Tapa Thursdays: Carillada (Braised Pig Cheek)

When I say I’ve eaten every part of the pig, I seriously am not joking. While my family is more about beef and chicken than pork, having a partner whose family business revolves around the acorn-munching cerdito means that we’ve often got a small gama (offering) of swine in our fridge.

While I don’t eat all of it for knowing better, Kike did trick me into eating carrillada, and I’m all the better for it:

Pig cheek is lean, tasty and quickly becoming my favorite party of the pig. In fact, it reminds me of coming home to pot roast after school during the harsh Chicago winters I grew up with.

While various versions exist (including a tasty Christmas thought-provoking version with dried cloves that Kike makes), my favorite is traditional carrillada with potatoes and carrots, perfect for a chilly winter day.

Lasaña de Carrillada with mashed potatoes at Barajas 20

What it is: The lean cut of pig cheek, often called the carrillera in a butcher shop or meat section of the supermarket. It’s often cooked on low temps for hours to make sure it’s tender.

Where it’s from: Carrillada is typical all over Spain, though the pork-producing regions of Western Andalusia, Extremadura and Gijuelo are rumored to have the freshest cuts.

Where to get it in Seville: This dish is about as common on menus in Seville as salmorejo is, so new ideas for incorporating the meat have become popular. At Pura Tasca (Calle Numancia, 5 in Triana) and Barajas 20, you can find ravioli filled with the meat, oft served with mashed potatoes as above. If you’re looking for the traditional version, I recommend Barra 20 in Bellavista or Zahora in Los Bermejales.

If you’re willing to make the drive, there’s an unassuming roadside restaurant on the A-92 highway near Antequera with carrillada so tender and braised with sweet Pedro Ximénez wine. This is, without a doubt, the best carrillada I’ve ever tried.

Goes perfectly with: A robust glass of red wine. If you’d like to make carrillada in your own kitchen, try this recipe by Lauren of Spanish Sabores, and enjoy the smells as you wait for it to slow-roast!

If you like tapas, tell me which ones you’d like to see featured on Sunshine and Siestas? Here are my picks for the Five Must-Try tapas in Spain. Alternately, there are more pictures on Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page.


Strange Food Spotlight: Ears in Madrid

I’m thrilled that my dear foodie friend and ex-sevillana Lauren Aloise suggested we do a series of blog exchanges. Lauren is a talented writer and brilliant cook, and her blog Spanish Sabores is a great resource on Spanish food, recipes and dining in Madrid. Our first exchange? Writing about strange foods in our respective cities – mine is a reprise of my springtime favorite, snails. Be sure to check out her Madrid Food tour if you’re ever in Spain’s capital for an authentic food tour with someone who knows plenty!

Spain is full of bizarre foods, including insect-looking shellfish, any organ you can imagine, slimy snails and Madrid’s famed specialty, pig ear.

El Tapón: Oreja a la plancha


Oreja a la plancha (grilled pigs’ ears) is a Madrileño delicacy and you can find the dish being served in the city’s most authentic tapas bars and neighborhood taverns. Other establishments opt to serve oreja en salsa, a tasty dish of stewed ear served with either a mild tomato sauce or a spicy brava sauce.

So what does pig’s ear taste like? Well, it is actually pretty delicious! They are crunchy on the outside because of the cartilage (but not too chewy either) with a great flavor that is really complemented by the spicy brava sauce (my recommendation). I know they aren’t for everyone, but why not try something different with a group of friends the next time you are in Madrid?

The best place to try oreja a la plancha is definitely La Oreja del Oro, located at Calle de la Victoria, 9 right in the center of Madrid near the Plaza de la Puerta del Sol. It is an authentic Madrid tapas bar, so if you don’t like the oreja you have plenty of other delicious Spanish specialties to choose from.
casa toni patatas bravas


A Quick Recipe for Salsa Brava 

1/2 onion

1 garlic clove

1 chopped medium tomato

1 t sugar

1 t cayenne pepper

1 t smoked Spanish paprika (hot or sweet)

A splash of sherry vinegar (you can substitute red wine vinegar if you want)

1 t flour

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper


1. Brown the onion and garlic in the oil at a low heat.

2. Add the cayenne, flour, and paprika and stir constantly for 1 minute so that nothing sticks or burns.

3. Add the diced tomato and season with the sugar. Cook at medium for 15 minutes.

4. Add the vinegar and mix.

5. When it is reduced to the right texture, take off the heat and let cool.

6. Season with salt and pepper then puree in the blender and you have your brava sauce!

Lauren Aloise is the founder of Madrid Food Tour. An optimistic entrepreneur and self-proclaimed professional tapa taster, shewrites,tweets, andcooks out of her tiny Madrileño apartment.

Sampling La Bulla

Here’s a piece of advice: go to places where you know the chef.

Kike’s been prodding me to go to both Oveja Negra and his friend Jesús’s bar, La Bulla, for ages. For someone who staunchly refuses to go to the city center for the crowds and traffic, I was happy to oblige him. La Bulla is the center’s answer to La Pura Tasca, a gastrobar worthy of a mention. At La Pura Tasca, I was the neighbor down the street who was always given a morsel or two as I passed by.

Now it was Kike’s turn to wow me.

When we called to speak with  one of the waiters, he told us to pass by around 10pm. In reading the reviews online, I was a little skeptical about a place with “overpriced tapas at half the size” and poor service. Scrolling for one semi-positive review took a few clicks of the mouse, but Kike had his mind made up.

Good thing he knows the chef.

After our traditional pre-dinner beer, we strolled past swanky tapas places that line C/ Arfe. La Bulla is on Dos de Mayo, wedged between the bullring and the Maestranza theatre, just steps away from the river. The neighborhood, El Arenal, has become preppylandia, thanks to its cocktail bars and upscale dining options, as well as age-old abacerías and ultramarinos, and this dining mentality that given La Bulla it’s much-talked about reputation.

A coworker had told me that the place had a NYC-like vibe due to the exposed pipes, mismatched picnic tables and mod chairs. I marveled at the red-doored ice chest, similar to one we have at home in America. There was a quiet buzz amongst the clientele.

¡Buenas, Cat! I had been admiring four antique mirrors on the wall when I discovered that not only was the chef a dear friend of Kike’s from childhood, but so was the waiter. David had run a successful chiringuito in their village of San Nicolás del Puerto and was now explaining apple compte reductions to eager eaters. Beaming, I sat purposely with my back to the chalkboard menu.

There was no question about it for me: I wanted whatever was good and came recommended by the staff. I sat in a comfortable red chair, a color theme echoed throughout the restaurant’s cavernous interior. metallic greys and silvers meshed seamlessly with fire engine red.

Our first dish came served in a soda fountain glass. “Prawn in tempura with an apple-orange foam, topped with sesame seeds…” David recited the same speech he’d just given at the next table with an amusing voice, even switching to English for me. By this time, I’d already swatted Kike’s hand away to take a photo of it and its partner in crime, a so-named golosina de La Bulla. At the end of a long pincho came a juicy medallion of chorizo fried in tempura with a touch of the salsas. I greedily fished the whole-grain bread (where do that get that stuff in this town, anyway?!) out to sop up the juice.

Flashing a thumbs up at Jesús, I said, My compliments to the chef! The tastes were traditionally Spanish with a twist, just as Jesús is Spanish with an American twist. His father, Diego, runs a campsite and rustic restaurant in San Nicolás. After studying and working at the renowned Taberna de Alabardero in Sevilla, Jesús went to Washington to learn techniques and work alongside some of America’s best chefs, and this is evident in his cooking.

Our chef sent a bruschetta our way next, paired with a fried fish, again in tempura with the creamy apple sauce. David announced that the bruschetta was carpaccio de salmón with steamed bits of octopus and a plum cherry. I tend to not like salmon, but the texture between the thin carpaccio and the coarse sea salta made the morsel tangy and sweet all at once. The merluza next to it was crispy but bland, comparatively, and helped me prepare for the next dish, which was one of the most inventive I’ve seen in Seville.

David served us another soda glass with what looked like cinnamon ice cream. ¨Foie gras in a foam cream with raisins and candied fruit,” he announced, setting the pack of regañá, a flat, crispy bread, in front of me. My eyes widened, never having eaten anything like it before. The blend of tangy and sweet was overpowering, balanced by the regañá. While foie is not something I eat on a regular basis, Kike and I fought like kids for the last morsels, scooping what we could onto the bread.

“This is like Seville’s version of El Bulli,” Kike said, mouth full. Spanish cuisine was put on the map by Fernan Adrià, whose creative genius turned earthy, simple Spanish cooking into an inventive palate. Just last year, his restaurant – considered one of the best in the world – closed so that Adrià could open a food studies school. I don’t care whose version of El Bulli it was – La Bulla was exceeding my expectations.

Jesús put his hands on the wide bar next to us. “Fish or meat?” Feeling already full, we agreed on the fish and got the surprise oft he night: David cooked us a creamy parmesan risotto while Jesús set out to prepare our fish. To my delight, it was one of my favorites – octopus, which rested on a bed of au gratin potatoes and was covered with a light saffron sauce. Good enough, in fact, that Kike even talked with his mouth full to give his complements.

Struggling with the last morsels of both dishes, Kike announced he needed a smoke. “Pssssst” I whispered to David, “bring me that desert tablet!” Like La Pura Tasca, the desert came in minis, looking like sliders, and were served on a wooden cutting board. Instead, he brought two dessert wines which were less calorific and even better on my full tummy.

I’ll just settle for next time – after all, I know the guy who runs the joint.

La Bulla     Calle Dos de Mayo, 28     954 219 262

Baa, Baa Black Sheep: Sampling Ovejas Negras Tapas Bar

My friend Lindsay, fellow sevillana in a past life, has my back when it comes to new places in Sevilla. While catching up after Christmas over rebajas shopping, she practically dragged me to Plaza San Francisco to try a new restaurant she’d heard about called Ovejas Negras, Black Sheep.

I fully admit to loving the traditional bodegas and old man bars in Seville, where the tortilla is fluffy and the service always candid. Lately, however, as tourism keeps this country afloat, more and more gastrobars have been popping up in the city.

I thought back to living on Calle Numancia in the bustling Triana neighborhood. To Rafa and the crew, I became la vecinita, the neighbor, and often filled my belly on balmy summer nights with a finger or two of wine and some cheese. La Pura Tasca’s fresh take on mixing ingredients and inventive design left me craving some more modern.

Places like La Azotea, Zelai and the newer Robles Restaurant (reputed to be the best food in Seville) are now rubbing elbows with age-old eating establishments and tucking into the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old quarter. From first taste, I was hooked.

Located in the shadow of the commanding Puerta del Perdón of the Cathedral, Ovejas Negras is anything but the black sheep of the restaurant family. It stands apart from the multitude of tourist shops and rental apartments and pays homage to Seville’s old ultramarinos store, a shop where you could buy everything from powdered milk to meats by simply taking a number and waiting for the man behind the counter to fill your order. Typical Spanish products line the crude wooden shelves behind the bar, where, as tradition dictates, the bartender will ask “Quién es el último?” and take your order.

Traditional Spanish tapas show up on the clipboard menus, but the beauty of Ovejas Negras is the mix of new and international cuisine. I, like Lindsay, have taken so many people back to Ovejas Negras that I’ve already got my go-to list of favorites at the bar: creamy risotto with wild mushrooms, a french bread pizza with rucula and parmesan, spicy papas bravas and, per usual, a cold Cruzcampo.

The atmosphere in the place is always lively, and last night we were lucky to grab a spot at the bar, under Bonilla a la Vista potato chip canisters and Mahou bottles. Our plan was to introduce my visitors, Dave and Melissa from my high school days, to the tapas tradition, but the bright lights of the bar and the array of choices meant we’d get our fill just be ordering based on what our eyes and noses drank in.

When I could say that I was the next in line to order, I carefully recited what was on everyone’s list to try: wooden bowls of papas bravas, an eggplant and rucula sandwich, fried fish with an accompanying cream sauce, the risotto and small, sweet and sour empanadillas. The conversation flowed like the beer over the bustle of the street outside for the Corpus Christi celebrations. The portion size of the tapas is big enough that two-three between two people is typically enough, though I could have found room in my tummy for the not-so-mini hamburger or even a slice of cheesecake.

Later that night, we found ourselves at roof where Melissa asked for the kitchen menu. “Just wanted to see if the papas bravas here were any better!” she quipped before ordering them. Could the answer be any more obvious?

Ovejas Negras is located in the Antiguo Bodegón Pez Espada on C/ Hernando Colón, 8, just between the Town Hall and Cathedral. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday 13:00 – 17:00 and 20:00 – 00:00. Closed Monday. Tapas from 2,50€. Menu also available in English.

Been to Overjas Negras? What did you order, and what did you think? Know any worthwhile bars to try in Seville? Want to come with? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get eating!

A Beginner’s Guide to Turkish Food

While I’m off dancing my brains out at the Feria de Sevilla, the most wonderful time of the (Sevillian) year, here’s something to make your mouth water and to tide you over till Camarón and I return later in the week.

It’s no secret that my stomach has just as much fun traveling as I do. Traditional plates are something I spend my big bucks on, preferring to take public transportation or walk than skip eating something typical. Turkey was a treat for my eyes and ears, as well as my tummy, and we stopped as often to try food as we did to take pictures of the gorgeous, old as dirt city after buying our airline tickets. Sometimes our bellies smiled, sometimes they weren’t so satisfied, but here’s a rundown of Turkish food for beginners.


I couldn’t wait to get what was seemingly Turkey’s national dish in my tummy. Every street had a token kebab stand, meat swirling before our very (large) eyes in front of a heater. We tried to hold out, we really did, but caved the very first day. A friendly man at a kebab shop near a touristy area of the city carve us hunks of seasoned chicken and offered us a good price. While there was no sauce (I’m a condiments type of person, much to all Spaniards’ dismay), the chicken was practically roitesserie and the vegetables crisp. Kebab shops are scattered around the city and are cheap, quick and really really good. #glutton

Price: 1,50 – 3,00€ for chicken, slightly more for beef


As our hostel owner, nicknamed Beanie, made us coffee one morning, he pulled out a round loaf of bread with seeds and said, “The Breakfast of Turkish champions.” I don’t know what shocked me more – that there was a Turkish cousin to the bagel, or that Beanie actually knew some English.

Street food carts are all over the city, from hole-in-the-wall places in the old town to small glass pastry shops on wheels on the Galata bridge. We had corn on the cob, churro-like pistachio sweets, nuts and simit served up hot and when we needed it, which makes a great break while touring (or waiting in line at the Haya Sofia). Simit was by far my favorite, a poppy-seeded luxury from back home, piping hot and easily eating.  I couldn’t wait to eat the stupid ring of dough.

Price: = 0,50€


Meze is to Ottoman cuisine what tapas are to Spanish cuisine. Small dishes meant to be shared, meze can be of any scale, from savory to sweet, varied to simple. We tried a spread, which is typical to share before the main course of a meal, while watching Agamemnon’s dancers in his palace that included humus, babaganoush, vegetables and a potato salad, but a quick wikipedia search will show you that the variety depends on location and scale of the dinner.

Price – from 5€ and up


My favorite Spanish dish is lentejas, so I squealed with delight when I read in Allie’s guide book that Turks love their lentils, too. I was dying to try çorba, a red lentil soup. At a little backstreet self-service right near our hostel, we found a big vat on a chilly night, and the bowl and bread cost us 0,75€! Stretching back to the Ottoman times, this dish has been well-copied, but we got homemade deliciousness by form of lentils, onions, paprika, potato and vegetable stock.

Price: 0,75€ – 2,00€ per bowl, often with bread.


My body in Spain follows a well-worn eating habit, which includes a coffee sometime in the 90 minutes after I have lunch (the exception being Friday nap time). In Turkey, those bitter little coffees were often washed down with sweets, either Turkish Delight of baklava.

I grew up across the street from a Greek family, so the gooey nothin’-but-butter-and-sugah pastries have always been one of my favorites. Every coffee came accompanied by a round of baklava for us seven to split – flaky pastries layered with honey and butter, pralines and pistachio. Being a pistachio fiend, I really loved the ones flavored by the nut (which even took its green coloring!) and the round rounds that resembled tiny nests with candied pistachio eggs inside. We stumbled upon Saray Baklava, just off the beaten track. The owner serves up about a dozen varieties, but weighs the goodies instead of just giving you three for 9,50€. You’ll find it just opposite the entrance to the Basilica Cisterns, in front of a shop called Finito de Córdoba. who would have thought!?

Price: 20 – 60€ / kilo

Having loved the Narnia books as a kid, I couldn’t skip the Ice Queen’s favorite treat – Turkish delight. Kinda nougaty, kinda starchy lokum, as it’s called in Turkish, the varieties are endless. Rose, lemon, mint, pistachio and walnut seemed to be in abundance, and there were stands and stores hocking the sweet around the main tourist drag, Istiklalal. I personally prefered baklava, but picked up a few boxes of Turkish Delight for my boss and hosts in Zaragoza.

Price: 2€ for a 500g box, much more from the shops.

Of course, there’s more – kafta, humus (not so propio, but easy to find), fresh fruit drinks, shepherd’s (spicy) salad, eggplant, rakibut a girl’s only got so much room in her stomach!

Any other memorable food travels? Have you ever done a gastronomic trip?

…y de postre? A Guide to Spanish Desserts

Authors Note. The masses have spoken: on Sunshine and Siestas, you’d like to see more about food, more about interesting places in Seville, more about dealing with culture shock and being an American woman living abroad, and more about studying for the DELE exam (only I’m kinda not…). I can only assume that my readers are like-minded people, and I appreciate all of your feedback and ideas. So, dear readers, here are some of your requests.

As a European wannabe, I’ve learned to relish in the art of a long lunch. And, believe me, no one does it like the Spanish.

I mean, come on, there are stages! A few olives and a beer to whet the appetite, followed by a first course. This could be a salad, salmorejo, chicken breast – anything light. The segundo, or second plate, is the hefty one: meat flanks, a guiso stew, anything to make your pants nearly pop. As the main meal of the day is eaten between 1 and 4 p.m., the meals tend to be protein rich and anything but for dieters. A meal is never complete without the cafelito, then, but next comes the big question. “Señores, ¿y qué de postre?” What would you like for dessert?

I will be the first to scream for ice cream, or cake or cupcakes or pudding or candy, for that matter. My disappointment, then, at a Spaniard’s insistence that I eat yoghurt or fruit for dessert was only normal. Thankfully, they kind of make up for it at merienda, that in-between-why-the-hell-do-we-have-dinner-at-midnight snack. Along with a coffee, Spaniards indulge in something that even the most reluctant sweet tooth can enjoy (I, clearly, am not one of them. My mother wakes up and eats licorice, leave me alone!).

While I fully admit to not love Spanish sweets, I get to the point where anything will do to stop the nagging voices in my head from not eating them. So I enjoy and feel lucky that I can walk everything away!

What do them Spaniards eat for dessert, anyway? We certainly know that their tacos are nothing like the Mexican ones, nor is their tortilla. But how do their desserts measure up?

Arroz con Leche

Let’s play a game of Imagination. Imagine you’ve just gotten off of a plane from the US and have ended up in the land of sunshine and siestas. Imagine taking a bus an additional two hours, only to be met by a smallish Spanish woman in a black dress and an almost grimace on her face. Said lady walks you to her house, where the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” takes on a new meaning: before you sits a rice dish with whatever that smallish, grimacing lady could find in her fridge. Oh, you imagine to yourself, but this is Spain, and surely there’s dessert!

There is. Oh, but there is. It’s just MORE rice served cold with milk and cinnamon. Can you imagine it? Strangely enough, I love my host mom’s arroz con leche, a simple dish she serves often in the scorching summer months on the central plateau. We’d spend hours sipping brandy and caramel vodka after the ACL on the terrace overlooking the Pisuerga River. I have yet to taste the same home cooking Aurora treated us with (and still does!)


Ask my boyfriend what my favorite foods are, and he will jokingly tell you mayonnaise and eggs. Guess what? This oh-so-typical-espaneesh treat is made of eggs, caramel and the grossest texture ever. I, for one, don’t like it. Thankfully, the Latin Americans make it with everything from almonds to condensed milk, so those of us grossed out by anything made by a chicken can get our fix. And by those of us, I mean not me – I’m the food-loving texture freak whose 7th grade Home Ec teacher had to spoon-feed her almost everything we made in that kitchen.


If you remember from my ABCs of Travel, my first international trip led to mega disappointment when my four-year-old self cried at some spicy Mexican something. Ugh, I thankfully got over that and fell in love with battered churros, a doughy coil of battered goodness. While I prefer Mexican churros with their sugar on top, Kike’s Sunday routine often involves me running to the churrería down the street for a dozen of them for the two of us (and after consumption, we quickly fall back asleep, also per Sunday routine).

Eaten mostly for breakfast or merienda, churros are popular with all crowds. There are people who dedicate their lives to pouring the batter into a large funnel into a vat of hot oil, coiling them around, flipping them when one size is fried, and clipping them into foot-long manjares to cool and serve with kitchen scissors. They’re most often gobbled up by dipping the still-hot fritters into molten chocolate or sweet café con leche.

My tops picks in Central Sevilla go to Valor, a Catalonia chocolate company, and a nondescript stand staffed by a frail-looking old lady who specializes in nothing but churros. Valor is located on Calle Reyes Católicos, just steps from the river, and has a full menu of chocolates, ice cream and cakes. The second local is right under the Arco del Postigo, but you’ll have to go next door for coffee or chocolate.

Chuces and Processed Grossness

If Spanish kids ruled the world, chucerías, or gummy candy, would be served in the school lunchroom. I often find it’s the easiest way to tempt good behavior out of even the worst behaved, and I reward myself with making it through the work week with a few nickel-priced sweets. Kat of the now-defunct (you’re KILLING me!) Kata Goes Basque did a good job categorizing the seemingly endless parade of Spanish candies, so I won’t have to tell any of you twice that Spanish gummies could be better than what they ate on Mount Olympus. Ladrillos, besos de fresa, Coca Colas, you name it! I love it allllllll.

As for the other Spanish cookies and cakes that come wrapped with love from Aguilar del Campóo (I SWEAR that is the name, and I SWEAR that I have been there!)….they all suck. Palmeras are crumby, gooey puff pastry dried and covered in something brown (I think it’s chocolate, but refer to the name above) and make me cringe. Principe cookies are good to a point, but like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. The things my students bring for breakfast continue to gross me out.

So if you want chuche goodness, Spanish chains like Belros and Sweet Facory are good go-tos, but my absolute favorite is Wonkandy. Simply grab a bag, fill it with as many gummies or chocolates as you care to, and pay by the tenth-kilo. I adore the shapes they have (skull and crossbones and ponies?!) and they have upteen choices of my most favorite capricho – sour gummies. You can find Wonkandy in the center just behind Plaza del Salvador on Calle Cuna.

Ice Cream

More often than not, the major ice cream consumers of this world class dessert is Seville are guiris like you and me. That’s right, those ice cream shops set up right outside the cathedral steps aren’t for naught – tourists can’t help but treat themselves to heladitos when the temps here reach 35º. The central neighborhood of Sevilla is replete with tastes, though I’m more of a sorbet and tropical flavors. Since ice cream needs no more explanations, here’s a breakdown of the best places for the cold stuff.

All Spaniards rave about Rayas (C/ Reyes Católicos and Plaza San Pedro), and it’s the closest you can get to a yuppie ice cream parlor in yuppy enough Seville. All of the typical flavor culprits – pistachio, dulce de leche, stratichella – are found here, though they lack the sorbets I always crave on a hot day. The place is pricey and always packed on the weekends, but that pistachio is pretty darn yummy. When I feel like a gelato, I hop to El Florentino on Calle Zaragoza. The owner has won several awards for his homemade gelato, and he’s constantly coming up with new flavors like Rebujito for April and a rumored Duquesa de Alba batch to commemorate that other royal wedding. What’s more, the genius is always greeting customers and handing out samples. The downside? Too little parking for your toosh. Finally, the Yogurtlandia (Plaza Alfalfa and C/Jimios) chain is a more healthy approach to ice cream, taking frozen yoghurt and blending it with toppings of your choice, like chocolate syrup, fresh fruit, cookies or sprinkles. It’s cheaper in Alfalfa, but always perfect after a long meal.

Now, I thought about making the novio a nice dinner (dessert included!) for our anniversary next month, but given the choice, he’d take a ham sandwich over a dessert item any day.

Fine, more for me!

What’s the dessert like in your region? Have you had Spanish delicacies? If so, what’s your favorite? I loveeeee me some Tarta de Santiago!

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