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Málaga to Madrid, the long way


Bux
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Driven by greed, (we have free air tickets to Málaga) but only partially by greed (we have a free hotel for a week, but will only stay in Málaga for two days) we are driving from Málaga to Madrid in about a month. Driven by the interest in seeing another part of Spain we haven't seen in forty years, and by an interest in getting a good and authentic paella as well as the new food in the southeast, we are driving by way of Alicante and Valencia.

Le Café de Paris in Málaga was closed for vacation when we passed though the city just about a year ago. This time we have a reservation for lunch. It's quite possible that two days in Málaga is one day too much, but it will be nice to relax there, I hope.

I don't particularly enjoy driving the way I used to years ago. We intend to spend no more than a few hours in the car each day and are thinking of taking the inland route around Granada rather than the coastal route east. We're also not particularly beach people, but unless I'm misreading Victor's posts on Alicante, Moraira seems like a place with particularly good restaurants and perhaps a place to stop for an extra day.

I gather Casa Paco is where I want to get the true paella that will enable me to speak with some expertise when I mock all the paella sold sold in the open markets and hypermarchés of France. :biggrin: Are there any other or better places either inland or on the coast I should know? La Sort also stands out, if only because of the Robuchon connection. Ca'Sento in Valencia also looms large in my mind.

If all goes well and the restaurants are open on the right days, we'll hope to make reservations at las Réjas and Coques along the way from Valencia to Madrid. The latter at lunch on our way the day we arrive in Madrid. I'd appreciate thoughts from those who are in a position to guide us.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Bux, this is a tough topic. I have been lookig for a good proper Paella, (I mean the real Paella Valenciana, with vegetables, garrafos, rabit, chicken, snails...) for years. (And I go to Valencia every fortnight).

I have fond excelent rices:

- Rice with rabit and snails in Casa Paco in Pinoso (Alicante);

- Mariner's rice with squid and prowns in Ca Sento (Valencia);

- Abanda at Albacar (Valencia) and at Rafael (Castellon)

- Rice with beans and turnip (This is not a dry rice, is more like a cocido) at Casa Carmina in El Saler (Valencia)

- Rice Meloso with chicken and wild mushroms at El Tossal (Valencia)

- Rice Calabuig in Casa Jaime in Peñíscola (Castellon)

But I haven't fond a proper paella Valenciana :angry: but in particular homes.

I have heard very good reviews from: Casa Pepa, El Poblet, Piripi, La Sirena y El Racó del Plá (All of them in Alicante) but I haven't visited them yet.

As a funny thing someone was telling me the other day that he have heard about from a well known people who form a gastronomic society that dedicates every sunday to look for the worst Paella in Spain, and this is really a hard job :biggrin: , there are thousands of owful Paellas out there.

The only gap I find in your route is Tragabuches in Ronda (Málaga), maybe you should make a change in your itinerary. :rolleyes:

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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The only gap I find in your route is Tragabuches in Ronda (Málaga), maybe you should make a change in your itinerary. :rolleyes:

Thank you Rogelio, but we drove the Ubeda-Jaen-Granada-Cordoba-Malaga-Ronda-Sevilla way and did eat at Tragabuches last April.

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Here's my take on it, Bux...

You have to take the inland road through Granada to Murcia (first stop - this is 250 miles from Málaga, about three and a half hours on the road). All of it is motorway, but the A92 is a motorway in name only - pretty bumpy. Then on to Alicante and Valencia: just 160 miles from Murcia. Then from Valencia to Madrid, which is 220 miles, all of it motorway. (Unless you want to go via Las Pedroñeras.)

There are many options on the way, of course. Like pushing from Murcia to the wine land of Jumilla and from there cutting back to Alicante via Elda: this would enable you to sample the basic but profound pleasures of Casa Paco's rabbit paella in Pinoso. Then there are many possible variations on the coast between Alicante and Valencia, of course.

Important places: Girasol in Moraira is the top-rated (two Michelin stars) place in the area; personally I consider Joachim Koerper's cooking to be somewhat Germanic and predictable. La Seu, also in Moraira, may be more adventurous and interesting. Other top places: El Poblet at Denia (the simply boiled red shrimp from Denia are phenomenal, but there's also a lot of modern stuff like the monkfish and lobster 'suquet', or stew, with walnuts and lemon verbena, or the 'rascasse' in a chamomile infusion); Casa Pepa at Ondara (the best 'arroz meloso', i.e. the juicy rices that are Spain's answer to risotto, and thus quite different from the dry paellas); Ca'Sento at Valencia, which is a great restaurant in the making; Nou Manolín in Alicante, a large popular sprawling polace, where such paella dishes like arroz con magro (with pork) are done perfectly.

Let me know when you come in. Let's have lunch at Coque! I was there three days ago, and the kid is showing new things all the time.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Rogelio, I much appreciate the additional resatuarant recommendations in the area. They're especially welcome because of the specialties offered. All too often someone goes to the right restaurant, but out of unfamiliarity, orders the wrong food. I try not to show up too early at a strange restaurant so I can see what others are eating and not make the mistake of ordering roast meat and seeing everyone else order seafood, or vice versa.

I suppose to a real connoisseur, there may be no great paellas, but to a novice, there may be no really bad ones if the seafood is fresh and not overcooked. Even the ones in second rate restaurants in NY that use the wrong rice, are still a pleasant dish. It's like bouillabaisse, it's all pretty good until you know how it's supposed to be made. I often think life is much more enjoyable to those who are least discriminating. They can enjoy everything. Perhaps not. It may be that they never really enjoy the best.

Victor, we will take you up on that lunch date. I'll let you know when we're arriving and which days are good for us. La Sort didn't make your list. Was that because I already mentioned it, or because the ones you note are more compelling?

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Rogelio, I forgot to add that when we were at Tragabuches, I enjoyed it enough to want to return, but then I was also impressed by the Hacienda Del Rosalejo near Arco De La Frontera, in some ways even more, although that was because it was so unexpected and a much more laid back restaurant. If I go that way, it's too tempting to continue in the same direction even though it would be easy to have lunch at Tragabuches and return to Málaga the same day.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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La Sort didn't make your list.

Actually, I haven't been to La Sort. I knew of it because Joël Robuchon, who has a beachside apartment nearby, is a great fan and extolled it to me. However, Spanish critics (and, for whatever that's worth, Michelin) believe it's behind both Girasol and La Seu. Well-rated, though (7.5/10 in the Gourmetour guide). Another good place at Moraira-Teulada for basic local stuff (seafood paellas and fish) is Antoniet.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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  • 4 weeks later...

Robert, I think that quite an interesting restaurant to stop for a meal (or even to stop for a night) in your way from Málaga to Alicante is Los Collados de la Sagra, near Puebla de Don Fadrique.

It is in an alternative way from Granada to Murcia through Huéscar, Caravaca de la Cruz and Bullas. You would drive more or less the same distance as in the motorway through Vélez Rubio / Lorca and the roads are very good. This way, you can also visit an extremely unknown area of Andalucia (btw, the poorest one) which looks beautifully green and white (because of the snow) these days. My family and me have stayed at this Hotel-Restaurant the last week and we were very nicely surprised. We didn't expect such an impressive place.

The people working at Los Collados de la Sagra are very friendly, the cellar is wide and complete and the food has a good level (specially, pulpo a feira -oh, yes, I swear it! :wink: -, lamb, deer, partridge and desserts).

Sorry for my english in this quickly written message and, please, feel free to contact me for more references in Granada.

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Jesus, gracias for that suggestion. Unfortunately we already have our hotels reserved for the trip and out route in the area pretty well laid out. I say unfortunately, but perhaps that's not the case as we waste so much time when we don't structure our trips that I've learned to accede to Mrs. B's professionalism in planning ahead. Perhaps our next trip to Andalucia will concentrate on the landscapes rather then the historic sites. This trip is really to Alicante and Valencia as well as Madrid.

It's good to know eGullet has a friend in Granada. It's an important target for most travlers in sourthern Spain and we've not had good recommendations for places to eat there.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Jesus, gracias for that suggestion. Unfortunately we already have our hotels reserved for the trip and out route in the area pretty well laid out. I say unfortunately, but perhaps that's not the case as we waste so much time when we don't structure our trips that I've learned to accede to Mrs. B's professionalism in planning ahead. Perhaps our next trip to Andalucia will concentrate on the landscapes rather then the historic sites. This trip is really to Alicante and Valencia as well as Madrid.

It's good to know eGullet has a friend in Granada. It's an important target for most travlers in sourthern Spain and we've not had good recommendations for places to eat there.

Well, in order to have good recommendations one needs not only someone willing to speak to you, but also those "good places to eat" should exist. They are quite difficult to find around here, I'm afraid. :sad: But I'll try to do my best.

Anyway, that's why I find Los Collados de la Sagra so remarkable... Of course I recommend it for the food, not just for the outstanding landscape. And, just for the record of future travellers: It is settled also in a historic (and even prehistoric) area! :wink:

Have a nice trip!

Edited by JesusBarquin (log)
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It's good to know eGullet has a friend in Granada. It's an important target for most travlers in sourthern Spain and we've not had good recommendations for places to eat there.

Well, in order to have good recommendations one needs not only someone willing to speak to you, but also those "good places to eat" should exist. They are quite difficult to find around here, I'm afraid. :sad:

Use the tapas, Luke.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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After a sleepless flight arriving at 7:15 in the morning, we wondered why we chose to make a reservation for Cafe de Paris at lunch. An early check in got us an hour or two of rest and a taxi to the restaurant in lieu of a what would have been a very pleasant stroll saved some energy, but I'm not sure we were the most attentive and observant diners. When we first looked at the menu, we thought trout roe and pig's feet must be a very unusual combination having both misread patatitas as a diminutive of pig's feet, (patitas) not small potatoes. Nevertheless, we can report that we were quite charmed by the food and service. Cafe de Paris has a star from Michelin and a sol from Campsa. We were not disappointed by the food and our attitude and appreciation for the food was probably nudged a bit more to the positive pole by the wonderful service and treatment we enjoyed.

Before we go over board in our descriptions, it should be clear we had a wonderful meal, but Jefe Jose Carlos Garcia Ortiz is not yet competition to the likes of Adria, or Berasategui. There's room for development and that makes it all the more interesting to look forward to a return visit. Ortiz starts with an ability to cook and command of the basics, something more than a few creative chefs seem to overlook.

The star of our meal had to be the cochinillo confitado con Chutney de manzana--slow cooked suckling pig. It was rich and flavorful with a crisp skin no thicker than a single sheet of phyllo dough and just about as fragile. If the apple "chutney" was spiced with more than nutmeg and cinnamon it was done very subtly and the accompanying sauce was delicately acidulated, but the attraction was the was the sucklilng pig--the sort of thing I don't find outside of Spain.

The lamb chop was again a wonderful piece of meat cooked with expertise, which this time demanded a quicker cooking and a wonderfully rare interior. I was a little less convinced by the garnish which I found a bit heavy, but that may have been subjective.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Very fancy stuff for starters, Bux! Now go out with Mrs. B and get yourselves a fritura, a mixed platter of fish that's fried crisply with olive oil in the Andalusian style, a few slices of Jabugo ham, a half bottle of fino sherry and maybe a little pipirrana salad, and you'll get a down-home counterpoint to all that adventurous fare at Café de París. :wink:

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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The rest of our intake in Malaga was had at a variety of bars and tables and included Sepia (jibia is the local name?) a la plancha, white anchovies with roasted peppers, morcilla with rice, chorizo a la barbecoa, artichokes and ham, jabas and jamon and just some jamon as well as some salads all washed down with manzanilla, cerveza or vino blanco. All of it enjoyable so far, but the anchovies were the real standout. We can get these in NY, but they're from Italy. I don't mean to denigrate the Italian product and what we import may not be their top quality, but the white anchovies I find in NY are skinny and acidic. The ones we had last night were almost sweet by comparison and incredibly meaty.

As for fried fish, I'm always reluctant to order that in a strange place until I'm sure they do it well. The fried squid last night looked very good, but by the time we saw some being eaten, we had pretty much had our fill of food.

Cafe de Paris was a catch up for us as it was on vacation the last time we passed through Malaga and our only chance to try it was the day we arrived.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Incidentally, just over the river from NYC in Belleville, NJ is a Spanish food distributor, Ole Ole Foods, open to the public, who sells wonderful white anchovies from Spain! This place has been talked about extensively on the NJ board as well as mentioned on the NY weekly sales thread.

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It's nothing particularly grand, but if you're still in Malaga you would do no better than to head immediately down (eastwards) the seafront virtually as far as the road goes - to the landmark El Tintero II.

This is a totally unique seafood restaurant, hugely popular in the city, which operates on kind of a high-speed dim sum concept. Waiters charge around the place (it's under a canopy, but open-air) carrying many many plates at a time. And you hail them as they pass with something likely-looking and pay by the plate at the end.

Everything fishy that's available in Malaga comes by in the course of an hour, very very fresh and simply cooked, particularly recommended are the boquerones (tiny fish fried up and served in a crunchy vinegary cloud).

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We're in Murcia tonight, not so far from the sea that I couldn't have wonderful ciagalitos, as well as red and white shrimp, but keep those recommendations coming for the record and the benefit of the next eGullet traveler's to Malaga.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Very fancy stuff for starters, Bux! Now go out with Mrs. B and get yourselves a fritura, a mixed platter of fish that's fried crisply with olive oil in the Andalusian style, a few slices of Jabugo ham, a half bottle of fino sherry and maybe a little pipirrana salad, and you'll get a down-home counterpoint to all that adventurous fare at Café de París.  :wink:

Vserna's admonition doesn't fall on deaf ears. Cafe de Paris was a form of closure for a previous trip. The joy of traveling on our stomach in Spain is a product of the combination of the creative new cooking and the traditional regional cuisine--the sort produced by more anonymous craftsmen chefs--or the cocina de abuelos.

In Murcia we dined at our Hotel, the Rincon de Pepe. It appears on no one's star list, but seems to have a good degree of respect. It's the kind of rather upmarket hotel restaurant that used to be creditable and dependable in France, but hardly so in the US where the chef came from some Swiss culinary school of continental banality. In fact one of our worst meals came in a very upmarket hotel in Zurich. At the Rincon de Pepe, our braised kid and rabbit main courses were extrememly succulent. Rabbit can so often be dried out, but here the texture was smooth and the meat redolent of rosemary. It followed my simple, but slightly indulgent selection of fresh seafood as noted above. If rabbit often suffers from poor cooking, seafood--prawns, shrimp, crayfish, etc.--often fare even worse. American chefs have told me it's not always their fault. They don't get the same varieties as Spanish chefs and they don't get them as fresh. I have had some excellent examples in the US, but experience with the rubbery oxidized shrimp found in the ubiquitous hotel restaurant shrimp cocktail always leaves me with some trepidation when ordering shrimp in unknown places--especially hotel dining rooms without famous and starred chefs. There was no need to have had any fear here. Each crustacean was luscious and I hear the red shrimp get even better as we get further on along the coast. Dinner of excellent raw materials handled simply but with great respect was a sort of perfection, absolutely Spanish and destination food. Mrs. B's two red shrimp paired with a couple of cooked artchokes met her expectations as well.

gambasrojas_rdp.jpg

Edited to add photograph.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I actually loved Malaga, but that was after spending a week in Marbella and Gibraltar. And it also happened to be Carnaval - I had a blast. Only down side was that that stupid church 'La Manquita' rang every 15 minutes throughout the night and I am a very light sleeper...

I think I happened on El Tintero II, and it was great. I couldn't get enough of the boquerones. Had some really good tapas in the sketchier part of town up on the hill. Some French got me a really good seafood tagine in the Moroccan neighborhood. And I made some great friends from just hanging out in the cafes and strolling along the promenade at night. It was the friendliest place I had been in Spain. Cafe de Paris was also closed for renovations while I was there, so I didn't get to try it... pitty - it would've been my first Michelin-starred restaurant and from the sounds of it, the food is deserved of this praise.

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Bux,

I am awful at names but at the closest train station to you in Cartagena, there is a lovely little cobblestone street leading to a Government building? If you get there walk the street, the best Tortilla Espanola I have ever had in my life was down that street. Unfortuantely you might have to try tthem all! There is also an ice cream shop with the absolute best Helado de Coco. It is on the left, oh I know this is vague, but I still dream of that street. We stayed in Murcia in one of the newer townhouses on the beach. It was wonderful...(my grandfather was from Villa Joyosa up the coast a little in Alicante). I hope you are having a wonderful time.

(In Murcia we had a Paella Negra which was interesting, but again I can't remember the name!)

(Note to selg, bring a journal or PDA!)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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Unfortunately, well not really, we've been too busy to get online. We've been eating quite well. The good meals just keep on getting better. El Poblet in Denia was excellent and Ca'Sento here in Valencia was exceptional. If Las Rejas is as good as we remember, this is going to be a memorable week. We're at an internet cafe now, but on Sunday we should have access from our hotel and perhaps I can catch up with a full report including paella at the hands of a most hospitable Paco Gandia in Pinosa.

I'm sure Miguel may say there's even better seafood in Portugal, but it's hard to image anything better than the gambas rojas from around here. The cigalas come in a close second. The central market in Valencia was gorgeous.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I´m sure Miguel may say there's even better seafood in Portugal, but it's hard to image anything better than the gambas rojas from around here. The cigalas come in a close second.

Bux: when you come to Portugal and eat live, just-caught, never-been-near-a-tank shellfish, you'll understand. It's not a question of opinion but of geography. The Atlantic coast of Portugal and, to a much lesser extent, of Galicia is where the best shellfish come from. Spain imports a lot of it but the best and the freshest are caught and consumed here, because the Portuguese are prepared to pay more for it.

I'm looking forward to your visit to Portugal as I can see what a lover of seafood you are - by Jove, I'll personally chaperone you and your wife so that you can rid yourself of all these misconceived notions about Spain. Cigalas? Harrumph! When you try a pound-and-a-half "lagostim" just brought in, still covered in seaweed, you'll regret every word! ;)

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