Andalusia Trip Report (long): Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Ronda
I went to Andalusia at the beginning of September with one close friend; I am gluten-free (which affected what I was able to order, so I might not have enjoyed some of your favorites).
Our most beautiful meal was the first night, just below a mirador (overlook) where we hiked for the sunset. Our dinner started with some lovely roasted veg (the name of the restaurant was La Huerta de Juan someone) and since Huerta means garden I figured we'd be in good shape with veg, and then A had a lamb tagine with couscous and I had some "noodles" made of cuttlefish in a light cream sauce. Delightful. We enjoyed a local wine which I was glad to try there but not delightful enough to try to retain out the name of, and then got (traditional, tiny glasses of hella sweet) mint tea for dessert.
Our dinner the second night, at Bar Diamante, included the triumph of securing a free tapa (grilled shrimp) with our drinks in the open outcry environment of a tapas bar. It was also superior people-watching, including a bunch of little kids, like under 4s, who were happily munching on tapas and hanging out at like 10 pm. Our other success was getting a vegetable in a tapas bar; thanks to Chowhound I knew that what was unpromisingly labeled "lettuce" on the little English menu, and not listed at all on the board in Spanish, was actually hearts of romaine with fried garlic on top. a) safe from vampires! and b) delicious and c) a vegetable! and d) gluten-free!
Lunch was triumph of a different sort - after loads of ham, and something translated as "ham duck" which we worked out over time to be "duck prosciutto" - we were ready for some food variety. We found a place called Restaurante Arayanes that served middle eastern food, was halal (not a key requirement, but discussed prominently) and was just terrific... we had baba ganoush (more roasted eggplant and tomatoes chopped, rather than a puree, but delightful), a cucumber and yogurt salad like a very cucumbery tzatziki and then shared some chicken and lamb skewers. They did not serve alcohol, which meant that I had to do without my customary lunchtime glass of wine (two lunches makes a custom in these parts), but more than made up for it with a really out-of-this-world mint lemonade.
We had lovely tapas for dinner in Ronda at a husband-and-wife (as in they were the only staff) joint called Las Locas - he serves and speaks English; she cooks - where A had the best (maybe only) foie of her life (and I had a bite and it was tremendous) and an adorable hamburguesita and there were medium-cooked carrots dosed with tons of cumin which made them kind of like crack (there's something about cumin that makes me want to eat more and more of whatever it's in).
We had preceded that at Tragatapas, where we had great pinxtos: one spear of asparagus covered in a blizzard of microplaned manchego and one skewer of chicken thigh with a delightful curry (Indian not Thai).
Then for the bus ride to Sevilla where we were cautioned immediately that we couldn't eat, so we had to sneak, we got some really extraordinary jamon and chorizo from a store called Queso & Jamon right across from the Parador.
In Sevilla we loved Tribeca, which we found in the Wallpaper guide. Way off the beaten path but only a 10-minute walk from our hotel in the Juderia, it was a Chowhound's dream: one of the appetizers involved some part of a small horse. Yowza. The chef himself is the English speaker, and I heard him say "caballito" but still said out loud to Anna "cow" because he couldn't have meant "little horse," could he? He corrected me. We didn't have that. What we did have were a starter of portabellos and foie plus entrees of leg of lamb in the oven and oxtail, and some lovely red wine, all with super-gracious service. We loved the ambition and the passion of the entire place... And the amazing food. You all should go! To my mind, and granted at that point we'd just seen a bizarre performance during La Bienial of flamenco, it was way better than Egana-Ortiz...which had a lovely setting but was very proud and not that inviting.
We also sought out some more middle eastern food (we decided that living in New York, you get accustomed to eating a variety of cuisines and we were missing variety, and, well, vegetables) at a great place very near the Bellas Artes, called Al-Medina. Lovely space, delightful waiter... A "pastela" which was in my world known as bisteeya, which was just extraordinary, plus the assorted skewers with a great yogurt sauce and chicken with saffron in a tagine. (PS there are two addresses on the web for Al-Median; the one on San Roque is correct).
Fun meal at Zelai - very chic and great food. The cappuccino de mejillones changed my life - you HAVE to order it - it is a lightly spicy seafood broth with shrimp and mussels, topped with a lightly sweet coconut foam. The small risotto is rich enough that it could serve 5, the beet salad was delightful... a great experience overall.
We also loved the ice cream at Mama Goye... The one near San Salvador (very near to all the shoe shops!) is easy to find, and the one in the Juderia escaped our reach on our last night, which was too bad because Mama has her way with some ice cream, let me tell you. We also enjoyed pinkberryesque fro yo at least twice, including at Dam Yogurt in Corboda, which offered creative toppings we did not try including Sponge Bob (“Bob Esponje”) and Hello Kitty which apparently requires no translation.
In Cordoba, supposedly the seat of great Andalusian cooking, we ate superbly. Our first and last lunches were at Casa Rubio, with the excellent cogollos (the aforementioned hearts of romaine with garlic) the only common item. The first time, we had some excellent Manchego, and I had a very nice rice with cuttlefish. A had the berenjenas, finally, eggplant battered and fried with house made honey drizzled over. The honey was great with the manchego, too. Then we had almejas, clams, a special off the menu, chorizos al vino (all chorizo all the time is delicious, but the best one was the one we had to sneak on the bus from Ronda; this one was great), and mushrooms, grilled and topped with unknown but additive green sauce. I finally tried the local sherry, Montilla Moriles, which was extremely light and went very well with the lettuce. Perfectly happy to have been drinking wine this whole time though!
Dinner the first night was at Casa Mazal, a Sephardic restaurant. The food was delightful, with a super-light and -smooth eggplant mousse with turmeric, cumin and loads of flavor, a weird but nice zucchini dish stewed with leeks and carrots, a delightful lamb meant to be served over couscous but over rice for me, and a yummy aromatic chicken. Really lovely setting and great service... We spoke to the waiter, who was French, in a tumbling mix of all 3 languages and had a great time.
The second dinner was at Regardera, a very modern bar/restaurant with interesting and successful combinations. The big hit was a salad with greens, a few potato chips, a few slices of ham (because, as my Mom's friend Olga said about rice and beans with Cubans, you have to put them on the table so people know it's food; same thing here but ham) and foie gras, with a mustard dressing. Sounded chancy, but came together beautifully. I then had a risotto with butter foam (yes!), bacalao, and octopus carpaccio. I virtuously did not eat it all... But totally could have. A had a risotto with orzo instead of rice and with duck...looked tremendous.
Lunch the second day, after an embarassingly long and enthusiastic visit to the supermercado in El Corte Ingles, was at a restaurant we found by walking by, called Salmorejo Umami. (On their menu of salmorejos was also one that was gluten-free!!! And it was made with gluten-free bread, not breadless, so it was real!) We also had a very nice tomato salad and a black rice with quisquillas, tiny shrimp eaten heads, shells and all (the waitress did warn me that they might pinch a little when I ate them, which I found unlikely but was true (I literally said "ow!" a couple of times while eating)), and also percebes, which are the little jewel-shelled barnacles (out of the shell in this instance) which when I ordered a plate of them in Lisbon, E called "a plate of ugly." I loved it! A dared to try a dessert salmorejo, white chocolate with strawberries, but reported that it was vile - it still had all the ingredients of normal salmorejo, which seemed like a little more adherence to the letter of the law than was a good idea.