Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arriving in Sevilla

(Now I am really behind--I'm in chilly Salamanca, having left sunny Andalucía behind, but just starting to blog about Sevilla.)

Arriving in Sevilla was a joy. My flight left Barcelona before dawn, but when I arrived in Sevilla at 9:30 a.m., it was sunny and just starting to get warm. The apartment Becca and I rented was in the barrio of Macarena, a formerly working class neighborhood on the western edge of the old city that is being colonized by hipsters, complete with hipster dads pushing strollers through the nearby park, Alameda de Hercules. I had found it online at Embrujo de Sevilla, and it went beyond all expectations, with its soaring ceilings, sparkling clean, bright IKEA furniture, a dishwasher and washing machine, AND a roof terrace. It was nicer than my own apartment.

In many ways, Sevilla reminded me of Mexico, and Becca agreed, it was the most Latin American of the Spanish cities she’s been to. The buildings were low and brightly painted, and you knew there were sunny courtyards in nearly every one. Even the machismo was the same; after two weeks of walking unnoticed, I started getting catcalls and kissy noises again. People spoke even more quickly than they had in Madrid, and they swallowed the ends of their words like Caribbeans, but they smiled more easily than their compatriots in Madrid and I felt happy again that I could speak Spanish, más o menos.

And being outside Spain’s biggest cities, I began to see and enjoy the little mistranslations I saw everywhere. Growing up in Korea, we’d always gotten a big kick out of the way Korean words were translated into English, and it was strangely gratifying to see the Spanish were as bad as the Koreans. The best, or the worst, was definitely at Taberna del Alabardero, a restaurant in Sevilla, where at the end of our meal, we were presented with an evaluation form, including a place to rate the “saw-off” we got.

But the meal itself was one of the loveliest Becca and I had in Andalucía. It looked like a favorite of moneyed Sevillians, judging by the way the other guests were dressed, but the happy waitress was warm without formality, as the restaurant itself is. When you walk in, you see a classic Sevillian space, a light and airy courtyard brightened even more by its yellow paint. The dining rooms are off the courtyard and have beautiful Moorish tiles to look at while you eat.

The food was also classically Spanish, simple, a bit too salty, and very flavorful. I loved my appetizer of “maccarones con salsa de tinta y calamares,” the pasta and squid so perfectly toothsome.

Becca also loved her “crema de puerro con salteado de verduras y langostinos,” a creamy leek soup with deeply caramelized vegetables and shrimp.

Our favorite, though, was the "merluza en salsa verde," or hake in a herby green sauce, served with a poached egg. The fish was obviously fresh, the sauce very bright and it managed to be delicious in and of itself, without needing to resort to heavy flavors.

Becca didn’t like her “chuleta de cerdo con col y melocoton,” or pork with caramelized cabbage and a peach sauce but I loved it. We realized Becca doesn’t really like the texture of most Spanish meat, but I liked the way it was both flavorful and chewy without being dry, and I loved the peach sauce which was more tart than sweet.

We couldn’t miss dessert—the whole three-course meal only cost 12,90 Euros! I also learned that Becca doesn’t like soft desserts, other than whipped cream, as she wasn’t too fond of the “flan de naranja con magdalena tibia y salsa de menta,” or orange flan with madeleines and mint sauce, or the chocolate mousse cake that was the special of the day. It was a happy realization for me, since I got to eat almost all of both desserts.

But as always, the best meals aren’t only about the food. Our young waitress, more blonde than you would ever expect a Spaniard to be, was so happy and kind. She spoke fairly good English and only laughed when we started to confuse her by speaking English and Spanish simultaneously. When she saw me looking at the little bottles of olive oil on the table, she brought me 4 more to take home, which went immediately clinking into my bag. (I ended up leaving 3 in the apartment for future tenants, but took one in case I saw a good tomato on the road.) There was no question, we rated the “saw-off” as excellent.

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