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Michelin Guide to Spain 2015 will be launched in Marbella

July 19, 2014 – 8:48 pm

Michelin Guide to Span and Portugal 2014 - the 2105 edition will be launched in Marbella this November.

A few days ago it was announced that the Spain and Portugal Michelin Guide 2015 will be launched at Hotel Los Monteros in Marbella on 19 November.

Last year the town was a finalist in the race to hold the event, but in the end it took place at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

This will be the sixth presentation of the guide, which has also been held in Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona. Marbella beat Valencia and Santiago de Compostela to hold the 2015 launch.


Patio of Los Monteros Hotel, where the 2015 Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal will be launched. Photo: Los Monteros Hotel

The venue for the launch will be the five-star Los Monteros Hotel and Spa, a grand luxury establishment which has hosted the likes of Michael Jackson, Julio Iglesias, Baroness Von Thyssen, Sean Connery and Antonio Banderas. Its restaurant, El Corzo, was the first hotel restaurant in Spain to be awarded a Michelin star.

According to the organisers, with the choice of Marbella as venue for the event, Michelin “is showing its support for tourism and, specifically, for costal tourism, which is facing up to the current economic situation with positive results.” It’s the first time the launch has been held in southern Spain.

Marbella has more Michelin-starred establishments than any other town or city in Andalucia – Dani Garcia’s Calima, now transferred to Hotel Puente Romano, El Lago, and Skina.

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El ronqueo – from whole tuna to tasty tapas, in minutes

July 12, 2014 – 1:09 pm
Diagram of a blue-fin tuna, showing all the cuts. Picture courtesy of El Campero restaurant (Barbate, Cadiz).

Diagram of a blue-fin tuna, showing all the cuts. Picture: El Campero restaurant (Barbate, Cadiz).

As a self-confessed foodie, and with an avid interest in all things Andalucian, I was excited to be invited to a ronqueo.

For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, the concept may seem a little odd. A ronqueo is when a tuna, freshly caught, is skinned and filleted by hand. Most famously, this is done with almadraba tuna, which are fish caught using a traditional system of nets off the coast of Cadiz, during a short season from late April to early June. These tuna are flash-frozen within half an hour of being caught, to be sent to Japan and used in sushi and sashimi. One of the best, and most renowned, places to eat fresh almadraba tuna here in Andalucia, is El Campero restaurant in the fishing town of Barbate. But since the almadraba season finished a month ago, this tuna was caught on a line.

So what’s the big deal about it? Well, if you’ve ever tried filleting a fish – let alone such a large one – by hand, you’ll know it’s not easy. This is one of those incredibly skilled jobs where the person doing it makes it look like a piece of cake – a well-placed cut here, a deft slice there, and before you know it all the meat has been removed from the carcass. Yet it takes years to master the art of slicing cuts of meat off an 180kg tuna so efficiently that nothing goes to waste.

ronqueo, atun rojo, blue-fin tuna

The tuna, line-caught off the Cadiz coast the previous day, arrives at Duo Tapas in Seville.

My first-ever ronqueo was in a tapas bar in the boho-trendy Alameda area of Seville called Duo Tapas. It was a joint venture, organised between Duo Tapas, which owns two other bars including a Peruvian-Japanese called Nazca, and another place called La Pepona. All serve good, inventive-without-being-overly-fancy tapas, at reasonable prices – not OTT gastrobars, in other words.

As I arrived, the floor was being covered in clear plastic sheeting in preparation for the inevitably messy operation that was about to start. There was a palpable sense of anticipation among those gathered, from photographers and press, to food bloggers, to restaurant staff. As a non-meat-eater, I was apprehensive about the amount of blood and guts I was about to see, but then I figured that if I’m going to eat it, I should see where it comes from. Apart from the stinky guts, I found it fascinating rather than disgusting. Must be getting hardened after all these years in Spain. Even so, I’ve tried not to use too many gory photos.

Then the blue-fin tuna (cost: around 3000 euros) was wheeled into the restaurant on a cart, and placed in the middle of the floor. During the following half-hour, an experienced fishmonger called Rafael Gonzalez produced around 110kg of meat from the animal, explaining each cut as he went. We saw the heart, the gills (not for eating, but extraordinary to see), the mormo, morrillo and facera (cuts from the head), parpatana (area between the head and body); and the classic cuts of ventresca or ijada (belly), solomillo and lomo (loin), cola negra and blanca (tail), and huevas (roe).

Rafa cuts the tuna along its spine, making the ronqueo, snoring noise, after which the process is named.

Rafa neatly divides the meat from the spine.

If you listen carefully (00:06-00:09), you can hear the ronqueo (snoring) sound as Rafa cuts along the jagged spine, after which the process is named – roncar means to snore.

Once Rafa, who’s been in the business for 32 years, had finished (with the results laid out on a long tables, from the head to the tail, see video above), the chefs started on their work. The man in charge of the action was Daniel Cardenas, the Peruvian chef who started Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant Nikkei, before moving to Nazca.

tuna, ronqueo, Peru, Peruvian

Peruvian chef, Dani Cardenas, of Nazca, with Juan Fortuna of Duo Tapas (right), explains the tapas he's going to create with the fresh tuna and ingredients from his native country.

tuna, atun, ronqueo

Dicing the tuna ventresca (belly).

Mixing the tuna with avocado.

Mixing the tuna with avocado.

tuna, atun rojo

Colourful, delicious 'Tuna Nikkei' - blue-fin tuna belly with avocado, flying-fish roe, quinoa and leche de tigre.

Dani explained the ingredients he was going to use in his “Nikkei tapa”, taking us on a journey around his native Peru: chilli from the selva (jungle); quinoa, a protein-rich grain from the Andes mountains; leche de tigre, the sauce used for ceviche, and huevas de tobico (flying fish roe), from the coast. The tuna was diced, mixed with avocado, placed in a scallop shell, and anointed with its exotic accompaniments, and the result was a colourful symphony of rich, complex tastes and contrasting textures.

Throughout the entire event, the atmosphere of excitement didn’t wane – all the guests and staff were genuinely thrilled to witness this fascinating operation.

These are the tapas you can try at the four restaurants here in Seville, until the tuna runs out!

LA PEPONA (C/ Orfila,1)
- Tataki de lomo de atún con salteado de verduras
- Tartar de lomo de atún con guacamole y torta de trigo
- Morrillo, mormo o barriga a la plancha con…acaso importa
- Marmitako de cola negra
- Cola blanca con sopa Dashi
- Sashimi de ventresca con sunomono
- Tarantelo de atún con Ajoblanco de pepino

NAZCA (C/ Baños 32)
- Tiradito de ventresca con espuma de leche de tigre y crocante de quinoa
- Costillas de atún glaseadas con rocoto confitado y huacatay
- Carrillada de atún marinado en salsa de anticucho
- Chicharrón de tarantelo y adámame

DÚO TAPAS (C/ Calatrava, 10)
- Lomo de atún con alboronía andaluza y ajoblanco de anacardos
- Cola blanca con alga nori y panco

SIDONIA (C/ Calatrava, 16)
- Sashimi con aceite de romero y sal en escamas
- Tartar en concha con emulsión de ají amarillo

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Confirmed: Game of Thrones to be shot in Alcazar de Sevilla and Osuna

July 2, 2014 – 4:51 pm
Seville's Alcazar Palace. Photo © Michael Barbatulus

Seville's Alcazar Palace. Photo © Michael Barbatulus

As of this morning, we can confirm that the fifth series of TV’s most-watched series, Game of Thrones, will be filmed in the Alcazar of Sevilla, the exquisite mudejar royal palace, and the historic town of Osuna, in Seville province.

Yesterday the announcement was made that the programme will definitely be filmed in the Alcazar, and today an HBO press release was sent out which also mentioned that some filming will take place in the town of Osuna, known for its magnificent 16th century Baroque buildings, with a history dating back to to the Romans.

The specific locations will be: the Colegiata, the University, the Canteras de Osuna, and the bullring.

In a statement today, the mayoress of Osuna stated that “Osuna is a perfect setting for scenes from the next season of this huge super-production which has millions of fans.”

She went on to say that this was “hugely important news for Osuna which would have far-reaching effects, enabling Osuna to be known throughout the world”, and that it was hoped that the shooting, which is expected to start after the summer, would have “a revitalizing effect on the local economy”.

It has been estimated that filming Game of Thrones will bring in around 84 million euros to the Andalucian economy.

Rumours are rife that the locations in Andalucia will also include the Alhambra, and the Alcazaba in Malaga, although neither the Andalucia Film Commission, which has been working with HBO to scout locations throughout the region, nor press representatives from the two monuments, would confirm knowledge of this possibility. This is probably due to the insistence of HBO on complete silence until the official confirmation is given.

alcazar seville

The Italianate grutesco in the Alcazar Gardens, with its arcaded gallery, provides a dramatic setting.

Mercury's pool in the Alcazar gardens. Photo © Michael Barbatulus

Mercury's pool in the Alcazar gardens. Photo © Michael Barbatulus

A truly romantic spot - the Baths of Maria Padilla.

A truly romantic spot - the Baths of Maria Padilla.

The exquisite gold ceiling of the Ambassador's Hall in the Alcazar. © Sophie Carefull

The exquisite gold ceiling of the Ambassador's Hall in the Alcazar.

The Patio del Yeso is the only part of the Alcazar which remains from Arabic times.

The Patio del Yeso is the only part of the Alcazar which remains from Arabic times.

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New king of Spain: Felipe VI

June 19, 2014 – 3:14 pm
Felipe becomes King Felipe VI of Spain in a ceremony at the Palacio de Congresos de los Diputados in Madrid.

King Felipe VI of Spain is sworn in at the Palacio de Congresos de los Diputados in Madrid.

Today is a historic day for Spain. The country has a new king: Felipe VI. The abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos, was officially approved as a law yesterday, in the Spanish capital Madrid.

This morning Felipe was proclaimed king, in a ceremony which took place in the Palacio de Congreso de los Diputados, alongside his wife, now Queen Letizia, and their two daughters. Their elder daughter, Leonor, becomes the new Princess of Asturias. Also present were the previous king, Queen Sofia, and King Felipe’s sister Doña Elena.

King Felipe VI already has his own Facebook page - a monarch for the Social Media age.

King Felipe VI already has his own Facebook page - a monarch for the Social Media age.

Some pictures of today's ceremonial events from King Felipe VI's Facebook page.

Some pictures of today's ceremonial events from King Felipe VI's Facebook page.

Security in Madrid was tight, with 7000 policeman, and the city’s Ayuntamiento handed out 100,000 Spanish flags to people so that the streets would be a sea of red and yellow.

You can see the full TV coverage of this morning’s events here.

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Tony Bryant and the BBC’s flamenco documentary

June 16, 2014 – 5:49 pm
Tony Bryant (left) with BBC producer Phil Pegum (right), and singer Dani de Utrera (middle), recording The Spirit of Flamenco in the town of Utrera last month.

Tony Bryant (left) with BBC producer Phil Pegum (right), and singer Dani de Utrera (middle), recording The Spirit of Flamenco for Radio 2 in the town of Utrera. Photo courtesy of Tony Bryant.

English author and flamenco expert Tony Bryant collaborated with the BBC for their Radio 2 documentary about renowned Spanish musician Paco Peña, The Spirit of Flamenco, which is being broadcast tonight at 10pm UK time (11pm Spanish time) as part of the station’s Guitar Season. I spoke to Tony to find out more about the programme, and what it was like recording in Utrera and Seville last month, where he acted as organiser and translator.

As a non-flamenco expert, I started by asking who Paco Peña is.
Tony Bryant: Paco Peña is one of the main flamenco ‘guitar soloists’. He is one of many guitarists who has promoted the flamenco guitar (and hence flamenco itself) to the rest of the world, especially England – he has performed everywhere from Ronnie Scott’s to the Royal Albert Hall. There are so many celebrated guitarists within this world, and they have all done their own bit; Paco’s show Misa Flamenca was the first of its kind – he was the first person to set the Catholic Mass to flamenco. He was also responsible for setting up the guitar academy in Cordoba (Centro Flamenco Paco Peña), now part of the renowned ‘Concurso’ (Cordoba International Guitar Festival) which takes place every July in Cordoba.

Paco was born in Cordoba but has lived in England since the late 1960s – he is more famous outside Spain, although he has been spending time back here of late. He speaks perfect English – in this programme, you can hear him talk about how he learned to play the guitar as a child with his brother in the patio of his house in Cordoba.

So how did you start planning your part of the programme?
Tony Bryant: The BBC contacted me in February this year with the idea of a documentary – they wanted to record some authentic flamenco. I thought Utrera would be a great place to record, as it is the cradle of pure, uncommercial flamenco, with several different dynasties, and I have so many wonderful friends there.
Social Media was a big help – I put a note on Facebook, saying that I had been approached by the BBC and was bringing them to Utrera, and wanted to organise a juerga (a get-together) and I got a huge response. I wanted to choose people who were well connected, from the major flamenco dynasties of Utrera.

I’ve known flamenco artists in Utrera since 2006, when I met Luis El Marquesito, who is a singer from the Pinini clan. I kept hearing about the huge clan of flamenco singer, Fernando Peña Soto, El Pinini, from Utrera – so many artists were related to him. El Pinini himself had 10 children, who each had five or so, and so it’s a massive dynasty.

As I wanted to find out more, I went to the Feria de Utrera with a friend, and met Luis, who is part of the Panini family. I bombarded him with questions, and he got me lots of information, and I wrote a book about the genealogical history of the Panini clan of Utrera. Luis has become a good friend, and I get invited to family events like baptisms.

As featured in the BBC Radio 2 documentary The Spirit of Flamenco.

(From left) Dani de Utrera, Paco de Amparo and Luis El Marquesito, as featured in the BBC Radio 2 documentary The Spirit of Flamenco. Photo courtesy of Tony Bryant.

What was it like making the programme with the flamenco artists in Utrera last month?

The producer, Phil Pegum, got nervous because the musicians hadn’t turned up. He kept asking me “What time did you say to them?” – in fact they were only 20 minutes late.

He wanted to record Paco de Amparo, the guitarist, playing a solo piece – a buleria. When Paco started playing, the other two (Luis and the other singer, Dani de Utrera) would clap and shout encouragement (called jaleo). Phil got annoyed and told them off for clapping, because he didn’t want any other sounds to intrude on the guitar. He didn’t realise that this is how flamenco artists play – as a group, with participation from the others. I had to say to him, “I thought you wanted authentic flamenco – this is as authentic as it gets”. Afterwards, he apologised.

Fiona’s note: As a flamenco novice, the producer wasn’t familiar with the loose ambience of flamenco playing, and his technical demands didn’t fit with the spontaneous way of joining in which flamenco musicians have. Noone in a flamenco group sits in a respectful silence while their fellow musicians are playing (unless it was for the late Paco de Lucia, perhaps).

Where else was the programme recorded?
TB: The next day, after recording in Utrera, we went to the Museo del Baile Flamenco in Seville. When we arrived, there was a flamenco dance class taking place, so we interviewed some of the American students. We also talked to the director of the museum, Kurt Grotsch, who is very knowledgeable about the roots of flamenco.

For the last part of the programme, they had asked me to find a priest who loves flamenco – I managed to track one down in Cordoba, which was ideal as that’s where Paco Peña himself is from.

I asked Tony which Paco Peña CD he recommend to people who are unfamiliar with the musician’s work.
TB: Requiem to the Earth; it’s incredible!

What should people who don’t know anything about flamenco’s history and different palos (types of songs) bear in mind when listening to this programme?
TB: This is a difficult question, because flamenco is a difficult subject for those with little or no understanding, but hopefully it will give the uninitiated an insight to the ‘flamenco way of life’ that still exists in certain parts of Andalusia.

BBC Radio 2 programme The Spirit of Flamenco, part of the Guitar Season, will be broadcast on Monday 16 June at 11pm Spanish time (10pm UK time). You can listen to a trailer, or download the podcast of the programme once it’s been broadcast.

You can order Tony’s books on flamenco here.

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The season of romerias

June 13, 2014 – 11:42 pm
A flower-festooned wagon passes the Giralda in Seville.

A flower-festooned wagon passes the Giralda in Seville.

The simpecado visits the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

The simpecado visits the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

The insignia of the Seville hermandad of El Rocio.

The insignia of the Seville hermandad of El Rocio.

Groups, or hermandades

Groups of rocieros are always accompanied by drummers and pipers.

Groups of rocieros are always accompanied by drummers and pipers.

As May arrives, so the season for romerias (pilgrimages) starts – the biggest of these, in quantity of people, is El Rocio. Groups, or hermandades, set off from towns and cities all over Spain, and Seville has several. I saw one making its merry way through the centre last Thursday, from the singing flamencas, with their leather bags and walking staffs topped with sprigs of rosemary, and peinetas featuring the Virgen del Rocio, to the oxen waiting patiently with their pretty gypsy wagons next to the Giralda.

For a more local aspect, a rociero on horseback in the village of Valencina de la Concepcion.

A rociero on horseback from a much smaller hermandad, in the village of Valencina de la Concepcion.

Riders in their traditional romeria garb always look so elegant - here in front of the Hacienda Tilly in Valencina.

Riders in their traditional romeria garb always look so elegant - here in front of the Hacienda Tilly in Valencina.

A carreta, complete with curtained, shaded outside balcony, sets off on El Rocio.

A carreta, complete with curtained, shaded outside balcony, sets off on El Rocio.

All of these sights and sounds are wonderfully timeless, and no doubt will remain so for many more years to come. Romerias large and small take place up and down the country, whether it’s a gleaming silver carriage carrying the saint or Virgin image, or a simple cart adorned with palm leaves.

Crowds gather at the door of the church.

Crowds gather at the door of the church.

From the largest to one of the smallest - the Romeria de San Antonio in the Sierra de Cadiz village of Benamahoma (pop: 500).

From the largest to one of the smallest - the Romeria de San Antonio in the Sierra de Cadiz village of Benamahoma (pop: 500).

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3rd Edition of Foro La Zagaleta: “The Brand of the 21st Century”

June 9, 2014 – 10:59 am


The team behind a very successful Foro La Zagaleta 2014.

The team behind a very successful Foro La Zagaleta 2014, the luxury brand forum held in Marbella.

Last Friday 6 June, for the third year, some of the biggest names in the international business world came together at the Marbella Conference Centre for Foro La Zagaleta.

This time the luxury brand event had as its main discussion theme, branding and consumer engagement in the digital age – with a focus on Spain and Spanish brands, of course. The prestigious event was opened by newly-appointed President of La Zagaleta Oswald J. Grübel, alongside the Mayor of Marbella, Maria Ángeles Muñoz. La Zagaleta is an exclusive residential and golfing country club in Benahavis on the Costa del Sol.
The first keynote speech of the day was delivered by Global CEO of Interbrand, Jez Frampton. Mr Frampton highlighted the importance of evolving continuously as a brand – he quoted Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, as saying, “You should always be in BETA” (in other words, asking how you could do things better). Jez also mentioned how listening to the consumer is increasingly important, particularly as “millenials” (also known as Generation Y – those born after 1980) are looking for brands which not only meet their needs, but anticipate them.

Stating that we are in the “Age of Experience”, Frampton explained that brands which succeed in providing their customers with what they want, precisely when and where they want it, are the ones which are excelling in the rankings. He cited Apple and Google as two companies which are doing just that, so much so that this year they both overtook Coca-Cola in the ranking of the world´s most valuable brands.

Our intern Sophie .

Our intern Sophie found the forum a fascinating experience.

Following this thought-provoking speech, the stage was opened to a panel discussion about building a quality brand, with particular reference to creating a positive image of Spain, as perception is hugely important when it comes to branding. Don Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, High Commissioner for Marca España (Brand Spain), cited four main sectors to build on for the future: tourism, gastronomy, fashion and sports. Spain is already a key player in these industries, and the panel agreed unanimously that in order to continue improving the country’s image, they must take advantage of this reputation and build on it.

The panel also acknowledged the importance of the English language for international business growth. Javier Santiso, Managing Director of Global Affairs & New Ventures at Telefónica, explained that Spain is not only loved for its “sol y playa”, but also for its capacity for innovation and desire to improve and advance in all fields.

The panel discusses Spain's image and what the future holds for the Spanish brand.

The panel discusses Spain's image and what the future holds for the Spanish brand.

Another panel discussion followed, this time made up of Emilio Sanz, Ezequiel Szafir, Natalia Gamero del Castillo, Patricia Benito de Mateo and Valeria Dominguez. The panelists presented their company profiles, SalesGossip, Amazon, Conde Nast, Cortefiel and Adolfo Dominguez, respectively, and examined their digital brand strategy, particularly with regard to internationalisation. The panel was in agreement that consistency is key when taking your brand online so that the consumer doesn’t feel alienated, and to ensure that they can always relate to the brand that they know and love throughout the digitalisation process.
Jean Marc Colanesi, Director of Aldaba Identidad Coporativa, then gave an excellent speech on the origins of luxury and made some interesting points about the power of a luxury brand: “Luxury generates dreams and dreams create demand”. Mr Colanesi also said that “Luxury always has a history”, which was indeed the case for several of the following speakers, particularly Assunta Jiménez-Ontiveros, Chanel’s PR Manager for Spain and Portugal, and Ignacio Osborne, CEO of the Osborne Group who own Cinco Jotas Iberian Ham.

Jean Marc Colanesi explores the origins of luxury.

Jean Marc Colanesi explores the origins of luxury.

Miss Jiménez-Ontiveros attributed Chanel’s success to three main factors; having a very powerful image, maintaining independence as a private company, and continuously creating and innovating. After giving a brief history of the company and Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel’s life, she quoted the famous designer as saying that “Luxury is a necessity of the soul”.

Ignacio Osborne then took to the stage to deliver a case study of Cinco Jotas (5J) as a company that strives to be the best and to maintain its status as a luxury brand. Mr Osborne showed two beautifully-produced videos detailing the history of the company, founded in 1879 by Don Juan Rafael Sanchez Romero in Jabugo (hence the Js in the name).

The company prides itself on producing 100% Iberian ham so the pigs are pure-bred Iberian, raised in Jabugo, Huelva (part of the DO “Jamon de Huelva” region) and raised on a diet of acorns partly because the animals like eating them, and as Ignacio put it: “If it’s good for the pig, it’s good for us”.

The pasture in Jabugo is 700 metres above sea level with a unique microclimate, in the dehesa covered with oak woodland, and the animals have an area of two hectares each to roam and enjoy because, as the CEO stated, “It’s important for them to be free”. Considered a “national treasure” and “heritage” product, Cinco Jotas ham use their rich history and Spanish pride in their marketing, and this is clearly very effective, with the brand expanding worldwide year on year. The company gained 36,000 Facebook fans in one year and our proud to manage all their social media in six different languages.

This left the audience with a lot to talk about at the networking lunch in the gardens of the Melia Hotel, sponsored by Nikki Beach. The catering was, as always, exquisite. This year the menu featured tapas such as foie with mango, salmon tartare with cucumber sorbet, salmorejo “shots”, shrimp cakes and veal meatballs. Guests also enjoyed freshly made paella and seafood fideua (short noodles, prepared in a large, shallow pan like paella). Dessert was even more delightful; mango and passion fruit mousse topped with red berries was the perfect way to clear the palette before heading back to the forum for more keynote speeches and discussions.

© Sophie Carefull

Networking lunch in the sunny gardens of Hotel Melia.

Champagne and salmorejo at the networking lunch.

Champagne and salmorejo at the networking lunch.

Following the lunch break, Ignacio Perez Diaz, Head of Business Development at La Zagaleta, interviewed Lord Stanley Fink, who had flown in from London with his wife Barbara especially for the forum, about philanthropy and the role it can play in one’s personal brand. Lord Fink has a property in the La Zagaleta grounds and says it is “a paradise and a haven from the hustle and bustle of the real world”.

The philanthropist gave some heart-warming answers, saying that he is extremely grateful to philanthropy for giving him the 40 happiest years of his life, as he met his wife when he was volunteering in an old people’s home, aged 18. Lord Fink focusses his charitable efforts on health and education, but also likes to donate to causes related to the environment, stressing that “We are stewards of this planet, we don’t own it” and therefore we must work to protect it for the benefit of future generations.

Ignacio Perez Diaz, Head of Business Development at La Zagaleta.

Ignacio Perez Diaz, Head of Business Development at La Zagaleta, who interviewed Lord Stanley Fink.

As the day drew to a close, Tourism Councillor from Marbella Town Hall, Jose Luis Hernandez, stepped up to the stage to thank everyone involved for a brilliant forum and to share his thoughts on the year to come in terms of tourism. Mr Hernandez claimed that 2014 is set to be a “spectacular year” for Marbella, with figures already at their best since 2005. Describing the city as an “epicentre of talent”, Jose Luis hinted that Marbella has a “sweet poison” that keeps people coming back year after year and makes them fall in love with the Mediterranean resort, crediting word of mouth for much of its success as a tourist destination.

Finally, Jacobo Cestino, Managing Director at La Zagaleta, gave his closing remarks at the end of a wonderfully informative and well-organised day. Thanking the whole team who made the event such a great success for their hard work since September last year, he expressed his pride at being part of a such a talented and innovative group. Mr Cestino said that if anyone asks him for the secret to La Zagaleta’s success, he replies: “We have a strategy, and that is to do things well.”

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International Sherry Week: tapas menu at Vineria San Telmo in Seville

June 4, 2014 – 6:30 pm
sherry, ISW, International Sherry Week

Our sherry and tapas menu at Vineria San Telmo for International Sherry Week, which has over 1100 events in 22 countries until 8 June.

International Sherry Week is the brainchild of Chelsea Anthon, an Australian marketer who lives in Vejer de la Frontera. Organised by Chelsea and a dedicated team of sherry-lovers and official Sherry Educators, this worldwide celebration of wine from Jerez and surrounding area, features a staggering 1900 events (and counting) in 21 countries, including nearly 70 in Spain alone.

The idea of ISW is to introduce people to this little-known fortified wine, around which many untruths linger: that it’s only to be drunk at Christmas, that it’s always sweet, that it doesn’t pair well with food. Sherry comes in seven types, from light-coloured and bone dry, to dark and sweet. It’s a highly versatile wine which goes beautifully with all different types of food, from cheese and ham, to main courses like fish and meat, as well as desserts.

I haven’t made it to the centre of the action, Jerez, but here in Seville I was lucky enough to sample a four-tapa, four-sherry menu at a restaurant called Vineria San Telmo. Situated on the edge of Barrio Santa Cruz, it is well-known for its excellent wine list and superb desserts (rare as hen’s teeth here in Spain). My tapas-and-sherry tasting menu lunch companions, both knowledgeable food bloggers, both agreed that four sherries was a good number – too many more and it becomes hard to appreciate the distinctions between the different wines.


Sheep's cheese with jamon de bellota - our first tapa.

La Guita manzanilla, sherry from Sanlucar la Barrameda accompanied our first tapa.

La Guita manzanilla, sherry from Sanlucar la Barrameda, accompanied our first tapa.

Our first tapa, of four, was sheep’s cheese and jamon iberico de bellota, the finest cured ham (as a non-meat eater, I had more cheese, which was wonderful, with a strong, smooth flavour). The sherry which accompanied this was a manzanilla, a type of sherry only made in the seaside town of Sanlucar la Barrameda, and usually drunk at ferias. The salty-sharp sherry went beautifully with the rich cheese, the acidity cutting through its oiliness.

Cod a la roteña, a tomato and red pepper sauce, with baby roast potatoes.

Our second tapa: cod a la roteña (a tomato and red pepper sauce) with baby roast potatoes.

sherry, ISW

This was our second sherry, Botaina, an amontillado by Bodegas Lustau.

sherry, ISW

I loved the pinky-amber colour of this sherry, almost as much as its flavour.

After our starter-tapa, we moved on to the fish tapa – cod in a Roteña sauce (tomato and red pepper) with baby roast potatoes. The portion was generous-sized, with delicious chunky fish and crispy spuds. The amontillado sherry which was paired with it was not as light as the manzanilla, and had enough body to complement the fish. The colour was exquisite, an amber-rose shade.


The third tapa: Pluma iberica (pork) with pumpkin and a curry sauce.


Gobernador oloroso, our third sherry - darker but with a strong flor flavour.

Then it was onto the meat tapa, which was Iberian pork with a curry sauce (though it tasted more like paprika to me). This was matched with an oloroso (Gobernador by Bodegas Hidalgo), a darker-pink sherry with a fuller flavour resonant with flor, the yeast that collects on the surface of the sherry. My veggie alternative was mushrooms with fried rocket, which was fabulous – a complex flavour and robust texture.

Chocolate cake with Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Chocolate cake with Pedro Ximenez sherry.

And finally, our final tapa of four: dessert. One of the many reasons to come to Vineria San Telmo, apart from the terrace which is opposite the Jardines de Murillo, and the excellent service, is the puddings. Made by Reyes, the wife of owner Juan, they are in another league from all other puds in Seville. Her chocolate cake is gluten-free, and manages to have a light mousse-like texture with a heavenly chocolate taste. With this, we drank Pedro Ximenez, the darkest and sweetest of the sherry family – this was Nectar, by Bodegas Gonzalez Byass, who also make Tio Pepe, the most famous fino sherry. Its flavour is of raisins, which of course marry extremely happily with chocolate.

What a spectacular meal – excellent food with exquisite sherries, often ones that you wouldn’t have thought of matching as they were on this four-tapa, four-sherry menu. A superb way of discovering how well sherry goes with so many foods. Bon appetit!

The special International Sherry Week Seville Sherry & Tapas Tasting Menu is at Vineria San Telmo, Paseo Catalina de Ribera 4, Seville, until 8 June, and costs 25 euros.

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The King Abdicates

June 2, 2014 – 4:10 pm
King Juan Carlos I Abdicates © Casa Real Española title=

King Juan Carlos I Abdicates Photos from Official Website of Spanish Royal Family

“Su Majestad el Rey Juan Carlos acaba de comunicarme su voluntad de renunciar al trono y abrir el proceso sucesorio.”

“His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me that he wishes to give up the throne and open the succession process.”

With these words, the President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, announced the abdication of King Juan Carlos I of Spain just after 10.30am today.

The announcement came as a surprise to most people, even though the King had been suffering from ill-health for some time, with a number of hip operations. The King wishes his son, Prince Felipe of Asturias to succeed him on the Spanish throne, although a constitutional anomaly prevents this from happening automatically.

The King was credited with helping smooth the key period in the late 1970s and early 1980s – between the end of the Dictatorship, after General Franco died, and the beginning of the Democracy – known as the Transition. He has reigned for 39 years.

Abdication statement of King Juan Carlos of Spain, handed to the President of the Government this morning.

Abdication statement of King Juan Carlos of Spain, handed to the President of the Government this morning.

Zarzuela Palace, June 2, 2014

“For the appropriate constitutional procedures, I attach the statement that I read, sign and entrust to the Prime Minister of the Government by this act, and with which I communicate to him my decision to abdicate the throne of Spain”.

The 76-year-old king later made a statement live on TV, in which he explained that when he reached his 76th birthday in January, he decided it was the right time to step down. He also said the following:

“I want the best for Spain, to which I have dedicated my whole life. I have decided to abdicate my crown to give way to a new generation embodied by my son Felipe, heir to the throne. I keep, and will keep, Spain forever deep in my heart.”

Of his son and heir to the throne, Felipe, he said, he “has the maturity, preparation, and sense of responsibility necessary to assume the title of head of state and open a new era of hope which combines the experience and momentum of a new generation”.

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Games of Thrones fifth series to be filmed in Andalucia

May 27, 2014 – 12:18 am
Game of Thrones is watched by millions worldwide.

Game of Thrones is watched by millions worldwide.

The Alhambra in Granada. © Michelle Chaplow

One of the three possible Andalucian locations for Games of Thrones Season 5: the Alhambra in Granada, which the production team visited last week.

The media here in Andalucia has been abuzz with excitement over the past few days with news that Game of Thrones Season Five will be filmed in one of our three most beautiful and historic cities: Cordoba, Seville or Granada. A beautiful Moorish or Mudejar palace with exquisite gardens dating back many centuries – either an Alcazar of Seville or Cordoba, or the Alhambra of Granada – will become the kingdom for the next series of the hugely successful fantasy TV series set in fictional medieval times.

Carlos Rosado, director of the Andalucía Film Comission, took representatives from the production company to see the Alhambra in Granada last Thursday.

The Alcazar of Seville.

Another option being considered is the Alcazar of Seville.

Apparently the production team has spent the last two months looking for suitable locations for the hit show, which has been previously been shot in Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco and the UK – namely, Scotland and Northern Ireland (where it is based), with the past three series – two, three and four – using the Dalmatian coastal nation as one of its locations.

Starkly dramatic, other-worldly landscapes in Iceland; a castle in Scotland; cities, forests and coastline in Ulster; the Moroccan desert city of Ouzarate; and the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik have all appeared on TV screens as part of the global hit series, which has regularly achieved audiences of five or six million, while the opening episode of the current season (four), aired last month, drew a total audience of 8.2 million.

Game of Thrones is renowned for its stunning locations – Season 4 was filmed in in four counties over 180 days, or nearly six months. The show has even won an award for its locations – at the first Location Managers Guild of America Awards, held in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles in March, the global hit show took home the prize for Outstanding Location Television Program. Series 5 will also be shot in Croatia, now a favourite setting for the series.

A scene from Series 2 of Game of Thrones.

A scene from Series 2 of Game of Thrones.

Alcazar of Cordoba

The Alcazar of Cordoba is the third of the possible locations under consideration.

The effect on tourism of a city or country appearing on Game of Thrones is a strong one – in Dubrovnik, fans can take a four-hour guided tour of the city, and the locations outside the city, one of the main shooting locations for the HBO series since its first season. In Iceland you can take special guided visits to some of the striking natural features used as backdrops, and some tour companies even offer holidays taking in both Icelandic and Croatian locations used in the series’ distinctive fantasy world. Northern Ireland, which has been the main setting for Westeron, the fictional kingdom, offers bus tours showing fans where the action took place.

Whichever Andalucian city the show’s production team chooses in the end, and the announcement will be made soon, it will be great news for the region , both for the jobs created before and during the shoot itself, and for attention focussed on the region afterwards, when the series is broadcast. Game of Thrones is watched by millions worldwide, and would inevitably result in an increase in “set-jetters”, fans visiting locations of TV series and movies, as they come to explore the real life settings of their favourite TV programme.

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