Sevilla has a great new hall of tapas

Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco When Sevilla’s Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco (C/Arjona; 954 220 495; opened a year ago, it was an instant hit and yet another example of the trend throughout Spain of converting neighborhood markets into tapas halls. If the structure below looks familiar, it’s because it’s a classic Gustav Eiffel market design. Construction began in 1861 and was completed in 1883, and for generations the handsome iron building on the riverbank at the end of the Isabel II bridge to Triana served as Sevilla’s principal fish market.

Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco The World Heritage Site structure had been closed since the 1980s—until journalist Carlos Herrera and bullfighter Fran Rivera saw an opportunity to give Sevilla a glassed-in tapas court like Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel. Two years and a reported €2.1 million later, the riverfront was awash with Sevillanos eating all manner of tapas and drinking beer and wine. In warm weather, they spill out of the building to picnic and café tables.

octopus at Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco Only a few of the 18 food stalls sell food to take home and prepare (a butcher and a fish monger, as far as we could tell). The rest have tapas and food specialties—and we do mean specialties. One stand (Peggy Sue’s Grill) makes nothing but variations on the American hamburger. Pulpería Barranco serves a zillion versions of octopus (left). Another stall specializes in empanadas.

Salmorejo in every guise

But our favorite stall might be La Salmoreteca, which specializes in variations on salmorejo, a puree that’s a first cousin to gazpacho. The modern version combines tomatoes, bread, onions, and garlic, but the dish predates the availability of tomatoes and peppers from the New World.

salmorejo sampler Brainchild of chef JuanJo Ruiz, the company actually began at the Mercado Victoria (another market turned tapas court) in Córdoba, the city that’s usually credited as the cradle of salmorejo. Ruiz exploded the basic concept of salmorejo to a purported 600 variations. The sampler plate shown above consists of eight distinct variations in small bowls surrounded by Spanish wine crackers—an appropriately sturdy vehicle for scooping up the purées. The bowl in the foreground is the roasted pepper version topped with faux baby eels made from seafood, faux caviar made from vegetables, and some fried potatoes. Just to its right is the salmorejo of avocado and seaweed with a ceviche of dace (a small river fish) and lots of chopped egg.

The dishes offer a surprising and delicious range of flavors and textures for what is basically a dressed-up purée. Salmorejo is a barroom staple in Andalucia, and the concept of whizzing bread and vegetables in a blender lends itself to infinite variations of “salmorejos de vanguardia,” as Ruiz calls them. It’s a trend we can definitely get behind.

The Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to midnight. On Friday and Saturday, it stays open until 2 a.m.



11 2015

Real meat and potatoes in Córdoba

steak at El Churrasco in Cordoba Because La Mezquita—the 10th century mosque partially inhabited by a 16th century cathedral—is the biggest attraction in Córdoba, many travelers think they should be eating a North African diet long on eggplant and fried fish. But Córdoba is also in the heart of one of Spain’s chief beef-raising regions, and the venerable Restaurante El Churrasco (Calle Romero 16, Córdoba; tel: 957-290-819; serves some utterly delicious steaks grilled over oak charcoal. We made an overnight stop in the ancient city so we could visit the mosque in the pre-tourist silent hour before the morning Mass (trust us—it’s much more spiritual without the tour groups), and we enjoyed a typically extended Spanish Sunday afternoon feast at El Churrasco.

smoked sardine at El Churrasco Before we got down to business with the steak, we enjoyed a sampling of several tapas in lieu of appetizers. That included some fried eggplant with classic Córdoban salmorejo (a gazpacho variant thickened with pureed bread to the texture of a dip) and the restaurant’s pride and joy, a prize-winning smoked sardine with guacamole and tomato compote on a piece of toast. The photo at right shows the morsel. Those sprouts? They’re sprouted poppy seeds, which gives the umami-laden bite a nice snap of spice.

Poor Man's Potatoes at El Churrasco One thing you might notice about Córdoban cuisine is that it sometimes seems that every dish is garnished with a little chopped ham and hard-boiled egg. That included a nice seasonal batch of shell beans sauteed in olive oil (Cordoba also produces some of Spain’s best olive oil). El Churrasco also served an interesting but different take on a Spain-wide standard, patatas a lo pobre, or Poor Man’s Potatoes. The traditional version calls for sautéeing thin slices of potato in olive oil with some minced garlic, salt, and minced parsley. As shown here, El Churrasco used small cubes of parboiled potatoes and sautéed them with bits of serrano ham until lightly browned. At the last second, the kitchen stirred in an egg and soft-scrambled it with the spuds. The approach was simple but the results were delicious.

And then came the steak (and a bottle of Rioja).



11 2015

Casa Patas for flamenco and food

artichokes with ham at Casa Patas in Madrid
We almost always advise travelers in Spain who want to catch a flamenco show to skip the meals that are offered as part of an espectaculo. In most flamenco clubs, or tablaos, the meals are overpriced and gastronomically underwhelming. It’s better to eat elsewhere and agree to ordering a drink with the show as part of your admission.

An exception is Casa Patas in Madrid, which functions more like a bar-restaurante with a show in the back than it does like a traditional tablao. It’s a bar with strong Andalucían overtones, lots of Andalucían hams, and lots of sherry on the menu. But the kitchen does a pretty good job with a lot of classics of the Spanish table. On our most recent visit (last week), we had failed to reserve a show in advance, so we did the expedient thing: We went 90 minutes early to get on the wait list (there are always some no-shows) and killed the waiting period by sitting down to eat and drink. One of the biggest surprises was a plate of alcachofas con jamón, or stir-fried artichoke hearts with ham. This version (shown above) was one of the best we’ve had in a long time, with tasty artichokes and a mince of air-dried ham, served in a puddle of olive oil with a roasted red pepper.

flamenco performers at Casa Patas in Madrid As is always the case at Casa Patas, the show did not disappoint either, even though we ended up with very peripheral seats. The establishment was founded by flamenco musicians, and Casa Patas is a mainstay for touring professionals—sort of like small jazz clubs can be for journeyman musicians in the U.S. You get to see the hard-working pros who haven’t settled into being a house act at one of the flamenco tablaos.

Casa Patas is at Calle de los Cañizares, 10; tel: +34 913 69 04 96; Show prices vary with the acts. We paid €36 each.


10 2015

San Antón: Madrid’s best market makeover

slicing ham at San Anton market in Madrid
Madrid has been renovating and updating its historic fresh food markets in recent years, starting with the transformation of Mercado San Miguel next to Plaza Mayor into a jewel box full of tapas bars and high-end deli food. But we’re even more impressed with Mercado San Antón in Chueca. The market is a symbol of how that neighborhood—once the part of town where you went to buy sex or drugs—has become one of the hippest and most gentrified parts of the central old city. FYI, about the nastiest stuff you’ll find on Chueca streets these days are some shoes with 15-centimeter spike heels in the shops on calle Augusto Figueroa.

entrance to Mercado San Anton market in Madrid The Mercado San Antón isn’t exactly a temple of food like La Boqueria in Barcelona or the Mercado Central in Valencia. We think of it as the parish church of food for the fairly hip, fairly young crowd in Chueca. The basement has a small SuperCor supemarket for the essentials—laundry detergent, canned white asparagus, cheap wine, Coca-Cola in 1.5 liter bottles, etc. The real food is on the first level, where the market stalls have everything from perfectly selected fresh fruit in season to one of the best curated fish stalls we’ve ever seen. Madrid is in the middle of the country far from the fishing ports, but Madrileños so love their fish that the wholesalers overnight the catch to the capital. There wasn’t a cloudy eye to be seen on the mackerel, cod, hake, or grotesque whole monkfish. As befits a great market in Spain, all the ham is cut fresh, as in the photo above.

The second level is even more amazing than the fresh food. It consists entirely of tapas stalls, a wine bar, a pastry/ice cream/coffee stall, and a few tables around the edges. At mid-morning when people are shopping for food, it’s placid. From 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., it’s a madhouse as people come for a cheap lunch. Some tapas cost as little as €1, as indicated in the image below. You can also get a tuna or an eggplant empanada, a small pork steak and fries, or—at the stall of creative tapas, a fancy burger topped with foie gras for less than €6.

The top level is a restaurant operated by the Jabugo ham group Cinco Jotas. It’s not all thin, precious slices of Iberian ham served with Manchego and sherry. The menu includes a wide range of meat and fish dishes. Half the restaurant is on an outdoor terrace, which solves the Spanish need to smoke all through the meal now that indoor dining is smokefree by law.

Mercado San Antón is at calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24; tel: 913-30-07-30; The market is open daily from 10 a.m. until midnight.

tapas at Mercado San Anton in Madrid


10 2015

Off to Spain. Again.

Pat making photos from CentroCentro in Madrid
Readers who’ve been following us for a while know that we have a special love for Spain and its varied cuisines. In fact, if you just plug “spain” into the search box to the right, you’ll find multiple pages of posts about Spain and Spanish food stretching back to November 2009, when we wrote about the fabulous blue cheese of the Picos de Europa, Cabrales, and gave you a recipe for Cabrales with sauteed apples, walnuts, and honey.

Peruse those pages and you’ll find recipes for authentic paella, patatas riojanas, and a number of other Spanish classics. There are also some Spanish-inspired originals, like saffron shortbreads and orange and almond tart.

We’re heading back to Spain this week for some extended research, with stays in Madrid, the wine country of Toro and Rueda, a stopover for prayer (literally) in Córdoba, and longer stays in Sevilla and Palma (Mallorca). We have meetings and visits scheduled to flesh out research for about 40 essays in the new book Pat is writing, 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go, for Travelers Tales. Publication is scheduled for fall 2016. We’ll try to keep you apprised of tastes we encounter along the way, but given our busy schedule on the road, new posts may have to wait until early November.

Pats subject By the way, if you were wondering, the photo above is Pat taking pictures from the observation deck on CentroCentro, the former main post office building on Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid. She’s taking a picture of the Metropolis office building at the corner of Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía, the first Madrid thoroughfare designed for the automobile. Inaugurated in 1911, the Metropolis is a rare Beaux-Arts beauty in what Madrileños hoped would become the new modern district of the city.

Tags: ,


10 2015

Lonely Planet captures taste of place

From the Source Thailand and Italy from Lonely Planet
We’ve always believed that one of the best ways to get to know people is to eat at their table. Lonely Planet, the erstwhile backpacker guidebook series that has been heading steadily upmarket since it changed ownership in 2013, must agree.

Last month Lonely Planet (under NC2 Media) launched the first of a projected large line of books about different cuisines. Called “From the Source,” they pair a writer and a photographer to chronicle the flavors of a country through heavily illustrated recipes for regional dishes.

The first two volumes tackle the cuisines of Thailand and Italy, which is a pretty tall order. The recipes are given in both metric and U.S. measure, and they are intricately detailed. In the Thai book, this means delineating every spice that goes into a particular curry. In the Italy book, it often means detailed descriptions of technique, complete with explanatory photographs. (The primer on making gnocchi is reason enough to buy the book.)

Each recipe is introduced with a one-page description of the dish, how it fits into the national cuisine, and who supplied the recipe (everyone from home cooks to esteemed chefs). These books are the next best thing to being there—letting you preview a place before you go or attempt to bring the taste of travel back home.

From the Source – Thailand: Thailand’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best and From the Source – Italy: Italy’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best are both available at the Lonely Planet online bookstore (, or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They list for $24.99.

Better yet, buy it at your local independent bookstore. Ours is Harvard Book Store (, and it has both titles. What’s yours?


10 2015

First Vineyard marks origin of American winemaking

Tom Beall on porch of tasting room at First Vineyard The first libations that come to mind in north-central Kentucky are likely to be bourbon, and, if you’re a craft brew fan, beer. But the first commercial winery licensed in the Midwest and adjacent South was actually in Jessamine County, Kentucky in 1799. (Franciscans, of course, were making wine in the missions along the Rio Grande and in California a century and a half earlier.) The current owner of the land, Tom Beall, has rescued that tidbit of history by resuming production at First Vineyard (5800 Sugar Creek Pike, Nicholasville, Kentucky; 859-885-9359;

John James Dufour hailed from a wine-making family in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In the 1790s, he purchased a piece on land on the Great Bend in the Kentucky River that had been first surveyed by Daniel Boone in 1783. Dufour published his business plan for a vineyard in the Kentucky Gazette in 1798. A year later, he was licensed as a winery and planted his terraces above the river.

Dufour managed to produce a few small vintages, but a killing freeze in 1809 put his Kentucky property out of business. He and some relatives launched Second Vineyard in Vevray, Indiana, which became America’s first successful commercial winery. Dufour’s book, The American Vine-Dressers Guide, Being a Treatise on the Cultivation of the Vine, and the Process of Wine-Making, Adapted to the Soil and Climate of the United States, published in 1826, was the bible for aspiring wine-makers throughout the middle of the country.

Alexander grapes at First Vineyard There are a slew of details to the story, and some very handsome, if steeply terraced land to look at if you visit First Vineyard, where Tom Beall (above, on the tasting room porch) is again producing wine on Dufour’s site, mostly from French-American hybrid grapes and native fruits. The wines are actually crafted on contract by another Kentucky winery using First Vineyard’s fruit.

In researching the history, Beall discovered that Dufour’s main grape was probably the Alexander, not the Cape of Good Hope that he thought he was planting. The Alexander was named for James Alexander, who discovered it growing in William Penn’s vineyard as an accidental hybrid between a North American native labrusca and a European vinifera wine grape. Alexander became popular in 19th century vineyards but most scholars had thought the variety lost. Beall, however, tracked some vines down to a USDA depository in the Finger Lakes. Starting from 40 cuttings in 2008, he has planted it extensively. It is a very vigorous grower and producer of fruit, but the vines are just beginning to mature so the taste test is still a few years away.

tasting glasses at First Vineyard Meantime, Beall offers tastes of three wines for $3 in the picturesque log cabin tasting room. The most striking of the whites, made from American Diamond, has a brisk fruitiness,. The best of his reds is Chambourcin, a 19th century French hybrid of uncertain parentage. The nose has a distinct note of wild cherry and the aftertaste is lightly but pleasantly bitter with a bit of smokiness. It’s a pretty good wine with barbecue.

The tasting room is generally open 1-7 p.m., Friday-Sunday, but call first to make sure. The winery is less than 30 miles south of Lexington, but the rural road can be tricky in bad weather.


10 2015

Franciacorta: effervescent joy from Italy

Franciacorta rose with lemon risotto and insalata caprese Contrary to common usage, there’s nothing like real Champagne, the sparkling wine made in a delimited area in France. We’d suggest that there is also nothing like Franciacorta, the elegant and more affordable sparkling wine made in the Lombardy countryside an hour east of Milan. In fact, that city’s fashionistas have been drinking a lot of Franciacorta for the last several days during Milan Fashion Week.

The district has been growing grapes at least since the 16th century under the aegis of the region’s monasteries. (The name of the region indicates a region of monasteries not subject to ducal taxes.) Serious spumante production is much more recent, dating from the years after World War II, and the big players are industrialists, not monks.

That said, Franciacorta did almost everything right from the start, and won DOCG status (Italy’s top quality designation) before any other sparkling wine in Italy, including Prosecco DOCG. The grapes are a familiar bunch to Champagne lovers: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc. Secondary fermentation is carried out in the bottle in what the Italians call metodo classico and the rest of the world calls méthode champenoise. The chief advantage is that the wine develops on the lees, gaining a yeasty complexity that bulk carbonation cannot impart.

The DOCG regulations recognize two styles and three aging designations, each of which can be made with varying residual sugar ranging from brut to demi-sec. The Non-Vintage must be made of chardonnay and/or pinot noir (with up to half pinot blanc) and be aged at least 18 months. Sàten is a blanc-de-blancs style made with only white grapes, of which chandonnay must constitute more than half; it’s aged a minimum of 24 months. Rosé is made with chardonnay and pinot blanc with a minimum of 25 percent pinot noir to give it the desired color. Millesimato is a vintage Franciacorta in either style and indicates that at least 85 percent of the wine came from a specified quality vintage and has been aged a minimum of 30 months. A riserva is a vintage-dated Sàten or Rosé aged at least 60 months.

The Sàten style is something of a misnomer, since silkiness is characteristic of all good Franciacortas, which typically sell at retail for $20-$40, except for a few rare riservas. Personally, we like the Rosé style, since the pinot noir gives it a little fruitiness and extra structure. We popped a 2010 Millesimato Fratelli Berlucchi Rosé ( for the meal shown above: lemon risotto (Franciacorta is splendid paired with the acidity of the risotto) and a plate of our final garden tomatoes in an insalata caprese.

We expect to be drinking even more Franciacorta as the holiday season approaches.



09 2015

Bourbon cocktails: mysterious … and easy

Seth Kinder prepares a Blue Heron 46Among the bourbon craft cocktails we tasted in Lexington, one of the most intriguing was the Blue Heron 46, a house specialty at the Blue Heron Steakhouse (185 Jefferson St, Lexington, Kentucky; 859-254-2491; The menu describes the drink as Maker’s 46 (a smoother, woodier version of Maker’s Mark with more pronounced caramel notes) with handmade apricot ginger syrup served on the rocks. How do you make that syrup? Bartender Seth Kinder—the “Hell on Wheels” character mixing a drink here—was downright coy.

He did suggest that the syrup was made by cooking down a pound of apricots with sugar and water, and an equal amount of fresh ginger also boiled in syrup. We’d make it like this. Combine 1 pound of dried apricots and two cups of coarsely chopped fresh ginger and process in a food processor. In a large saucepan, combine two cups of sugar and one cup of water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the apricot-ginger mixture and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and strain, reserving the liquid.

Here’s the recipe as we observed Kinder making it. Experiment a little. It’s basically an especially sweet apricot whiskey sour.


Blue Heron 46 1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark 46
1 1/2 oz. sour mix (equal parts lemon and lime juice with simple syrup)
juice of a half lemon
1 1/2 oz. apricot ginger syrup
raw ginger
dried apricot

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until well blended and chilled. Strain into a rocks glass half filled with ice cubes. Garnish with thin slice of raw ginger and rehydrated dried apricot.

With the Breeder’s Cup coming up at Keeneland ( in Lexington, Kentucky, at the end of October, we bet a lot of folks will be drinking the racetrack’s signature bourbon cocktail. The Keeneland Breeze drinks sweet, citrusy, and deceptively light. (A few of these could have you staggering down the back stretch of the evening.) It’s a genuine breeze to make. Since Maker’s Mark is one of the sponsors of Keeneland, that’s the bourbon that track bartenders use. To make it light, prepare in a highball glass. For a stronger breeze, use a rocks glass.


1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark
1 oz. Triple Sec
splash orange juice
ginger ale
orange round

Fill glass about two-thirds full with ice and add bourbon and Triple Sec. Pour in a splash of orange juice and fill glass with ginger ale. Attach orange round as a garnish.


09 2015

Coles keeps faith by reinventing the classics

Bourbon ball cake at Coles in Lexington Lexingtonians have been heading to the brick building at the corner of East Main Street and South Ashland to dine for decades. The spot opened in 1938 as The Stirrup Cup, adding the iconic murals of English hunt scenes—complete with a blessing of the hounds—in 1949. A succession of restaurants have occupied the space, but none more felicitously than current occupant, Coles 735 Main (735 East Main St., Lexington; 859-266-9000;

More than six decades after they were painted, those murals still lend a sense of occasion to the pretty dining room. And, as you might expect, executive chef Cole Arimes concocts a sophisticated mix of local and global tastes just right for a big night out. He might add truffle-infused lobster cream to a bowl of shrimp and grits (made, of course, with grits from Weisenberger Mill) or coat Scottish salmon with a bourbon-maple glaze and slowly smoke it to perfection.

Bourbon also features in the dessert that’s perfect for a candle in the middle and a round of “Happy Birthday.” In a witty play on the local popular bourbon ball candies, Arimes elevates the now-familiar flourless chocolate torte with bourbon-soaked pecans and then serves each slice with Woodford Reserve gelato and housemade caramel. Here is his recipe for the torte—as he reeled it off the top of his head. (We tested and tweaked it a little.)


Makes one 9-inch torte


1 cup bourbon
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 eggs


Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak at least 1 hour. Place in a small saucepan, and cook off bourbon from pecans until dry. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate in 10-cup or larger food processor.

In a second saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, count to 90 and then drizzle into chocolate as food processor is running. Add butter, small portions at a time, until fully incorporated. Add all 6 eggs at once. Once incorporated, scrape sides and run for another 20 seconds.

Combine chocolate mixture with pecans in mixing bowl. Scrape into a 9-inch buttered springform baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes or so. (Cake should spring back when touched in the center and not stick to a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle.)

Let cake cool to room temperature before releasing from pan. Then chill before serving.


09 2015