Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spain Trip Part 7: Tapas in Seville

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

After razzing Barcelona for being so defiantly un-Spanish, it's time to swing to the other extreme by taking a paseo through the lovely streets of Seville at tapas time (i.e. late afternoon until dinner at 9 or 10). You can fly from Barcelona to Seville for as little as $40 on discount Vueling Airlines...just as long as you don't check a bag. Or reserve a seat. Or pay with a credit card. Or ask for some juice. Or do any of the many, many other perfectly normal things which incur surcharges, some of them steep. Such a deal!

But once you flee your middle seat (aisles and windows cost plenty extra) on the packed, sweaty, awful plane with its testy, condescending flight attendants, just the very pavement is enough to make it all seem worthwhile:

I had only four hours to explore Seville. I'd visited twice before, but was always busy working. This time, I decided to wing it, and just stop in for a bite wherever looked good. The first good-looking place (shoot, everywhere looks good in Seville!) was Bar Europa (C/ Siete Revueltas, 35; 954 217 908), whose famous specialty, I learned later, is quesadillas made with granny smith apples. I wouldn't have ordered that, but I did make out well with croquetas. I've had many of these in Spanish bars, but never made from scratch. I watched the cook toss small bits of jamon into batter and fry it all up. Gawd.

An hour later, I stumbled upon an old woody no-nonsense-looking Seville tapas bar, Bodega Antonio Romero (Antonia Díaz, 19
; 954 223 939), staffed by macho career waiters. These days such waiters are middle-aged and beefy; when I first came to Spain in the late 1980's, waiters were old, short (due to deprivations during the Civil War), bald, and clad in vests. They all looked exactly like Generalissimo Franco. On tour, Pau, Nono, and I would derive endless mirth out of impatiently asking each other if we can get a Franco over to our table to take our damned order.

The Francos are all gone now, but the potato omelet, thank God, remains. This one is paired with lackluster all i oli (a chowhound's fate is to be forever wistful about the limitations of wherever one is; one's ducks are never all in a row):

Superb bull's tail with french fries tasted like the essence of Andalucia:

Here are some more photos of tapas from Antonio Romero over at the superb Sevilla Tapas web site (well worth a surf even for vicarious chowhounding). I particularly need to direct you to a delirious bit of potato porn shot at a place called La Taberna (Calle de Gamazo 6; 954 221 128). Scroll down this page to the photo captioned "fried egg with homemade crisps and tomato sauce" and die a little.

Moving on...

This is from a lousy bar, and the tortilla hidden beneath this saucy blanket was jive, but the sauce itself, salsa salmorejo, was something new to me. Even this bad version tasted like a revelation, brimming with the aroma of fresh tomatoes. Imagine gazpacho rendered in cream:

This place, Meson del Pulpo‎ (Calle de Tomás de Ibarra, 10; 422 05 34) looked good to me. Lots of interesting pulpo (octopus) dishes, and I'm pretty sure they're Galician, and thus qualified to prepare octopus. I must try it next time (along with the aforementioned fried egg with homemade crisps and tomato sauce):

Ok, we're now heading out of Seville, down to a small village which we'll be exploring next time. En route, we stopped at a roadside joint for a dish that was merely adequately tasty, but made my head explode as I tried to ascertain its place in the big culinary scheme of things. This, friends, seems to be the original chicken adobo:

Filipinos have been cooking a vinegary stew called chicken adobo since long before the Mexicans went through there, but the name "adobo" comes from Mexicans, even though red peppery Mexican adobo has nothing to do with the Filipino dish. And this, similarly, which I assume to be the ur-adobo, has nothing to do with Mexican adobo, though this is clearly where the name originally came from (got that?). It's just fried chunks of chicken....with a hard-to-pin-down blend of aromatic spices worked into the batter. I did taste cumin, and cumin's also an ingredient in Mexican adobo. But...idunno. More research is needed.

Seville sure has some great trees:

Continue to Part 8: Small Town Andalucia

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