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

Grupo Sagardi XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey

menus-2016
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.

bueyes2016

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.

Vinos de España – Una Pasión

vinos de espana
Tomorrow Sevilla will host the third edition of “Wines of Spain. A Passion”, a gathering of wineries organised this year by Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, presenting the enormous diversity and richness of Spanish wines to fans, professionals, and wine lovers alike.

The event will be held in in the heart of Seville at Casa Bucarelli, an idyllic environment that combines beauty and history of the city. 42 Spanish wineries will be featured with a selection of over 200 fine wines. There will be a diverse representation of producing areas, designations of origin and wines: Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Somontano, Cádiz, Priorato, Jerez, Toro, Rioja, Mallorca, Extremadura, Navarra, Txakoli, Wheel, Cava, Ronda, Ribeiro, Valencia, Arianza, Ribera del Duero, Madrid, among others.

Vinos de España Una Pasión
May 12th
11.30 am – 7.30 pm

Tío Pepe en Rama 2016

en rama 16

After having to miss this year’s presentation of Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 (because of this!) I found myself having a post-shopping pre-dinner glass of wine up at Gourmet Experience and my pal Silvia stopped by. Silvia not only runs the place at GE but her father Antonio Flores (AKA the winemaker poet) is the master wine blender at Gonzalez Byass and is also the guy responsible for Tío Pepe en Rama. Turns out Silvia missed the presentation too (she was only able to stop by for a quick hello before it all got going) and she insisted I try a glass. And well, it was damn fine. Thank you Silvia!

Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 was first selected in October from 100 of the best casks from two of the oldest Tío Pepe soleras, Rebollo and Constancia, and finally bottled (16,000 in total) in April from the top 60 out of those initial 100 casks.

A wild unfiltered wine, with all its yeast and organic contribution. Yellow, pale, golden tones, cloudy (yeast in suspension). The nose is pure albariza, salinity, nuts, bakery aromas. Tasty, intense, long, salty and slightly bitter finish. Or as Antonio would say… el sol de Andalucía embotellado (bottled Andalusian sunshine).

You can order Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 from the Gonzalez Byass online store or (in Sevilla) buy it at El Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience Duque.

Sevilla Feria 2016

feria sevilla 2016 (1)

Some scenes from the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. The portada this year was a “Homage to Dance” and the winning design, by Eduardo Morón Espinosa, was inspired by the Argentinian Pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Exhibition, now the Antonio Ruiz Soler Conservatory of Professional Dance.

I was invited to have lunch one afternoon at the private (and massive) City Hall caseta, so I went along with my friend and colleague Aldara Arias de Saavedra from We Love Tapas and we were shown a fabulous time by Diego Torres, editor of Sevilla Selecta magazine, who was in charge of coordinating all the food for the event. Afterwards we took a stroll around the grounds. It was a lovely sunny afternoon but heavy rains earlier in the week had taken its toll and the thousands of colourful paper lanterns that typically cover the lights had literally been washed away. There are rumours that next year the feria may start on Saturday (instead of the traditional Monday at midnight opening) and last for ten days. We shall see…

feria sevilla 2016 (4)arriving at the feria

feria sevilla 2016 (6)flamenco in the Ayuntamiento caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (9)cold manzanilla served in a chilled metal teapot

feria sevilla 2016 (10)this year’s spring fiestas poster

feria sevilla 2016 (8)Andalusian products

feria sevilla 2016 (7)Inés Rosales for dessert

feria sevilla 2016 (22)Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (5)Diego and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (19)lovely head scarf on this lovely amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (18)chatting each other up

feria sevilla 2016 (23)We Love Tapas chicas Ania and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (15)washed away paper lanterns

feria sevilla 2016 (24)feria shoes…

feria sevilla 2016 (29)kids playing outside a caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (17)two young girls singing sevillanas

feria sevilla 2016 (21)beautiful colours

feria sevilla 2016 (14)horse whisperer

feria sevilla 2016 (13)carriage ride

feria sevilla 2016 (12)hombres

feria sevilla 2016 (11)taking a break

feria sevilla 2016 (28)big and little

feria sevilla 2016 (27)amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (26)chicas!

feria sevilla 2016 (20)inside a public caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (16)late afternoon shadows

feria sevilla 2016 (25)the wheel – would’ve gone up but it was way too speedy

Feria de Abril Sevilla

Feria Portada 2016

portada 2016
La Feria de Abril, or April Fair, is Sevilla’s annual party to welcome the spring. This year it runs from April 12 to 17 (the alumbrao, or switching on of the lights, is at midnight on April 11), and for a week the fairground will be abuzz with people, horses and carriages, and the sound of flamenco.

Entrance to the fairground is through a specially constructed gateway, called the Portada, which is rebuilt every year with a different theme. This year’s theme is “Homage to Dance” and the winning design, by Eduardo Morón Espinosa, was inspired by the Argentinian Pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Exhibition, which is now the Antonio Ruiz Soler Conservatory of Professional Dance, and can be found in the Paseo de las Delicias.

The design also includes two commemorative plaques, one to each side of the central gateway. To the left is one for the 4th centenary of the death of Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. To the right is celebrated the 750th anniversary of the parish church of Santa Ana in Triana.

Feria de Abril 2016
April 12 – 17
Sevilla 

Semana Santa 2016

ss 16 (2)people waiting for processions, contemplating that other Great Power… 4G

After last year’s “warning” 😉 about coming to Sevilla during Semana Santa, followed by the Twitter shit storm inadvertently caused by me posting this photo on Instagram, I am going to stick with a simple photo essay this year. It was a lovely and gentle Semana Santa for me, running into some processions by happenstance, seeking out others on purpose, and generally enjoying the ambiance since most of my time wasn’t spent in La Bulla (the very Sevillano name for the crush of humanity that congregates on the procession routes). And while I’d never actually choose to get caught up in a serious bulla, I have learned over the years that when this happens, just relax and ride it out. Though it does help to know which little side streets will get you off the main route, and after more than 23 years in Sevilla I am quite experienced in “procession dodging” when I actually need to get somewhere. So for Semana Santa 2016 here are 16 pics I took while out and about this week…

ss 16 (1)mini-nazareno

ss 16 (10)the San Bernardo procession in Cuesta del Rosario

ss 16 (14)chairs galore! Plaza San Franciso

ss 16 (13)Cristo de la Fundación, San Bernardo

ss 16 (12)Los Negritos

ss 16little boy waiting for the next procession

ss 16 (11)group of people from nursing home with “preferred seating” supplied by local bars

ss 16 (9)Virgen de los Ángeles, Los Negritos

ss 16 (8)elegant ladies dressed “de luto” (in mourning)

ss 16 (7)Cristo de la Salud, Los Gitanos

ss 16 (5)costaleros taking a break

ss 16 (6)off-duty Centurian posing for pics

ss 16 (15)María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena

ss 16 (4)Cristo de la Expiración (El Cachorro)

ss 16 (3)
El Cachorro was created in 1682 by Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón. It depicts Jesús at the moment of dying on the cross (Cristo de la Expiración) and is a splendid and very moving work of art. Legend has it that the artist found a gypsy dying in the street in Triana and his face was the inspiration for his Christ. This is one of my favourite processions though I don’t get to see it every year. Glad I made time for it yesterday.

The longer I live in Sevilla the more I see and read accounts of my beloved adopted city by various expat bloggers living here, or by travel writers passing through, and while some are good and honest accounts (I don’t have to agree with them all) there are also many that are frankly just crap. My feeling is… DON’T write about something you haven’t actually experienced first hand. Also, try to approach your topic with an open mind, not with an already fixed agenda. Sometimes I wonder if some of these travel writers have actually been here. And as for the massive expat community here… as long as you are still calling somewhere else “home”, I wonder if you’ll ever really experience Sevilla – or Spain – other than through foreign eyes looking at a foreign culture. I’ve never thought of anywhere else as “home” since arriving in Spain back in 1992. And while I love showing visitors the joys of Sevilla, I guess also feel very protective. Because it is my only home.

Callejeando Food Fest

callejeandocallegeando programme

This weekend you can enjoy the best of street food at Muelle de Las Delicias next to the Seville port. There will be 15 participants serving up everything from burgers to desserts, along with workshops, music and other special events. Click on the programme to enlarge the image or have a look at the Callejeando Food Fest Website.

Be there or be square.