Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cool Gazpacho in Sultry Seville

The Salon de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) in the Real Alcázar
Seville became the most ornate city in Europe in the 16th century, when New World gold and silver sailed up the Guadalquivir River. The ships also brought culinary riches – tomatoes and bell peppers – which Sevillanos added to the ancient Roman soup of bread, garlic, salt, vinegar, and olive oil to create gazpacho, the refreshing chilled soup often called “salad in a bowl.”

Like its signature dish, the city of Seville melds layers of history and styles into a single unified masterpiece. The ceremonial tomb of the explorer Christopher Columbus, whose discoveries forever altered Seville, holds a place of honor inside the massive cathedral, where New World gold on the altars sends glints of light into the soaring darkness overhead. The cathedral was built on the site of the city’s Arabic mosque; its glorious bell tower – the Giralda – was originally the minaret of Seville’s great mosque, and the muezzin would ride on horseback up the ramped passage to its top to call the faithful to prayer.
Moorish and Christian pasts intermingle with ease in the city. The Muslim ruling family of the Almohads built the Torre de Oro on the Guadalquivir River in 1220, and three centuries later the Spaniards turned it into the custom house to count New World riches.
Treasure barges no longer ply the river; these days, cruise boats motor from the Arenal shipyards to the artful, harp-shaped bridge of Puente del Alamillo.
Gazpacho is also history in a bowl. When the Moors conquered Andalusia, they took the basic stale-bread soup introduced by the Roman legions and dressed it up with ground almonds and fresh grapes to create a white gazpacho still favored in the coastal city of Málaga. But it was not until the conquistadors brought home the curious fruits of the Aztec and Inca empires – tomatoes and both sweet and piquant capsicum peppers – that something like modern gazpacho became the city’s signature bowl of coldsoup refreshment. The sharp snap of green bell peppers, raw garlic, and onion brightens the unctuous blend of sweet tomatoes with faintly astringent but melonlike cucumbers and yeasty dried bread.

Sara Baras demonstrates the traditional Andalusian dance of flamenco
Contemporary chefs make gazpacho a blank canvas for painting with the flavors of fresh fruit, exotic nutmeats, and a world of spices. Yet cool, red gazpacho remains the pride of Seville, best showcased in clear glass bowls. Each diner can season to taste with garnishes of toasted croutons, slivers of green onion, diced tomatoes, peppers, and cucumber. Few dishes so quickly relieve a fevered brow.
Like a raw vegetable smoothie, gazpacho is often served chilled in glasses as a thirst-quenching appetizer

Best Places to Eat Gazpacho
Restaurante Sabina moderate
Long before the Slow Food movement made “local” the mantra of modern gastronomy, Sabina championed Andalusian products and culinary traditions. Many restaurants in Seville serve Andalusian fare, but Sabina specializes in the dishes of the countryside.
A classic gazpacho, almost sweet from the inclusion of extremely ripe tomatoes, makes the perfect starter, especially when accompanied by a glass of one of the acidic Macabeo white wines from the mountains northwest of the city.
The restaurant is set in a former shipyard building about halfway between the cathedral and the bullring, and impresses with its high vaulted ceilings. Hearty main dishes kissed by the heat of its ovens excel; try braised pig’s trotters, roasted leg of lamb larded with rosemary, stewed partridge, or a fulsome rendition of the Spanish standard, rabo de toro (oxtail stew). The wine list abounds with sturdy Rioja and Ribera del Duero reds, which are able to stand up to such rich fare, but if you’re feeling curious, try a more unusual Tempranillo from the Sierras de Málaga.
Calle Dos de Mayo 4, Seville; open 1:30–4 PM and 9 PM–midnight Mon–Sat; +34 954 562 547
Also in Seville
The elegant Triana restaurant Rio Grande (; expensive) is known mainly for its simply grilled fish, but the kitchen also makes a quintet of gazpachos in season, each tinted a different color by their dominant vegetables. The venerable tavern of El Rinconcillo (; inexpensive), with its decoration of Feria and bullfight posters, is one of the oldest bars in Seville; celebrated as a tapas bar, it also serves a purely authentic gazpacho Sevillano.
Also in Spain
In Marbella, superchef Dani García plays with seasonal fruits and vegetables to make gazpachos based on everything from spring vegetables to wine grapes at Calima (www.; expensive). Café de Paris in Málaga (; inexpensive) garnishes its ajo blanco con uvas with red wine granita. In Cácares, El Figón de Eustaquio (+34 927 248 194; moderate) showcases Extremaduran classics, including the white gazpacho.
Around the World
Centuries after Spain got tomatoes and peppers, gazpacho has returned to the Spanish-inflected American Southwest. Inn at Loretto in Santa Fe, New Mexico (; moderate), serves its chilled gazpacho with unusual but delicious avocado sorbet and lump crabmeat.
Gazpacho Variants
Gazpacho has many traditional variants throughout Spain, most of which add either chopped ham or chopped hard-boiled egg as garnishes. But the Andalusian coastal region near Málaga clings to its Moorish dishes, including the white gazpacho that is a relic of an era before tomatoes and peppers entered the Spanish diet. Ajo blanco con uvas is based on ground almonds, garlic, bread, and peeled grapes, and is served with croutons and grapes.
The white gazpacho of Extremadura, known as gazpacho Extremeño, is a complex dish of egg, bread, garlic, bell pepper, and cucumber that is then blended with a strained broth of simmered onion, parsnips, carrots, turnips, and celery and liberally laced with vinegar and a dash of hot paprika. This richer version of gazpacho, served very cold, really soothes and nourishes.
A Day in Seville
Capital of Andalusia for more than 800 years, Seville is southern Spain’s seat of power and glory, and boasts magnificent palaces and churches. The city’s grace and joy are expressed in sweet gardens, tiled patios, and the catharsis of its signature flamenco, the Sevillana.
MORNING : Begin with the wondrous Real Alcázar before touring the Cathedral, which holds the tomb of Columbus. Climb the ramps of La Giralda to survey the medieval maze of Barrio Santa Cruz, where whitewashed houses line narrow, cobbled streets and are interspersed with quaint tapas bars and centuries-old gardens.
AFTERNOON : Visit the exquisite palace and gardens of La Casa de Pilatos. Don’t miss the haunting paintings of saints by Zubarán in the Museo de Bellas Artes. Founded by a famous dancer, the Museo del Baile Flamenco charts the flowering of the art form.
EVENING : Return to the Museo del Baile Flamenco if a dance performance is scheduled, or catch equally authentic flamenco music and dance at Los Gallos.
Getting to Seville
Flights arrive into Seville Airport, 6 miles (10 km) from downtown Seville. Buses from the airport take 25 minutes and run every half-hour; car rental and taxis are available.
Where to stay in Seville
YH Giralda (inexpensive) squeezes intimate but cheerful rooms on three levels around a central courtyard in a former abbots’ residence.
La Hostería del Laurel (moderate) is a romantic and atmospheric old inn where Don Juan was written.
Hotel EME Fusion (expensive) brings luxurious avant-garde designer sensibility to the plaza next to the cathedral.
Plaza de San Francisco;

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