When traveling, I always have mixed feelings about relying on guidebooks for restaurant and bar suggestions. On the one hand, when you’re in a strange city and have no idea where to go, you might not want to spend limited funds taking a chance on a place that could be a dud. On the other hand, you might miss out on the opportunity to discover something wonderful that you wouldn’t have come upon if you were blindly following a book’s suggestions. Not to mention that guidebook-endorsed restaurants are often full of all the other tourists who bought the same book!
In Seville, as it happens, we came upon a microscopic bar (you can see pretty much the whole place in the top photo!) that we later learned was listed in our Lonely Planet. Happily, its charm was in no way diminished as a result of its having been recognized in print, and it ended up being one of our favorite bars of the entire trip. Bar Àlvaro, in the Calle Mateos Gago, is a quirky family-owned bar open since 1904 (as was conveyed to us in chalk; see photo). Its current owner is Àlvaro Peregil (translation: Oliver Parsley, hehe), who is hands down the most enthusiastic bartender I have ever seen on either side of the Atlantic. He presides over his domain with an infectious energy that makes you feel as if you’re privy to an impromptu celebration for no other reason than that it’s great to be alive. Tall for a Spaniard, he dominates the postage-stamp-sized space with his booming voice and animated gestures, taking orders one minute and grabbing a rhythm stick the next to demonstrate his percussive prowess. We knew instantly that this was our kind of place, and settled in for some drinks and tapas. Continue reading
Man, I feel like Rachel Ray about to post this… ACK! I promise not to use the words “yummo” or “sammie” though (and please feel free to shoot me if I ever do).
Last night I didn’t get home until 9PM- I had worked late and then gone to get groceries afterwards. I needed something fast for dinner and somewhat on the lighter side, since I was eating so late. I had bought some Niman Ranch bacon (pretty much the only bacon I’ll buy anymore after reading this article in Rolling Stone) and a couple bags of greens, and had some little grape tomatoes on hand, so I thought “BLT”- only I didn’t want to eat all that bread. So I took two pieces of bacon, cut them into small pieces and fried them up while I made a mayo-based vinaigrette dressing. I then tossed the dressing with some baby spinach and wild arugula, drained the bacon bits on a paper towel and sprinkled those over the top with the tomatoes. I ate it with a small piece of toast, and it was a perfect meal. I’m sure this idea of BLT salad has been done before, but I so enjoyed my take on it that I thought I’d share anyway. The fact that the main ingredient is leafy greens makes it miles healthier than a BLT sandwich, but yet all the classic flavors are still there. I would actually venture to say that at least to my taste buds, this was much tastier than a BLT sandwich, but then I’m a big salad and greens fan. You could even cut back on the bacon and use only 1 slice, or three slices between two salads.
For the dressing, I didn’t measure, but I’ll try to approximate for you. You won’t usually find me putting mayo in my salad dressings- I usually prefer a “clean”-tasting vinaigrette- but I wanted to approximate that classic BLT flavor, and mayo is pretty integral to that. I made a large-ish individual salad, so adjust amounts if you’re cooking for two, or if you want smaller side salads. In the bowl in which you’re going to toss your greens, put a blob of mayo (about 1 tbs) and a much smaller blob of dijon mustard (maybe 1/2 tsp) and whisk together. Add a small amount of olive oil, about 1/2 to 1 tsp, and stir that in too. Whisk in some red wine vinegar, about 2 tsp. Season with a little salt (not too much- don’t forget your bacon will add salt) and freshly ground pepper. Taste for acidity- I like mine on the acidic side because it cuts through the richness of the bacon, but add a smidge more olive oil (or mayo) if it seems too tart. Toss in your greens (feel free to substitute other types of greens- the spinach-arugula mixture was pretty darn good though) and top with the bacon and tomato. This will make enough to dress a good-sized dinner salad for one. I plated mine for photo purposes; otherwise I would have saved a dish and just eaten it straight out of the bowl!