Amazing Local Tapas in Seville – the Triana tapas crawl!

Triana, Triana, qué bonita está Triana…” So go the famous flamenco lyrics. Triana, just over the river from Seville proper, is one very proud barrio, historically the home of a large Gypsy population, as well as flamenco dancers, bullfighters and a strong pottery industry. While the neighbourhood has changed (the Gypsies were displaced in the 1970s), the local pride remains. And if you’re looking to escape Seville’s tourist centre and hit some very local tapas bars, then Triana is the perfect spot.

I was in the city with some of the Devour Tours crew (a number of whom live in Seville) and we were running a test of our new Tapas Like a Local: Triana Neighbourhood Tapas Tour. In other words, we went out for tapas and pretended it was work. We hit five of the best tapas bars in Triana, and ate everything from perfectly grilled pork loin to freshly-carved jamón to stewed pork cheek to the most amazing radishes you’ve ever tried in your life (the last one may sound a little strange, but trust me).

And the drinks? Vermouth, wine and… of course… sherry! Straight from the barrel.

So anyway, if you’re in Seville and want enjoy a fab night out amongst the locals (check out my new friend Enrique right at the end of the video) and want to eat tapas and drink sherry like a Trianero, then check out the video and follow our lead!

Best Tapas in Madrid!

It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve had a chance to make a video about some of what I consider the some of the best tapas in Madrid. And happily, they’re all in the same barrio! You see, just on the far side of the Retiro park, there is a clutch of tapas joints that are some of the most exciting in the city. And I don’t mean exciting in a super avant guard sense… I mean exciting in that they walk a cracking balance between tradition and modernity, both in terms of food and also atmosphere. And they’re all within a few blocks of each other!

The barrio? Ibiza (not the island!). It’s a slightly wealthier part of Madrid, and is officially located in the Salamanca neighbourhood. It’s only a very short metro ride from the centre. And it’s an area where many of the traditional taverns have evolved with the times, updating their menus and their wine lists to keep up with modern trends, but not losing their link to tradition. So you have places like KultO that are doing Spanish fusion cuisine (mixing a lot of Andalusian recipes with influences from Asia), but only a block away you have La Castela, that does a knockout bull tail stew and fabulous more traditional fish dishes. And all these places have a restaurant section where you can sit down, but unless you’re with a big group, I always prefer to battle it out at the bar (I’m a sucker for a busy tapas bar). Elbows out!

And what’s so refreshing is that these bars truly do justice to the variety and richness of wine made in Spain. Sure, there’s a lot of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. But you can also dig into sherry, wines from Madrid and reds from the north-west (which are totally trending right now – and rightly so!).

And last – BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST – my wife! This is the first video I’ve co-hosted with my wife Yoly. She’s from Madrid, has taught my a lot of what I know about Spain, and is also Madrid’s leading flamenco tour guide. Check out her private flamenco tours at www.theflamencoguide.com – she’s a genius, and a wonderful woman. And I’m not just saying that because we’re married!

OK, enough chat. Onto the video! Enjoy! And give it a like if you enjoyed it. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for similar videos about how to explore and experience Spain like a local!

An unforgettable & delicious weekend in a secret village in Spain

So, about a year ago, I spent the most delightfully delicious weekend in a very hidden village in Spain. The village is called Pozos, and it’s a tangle of stone houses set in gorgeous mountains in the province of León. Over the course of 48 hours, we feasted on rice with rabbit and quail, we roasted a baby goat in the communal village oven, we explored my friend Lauren and Alejandro’s recently purchased ruin and I discovered the most gorgeous pair of ponies I’ve ever see in my life.

I was invited to the village by Laura and Esme, who run a little gastronomic retreat company called Esme Tours. The offer cooking classes, country walks and wine experiences in the region, direct from their gorgeous home. If you’re planning a trip to Spain (or if you life in Spain and want to escape for a weekend), I really do suggest you check them out!

Anyway, I’ll leave you with the video, which I hope give you a true insight into village life in Spain, a taste of Spanish culture, and a glimpse at some seriously delicious cooking. Oh, and there are those two ponies of course. Finally – subscribe to my YouTube channel for similar videos about how to explore and experience Spain like a local!

 

Beginner’s Guide to Rioja Wine!

If you’ve ever heard of Spanish wine, you’ve almost certainly heard of Rioja. But for those who are new to the vino of this country, often they’ve heard that name but don’t quite know what it means and therefore don’t feel confident ordering it.

Well, welcome to my Rioja for [total!) beginners video! I made this to help those of you who are new to Rioja help you understand it, order it and enjoy it. And for those who already know Rioja, I think you’ll enjoy how the video explains the difference between traditional and modern Rioja wines, and also gives an update on the changes afoot in the region right now.

I kick off the video by answering three questions that I often hear in wine tastings we give:

  • Is Rioja a grape or a wine region?
  • What is the main grape used in Rioja?
  • Is Rioja a red wine or a white wine?

And once those questions are answered, I move on and taste three Riojas from my favourite wineries of the region. The first is Viña Tondonia 2005 Reserva from the winery R. López de Heredia, then Roda I Reserva 2009 from the winery Bodegas Roda, and finally Viñas de Gain 2015 by the winery Artadi. The first is a classic, traditional Rioja, the second represents modern Rioja and Artadi is in there to highlight how the region is going through a period of massive change.

So, I hope you enjoy the video! I plan to make a tasting video for each of the 69 Spanish wine regions, so after you’ve had a watch, remember to leave a comment in YouTube about what region you’d like me to do next!

And if you enjoy the video, remember to give it a thumbs up! Lots of “likes” always bring a smile to my (and my mum’s) face!

Epic Barcelona Tapas Crawl – 8 Best Tapas Bars in Barcelona

I know, I know. This blog is called Madrid Chow. And this is a video about Barcelona. But what can I say? I live and chow in Madrid, but sometimes chow elsewhere in Spain? I was in Barcelona for three months over the summer organising things for Devour Tours, and just before I left I realised I needed to make a video to share with travellers heading there my favourite Barcelona tapas bars. Barcelona is a complicated city to be a tourist in. There are tourist traps aplenty. But there are also gems. Plenty of them. So along with my Devour colleagues Lauren (fellow co-founder) and Katie (marketing director) we set off to see how many great tapas bars we could knock off in one night. We managed 8. Actually, we managed 7, but then I was able to travel in time to visit the 8th. I know that sounds nuts. And it sort of is. But it’s true. I guess you’ll just have to watch the video to understand.

And while you’re here, why not subscribe to my YouTube channel for similar videos about how to explore and experience Spain like a local?!

3 Top Spots in the Opera Barrio – Gourmet&Tips

Ópera. At the plush slippered feet of Madrid’s Royal Palace, this amorphous neighbourhood is a heady blend of stately squares, narrow, winding streets, and very old money. I remember when I first moved to Madrid, I didn’t really think of Ópera in gastronomic terms. It all seemed a bit bland. Well, times have changed, and there’s now plenty going on amid those blue blooded lanes. In my latest gastro guide in conjunction with Bodegas Montecillo, I check out 150-year-old Madrid institution La Bola, brand-spanking-new seafood bar La Lonja del Mar (Madrid has the second-largest seafood market in the world!) and finally, the classic and, I find, underrated by locals, Mercado de San Miguel. A spot we couldn’t squeeze into the video, but I would also suggest checking out is La Candela Restó – the best Michelin-star meal you’ll have this year at a restaurant without a Michelin star.

Enjoy!

A feast at a Basque cider house! [VIDEO]

I’ve drunk a lot of Spanish cider in my time. We serve in on some of our tours, and I’ve stood agape and watched as waiters pour it from a great height directly into a glass in Oviendo, Asturias. Spanish cider is acerbic, crisp, bubble-less and absolutely delicious. It’s what you get when you ferment apples, not when you ferment apples, add sugar and carbonation. But my cider experience has long been incomplete. I’d never been to a cider house. I’d heard about them, in the mountains of the Basque Country or Asturias – two north-western regions of Spain. I’d heard the cider is served from enormous barrels, I’d seen images of it spurting out of those barrels and into the special fat, wide glasses. And I’d heard about the food – the salt-cod omelettes, the walnuts, the sheep cheese and… the enormous T-Bone steaks, served warm and bloody as hell in the centre.

So, on a trip to San Sebastian with Devour Tours colleagues Cyra Alcock and Lauren Aloise (we were researching and meeting with people in order to launch Devour San Sebastian), we decided to take a night off, jump into a taxi, and hit a cider house.

We got everything I expected and more. Because what I didn’t expect was the camaraderie, the sense of celebration or… the exquisite singing.

I hope you enjoy the video! And if you decide to go, the cider house we went to is the family-run Zapiain and the price for the full meal was €35. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and check out these 7 key things to know before getting to San Sebastian! and 7 fabulous museums to check out in the city.

Txotx!

Best Places to Eat in Chamberí Neighbourhood – Gourmet&Tips

About three months ago, a friend, Roger Casas, who owns a production company, got in touch. He said, “Hey, I know you know a lot about where to eat, drink and make merry in Madrid. And I know you’ve recently become a sommelier. I think I might have something we could work on together.” It was a collaboration with Bodegas Montecillo, the third oldest winery in Rioja (founded in 1874 no less!). They wanted to make an online series where a local gastronome takes viewers around some of the newest, hottest and tastiest spots in Madrid. “Where do I sign?” I said.

So below is the first episode of that series – called Gourmet&Tips. We actually shot each episode in both English and Spanish (my brain melted and dribbled out my ear at the end of each day of filming), but I’m only going to post the English version of each video on my blog. If you’d like to practice your Spanish, do check out Bodegas Montecillo’s YouTube page for all the versions.

And in each little 3 minute video, I hit up a number of establishments in one Madrid barrio and try a signature dish in each… thus acting as a little guide for those lost and hungry in Madrid. I’ll be posting a new episode every two weeks or so.

And in this first episode, we hit Chamberí… for those who don’t know, it’s a little north of the centre, and is one of Madrid’s hippest spots for eating, drinking and growing long well-groomed facial hair. Yes, it’s hipster trendy. But there is A LOT of great food amidst those bearded streets, especially on the famous food street Calle Ponzano. Anyway, I won’t say anymore. Enjoy! (And remember to give the video a thumbs up – or the puppy dies!)

Join me on an exclusive 9-day gourmet Andalusia getaway!

I’m taking a brief break from the videos, to make a very exciting announcement. It’s something that’s been bubbling away for a few years now and finally the time is right.

This September, my Devour Tours partner Lauren Aloise and I will be leading a small group on an exclusive, one-off 9-day gourmet journey through Andalusia!

We’ve designed our dream southern Spain trip, and we’re thrilled to share the incredible hidden corners, delicious tastes, and amazing stories of this absolutely magical part of Spain with a select group of guests.

Read on for more info!

Andalusia is simply dripping with colour and life.

A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING…

Five years ago we began leading our daytime food tours in Madrid. And we quickly learned  that food tours are about so much more than just food. They’re stories about a place, told through local food, and through the family-run vendors we visit. And as we’ve expanded our daytime and evening tours throughout Spain, we’ve travelled (and eaten) all over this country.

The upshot? I’ve felt a growing desire to lead a tour that can go deeper, include more and tell a broader story about this country. As I hope my videos show, lend me your ear, and I’ll fill your mind with everything Spain. And so this Andalusia journey allows us to achieve that wish – to share everything we’ve learned, discovered and fallen in love with with a select group of people.

And the goal? To help our guests see Spain with local eyes, and help them understand the story of this country… while of course eating lots of amazing food!

The region’s white villages are almost dreamlike places. We’ll enjoy a private cooking class in one.

WHY ANDALUSIA?

Andalusia was the obvious choice for both of us. This region is spectacularly ancient, and as a lover of history, it’s always thrilled me. Whether peering on Columbus’ tomb in the cathedral of Seville, exploring the date-palm-oasis-like Mosque of Cordoba or wandering the cracked pavements of ruined seaside Roman town Baelo Claudia, the sense of history here is palpable.

Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral is one of the world’s most remarkable monuments.

And the food. Oh, the food. Rich black-hoof jamón from Aracena, magical wines from Jerez, liquid gold olive oil from across the region, and market-fresh seafood pulled up daily all along the coast. This is like the cradle of so much of what we now think of when we think of Spanish cuisine. It’s a land that offers up such variety, with so many rich flavours. And we want to share all those flavours with our guests.

But Andalusian cuisine isn’t only about the past. This region is at the forefront of modern Spanish cuisine. Every time I head to Seville or Cordoba, I’m thrilled by the thought of tasting the dishes that are being produced right now by young, ambitious, and talented chefs. We’ll be tasting both the traditional flavours and the modern ones on the tour, giving our guests a true understanding of the food of this region.

And, of course, the wine. When the Phoenicians arrived in Andalusia 3,000 years ago, they brought wine-making knowhow with them. Which means the wines of this region have a long and fascinating pedigree.

Of course, Andalusia’s most famous and distinct wine is sherry, which many people think of as simply sickly sweet. Fear not, Lauren and I are both certified sommeliers and we will re-introduce you to this fabulous drink (most of it’s dry as a bone). And we’ll also be tasting more traditional red wines at one of my favourite wineries in all of Spain.

Exploring the sherry wineries of Jerez is like stepping back in time.

As a certified sommelier, I love demystifying wine for our guests. Not pretension allowed!

And what so fascinates me about Andalusia are its entangled origins. This region has been the home to Romans, Christians, Muslims, Jews and other, more ancient, people. And that melting pot of inhabitants has created a very unique and evocative modern culture. Of course, flamenco comes first to mind – an art form in which you can hear both the Muslim call to prayer and Christian Gregorian chants. And while the influence of the Moors on the the language, culture and architecture of Spain is clear, I’m also fascinated by the more hidden influences of Spain’s sephardic people. We will be exploring all of this on the tour.

Flamenco is a music that truly reaches into your soul.

SO, WHAT’S INCLUDED?

So what does this dream 9-day Andalusia trip include? Lauren and I have worked for some months figuring out a detailed itinerary that truly represents what is wonderful about southern Spain. It’s the trip that I would want to be on. It’s the trip that I want to take my parents on (maybe next year!). It’s the trip that represents so much of what is dear to me about this astounding country.

So, here are some highlights of the trip. I’m going to limit myself to 10 (and these are in no particular order!):

  1. You’ll be lead by me and Lauren, two people who have travelled this country extensively, read deeply and tasted widely. We love Spain, and, we’re excited to help you fall in love with it too.
  2. Taste Spain’s world-famous black-hoof ham at an organic family-run farm, and learn all about the fascinating process of making jamón.
  3. A private visit to the world’s only ethical foie gras producer (as featured on NPR by my friend journalist Lauren Frayer and in the New York Times) and taste the foie gras (without the guilt!)!
  4. Discover Andalusia’s ancient fish salting and smoking tradition (from the ancient Roman ruins of a seaside town to a modern facility) and indulge in a tuna-focused tasting menu at an internationally celebrated restaurant.
  5. Wander the groves of one of Andalusia’s famed olive oil producers, and enjoy a lead tasting of Spain’s liquid gold (plus learn lots of tips for using it back home).
  6. Head out for an evening of tapas and flamenco in Seville, where you’ll do tapas like a local and understand flamenco’s mystical origins before taking in a spectacular show.
  7. Descend into the astounding Cave of Wonders: otherworldly underground caverns, like something from another planet, that will truly take your breath away.
  8. Hone your skills (with a glass of wine in hand) on a private cooking class in the enchanting white hilltop village of Vejer de la Frontera – learning local recipes you can recreate at home.
  9. Explore a 19th century family-owned sherry bodega, where (we promise) if you haven’t re-discovered sherry yet, you will do on this incredible experience.
  10. While we’re talking about wine, we’ll also visit a winery that makes one of my favourite red wines right now in Spain and taste their rich, opulent reds.
  11. Explore the seductive historic centre of Cordoba (including the majestic Mosque-Cathedral) on a private walking tour, followed by a private Sephardic music concert in a beautiful patio.
  12. Enjoy a dinner of creative, modern tapas at the Seville restaurant that leads that way in innovative dishes  (including a private conversation with the owners before dinner).
  13. Relax in hand-picked hotels that are not only sumptuous, but full of fascinating. stories – from Seville where we’ll stay in a splendid 400-year-old palace built atop 1st century Roman villa to Vejer where we’ll be in a fabulous boutique hotel housed in whitewashed buildings that date back to the 10th century.

OK, my 10 highlights became 13. While I could go on, if you’d like to learn all the specifics about the trip, please read on below.

INTERESTED IN JOINING US? HERE ARE THE DETAILS

Dates: 16-24 September, 2017 (9 days, 8 nights)
Price: €2,995 for double occupancy and includes accommodation in splendid hotels, all food & drink (apart from two free meals), myself and Lauren as your expert guides, and a host of private, exclusive experiences, visits and tastings! Price also includes all taxes and fees. Not included is transportation to/from the starting point in Seville but we can help you organise that.
Spaces: There will be only 12 guests on the tour so the experience is highly personalised and intimate.
Cities and villages included: Seville, Cordoba, Vejer de la Frontera, Aracena, Jerez de la Frontera, Arcos de la Frontera

If I’ve piqued your interest, and you’d like a little more information, please contact me at james@devourspain.com. As I mention above, there are only 12 spots available, and as I write this, we’re filling up. So do send me an email, and I’ll get back to you ASAP. I’m also happy to arrange a Skype call if you’d prefer to chat with me personally about the trip.

I hope to see you in Seville in September for the start of an incredible journey!

5 Must-Try Spanish Wine Styles! [Video]

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One of the true joys of living in Spain is the chance to drink Spanish wine! There’s so much variety, amazing quality and it’s so reasonably priced. This country is a wine-drinker’s dream! It’s famous for its reds, but there’s so much more to Spain that just red wines!

In my latest video I really wanted to highlight those different styles (including red wine), as well as five great wine-toting Madrid tapas bars in Madrid where you can drink them. What are the styles I highlight in the video?

1. Vermouth. Everyone knows Martini, but here in Spain we drink Spanish vermouth and often it’s served on tap! The perfect pre-lunch tipple.

2. White wine. When my parents visited Spain from New Zealand, my father fell head over heels for Spanish whites. Look to the north-west of the country for fresh, fascinating white wines that are really making their mark internationally.

3. Cava. Made the same way as champagne, but so much cheaper! Spanish sparkling wine – aka cava – is totally undervalued. Too often consumers outside Spain opt for prosecco (which is fine, but it’s not made using the traditional champagne method). It’s time to pop open the cava people!

4. Sherry. Only a very small slice of sherry is sweet! Most of the stuff we drink is dry, complex and… very cheap (Do you see a trend here? Spanish wine is a steal!).

5. Red wine. The two most famous regions for reds are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. And don’t get me wrong – both regions make amazing wines. But I always try and remind people that there are 69 wine regions in Spain…. so head to a great wine bar and try reds from Catalonia, from Andalusia, from Galicia, from…. Get exploring!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. And if you do, please give it a thumbs up. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for similar videos about how to explore and experience Spain like a local! Got any questions – ask them below or below the video in YouTube itself. Salud!