Secrets of Andalusia

Secrets of Andalusia

A quest for tapas, sherry, and a little Gypsy magic in Spain's most beguiling region

It was in Libertad 8, a smoky neighborhood bar in Madrid, that the urge to visit Andalusia—the seductive southernmost region of Spain—stole upon me like an insistent tropical wind. My friend and I fell into conversation with two men and a girl, actors from Cádiz having a night out on the town. The encounter was typically Spanish: perfect strangers coming together over copas (drinks) and confessions. We asked them about Andalusia.

The men paused for a moment, groping for words, and suddenly then broke into song—a moody, haunting chant, punctuated by perfectly placed finger snaps and clapping.

The girl stamped her heels, the men shouted "Olé!" and it was all over. But their melancholy singing nearly brought us to tears. Our reaction had a name: duende, the emotional audience response that accompanies every true flamenco performance.

This outburst gave way to Andalusian alegría: more copas, kisses, explosions of laughter. The men began to spin tall tales about the magical light of Cádiz, the witches of Vejer de la Frontera, the orange-blossom scents of Seville, and bottomless barrels of sherry. And they rhapsodized about the food: a mix of Arab indulgence, Catholic devoutness, Jewish resourcefulness, and a pinch of Gypsy magic.

My new friends' telephone numbers dissolved in a drop of the evening's red wine. But I remembered their stories. I wanted to sip ice-cold Manzanilla—the queen of dry sherries—while watching the sun set over Sanlúcar de Barrameda . . . to feast on a Málaga fish-fry, so crisp and delicate that it tastes like edible lace. I longed to receive a convent cake from a thin black-cuffed hand and walk away overcome by sweet piety. I pictured blue-tiled patios, coral gazpachos, and processions of tapas strung out on marble counters.

This was the Andalusia of my imagination. Would a nine-day adventure—starting in Málaga and looping back through the Spanish southlands to Cádiz—bring my fantasies to life?

Day 1.
Málaga, Costa del Sol

"Sorry, luv, all so bloody similar, aren't they!" barks a ruddy-faced British gent at the Málaga airport as I disengage his chubby fingers from my suitcase. So this is Andalusia's greeting: "luv"?But then, 14 flights from Gatwick are arriving today at this gateway to the Costa del Sol, Europe's Cancún and Acapulco rolled into one.

Pepe, my wiry taxi driver, never stops prattling in the frantic but matter-of-fact Andalusian way: "My niece, the hairdresser, just got to curl the Virgin's wig for the procession. You're off to Torremolinos?The fish-and-chips place there is so good, you'll feel you're back in Londres."

"Mire, Pepe," I manage to interject, "I'm from New York, I have little interest in fish-and-chips, and I plan to linger in Málaga for a bit."

Pepe takes both hands off the wheel and thrusts them into the air in jubilation. "Fenomenal! Six million tourists descend on the Costa del Sol each summer, but only six percent actually visit Málaga."

I am a statistical blip, and this calls for a copita and a tapa. How can I refuse him? After all, I'm in the most fanatically friendly region of the world's most compulsively sociable country.

We begin at a nameless bar—so packed with men, it's like a museum of mustaches—drinking raisiny-sweet vino de Málaga dispensed from black wooden barrels. A couple of mustaches, Pepe's new pals, tag along to the next bar, Orellana. The air is thick with shouts and orders. After a few excellent tapas—bártolos (breaded hake fingers), boquerones (marinated anchovies), and a miniature paella—we move on to Lo Güeno, festooned with hanging hams and garlands of garlic and sausages. Over plates of lovely sautéed wild mushrooms, fava-bean casserole, and tiny roasted game birds, Pepe explains the malagueño coffee-and-milk protocol. Solo is all coffee. No me lo pongas ("Don't put any in mine") is all milk. In between, there are 20 different shades of color and flavor with poetic names like sombra (shadow) and nube (cloud).

Finally alone, at the spiffily refurbished Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro, I stretch out on my balcony to take in the dazzling view of the Málaga harbor. My companion, John, arrives—from Gatwick, of all places.

It's 10 p.m. A Málaga architect named Salvador whisks us to a local seafood place in the village of La Carihuela, near Torremolinos. With its cheery striped awning, no-nonsense interior, and wall-to-wall crowd of regulars, El Roqueo is an upmarket incarnation of a chiringuito, an Andalusian beach shack specializing in seafood.


"Mariscos are the pride of Málaga," declares Salvador, smacking his lips. And indeed, the seafood for our dinner is an epiphany. Coquinas, tiny purple-shelled cockles, tasting sweetly and pungently of the sea, bathed in a garlicky parsley sauce. Crunchy grilled prawns rolled in sea salt. A mound of expertly fried boqueroncitos, little anchovies. And the house specialty, a whole dorado baked under a crust of salt.

That night I collapse from the explosion of Spanish consonants and the riotous parade of tapas, copas, and seafood. As I fall asleep I recall one of Pepe's absurd pieces of wisdom: "Wine pleases the eyes, cleans the teeth, and heals the stomach."

Day 2.
Granada

On our way to Granada I entertain an iconoclastic thought: to skip the Alhambra, the Moorish palace complex whose mythical glow blinds visitors to the real city. But John drills some historical correctness into me, and we climb with the ogling hordes up to the famous promontory. I imagine having the Alhambra all to ourselves, surrendering to the shade of its sensuous gardens with a little picnic. But a luncheon awaits at Mirador de Morayma, a restaurant known for its splendid location and historic Andalusian cuisine.

Our taxi huffs and puffs through the web of winding streets in Albaicín, Andalusia's most evocatively Moorish quarter, and pulls over by a pretty villa. Waiting for food historian Pablo Amate to join us, we poke around a series of intimate whitewashed dining rooms decorated with old paintings, antique furniture, and ceramics. From the little terrace on the top floor, a vision of the Alhambra looms across the valley like a Technicolor postcard scene. There may not be a lovelier spot in all of Spain.

Amate swaggers in. He sports a caliph's mustache and clutches a cell phone whose ring regularly interrupts his breathless tirade: "God created Andalusia for his retirement! Spanish cuisine is full of garlic and religious preoccupations! The best tapa in Granada is snails! Señores árabes spent fortunes transporting ice from the Sierra Nevada to cool gazpachos and drinks!"

During this lecture we manage to polish off a bottle of chilled fino sherry, plus platters of splendidly rustic embutidos (sausages) and Sierra Nevada smoked ham. But the real feast begins in a little private dining room Amate has reserved. "Many a president has eaten here!" he boasts. There is pink salmorejo, a cousin of gazpacho, made without water and loaded with garlic; tiny breaded chops of baby goat fried to shattering crispness; a cooling tropical salad; and tortilla Sacromonte, a plump stuffed omelette, named for Granada's Gypsy quarter. The dessert—an almond confection called tarta de Zafra—is the work of holy hands: those of nuns at the Zafra convent nearby.

Though some guidebooks tell you otherwise, there are many pleasures in Granada besides the Alhambra. You can lose yourself in Albaicín's whitewashed alleys (don't miss the little market on Plaza Larga); make an evening of a tapeo—the tapas version of a pub crawl—around the thronging Plaza Nueva; or visit the hilltop Gypsy settlement of Sacromonte, stopping for lunch at Casa Juanillo, run by a rakish gitano. Whatever you do, don't gulp the Alhambra and run.

Day 3.
Úbeda and Baeza

The following day we head for Úbeda and Baeza, remote towns in northeastern Andalusia, spared by mass tourism but home to some of the finest Renaissance architecture in Europe. As you enter the province of Jaén, sun-burnished fields give way to ranks of olive trees, a sea of silvery green shimmering in the wind.

Úbeda and Baeza are ablaze with florid church façades and sand-gold palacios. Handsome streets radiate from impeccably proportioned plazas, and decorative surprises abound: a portal, a fountain, an archway.

The cuisine of this mountainous region is simple to the point of austerity, yet extravagant flourishes of exquisite local olive oil add dignity and refinement. There are several beautifully appointed restaurants in Úbeda, the larger of the two towns. But the title "Best in Jaén" belongs to the homely Juanito, in Baeza. Its modern façade conceals an even less promising interior, adorned with ghastly renderings of cherished olive groves and whitewashed houses. But on a Saturday night the whole town is here: the butcher and his mistress, a local soccer team, a group of guapas (beauties) who look like escapees from a Pedro Almodóvar set.

Juanito himself glides by, preoccupied, whistling silently—a captain navigating his ship through a storm. We begin with a salad of partridge breast mixed with a bit of iceberg lettuce and hard-boiled egg. It looks like nothing but tastes remarkable. The braised artichokes "Luisa" are full of head-on Spanish flavors: garlic, olive oil, pieces of cured ham. I am in love with the slow-roasted cabrito (baby goat), served off the bone and accompanied by a robust fava-bean casserole. Add to that grandmotherly desserts and a fruity Berberana 1985 Gran Reserva, the world's best bargain at $12, and you have a quintessential Spanish repast.

Juanito's wife, Luisa, makes her rounds with a basin of her seafood rice—a treat from the house—talking like there's no tomorrow. The soccer players toast one another with diet Coke. The guapas puff obscenely large cigars. The butcher and the blonde nibble each other's ears.

This is the provincial Spain I love. Rustic, for sure, but poetically bizarre.


Day 5.
Córdoba—The Morning After

We stagger into the 14th-century building that houses El Churrasco restaurant, unable even to look at food.

The previous day—our first in Córdoba—began with a tourist routine as perfectly choreographed as a paso doble. An obligatory morning visit to La Mezquita (the Great Mosque); an afternoon stroll through the ancient Jewish quarter, La Judería; and a meal of historic Moorish cuisine at El Caballo Rojo, the best white-tablecloth restaurant in town. So how did we end up at a seedy café in the Córdoba fish market, the only place open at 5 a.m., dancing sevillanas?

Let's take it back to midnight. At the invitation of our friend María Luisa, we walk into a little taberna called Bacalá and stumble upon the soul of Andalusia. An informal get-together is about to begin. The lights go off.

A flamenco singer called Séneca begins a brooding chant, massaging the sound out of his chest. The guitarist picks up. An old man in a checkered shirt starts to sing in a high-pitched voice, twisting the melody like a rope, guiding his voice with his hands. The women dance.

Before we know it, the barrel of montilla (light Córdoba sherry) is empty. Séneca proposes a penúltima—when it comes to copas, the word last is a bad omen in Andalusia—and the fish market seems just the place for it.

So here we are at lunchtime, guzzling diet Cokes at El Churrasco. Coke does wonders for a hangover. Our surroundings slowly come into focus: a lovely ivy-covered Córdoba courtyard. Pretty ceramics on the walls. Delicious aromas of meat wafting from El Churrasco's anteroom grill. All around us, waiters rushing maniacally: delivering three-inch chops and steaks to businessmen in Ray-Bans, plying lunching ladies with tinto de verano (Andalusian wine cooler).

Looking at them, we recover the will to lunch.

There are many outstanding dishes at El Churrasco. The thick salmorejo (gazpacho), as smooth as velvet, acts like a sauce for the greaseless fried eggplant. Japuta en adobo (chunks of marinated fried fish) are pleasingly spicy and tangy. And the rabos de toro, a rich oxtail stew, is a Córdoba specialty.

But the grill is the thing. The giant chuletón de buey (an ox chop) or the churrasco of tender pork fillet would give even the best Buenos Aires steak house a run for its money. Fade-out: a frothy, refreshing sorbete de limón.

Day 6.
Seville

I am staring at a Holy Week poster that adorns the bars and tabernas in Seville: a gaudy, idealized image of the Virgin, whose doll-like face, fringed by a cascade of white lace, looks so theatrically pious that it makes the Madonna resemble a vampish performer. Meet Seville the actress: a Moorish princess, a grandmother in black, a trendy club girl in six-inch heels.

Seville the cook can throw a party as nobody else can, and the best way to experience the drama of local dining is by joining the sevillanos for an all-night tapeo. If your feet give out, the most comfortable chairs in town are yours at Egaña Oriza, a glamorous restaurant in the center of town. Egaña's dramatic postmodern interior, a cross between a gazebo and a Philippe Starck hotel, offers a breezy respite from the folksy clutter of local tabernas. The kitchen occasionally flirts with Andalusia, but its real roots are in the Basque country, Spain's center for nueva cocina.

The ajo blanco (Andalusian white gazpacho) is almondy and refreshing, the partridge in escabeche of aged Jerez vinegar is a delight. The whole leg of baby lamb with roast potatoes and the stuffed baby squid in its ink are rendered with skill and finesse.

We spend the night at the Alfonso XIII Hotel, a fin de siècle neo-Moorish extravaganza replete with gorgeously tiled public spaces, a buzzing bar scene, and somberly pompous guest rooms, fit for some grand inquisitor.

Day 7.
Seville

After a day of sightseeing, we visit a few of Seville's many wonderful tapas bars on our own gran tapeo.


Day 8.
Cádiz and Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Guidebooks are not kind to Cádiz, a three-mile peninsula extending into the Atlantic like a gaunt, outstretched arm. Lethargic, past its prime, they might say. But as for me, it's a city I could live in. True, its tourist attractions are few—and therein lies its charm.

You come to Cádiz to attain perfection in the art of the paseo, joining the crowds of sailors, lovers, and older gitanas for a panoramic amble by the bay. You come to linger over coffee on a palm-fringed plaza. To wander narrow streets in the echo of babbling locals who lean perilously from their terraces to gawk at passersby.

Among the city's handful of national treasures is El Faro restaurant, a mecca for pilgrims of the seafood faith. As we enter this nautical haven we are greeted by the proprietor, who yells in our ears, "Our motto?Calidad, calidad, calidad!"

He is not bragging.

We struggle to decide which is best: a bite of thin, crisp tortillitas de camarones (shrimp pancakes made with chickpea flour); a luxurious slurp of gratinéed oysters; or a bowlful of clams in a wonderfully messy spinach sauce.

Our main courses are arroz marinero (a soupy, paella-like rice dish brimming with the day's catch) and a fritura de pescado, a fish-fry extravaganza—good, but not as spectacular as it might be at the right beachside shack. The wine list is long and patrician, but we're happy with our young Antonio Barbadillo Cosecha: light, local, and cheap.

After a luncheon of such epic proportions, the prospect of dinner seems as enticing as a night on the rack. Nevertheless, we can't pass up another epicurean port—Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a 20-minute drive north of Cádiz.

Three things draw visitors to this sweet but unremarkable town. The first is the Manzanilla, which is produced only in Sanlúcar and owes its unique "sea breeze" flavor to the high salt content of the region's soil. The second is langostinos, the pricey prawns renowned for their exceptional succulence. And the third?The chance to savor the first two together in the lovely fishermen's quarter of Bajo de Guía, where the river Guadalquivir empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

Here's what you do: come before sunset, select a restaurant from the row lining the promenade (we were happy with Paco Secundino), settle at an outdoor table with a bottle of thoroughly chilled Manzanilla and a plate of boiled or grilled langostinos, and watch the giant red sun blaze into the Atlantic. It's an experience you won't soon forget.

The perfect postscript?Another half-bottle of Manzanilla and a couple of tapitas at Casa Balbino on Plaza del Cabildo, one of my favorite tapas palaces in Spain.

Day 9.
Ronda and the White Towns

On a crisp, luminous day, we begin the last leg of our journey, a gorgeous mountain drive from Cádiz to Ronda. This is the land of pueblos blancos, stunningly white Moorish villages poised atop craggy mountains and green hills. Arcos de la Frontera—a ribbon of shimmering white, stretched along a limestone spur—is a miniature feast of baroque façades, Moorish streets, and breathtaking views. Other white towns, Grazalema, Zahara, and Medina-Sidonia, are pure Andalusia, lazy and unspoiled, fronting the hilltops like blinding white crooked teeth.

We arrive, famished, in Ronda, the most celebrated (and overrun) of the pueblos blancos. Since bullfighting is a local religion, we choose a macho taberna named for legendary bullfighter Pedro Romero, across the street from one of Spain's oldest bullrings.

We get what we bargained for. Stuffed bull's heads protrude dangerously from their medallions on the walls. At the next table, a young matador is surrounded by a throng of groupies, all drinking at his expense. Our dinner?A platter of house-smoked fish; a delicious white-bean potage with Ronda sausages; a partridge ragoût; and migas, a bread hash with sausages, eggs, and enough garlic to stun a vampire.

"Queen Sofía doesn't like bullfights," laments our waiter as he brings our flan, "so the king has to attend with his mother."

We chuckle at the thought. "Imagine the elderly duchess of Barcelona shouting 'Olé!' at a bloodied bull."

The endless Vivaldi potpourri on the radio erupts into guttural rasps of flamenco. The music is still ringing in our ears as we board our plane at the Málaga airport—like an insistent tropical wind . . . like the madcap romantic poetry that is Andalusia.


The Facts

Traveling in Andalusia is a pleasure, thanks to the food and the historic, well-priced accommodations. Reservations are recommended for most restaurants; be sure to ask which days places are closed. (Prices include tax and tip but no drinks.)

Málaga and Costa del Sol
Parador de Málaga-Gibralfaro Castillo de Gibralfaro, Málaga; 34-5/238-1255, fax 34-5/238-2141; doubles from $165. Tastefully refurbished, with great views and good food.
Orellana 5 Calle Moreno Monroy; 34-5/222-3012; dinner for two $24.
Lo Güeno 9 Calle Marín García; 34-5/222-3048; dinner for two $28.
El Roqueo Calle Carmen, La Carihuela, Torremolinos; 34-5/238-4946; dinner for two $38.

Granada
Palacio de Santa Inés 9 Cuesta de Santa Inés Granada; 34-58/222-362, fax 34-58/222-465; doubles from $117. A miniature palace in Albaicín—and a good alternative to the obvious Alhambra choices.
Mirador de Morayma Restaurant 2 Calle Pianista Ga. Carillo; 34-58/228-290; lunch for two $42.

Úbeda and Baeza
Palacio de la Rambla 1 Plaza de Marqués, Úbeda; 34-53/750-196, fax 34-53/750-267; doubles from $115. An eerily romantic family palacio, run by a pair of aristocratic young sisters.
Juanito Paso del Arca del Agua, Baeza; 34-53/740-040; dinner for two $45.

Córdoba
Parador de la Arruzafa 33 Avenida de la Arruzafa, Córdoba; 34-57/275-900, fax 34-57/280-409; doubles from $155. A very amenable if unexciting choice, and the best in town.
El Churrasco Restaurant 16 Calle Romero; 34-57/ 290-819; lunch for two $52.

Seville
Hotel Alfonso XIII 2 Calle San Fernando; 34-5/ 422-2850, fax 34-5/421-6033; doubles from $370; ask about weekend rates. A luxurious (if slightly stuffy) cross between an Edwardian grand hotel and a classic Moorish palace.
Egaña Oriza Restaurant 41 San Fernando; 34-5/422-7211; dinner for two $80.

Cádiz, Sanlúcar, Jerez area
Hotel Monasterio San Miguel 27 Calle Larga, El Puerto de Santa María; 34-56/540-440; fax 34-56/542-604; doubles from $155. A former monastery in the lively resort town of Puerto de Santa María.
El Faro 15 Calle San Félix, Cádiz; 34-56/211-068; lunch for two $58.

Ronda
Parador de Ronda Plaza de España, Ronda; 34-5/287-7500, fax 34-5/287-8188; doubles from $165. A modern hotel with a historic façade and excellent food.
Restaurante Pedro Romero 18 Virgen de la Paz; 34-5/287-1110; dinner for two $45.

Tapas Bars
The tradition of tapas originated in Andalusian bars, where glasses of sherry came covered with plates to protect the contents from flies and dust. Seville is the grazing capital of Spain; expect to spend about $30 for a light meal for two with a round of drinks. With food historian Juan Carlos Alonso as our guide, we hit two popular areas: central Seville and Triana.

Central Seville
Casa Robles 58 Calle Álvarez Quintero; 34-5/421-3150. Seville's most venerable eating establishment. We loved the mojama (smoked tuna "ham"), chanquetes (tiny fried fish), and swordfish with garlic.
Becerrita Centro 1 Hernando Colón; 34-5/456-4230. The ultimate neighborhood tasca. Best bets: vegetable terrines and choricarne (chorizo-stuffed patties).
Bodeguita Romero 10 Calle Harinas; 34-5/421-4178. Gorgeous tiles, pretty crowd. Salt-cod dishes and pringa (a meat sandwich) are the ticket.

Triana
El Noli 79 Pagés del Corro; 34-5/433-0740. The owner is the attraction here. His tapas recitations, all in one breath with funny asides, are more Andalusian than flamenco.
Restaurante Los Cuevas 1 Virgen de las Huertas; 34-5/427-8042. Vegetable cuisine—fried eggplant, spinach with chickpeas—that draws famous toreros and the duchess of Alba.

On the Shelf:
Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas, a leading expert on Spanish food.


Traveling in Andalusia is a pleasure, thanks to the food and the historic, well-priced accommodations. Reservations are recommended for most restaurants; be sure to ask which days places are closed. (Prices include tax and tip but no drinks.)

MÁLAGA AND COSTA DEL SOL
Parador de Málaga-Gibralfaro Castillo de Gibralfaro, Málaga; 34-5/238-1255, fax 34-5/238-2141; doubles from $165. Tastefully refurbished, with great views and good food.
Orellana 5 Calle Moreno Monroy; 34-5/222-3012; dinner for two $24. Lo Güeno 9 Calle Marín García; 34-5/222-3048; dinner for two $28. El Roqueo Calle Carmen, La Carihuela, Torremolinos; 34-5/238-4946; dinner for two $38.

GRANADA
Palacio de Santa Inés 9 Cuesta de Santa Inés Granada; 34-58/222-362, fax 34-58/222-465; doubles from $117. A miniature palace in Albaicín -- and a good alternative to the obvious Alhambra choices.
Mirador de Morayma Restaurant 2 Calle Pianista Ga. Carillo; 34-58/228-290; lunch for two $42.

ÚBEDA AND BAEZA
Palacio de la Rambla 1 Plaza de Marqués, Úbeda; 34-53/750-196, fax 34-53/750-267; doubles from $115. An eerily romantic family palacio, run by a pair of aristocratic young sisters.
Juanito Paso del Arca del Agua, Baeza; 34-53/740-040; dinner for two $45.

CÓRDOBA
Parador de la Arruzafa 33 Avenida de la Arruzafa, Córdoba; 34-57/275-900, fax 34-57/280-409; doubles from $155. A very amenable if unexciting choice, and the best in town.
El Churrasco Restaurant 16 Calle Romero; 34-57/ 290-819; lunch for two $52.

SEVILLE
Hotel Alfonso XIII 2 Calle San Fernando; 34-5/ 422-2850, fax 34-5/421-6033; doubles from $370; ask about weekend rates. A luxurious (if slightly stuffy) cross between an Edwardian grand hotel and a classic Moorish palace.
Egaña Oriza Restaurant 41 San Fernando; 34-5/422-7211; dinner for two $80.

CáDIZ, SANLúCAR, JEREZ AREA
Hotel Monasterio San Miguel 27 Calle Larga, El Puerto de Santa María; 34-56/540-440; fax 34-56/542-604; doubles from $155. A former monastery in the lively resort town of Puerto de Santa María.
El Faro 15 Calle San Félix, Cádiz; 34-56/211-068; lunch for two $58.

RONDA
Parador de Ronda Plaza de España, Ronda; 34-5/287-7500, fax 34-5/287-8188; doubles from $165. A modern hotel with a historic façade and excellent food.
Restaurante Pedro Romero 18 Virgen de la Paz; 34-5/287-1110; dinner for two $45.

TAPAS BARS
The tradition of tapas originated in Andalusian bars, where glasses of sherry came covered with plates to protect the contents from flies and dust. Seville is the grazing capital of Spain; expect to spend about $30 for a light meal for two with a round of drinks. With food historian Juan Carlos Alonso as our guide, we hit two popular areas: central Seville and Triana.

CENTRAL SEVILLE
Casa Robles 58 Calle Álvarez Quintero; 34-5/421-3150. Seville's most venerable eating establishment. We loved the mojama (smoked tuna "ham"), chanquetes (tiny fried fish), and swordfish with garlic.
Becerrita Centro 1 Hernando Colón; 34-5/456-4230. The ultimate neighborhood tasca. Best bets: vegetable terrines and choricarne (chorizo-stuffed patties).
Bodeguita Romero 10 Calle Harinas; 34-5/421-4178. Gorgeous tiles, pretty crowd. Salt-cod dishes and pringa (a meat sandwich) are the ticket.

TRIANA
El Noli 79 Pagés del Corro; 34-5/433-0740. The owner is the attraction here. His tapas recitations, all in one breath with funny asides, are more Andalusian than flamenco.
Restaurante Los Cuevas 1 Virgen de las Huertas; 34-5/427-8042. Vegetable cuisine -- fried eggplant, spinach with chickpeas -- that draws famous toreros and the duchess of Alba.

ON THE SHELF
Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas, a leading expert on Spanish food.

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