Pando Jamón Cutting Masterclass

masterclass-cortador-de-jamon

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.

jamon-masterclass-2

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.

jamon-masterclass-1

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

XX Semana del Arroz

semana-arroz-1

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.

semana-arroz-2

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

Pando Food Photography Workshop

pando foto workshopLast week I was invited to attend a food photography workshop for food bloggers and journalists, hosted by Pando Restaurantes and Gourmedia. It had been awhile since I’d been to the Pando central location in calle San Eloy and I was impressed by the changes to the premises, which were modern without being modernist, and comprising an indoor “terrace” at the front, a large bar area, an interior patio, and a dining room. The photography workshop was held in the bar area, and our tutor for the evening was professional food photographer, and my old friend, Manolo Manosalbas.

pando foto workshop manoloManolo Manosalbas in action

During the course of a fun and informative evening we got to practice our photographic skills on (and later eat) five dishes from Pando’s new menu created by chef Manolo Mediavilla, selected to present a variety of challenges to the budding photographer. Manolo gave us some tips and hints on how to add a variety of perspectives and points of view to our photos, to maintain awareness of lighting and background and give greater depth to photographs, and kept watch over our efforts.

At the end a copy of the book Macuro Tapas, with fabulous food photography by Manolo, was given away as the prize in a raffle, for the further encouragement and education of the lucky winner (who happened to be my pal Peter from @SVQconcierge).

pando photo workshop peterYou can see the results of the participants’ photographic endeavours on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #gastrofotopando. Here are my best shots from the evening…

pando foto workshop ensaladillaEnsaladilla de gambas con mayonesa de manzanilla

pando foto workshop mejillonesMejillones con coco y curry

pando foto workshop sopaSopa de cigales con lomo de salmonete

pando foto workshop presaPresa Ibérica de Bellota, soufflé de calabaza, crema de boletus

pando foto workshop biscochoBiscocho de remolacha con crema de payoyo

Sevilla Tapas Week

seville tapas week

Today I was at the press conference announcing this year’s Sevilla Tapas Week, which will take place 6-16th November.

More than 160 bars and restaurants are participating (40 more than last year) and there will be three tapas categories: traditional, gourmet and “sabores de provincia” (not quite sure what that last one means).  People can try the special tapas on offer and then vote on line for their favourites using the SWT free app.

sevilla tapas week press conferencepress conference at El Rinconcillo, Sevilla’s oldest tapas bar

On Thursday and Friday (November 6-7th) you can check out the first Gastronomy & Networking event, being held at the Convento de San Agustín. Also make sure to download and follow the Sevilla Gastronomy Heritage Tapas Guide free app, which is a near and dear project that I helped create.

Sevilla Tapas Week
6 – 16th November

Seville Gastronomic Heritage Guide

sevill gastronomy heritage

Introduing Sevilla’s first Gastronomic Heritage Guide to tapas (and the best places to find them). The first printing of the guide is out and about and you can also download the free APP, which has both Spanish and English versions. It’s a perfect way for both locals and visitors to discover the diverse and delicious gastronomy of Sevilla, one bar at a time. Handy maps and recipes are also included in the APP.

“Establishments suggested come from a popular survey conducted by Tourism Board of City of Seville website between April 15 and September 15, 2013, as well as from a selection prepared by a technical commission of experts composed of Julio Fernández, Chef of the Michelin Star restaurant Abantal, Fernando Huidobro, president of the Andalusian Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism, Javier Compás, wine tasting technician, journalist and gastronomic writer, Shawn Hennessey, best gastronomy Twitter 2013 and author of Sevilla Tapas gastronomy tours, and Paco Sánchez, historic bar-restaurant owner in town, former owner of Bar Giralda and Bar Estrella. As a rule, these establishments are limited to the traditional and touristic heart of the city, although some other establishments are also included beyond that area because of uniqueness, quality and tradition.”
~ Visita Sevilla

I am very pleased and proud to have had a part in the creation of this very special guide.

app sevillaDownload the APP at Visita Sevilla

Ronqueo at La Azotea

 ronqueo azotea tuna almadraba
It was definitely not your average Tuesday morning. I had been invited (along with a few journalists, bloggers, photographers and friends) to a “ronqueo”, the skilled cutting of an almadraba tuna. The almadraba (Arabic for “the place of striking or beating”) is an age-old technique for catching blue fin tuna that continues to the present day. Every year during the tuna migration from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (May-June), mazes of nets are set, creating a channel of nets which direct the tunas to a larger “floor net” which is then raised to the surface, enclosing and capturing the tunas.

azotea ronqueo scenes

La Azotea had arranged to have a tuna delivered to their Jesús del Gran Poder location to give us a demonstration of the traditional cutting art know as as the “ronqueo” – the name comes from the rasping sound made when the knife cuts through the spine (from Spanish “roncar”- to snore). The 233 kilo tuna arrived and, with some difficulty, was transferred from the truck to the restaurant, which had been stripped of all tables and chairs and had a protective layer of plastic covering the floor. The master cutter then wasted no time in getting down to work.

ronqueo azotea bulletFirst the head was removed and it was discovered that the tuna had been killed “Japanese style” with a bolt to the head while still in the water. Then the belly (ventresca) was removed and shortly afterwards we heard the rasping sound of knife against spine. The massive upper and lower loin and tail sections were next to come out and then the cutter went to work on the head, removing the cheeks, mormo, morillo (don’t know how to translate those last two).

Then we were treated to the freshest tuna tataki ever – straight out of the fish and onto the griddle. It was a fascinating experience and, as with jamón cutting, it was easy to see that hand-cutting the tuna in this way is truly an art form. I’m so glad I got a chance to see my first ronqueo. Thanks Juan!

This is pretty much the end of the almadraba season for this year so make sure to get over to La Azotea this week while the fresh tuna lasts.

La Azotea
Jesús del Gran Poder 31
Zaragoza 5
Mateos Gago 8

ronqueo azotea jesus josemaria juanchefs Jesús and José María with La Azotea owner Juan

Toro de Lidia 2014

 

toro lidia 2014 poster

The second edition of the Lidia bull gastronomic days is on from April 24th until May 4th, with 19 local bars and restaurants participating. You can enjoy tapas based on the famous toro de Lidia meat for either 2.75€ (classic tapa) or 4.00€ (gourmet tapa) including a drink. The establishments will also be visited by a select panel of judges who will choose their top three.

 toro lidia 2014 participants

click on image to enlarge

Orange Day Winners

orange day winners
Yesterday the winners of the Orange Day Tapa Competition were officially announced. Prizes were given out at a presentation at the Alfonso XIII Hotel. Over 30 local bars and restaurants had participated and I was honoured to be one of the judges this year. There was also a special prize awarded based on public votes received on the Visita Sevilla website.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Naranja de Oro:

  • Restaurante Agredano. Chicken thighs in Sevilla orange sauce (70 points)
  • Taberna Chani. Presa tataki salad with orange salmorejo (70 points)

Naranja de Plata:

  • Puerto Delicia Bar. Mini foie magnum with Sevilla bitter orange crumble (68.5 points)

Naranja de Bronce:

  • Bar Europa. Marinated mackerel with Sevilla orange gelée. (62. 5 points)
  • Dmercao. Orange salmorejo with bacalao strips and leek textures. (62.25 points)

Premio especial del público:

  • Los Corales. Pork solomillo with raisins in bitter orange honey (11.76% online votes)
  • Robles Laredo. Cochinillo a la naranja at 65º ( 11.76% online votes )

Restaurant 50

rest 50
Last September I attended a press conference for a new initiative in Sevilla called Restaurant 50. The idea was a simple one, to have a select group of restaurants offering discounts to its members. I was given a card to try out, put it in my wallet and kind of just left it there, other than once using it while out for lunch with a friend at Zarabanda’s. At first I thought I wouldn’t get much use out of it because I tend to go to tapas bars rather than restaurants (some of the R50 restaurants offer tapas but the 50% discount only applies to raciones/large plates). Then the other day I stopped in at Room Zero and thought I’d try my Restaurant 50 card again… and I think I’m hooked now. Especially after doing the math on the R50 website and realising that even using my card once a month would save me close to 200€ a year (150€ after paying the annual fee).

There are actually two fees: 50€ annual and 15€ for three months. You can also get a 30-day trial card for free, but these are only sent out to addresses in Spain so are not useful for visitors just here for a short time. However, plans are afoot to have R50 cards available in selected hotels and tourist offices. Will update that info here when it happens.

At the moment there are 21 restaurants to choose from, with more being added all the time. Certain restrictions apply in terms of days and times that you can use your card, and also how many people you can include (usually it’s weekday lunchtimes and good for up to six people). As mentioned before, only main dishes or raciones are eligible for the discount, drinks and desserts are not included, and neither are daily specials, such as set lunch menus. But it still works out to a substantial saving, especially if there are a few of you. There are basically two steps for using your card.

  1. Call and reserve a table saying you are a R50 member (also check on the restrictions).
  2. Show your card when you pay and get 50% off main dishes or raciones.

So now that I’ve blown the first six months of my free card (duh!) I plan to make good use of it between now and September. Especially when friends are visiting, or for a special occasion meal. And then I will happily renew it. Also looking forward to seeing which other restaurants end up on the list.

Restaurant 50

Death of the Tapeo

An Open Letter to Tapas Bar Owners in Sevilla
[para la traducción en español pinchar aquí]

Two years ago I wrote about the increasing number of tapas bars in Sevilla charging for bread and service, a previously unheard of practice that started off in a small way with some bars charging, say 50 cents a basket, but that has now grown to the point where we find a few bars charging up to 2€ PER PERSON.

I’m not singling out any individual bars or restaurants here (I reckon you know who you are) so I’m not going to name names, either to praise or shame. But I do feel it’s time you gave this some thought and tried to understand the damage you are doing, both to the splendid tradition of the tapeo and to your own reputations. Because I actually love some of your bars, and your fab tapas, but enough is enough already.

The main arguments I keep hearing from you and your staff are:

  1. Everybody else is doing it.
  2. People pay more in other countries via taxes and tips.
  3. Why should we give food away?
  4. You’re the only one who ever complains, Shawn.

First of all, everybody else isn’t doing it. Not even close. The main culprits tend to be the new gastrobars, probably just like yours, especially those located in tourist areas. And hey, why not? By charging every person who walks into your bar an extra euro – for absolutely nothing! – you can probably pay one person’s salary. But let’s be honest here, if you can’t operate at enough of a profit to pay your staff properly then maybe you’re in the wrong business. Charging what amounts to an admission fee is so wrong that I can’t believe it’s been allowed to go on for so long. Yes, we all know that times are tough, but they are just as tough for your customers. Some of you say that many of your customers are tourists so it doesn’t matter, which also says to me that you probably don’t belong in the “hospitality” biz.

un placer

example of a tapas bar that cares about its customers

As for the second argument… what? What has that got to do with anything? We live and work in Spain. As do the majority of your customers. FYI, just a couple of examples here. In the UK the service charge is given to the staff and is not obligatory, and everybody there knows this. In the US and Canada tipping is the norm but is also not obligatory. If you don’t like the food or service, you don’t tip. Simple. But you also get coffee and soft drink refills, baskets of bread/nachos/ muffins, all included in the price. You don’t get charged just for walking into a place and sitting down. Perhaps this happens in other countries, but as already pointed out, we are not other countries. And in this country, especially in Sevilla, el tapeo is a cherished custom that you are threatening to wipe out. Imagine going out with 4-5 of your friends and being charged 1€ per person at every stop… at the end of the evening you will have paid an extra 20-30 euros. For absolutely nothing. So of course people will be forced to stop moving from bar to bar in order to save money, and this very charming element of daily life in Sevilla will die away.

Then there is the mistaken idea that you are somehow giving anything away. Nobody is asking you to give food away for nothing. But when you put food on a table as soon as customers sit down, it later looks very tacky when you charge for it, meaning it makes you look bad. It really does. Since I’ve heard most of you say “Do you have any idea how much bread and olives cost us every month, Shawn?” I’m guessing that you know exactly how much, making this a fixed cost (like rent and electricity) and something that could easily be factored into your food and drink prices. If you feel you want to charge for bread and olives, fair enough. But they should be clearly listed on the menu and you should wait for people to order them.

bread

can you believe I was charged 3 euros for THIS

Finally, I am far from the only person complaining about this. I hear complaints all the time, including from other bar and restaurant owners. Heck, even some of your own staff and management are embarrassed by this, but they need their jobs so of course aren’t going to say anything. I am aware that I may be the only one who will say something to your face, but I can’t even begin to count the number of visiting friends and tapas tour clients who have been surprised and put off after finding an extra charge on their bill. I’m often asked if the “service” is a tip that goes to the wait staff. No it is not, I tell them, it goes directly into your pocket. I’m also asked WHY bars in Sevilla do this and my only honest answer is that certain owners have hit on a way to make extra money for nothing and seem to think nobody minds. But people do mind. They mind a lot. Scrupulous bar owners I’ve spoken to also hate this practice and feel it is giving tapas bars in Sevilla a bad name. But do they complain when they go out and this happens to them? No, they do what most people do. Feel upset and taken advantage of and then don’t go back. Why? Because nobody likes making a fuss or getting into an argument at the end of a meal or tapas stop. Easier just to pay up and leave. And you know this.

Sometimes friends have said to me “well, I’m a regular at such-and-such so they don’t charge me”, as if that makes it okay. The truth is that NOBODY has to pay for bread they haven’t ordered, and especially not this atrocious per person service charge. But again, nobody wants to make a fuss. And of course visitors have no idea they aren’t obliged to pay. Even if they did, most don’t have enough Spanish to argue with their server. But it leaves them with a bad feeling after what was an otherwise pleasant experience, which reflects on you.

servicio pan

Not to mention that none of this is in compliance with Official Rules and Obligations which state that bars and restaurants cannot charge for non-food items, specifically cover charges and taking reservations. Nor can they charge for food items that have not been ordered by the customer ie. bread and olives brought to the table.

But legal or not, it is still morally reprehensible to charge people for absolutely nothing. Meaning that if you found that – somehow – it was legal to charge your customers for just taking a seat in your tapas bar… why would you do this to them? What is your excuse or reasoning? And why does a guiri like me care more about preserving the tapeo tradition than you apparently do?

Un abrazo,
Shawn

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