Sevilla, Spain. What more can be said that hasn’t already been said about this great city? We could highlight Flamenco, that percussive artform imparted onto the region by the Roma people. Or the Cathedral of Sevilla, the oldest Gothic style church in the world, built atop an ancient mosque. The challenge in writing about a city as classical, as magical and as beloved by travelers as Sevilla, is figuring out what single thing, if any, people love about it. My guess is that there must be something in the food.
The Andalucian capital has been many things to many people across the centuries; each chapter of its history weaving itself into the region’s identity, until finally coming together a melange of aromas on our plates. Yes, it’s the humble dinner plate that is responsible for joining Moorish, and Jewish and Spanish cultures in a matrimony of flavors as unique to the region as the one ingredient that ties them all together: olive oil.
Or liquid gold as the Romans liked to call it. It’s what flows through the veins of not only Sevilla, but all of Andalucia. Just outside of the city, olive groves grow as far as the eye can see. While it’s easy to get lost in a maze of green shrubs one would be mistaken to think them to be part of the natural landscape (olive trees were first brought to the region by the Phoenecians). Later the plants were spread throughout Spain by the Romans, but it was the Moors who mastered the cultivation and processing of the fruit. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to think of a single traditional Spanish recipe that does not call for olive oil, especially in its extra virgin state, to be used either in preparation or as a finish. To get an unadulterated taste of the Andalucia’s rich olive oil, you can book an olive farm tour and experience the process first-hand from start to finish. Or if time doesn’t permit, simply enjoy it in one of the region’s most representative dishes: gazpacho, a cold tomato soup, or salmorejo, a creamier version of the soup made so by grinding bread into the mix.
There are of course countless other dishes that you should seek out while in Sevilla; Zanahorias Aliñadas, carrots pickled in sherry vinegar and spiced with cumin and oregano – topped with olive oil, of course. And chickpea stew, a cumin-laden dish reminiscent of an Indian chana saag, a further reminder of the Moorish influence on the region. The gastronomy here has been inspired not only by the city’s proximity to the Mediterranean, which means you will find some of the freshest seafood around, but also by its tradition of bullfighting. This is the place to try rabo de toro, or stewed oxtail, at a restaurant overlooking the white and gold plaza de toros (bullring). And of course, as one of Spain’s best food cities, Sevilla is host to countless tapas bars and to Abantal, a Michelin-star restaurant that, coincidentally, offers up an olive oil inspired tasting menu. Point being, there is a lot of eating to be done in this city and most of it is very good.
But the adventure for your tastebuds doesn’t end within the city limits. If you venture about an hour outside of Sevilla you’ll find yourself in Spain’s wine country; sherry wine country to be exact. Sherry, or jerez as it’s known in Spain, is a fortified wine that can range from very dry to almost syrupy-sweet. The sherry’s of the world are produced in this region and nowhere else, so you would do well to stop at a local bar to taste them all, or at least order a glass of manzanilla to sip on while eating your tapas.
It’s no wonder that Sevilla remains a favorite stop for travelers from around the world. It is a city full of history and incredible sights, but to truly experience it in all of its glory one only needs to taste it. Because to love Sevilla is to love “olive” it. Puns included.
What’s your favorite way to experience Sevilla, Spain? Photography? Cuisine? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!