Archive for the Extremadura Category

Caceres – Barrio Nuevo

Posted in Barrio Nuevo, Caceres, Extremadura, Spain with tags on January 16, 2015 by gannet39

There’s no such area as Barrio Nuevo, this is just all the stuff I couldn’t get in the previous post about the old town.

El Figon de Eustaquio (Advanced B+) 12-14 Plaza San Juan, 927 244 362 elfigondeeustaquio.com

20131126_204540Recommended in ‘Where Chefs Eat’ and by Frommers, this formal but friendly spot near the old town is a great place to sample local cuisine. I got great service from Roberto who helped me pick out a few local specialities.

20131126_210104After a rather unpleasant, unidentifiable amuse bouche (C+), I had the simple shepherd’s dish of Migas Extremenas (in the first picture). The breadcrumbs were much finer than migas I’d had before. It was ok (B-).

20131126_214711The main was Cordero Asado, an excellent slab of lamb, finished with a white wine and oregano sauce with some fries (A). The local Basangus red was very enjoyable with it (B+).  The dessert of Biscuit de Higos Pajareros was good too (B).

20131126_215245The most unusual taste experience was the complementary glass of Licor de Bellota (recipe here) called Beso Extremeno that Roberto served me with dessert.

Licor de Bellota means ‘liquor of acorn’, and acorns are what farmers traditionally feed their Iberian pigs to create the very best kind of ham, Jamon Bellota. So this was an Extremaduran acorn liqueur, dangerous! It was interesting but one was enough (C). Definitely not something I’d like to be hungover on!

With a glass of Carlos III to finish things properly,  the bill came to just under €60 . Should you be on a budget there is a cheaper place called Meson San Juan just opposite El Figon in Plaza San Juan. I haven’t been but the nice chap on reception recommended it.

So as well as having heaps of history, Caceres is a fantastic foodie destination. Here are a few things they are famous for in these parts:

Jamon Iberico

Spanish cured ham is the best in the world, and in Spain the best ham comes from Extremadura, and in Caceres I was told the best place to get ham was Solano at 48 Avenida de la Plata jamonsolano.com  I got some Iberico and some Bellota and it was all indeed very good. They will vacuum pack it for you to take home. A good brand to keep an eye out for is Monteporrino.

Pimenton

It is said that Colombus brought peppers back on his second voyage and first served them to the king and queen while in Extremadura. The county of La Vera in Caceres province has a DOP for pimenton  (paprika) which is considered the best in Spain (although Murcia has a good rep too). I was told the best brand was La Dalia. There are 3 types; dulce (sweet or mild), agridulce (bittersweet) and hot (picante). I bought several tins of all three at Mostazo at 13 Gil de Cordero, www.mostazoespecialidades.es, It’s a more visually spectacular deli than Solano with lots of hams hanging from the ceiling and a much wider range of other goods.

Torta de Casar

A sheep’s milk cheese from the local town of Casar which has its own DOP. It’s eaten by slicing off the top of the cheese and scooping out the soft inside.

20131128_123219Patatera

As mentioned in previous post, this is a poor man’s sausage made with potato, paprika and the cheaper cuts of the pig.

Pitarra

A kind of strong artisanal wine made in earthenware jars. It’s not necessarily of the highest quality but it is homemade and without chemical additives. Several local towns hold competitions to see who makes the best stuff.

Habla

One of the most famous Extramaduran wine producers. I especially like their Tempranillo/Sauv Cab/Syrah  blend ‘Habla del Silencio’ which can be imported via Vinissimus for about £9 a bottle including shipping.

I stayed at the Hotel Barcelo Caceres V Centenario. I remember it being quite a strange design and not particularly attractive but the reception staff are truly excellent, very helpful and with a great sense of humour. It’s located in a bit of a bleak spot by a major road (turn left out of the hotel for the footbridge) and about 30 minutes’ walk from the old town, but I don’t mind a bit of exercise if there’s a good meal at the end of it.

20131126_230442Finally here are a few more scraps of architecture from around town. This is the old theatre on Calle Parras.

20131128_124443I love this tiled building which I think was on Calle Pintores, or its continuation. Please click on the picture to see the beautiful patterns on the ceramics properly.

20131128_124345Nearby is this rather spooky statue of two pilgrims, paying homage to the fact that Caceres is a major stop on the camino to Santiago de Compestela.

I wish I could have spent a day or two longer in Caceres but I had to fly home after two days. I’m definitely going back one day though.

 

 

Caceres – Ciudad Monumental

Posted in Caceres, Ciudad Monumental, Extremadura, Spain with tags on January 14, 2015 by gannet39

My second stop in Extremadura in November 2013 was Caceres, a city of 100,000 and capital of its own province.

The old town has been declared a UNESCO heritage site due to its mix of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The medieval walls and their twelve towers are still standing and in a good state of preservation. They were mainly built by the Moors although some Roman fortifications remain. Please click on these photos to see them in full detail.

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The main entrance to the historical centre is via the 18th century Arco de Estrella in Plaza Major. Its unusual angular shape presumably allowed carriages to access the narrow side street.

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Many of the buildings here are quite austere as they were originally built as fortified houses in the 15th century and then later converted to palaces during the Renaissance. Some conquistadores from South America also returned and built new palaces during this period.

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Coats of arms decorate walls and doors at every turn. You can apparently see over 1,300 coats of arms around the town.

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And as elsewhere in Spain, they know how to do a good door! No ones getting through one of these in a hurry.

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Only residents cars are allowed in this area, so it’s a great place to walk around, just breathing in the history.

You probably need a couple of hours to do this, more if you want to see the insides of buildings. I could quite happily have spent much longer wandering around but unfortunately I only had one morning to do it.

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As you’d imagine with such a touristy area, there are plenty of places to eat. A friend of a friend had recommended La Cacharreria at 1 Calle Orellana for large tapas portions at a good price in cosy surroundings. However as it was my last day I felt like a bit more of a treat and was sorely tempted to go high end and eat 13 courses for €119 at Atrio restauranteatrio.com which is generally considered the best place in town. Fortunately for my wallet, I reigned myself in and compromised with…

Parador de Caceres (Advanced B+), 6 Calle Ancha, www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-caceres

In Spain many old castles and historical buildings are owned and run by the government as hotels, as is the case with this beautiful Renaissance palace. For some reason however the food at these places can sometimes be quite poor but this particular one had been recommended by a colleague who was taken here by a local manager who knows his stuff when it comes to eating well.

It’s certainly a nice spot with the dining room looking out over a leafy courtyard garden, which has an old well in one corner.

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The service was friendly and attentive too, and they dealt with all my foodie questions with a smile.

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I had the Menu Parador for €31, starting with some pate and a local sausage called Patatera. Traditionally this was poor man’s food, made with potato, the famous local paprika and the cheapest cuts from the pig (B).

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I also enjoyed the Caldereta de Setas, wild mushroom soup, that followed (B).

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For the main course it had to be the Solomillo pork loin as the region is famed in Spain for pig breeding. It was pretty good (B+).

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To finish the house speciality, Tarta de Queso con Frutillas del Bosque, or cheese cake with fruits of the forest, which was fine too.

 

To finish the local dessert and house speciality, Tecula Mecula, made with egg yolks, almonds, pork lard and cinnamon, and apparently acorns sometimes too. It was my favourite part of the meal (A).

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To drink a half bottle Tempranillo crianza called De Payva from nearby Badajoz (B)…

20131128_134748…and a glass of Graham’s tawny port (B+), which they would seem to prefer in Extremadura to Andalucian sherry. Total cost €55, All was fine and dandy so by all means come here.

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Here’s my Google map to help you find the places mentioned. To make my this post more manageable I’ve divided it into two, the old and new(er) parts of town. Please see the next post for everything else.

A good time in Badajoz

Posted in Badajoz, Extremadura, Spain with tags , , on January 11, 2015 by gannet39

This trip in Autumn 2013 was my first time in Extremadura and I was very excited to be visiting this culinarily famous region. I spent my first three nights in Badajoz and in that short time I got a very positive impression of the place and its friendly people, and I ate pretty well too.

Located on the border with Portugal, the city has been fought over on several occasions by the two countries. Nowadays it’s a very peaceful town, and although Spanish in name, many of the inhabitants have Portuguese relatives or speak the language.

I stayed at the bright, modern and comfortable Hotel Badajoz Center which was well located for the bus station and not too far from the old town.
The centre of the old town is Plaza de España which has a few nice old buildings located around the Gothic cathedral.

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20131125_105658The plain exterior of the cathedral didn’t do much for me though. It was built with defence in mind and has thick walls and a square tower rather like a fortress, so not exactly a beauty.
There is one window with a nicely carved surround for the bishop to wave out of.

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The front entrance is quite nice too. Apparently the windows are quite unusual but it was closed when I went so I can’ t comment on the interior. The organ looks amazing though in these pictures.

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I loved these weather vanes on the building next to the cathedral too.

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This is stork territory, so every tall tower or chimney round here has a nest on its summit.

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It was the first time I’d heard the sound the storks make with their beaks when they communicate with each other, kind of like the hollow sound of two coconut shells imitating horses hooves by rapidly clopping together. There are lots of better photos of them here.
My favourite place in the old town is the pretty Plaza Alta with its long porticos and brightly patterned walls. Again, please click on the photo to see it better.

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Despite being recently renovated it still retains an atmosphere of medieval times when it hosted markets and bullfights. There are a couple of bars at one end where you can sit and watch the tourists go by.

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Nearby is the Alcazaba, the Moorish citadel, which is apparently the largest one still intact in Spain.

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There’s a couple of museums in here, and you can walk along the walls and get some good views of the town. More info about its history here.

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It was also nice just wandering around the narrow streets getting lost.

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Extremaduran cuisine has a very good rep, so I was really looking forward to eating out here. I didn’t find get any info about the restaurant scene from my usual sources, except for the 2011 edition of La Seleccion del Gourmet which lists the first two places mentioned below.

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El Sigar (Advanced B+), 12 Avenida Luis Movilla, www.elsigar.es

This bright, modern, fairly posh place is about a 15 minute walk from the hotel, in the opposite direction from the old town. You can stand in the rowdy tapas bar or dine in the quieter restaurant as I did. The decor is bright and modern in both.

I had the set menu for €33 which was fine (B+) and very good value, about £3.70 for each of the seven plates which were:
Foie Marinado, foie ‘marinated’ with oil and black pepper (B).

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Cebiche de Corvina, marinated in citrus (B). The name Corvina is used for different fish around the world, but here it’s most likely a large sea bass.

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The Lasana de Morcilla, black pudding lasagna, particularly impressed me (B+). I would love to make this at home but I don’t think our black pudding is moist enough.

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Langosta con Tallarines, lobster with tagliatelle=like noodles in a creamy sauce (A).

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Pollito Relleno, ‘stuffed’ chicken wasn’t much to look at but was ok (B). Not really sure what the sauce was or why they describe it as stuffed.

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With these courses I tried a couple of glasses of local reds. The first was a crianza called ‘Basangus’ 2011, from the Badajoz DO Ribera de Guadiana, which was very good (B).

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The second glass of ‘Valudeza’ from Tierra de Extremadura was pretty decent too (B) but I think this was the beginning of a slippery slope!

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Degustcaion de Quesos; a selection of cheeses with honey, jam, figs and reduced vinegar. Some nicer than others (B). All of the cheeses were local I think.

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A glass of Noval 2007 port from over the border went well with this (A).

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Sopa de Almendra con Helado de Higos, almond soup with fig ice cream was interesting although it didn’t look great despite the decorative physalis trying to make it look better (B).

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Service was nice but dim. I decamped to the restaurant bar after the meal in search of a night cap and got more than I bargained for!

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I got chatting with the very dour but hospitable chef/owner who plied me with this Extremaduran aguardiente made of green apples and a couple of his more unusual Jerez brandies. Uh oh!

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Interestingly he considers Luis Felipe, my favourite and the most expensive Spanish brandy, to be a sweet wine rather than a true cognac, which when I tasted it again, does seem to be true.

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It was here that I also got chatting with Macarena (an English teacher) and Javi who, although they didn’ t know me from Adam, invited me to come out with them on their first date! Now that’s friendliness for you.

They took me to a Cuban ‘local’ in the old town (Bar Malecon at 5 Calle San Blas) which is reputed for its Mojitos. As it was a lock-in I soon made more acquaintances, including friendly, English-speaking Ana who introduced me to her pals. I had a great time and I was one of the last ones to leave! Thanks for being so welcoming guys; I have such a good impression of the local people now.

The next day, Sunday, wasn’ t so good though as I awoke with the biggest hangover in living memory! I had intended to eat a big Sunday lunch at Restaurante Marchivirito but spent the whole day in the hotel recovering instead. I even ate in the hotel restaurant in the evening which is very unlike me, and not an experience I’d recommend foodwise, at least not on a Sunday.

The next day, with my spirits restored, I faced the eternal Spanish problem of finding somewhere open on a Monday evening and had to resort to asking the receptionist for help (usually a bad idea). He sent me to this place which he said has a good rep locally:

Restaurante Galaxia (High Intermediate B), 6 Avenida Villanueva, Tel. 924 258 211

Everything I had here was fine. I quite liked the unusual porthole door and windows which give it a nautical look. It is apparently a seafood restaurant but I was in the mood for meat and lots of it.

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You can’t come to Extremadura and not have the famous Jamon Iberico. It was of course very good (B+).

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For the main, Solomillo de Ternera de Ritonto a la Plancha, a grilled veal sirloin steak which pressed the right buttons (B), even if the accompanying Pringles didn’t (C).

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To drink,  ‘Huno’ a full-bodied 14.8% 2008 crianza from the local Ribera del Guadiana DO wasn’t really to my taste (C).

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And finally a slice of Tarta de Almendra, almond tart, which as usual was very dry but tasted okay (B). I don’t think moistness is a criteria in Spanish baking.

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Fortunately a strategic glass of Gonzalez Byass ‘Solera 1847’ cream sherry helped it down nicely (B+).

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So a good time was had! Even if I didn’t get to do (eat) as much as I’d have liked to, I still really enjoyed myself. Here are links to my Google map with the places mentioned above and also the local tourism website.

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