Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Catalina, Anchovies, and the Duchess of Alba

I never met an anchovy I didn't loathe...

That is until last week at my new favorite restaurant in Sevilla (and maybe anywhere). The chef/owner is Gonzalo, our neighbor. He moved in shortly after we did and, until two weeks ago, we had no idea he had opened a new restaurant called Catalina. So, the other day, San Geraldo and I decided to try it out for lunch.

Like so many great things in Sevilla, it's just a 10-minute walk from our house. It's on a small plaza with a big name — Plaza Padre Jerónimo de Córdoba — across the street from Plaza Ponce de León, which is the major bus plaza in the old part of town... that is right next to the Church of Santa Catalina (hence, the restaurant name). The church was built in the 14th century and, as if that weren't long enough ago, it was built on the ruins of a mosque (with portions of the mosque preserved).

BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER. A GREAT PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH.

I had walked by Catalina many times before not knowing it belonged to Gonzalo. It's got wonderful indoor and outdoor dining spaces, but what always caught my attention were the pastries and gourmet shop I could see through the windows.

EVERYTHING FOR THE SWEET TOOTH. NOTICE THE "MMM...!" ON THE WALL. REALLY.

Every dish we ordered was incredible. But the proof (which is usually in the pudding) was in the anchovies. I hate, hate, hate — with a passion — hate anchovies. I have tried them dozens of times in my not-very-short life and have never — absolutely never, ever — found them remotely palatable. While we enjoyed the incredible dishes we had ordered, Gonzalo sent out a tapa dish for each of us with his complements. Each one was beautifully presented on a slab of rusk (crispy biscuit-like, twice-baked bread). Topping the rusk were slices of plump and delectable red and greenish-brown peppers. Topping the peppers... I could not believe my eyes. A huge anchovy. The biggest anchovies I had ever seen.

'Oh, crap,' I thought. 'I have to be polite and eat it.'

With a smile on my face, I said to San Geraldo, "Is that what I think it is?"

He said, "Yep."

San Geraldo is also not a fan of anchovies. He bravely took a bite of his as I watched with eyes wide. He looked at me and, with a huge grin and a sparkle in his eyes, said. "You are going to love this."

Now San Geraldo is not the type to pretend to like something just so he can watch me gag. He's not that cruel (but, primarily, he can't keep a straight face).

I asked incredulously, "Really?"

He said, "Yes. You are going to love this."

I tried it. I loved it. I devoured my entire portion and I can't wait to go back for more. Anyone (Gonzalo) who can make me love an anchovy truly has a gift.

I NO LONGER HATE ANCHOVIES (AS LONG AS THEY'RE PREPARED BY GONZALO.)

MEALS TO GO (I CAN PICK UP A GOURMET DINNER AND PRETEND TO KNOW HOW TO COOK).

GONZALO.  DAZZLING SMILE (CHECK OUT THOSE DIMPLES). SINCERE WARMTH.
AND HE COOKS, TOO!

SANTA CATALINA, WISHING SHE COULD GET DOWN FROM THERE AND GRAB A BITE TO EAT.

Catalina (the restaurant) is several blocks away from the Sevilla home (palace) of the Duchess of Alba. I dropped by on my way home but she didn't come to the gate. So I waved "hola" to the dog and kept walking. I'll have to tell her about Gonzalo and Catalina (and the anchovies) some other time.

SEVILLA PALACE OF THE DUCHESS OF ALBA.

THE DOG WAS OUT FOR A STROLL (AT LEFT), BUT THE DUCHESS WAS UNAVAILABLE.

P.S.: I just found Catalina's website: http://www.catalinacasadecomidas.com. Apparently, the menu (carta) is going to be online soon. You can eat your heart out until you get here and then ... eat to your heart's content! — m

35 comments:

  1. There you go, Mitch, never say never! That place, the restaurant, looks wonderful and so does the owner! I wasn't expecting him to look that way!
    Sounds like you are settling in to Sevilla....how nice is that!
    Loved this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I should say, Jim, my photo of Gonzalo does not do him justice. His smile could light up the darkest day.

      It really is feeling like home, and it's the most at home I've felt in several years!

      Delete
  2. I'm with you--or, is it now against you--on the anchovy thing.
    I have never ever liked them, and when i saw that picture I gagged from across the pond.
    But..........never say never, I guess.
    Plus, i might eat anchovies just to make Gonzalo smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob:
      I don't know what Gonzalo did or if you and I (and more than half the world's population) simply never had good anchovies before. But, yes, I'd probably even try beets again (have I ever told you how much I hate beets?) if it would make Gonzalo smile.

      Delete
  3. There you go Mitch...evidently you had never discovered the joy of anchovies on pizza or in a Mediterranean salad. I just hope that this new addiction doesn't replace churros con chocolate.
    In any case, when I am in Sevilla the next time, I'll treat both of you at Catalina.

    saludos,
    raulito

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Raulito, pizzas and salads are precisely where I "discovered" NO joy in anchovies! So, no worries about them replacing churros and chocolate on my addictions list. But I would have them again any time at Catalinas and would love to go to there with you!

      Delete
  4. Yum, Yum, Yum, I envy your life!

    I have tagged you today Mitch. Get your thinking cap on, no excuses, I want to know everything!
    Di
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Di:
      Oh, I'm in trouble. I checked out my "tag" and I promise to participate in the coming days. But I doubt "Hmmm, I don't know" is an interesting enough answer to some of those questions. You are really requiring me to think!

      Delete
  5. And yet another "must visit" on my Sevilla list........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carole:
      Probably not a bad idea to plan on spending at least a year here.

      Delete
  6. I was all set to move to Sevilla, until I saw the ring on Gonzolo's finger. All the good ones are married or straight. I guess I'll just have to stay here and dream. (Never liked anchovies myself either.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Archguy:
      Sorry to disappoint you there.

      But it is great to see you back in action. I am here for moral support!

      Delete
  7. I don't know Mitch, I am no fan of Anchovies at all. I will say that it looked fantastic. I am pretty sure I would have trouble eating that. My partner on the other hand, loves them.

    Bon Appetite

    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  8. Scott:
    This tasted absolute nothing like any anchovy I have ever had. If there is any hope of you ever liking an anchovy, this would be the one. No smell. No fishy flavor. No oiliness. No saltiness. Worth a try the next time you're in Sevilla. Gonzalo is a genius!

    ReplyDelete
  9. OMG! Those food displays looked "to die for"! I would surely swoon at such a wealth of luscious goodies. Good thing they are a long way from me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      The place is definitely heaven. Jerry and I had a couple of the desserts. The noises we made as we ate were almost obscene.

      Delete
  10. I have mixed feelings about anchovies. You find them in all sorts of dishes they don't seem to belong in - the best place for them I think is in the tin !! They often have a far too strong and overpowering flavour but just a hint is sometimes good.
    These look really good and as I am open minded about most foods (until I have tried it), next time I am anywhere near this restaurant I will call in and try them !!
    Great photos. You really do live in a wonderful place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jean:
      These are fresh anchovies, which I'm sure I've never been served. Added to that, Gonzalo knows what to with them. There was no odor at all and the flavor was so mild (and non-fishy) I couldn't believe it was an anchovy.

      Delete
  11. What a beautiful restaurant and Gonzalo...what a catch of the day! winky wink!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sophie/Ron:
      The Dowager Duchess even commented on Gonzalo's good looks!

      Delete
  12. I'm wondering whether this is because there is a practice of using fresh anchovies instead of preserved ones in Spain, Portugal and Turkey and/or whether this is a different species/strain (ie Mediteranian vs other) of anchovy? You know how to play me like a cheap guitar. Just like the bananas, I pulled out The Oxford Companion and my copy of Larousse to look it up. In my limited experience I am only familiar with the preserved anchovies and I agree with your opinion - avoid if at all possible. Thanks to your report, if I ever make it to that part of the world, I shall try not to shy away from anchovies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will:
      Fresh clearly makes a difference. But I'll still avoid anchovies... except for Gonzalo's!

      Delete
  13. It was in Madrid when I first tasted sardines. Not the first time I had sardines, but the first time I actually enjoyed them. I've never had sardines like that since (and I like them). The Spanish seem to have a talent with the little fishes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walt the Fourth:
      The Dowager Duchess loves sardines. I've never been a fan. But maybe I should see if Gonzalo serves them.

      Delete
  14. I adore anchovies; I would be blithe if Mr. Gonzalo served them or anything to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ur-spo:
      Truth be told, I'd probably like beets if Gonzalo prepared them (well... maybe not).

      Delete
  15. I don't like anchovies too, but I only know the tinned variety in oil. I suppose these are the fresh ones and not as salt as the tinned ones.

    BTW, Gonzalo is a looker!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peter:
      Yes, these are definitely not tinned. Blech! As for Gonzalo, he sure has been a big hit!

      Delete
  16. Now, I've been to Catalina and did not experience anything like that.
    Oh, that was in California. My mistake.
    I wonder if there was a marinade or something to alter the flavor. Or if it was just the combination that made it so wonderful.
    Too bad the duchess wasn't available. I'm sure she would have loved to hear of such a place in her neighborhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stew:
      They were good, fresh anchovies in a light and delicately flavored olive oil, with the rich taste of the sweet peppers. Not oily. Not fishy. Not salty. I'm sure it's magic!

      I was disappointed that the Duchess of Alba was otherwise occupied. If you see her before I do, let he know about Catalina. The Dowager Duchess (aka, my mother) looked at the blog post and thought Gonzalo was "movie-star handsome." (He actually is and the picture doesn't do him justice.)

      Delete
    2. Stew, check out the Duchess of Alba on Wiki, 86 years old, maried for the third time last year, more titles then any crowned head in the world and too much money.

      Delete
  17. Hi Mitchell, I am a follower of your blog, love and above all the vision you have of Spain and Sevilla.

    Although I am from Barcelona, Seville is for me the most wonderful city in the world, as I would love to go and live in it.

    A comment on the anchovies, they are kept in barrels with salt, cleaned by hand and may be of the Cantabrian or the Costa Brava, the two are wonderful and it has nothing to do with dried anchovies Italian, Spanish anchovies are the best , but you have to pay.

    sorry for my English, blame Mr. google

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hola Soonks. Gracias por la visita y por la información sobre las anchoas.

    Su inglés (del Mr. Google) es perfecto! Lo siento por mi español. Blame Mr. me!

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a beautiful post. This is the first time in ages that I have had time to sit and catch up with your blog. A perfect Sunday morning treat with my coffee! I loath anchovies too but would love to eat here one day. It looks amazing. Thank you for a great start to the day :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeff:
      Glad you've been able to kick back and catch up. I've been busy! We're heading back to Catalina (the restaurant, no the island) tomorrow for lunch. Drop what you're doing, hop on your Cessna, and meet us there.

      Delete

Tell me what you're thinking...
Dime tus pensamientos...