Ask anyone in Granada where the best place to buy ceramics is, and they’ll invariably say Fajalauza, a large factory high up on the main road behind the Albaycin. This is the source of those ubiquitous green and blue bowls, plates and platters that you’ll find all round the region, including dozens of designs featuring that bulbous granada, aka pomegranate, symbol of the city.
It has been a while since I wrote a blog post but there’s always an excuse, this time researching and writing a new food and travel book. It will be at least another year before it hits the shelves, so meanwhile here’s a taste of the first chapter: Almeria
I knew this corner of Spain decades ago, but there has been a hiatus. When I returned this November I found a buoyant city, fast-moving on the gastro front, within easy reach of the stunning natural park of Cabo de Gata, visible on the horizon below. The previously run-down city is blooming, and barely touched by tourism – for the moment.
May is the big kick-off month in Cordoba when the city comes alive between its post-Easter slumber and the furnace-like temperatures of the summer. So, once again, I steered a car towards this beguiling urban labyrinth from my rustic hideaway in the Subbética. Patios were on the agenda, but what I didn’t expect was to stumble across the famous Rocio.
I love Cordoba, never tire of its sublime 8th-10th century Mezquita (mosque), its Roman walls (above), nooks and crannies, palm-studded squares, silent churches and noisy tapas bars. Luckily the latter constantly reinvent themselves; even changing the ingredients and/or presentation of homegrown salmorejo…Here’s one of the best versions, at Garum 2.1, with a glass of chilled, local Montilla. Read my post about the city’s tapas bars here – all tips are still valid.
Having just emerged from a mega gastro-binge courtesy of Madrid Fusion, Spain’s annual convention of all things foodie and drinkie, I decided a few thoughts about chefs and their chosen paths were called for. The get-together is a rare opportunity to see multiple Michelin stars all a-glitter in one place, packed into a three day program, talking about discoveries, passions, science – plus a bit about cooking. The majority of them took the convention theme “post avant-garde” and ran with it – in all directions. And that is what made me question the role of super-chefs today.
Despite being flung out in the plains of Extremadura in far western Spain, Caceres is clearly on the up, boosted this year by its status as Spain’s gastronomic capital. On various stays over the last 15 years I always found the old quarter a bit of a museum, completely dead at night and full of tourists by day. Yet times have changed and this stay, holed up in a palatial hotel on the lovely Plaza San Juan, I was sucked into a buzzing nightlife – spearheaded by the city’s burgeoning taperias (the local word for tapas bars).
Decidedly Spanish jamon is on a roll, putting the nose of Italy’s Parma ham seriously out of joint. Only a few years ago, most foreigners’ idea of Spain’s ham was tough and ropey, derived from the product churned out by huge ham factories on the east of the peninsula. These specialise in industrially produced ham from the white pig, an iniquitous import.
It’s not always bad, in fact some jamon serrano can be delicious, notably those from Teruel and Trévelez, but it doesn’t quite manage that sweet, velvety, melt-in-the-mouth factor.
People flock to Jerez for three reasons: horses, flamenco and sherry bodegas, not necessarily in that order. All well and good, but this cheerful Andalucian city also offers a very decent sideline in tapas bars. So having just returned from a sherry refresher, I thought I’d flag up a few choice venues.
A day spent in Cadiz leaves you on a high – with all neuro-cobwebs swept away. This city is magical, luminous, breezy, packed with baroque and Andalucian gems, as well as possessing a distinct air of north Africa. Not least, it’s the oldest settlement in Europe, founded by the Phoenicians some 3,000 years ago. You get the picture – it is unique.
Dear reader I beg you please tell me if you know of a quality tapas bar in Granada that is a/ not packed with boisterous students (sorry…) or b/ not packed with carousing tourists (I know, mea culpa, I’m a travel-writer). If I go to Cordoba, no problem at all, I’m spoilt for tantalising choice; Seville, the birthplace of tapas? not bad either, though tourists are inevitably thick on the ground. But Granada??? it’s a tough call. And I have tried – (see my previous blog here).
A short burst out of London has just taken me to Madrid. Celestially speaking it was distinctly bluer than London but it seems Iberian clear skies are deceptive, as pollution levels were actually skyhigh. But fear not, I’m not here to write about the weather, more about how the capital’s much hyped tapas scene is faring.