“Southern Spain is passionate. It’s sexy. It’s hot. It’s everything you could possibly want in a destination.”- Annie Sibonney
With just three left in its (hopefully) first season, From Spain With Love took us to Spain’s southern coast, for an episode that showed how modern Spaniards celebrate their cultural heritage and cuisine. Host Annie Sibonney promised an adventure that would be “sexy, visceral and hot.” Indeed it was and began in Seville. We were introduced to señor Alvaro Peregil of Taberna El Peregil, to see how a traditional gazpacho is made. This was followed up with one of my favourite drinks ever, Sangria. Although señor Alvaro measured the ingredients by eyeball, there were a lot of them, including a whole cinnamon stick. Clearly, I’ve never had the real deal. Señor Alvaro was quite a charmer and it was easy to see why he’s so well-known in Seville.
Now before we start to think Seville is all about liquid lunches, Annie got us acquainted with the fabulous Pescaíto Frito (Fried Fish) at Rio Grande Restaurante. In their kitchen, the house chef treated us to deep fried seafood porn. Perfectly cooked Cazón (Dogfish Shark) was followed by Puntillitas (Baby Squid), fresh Boquerones (Anchovies) and another tentacle creature from the depths called Chocos (Cuttlefish). With a cold beer, Annie dug into the amazing platter that was all surf, no turf. Before we could catch our breath or find a snack, the next segment began about another Andalusian favourite, Flamenco. At La Carboneria, we got a taste of our some Spaniards spend their evenings: drinking and watching, or maybe even dancing Flamenco. This series’ signature look and sound is distinctive featuring a beautiful Flamenco dancer named señora Sandra Guerrero Toril. It was great to see more of her, and find out about how visitors can experience this art form for themselves.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
On to the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where we found out what happens when three beloved Spanish ingredients come together: seafood, olive oil and Sevillan oranges. Annie met señor Paco Bigote at his family’s restaurant, Casa Bigote. Please calm down, ‘bigote’ means ‘moustache’ in Spanish. After a warm welcome, he in turn led our intrepid presenter to the domain of the restaurant’s kitchen conquistador, Chef Bienve. Once again, she assumed the translator and educator roles, while Chef Bienve prepared two dishes. The first was Bacalao en Naranja Agria (Cod in Bitter Orange). This was followed by Rape Al Pan Frito (Monk Fish with Fried Bread). Unlike Amalfi lemons, another celebrated Mediterranean fruit, Sevillan Oranges (Naranjas Amargas) are far too tart to be eaten alone. However, they are uniquely suited for marinades and sauces. Annie and señor Bigote dined together, where he proved to be a most entertaining host to our host.
Jerez de la Frontera
The next stop on this culinary expedition was Jerez de la Frontera, to learn about the Sevillan wine of choice, Sherry. Annie met Ms. Jane Ward for a look at the Lustau Winery’s bodega. It was very impressive to see the hundreds of barrels stacked high. They got a sample of Amoroso, straight from the barrel by Señor Alejandro, who was in traditional attire. After a taste of the good stuff, the ladies set out for a good lunch at La Andara. Chef Manuel Valencia welcomed Annie into the kitchen where they prepared two dishes together. Both utilised the region’s world-famous Sherry. First was Artichoke Stew with Fino Sherry. Although it looked somewhat deconstructed to me. Then a seafood dish called Caballa Con Amontillado (Mackarel with Amontillado Sherry). Chef Manuel had Annie busy, not only helping him to cook but to plate as well. He also contributed a recipe for Gazpacho Majado to the show’s official site.
Like any good meal, the episode’s final segment was a sweet one: desserts at Confiteria La Campana. Pastry Chef Francisco Salas made three desserts for Miss Sibonney. Lenguas de Almendras (Almond Tongues), which were finger-length cookies baked with sliced almonds and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Then Tocino de Cielo, rich custard with caramel. Finally Yemas Sevillanas (Sevillan Egg Yolk Candies). They all looked sinfully sweet and were a wonderful way to end this whirlwind tour of Southern Spain. We have been spoiled by this series. Once again, we were treated to gorgeous visuals and a thrilling soundtrack. Something we should never take for granted. If this show hasn’t encouraged travellers to consider a tour of Spain, I think that nothing would.