Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Sorry, you must be starving by now

Seems too long since this blog made a food stop.

Fresh red tuna was running while we were in Spain this spring and summer, and the above photo represents an upscale presentation of it from the kitchen of chef Gonazlo Jurado of Tradevo Centro. The name represents a fusion of the words tradition and evolution. An avocado roll, or canelon, filled with shrimp is particularly luscious.

Like Tradevo, ConTendor Slow Food Restaurant is a little more upscale than we tend to frequent, but neither results in particularly high tabs at lunchtime. The long and varied daily menu is written on a large chalk board, and the server reads through the entire thing with you to see if you have any questions. It can be parked on your table briefly for consideration, but on a two-top it is awkward to read and we quickly found ourselves forgetting what some of the dishes were. Everything is presented artfully, such as an unusual deconstructed dessert of eucalyptus ice cream with creamy meringue and basil hazelnut paste on the side.

The winner for our favorite people-watching patio is Quilombo. The casual spot is on an intimate plaza on a mainly pedestrian narrow street frequented by locals. The mussels and salmon burgers are good, but it was the patio that really drew us back.

While one Arte y Sabor Tapas is located on Plaza Hercules, there is an overflow one about half a block away that attracts more locals. The prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and the falafel are welcome changes. Artefacto Grill & Beers is just off the plaza as well, and, as a result, snagging a table at lunch is much easier. Love their cheesy rice-filled zucchini and croquetas filled with spinach and pine nuts. Burgers, from veggie to retinto beer, are their specialties.

We did not realize when we stumbled across Vida Loca that it had only been open a week. The neighborhood evidently was keenly aware, so it was packed. The traditional garbanzo stew and boquerones are spot on, and the plate piled high with fresh vegetables and slices of jamon is uncommonly varied. Tucked away on a side street and seemingly undiscovered by many tourists, tables in Estraperlo are wedged between shelves holding fresh vegetables and other “ecological market” items for sale. We shared a lunch of artichokes with jamon and a stir-fry with shrimp.

We tried more than one Morroccan/Arab restaurant but were shocked to find our most successful meal in that vein right smack in the middle of one of the areas most congested by tourists – a Halal restaurant, Al Wadi. The chilled squash with a pomegranate, honey and lemon sauce is a pleasant starter, and lamb arrives atop the most flavorful savory rice ever entering my mouth. And then, right under the landmark visitor magnet Las Setas, was Malavida Tapas. I almost left it off the list, but the photos rescued it at the last minute. We went on a rare rainy day, so it was empty instead of overrun. The vegetables, the seedy avocado salad and the beef panes are all much better than one would expect to find in the location.

The final stop offered for your meal consideration in Sevilla almost reminded me of the old Europe on $5 a day (pretty nigh on impossible even in the olden days) guidebooks; it was that much a bargain. A simple neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, El Enano Verde offers ridiculously low-priced freshly prepared vegetarian fare. Both our wok-style vegetables and black rice with snow peas resulted in clean plates. I am including this because it is an ideal conscious-clearing spot to balance your budget and your calories after indulging in too many splurge meals.

But, you might ask, where is the pizza? Anyone who knows us is aware we don’t travel for long without pizza. We tried several in Seville but failed to find one we would recommend. But our Spanish options were so abundant we survived easily.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Caravan of food trucks kept calling us

Normally our preference is to sit down in a restaurant and be waited upon, but the Karavan Street Food courtyard of food trucks drew us back several times. Trucks line two sides of tables canopied when needed. Unlike many food truck sites we’ve encountered in Austin and San Antonio, access is hospitably pedestrian only. You don’t feel as though you are standing in the middle of a parking lot, and everything seems clean, fresh and new – even the restrooms.

The food is not inexpensive by Budapest standards, but we could buy a reasonable bottle of respectable red wine to have with our lunch. Always a draw for us. In fact, without TABC to interfere, Karavan Bar offers full-bar service.

We cobbled our meals together from several trucks, but always included orders of the best sweet potato fries we have ever had anywhere. Surprisingly, these emerge from an Asian-themed truck, Samu-Rice, specializing in fillings sandwiched in between two rounds of sticky rice – like the chicken teriyaki roll seen below.

The rice rolls are not the only unusual, for us, bun-type offerings. The Mister’s favorite was the curried chickpea patty from Las Vegan’s (Hey, definitely better to have a misplaced apostrophe than for us to struggle to comprehend the same name written in Hungarian.). The Real Cheeseburger skips the meat patty, substituting it, for example, with a wedge of fried camembert topped with grilled eggplant.

There is no shortage of meat, though. The bread encasing the Langos burgers is fried first, without tasting greasy at all. We sampled a beef burger with red pepper and a pork one with red onion chutney, both with a generous serving of sheep cheese.

We were among the first customers for the opening of Rocket Ice, unfortunately near the end of our stay. Fresh ingredients are combined upon ordering and quick-frozen into ice cream using some mad-scientist-looking process employing nitrogen. The most extravagant combination, Berry’Zola with gorgonzola, blueberries, pears and walnuts, was amazingly good.

Our sampling missed several trucks, including Kobe Sausages, Vespa Rossa Pizza and Pasta, The Soup Truck featuring goulash served in bread bowls and Tortilla Street Pirog, an unusual fusion of Mexican wraps and Russian-style pierogis.

Oh, and chimney cakes. In addition to the truck at Karavan, we saw the pastry cooking over hot coals before being cream-filled at numerous festivals, yet never ordered one. Food trucks and serious booth set-ups are major ingredients of festivals, so I am including photos of the incredibly huge meat-filled sandwiches dished up at Rosalia 2017, a rose wine festival in the city park.

Postcard from Lisboa, Portugal: Frankly foreign restaurants

We never go long without “foreign” food in San Antonio or when traveling. “Foreign” in this case means not Portuguese. And particularly Italian. This post represents the final one of our “payback” food roundups from Lisbon: we depend so heavily on the internet for reviews that I feel obligated to provide feedback for those who follow.

We were bowled over by Riso8, mainly because we stumbled across it without reviews. We ate two weekday lunches there with a lot of “suits,” which makes you particularly happy you are traveling and don’t have to wear one and rush back to some office. Virtually no tourists were present. The black ink spaghetti was filled with seafood and broccoli and was wonderful, but beware of splashing the dark ink while twirling pasta. Both the sausage risotto and the calamari with saffron version were polished off happily.

When you view the pizza shots, you will think that’s all we ate in Lisboa. But we were there for four weeks. All of the ones mentioned here were good, but none were major homeruns. But we liked all these restaurants. As we were eating so much seafood, we generally ordered vegetarian pizzas.

Among the spots we hit were Esperanca, Limoncello Cucina Italiana, Momenti Italiani and Pizzaria Lisboa. Lunch specials are absurdly inexpensive at Limoncello, but the must-have dish to order is the grilled asparagus. The presentation of Momenti’s tomato salad was artful, and the chocolate mousse was wonderfully rich. The fresh-tasting stacked eggplant – not fried – was luscious at Pizzaria Lisboa, the casual option restaurant opened by a hot chef, Jose Avillez. The dish I plan on duplicating at home is his broiled pineapple with lemon basil sorbet for dessert. Totally refreshing.

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A block from our apartment, we kept watching as they put the finishing touches on Oui, Moules & Huitres. They opened our final week, and the mussels, with numerous options available not laden with cream, were perfect. Across the street from the touristy Cervejaria Trindade, it should be able to attract a following soon.

Another place seemingly new because the menu the French proprietors offered at lunch was radically different – now burger centric – than what online reviews indicated is Velha Gruta off of Largo de Camoes. Ignore those reviews. It is totally uncharacteristic of us to order burgers, but these were far more flavorful than most – whether veal, chicken or salmon – and were topped with interesting combinations of distinctive cheeses and grilled vegetables and served with frites. Expect locals not tourists, friendly owners and a nice, inexpensive liter of house red wine.

Gandhi Palace was good, not great, but sometimes you just need to spice things up….