Archive for the Jaen Category

Jaen – Ciudad Nueva – Carretera de Madrid

Posted in Andalusia, Carretera de Madrid, Ciudad Nuevo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , on December 2, 2015 by gannet39

My employer puts us up at the Hotel Infanta Cristina www.hotelinfantacristina.com on Carretera de Madrid, in the newest part of town.

20131117_173943

It’s handy for the train station (max ten minute’s walk) but the neighbourhood it’s in is pretty sterile and there are no good bars or restaurants nearby that I know of.

Personally I like a bit of exercise before I eat so I always walk up the long hill most of the city is located on to one of the tapas areas I mention in my other posts.

The hotel itself is supposed to be the best in town, but that’s not saying much as there is a dearth of good hotels according to Lonely Planet. It’s tolerable but the rooms are quite dingy and the walls are a bit thin. On the other hand the breakfast is usually quite comprehensive and the hotel tapas bar seems to be relatively popular should you not want to go out.

Outside the front door of the hotel on Carretera de Madrid is the ghostly spectacle of the brand new tram tracks, although you won’t see any trams on them. A teacher later told me that the city had run out of money after the 2008 financial crash and had never got round to buying them. A shame as it would be a good way to get up the hill!

20131122_174340

In recent years Jaen has become a destination for food tourism, especially oleotourists as this is the ‘world capital of olive oil’. This is the city’s gastronomic website which has news of special events and a list of places to eat.

It’s only when you leave Jaen by car or train that you got a true understanding of why the area is so well-known for olives. All you will see out of the window is olive trees for hour after hour (video here), a slightly unsettling monoculture with no other kind of vegetable life in sight. According to the Olive Oil Times Jaen province produces 45% of the Spanish total and 20% of the world total, an incredible statistic!

If you can’t face climbing the hill to Casa Paco to buy your olive oil (see Paseo de la Estacion post) then Carniceria Almaden at 7 Calle Manuel Caballero Venzalá is just two blocks from the hotel and also has a good selection of local produce. I like to load up on quality oils and almonds to take home.

20150424_211115

You can find the shops on my Google map of Jaen that shows all the places mentioned in all these posts, and more.

Jaen – Ciudad Vieja – Tapas off Calle Maestra

Posted in Andalusia, Calle Maestra, Ciudad Vieja, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2015 by gannet39

Jaen is very famous for its Renaissance-style Cathedral. Like most other cathedrals in southern Spain, the Catedral de Jaén was built on the site of the ancient mosque.

20131117_142306
20150423_091554
20150423_091638

I find it quite ugly personally except for some of the frescoes on the façade which have some interesting details. Please click on the images to get a better view.

When it comes to tapas, many of the Jiennenses seem to favour the bars in the old town, especially those on the streets just below and along from the cathedral square Plaza Santa Maria. Many of them are hidden in small alleys that are hard to find but I’ll do my best to describe where they are. My Google map might help you too.

20150423_092141

Calle Maestra is the old merchant’s street that starts in the north west corner of the plaza. The first building on the street is this quirky little place on a corner in the cathedral square. It was being renovated in 2015 so hopefully next time I’m in town I can have a nosey inside.

20131117_142411

La Pena Flamenca (Intermediate B), 11 Calle Maestra

A pretty tiled bar that’s nice for a drink although I haven’t tried the food.

20150422_225639

There is a large back room where flamenco shows are held.

20150422_231458

Casa Gorron (Elementary A), 7 Calle del Consuelo (second alley on the right off Calle Maestra), www.tabernagorrion.es

This is an old school taperia, the second oldest in town (1888) beloved by two of my culinary heroes; Sam & Sam Clarke from Moro.

20150418_225639

Their local olives are great, as you’d expect. As is Andalusian tradition, you get them, and other little tidbits, free every time you order a drink. The house tipple is a thirty year old wine that is unique to the bar.

20131117_153704

I wasn’t able to try the Ajilimole the Sams rave about in this Guardian article but I did enjoy the Judias con Perdiz, aka white beans with partridge (B+).

As you can see in the photo your bill is chalked up on the wooden bar.

20131117_154348

Tasca de los Amigos (Elementary A), 10 Calle Bernardo López (third alley on the right off Calle Maestra)

Rough and ready with no charm in terms of décor but very popular with the locals, probably because it’s very good value. Their free tapas are a bit better and more varied than elsewhere too in my opinion.

20150418_214918

La Manchega (Intermediate A), 8 Calle Bernardo López (third alley on the right off Calle Maestra, back entrance on both Calle Arco del Consuelo)

This is the oldest taperia in Jaen, since 1886, so two years older than its neighbour Casa Gorron. Good, simple tapas and atmosphere in spades. There’s a restaurant downstairs too which I need to try.

20150418_224814

Bar La Barra (Intermediate B+), 7 Calle Cerón (at the end of the alleys, parallel street to Calle Maestra)

Not as old as the others but their collection of quirky paraphernalia makes the bar quite atmospheric. The free tapas I got here were some excellent pork scratchings (A) and some moist black pudding (B+). They also have their own homemade vermouth.

20150418_232615

So a great little area for a tapeo (tapas crawl).

Jaen – Ciudad Vieja – Food & Drink around Plaza del Pósito

Posted in Andalusia, Ciudad Vieja, Jaen, Jaen Province, Plaza del Pósito, Spain with tags , , on November 30, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza del Pósito is a pleasant little square in the newer part of the old town, just before you get up to the cathedral area.

20150423_120830

There are several bars and taperias around the plaza and in nearby squares. My favourite is…

El Pato Rojo (Elementary A) 12 Calle Bernabé Soriano

20150422_214347

‘The Red Duck’ is a boisterous marisqueria that’s buzzing at the weekends (you ‘ll be lucky to get a seat).

20150422_220543

I come here in the week when I want to eat seafood. The quality is very good.

20150422_214619
20150422_215223
20150422_221233

Dean Bar (Intermediate B), 2 Plaza Dean Mazas (next square down the hill)

I like the music here (soul, funk) so I sometimes drop in for a night cap. You can sit out on their terrace in the square too.

They have a selection of about thirty rums and twenty gins but only two Spanish brandies, which is a good indication of current drinking trends in Spain.

El Abujelo at 8 Calle Hurtado (the parallel street to Calle Bernabé Soriano) seems to be the late bar to go to.

The prettiest house I’ve seen in Jaen backs onto the square and has its front door on Calle Bernabé Soriano.

20150423_090834

Jaen – Ciudad Nueva – Places for Food around Paseo de la Estacion

Posted in Andalusia, Ciudad Nuevo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Paseo de la Estacion, Spain with tags , , , on November 29, 2015 by gannet39

The ‘new town’ isn’t officially an area but for the purposes of this post it’s the more modern part of town, on the lower slopes of the hill. In particular I mean the two roughly parallel main streets, Paseo de la Estacion and Avenida de Madrid, and their offshoots.

Here’s my Google map of Jaen that shows all the places mentioned in all these posts, and a few more besides. The best place to eat around Paseo de la Estacion, or anywhere in town, is Casa Antonio which gets its own post.

As Jaen has such a good rep for quality ingredients, a visit to the local deli for take home treats is a must. The most famous one in town is Casa Paco.

They have two locations, one at 7 Plaza de los Jardinillos (opposite the main post office), and the second at 12 Paseo de la Estacion, both of which are very well stocked with local goodies.

20131122_173438

I always pick up a couple of local prize-winning olive oils here. The Paseo de la Estacion shop usually have a display of the best eight local oils on a special shelf.

I’d loved to have taken a big batch of the actual olives home too but one of the kind ladies said that the plastic tubs would explode in my baggage at an altitude!

Casa Paco are also known for their crisps which they bag on the premises. www.patatascasapaco.com The toasted almonds are a good buy as well.

Meson Rio Chico (Intermediate B), 12 Calle Nueva

A small friendly place recommended by Frommers, although without a star rating.

I came here on my first night and had my first experience of the famous local olives. These tasty specimens were fairly typical of what every restaurant provided. They’re definitely the longest olives I’ve ever seen!

20131116_201820

The tasting menu looked like a good deal so I gave it a whirl. It consisted of…

Hojaldre Relleno de Guacamole, Salmon y Delicia de Pina (puff pastry stuffed with guacamole and salmon with a pineapple sauce).

20131116_202027

Tosta de Cremoso de Patata con Crujiente de Lomo de Orza y Reduccion P.X. (creamy potato with a crispy fillet of orza and a reduction of Pedro Ximenez sherry).

Timbal de Veruditas de Temporada y Queso de Cabra Caramelizado, Tomate y Albahaca (a timbale of seasonal veg and caramelized goat cheese, tomato and basil).

20131116_203754

Lomito de Atun en Cama de Ajos Tiernos, Pasas y Crema de Citrico (loin of tuna with tender garlic, raisins and citrus flavoured cream). I remember I wasn’t too keen on this combination.

20131116_204909

Carrillada Iberica en Salsa de Esparragos Trigueros (beef cheeks in wild asparagus sauce) was tasty but didn’t look like much.

To drink I had a bottle of Campo Ameno, Syrah Barrica from the local Tierra de la Sierra Sur de Jaen IGP. Judging from the pattern on the bottle, this was made by the same people as the excellent Marques de Campomena I had at the parador.

20131116_203021

Finally, Tarta ‘Puro Chocolate’ con Dulce de Natillas y Frutos Rojos (‘pure chocolate’ tart with sweet custard and red fruits) which I had with a glass of PX.

20131116_220248

This is a cheaper place than Casa Antonio with similar ambitions but not quite achieving them (B/C). I’d definitely go again though.

Casa Vincent (Intermediate B), 3 Calle del Cristo Rey, Tel. 953 232 222, Closed Sunday eve and Monday

A Frommers one star suggestion, this is reputed to be one of the best places in town. It’s old school and a bit formal with a dark wood interior and bulls heads on the walls.

20131122_225117

If you are interested in the Moorish influence on local cuisine, this would be a good place to come, although the ‘typical local dishes’ I requested were just interesting and not particularly amazing. I’m sure if you stick to more standard orders you’d score it higher than I did.

As well as the usual olives, some excellent toasted almonds were put in front of me as soon as I sat down.

20131122_214302

For the first tapa I had cardoons with egg, a dish of Moorish origin, which came sizzling on a plate in a beautifully carved wooden tray. It looked better than it tasted (C).

20131122_214455

I also had artichocke hearts with ham (B) and some pork with chips and gravy which I wasn’t particularly keen on (C+).

20131122_221510

This was washed down with another decent (B) local red called ‘Glosa’ from the Sierra de Sur Jaen IGP.

20131122_213950

Finally a shot of Crema de Café (B) made by the same Castillo de Jaen brand who also made the Anis I had at the parador.

20131122_225920

Service was friendly from the younger English-speaking guy but the older chap (the owner?) didn’t want to try to understand my Spanish. I would come back but again give me Casa Antonio over this traditional place any time.

La Verja (Low Intermediate B+), 56 Paseo de la Estacion, at the bottom of the hill

A good place for simple home-cooked local dishes near the school I was working at. There’s nothing fancy about the food or the surroundings.

I had a menu-del-dia type lunch here twice and enjoyed it both times. The lentil soup, mixed salad and rabbit with garlic all stick in my mind as being good (B+). Can’t remember how much the bills came to but it was definitely very cheap.

20131119_143715

Jaen – Ciudad Nueva – Paseo de la Estacion – Casa Antonio

Posted in Andalusia, Ciudad Nuevo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Paseo de la Estacion, Spain with tags on November 28, 2015 by gannet39

I like this restaurant so much that it gets a post to itself. It is the best place in town.

Casa Antonio (Advanced A), 3 Calle Fermin Palma, Tel. 953 270 262, www.casantonio.es, closed Sunday evening and Monday

Chef Pedro Sánchez uses high quality local and international ingredients for innovative presentations. I like to treat myself to the Menú Degustación which includes two appetizers, five entrees, a fish and a meat course and two desserts. The current price is €52, less than €5 a dish, which is great value given what you get.

In 2015 I started with a chilled glass of Oloroso and some fantastic olives (A).

20150419_133448

And I tried a couple of their wonderful local olive oils (A) with the bread.

I followed this with Pan, Aciete y Chocolate (bread, oil and chocolate), a mainstay of the menu (B+).

20150419_134924 - Copy

I told the owner I wanted to try local wines and he suggested a bottle of Eclo which was very good (B+).

20150419_135317

This was followed by a couple of dishes utilizing I think the famous prawns from nearby Huelva. First prawns with yellow chilli (A).

20150419_135244

And then a red prawn in a broth (B).

20150419_140106

Then Ajo Blanco de Coco, Pina, Albahaca (coconut, pineapple, basil); an innovative take on a classic local soup, another mainstay (A).

20150419_140824

The asparagus in a mayonnaise based sauce with trout roe was very subtle (C).

20150419_141716

The Presa Iberica, smoked pork with a caper sauce, had heaps of flavor (A).

20150419_142727

Then I think some roast suckling pig.

20150419_144540

Then a tasty segment of Butifarra de Pichón (pigeon?) sausage. I love this Catalan sausage, just wish there’d been more of it (B+).

20150419_145604

Melon with sorbet and crystalised basil was a good cleanser but didn’t have much flavor (C).

20150419_151039

On the other hand the delicate bread-pudding like dessert was fantastic (A).

20150419_152629

It went very well with a glass of excellent Malaga Muscat (A).

20150419_152815

Also a complementary flask of very lemony homemade limocello, which was nice but not as strong as the Italian version (B).

20150419_165425

They have quite a collection of Spanish brandies here, about thirty in all, about ten of which I hadn’t tried. I took pot luck and went for the 1885 Gran Reserva Malaga which was fine but not amazing (B).

20150419_164914

As always, I left a very happy bunny.

And here is my review from 2013:

The tasting menu was only €47 for about 12 different plates, not including a couple of little extras not pictured. These were:

Pan, Aciete y Chocolate (bread, oil and chocolate); an unusual combination that works.

Trufas de Perdiz Escabechada, Foie Tartufo (truffles of pickled partridge and foie) and Croqueta de Trufa y Parmesano (truffle and Parmesan croquette), served with root vegetable crisps.

20131121_213206

Ajo Blanco de Coco, Pina, Albahaca (a local cold almond soup, not garlic as you might think, with coconut milk, pineapple and basil).

Yema, Trufa, Patata (a whole poached egg rather than just a yolk and grated white truffle, I think on a bed of potato puree). So delicious.

20131121_214752

Ensalada de Perdiz de Campo y su Escabeche Emulsionado (country partridge salad with a marinade emulsion). In Spain escabeche is a vinegar marinade which I’m not particularly fond of but I didn’t notice it here.

20131121_215412

Morrococo, Cocido Mareao. I know the former is a local chickpea mash sometimes referred to as Jaen hummus! Cocido is a stew but I’m not sure what ‘mareao’ refers to. Either it’s leftover stew that in this case has been mashed into the chickpeas, or it’s the stock from boiling the stew ingredients which is sometimes eaten as a separate soup, as is probably what they’ve done here.

20131121_220622

Papada, Anguila, Mango-Pasion (possible pork jowl with Anguilla eel and mango something).

20131121_220023

El Pez (Segun Lonja) or fish of the day depending on market availability. Not sure what fish it was but it looks like bream or bass.

20131121_224150

Cordero Segureño, Naranja, Cardamomo (local Segureña lamb with orange and cardamom).

20131121_224847

This might be Melon, Ginebra, Manzanilla al Limon (melon, ginger and apple with lemon) as per menu but the photo doesn’t really match the description.

20131121_230537

There was definitely apple in this dessert though.

20131121_231322

Last of all I was given some complimentary chocs at the end and this strange milky digestif which was nice but again I don’t recall what it was exactly.

20131121_233333

All the wines I had here were excellent. I sampled two Ribera del Duero reds (the Matarromera crizanza and a young wine by AC), a Rioja (Bai Gorri 2007) and a local red Marcelino Serrano from the Sierra de la Sur de Jaen IGP.

20131121_224008

With a dessert I also had a glass of Moscatel de Alejandria, an ancient grape.

20131121_230120

An excellent meal at a very reasonable price.

And a couple of other reviews of my first meals at Casa Antonio:

One of the highlights for me is trying their local olive oils. The flavours are unlike any oils I’d tasted before and a couple are luminous green in colour!

20131121_214533

On my first ever visit I started with a small bowl of salmorejo, my favourite cold soup.

20131119_211246

After this I had Espaldilla de Cordero Segureno con Pure de Patata y Ajo Morado (Shoulder of Segureño Lamb with Potato Puree and Purple Garlic).

20131119_212754

And to finish some aged Manchego cheese. It could have done with some membrillo but it was still good.

20131119_214748

On the next occasion, Arroz Negro de Calamares su Alioli (rice made with squid and its ink with an accompanying sauce of emulsified garlic and oil).

20131120_213708

Can’t remember all the wines I tried, but they were very good.

Followed by Cochinillo Lechal en Dos Tiempos, Cebolleta a la Naranja y Cardamomo (twice-cooked (?) suckling piglet with chives, orange and cardamom).

20131120_215732

Not quite sure what this apple and cream creation was called but it was very nice.

20131121_212201

Suffice to say my stomach is always singing when I leave this place!

Getting High in Jaen

Posted in Andalusia, Barrio Antiguo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags on November 27, 2015 by gannet39

One day when I had the morning off I decided to have another crack at climbing up Santa Catalina hill to the castle of the same name. Knowing it would be an hour’s hard climb I packed a bottle of water and set off at 8am before the sun got too hot. My last attempt back in 2013 had failed because I didn’t know how to find the final path up the last part of the steep slope to the castle gate. This time I’d done my research and knew where to go.

20150423_114002

From the cathedral square walk along Calle Maestra to Plaza Audencia and turn left up Calle Aldana and it’s continuation Calle  Parilla.

20150423_114933

This takes you to the aptly named Calle Buenavista which ends at Calle Circunvalación (the road that curls round the back of the castle hill which you would take if you were driving).

20150423_093251

Turn right onto Circunvalación and after a few yards you’ll see a gravel road going up the hill to your left. Follow it until it bends round to the right and either take the faint path that cuts through the woods on the left or stay on the road until you get to the remains of the castle curtain wall and take the footpath that goes up along the inside of the wall.

20150423_113627

20150423_113646

20150423_095410

After a steep climb you’ll come out on Circunvalación again but now you’ll be within sight of the castle gate.

20150423_095510

Follow the road up through the gate and the first building you’ll come to is the Parador, a government owned hotel and restaurant, more of which below.

Continue past it and you’ll come to the Santa Catalina castle itself. It’s now a museum and is well worth a visit. Entrance cost €3.50 in 2015.

You can get a good sense of castle‘s long and varied history from the displays but the real reward is the stunning view from the top of the towers.

20150423_105313

Here’s the video I took, please ignore the panting!

When you come out of the castle you can continue along to the end of the ridge to the large cross that overlooks the town.

20150423_104943

It was first erected by King Ferdinand when the Christians retook the town from the Moors and so intentionally it has a great view of the cathedral which was itself built over the mosque. If you’re unlucky it can be a bit busy up here with school and tour groups.

20150423_101438

As I mentioned earlier, next to the castle is the parador, a government-owned hotel built in 1965 on top of some of the castle ruins. It blends quite well with the castle, especially inside.

Spain has a policy of opening parador’s either in or in association to many of its ancient monuments. I think it’s a good idea as it generates funds for their preservation and helps make them living buildings.

On my final day in 2013 I decided I just had to get to the top of Santa Catalina hill, and if I couldn’t do it on foot, I’d do it by car, so I booked a table at the parador’s restaurant and took a taxi each way. For some reason it was a cheaper fare going there than getting back!

When you go inside, after first walking past the hotel reception and along a corridor, you get to ‘the lounge’, a huge square room with soaring vaulted ceilings, high chimneys on facing walls and a wall of windows with Moorish wooden shutters.

20131118_230922

20131118_231825

The décor in here consists of long swords hanging on the walls, alongside portraits of Christian saints. One shows a knight with a halo riding a horse and smiting the heads of some turban-wearing men with his sword. Not very PC but this is the actual history of this place. A Moorish castle once occupied the hill but it was put under siege several times by the Christians who eventually captured it and built this newer fortification in its place.

20131118_234914

Passing through this room you come to the restaurant which has been designed to look like a Medieval banqueting hall; very long with a low ceiling and several arches.

20131118_230852

It’s decorated in sturdy Medieval style with clunky wooden light fittings and a huge tapestry showing a battle scene on the end wall.

20131118_225251

Unfortunately the food at these paradors is often not very good so I wasn’t counting on a gourmet meal. The Gazpacho Andaluz, with two halves of quail egg and a swirl of excellent olive oil, was pretty good (B+), but that’s quite hard to get wrong if you have quality ingredients.

20131118_220055

However the grilled leg of goat came with the kind of mixed veg (diced carrots, beans and peas) that you get from a bag in the freezer, and the solitary potato looked processed as well. A swirl of reduced vinegar failed to make it posh (C).

The saving grace was the award-winning local red, Marques de Campomeno 2011 (B+), a Tempranillo/Cab Sauv, which is now my favourite local tipple whenever I’m in Jaen.

20131117_152133

To finish a local dessert, Dulce de Gachas con Matalauva y Aciete de Oliva Extra Virgen, which translates as a sweet set porridge, topped with aniseed and extra virgin olive oil. The main ingredients of most Gachas recipes seem to be milk, flour, sugar and whatever flavourings are to hand; a sweet born out of poverty if ever there was one. Despite its simplicity it was quite nice (B) and the waiter loved me for ordering it!

20131118_225442

Generally the front of house staff here were very pleasant but they took a long time to attend to me, although to be fair they do have a lot of ground to cover.

After eating I decamped to the lounge with a glass of the local sweet anis, made by Castello de Jaen, which seemed the only fitting way to end the evening.

20131118_231449

So a  mediocre and slightly pricey food experience but the interior of the parador and the views of the town at night were worth it.

%d bloggers like this: