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SEVILLA, 2012. Notes on restaurants, bars, markets

Seville Trip Report - March 2013

We (my husband and I) visited Seville to experience Semana Santa (Holy Week). We'd been to Spain but not Andalucía. The information from this discussion thread and were all we needed for 6 days of fantastic eating. Thanks to all of you for the information you shared.

I was concerned about whether restaurants would be open during Holy Week, but my fears proved baseless. When their hours of operation were different, restaurants indicated this on their websites, and there were few changes.

We made lunch our big meal of the day. In the beginning of our stay, we arrived early because we needed time to translate the menu. As we became more familiar with the local cuisine, and my Spanish revived, arriving later was no problem.

We ordered 3 to 6 dishes per meal (most often tapas and one media racion), a bottle or 2 of water, and drinks for each of us (wine or sherry). Our tabs ran between 30 and 50 euros. Given the excellent fare, this is amazing value.

LA AZOTEA: Standing at the counter on Palm Sunday, we ordered ensaladilla de ahumados, every bit as good as Erica described. The grilled ventresca de atún (belly tuna) in a soy marinade was scrumptious. The morcilla a la plancha (blood sausage) was flavored with curry, producing a delicious contrast with the accompanying sweet onion marmelade. The chipirón tierra y mar joined jamon ibérico and mushrooms with grilled squid and baby octopus. Grilled baby octopus is a fav, and it didn't disappoint.

ENRIQUE BECERRA: We arrived early, were seated at a table and ordered tapas. Our meal: pavias de bacalao (lightly fried bundles of salt cod), lomo ibérico a la mostaza (pork loin in mustard), cebiche de atún, berenjenas de fritas rellenas de gambas (shrimp wrapped in eggplant & then fried), crujiente de puerros y gambas (a crusty "tort" made of leeks and shrimp). This was my husband's favorite place. For traditional tapas, I doubt it gets better than EB.The berenjenas were insanely good.

BECERRITA: Of the six places we went, this was the only one to which I wouldn't be in a rush to return. The food was good but a couple of notches lower than the other places. The dishes lacked the finesse we experienced elsewhere. Because it was Semana Santa, there was a special menu of raciones and media raciones only; no tapas. However, the servings weren't so big that we weren't able to eat several. The waiter's attempts to help made us feel pushed rather than assisted. The plating of the dishes was indifferent. This stood out because the plating was so attractive everywhere else.

Our meal: croquetas de cola de toro (bull's tail), hamburguesita de gambas al ajillo (shrimp hamburger with garlic), "lascas" de berenjenas fritas con salmorejo y bacalao (eggplant with salmorejo sauce and salt cod), albondiguillas de zamburiñas y gambas con la salsa de calabacines (scallop & shrimp meatballs with zucchini sauce). The high point of the meal was dessert: tarta limon con helado de merengue (intensely lemon) and helado de natas con virtuas de chocolate y Pedro Ximénez (ice cream with chocolate chips bathed in Pedro Ximénez - a thick, sweet sherry-like spirit but made from a different grape). Sue Style, your dessert description was spot-on.

Given the great reviews in this discussion thread, perhaps Semana Santa threw Becerrita for a loop.

ZELAI: We arrived early and sat at the bar. When I ordered a glass of manzanilla, something clicked with our waiter. He took our interest in cuisine seriously and guided us accordingly. The tapas: hamburguesa de langoustines con pan de algas y aioli de vino fino (langoustines with seaweed bread & sherry mayonnaise), taco de foie a la saltén con la reduccíon de vino de naranja (goose liver cooked with orange juice), tartar de atún rojo con ajoblanco de pistacho (cold pistachio soup with raw tuna), stew with shrimp, garbanzos & spinach, jamon ibérico served with idiazabel cheese and marmelade. The langoustines were incredible.The foie was a close second. This was a thoroughly satisfying eating adventure.

BAR ESLAVA: Holy Thursday is an important day in Seville. Everyone goes to church and then out for lunch. We arrived between 3:30 and 4pm, and the bar was packed. Crowding in was definitely ok, and after a while, we got seats at the bar. Our feast: croquetas caseras, solomillo de pato pan ques (duck), strudel de verduras (like spinach pie), gambas con bechamel de mariscos (croquettes in which the shrimp were covered in bechamel and then breaded/fried), costillas a la miel (lamp in honey). Everything was delectable. The costillas were sensational.

PURATASCA: We arrived around 3pm. When we asked about eating tapas, we were told they were only serving small plates. We savored: tartar de atún rojo con almadraba con fresas (raw tuna with fresh strawberries), arroz meloso con setas y cordoniz ("risotto" with mushrooms & partridge) and bacalao confitada al queso de cabra. The tuna and strawberry combo was gorgeous to look at and tasted even better. All three dishes we were knock-outs.

In a week of great food, PURATASCA was my favorite. PURATASCA is less formal, more of a neighborhood place than the others. The service was warm and friendly, but a bit less attentive. While I'd be happy to return to all of these restaurants with the exception of Becerrita, PURATASCA would be first on my list.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Watching the Semana Santo processions meant that we were out and about all hours, which required snacks.
*When we were most tired, hot chocolate and churros provided comfort. *Since our hotel was in Santa Cruz, we happily snacked at Bar Las Teresas. BLT isn't a culinary hot spot, but it delivers basic tapas well with lots of atmosphere.
*The packages of nuts sold in corner stores were of surprisingly high quality.
*While we had ample opportunities to drink Rioja, we enjoyed the cavas just as much. After observing Sevillanos drinking sherry with their meals, I started to do the same. The sherries paired well. I had fun tasting them, especially manzanilla which I'd never had before. If I'm lucky enough to visit Andalucía again, I'd taste more of them.

Apr 05, 2013
inkieD in Spain/Portugal

Belated Trip Report: Minchilli, Florence & Siena November 2012

Thank you, Allende. I accept your apology.

Mar 06, 2013
inkieD in Italy

Belated Trip Report: Minchilli, Florence & Siena November 2012

I made it clear that I was a newbie to Chowhound. If I knew much about Tuscany, I wouldn't have needed to use this web site to figure out where to eat.

Knowing the difference between Ruffino and Rufina requires significant knowledge of the region. My intention was not to misinform. After benefiting from this web site, I felt obliged to contribute to it.

In the past two years, I've lived in three countries and traveled in 10 others. If I can remember the basic words in whatever country I find myself, I declare victory.

I would like to be corrected and learn from those who clearly know more, like Allende and Jen Kalb.

I found Allende's tone condescending and hurtful. When a person has those feelings, he or she will be far less likely to engage. Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

I have no idea what "nb" and "OP" stand for. Translation would be nice.

Mar 05, 2013
inkieD in Italy

Belated Trip Report: Minchilli, Florence & Siena November 2012

You are probably correct. I truly don't remember.

Mar 05, 2013
inkieD in Italy

Belated Trip Report: Minchilli, Florence & Siena November 2012

I don't remember the name of the winery. We didn't take a picture of the label because its unlikely one could find this wine outside the restaurant. The wine list and waiter explained that the owner produced his own wine. The label said DOCG Ruffino. Sorry I can't answer your question.

Mar 05, 2013
inkieD in Italy

Ann Arbor: Lena?

Went to Lena in December with my husband. We liked the atmosphere. The food...not so much. While I didn't love Cafe Habana, the food was good enough. I didn't think Lena was as good, and it seemed pricier.

Haven't been to Isalita yet. I don't like to go to restaurants when they first open. Rather give 'me time to work out the bugs.

My favorite place for Latin American food is Mtaz Taqueria and Panaderia. The place has zero atmosphere but that tacos are fantastic.

Mar 04, 2013
inkieD in Great Lakes

Belated Trip Report: Minchilli, Florence & Siena November 2012

My husband and I visited Florence and Siena in early November 2012. This was the first time I used Chowhound to find restaurants.

Chowhound: This is a great resource. I've used it for more places now, and it's become a regular part of my travel planning routine.

Elizabeth Minchilli: Her knowledge runs deep, and her advice is utterly reliable. I'd follow her taste buds anywhere.

Siena: My husband and I dined at Osteria Le Logge. While not excellent, the food was quite good. The high point was tasting the first olive oil of the season which was spicy and delicious.

Florence: Neither my husband nor I can eat a big lunch and a big dinner. For lighter bites, 'Ino and Le Volpe e L'Uva were great solutions. I'd put 'Ino among my favorite sandwich shops in the world (Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, MI & Pickles and Potter in Leeds, UK). Le Volpe is a wonderful wine bar. Writing about it makes my mouth water for the Brunello I drank there.

We had a long, leisurely lunch at Il Santo Bevitore [ISB]. Our meals included risotto with Gorgonzola & radicchio; a salad of spinach, pine nuts, cheese & pear; chicken "meatloaf" with pistachios; steak with walnuts. The food was excellent. To us, several of the ingredient combinations were unexpected and delectable. ISB's atmosphere was appealing, too: welcoming, sophisticated and relaxed. It seemed like locals and tourists frequented ISB. If the Italians had taken over New Amsterdam from the Dutch instead of the British, I imagine New York City would be a lot like ISB.

Following the advice of Ms. Minchilli, we had lunch on a Sunday at Trattoria Tre Soldi. This was traditional Tuscan fare, and it was the best meal we ate. Dishes we feasted on included: gnochetti with pumpkin & ricotta; Centi Senese - pork shoulder with white beans & red onion; and a white peach and bergamot sorbetto. The house wine was the owner's own DOCG Chianti from Ruffino. It was terrific and cost 9 Euros a bottle. That isn't a typo. It cost 9 Euros. The restaurant was filled with Florentine families out for a special meal, which made the experience feel more authentic.

Florence has an abundance of restaurants worth a visit. While we love to eat, there were many other things we wanted to do. The restaurants we went to fit our schedule and vice versa. I'd happily return to any of them and check out others.

Mar 04, 2013
inkieD in Italy

Modern German Food in Berlin

I enjoyed everything I ate in Berlin, and there are more restaurants I'd like to try. That may be the ultimate compliment from a foodie.

Mar 04, 2013
inkieD in Europe

Modern German Food in Berlin

The meal you had at Horvath last fall was probably sensational. There are particular times when everything just comes together. The night you described was no doubt one of them.
I've eaten at places with tasting menus before, notably at Tru and Charlie Trotters in Chicago. The first time was at Tru, and it was an amazing experience.
I suspect that I'm not so keen on the tasting menu concept anymore and may prefer the old fashioned appetizer, main course and dessert meal structure.
Horvath is a fine restaurant. That I wasn't wild about it may say more about my preferences than the restaurant itself.

Mar 04, 2013
inkieD in Europe

Modern German Food in Berlin

I've spent half of the last 2 years living intermittently in Cologne and Bonn, where I've had my fill of traditional German fare. Just spent the weekend in Berlin to escape Karneval. We ate at Katz Orange, Horvath and Noto.
Katz Orange: We (me + my husband) ordered steak tartar and ox cheeks. Both were modern, clever interpretations on dishes we've had in the Rhineland. I don't often eat meat, let alone tartar, but with KO's emphasis on local, organic ingredients, I felt this was the place to do it. And it was! The French fires cooked in goose fat were delectable. We split a desert of banana chocolate "cake and ice cream." This turned out to be a completely satisfying medley of tastes, textures and consistencies. KO offers a modern take on German fare and good value for the money. I'd return in a heartbeat.
Horvath: The concept of this restaurant has changed since Frank Bruni wrote it up in the NY Times. It now focuses on a multi-course tasting menu. You select the number of courses, which can be paired with wines. Of our 8 courses, 3 or 4 were outstanding. All 8 were good and worked well as a whole. The wine (German or Austrian) pairings were well conceived, and it was an excellent way to sample several. The food was creative and well prepared. Horvath was a fun splurge on a weekend trip, but if I returned to Berlin, I doubt I'd return to Horvath. I could get a similar meal in other cities.
Noto: We each ordered the veal ribs, cornbread and cabbage. Our desert consisted of lavender pana cotta with a small chocolate brownie. Both were awfully good. The menu is limited, and the beer and wine options even more. I loved the atmosphere. This is a small, friendly place that is passionate about what it's doing. It marries the warm, welcoming atmosphere of a kneipe (German pub) with a modern approach to food. I felt it delivered good quality for the money. I recommend it to others.

Feb 11, 2013
inkieD in Europe