona Holdouts
Part 6: Chocolate Leftovers
Part 7: Tapas in Seville

We have one more quick stop to make along the highway before pulling into the village: Badía. What appears, from the outside, to be a soulless generic big box convenience store turns out to be a killing field (and I use the term "killing" in the most positive sense) of pork haunches. Behold:

The stink was overwhelming, but my friend, saxophonist Pablo Garcia, braved it for the sake of photography:

This big box convenience store sells amazing jamon iberico, including the rare acorn-fed ham (or, I should say, acorn-fed black ham, which is even better!) both as full appendages and cut up in dainty vacu-packs, at prices that would make a Western Hemispherian cry bitter tears.

Fully porked up, we were ready to hit Manzanilla, a small town an hour outside Seville which no one seems to have heard of. This is perhaps the first-ever Internet photo essay on fabulous Manzanilla, vacation paradise for the questing chowhound.

Check out the amazing architecture and the gleaming blue skies:

Click to blow this one up so you can see the careful tile work on those steps:

And here is the infinitesimally tiny pub in the village center, El Puesto:

Meet Miguel, the quietly genial owner/bartender/waiter/chef/magician, here pouring my 80th glassful of wonderful, wonderful "mosto", the village's young white wine, from a cheap plastic jug which retails for something like a buck:

We're just an hour from Portugal, so it's tempting to draw comparisons between mosto and the young, light Portuguese white wine, vinho verde. But unlike the latter, mosto has very low acid. It's the subtlest of drinks; imagine water that's been just barely touched by the white wine gods. You can drink it forever (hence my 80 glassfuls). Here's glass #81, shot, with obvious reverence, through the front door of Miguel's bar, with the town center in the background:

Pablo's wife Montse, who works in fruit accounting, is like a character from a whimsical French film, and she clearly loves mosto as much as I do:

With mosto, or any other drinks for that matter, you get picos - crunchy little bread stick bites. In Seville, even the best bars serve prepackaged picos that are pretty "meh". These, here in Manzanilla, are nothing less than godly:

Funky, intense sheep cheese, great with mosto:

Here's Miguel's great specialty, carne machada. It's a lot like Italian braciole...if your braciole were prepared by Fred Flintstone. Filled in with eggs and herbs, this brutally delicious stuff separates the true carnivores from the crypto-vegans. Welcome to Andalusia. Nothing to do but man up and tear into it:

Here's the whole deal, from whence Miguel slices:

A hot pressed shrimp salad sandwich. Tasted as good as it looks:

Please click the prawns to expand them, just so I can make you writhe in jealousy:

Did I say in the previous installment that only Galicians are fit to cook octopus? Uh, wrong:

Pork brochettes. Sorry for the smoothy/shiny food mag shot, but Miguel's work could actually pass in that world:

Disarmed by my obvious love for his bar and food, as well as my impressive ingestion of mosto (I may have set a record), Miguel insisted on giving me "a taste" (i.e. a huge plateful) of his own dinner: wild spinach with garbanzo beans, prepared for him by his wife. You know the cliched phrase "I'm not worthy"? That's what I solemnly muttered to myself after each reverential bite (eaten at the outdoor table, so as not to arouse envy in the other patrons, who don't normally get offered Miguel's personal supper):
Obviously, everyone in town knows Miguel and his bar, and while they all happily hang there, drink there, and sometimes eat there, I'm not sure anyone appreciates how great it truly is. Sometimes it takes an outsider to come in and freak out about the incredibility level. I'm proud to have been that outsider. As is often the case in these situations, some regulars were slightly taken aback. This is just our local bar; Miguel's good people, the food's good, sure, it really worth all that fuss?

Yes, it really is.

The next day, Miguel's mom made me some special dishes. Wait'll you see...

Continue on to Part 9

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