Tapas in Seville

1-bitter oranges  Alcazar gardens CordobaWhether you’re shivering out there in New York, Maine or Ontario, or huddled under a European canopy of endless grey, now’s the time to consider a short break in Seville. You can tank up on tapas and winter sunshine, stroll the street beneath impossibly blue skies and catch a glimpse of those famous oranges, still dripping from the trees in the gardens of the Alcázar. And if you can’t get down there, you can always dream…of tapas, mainly.

Here are five favourite haunts, which I included in a short lineup in FT Weekend a while back. You can’t book. Just go.

Albarama, Plaza de San Francisco 5, 41004 Sevilla
1-Albarama risotto scallopsSevillanos do tapas standing up. Join them at Albarama’s bar, or for a little more comfort you can get seated in the dining room at the back. The decor – white walls, black tables and chairs, some greenery suspended from the ceiling — is functional, cool and minimalist. The fireworks are on the plate: scallops tumbling over a risotto loaded with black mushrooms, mini-‘hamburger’ of squid coiffed with a layer of inky-black jelly or ceps with a quail’s egg perched rakishly on top.

Zelai, Albareda 22, 41001 Sevilla
IMG_5624-1Recent reports of this sleek black space near the Plaza Nueva, one of Seville’s newer tapas places, suggest they’re victims of their – considerable – success and service has got a bit take-it-or-leave-it. Go anyway, if only for the shellfish ‘cappuccino’ with coconut milk foam topped with a skewer of plump mussels, or pearly-white hake wrapped in a black seaweed overcoat with a brick-red romesco sauce. Their ethereal croquetas achieve the comforting illusion that a thick béchamel with chopped ham rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried could ever be light.

Becerrita, Recaredo 9, 41003 Sevilla
1-cordero al meilAn absolute institution, a little out of the centre on a busy avenue that forms the northern ring road. Perch on a stool in the beautifully tiled, ham-festooned space at the front, and go for artichokes with sherry and ham, shrimp ensaladilla or oxtail croquettes, mini-‘hamburgers’ of garlicky prawns, fresh ibérico pork with Idiazabal cheese topping or chunks of melting, slow-cooked, honied lamb (pictured). Final nail in the coffin is the tapapostre (dessert tapa): ice cream showered with chocolate shavings and a splash of sweetly viscous Pedro Ximenez.

Eslava, Eslava 3, 41002 Sevilla
1-Tapa concurso EslavaStill fairly central, close to the Plaza San Lorenzo, this place is always heaving and yet the wait-staff somehow manage to keep abreast of the orders – and keep smiling too. Get here in good time, push past the bar, soon to be knee-deep in happy tapeadores, press through to the tiny room at the back and take a seat for some of the best-value food in town. Classics like salmorejo (think gazpacho but thicker and silkier), ibérico ham splayed out on the plate, and sardines and anchovies share menu space with a prize-winning soft-cooked egg (above) sitting on a heap of ceps with a sweet wine reduction.

Puratasca
1-Guadalquivir2Most taxi drivers have never heard of the street where Puratasca lives, far less the restaurant/bar. Consult Google maps, take off across the Guadalquivir (right) to the mildly edgy district of Triana – once home to flamenco dancers and potters – and track down this self-styled ‘gastrobar’ for yourself. The walk will set you up nicely for slivers of moist mojama (air-dried tuna) with a splash of olive oil, prawns and mayo wrapped in a fragile brik pastry cornet, a sweetly creamy rice confection with quail and mushrooms, or vegetable strips in tempura batter.
Numancia 5, 41010 Sevilla

Alcazar, Sevilla, Spain

Patio de las Munecas, Alcazar, Sevilla, Spain

Les Burgers à la française

1-4-20150222_142705“Shock is the reaction of some people…who learn that real French people living in France eat hamburgers” wrote Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961. Not any more. Burgers are big hereabouts – according to a recent article in Business Insider, France is McDonald’s “most profitable country outside the US. Sales were up 4.8% through the first seven months of the year, and CEO Jean-Pierre Petit, who is rounding his 10th year as McDonald’s France’s CEO, has said 2014 will be its greatest absolute sales year ever. In 2013 sales reached 4.46 billion euros.” Continue reading

A Table Chez Marie, Hagenthal-le-Bas

1-20150122_132237As mentioned elsewhere on this site, there are loads of modest eateries in our frontier country of the Sundgau/Alsace and a handful of more ambitious ones farther afield, but all too few that occupy the middle ground – the kind that serve mildly aspirational food at approachable prices.

A Table chez Marie in Hagenthal-le-Bas is out there in that underpopulated middle ground. Though the restaurant’s address is Hagenthal-le-Bas, it’s actually about halfway between the village and Hegenheim. Remember the Hotel Jenny? The hotel no longer runs its own restaurant and has rented out the kitchen and dining rooms to the eponymous Marie, who in another life worked at the Au Violon brasserie in Basel. Continue reading

Unveiling the New Vintage of Vin Jaune

[A shorter version of this article appeared in FT Weekend, 14th February 2015]

The bishop of Saint Claude blesses the new season's vin jauneThe diocesan bishop of Saint-Claude in France’s Jura region stands facing his flock, which is packed sardine-style into the tiny twelfth-century church of Montigny-les-Arsures. Arrayed in a semi-circle behind him are members of the honourable company of Les Ambassadeurs des Vins Jaunes, resplendent in primrose-yellow robes and floppy fur-edged hats. In front of the altar sits a small wine barrel, awaiting benediction.

1-62-IMG_1385After a spirited sermon in which he draws elegant parallels between the qualities needed to make good wine and those required of a fine upstanding Christian, the bishop blesses the barrel. It is then hoisted onto the shoulders of some strapping young vignerons and carried through the streets to the chateau of Montigny, where beneath fluttering snowflakes a huge crowd huddled under hoods and umbrellas listens – with only occasional heckling – to a series of lengthy speeches. Finally the barrel is ceremonially broached, the wine bursts forth, glasses are waved wildly in the air and the festival is declared open. Continue reading

Carnival is in the Air (again)

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Fasnachtskiechli or merveilles de carnaval

Around here in Basel, Alsace and Baden, Fasnacht or carnaval or Fasching (it all depends which country you’re in) is a big deal. You can tell carnival’s in the air when the houses sprout jolly carnivalesque figures on their roofs, and those gorgeous sugar-dusted, deep-fried wonders called Fasnachtskiechli or merveilles de Carnaval start popping up in the shops. Continue reading

February Bread & Pastry Workshops – Not One but Two

My bread and pastry workshop scheduled for Friday 13th February (my lucky day?) turned out to be such a hit that I’ve scheduled a second session, on Friday 20th February.  Let me know if you’d like to join us. We’ll start at 9.30 and finish at 1.30 on both days, and here’s how we’ll do it:
breadclass3
Bread dough can take any amount of pummelling, but pastry needs a light touch. In this workshop we’ll turn our hand[s] to both. First we’ll make bread dough and leave it to rise. Then we’ll get busy on shortcrust/pie crust and turn it into a range of pies and parcels. Finally we’ll shape and bake our daily bread. Lunch will be pastry-based goodies and there’ll be a home-baked loaf for all to take home.

Vin Jaune & Company – Exploring the Jura

[*a version of this article appears in the February 2015 issue of Decanter.]

Vineyards of Chateau-Chalon, Jura

Vineyards of Chateau-Chalon, home of vin jaune

If you’d asked anyone about France’s Jura region and its wines a couple of decades ago, chances are you’d have received a blank stare. A few enlightened souls might have muttered something about vin jaune, or dredged up memories of faded signs for Henri Maire’s vin fou, affixed to the sides of dilapidated barns in the remoter parts of rural France.

Fast-forward twenty years and the name Jura is on many lips. The wines are enjoying cult status on both sides of the Atlantic – marginally more so in the US than in the UK. Wine educator Wink Lorch, with impeccable timing, recently devoted a whole book to them entitled Jura Wine, which has received critical acclaim. Continue reading

Comfort Food – Toad in the Hole

1-8-IMG_0370A good toad-in-the-hole is perfect comfort food for the depths of winter. A soothing dish of sausages baked in batter — the same as for Yorkshire puddings — it’s a distant cousin of pigs in a blanket, only that the sausages, instead of being tightly swathed in a blanket of pastry, are reclining in a delicious duvet of batter, which billows up agreeably around them. Get the full story here, on Zester Daily.

Eating Out 2014 – Highs and Lows

IMG_5818When I’m faced with the choice of whether to eat in or out, it’s usually eating in that wins. I love poring over books, planning a meal (maybe testing out something for an upcoming workshop), buying it (especially if this includes a visit to Saint Louis or Loerrach market), cooking it up in my azure-blue Alsace kitchen and enjoying it in the comfort of my own home – with wines selected from our own cellar. I even have a SO who takes care of the bits of washing up that won’t go in the dishwasher. What’s not to like? Continue reading

Workshops for 2015

The autumn schedule took us from Sicily in September to the Middle East in October and then back closer to home again in November with a foretaste of new recipes to be featured in the possible re-edition of my book A Taste of Switzerland.

Time now to look forward to the 2015 schedule, which I’ve had fun putting together with loads of help and input/requests from regular customers (thanks to all!):

Friday 13 February – Bread and Pastry, 9.30 – 1.30
breadclass3Bread dough can take any amount of pummelling, but pastry needs a light touch. In this workshop we’ll turn our hand[s] to both. First we’ll make bread dough and leave it to rise. Then we’ll get busy on shortcrust/pie crust and turn it into a range of pies and parcels. Finally we’ll shape and bake our daily bread. Lunch will be pastry-based goodies and there’ll be a home-baked loaf for all to take home.

Spring vegetables in an Italian marketThursday 16 April – Vegetable Fusion, 9.30 – 1.30
In this all-veggie workshop we’ll look to both Asia and Latin America for our inspiration, but the raw materials for our menu of light, bright, flavour-packed starters, main courses and sides will be seasonal and local with a definite spring (ahem) in their step.

 

Thursday 7 May – Fishy Fix, 9.30 – 1.30
1-3-20140901_114325Stumped for what to buy when faced with an array of fish and seafood, and fearful of what to do with it when you get it home? This workshop takes us to the fish counter of a supermarket in France on Wednesday 6 May (venue to be communicated) to see, select and buy. On Thursday 7 May we’ll fix a fish and seafood menu with spring vegetables.

IMG_2921Thursday 4 June – Summer Sharing Buffet, 9.30 – 1.30
Tapas, raciones, buffet riche, apéro dinatoire, sharing plates…whatever you call this kind of food, the grazing, mix ‘n match model is all the rage. For our summer workshop we’ll cruise around the Mediterranean selecting an eclectic bunch of delicious morsels to share on your buffet table.

All workshops take place in my kitchen just across the border from Basel in Alsace/France. Seasonal, sustainable, creative, eclectic and hands-on, they culminate in a shared meal (table d’hote) around the dining room table (or on the terrace, weather permitting) with wines to match.

Full details on my Workshops page.

Seeya in 2015!