Archive for February, 2019

Campania – things to see in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by gannet39

I got to see a little more of Benevento in a couple of days in 2017 than I did during my even shorter stay in 2005 but please don’t consider this a guide, it’s just a quick round up of some of the things I saw in a very short space of time. My Google map is here.

The Arco di Traiano on Via Traiano is probably Benevento’s most famous monument as it is the best-preserved ancient Roman arch still in existence.

It was built in honour of the Emperor Trajan. It sits over the Via Appia, at the point where it enters the city, which during the Lombard era was known as Port’Aurea.

The bas-relief panels depict various imperial activities.

Over the road is Complesso Monumentale di Sant’Ilario a Port’Aurea; an unimpressive but very ancient church dating from around the beginning of the 7th century. The building is presumably of Lombard origin but was built on previous ruins.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is also of Lombard origin, dating from the 9th century.

It was rebuilt in the 1960s after it was destroyed by Allied aircraft in WW2. The façade takes inspiration from the Pisan Gothic style.

You can see a small exhibition of in the crypt and there are various other artefacts dotted about the place. The bas-relief of a pig wearing a stole has become a symbol of the city.

There’s a nice fountain next to the cathedral.

From here it’s a short walk to the Roman area. I think these supporting arches date from the Lombard period.

The Teatro Romano was built in the second century.

Although abandoned by the Lombards it has remained intact and is occasionally used for performances today.

My videos are here and here. Entrance was €2 in 2017.

Nearby is the Arco del Sacramento, a Roman arch dating to the beginning of the second century.

For a slightly longer walk, go through the Port’Arsa…

…and down to the Fiume Sabato where you can see the roman bridge, the Ponte Leproso.

Back on Corso Garibaldi at #139 is the Obelisco Neoegizio; an Egyptian obelisk, one of two erected, between 88 and 89 AD that stood on either side of the entrance to the temple of Isis, as described by the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the four sides.

Further up Corso Garibaldi is Chiesa di Santa Sofia, a hexagon-shaped church of Lombard origin dating to around 760. In 2011 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle of Benevento, known as the Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, is also on Corso Garibaldi at the highest point of the town.

The Samnites and Romans had already used the site but in the Middle Ages, it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori. Perhaps some of the purloined building blocks in the wall date from earlier times.

It has two parts; the Torrione (Big Tower), built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.

The Palazzo Paolo V at 145 Corso Garibaldi, was the municipal seat during the papal control of Benevento. The facade is classical Mannerist. Construction began in the late sixteenth century, under the pontificate of Paul V from whom it takes its name.

I only looked inside briefly, but it was long enough to get another pic of the symbol of the city.

On the continuation of Corso Garibaldi at Viale Atlantici is the local park Villa Comunale, laid out in the late 19th century.

Nearby is this attractive building from a similar period.

On both my visits in 2005 and 2017 I stayed at the Hotel Villa Traiano. The staff are very helpful and the breakfast is great. It’s also well-placed for the Arco di Traiano which is just over the road and Corso Garibaldi is just a five-minute walk.

It’s a nice old former private residence that has been converted into a hotel and so the rooms are all different shapes and sizes. On my last visit in 2017 the room I had was large and spacious, although being in the basement meant the WiFi wasn’t great. In 2005 my room was much smaller with only a narrow gap around the wall. A good tip for all hotels in Italy is to look at the fire department diagrams on the walls to get an idea of they have should you want to change your room for a bigger one.

So, this beautiful hilltop town has heaps of history. I only had a short stay so I didn’t learn as much as I’d like to about the things I saw, but it’s always good to leave something for next time.

Please see my next post for Food in Benevento.

Puglia – Foggia – Where to Eat

Posted in Foggia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , on February 27, 2019 by gannet39

As I mentioned in my Foggia – Things to See post, the upside of Foggia is the food.

In fact, I had one of my favourite ever restaurant experiences here…

Ambasciata Orsarese (Intermediate A), 53 Via Iorio Tenente

I came to this Gambero Rosso recommended local restaurant on a Sunday hoping that I would get a seat without having reserved. What I didn’t know though was that it was Republic Day in Italy, which is an excuse for a big feed for most Italians, and the place was packed out with no free tables at all.

Thankfully though, I was invited by another single diner to join him, which is typical of southern Italian hospitality. I had plenty to talk about with Antonio, an off-duty policeman from Naples, as we were both big lovers of food. I’ve been to Naples over a dozen times and know the restaurant scene well, so we had that in common as well.

Food lovers or not, I’m not sure if either of us were prepared for the food onslaught that was to come…

By the time we’d reached double figures on the courses we were both full to bursting and were were still only on the pasta stages. We hadn’t helped ourselves by asking for second helpings of our favourites. I tentatively asked Antonio how many more courses there were but he didn’t know either so we ploughed on faithfully in the hope we were nearly there.

Alessandro the chef is fond of parading the food around the restaurant when it’s just out of the oven. I was a little startled by the meat course which was baby goat.

This probably isn’t the best place for vegetarians.

The meat was served with roast potatoes and each table also got a whole loaf that had been hollowed out and filled with vegetables and sausages.

It was at this point that the whole restaurant rebelled as one and refused to eat any more. So the loaves were all wrapped up for people to take home.

We did manage to squeeze in a few sweets though. The last round of delicious little goblets were straight out of the oven.

Again, many were wrapped up to take home.

Along with some other tid bits

And of course we still had the digestifs and coffees to get through.

And the cost of this extensive banquet? A measly €35. Ubelievable value. I suppose they keep it so cheap by feeding a lot of people the same thing, and certain things like the wine is their own in-house label.

Other colleagues have been and apparently similar blowouts happen on a daily basis, it just coincided with a holiday when I went. My advice is reserve as soon as you can though so you don’t miss out on this amazing experience. And make sure you go with an appetite or you’ll do yourself a culinary injury!

Trattoria Giordano (High Intermediate B), 14 Vico al Piano

This is a pleasant Michelin recommended restaurant selling simple local food. You have to ring the bell to get in.

I began with a plate of mixed cheeses; Grana Padano (B+), Cacio (B), Provolone Fresca, Provolone (B+), served with some red stuff I think the waiter called Marma Miele (B). Marmalade mixed with honey perhaps?

After this a primo of Cime de Rape, the famous ‘turnip tops’ (actually they’re a kind of broccoli) which is a Puglian classic. I’m actually not that keen on it but due to everyone else loving it so much I feel obliged to keep trying it. This one still failed to convince me though (C+).

Next, a local sausage. Simplicity is beauty as they say (B).

With all this, a bottle of Nero di Troia which was decent (B).

With cover and a final grappa the bill came to €45.

So in my desire to try local dishes, I ended up with a rather unexciting meal. This is a good place that I’d definitely go to again, but I’d just choose differently. Ambasciata Orsarese above is the one though.

Sherwood Chiosco Biker’s (Initial B+), 156 Viale Michelangelo

Motivated by my great experience at Antica Chiosco Da U Russ in Bari (see my Barivecchia-Eating Cheaply in the Old Town post), and in need of a bit of a walk after stuffing my face the night before, I decided to try this food kiosk recommended by an Italian food blogger.

The food was good (A/B) but the ingredients weren’t quite as high quality as at Antica Chiosco. These kiosks tend to specialise in meat and here their homemade sausage is the star (A).

However I didn’t feel that the spiedina (kebab of lamb, vegetables, and frankfurter) and the lamb intestines were anything special (B).

These filled ‘pizzas’ looked interesting but I was full to bursting. They have a great selection of beers as well. Two half litres of blonde beer and a double limoncello took the bill to €19.

This is a nice spot where you can sit outside and chat with the friendly locals. It makes a change from sitting in a restaurant anyway.

I stayed at the Hotel White House www.hotelwhitehouse.it, a fading old hotel but with pleasant staff and a basic but okay breakfast (great cornettos and hand made coffees). The bathrooms are small with cramped shower cubicles and the wardrobes in my room were suspended up on the wall so you needed a stick to lift the hangers up and down, which was a new one me. The plug sockets are all the old three pin style as well rather than the much more common two pin.

Around the other side of the block is the also quite faded Hotel Mercure Cicolella. The restaurant (closed Sundays) is Michelin recommended and the seven course tasting menu for €35 looked pretty good when I popped in for a gander. Next time…

Puglia – Foggia – Things to See

Posted in Foggia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , , on February 26, 2019 by gannet39

The short answer for Foggia is, not a lot. Successive earthquakes throughout the centuries, and in particular the Allied bombing during WW2, have left very little for the tourist to see.

On the other hand, I ate very well here, which is often the case with ugly Italian towns I find. Please see my next post Foggia – Where to Eat. My map is here.

Various fountains are dotted about town. The nicest one is Fontana del Sele in Piazza Camillo Benso Cavour.

The Cattedrale di Foggia is a nice example of Baroque if you like that kind of thing.

The lower half that survived the quakes is Romanesque.

The interior looks quite attractive though.

One of the oldest existing buildings in town is the Palazzo Marzano Tafuri aka the Palazzo De Vita De Luca, near the cathedral. The lower two stories are 16th century and designed in a Neapolitan Renaisance style, while the third floor was added in the 18th century.

It’s neighbour at 84 Via Arpi also looks like a hotchpotch of styles and in equally bad nick.

There’s a bit of fascist era Rationalism dotted about.

I quite like this old building on the main shopping street but I don’t know anything about it.

And that’s about itm although I left a few things, like a visit to the town’s museum, till next time.

One of the best things about Foggia is that it makes a good jump off point for visiting the Gargano National Park www.parcogargano.it and the Tremeti Islands www.pugliaandculture.com, both of which I must go to one day.

Bari – a drink and a bite in the Porto Vecchio

Posted in Bari, Italy, Porto Vecchio, Puglia with tags , on February 25, 2019 by gannet39

The Porto Vecchio is the old harbour to the east of the town. Map here.

This is where many of the fishermans’ boats are moored, the traditional blue Gozzi.

Molo San Nicola is the southern pier of the Porto Vecchio. You can get some nice views across the water towards the old town from here.

You can buy fresh seafood directly from the gruff fishermen who sell their catch on the pier. Freshly prepared Ricci (sea-urchins) were on sale the afternoon I went.

It’s a popular spot for people to hang out with friends and listen to reggae music from the bar, El Chiringuito. Video here.

El Chiringuito specialises in two things; Peroni, the quintessential Barese beer, and tomato and mozzarella Panzerotti, like small Calzoni but deep-fried rather than baked. I’ve been spoilt so these score a B with me but they they do hit the spot with a cold beer.

Peroni begain life in the north of Italy in 1846 but in 1924 they opened a new production plant in Bari which was the beginning of the company becoming a national beer. You can see photos of the plant and old Peroni trucks on the walls of the bar.

This is a cool little spot. I’ll check it at sunset next time.

Bari – food shops and friendly bars

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Murat, Puglia with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2019 by gannet39

My favourite bar in Bari is La Taverna del Maltese (Intermediate B+) at 67 Via Nicolai. It’s an everyone-friendly bar with PACE flags on the wall and a large screen for watching the football inside. There was an excellent jazz three piece playing live on a Thursday night when I last went.

They do food outside on the spacious terrace at the back but I’ve never tried it. There are a few, mainly German, draught beers on offer which are fine. On my last visit the barkeep taught me that a double limoncello (€4) is called a ‘regular’.

There are a few pubs near the Hotel Villa Romanazzi Carducci on Via Carducci but they are all pretty rubbish. Much better to go to the other side of the tracks I think. There are several bars along Corso Emanuele (at the old town end) which come into their own at the weekend.

My map is here.

I like to fill my bag with treats before I go home. Here are the shops in Quartiere Murat in the mid-town that I go to…

Enoteca Vinarius De Pasquale at 87 Via Marchese di Montrone is a sizable wine shop, founded in 1911, with an extensive range of Puglian wines. They also have an online shop.

In 2017 I took a long list of all the wines I’d enjoyed at restaurants all over Puglia and managed to get a good selection for my pop-up restaurant ClandesDine.

In 2014, their efficient staff helped me post a dozen bottles of Fiano ‘Minutolo’ by Cantina Polvanera back home and they all arrived safe and sound. I think they worked out at about £10 a bottle in the end, only about 25% more than their price in Italy which was very cheap to start with.

Cantina Cairoli is another big enoteca at 81 Via Cairoli nearby that you could use for back up. Local varietals recommended by my national manager Claudia (who is also a qualified sommelier!) are the reds Primitivo Manduria and Nero di Troia.

An excellent deli is Salumeria de Carne Francesco at 128 Via Calefati. In 2009 I managed to get a bottle of Fragolino (an apertivo infused with whole wild strawberries) from here. Fragolino was hard to get at the time because the alcohol was too low for it to be considered a wine, leading to an uncertain legal status.

Near Piazza Ferrarese you should check out the fantastic displays of cheeses and hams at Salumiere Nino at 31 Strada Vallisa even if you’re not buying.

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Taralli biscuits are a local speciality, the fennel (finocchio)and onion flavours being especially tasty but ideally they should be eaten a day or two after purchase. I’ve yet to identify the best bakery for them but the original branch of Panaficio Fiore in the old town might be a good bet (see my Barivecchio – Eating Cheaply in the Old Town post).

If you’re looking for chocolates and bonbons, Marnarid in Barivecchia near the cathedral is a very traditional sweet shop.

Confitteria Mucci at 116 Via Principe Amedeo is another sweet shop in mid-town with a lot of tradtion (see my Andria post).

Please see my separate posts for food and architecture in the old town.

Bari – Barivecchia – mid range restaurants in the old town

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , on February 24, 2019 by gannet39

This post is about mid-range restaurants in Barivecchia.

There are many other small eateries offering traditional Barese cuisine at very low prices. You can read about them in my Barivecchia-eating cheaply in the old town post.

For the most upmarket restaurants please see my post Bari-Posher Nosh in Mid-town Murat.

For stuff to see in Barivecchia see my post Bari-A walk around Bari’s old town.

My Google map is here.

Cianna Cianne (Intermediate B+), 5 Via Corsoli, www.lacantinadiciannecianne.com

This place was a tip from a Guardian reader and I’d agree with their synopsis of it being a ‘no nonsense place’ serving cucina tradizionale Pugliese.  The service isn’t the best, but who cares if the food is as good as it is here. I’m guessing mum (Caterina Percoco) is in the kitchen performing the magic while her dour son is the floor manager. The nice waitress I had on both visits was capable of smiling though.

It’s quite hard to find being down in a dead end alley that runs up against the old city wall. It might be easiest to locate by walking along the wall and looking down into the alleys until you see it. Coming up the ramp, from Piazza Mercantile and walking along scenic Via Venezia, it’s in the fourth alley along, although you will have to descend into the fifth alley and then walk back round.

There’s lots of room inside but if you want to sit outside you should arrive at 8 as all the seats were taken by locals by 9 on the rainy Monday night I was there.

I had to wait what seemed like an eternity while all the Italian customers who had arrived after me feasted on multiple plates of antipasti while I only had a few rectangular cubes of sgagliozze (fried polenta cubes). That said they were very nice sgagliozze (A)…

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…and a bottle of Salento Malvasia (B+) to keep me company. It was worth the wait in the end though.

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In response to my request for ‘piatti typici’ they suggested ‘a little fish with some pasta’ which didn’t sound like much but turned out to be two huge plates of food that I struggled to finish.

20140616_211327The pasta was the ubiquitous Orichiette (little ears) in a simple sauce of baby tomatoes (B) which also accompanied the sizable Scorfino (Scorpion fish), along with some toasted bread to soak up the sauce.

20140616_211409Even though I’ve never been a fan of the bony Scorfino in the past I couldn’t fault any of it (all A).

20140616_215715In terms of a digestivo, I was tempted by the cream version of the Padre Peppe amaro that I’d tried at Il Pescatore below, but plumped instead for their homemade ‘grappa’, served with raisins that had been soaking in a large jar behind the bar before being ladled out by the waiter. It certainly put hairs on my chest! (B+) I got all this for €40.

20140614_204205My second visit was a bit of a let down sadly, which is why the overall rating has sunk to a B. I had the antipasti which were all a tasteless C, and in the case of the cozze e patate, an inedible D.

Not sure why, perhaps because it had all been pre-prepared. I would come again but would just have first and second courses.

This next place is located next to Castello Svevo, the old Norman castle.

Al Pescatore (High Intermediate B), 6/7 Piazza Federico II di Svevia

20140614_223810This mid-range place is described by Fodor’s  as one of Bari’s best fish restaurants.

20140614_204644I’m sure that description is true if you are prepared to spend a bit of money, but I was on a budget and so probably didn’t experience the best this place has to offer, hence the B.

20140614_204205The Antipasti di Mare was fine if unexciting (mostly B).

20140614_215754The following Tubettini con le Cozze was slightly oversalted but fine (B).

20140614_203604A glass of the 2013 Chardonnay called ‘Cantele’ from the Salento IGT was good (B).

Although I enjoyed the Negroamaro ‘Illiria’, also from Salento, even more (B+).

20140614_215327The red negroamaro grape is found only in Puglia, and especially in the Salento IGP.

20140614_224308Finally I tasted a shot of dark treacly amaro called Padre Peppe which seems to be the most commercially available local bitter in Bari (B+). Also described as a ‘nocino’ or ‘elixir di noci’, as it’s made with walnuts I think.

La Locanda de Federico (C?), 63 Piazza Mercantile

A Lonely Planet top pick, open every day, However, I didn’t like the atmosphere or the attitude of the staff (a common complaint on Trip Advisor).

When they wouldn’t give me one of the vacant tables on their terrace because I was a single diner, I went to the place below instead and never went back.

La Cecchina (Intermediate B-), 31 Piazza Mercantile, Tel. 080 521 4147

Recommended by some guide book. I got pleasant service from a nice lady but the food was unremarkable.

The Antipasti ‘La Cecchina’ looked nice but was rather flavourless (B-).

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The Calamarata pasta Ai Frutti di Mare was ok but unspecial (B), just featuring squid, mussels and cockles and no promised chickpeas.

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My tastebuds might have not been working properly though (I was very tired after working seven days straight) because a previously favourite wine (Polvanera’ s ‘Minutolo’) also failed to excite (B).Or maybe it was just served at the incorrect temperature.

Finally some sfoglia con crema pasticcera (pastries with vanilla custard) (B) and an unfiltered limoncello (B+).

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It was reasonably priced though, three courses with all the usual trimmings for €43.50, which was then reduced to €40. Not too expensive, and the food was ok, but there are better places to go.

Remember to check out my Barivecchia – eating cheaply in the old town for some other options. Go to Osteria del Travi if you haven’t already!

Bari – Barivecchia – a walk around Bari’s old town

Posted in Bari, Barivecchia, Italy, Piazza Ferrarese, Piazza Mercantile, Puglia with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2019 by gannet39

Barivecchia, also know as Quartiere San Nicola, was once quite dodgy, virtually a no-go area for tourists at night. Nowadays, thanks to redevelopment, it’s much safer, though still a thoroughly working class area.

There’s little point using a map in this warren of alleys and narrow streets. It’s best just to wander around and try to keep a sense of direction.

Here’s my Google map anyway.

Good luck asking for directions. The Barese are nationally famous for having a strong dialect, but within Bari itself, the inhabitants of Barivecchia are renowned for having a lexis that even the rest of the city finds hard to understand. Personally I find both the people and the place fascinating.

The logical place to start a walk is in the Piazzas Ferrarese and Mercantile, the two main squares in the heart of the old town. They blend into each other imperceptibly and are effectively two sides of the same square. This is where many Barese, especially the youth, come to socialise on a warm evening.

In Piazza Mercantile you can see the Palazzo della Provincia and its clock tower, once the home of the provincial administration, built in 1936.

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In Piazza Mercantile you can see La Colonna della Giustizia, ‘the column of justice’.

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It was a stone punishment pole to which fraudulent debtors were tied and lashed.

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Around the square you’ll see women selling the traditional local street food, sgagliozze, aka fried polenta cubes. Polenta is slowly growing on me (love it with kale and blue cheese) but I don’t see what the fuss is about here. I think you probably have to be brought up on the stuff to fully appreciate it.

Both piazzas are lined with restaurants, a couple of which are recommended by various guides. While I might come here for a drink I personally would avoid most of the eateries around here. They’re not bad, just very average in my opinion (see my Barivecchia – eating cheaply in the old town post for some alternatives).

The next main sight is the Duomo di Bari, or Cattedrale di San Sabino, built in the late 12th century.

The streets around here are very atmospheric, especially at night.

Just a short distance away is the Castello Svevo di Bari www.beniculturali.it.

It was built in 1132 by the Normans.

With your back to the bridge going over the moat to the entrance of the castle you will notice two archways leading into the old town. The first one on the left is called Arco Basso which is the street of the pasta makers.

You’ll see their wares drying in mesh bottomed boxes on the street.

I bought 500g each of Cavatelli and ‘Maccatoni’ (spelling?) for €2 and €2.50 respectively which for an artisan product is, as we say in Yorkshire, as cheap as chips. Keep them out of the plastic bag for a while though so the pasta can dry completely, unless you’re cooking it straight away.

Another nice church is the Basilica San di Nicola www.basilicasannicola.it (admission free).

This is where the relics of Father Christmas are kept.

So lots to see and do. You might want to merge the walk with grazing on some food, for which see my post Barivecchio-Eating Cheaply in the Old Town.

Puglia – Taranto – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , on February 22, 2019 by gannet39

As the son of an archaeologist I’ve been to quite a few museums, and this is one of the best ones I’ve ever been to, so you should definitely go too!

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto – MArTA, 10 Via Cavour, www.museotaranto.beniculturali.it

It’s especially good for Roman and Greek artefacts. Here’s a small selection of what I saw. Please click on the images to get a better view.

Some amazing finds there I’m sure you’ll agree.

Before you go in to the museum, why not make a reservation for lunch at Al Gatto Rosso on the next block. It’s the best place in town! My review here. Map here.

Back to Bari for the nth time after this. Plenty of good food there…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating at Al Gatto Rosso

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags on February 21, 2019 by gannet39

Please see my other posts on Eating & Drinking in Taranto.

Occasionally I write dedicated posts for places I really like, as is the case with…

Al Gatto Rosso (High Intermediate A), 2 Via Cavour, www.ristorantegattorosso.com

This is the best place to eat in Taranto. Don’t just take my word for it, Michelin and Gambero Rosso agree. This visit in April 2017 was my second after a seven year gap and I’m happy to say the food was still excellent, no doubt just as it was when they first opened in 1952.

I received a friendly welcome from Agostino Bartoli the chef whose grandparents opened the restaurant back in the day. He’s very personable and his English is very good, unlike the waiters who kept trying to speak to me in German!

Whilst I was waiting I was given a drizzle of excellent olive oil (A) to mop up with their good quality bread (B+). Coincidentally the olive oil producer was passing by so he came to say hello as well (I think they’d already guessed I was a blogger due to me taking photographs).

The Taralli were great as well (B+), which as I’ve said before is a good test as to a Puglian restaurant’s quality.

First, a series of appetisers beginning with Bruschetta with Pizzaiola Codfish (no photo) followed by Octopus cooked in local Negroamaro wine with mashed beans.

Some deepfried whitebait.

Shrimp with Rocket and Strawberry.

Fried Squid and Eggplant.

Then a Seafood Risotto.

And finally Orichiette with Mussels.

I asked Agostino to recommend a Puglian white wine but instead he proposed a slightly effervescent 2016 rosé, a Rosato del Salento, which was really enjoyable (B+).

It was made by 2 e Mezzo whose Primitivo I’d had at Via Vai two nights before (see my Eating in Taranto post). I enjoyed it so much I later ordered some for my personal cellar.

The table next to me where also enjoying some fizz, a white called Ca’dil Bosco which I could remember enjoying on another occasion at Don Alfonso near Sorrento.

The total cost with water and cover was €44, which was great value. The bill didn’t even mention the espresso and the Amaro di Salento (B), that I got as well.

Hopefully I won’t have to wait another seven years till my next visit. Many thanks Agostino!

From 2009:

I had to have a big bowlful of the famous mussels, with razor clams, cooked in a white wine sauce, generally one of my favourite dishes and in this case perhaps the best I have ever tasted (€7, A+).

To follow I had melt-in-your-mouth Pacchieri ai Frutta di Mare with prawns, baby vongole verace and squid in a tomato and fish sauce (€10, A) and washed it all down with a local white recommended by the owner, ‘Alta’ Bambino ’08 (A) for €9 from Cantina Teanum, which was quite similar to a Falanghina or a Fiano.

To finish, a lemon tart (B+), some complimentary squares of dark chocolate with almonds (A) and a local grappa (B). Even the bread was good (A) which is unusual in Italy. All this for only €36!

Ideally you should eat here before, or preferrably after, the Archaeology museum (see next post) which is virtually next door…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating & Drinking

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2019 by gannet39

In April 2017 I made my second visit to Taranto. A few things had changed on the dining scene since November 2009, but a lot was the same. My map with these restaurants and more is here.

My favourite restaurant is still Al Gatto Rosso and it’s still the best in town (please see my next post).

As in 2009, I stayed in the Hotel Mercure Delfino www.accorhotels.com at 66 Viale Virgilio. My tip is to try and get a room at the back for the relaxing sea views. The staff are helpful and the breakfast is okay.

The two nearest decent restaurants to the Hotel Delfino are ten minutes’ walk, or less…

Braceria Via Vai (Intermediate B), 7/B Piazza Ebalia, www.facebook.com/BraceriaViaVai

The restaurant that used to inhabit this spot in 2009 (Ebalia, see review below) had closed by 2017, which is probably for the best as Taranto could do with some new culinary ideas. In a town famous for its seafood there is definitely a place for this ‘Braceria Italiana’ (Italian Grillhouse).

Via Vai isn’t cheap but the choice and quality of the meat on offer probably merits the prices.

The servers are all young guys who were a bit rough round the edges but are relatively attentive. We had a couple of miscommunications; I said ‘patatas fritas’ in Spanish instead of ‘patatine fritte’ which got me some freshly made crisps when I just wanted chips (French fries), although they replaced them without argument. When I finally got them, the chips were pretty good (B+) although they went down to a C once they’d cooled a bit.

I had the Chianina Costata; a rib steak from a Tuscan cow breed. It was overdone even though I asked for it medium rare (B). ‘Medium’ for a steak in Italy means bloodless according to Ivan and Bruno, a friendly local young couple on the next table. The steak was okay (B) but also needed a fair bit of salting to bring the flavour out.

After three days of fish I had a real hunger for meat so I ordered an additional plate of pork sausages (B). I thought they would come as a starter but they came with the steak so I had my work cut out for me. I nearly made it but I had to leave a sausage, a chunk of steak and half the chips. As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

The Primitivo red was decent (B) but Ivan informed me that Negroamaro is nearly always better. He should know about these things as his family run Ristò Fratelli Pesce, a local fish restaurant in the old town.

Total cost with a barrique grappa, water and cover was €64; a bit pricey but there are cheaper cuts and kinds of steak available.

This next place was also excellent in 2009. It’s in the opposite direction from the old town but worth the excursion…

La Fattoria (Intermediate A), 9 Via Abruzzo, www.facebook.com/lafattoriataranto

Eight of us sat down for lunch and had the Antipasti di Frutta di Mare which included mussels in breadcrumbs (A), sweet pan-fried olives (A), fried red mullet (B), grilled aubergines (A), marinated anchovies (A), grilled courgette with mint (A), prawns and baby squid (lightly poached in fish stock) (A).

My main was a sea bass cooked with delicious olives (A). The Falanghina (A)and novella Primitivo red (B) were very nice too. We finished with a fruit salad that included Figi di India prickly pear (B).

This next place is worth knowing. It’s extremely popular, partly because it’s ridiculously cheap and also because it’s very conveniently located for the train station…

Trattoria L’Orologio (Elementary B), 27/29 Via Duca D’Aosta

This is quite possibly the cheapest restaurant I have ever eaten in! All the pasta courses are €3 and the second courses are €5!

Although the building is very modern and clean, it seems they’ve been knocking out basic but tasty food to the masses since 1938.

I had the Penne al Sugo di Carne, Salsiccia Arrosto, Sorbetto al Limone and a Limoncello for the princely sum of €12.

Okay so haute cuisine it ain’t as you can see but it’s nice to know there’s somewhere people can receive nourishment so cheaply.

And if you’re looking for a drinking establishment, this one might have potential…

Exit Village (B), 120 Via Cavallotti, on the corner with Lungomare Vittorio Emanuelle).

I was alerted to this bar by the scene of a bloke snogging a drag queen against a skip outside late one night. Just the kind of decadent place I love! It’s a cool little cellar bar with a mixed crowd, handily near the Mercure Delphino hotel. In 2009 a grappa with a very camp half a grape on a cocktail stick on top cost €4. They shut at 2am.

You can stop reading from here if you like as these next two places are ones to avoid and the last one is closed…

Marco Aurelio (Intermediate C+), 17 Via Cavour

I came here when I couldn’t get into Al Gatto Rosso on my first attempt. It’s completely bland and boring so there’s no reason to come unless there really is no other option, or if you want somewhere handy to eat before or after visiting the Archaeological Museum (see coming post) which is immediately over the road.

The young female owner is nice and friendly but her waiter is a member of the dull and sullen brigade. He did his job but without the slightest hint of aplomb.

I had a mezzo of the house white and the antipasti mare (all B).

I finished with an amaro called San Marzano which I’d never come across before. It was pretty horrible (C) so most likely no other restaurant will have it.

All his cost me €21 which isn’t too bad I suppose.

Pizzeria Landhaus (Elementary C+), 107 Via Cesare Battisti, www.pizzerialandhaus.it

I fancied a pizza for once and as this place was ranked #3 on TripAdvisor in 2017 so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

This proved to be a mistake as the food wasn’t great and my visit coincided with a little girl’s birthday party. Woe was me!

The decibels were such that even the other customers were telling them to shut up, to no avail! That’s something I’ve never witnessed before because the Italians usually let their kids run riot.

The Arancino rice ball I had as a starter didn’t do much for me (C).

And the Neapolitan style Margherita was just okay B-).

With a large beer and a limoncello the bill came to €14.50 which is normal.

You’ll never see me in here again though, just in case those little girls are still around.

Ebalia (Intermediate B), Piazza Ebalia NOW CLOSED!

In 2009, seven of us went to this restaurant recommended by the Delfino reception.

The highlights of the shared antipasti were, steamed mussels, sardine roe béchamel gratinata baked in a scallop shell, deep fried artichokes stuffed with ricotta, polpo affogato, or ‘drowned’ octopus, which all scored a strong B.

My main course was a huge portion of seafood linguine (B) whereas my friend Nicky had beef steak tagliata on a bed of red chicory (A).

The wine was an excellent Primitivo di Manduria (Villa Mottura ’06) (B+). Claudia our local manager, a wine expert, told us she has never had a bad bottle of Primitivo di Manduria.

I loved the dessert of Sfoglia con Crema Pasticcera (B+). The little sandwiches of puff pastry and vanilla cream, dusted with icing sugar, were described as ‘sporco musso’ by the waiter, which translates as ‘dirty mouth’!

They are so described because they cover your lower face with powdered sugar and flakes of pastry when you bite them.

They are absolutely wonderful when they are still warm (A). We washed them down with a glass of Muscat di Trani (A).

The best place in town deserves its own post. Al Gatto Rossa next!

Puglia – a walk around Taranto

Posted in Città Vecchia, Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2019 by gannet39

As Puglia’s dirty little secret, Taranto doesn’t even get a mention in many travel guides. It’s a shame as the town has an incredible history, stretching back to the Ancient Greeks, due to its exceptional suitability as a port.

The town is blessed with an outer bay, known as the Mare Grande, and two smaller inner seas, together known as the Mare Piccolo, the entrance to which is guarded by an island.

However, the sprawling port around the bay and the derelict old town on the island, along with a large navy base on one side of the Mare Piccolo and several oil refineries on the other, have done Taranto’s reputation no favours.

So, there are more beautiful places in Puglia but I still find Taranto to be a very interesting place and it has quickly grown on me the better I’ve got to know it. A visit to the Archaeology Museum made me aware of its illustrious past (see later post) and in this post I describe a walk you could do to become more familiar with its current layout.

You’ll find a Google map with all the places mentioned here.

Turning left out of the Hotel Delfino, walk down to the western end of Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele III taking in the views of the sea and the port in the distance as you go.

On the right just before the end is the former governor’s palace, now the Prefecture of Taranto.

It was originally built in the fascist era as you can probably tell.

On the corner is the Monumento al Marinaraio, the sailors’ monument.

From here you can cross the old bridge to the Città Vecchia on the island.

By now you’ll have a good view of the Castello Aragonese www.castelloaragonesetaranto.com.

Continuing straight along Via Duomo you’ll immediately come to the remains of a Greek temple, the Tempio Dorico www.museotaranto.it.

It’s very atmospheric walking around the old town. Video here.

Even if it’s a little eerie at times.

There are many important buildings here, locked away behind their big gates.

But despite its dereliction, the Città Vecchia is still very much lived in…

Eventually you come to the Cathedral of Saint Cataldo. I’m not a big fan of Baroque so I’ve not been inside.

That said, the campanile around the back is quite striking.

The most important church however is the church and associated monastery of San Domenico. The Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore can trace its origins back to the Byzantine period and was used by the Templars in the Middle Ages. The current building dates from the mid-14th century.

Nearby, Palazzo Pantaleo www.comune.taranto.it at Vico Civico is fairly interesting to walk around.

In Piazza Fontana, just before the second bridge at the other end of the island, is another local landmark, the Torre dell’ Orologio.

From there you could double back and walk along the other side of the island, along the quay where all the small boats are.

Some are in better condition than others.

There are a few cheap seafood restaurants along Via Cariati that might be worth a try. Paranza is supposed to be good.

Eventually the road will bring you round to this monument on Discesa Vasto, near the first bridge.

If you cross back over to the Borgo Nuovo and aim left, you will soon come to the Archaeology Musuem, the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Taranto (MARTA). This museum is so good that I’ve given it its own post.

Alternatively or as well, you could go and have lunch at Al Gatto Rosso the best restaurant in town (see later post).

Or you could just admire the dolphins on the gates of Museo TalassograficoAttilio Cerruti“, a mollusc farming research institution on Via Roma.

From here it’s a stone’s throw to the town’s main square Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and the derelict brown hulk of the Palazzo degli Uffizi , a former orphanage, looming over it.

The bandstand is a much nicer thing to look at I think.

From here you can walk back to the hotel along Via d’Aquino, the Borgo Nuovo’s pedestrian shopping street.

Just in case you’re wondering, if you turn right out of the hotel instead of left, you come to…

… more hotels. Some old…

…and some new.

And that kind of sums up Taranto.

I’d happily come back a third time to get to know it even better.

More about places to eat and drink in Taranto next.

Puglia – bowling around Brindisi

Posted in Brindisi, Italy, Puglia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2019 by gannet39

I flew out to Brindisi a couple of days early in April 2017 in order to have a short break before starting work. Unfortunately I somehow managed to delete all my photos for this historic city, except for a scattering of food photos that were preserved on Instagram, so apologies if this post feels a litte text heavy.

My map with all the places below and more is here.

Restaurants:

Penny (High Intermediate A), 5 Via San Francesco, www.enotecaristorantepenny.it

I would recommend coming here just for the surroundings, a high-vaulted ceiling picked out in striking black and white stripes. Mario the owner told me the building dates back to the time of Frederick II, the Swabian king of Puglia in the thirteenth century.

Alternatively you can sit out on the terrace in the summer.

The food was also good, all B/B+. The seafood antipasti were really nice…

…but the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare took me to the the gates of heaven (A).

They make good Canoli too (B).

La Locanda del Porto (Intermediate B), 20 Via Montenegro, www.lalocandadelporto.com

A popular family restaurant recommended by my AirBnB host just opposite my apartment. The seafood antipasti were the highlight (B/B+), as they often are in Puglia.

Pizzeria Romanelli (Initial A), 3 Via Santa Lucia, www.pizzeriaromanelli.com

I think an essential Brindisi food experience is coming to Romanelli for a panzerotto (a deep fried pizza pocket) which they have been making since 1949. The photos on the walls will also take you back in time. I had a ham, mozzarella and tomato one for €5 which was excellent.

Il Botteghino (High Elementary B), 35 Corso Roma

This place is rated for its focaccia (famous in Brindisi) by some but I didn’t find it to be anything special. The cheese and mushroom one I had for €2.50 was okay (B), but not worth a special trip.

Cafes & Bars:

Bar Rosso et Nero (Elementary B+), 15 Via Santi

Also calling itself Rouge et Noir, this old school bar has won the Slow Food Association award for Best Bar in Puglia, primarily I think for its hand whipped gelato which is indeed excellent (A+). I can vouch for the Crema and Nocciola varieties.

It is also a pasticceria but going by their cornetto I would give the rest of their cakes a miss (B-). The coffee wasn’t great either (C) but the old couple who run it are nice.

Bar Betty (Intermediate A), 6 Via Regina Margherita

I’ve given this place on the waterfront an A rating solely for their Cappuccino and Cornetto di Crema which I had for breakfast one morning. The service I received was friendly and efficient. Can’t say what the food is like though as I haven’t tried it.

Spirito (Intermediate B), 16 Via Santi, spirito-the-right-one.business.site

The bartenders at Spirito mix a decent Negroni and you get lots of stuzzichini (nibbles).

Wine Market (High Elementary B), 3 Via Congregazione

A small modern wine bar with a young friendly staff. You get a glass of celery and carrot sticks and a bag of savoury and sweet nibbles with your glass of wine. I asked for the best Puglian white wine they had. What I got (for €4) was fine (B) but nothing special.

Market:

There’s a food market till 2pm every day in Piazza Mercato, near Piazza Vittoria, that’s worth a wander. I saw these unusual crabs in one of the fish shops nearby.

Museums & Sights:

The most famous monument in Bari is the Colonne Romane a column that is popularly considered to mark the end of the Appian way. In actuality, at least according to the plaque attached to the railings around it, it was just a column in a ceremonial square that happened to be near the water’s edge.

The original capital (the decorated top part of the column) was removed for safety reasons and is now housed in the Palazzo Palazzo Granafei Nervegna (see map) where you can get a much better view of its detailed carving. A copy is now at the top of the column.

I had a look round the Museo Archeologico Provinciale Ribrezzo (MAPRI) www.provincia.brindisi.it (entrance €5 in 2017. It’s housed in a building a pleasant courtyard next to the cathedral in Piazza Duomo.

Part of the complex is the Portico dei Cavalieri Templari, the which is the only remaining part of the Templar’s main church. It now houses some of the museum’s collection of capitals and other bits of stonework.

There’s not that much to see inside most of the museum however the stars of the collection are the bronze statues on the top floor which were pulled up from the bottom of the harbour in the 1970s.

There’s another museum called Collezione Archeologica S. Faldetta down on the waterfront next to the steps leading up to the Colonne Romane. It’s primarily a collection of Greek ceramics which didn’t do much for me. The custodian of the place is what we in Sheffield would call ‘a bit of a wrong un’. He was either drunk or crazy, I couldn’t work out which, as he just wandered around talking to no one in particular in a loud voice. If you don’t fancy looking at the pottery you can just go up to the top floor in the lift and get a view of the harbour and the Colonne Romane in the piazette next door.

One thing I didn’t do was go over to the art deco Monumento al Marinaio d’ Italia on the other side of the harbour. It has a good view of Brindisi but it’s hard to get over to that side.

Taranto next!

Shopping for Cheese in Spain

Posted in Centro, Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , on February 17, 2019 by gannet39

I was recently asked for advice on shopping for cheese in Spain so I thought I’d share my thoughts on here as well.

Cheese sellers will offer you samples if they see you looking, or you could ask:

‘I’d like to try…’
‘Me gustaría probar…’

In the first place, Spanish cheese can be divided into three main groups:

Fresco: fresh cheese which has not been cured or aged
Semi curado: semi-cured cheese which has been aged for two or three months
Curado: cured cheese that has been cured for upwards of 4 months

A cheese board might feature all three ages of the same cheese in which case they are best eaten in the order of age, youngest first, strongest last.

They can also be divided according to the animal which produces the milk.

Queso de…

Oveja: sheep
Vaca: cow
Cabra: goat
Or a blend (mezcla) of two or three of the above

The most famous national cheese is Manchego, a sheep’s cheese from La Mancha, which is usually what you will get on your hotel breakfast buffet. Manchego Curado is the best stuff.

Other famous Spanish cheeses are:

Cabarales, a blue cheese from Asturias (often just cow but the best is a cow, sheep and goat milk mix)

Torta del Casar from Extremadura (sheep)
Mahon from Menorca (cow)
Idiazabal from Navarra and the Basque country (sheep)

Here’s a more exhaustive list with links.

When it comes to buying you could say:

‘I want to buy two hundred grams of Manchego Curado’.
‘Quiero comprar doscientos gramos de Manchego Curado’.

100g: cien gramos
250g: un cuarto de kilo

If it’s a segment of a wheel and you want to transport it you can ask for it to be vacuum packed or ‘envasado’.

Spanish people eat cheese as a tapa or as a starter, and also as a dessert with thin slices of ‘membrillo’ or quince jelly.

Grilled goat’s cheese is nice with some fig jam or ‘mermelada de higos’.

Toasted almonds, Marcona are the best, go well with matured cheese.

Connoisseurs say it’s best to drink white wine with cheese as it won’t dominate the flavour, but personally I prefer to drink red with more powerful curados. Dry Fino or Oloroso sherry goes well with it too and Pedro Jimenez sweet sherry can be an amazingly good match with blue cheeses like Cabrales.

The two best places to buy cheese in Madrid are:

La Boulette is a stall in Mercado de La Paz www.laboulette.com
El Poncelet, a shop between Alonso Martinez and Colon www.poncelet.es

The former is less than 10 mins walk from the Hotel Goya and the latter around 15 mins.

Both are proud to say they have over 200 varieties in stock, and they do have many Spanish cheeses but a fair amount of their stock will be from abroad.

Please feel free to add tips and comments or to suggest other cheeses.

Happy cheese shopping 🙂

Madrid – Chamberi – Gabinoteca’s Cocina Creativa in Rios Rosas

Posted in Chamberi, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Rios Rosas, Spain with tags on February 16, 2019 by gannet39

Rios Rosas is somewhat off the beaten tourist track but I don’t mind a bit of a walk if the food’s good. Of course you can take the train to the station of the same name.

This tapas bar is one of a few businesses using the same address on a curved street (unusual in urban Madrid) off a grid street, so it’ll be where you weren’t expecting it to be. Having Google maps helps with this, mine is here.

Gabinoteca (Intermediate B), 53 Calle Fidez. De la Hoz, www.lagabinoteca.com

Gabinoteca was a hot spot for Cocina Creativa when I visited in March 2017. It’s a big space but also very popular so if you go on a weekend night as I did, it’s probably best to reserve. I was offered a high table with a bar stool at the top of the flight of stairs as you go in but it really didn’t do anything for my vertigo so I asked to be seated elsewhere and was given a place at the bar instead.

My friendly server recommended a few things for me, starting with the Tapa de Vieiras a la plancha con Pimientos de Confitadesimos; a canapé with scallops au gratin bedded on a confit of red peppers, which was really tasty (A).

On the recommendation of a blog I read I ordered El Potito; a tapa of egg, potato and truffle, served in a Kilner jar, but I didn’t rate it as highly as my first order (B-).

The house ‘Laxas’ Albarino was just ordinary, as was the following glass of ‘Portia’ Ribera Crianza (both B) that I had with the next two dishes.

The Carrillera de Ternera (veal cheeks), usually a favourite, was unimpressive (B).

The Taco Pato involved a tray with pots of stewed duck (A), marinated red onion (A), guacamole (B) and fried onion (C).

The final bill came to a total of €34.59 which seemed fair.

So the food was slightly hit and miss but generally okay. However I wouldn’t go again unless I happened to be in the area.

Madrid – Cortes – Las Huertas – two meals to remember at Triciclo

Posted in Centro, Las Huertas, Las Letras (Cortes), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags on February 15, 2019 by gannet39

Triciclo (High Intermediate A), 28 Calle Santa Maria, www.eltriciclo.es

As of Spring 2017 I’m very happy to say that Triciclo, located within my favourite tapas zone of Las Huertas (see my other post), is a new addition to my shortlist of essential places to eat in Madrid.

It was the place to be for the blogosphere when it opened in July 2013 but now things have calmed down it’s much easier to get in. You’ll still probably have to reserve at peak times though.

When I first came on a Thursday evening I had to squeeze into a tiny space at a raised table by the bar (my only gripe) but ended up liking the experience so much that I came back with a reservation for Saturday lunch and got a more comfortable seat in the pleasant dining room next door.

What made my experience so memorable was the superb service I received from Luis, the young sumelier (sommelier) who at only 26 is amazingly fluent in both English and wine.

On the first night I had the Menu Degustacion, seven dishes for €50, and the Maridaje (wine pairing); seven wines for €30, and it was worth every penny.

The bread and olives were excellent of course, as was the amuse bouche, whatever it was (A).

First off was a Fino from Bodega El Maestro Sierra which I really enjoyed (B+). In addition to producing great wine, the bodega is also notable for being run by a woman who took over thirty years ago when her husband died. Apparently this was very much frowned upon in traditional Andalucia.

I later procured a couple of bottles of this for my personal cellar.

The following descriptions are often incomplete as it was hard to keep up.

The first starter included some of the famous white prawns from Huelva which were paired with coconut milk, shichimi powder and trout eggs to superb effect.

This was paired with a stunning French white called Meursault. I later found out it costs around £40 a bottle but Luis had opened it for a table of the owner’s friends and very kindly given me a glass when he didn’t have to. I’ve since added one to my collection as it was superb (A+).

Whatever came next had a lot to compete with, but the mackerel did well (A).

It was matched with a Ribeiro called Finca Viñoa which had a subtle flavour and nose (B).

After this Alcachofas (B+); artichokes cooked on the plancha with a pil pil sauce, seaweed and Callos de Bacalao, the flotation bladders of cod, which are one of my favourite things to eat for their amazing flavour (A+).

Luis told me artichokes are usually best with sherry but he matched them with a favourite white of his called Artifice from Tenerife which had a very unusual petroleum-like taste(B).

After this; butter beans with clams and prawns (B).

This was matched with a Ribeira Sacra called Tolo do Xisto which had a medium nose and flavour (B+).

Next up, some Merluza (hake), which was very good (A).

The Gramona cava Luis served it with was also stunning (A) and I later bought some.

Apparently the bodega’s owner takes into consideration the astral biodynamic calendar to decide when he picks his grapes!

Then Mollejas; sweetbreads with beans (B+).

They went well with a glass of Scala dei Garnatxa from Priorat (B+), Spain’s finest red wine region.

To finish, Apple and Lychees (B+).

The best match for this was a slightly sweet wine; Moscatel de la Marina by Enrique Mendoza, which knocked my socks off (A). I later bought twelve bottles on the internet for my pop-up restaurant.

For a final digestif with my coffee I asked Luis for something special from the bar’s liqueur collection and I was given a glass of Don Papa; a new rum on the market from the Philippines. He advises cooling a drink with ice cubes but removing them with tongs before they start to melt too much.

Having loved my first experience so much, I came back for Saturday lunch, and Luis worked some more magic on me.

I’ve not graded them as I was too busy speaking to Luis but it was all superb again.

After an amuse bouche of I forget what…

…matched with a Manzanilla called Sacrista AB from Barbadillo…

… I restarted with the Tosta Atun.

And a rose called El Aprendiz from the DO Tierra de Leon.

Then a third portion of Ciervo (venison) decorated with salmon roe I think.

Matched with a glass of Llanos Negros ‘La Batista’; a Malvasia from La Palma.

Also a third of Esparragos, the season’s first crop of forced asparagus, arrived that day from Navarra.

And a glass of 2014 L’Equilibrista from Catalunya.

Then a third of Manitas; pig’s trotters, or as Luis called them pig’s hands.

The wine was called 30,000 Maravedies from Bodega Maranones near Madrid.

I don’t recall what was on the Taco Carri, sorry. Bet it was good though.

With this a 2013 Syrah called Toc Toc.

To finish, Nuestras Frutas, our fruits, which included kiwi, mandarin, red grape and cantaloupe melon was sublime.

And a final glass of 2012 MR Mountain Wine, a moscatel from Telmo Rodrigquez in Malaga.

This Maridaje of six wines only cost me €22, so I think Luis might have swung me a couple of favours, good egg that he is.

So the wheels came off my reviewing at the end but suffice to say I had two superb meals here and absolutely recommend Triciclo for lovers of fine food and wines.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Food & Drink in the Old Town

Posted in Gran Canaria, Las Canarias, Las Palmas, Spain, Triana, Vegueta with tags , , , , on February 14, 2019 by gannet39

Please see my previous posts for things to see in Vegueta and Triana (the old town).

My Google map is here.

All the places below are handy for my colleagues staying at the Hotel Parque although the first restaurant is better for tourists seeking an idyllic spot. Everybody should visit the market.

Mercado de Vegueta (B+), Calle Pelota

This is a lovely market to walk around because the stall owners have put so much effort into their displays.

Does anyone know what these strange things are?

Casa Montesdeoca (Advanced B+), 10 Calle Montesdeoca, www.facebook.com

This is a higher end restaurant located in the large courtyard of a sixteenth century house in the old town. It’s not quite as stunning as their photos make it look but it is very pretty with an old well and lots of plants. It’s hard to believe the house was a ruin just a few years ago.

The tables have been placed under the courtyard porticoes and umbrellas in case of rain which was a distinct possibility when I was there in March.

The waiters, dressed in white tunics, are friendly and efficient. A soundtrack of Spanish guitar added to the relaxed atmosphere. The food is good and nicely presented but not amazing (B).

I had the Raviolis Rellenos.

And the Sama en Espejo de Trufas y Espuma de Frutas del Bosque, that is, a local fish with truffles and a foam of forest fruits.

With a bottle of Manto by La Geira, another volcanic dry Malvasia from Lanzarote, which was lovely.

The bill came to €60 which was par for the course I think.

El Herreno (Intermediate C), El Herreño Calle Mendizábal, 5 Calle Mendizábal, m.facebook.com

This is a big old place by the market with large dining rooms that were filled with big groups of locals when I went for lunch on a Saturday. It’s very cheap, which may account for its popularity, and the service is fast and efficient but not particularly friendly. It’s the Lonely Planet top pick for Las Palmas but for me the traditional food wasn’t good enough to warrant the rating.

I went for media raciones of three classic local dishes beginning with Ropa Vieja; originally a Cuban dish called ‘Old Rope’ which has bounced back to the Canaries due to their close ties with the Caribbean island. It can be made with different meats and even fish but was composed of chicken, potatoes and chick peas here. It was the only thing I polished off (B-).

Also Gofio Escaldo; a puree made of maize, originally a poor person’s dish, which I wasn’t too keen on and didn’t finish (C-).

Also a tasteless version of the local chick pea stew; Garbanzada made with carrot and only tiny pieces of jamon which was too plain to interest me and I left a lot of it (C). The version I had in La Dispensa (see my Isleta – Las Canteras post) was much tastier with the inclusion of chorizo and morcilla. With all this, a half bottle of Cune (B).

For dessert Mus de Gofio, a sweetened version of the maize puree I had above (B) and a Ron Miel brought the total to €30.

I have to say my poor old stomach wasn’t too happy digesting the food from here. Maybe I had too many chickpeas and too much maize but I think it was the quality of the cooking and ingredients that disagreed with me. It’s an experience that the budget traveller might enjoy, and there are plenty of other more common Spanish dishes on the menu besides my weird selection, but that said, I won’t be going back.

Pecado Ibérico (Low Intermediate B), 21 Calle Cebrian

This modern little breakfast place also doubles as a deli, a junk shop and a bar. I came for lunch but there was nothing lunchy on the menu so I had a wrap (erroneously called a Burrito) filled with cooked ham. It was cheap at €6.50 and included a juice and a coffee.

I’m guessing the place is run by a mum and her hipster son, neither of whom were particularly welcoming but they thawed slightly under my charm offensive.

I bought a jar of local honey here as well. It was a bit pricy at €9.90 but I was happy to pay that as it was very good (A).

El Modernista (Elementary A), Plaza de San Telmo

This is a café located in the lovely Modernista kiosk in the square opposite the Hotel Parque where I should have been staying.

I could look at this building all day. In need of a pit stop after a long walk, I had a Café Cortado, a small bottle of water and a double Ron Miel for €9.10.

And that my friends was the end of my eight days in Las Palmas.

Off to Madrid next!

Las Palmas de Gran Canarias – Historical Architecture in Vegueta

Posted in Gran Canaria, Las Canarias, Las Palmas, Spain, Vegueta with tags , , , , on February 13, 2019 by gannet39

Vegueta was the first neighbourhood of Las Palmas when it was founded in the late fifteenth century. It was declared a National Artistic Historic Site in 1973. Many of the principal civic institutions were located here.

At 1 Calle Colón you’ll find Casa de Colón www.casadecolon.com which used to be the governor house and also claims to be the temporary residence of Christopher Columbus before he sailed for the Americas.

Personally I’ve lost count of the number of cities that lay claim to his name (Genoa and Barcelona spring to mind). It’s now a museum about the Castillian conquest of the Canaries as well as Columbus and pre-columbine America. Entrance fee is 4€ for adults and it’s free the first weekend of the month.

Although the rest of the building is quite austere on the outside, the entrance door is stunning.

The characters seems as sharp as when they were first carved. Click on the pics to enlarge.

The rear entrance is also quite ornate.

The carved figures here seem slightly cruder and less sharp but more humourous.

In Plaza Santa Ana you can see the Catedral de Santa Ana. Although there was nothing inside that particularly impressed me, next time I go I’ll pay the 1,50€ to go up to the roof to enjoy the views which are supposed to be very good.

One of the buildings on the southern side of the square has some nice architectural features.

Plaza de Santo Domingo is a nice square with a pretty fountain.

Another building of note is the Teatro Perez Galdos at 1 Plaza Stagno www.teatroperezgaldos.es.

It seems quite austere from the outside but perhaps there’s more to like inside.

Eating in Vegueta next!

Las Palmas de Gran Canarias – Modern Architecture in Triana

Posted in Gran Canaria, Las Canarias, Las Palmas, Spain, Triana on February 12, 2019 by gannet39

Triana is the former merchants district in the old town. The adjoining neighbourhood of Vegueta (see nextpost) has governmental buildings dating back to medieval times whereas Triana has more recent residential buildings dating back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Today it is one of the most important commercial areas in Las Palmas, particularly since the pedestrianisation of its main street Calle Triana. My map here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my employer either uses the Hotel Astoria in Isleta or the Hotel Parque www.hparque.com in Triana in the old town. The Parque is preferred for logistical reasons as it’s next to the Estación de Guaguas (gua gua is the local name for a bus).

The hotel faces onto the Parque de San Telmo. In one corner of the square is the beautiful Art Deco kiosk (quiosco) which houses a café.

Nearby at 2 Calle Buenos Aires at Punto de Información Turística de San Telmo.

At one end of Plazoleta de Cairasco is the Art-Nouveau Gabinete Literario, constructed in 1842.

It was originally a theatre and later became a club, but nowadays it houses a literary society, as well as a restaurant and a cafe.

I only managed to snap a couple of shots inside before the concierge threw me out.

At 6 Calle Cano is the Casa Museo de Pérez Galdós www.casamuseoperezgaldos.com.

On Calle Pérez Galdós is the Modernista Palacete Querego Rodríguez Quegles.

At different times it has housed the Conservatory of Music, the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Government of the Canaries, the Direction of Universities and Research, and the Canary Academy of the Language and is now used as a cultural space.

If you sneak through the front door you can catch a glimpse of one of the beautiful stained glass windows.

Modernisme is my favourite style of architecture and this blue and white confection was my favourite building in the area.

This is another beautiful example of Modernisme.

And here’s another fine Modernista house on Calle Cano.

And there are many more, especially along Calle Triana. Click on the photos to expand them.

I also like more traditional Spanish houses with their balcones cerrados; enclosed balconies that regulate heat and noise from the street.

Some buildings have a Neo-Mudéjar (Moorish revival) features but they don’t seem to be as common as in other cities in southern Spain.

Plaza de las Ranas has a Neo-Mudéjar kiosk…

…and a nice statue with a fountain.

Plaza Alameda de Colon is another pleasant square.

There are a few examples of art deco around.

A more recent building is the Rationalist Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, built between 1932 and 1942, on the corner of the Bravo Murillo and Pérez Galdós streets.

And there is the odd Postmodern building in the neighbourhood but they are few and far between.

So Triana is an architectural paradise for building spotters. There’ll see some more in Vegueta, the oldest barrio, next.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – a walk through Ciudad Alta

Posted in Ciudad Alta, Gran Canaria, Las Canarias, Las Palmas, Spain with tags , on February 11, 2019 by gannet39

Ciudad Alta is the barrio on the hill between Isleta (see previous posts) and Triana (next post). One day I walked through the neighbourhood towards the old town along Paseo Chil (the main artery). My map is here.

This is where the well-heeled locals reside now that Triana, once the poshest part of town, has become an outdoor architectural museum.

There are some fantastic homes up here but I stopped taking photos of them after getting being told off by a security man. In the UK you can take pictures just about anywhere you like when you’re outside but it might be different in Spain. Better safe than sorry anyway.

However, I did get a few snaps of the wonderful Neo-Mudejar monster that is the Hotel Santa Caterina www.barcelo.com. Next time I come back I’ll try and get to the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant.

The hotel overlooks the lovely Doramas Park (at 227 León y Castillo) which was designed by the British in the 19th century.

It’s an oasis of tranquility with all kinds of exotic plants and flowers that I had never seen before.

There are a few whacky statues and water features dotted about as well.

By way of contrast I also came across this brutalist staircase which I adore. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

The lovely neighbourhood of Triana next!

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Isleta – Eating and Drinking around La Puntilla

Posted in Gran Canaria, Isleta, La Puntilla, Las Canarias, Las Palmas, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2019 by gannet39

La Puntilla is the area at the far north eastern end of Playa de Canteras. See also the previous post on places to eat around Playa de Canteras for the rest of the beach area. My map here.

The best place to go for tapas in Isleta is the old market, the Mercado del Puerto de la Luz at 76 Calle Albareda mercadodelpuerto.net, which has been renovated and turned over completely to tapas bars.

This first one was my favourite but the others were good too.

Skandi Tapas (Elementary B+), inside the market, is run by a lovely Swedish lady. She’s a former SAS airhostess so she knows a thing or two about hospitality. We had a tapa of Caballa Ahumada (smoked mackerel) with crispbread…

…and three different tapas of Salmon; smoked…

…marinaded (gravelaks) and in rolls with Polar Bread, a northern Swedish flatbread (recipe here) and served with a traditional mild mustard sauce.

All these scored an A with me but then I’m biased as I’m half Norwegian. It was really nice to have something different from the usual Spanish tapas. With three glasses of wine each the bill came to a reasonable €32.

At Cachuk (Elementary B+) there’s an Italian vibe with dishes like Mejillones Relleno alla Livornese.

My friend Tina and I also had the oysters…

… and a nice glass of Ribera del Duero.

At El Camaron (Elementary B) on the outside of the market we had some good grilled prawns and razor clams (B+). With two glasses of Albarino the bill came to €18.80.

Whereas La Barra del Puerto (Elementary B+), next door to El Camaron did some good octopus with a green mojo, made with coriander, recipe here.

As for restaurants…

La Marinera (Intermediate B+), Calle Alonso Ojeda, Plaza de la Puntilla

This is a big, famous restaurant on a promontory at the end of the strip in Puntilla.

It’s right next to the sea and has great views over the sea.

The food is good, the service less so.

The Canaries have a good rep for cheese I had a media of local Queso, both fresh and semi-cured, to begin (B+).

For the main; grilled Sama a common local fish you’ll see on many menus. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether it should be translated as Red Sea Bream or Pink Dentex but either way it’s a new one on me.

To finish, a stunning sweet called Polvetos de Uruguay which I raved about in the previous post (A). Again, it’s something you’ll see it on the menu of a lot of restaurants here.

With the dessert a shot of best quality Ron Miel, Canarian honey rum, by Aldea. The was my first experience of this nectar and I fell for it straight away (B+).

With a jarra (large beer) the bill came to just under €28, not too bad.

I would recommend coming here for the views and the food is good but you get the distinct impression that the grumpy waiters don’t like tourists. When I requested the Canarian classic grill dish called Casa Carmelo (as recommended at this restaurant by Culture Trip) I was told in a very patronising way that it had never been on the menu but when I finally found it (it’s a big menu) and proved him wrong, the waiter stopped serving me! I didn’t let his lack of professionalism bother me though and I still enjoyed myself here.

By the way, if you want to try Casa Carmelo, whatever it is, it’s served at a restaurant of the same name just a few doors away at 2 Paseo las Canteras, www.restaurantegrillcasacarmelo.com. Sadly I never got the time to go and give it a try.

Amigo Camilo (Intermediate C+), 1 La Caleta

A waterside restaurant in Puntilla that looks lovely from the outside but with plastic furniture and poor service once you get in.

The high parapet makes it hard to see the lovely view.

The exception was the friendly manager who took me to see their fresh fish display and helped me choose one.

I had a very nice grilled Sama again (see notes above) and media raciones (half portions) of Ensalada Mixta and the quintessential local dish Papas Arrugadas, new potatoes served with mojo (see above).

To drink, a Canarian volcanic wine, a dry Malvasia from Lanzarote, called Bermejo for €16 which was really nice(B+), as was every other local white I tasted.

To finish another glass of Ron Miel but an inferior version this time by Artemi called Indias (C).

The total bill came in at just over €42.

La Oliva (Intermediate B), 17 Prudencio Morales

Recommended by a blogger who reckoned they do the best Calamares Fritos locally.

With a G&T each the bill came to €23.50 which was a bit pricey but the Calamares were good (B+).

Ginger (Intermediate B+), 2 Paseo las Canteras

This was my friend Tina’s local as it’s very good for G&Ts (B+). Look at the size of those glasses!

A walk through the neighbourhood of Ciudad Alta to the old town next!

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