Saying goodbye to Sevilla last Friday evening was difficult—it’s such a beautiful old town, so full of vibrant street life, so teeming with history, that I think I’d like to stay forever, or at least for more than a week or so. And some day, perhaps, I will. Meanwhile, the Giralda, the soaring tower that was once the minaret of Sevilla’s Friday mosque, was lit up for my departure like a Roman candle against the velvety Andalusian night sky.
Our three-member film crew had spent almost two weeks traveling through Andalusia, working on a video about the region’s gastronomy. It sounds glamorous and full of fun but actually involved an incredible amount of exhausting labor comprising botched schedules, missed opportunities, and the occasional uncooperative and self-impressed chef (really only one of those) but I think we came away with some terrific footage—the daily catch arriving in the late afternoon light at Puerto de Santa Maria, the drama of sturgeon harvest and the precision of caviar making at Rio Frio, and over-all the spectacle of acres upon acres of olive trees stretching in all directions right out to the horizon, giving proof that Andalusia is the most important producer of olive oil in the world. And the many chefs and cooks and food producers who were so proud of what they are doing and so helpful in getting the message out.
To celebrate the conclusion of our project, we had a terrific last meal together at l’Azotea, a tapas bar/restaurant that Bruce Palling, the Wall Street Journal’s European food critic, introduced us to. Located on a street called Jesus del Gran Poder (Jesus of Great Power), it’s run by Juan Antonio Gomez and his American wife Janine (around the corner they’ve just opened another bar, with no kitchen—go figure!) and it’s about the liveliest place in town, its bar packed with chic young sevillanos in various stages of undress (the women) and beard (the men).
Juan Antonio set aside a table for us so that we could enjoy a whole series of gorgeous dishes turned out by his kitchen (which also from time to time supplies the bar around the corner), hard to pick my favorite but it might have been coquinas, little clams like Italian telline tossed in dry sherry and olive oil and served with the tiniest imaginable artichokes, no bigger than my thumbnail;
or it might have been navajas, razor clams, slender and sweet and served with a pile of favitas, baby fava beans stewed with hierbabuena (mint);
or was it the lamb meat balls? the Iberian pork cheeks? the chuletitas di cordero lechal, tiny chops of milk-fed lamb, served on a bed of creamy chickpeas?
Altogether, it was a brilliant display and a magnificent send-off, a happy and fitting conclusion to two weeks of gastronomic excess. Thank you, Juan Antonio, thank you, Janine, thank you, Bruce, for the recommendation.