Travel

Eating in Jerez, Spain: La Cruz Blanca is doing the right stuff

Jerez spain la cruz blanca figuresFigurines for Holy Week, which was in full swing during our trip

If Restaurante Albores was our favorite restaurant in Jerez, then the race ended in a photo finish with La Cruz Blanca a very close second. Who am I kidding. They're both equally exceptional and I'd never get tired of sitting and eating at either.

La Cruz Blanca, which is about 3 doors down from Albores, also serves traditional Spanish food and dishes with a modern twists. It's a stunning restaurant (as is Albores). We mostly stuck to classics for this meal, and it's the meal where we first enjoyed seafood with black rice.

Jerez spain la cruz blanca croquettes

But first, as usual, croquettes.

Again I don't recall if these were fish-based, had leeks, who knows. These places do have a way with croquettes no matter what the ingredients. Creamy and dreamy. We were addicted.

Jerez spain la cruz blanca seafood salad

Seafood salad was another salad was another dish that I ordered multiple times. So fresh, light, bright, and filled with all sorts of textures and flavors. Top notch stuff here.

 

Jerez spain la cruz blanca artichokes pork belly

One of the specials that afternoon included a dish of pork belly and artichokes. I believe it could have been with a foie gras cream. You're kidding, right? We obviously had to order this dish, and were very pleased that we did. Blasted with black pepper and mint. Jeez that was good.

 

Jerez spain la cruz blanca black rice

And then the seafood in black rice. When we ordered it the server warned that it would take 20 minutes to prepare. So you mean we have to sit here at our outdoor table with the blue skies and sun of Jerez over us and sip wine and watch the world go by for 20 minutes? I think we're up to the task.

This was certainly one of the top ten dishes of the trip, and probably will end up in the top ten dishes that I'll end up eating all year. I just finished lunch yet as I'm typing this and my stomach started growling just thinking of it. And my heart hurts because I would like very much to be in Jerez. Jerez, I think, was our favorite stop on this trip (which included the beautiful Sevilla and the magical town of Rhonda).

Jerez spain street vendor

After lunch we found a seat at another restaurant on nearby Plaza Plateros where we enjoyed a few glasses of vermouth, as we did pretty much every afternoon. Just sitting around, watching the people stroll by, under the sun, is a pastime that we enjoyed thoroughly. The locals are colorful. Everyone seems to be in a wonderful mood. And you have a chance to see vendors on foot, who sell cones filled with tiny dried shrimp or meat. Yes, tiny dried shrimp, served in a cone, on the street. How awesome is that.

Calgon, take me away.

Jerez spain la cruz blanca interior Jerez spain La Cruz Blanco exterior

La Cruz Blanca : Calle Consistorio, 16, 11403 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, Spain

 


Eating in Jerez, Spain: Albores Bar and Restaurante

 

Jerez spain holy week1Holy Week Procession

Jerez is the home of sherry and the home of some of the most laid back and friendly people I've encountered in Spain. It's also the home of some wonderful food.

Albores Bar and Restaurante is likely one of the best restaurants in Jerez. It seems to be a mix of classic and nuevo Spanish cooking. We enjoyed our dinner here so much that we returned for lunch later in the week. We returned specifically for the outrageously good clams in marinara. They didn't disappoint the second time, either.

Here's a rundown...

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Eating in Jerez, Spain: La Concha I

Jerez tio pepe1Bodegas Gonzalez Bypass

The fact of the matter is that sometimes the food isn't the only important thing.

Case in point: La Concha I (not II) in Jerez, Spain. (Please note, I'm not sure this is the name of the place. I know where it is, and I could bring you there if we were both in the neighborhood, but figuring out the name has been a challenge)

We had left Sevilla that morning, picked up our rental car, drove the quick hour to Jerez, had a hard time finding our hotel because roads were closed due to Holy Week (more on Holy Week later), found our hotel, dragged our bags up two flights of stairs, brushed our teeth (as you should), found the nearest plaza for a cold Cruzcampo (which this article claims is the "worst beer in the world"--note to writers: if you're from the US and you find yourself in southern Spain, you'll enjoy it, unless you're an ungrateful heathen), and made our way over to Gonzalez Byass, the sherry producer, for an (interesting) hour tour. After the tour, we were dead hungry, and hadn't done any research on Jerez. I even had no idea how large or small the town is (it's quite small), which is odd for me, since I typically, but not this time, study maps incessantly before visiting a strange place.

Jerez tio pepe manOne of those sherry guys at Gonzalez Bypass. Pride. Tradition.

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: Mercado del Barranco

Sevilla mercdo del Barranco exterior1

As we tend to do when we travel to Europe, we booked the hotel for the day before we arrived in Spain. It seems like a waste of money to many, I'm sure, but we've spent too many first days of our trips walking around like zombies until a 2 or 3pm check-in, lugging around camera bags and other stuff that we want don't want to leave at the hotel, that we really think it's worth it to get to the hotel at 9am, sleep for 3 hours, and wake up, energized, and go out trying to find a place that is actually open for lunch at 12pm. Restaurants typically aren't--open at 12pm--and if they are, we're the first customers. Bleary-eyed Americans. At the very least, somewhat well-rested Americans who had a chance to brush their teeth. Well worth it, again. Please, people, brush your teeth more often.

But I'm not here to tell you about my breath or complain about yours. I'm here to tell you that the first thing we did in Sevilla, after napping, brushing our teeth (as far as you know), and having an uneventful meal, was meet a neighbor-friend, who has a semester abroad Sevilla. Kids these days, with their privilege.

This young friend gave us some information about Sevilla and the culture that may or may not have been news to people more than twice her age. But the one thing she told us, which had us on the edge of our uncomfortable little Spanish outdoor table seats, was that Mercado del Barranco, one of the more famous markets in Sevilla, has an outdoor seating area with couches and comfy seats down by the river, and you can get food from the market, and a bottle of wine, and sit there down by the river, and well she had me at "couches."

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: Tapas at Casa Morales

Sevilla plaza de torosPlaza de Toros, Sevilla

At 165 years old, Casa Morales isn't anywhere near the oldest tapas place in Sevilla (that honor goes to El Rinconcillo, est. 1670), but it could be the second oldest. Indeed you will feel swept back in time when you walk into this corner bar, whose back room (a separate entrance) was once used to store sherry in enormous vats. The vats remain. The sherry has been drained.

Sevilla casa morales interior back room Casa morales sevilla interior

Just steps from the Cathedral and a few blocks from Plaza de Toros, you'd think a place like this would be packed with tourists. On the day we were there, it seemed to be more filled with regulars and locals.

We were there only for a snack and to soak in the environment, and had a few glasses of wine and tapas.

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: El Pinton

Sevilla el pinton exterior

El Pinton caught our eye every time we walked by. I guess we liked the clean lines and the modern look.

One night as we roamed around Sevilla without a plan for dinner, we ended up walking by it for about the 10th time in 3 days. The menu read well, and we figured what-the-heck?

We were seated in a small back room which is very much like a hallway leading to the toilets. I would recommend not sitting back there, but rather get a table in the large, open, airy, absolutely lovely large dining room that you have to walk through in order to get to the hallway.

Sevilla el pinton cocktail

I got the sense that El Pinton appeals to young, cosmopolitan types. Large groups of young selfie-taking women filled the dining room, seated next to people who looked more like art collectors than wine makers. And I can see why. The menu isn't typically Andalusian. There are quite a few notes of Asian flavors here, for example. It was a nice change of pace.

I landed on what I assumed would be a safe cocktail. IIRC, it was a sour of some sort. Maybe tequila. Maybe gin. Can't recall. But the cocktail was executed well, if not a bit on the sweet side. Kids like their sweet stuff.

Let's get on to the food. We didn't order much, but we enjoyed what we had.

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: La Azotea

Sevilla la azotea interior

Shit got real once we stumbled up La Azotea in Sevilla. While we we enjoyed the croquettes and cured tuna and anchovies and Andalusian cuisine, getting a chance to eat a place serving new Spanish cooking was a real treat. We liked La Azotea so much that we returned for a second meal on the tail-end of the trip. 

La Azotea is a beautiful, casual place, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients. The menu is concise, and everything reads incredibly well. It was very hard indeed to come up with just a few dishes. But we managed.

Sevilla la azotea rice paper triangles

This dish was rice paper triangles stuffed with cheese, prawns, and leeks. Right? When it hit the table we immediately knew we were in the hands of a kitchen that understands cooking, plating, and pleasing.

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: Bar Pelayo

Sevilla bar pelayo exterior

It was our second night in Sevilla and we still hadn't done much research on restaurants. After enjoying a few cocktails at the excellent The Secondroom (it took me about one day to start trying to track down a proper cocktail bar), we spied a welcoming little place called Bar Pelayo right down the block. At this point we were starving and quite frankly would have eaten anywhere.

The menu is typically Andalusian, with the typical tapas, fried fish, croquettes, etc.

Sevilla bar pelayo croquettes

The oxtail croquettes were pretty fantastic.

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Eating in Sevilla, Spain: Churros at El Bar Comercio

Sevilla bar el comercio

Churros may be traditionally a breakfast snack, but not for me. I think they go well with, say, several glasses of vermut. And there's no better time to enjoy several glasses of vermut than mid-afternoon, while the rest of Spain is enjoying siesta.

We found El Bar Comercio on the internet somewhere, and headed off to take a load off. This place is over 100 years old, and it has retained all of that charm. Black pig legs hanging from the walls. Old dusty bottles in a display case. Pleasant bartender, who could have been the owner.

Sevilla bar comericio interior1 Sevilla bar comericio vermut
It's one of the few places we found where our order of "dos vermuts" wasn't received with a blank stare. Vermouth is more commonly called "martini" in Spain, after the brand Martini and Rossi. So spare yourself the confusion and just order a martini. Unless you want a vodka or gin martini, in which case you're a savage and on your own.

They had to fire up the churro maker. This thing was quite a device. I had no idea one needed such a machine to make long donuts.

Sevilla bar el comercio churros1 Sevilla bar el comercio churros2
The half portion was barely 2 Euro. I think the fabulous chocolate (for dipping...and drinking if you're me) was about 2 Euro.

A pleasant little stop, not far from the Cathedral.

Sevilla bar comericio chocolate

Bar El Comercio : Calle Lineros, 9 : Sevilla, Spain

 


Eating in Rincon, Puerto Rico: Burgers at Kahuna Burger Bar

Kahuna burger bar rincon deck

I have extremely low expectations for a restaurant or bar if any of the following apply:

1) it's close to a beach
2) it's ridiculously popular and crowded at night
3) it has live music
4) it has a kitschy name

Kahuna Burger Bar meets all four conditions. Yet managed to really impress.

It was a real scene, as the kids say, the night we walked past and first noticed the place, on our way back back from a fantastic meal at Pool Bar Sushi (great place). But it piqued my interest, if only for the bar scene, which made me feel like I was missing some action. I hate missing some action. It just seemed "fun," even for someone old and grumpy like me. Research was in order! Some googling of Kahuna Burger, located in the Casa Verde Hotel, led to some dreadful pictures of burgers that didn't look very appetizing. Just as I suspected. I tried to get it out of my head.

Against my better judgement, we headed over for lunch one day. Fully expecting the place to be packed, we got there at noon, sharp. We were the only customers. I think people sleep a bit late in Rincon. Or they're out surfing in the morning and don't think about lunch until much later than me (I start thinking about lunch at about 10 pm the night before).

Kahuna burger bar rincon interior bar

Kahuna has an indoor oval bar and some rail seating, along with some high-tops and picnic tables on the deck, which is where we packed in our crew.

A scan of the cocktail list yielded a margarita that sounded like it was almost on track to being a proper cocktail (I asked and the lime juice was to come from a lime...good start). The inclusion of Jose Cuervo silver was the big problem. And I don't recall if the menu specified Cointreau. I asked the lovely bartender if I could sub in Milagro and ensure Cointreau, stating that I'll pay the up-charge. She said don't worry about it, same price. Nice! A bit sweet, but Milagro and Cointreau and lime juice and some sugar in a plastic cup with ice in Rincon on a sunny 84 degree day is better than what you probably drank last week. You dig?

The food, you say?

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