Riding the C5 in Sevilla

For years I’ve seen this cute microbus all around town – and I mean ALL around – but not in a way that made any sense. I’d wonder how the C5 bus stop could be in so many seemingly random spots and where it could possibly be going. Then one day my friends Julie & Steve informed me that “riding the C5” was one of their favourite pastimes when they visited Sevilla, so I put it on my To Do list, and today I decided to take the plunge.

There are three of these Mercedes Sprinter diesel microbuses used on the route, measuring 7.7 metres long and 1.9 metres wide, with a capacity of 27 passengers (13 seated, 14 standing), and equipped with an electric ramp for people with limited mobility.

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Calling the C5 a circular route is a serious simplification. We started at the “start/finish” stop just behind the Alfonso XIII Hotel and from there it was like being on a Magical Mystery tour. We had no idea where the bus was going to go next as it trundled down one narrow street to another. Just when I thought I knew where we were headed it would abruptly turn, even occasionally backtracking down a parallel street to end up almost where it had just been. Whoever designed the route must have been either mad or a genius. Or drunk. We noticed that sometimes even locals getting on the bus had no idea where it was going, and would get right off again after checking with the driver. But it clearly serves a purpose, as long as you’re not in a hurry, connecting parts of the “casco antiguo” (old centre) that larger buses can’t access.

AND…it was fun. Plus it could also serve as a totally wonky “off the beaten path” tourist ride for visitors, though it’s a bit of a bumpy ride at times, and the driver doesn’t stop anywhere for long, so taking photos is tricky (as you can see above). But I’ll certainly be doing it again. 🙂


Repost from Casa Azahar

Viña Galvana by Delgado Zuleta


This week I was invited to a cata for this year’s edition of Bodegas Delgado Zuleta’s D.O Cádiz white wine Viña Galvana. Delgado Zuleta is of course best known for its sherries (it’s said to be the oldest bodega in the marco de Jerez), especially Manzanilla La Goya, but also produces local white wines.

The 2017 Viña Galvana (85% Palomino Fino and 15% Moscatel) is a fresh, light wine with a bright pale gold colour and a touch of fruitiness, and pairs well with fish and seafood. Really a perfect summer wine. The label pays tribute to one of Sanlucar’s most popular events, the annual horse races on the beach which take place every August. The cata was presented by Jorge Pascual, the Director-General of Delgado Zuleta and enologist José Antonio Sánchez Pazo, with promotion by @ProbandoGastro.

The event was hosted by Cinta Romero and her team at La Cochera del Abuelo, who also provided a light post-cata lunch. Thanks to everyone who helped organise this very pleasant event.

III Feria del Pan, Aceite & la Aceituna

This weekend you can pop over to the lovely Patio de la Diputación in Sevilla to sample the best of olive oils, olives and bread and learn about their production at the III Feria del Pan, Aceite y La Aceituna.

Patio de la Diputación
Menéndez Pelayo 32
May 19th – 21st
Friday 15.00 – 20.00
Saturday 11.00 – 14.30 / 16.00 – 20.00
Sunday 11.00 – 18.00

Bodegas Lustau | Vermouth with a View

After a period of decline, vermouth (a fortified aromatic wine) has been enjoying something of a comeback recently, with a number of producers entering the market with a variety of “craft” vermouths. One of these, the respected sherry-house Lustau, brought out its first red vermouth at the end of 2015, and has followed it up with a white vermouth, launched in Sevilla at a special event on May 10th.

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation, which also resulted in another first, as the presentation was being held in the new Sevilla Tower across the river next to the old expo site. Personally I think the building is an eyesore on the Sevilla skyline, but I have to admit the view from the 21st floor (halfway up) was pretty spectacular, and as usual at these events I met up with some old friends and made some new ones.

Lustau white vermouth: fino & moscatel

Stars of the show were, of course, the two Lustau vermouths. The new white vermouth is blended from fino and muscatel sherries, and is slightly less sweet than the existing red, which is blended from amontillado and PX sherries. Both are flavoured with a variety of aromatic botanicals and spices. I think the red is still my favourite (although a close decision), but if you haven’t caught the vermouth bug yet try one of these in your local bar. You might well become a convert.

Lustau red vermouth: amontillado & pedro ximénez

Lustau reps Estanis Bobadilla & Juan Mateos Arizón

vermouth cocktail recipes

Bodegas Lustau

Hospital de los Venerables – Velázquez & Murillo

This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolome Murillo, probably Sevilla’s most famous painter, and has been officially declared the Year of Murillo. As part of the commemorations the Fundación Focus-Abengoa, in collaboration with the Prado Museum, London’s National Gallery, and others, has organised a very special exhibition comparing the work of Murillo and Sevilla’s other most famous painter, Diego Velázquez.

velazquez murilloThe two painters, born in Seville a generation apart (Velazquez in 1599 and Murillo in 1617), and having their formative influences there, nevertheless had quite different career trajectories, Velazquez leaving Seville to work at the Spanish court in Madrid in 1623, while Murillo spent his entire working life in Seville. It’s not known whether the two ever actually met in person (though they must have been aware of each others’ work), but while there is no record of a meeting, it’s not impossible as Murillo visited Madrid on several occasions, although art experts think that there was only limited reciprocal influence.

santa rufinaSanta Rufina by Murillo (left) and Velázquez (right)

However, it’s clear from the 19 paintings in the exhibition, 10 by Murillo and 9 by Velázquez, that there were common influences in the cultural world of Sevilla in the 17th century. This shows itself in both the choice (or commissioning) of subjects, especially in religious subjects pertaining to Sevilla such as the Saints Justa and Rufina and the Immaculate Conception, as well as of Saint Peter and the Adoration of the Magi, and the highly naturalistic style of the scenes of everyday life.

day to day lifeEveryday scenes by Velázquez (left) and Murillo (right)

It’s also appropriate that the exhibition is being hosted in the Venerables Hospital, a building that is of the early 17th century, and which has both a historical and current associations with the two painters. Around mid-January the exhibition, which continues until February 28th, surpassed the 50,000 visitor mark.

Velásquez | Murillo | Sevilla
Hospital de los Vernerables
Plaza de los Venerables 8
Open 10.00 – 18.00 (last entrance at 17.30)
General Admission: 8 euros
Free Admission Tuesday 14.00 – 18.00

Pando Jamón Cutting Masterclass

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Who could resist an invitation to attend a jamón cutting masterclass? Not me, that’s for sure. This was the first of many proposed events by Pando Restaurants & Catering for their #GastroEscueloPando initiative, and what a great way to start. Also, just in time for Christmas, when many families purchase a jamón to see them through the holiday season. Though as we all know, proper jamón cutting is an art form, requiring knowledge, skill and – just as important – practice, practice, practice. And while none of us walked away from the event with finely honed cutting skills, we did take away a lot of new information that will be very helpful for those planning to buy a Christmas jamón.

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The masterclass was led by professional cortador Victor Fernández. It was a very relaxed and casual setting and everyone felt comfortable asking questions while watching Victor in action. We learned about the different types of Ibérico ham, the different cuts, the different flavours, as we enjoyed plates of jamón being passed around the room, along with glasses of Glorioso rioja. Some brave souls even got up to try their hand at cutting under Victor’s watchful eye.

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Pando has recently renovated its calle San Eloy 47 location, and has also updated its menu. Worth checking out.

XX Semana del Arroz

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The 20th edition of Semana del Arroz (Rice Week) kicks off today at Taberna del Alabardero, headed by Valencian rice master Juan Tamarit. All this week you can find special rice menus in the restaurant paired with wines from the non-sherry branch of Bodegas González Byass, including Beronia Verdejo and Beronia Reserva. From the 22nd to 24th you can also attend seminars hosted by Juan Tamarit and learn the secrets of perfect paella making, held from 10.00 – 13.30 and 7.00 – 20.30. For more information, or to reserve your space, call Taberna del Alabardero at 954 50 27 21 or contact them by email rest.alabardero@esh.es.

Today’s preview and rice tasting at the Taberna was as delicious as the previous one, and we spent a lovely afternoon chatting with other foodie pals and sampling a wonderful variety of flavours.

Whether you are interested in learning how to make this iconic Spanish dish, or if you’d just like to sample some of the best, be sure to visit Taberna del Alabardero this week.

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Semana de Arroz
November 21 – 27, 2016
Taberna del Alabardero
Zaragoza 20
Sevilla

Grupo Sagardi XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey

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From November 14th to December 11th Grupo Sagardi is running the XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey (Ox Gastronomic Season), celebrating the traditional homeland cooking of its Basque founder, Iñaki Lopez de Viñaspre, and master butcher Imanol Jaca. I was lucky enough to be one of the around 50 people invited to the Sevilla inauguration of the new menu at the Sagardi Restaurante in the Hotel Palacio Pinello.

It proved to be an interesting and enjoyable experience in pleasant surroundings, though of course the stars of the show were the traditional Basque dishes, and in particular the txuletón (T-bone steak) of aged Galician beef. These are taken from selected cows of between 6 and 10 years of age to give the right balance of lean and fat, and are then aged in a cold room for 25 days before being prepared for the kitchen, where they are sliced and charcoal grilled to medium rare perfection. The result was both tender and very tasty, and well complemented by the fresh pimientos (peppers) del piquillo that came with them, as well as the Argentinian Malbec (Uco Acero ’12) chosen to accompany the meal.

Before that the meal started with a taster of bresaola (a thinly sliced air dried salted beef). This was followed by a Basque speciality, “Alubia nueva de Tolosa con sus sacramentos”, a rich dark bean stew served with morcilla, cabbage and guindilla peppers. It’s quite rare as it has a very local provenance, but if you ever get the chance to try it, do so. It’s delicious.

After the main course came a lovely sheep’s cheese called Montaña Aralar, walnuts, and some dark chocolatey truffles as a sweet.

Many thanks to Grupo Sagardi for organising this event, and to the Hotel Palacio Pinello for hosting it. It was a delicious meal much enjoyed by everyone. You can book at Sagardi Sevilla +34 954 563 156. Because of the size of the meat cut it is recommended for groups of four.

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Finos Palmas 2016

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The Cuatro Palmas (four palms) is an annual selection of a small number of the very best casks of Tio Pepe Fino sherries from Bodega González Byass in Jerez, which are publicly presented to the sherry and hospitality trades and selected press at an invitation only event in November.

palmas-2016-5Pedro Rebuelta, Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, Antonio Flores

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the presentation, which was held at the spectacular Palacio de las Dueñas, the seat of the Duke Of Alba, in Sevilla. Only opened to the public in May, this 15th century Gothic-Renaissance-Mudejar style palace, with is long halls and garden courtyards, was a perfect venue for the presentations and tastings.

This year’s selections were made in September by Antonio Flores, Gonzalez Byass’ master winemaker, and renowned sommelier Gérard Bassett, and bottled, as always, “en rama”, without filtration or clarification. Not an easy task, but eventually wines were selected for each of the four palmas.

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  • One Palm is a 6 year old Fino selected from three casks, out of a total of 142, that exemplifies the evolution of the style.
  • Two palms is an 8 year old Fino selected from just two casks out of 150, reflecting the elegance of a well aged wine.
  • Three Palms is a 10 year old Fino selected from a single cask at the limit of the biological ageing process.
  • Four palms is a Fino that has passed to being an amontillado, and was selected from one of just six casks that have been ageing in González Byass for 51 years. It reflects the ability of Tío Pepe to evolve over time.

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The presentation took the form of a palace tour, stopping at a different garden courtyard to sample each wine, while “winemaker poet” Antonio Flores not only regaled us with the unique characteristics of each Palma, but also (aptly) read from the works of Antonio Machado, born in the palace in 1897. This was followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch, with all the Palmas flowing freely. Not surprisingly all the 2016  Finos Palmas stock has been sold already, but you can still find it in select wine shops in Sevilla, such as the Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience.

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foto de familia

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Hospital de los Venerables by Candlelight

This year summer in Sevilla looks like being notable for its night visits to various monuments and cultural establishments. On Tuesday July 26 I was invited to participate in one of a series of night visits to El Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes organised by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and Engranajes Culturales. This included some parts of the building that are not normally open to the public, and was be partly conducted by candlelight (okay, battery powered candles, not real ones), to give a sense of how the building would have looked in its early days in the late 17th century.

venerables (1)

Our guide for the evening was Sergio Raya, and as the shadows lengthened we collected our candles and set off. The hospital consists essentially of a number of rooms and buildings arranged on two floors around the famous sunken central courtyard, which we would come back to later, but first stop was the Hospital Church.

Although of modest size the iconography of its decoration is considered to be among the most complete and complex in Spain, with a theme revolving around the centrality of the priesthood and the respect owing them. Among the artists whose work is represented here are Lucas Valdés and Juan de Oviedo. Unfortunately the main altar is not the 17th century original, which was destroyed, but dates to 1889. Also modern is the splendid organ, designed and built in the 1990s with decorative finishes faithful to the earlier age.

venerablesthe hospital church and organ

From the church we went on through the sacristy, most notable for a “trompe l’oeil” ceiling designed to make it appear much higher than it really is, and into the patio of the sacristy. This is the oldest part of the building, and was where the first patients were housed prior to the completion of the hospital dormitories. The back entrance to the hospital, giving onto Calle Consuelo, is here too. Just beyond is another patio with an intriguing history. This was the location of the Corral de Comedias de Doña Elvira, an institution that could be thought of as the Sevilla equivalent of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and roughly contemporary with it (1578-1632). It was so named because it was in the gardens of the Palace of Doña Elvira de Ayala (born 1377), which was in the nearby Plaza of that name.

venerables (2)central patio

From there we went back to the central patio, which is one of the best in Sevilla. Unusually, the central square is below the level of the surrounding colonnade, and the fountain is set into a stepped circular well. The overall effect is visually pleasing, though apparently the motivation for the design was the rather mundane matter of drainage.

Our next stop was the hospital room on the lower floor (there is another on the upper floor; these were used at different times of year), not normally open to the public. A high-ceilinged room with an arcade of pillars down the centre, it reminded me somewhat of a sherry bodega. A painting in the upper gallery shows it with the patients in rows of beds down either side, and this was the model for the layout of other hospitals in the city. We experience it by the light of our candles, a rather gloomy place, and after a while stifling in the summer heat.

venerables (3)view of the church through the upper gallery

On then to the upper gallery, by way of the main stairway, which has a fine cupola with representations of the papal tiara and Saint Peter’s keys, maintaining the theme of the importance of the Church and clergy. On the side of the upper gallery alongside the church a doorway to a screened balcony allows you to look down into the church without being seen.

Next stop was the Library. This was created in 1981 as an HQ and book depository for Focus Abengoa, in what was originally the Hospital refectory. Beyond, a narrow stairway leads up to the Altana, or Torre Mirador, an open platform with a mudejar style ceiling from where you can look out over the Santa Cruz neighbourhood. As always, things look different from the rooftops than they do at ground level, and I found it quite hard to get my bearings.

venerables (4)warning! 

This was a fitting last stop on our tour, which showed us more, and with a deeper level of explanation, than you get from a standard visit, so a big thank you to Engranajes Culturales and Focus Abengoa for a fascinating experience, and to our guide Sergio who kept things going despite almost 40º temps and who was both entertaining and informative.

venerables (5)view from the Torre Mirador

For more summertime cultural experiences, including night visits to Las Dueñas, El Salvador Church and Las Teresas Convent, have a look at Engranajes Activities Page.