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Sanlucar de Barrameda


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note: images may be dicy until loading sorted.

We had previously spent one day in Sanlucar de Barrameda on a previous trip to Andalucia, basically for me to taste Manzanilla and for my wife to stake out a few metres of beach in the sun. No knowing what to expect we consulted various guide books, these where not very hopeful, "seedy" seemed to be the most commonly useed description. Well it seems that opinions are very personal and to be frank, if maybe not the most obviously touristy town, we still enjoyed it very much.

So when a few choice Bank holidays presented themselves, we returned for a more detailed look. This is quite unusual for us, as being Australians living in the UK for a finite amount of time, we want to see as much variety in Europe as possible.

Sanlucar itself is situated in the extreme west of Cadiz Province, being seperated from Huelva Province by the Guadalquivir river. It is from this port town that Magellan and Columbus set out to explore the unknown etc etc, but more personally important was the fact that is this town where the manzanilla sherry is produced. This town only in fact. Manzanilla is one of the most delicious and food perfect wines in the world. I very much like it and wanted to know more about it.

Food wise Sanlucar is also noted for a string of restaurants in the old fishing quarter (Bajo de Guia). As there are about 150 boats that fish out of Sanlucar this means seafood.

OK, now problem number one. Problem number one is that day one of our trip was day six of the local garbage collectors strike and day four of un-seasonal hot weather. Sadly large piles of gently swelling and exploding garbage bags meant that Bajo de Guia is no go. Still the people are amazingly friendly, the weather is not Scottish and the wine is right. Anyway, as I pointed out to my wife several times before she left me, it was living the real experience, right?

Breakfast:

Toasta with tomato puree and 'ham butter', this is the fat of the fantastic jamon, rendered down with a few scaps of meat and whipped. Think fantastic guilty pleasure. This with coffee and fresh orange juice for two is the incredible sum of €5. The setting for this is a table in the local market. God it made me happy. More on the market later.

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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As some people may have noticed (or not) I am a bit of a market junky. Sanlucar's market is in the town centre (near Plaza del Roque), a lane from the plaza is lined with a number of stalls, mainly fruit and veg, but at this time of the year there are several stalls selling tiny banded white snails, which become domant this time of the year (hence easy to collect as they climb thistles, posts etc). These same snails are an introduced pest in California and Australia.

Snail seller:

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Bag o' Snails:

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Aside from various ladies competing in bitter snail selling wars, there are women selling buckets of a number of different types of bivalves (berberecho, coquina, venus shells) and also a few spice stalls. The spice stalls burnt incense, so that my immediate impression was of the smell of the spice souk in Fez, rather then the more usual smells of a modern european market.

Inside the market is dominated by fish and veg stalls. Infact mostly fish and other seafood. Beautiful fresh fish. In all the market I did not see a scrap of ice, yet there was never a smell of fish, just of the sea.

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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A travelogue with photos from Dr. Balic -- always en eGullet treat. I'm a market (and manzanilla) junkie myself. Have you had a chance to taste the snails yet?

(Um, I hope Mrs. Balic didn't leave you on a permanent basis. Just off to the beach, right?)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Well, that breakfast is quite nearly perfect, ain't it? Yeow.

Adam, did you know what to order going in, or observe others, or read a menu, or ??? A non-sweet breakfast while traveling is a wonderful thing, and not always easy to find.

That shark there sure does look like his bigger scarier relative!

Priscilla

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Front left to right; Cuttlefish (choco), Monkfish (rape) with liver and houndfish (a small shark, cazon).

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More cuttlefish, red mullet of a hugh size (up to 35-40 cm) and small sole.

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Weaver/viper fish. Very pretty.

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Murex shells and scampi. Murex shells, including this species were used to produce royal purple dye beloved of toffs and royals past.

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Spider crabs, large prawns, more murex and at the back, tiny squid.

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Well, that breakfast is quite nearly perfect, ain't it?  Yeow.

Adam, did you know what to order going in, or observe others, or read a menu, or ???  A non-sweet breakfast while traveling is a wonderful thing, and not always easy to find.

That shark there sure does look like his bigger scarier relative!

Actually the wife picked it, she noticed others eating it and also the red fat rendered from chorizo (I think, correct me spaniards if I am wrong), spread on toasted rolls. Some days churros are not enough.

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Unfortunately, due to a lack of self catering, I didn't get a chance to cook with this fantastic fish, but I did make a few purchases: salted pork skin, salted back fat, cuts of ham bones (all for stews etc), chorizo, a tub of red fat and a few spices. As I was interested in how the snails were cooked I bought a few samples of the spice mix sold by the snail ladies. Looks to me to be coriander, black pepper, chilli and fennel seeds:

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I also bought a bag of the local pimenton, which looked rather different to the version I have seen in the cute little tins and smelt rather different. More rich and fruity maybe. Obviously, the spice seller noted my interest as she gave me some of the dried peppers whole rather then ground. As you can see they are rather different to the pimenton peppers I have seen before, being quite round rather then pointed.

The three smaller chilli are the Mexican variety cascabel, as you can see these are a similar shape, but much smaller then Sanlucar chilli on the right. I don't imagine that anybody knows the name of the Andalucian type?

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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As noted before due to the garbage collection issue, it wasn't really possible to eat at Bajo de Guia in general and Casa Bigote specifically. So all our meals were taken in town at Casa Balbino. Which was a good thing as the food was interesting, the atmosphere good and the staff second to none. I should stress this last point, as really they were very good to me, considering my profound lack of Spanish and how busy they were.

Casa Bigote

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As you can see an interesting, if conventional tapas bar. This is very early in the evening (9:30) and isn't that busy. Later it is packed.

Two items I realy wanted to try in Sanlucar where fried sea anemones (ortiguillas) and the famous tortillas de camarones, which are crisp fritters made of tiny shrimp, wheat and chickpea flour. So being an idiot I ordered both at the same time. Delicious, but maybe a little too much fried food at once.

Ortiguillas and cabbage salad. The former has not much texture, merely a bite of mild creamy sea flavour. Suprisingly good.

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Tortillas de camarones. These are about 90% shrimp, which are tiny and cooked with their shells, which flavour the fritter. I saw these shrimp for sale at the market, where they hopped about like fleas. I have seen similar shrimp sold at the Rialto market in Venice, you can tell who has bought them by the rustling sound the shrimp make in the paper cones they are sold in. The tortillas were just fantastic, perfect with salty manzanilla. I felt a little ill after eating so many though.

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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As I mentioned previously, this is the time of the year when the tiny white snails (Theba pisana) seem to be everywhere. Many places don't even mention the word caracoles, just a few spirals of chalk on the blackboard seems to be enough to send a great proportion of the local population into a snail eating frenzy. As mentioned before these snails are cooked with corinader seeds, black pepper, chilli and fennel seeds in mazanilla with a few scraps of onion From what I could determine the snails are in part fed on green fennel also. They are delicious and it is a nice way to kill some time chatting, picking out the flesh with a toothpick and sucking any stubborn bits out of the shell. The broth was delicious, I could drink it alone.

One think that was interesting was the amount of discssion on snails and the effort the snail customers were putting into buying the snails. I watched one lady inspect all three snail stalls before making her choice. Considering Britains most lauded restaurant of the moment sells snails as one of its star dishes, I think that it is curious that I have not idea what type of snails they actually use, nor can I remember a critic mentioning this. Are the Apple snails, petit gris, Mendip Wallfish, canned, frozen or fresh? Nobody seems to care the lady selecting her kilo of Theba pisana would not be impressed I think.

caracoles

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Also sampled were some of the local clams. The sauce is quite unusual (too me), I have the recipe (still translating it), seems to be burnt onions/garlic with parsley and a wine sauce thickened with flour. The onions are very sweet in Spain, if I tried this dish back in Scotland it would be revolting as by the time the onions had browned, they would be very bitter.

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Another odd treat. Fiddler crab (Boca in Spanish?) claws. These are the outsized display claws that male fiddler crabs use to pull the ladies. The locals told me that they pull off the claws and the crab is released to live another day (however we noticed that there were 10x more of these crabs on the protected side of the river, compared to the harvested side). They were very good irrespective of this.

Dinner

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Pre-Dinner (so of you may notice another edible treat in the photo).

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Salmorejo. Odd to see it here as I had previously only really seen it in Cordoba, but maybe these recipes are not as regional as they once where? Very refreshing and a good foil for the fried food.

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All in all a nice meal with a couple of bottles of Manzanilla.

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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. . . . maybe not the most obviously touristy town, we still enjoyed it very much.

. . . . Manzanilla is one of the most delicious and food perfect wines in the world.

. . . .

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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Bux - thank you for the kind comments. Apart from Casa Bigote the quay side restuarants were open, and in fact we did have one meal there, but it was very dead (the two of us, a German couple and a lone Frenchman) and I feel that it was such a non-representative meal that it would not be fair to comment.

The breakfast fat seemed to be very popular, along with a bright orange fat that looked to me like it is rendered fat from chorizo originally, but I noticed that the meat stall in the market sold in small tubs, which they scooped out of a container that would have held a few litres of fat. So I think that it rendered lard flavoured with pimenton.

I think that there are few thing finer for a breakfast in the sun then the olive oil, tomato and bread. In both Spain (Barcelona? It's been a while) and southern Italy I have grated tomato onto a bread rusk and then poured olive oil on this.

For some reason I can't taste the 15% alcohol content of manzanilla, just salty deliciousness. At one point I was encouraging winkles, whelks and murex out of their shells with a pin/toothpick and while this was a pain in the arse, the combination of manzanilla and shellfish was perfect. I also think it is very good with sushi, but maybe this is just me. This is my theory: I think the flor element of fino/manzanilla production gives these wines a Umami content that is not found in many other wines. Well this is the explanation I have for why these wines actually stand up to eggplant and tomato dominated dishes that kill most other wines and go so well with seafood.

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. . . .

So I think that it rendered lard flavoured with pimenton.

. . . .

My educated guess is that and my education came here on eGullet. After referring to a dish that was flavored with chorizo or chorizo fat, I was told the dish was actually flavored with the pepper used to flavor chorizos.

Agreed, a good manzanilla doesn't taste as if it has 15% alcohol. Then again, I think most people take a certain kind of roughness as a sign of alcohol. My wife will refer to one wine as being more alcoholic tasting than another with full knowledge that the percent is about the same in each. She isn't trying to say one has more alcohol, it's just that one tastes like alcohol, or maybe it doesn't taste like alcohol, but offers a sensation we associate with the taste of raw alcohol. Raw is probably the operative word here. There's a decidedly finished quality to the wine.

I was so surprised at the taste of salt the first time I had a manzanilla. On and off we've tried drinking them in NY. It's not the same. I wonder if it's place or more simply that the success of the wine depends on freshness after it's bottled.

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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. . . .

So I think that it rendered lard flavoured with pimenton.

. . . .

My educated guess is that and my education came here on eGullet. After referring to a dish that was flavored with chorizo or chorizo fat, I was told the dish was actually flavored with the pepper used to flavor chorizos.

You both are talking about manteca colorá. In the course about sherries and alta cocina that we enjoyed in march in Granada, we ate a fabulous dish by Dani García based on it.

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You both are talking about manteca colorá. In the course about sherries and alta cocina that we enjoyed in march in Granada, we ate a fabulous dish by Dani García based on it.

We should hear more about that course. As I recall, The eGullet Society was a sponsor.

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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You both are talking about manteca colorá. In the course about sherries and alta cocina that we enjoyed in march in Granada, we ate a fabulous dish by Dani García based on it.

We should hear more about that course. As I recall, The eGullet Society was a sponsor.

I agree.

AFAIK, the conspicuous egulleteer who came to visit us those days has quite a lot of info and pictures and is preparing them for a wide article. No wonder if he is affected by the extremely common disease "lack of time".

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You both are talking about manteca colorá. In the course about sherries and alta cocina that we enjoyed in march in Granada, we ate a fabulous dish by Dani García based on it.

We should hear more about that course. As I recall, The eGullet Society was a sponsor.

I agree.

AFAIK, the conspicuous egulleteer who came to visit us those days has quite a lot of info and pictures and is preparing them for a wide article. No wonder if he is affected by the extremely common disease "lack of time".

I'm afraid I took up more than a bit of his time last week as well.

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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Last night I cooked a Spanish meal for 11 based on the ingredients that a bought back from this trip.

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Cooking from a random selection of sausages etc was certainly interesting . I was lucky in that I bought a cookbook titled "La Cocina de ayer y hoy" by the asociacion de Viduas "Luciferi Fanum". This seems to be a collection of recipes based on what people actually eat in Sanlucar which includes both very local recipes and not so local (carrot cake). Was interested to see a recipe for cuscus (couscous), I have not seen this dish in a restuarant in Spain, but it seems it is made in the home (recipe was a variation of 7 veg. couscous and includes Manzanilla).

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Bux, I'm so sorry I could not give you lots of mine.

Adam, thanks very much for your comments and pictures. Most interesting, indeed.

How did you like the Amontillado and Oloroso La Cigarrera, which are shown in the last photo. I have very good opinion of them, especially of the (relatively) light and elegant oloroso. BTW, the price is shamefully cheap, ain't it?

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Adam, thanks very much for your comments and pictures. Most interesting, indeed.

How did you like the Amontillado and Oloroso La Cigarrera, which are shown in the last photo. I have very good opinion of them, especially of the (relatively) light and elegant oloroso. BTW, the price is shamefully cheap, ain't it?

La Cigarrera produce fantastic sherry. Originally I went there because it was next to my hotel, but we quickly reaslised that it had some of the most interesting products in Sanlucar.

We drank the Amontillado last night and it was excellent. In fact you could taste a saltiness in it that I had previously associated with the Manzanilla. And yes they are very cheap (too cheap for their own good I should think), four bottles were less then 20 Euro, which is least then the price of a bad Bordeaux.

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