Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Flavorful alternatives add depth to food scene

Mariscal, Peruvian-style marinated seafood at Aborigen Restaurante

More than any other location we visited in Andalucia, Malaga seemed willing to embrace global food influences. There were several South American restaurants in the center of the city that took full advantage of the city’s fresh seafood, translating into great ceviche. We made multiple visits to and recommend both Aborigen Restaurante and Andino Gastrobar.

Alexso Restaurante delivers an intimate contemporary experience with excellent service on a level that should soon merit stars, yet without the high prices that characterize those discovered restaurants. Our lunches there included such dishes as moist sea bass perched atop seafood rigatoni, succulent suckling pig and white chocolate flan with violet ice cream.

The Italian restaurants we tried were good as well. The pizza and the saucy eggplant emerging from the oven at U Siciliano Bar Ristorante; the only disappointment was the supply of arancini had run out when we visited. The bruschetta and pastas at Radici Osteria Italia were perfect and the outside tables on a primarily pedestrian street were pleasant, but do not expect lightening-fast service.

Plus Malaga has some vegetarian options. Locals pack Vegetariano el Calafate for their multi-course lunch specials, so reservations are advisable.

The biggest surprise was hidden amongst a row of restaurants lining one side of Plaza Mercedes. The outdoor umbrella-shaded patios provide pleasant people-watching spots so attract a high number of tourists and drinkers. The fresh vegetarian dishes emerging from Canadu were a higher caliber than the offerings of many of its neighbors and inexpensive for such a prime location. Apple and pine nut croquetas, Persian rice, asparagus and mushroom risotto and mountainous fresh salads made us repeat customers.

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 Guanajuato, Mexico: From corn fritters to affogato

Kicking this food post off with our favorite way to end a meal in Guanajuato: an affogato from Estacion Gelato. Particularly when cardamom gelato is among the offerings to serve as the base for the pour of espresso.

Most craved dish is the corn and jalapeno fritter appetizer at Los Campos Cantina y Restaurante. In fact, Los Campos proved our all-around favorite restaurant during our fall visit.

We were also taken by the addition of a new sister spot, Metate Tacos – Mezcal – Vino. The best guacamole ever, spicy fried chickpeas, a delightful stuffed guero chile and falling-off-the-bone-tender pork shank for making tacos to share at the table. The owners were tinkering with the menu though, and the last time we tried to go none of those were available. The online menu appears as though the chef settled on keeping most of the dishes we loved. If you go, let us know.

Enjoyed new menu items at the upscale Mestizo. Pulpo carpaccio was sweet and tender, and the tuna “carnitas” tacos were a nice change.

In the Presa neighborhood, Amatxi appeared particularly popular with chilangos, but we found the laidback front porch of nearby La Victoriana a more suitable fit for us.

While restaurants encircle the intimate, shady and mariachi-filled Jardin de la Union, we have always shunned eating there. Kind of more of a beer-sipping people-watching spot. We decided to end our snobbery and try the always-bustling Casa Valadez. We found nothing wrong with the food and extremely professional service; all fine if you want to pay higher prices than needed and be assured of eating with all tourists.

We countered that by going into the hole-in-the-wall seafood spot tucked away behind Iglesia de San Diego – La Vela Marisqueria. As tiny and casual as a shack on the beach, La Vela has great fresh ceviche and tacos.

And El Santurrona Gastropub is a perfect spot for people-watching away from the jardin. The fried chicken sandwich is not a bad choice at all.

And then, for a total change in flavor, the fresh food at Delica Mitsu, Campenero location, is great, and you find yourself surrounded by a sea of young Asian college students who agree.

We also enjoy the funky Escarola with its fresh falafel burger. But we must confess that part of its appeal is its convenient location near our favorite after-lunch spot – Estacion de Gelato.