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Food Arts Silver Spoon Award to Gerry Dawes


 Premio Nacional de Gastronomía - - James Beard Foundation Nomination (Best Wine Writing)
Premio Periodistíco Cava

Gerry Dawes's Article Medieval Riches of El Cid's City (About Burgos, Spain)
Front Page, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section

 About Blog Author Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award)




2/14/2018

Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession by Andrew Friedman (Publication date, Feb. 27, 2018)


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 “Much would change in the (American) chefs’ social landscape in the early 1990s, connecting them with each other and with their growing fan base in unprecedented ways. . .An early agent of change was Gerry Dawes, who hailed from southern Illinois, fell in love with wine, especially Spanish wines and culture. . .led Dawes to create a more intimate, periodic gathering of chefs who met once a month at each other restaurants, where the host chef would prepare a five-course lunch for the others. . . The name of the group: Chefs From Hell (Acrobatic Unicyclists and Winetasters Club). . .The original group included future culinary deity Thomas Keller, . . . Le Côte Basque alum Rick Moonen (chef a The Water Club). . .Tom Valenti (Alison on Dominick). . .Brendan Walsh (Arizona 206). . .original Union Square Café chef Ali Barker. . . Hudson River Club’s Waldy Malouf. . . and Rusty Staub (baseball great and owner of two Manhattan restaurants) . . . (Other members joined shortly after the inaugural gathering: Steve Lyle (The Odeon), George Faison (D’Artagnan), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Don Pintabona (Tribeca Grill), Michael Lomonaco (‘21' Club), Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Anne Rosenzweig, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Pamela Morgan, Martha Stewart and honorary member Julia Child.) Such a gathering is commonplace today, but at the time was uncharted territory. . .”

“Thomas Keller. . . says he believed in the cause: “It’s camaraderie. It’s the one thing that we did not do enough at any time throughout our careers. . .So the idea of bringing chefs together is an extraordinary thing. . . .Prior to Chefs From Hell, says Keller, New York chefs were too busy to connect. “Gerry brought it together just for the benefit of us, to have fun.” And Tom Colicchio is quoted as saying, “We would literally sit around and drink and laugh our asses off. A lot of these guys have their ‘chef personality.’ When you get together in a room with them they’re funny as hell. . .We had a good time. . .It was also in the light of day, which was just something that never happened. . .” - - Part of a ten-page treatment of me and the upcoming book, Chefs From Hell in Chefs, Drugs and Rock and Rock & Roll by Andrew Friedman (to be published Feb. 27, available for preorder on Amazon.com)



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 Gastronomy Blogs
 About Gerry Dawes

 Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

2/11/2018

The Bar at Marisquería Rafa: A Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watch Award Experience


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Gerry Dawes toasting with Champagne at the Bar at  Marisquería Rafa, Madrid.
Photograph by John Sconzo (Docsconz:  Musings on Food & Life)


 Gerry Dawes's Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí) Melting Watch Awards.

This article on Marisquería Rafa in Madrid, is the first post in what will be a series of articles on restaurants and tapas bars from around Spain that I think, from my very personal experience, deserve Five of Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watch Award pins.  I frankly don’t give a damn about Michelin ratings, Repsol or any of the rest.  I have been traveling and eating and drinking wine all over Spain for nearly 50 years and I have been to most of the restaurants in these articles multiples times.  Yes, I am influenced by the friendly relationships I have with many of the chefs and owners of these establishments and I take into consideration the downside for those who might not be connected in some of the restaurants I am writing about.  Nonetheless, I have had repeated Five Melting Watch experiences in all the places I am going to write about.  

Rafael Andrés & María José Orbe with Gerry Dawes at the Bar at Rafa.
   Photo copyright by Harold Heckle.

Though this list of establishments receiving my highest rating does not include all the eating experiences I plan to include in this series, among these establishments are the following:

1.    Extebarri in the Basque Country has refined grilling a magical art form, so almost ever dish you get is something special.

2.    Elkano and Kaia in the fishing village of Getaria is the place to go for the best txangurro (spider crab scrape from the shell, put back into the shell with leeks, sherry, brandy and breadcrumbs and passed under the broiler and whole rodaballo (turbot) cooked outside over a wood fire.

3.    El Crucero, in the overlooked town of Corella, in southern Navarra, which is a vegetable region.  The creative chef, Nabor Jiménez does dishes such as sliced, fried small artichoke hearts with foie gras (have a sweet Aliaga Late Harvest muscatel with dish, since only sweet wines don’t clash with artichokes. 

4.    La Taberna del Gourmet, María José San Román’s incredible tradtional cuisine restaurant in Alicante, just a block of the palm-lined Explanada.  The best product, the best technique. Maybe the best tapas restaurant in Spain.   Gambas rojas de Denia, rice dishes, sea urchins, etc.  Whatever is fresh from the market that day.  Coverage of the remarkable GrupoGourmet culinary empire in Alicante, including her Michelin-starred Monastrell, the Tribeca beer and hamburger bar and her son-in-law’s grilled meat restaurant, La Vaquería, El Campello (Playa de San Juan de Alicante).

5.    Casa Elias, in the pueblo of Xinorlet inland in the province of Alicante, for thin-layer arroz cooked in paella pans over a grape vine cuttings fire. 

6.    D’Berto in O Grove (Pontevedra), Galicia.  Certainly among the greatest shellfish restaurants in the world. 

7.    Casa Bigote and Bar Bigote in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Andalucía.  Exceptional seafood, friend fish, composed fish dishes and those wonderful Langostinos (prawns) de Sanlúcar, fresh off the plancha grill. 

8.    Quim de la Boquería in la Boquería market in Barcelona.  Put yourself in Quim Marquéz’s hands for a five-star dining experience on a taburete (barstool).  Plump gambas al ajillo, among the best in Spain.  Lovely ceviche de corvina with mango with Juve i Camps Pinot Noir Rosat (rosé) Cava.  Fried tiny fish, chanquetes con huevo frito, with a fried egg.  You can also go to front of the market to the legendary Pinotxo and have Xuchos, a wonderful pastry, and Calamarsets Saltats amb Fesos de Santa Pau (baby squid with tiny white Santa Pau (a village north of Barcelona on the Mediterranean.

9. Ganbara, in the old quarter of San Sebastián, has numerous varieties of mushrooms.  Have an assortment grilled, use a raw egg yolk as the sauce and you will be in mushroom heaven. 

10. Madrid, on Sunday nights most restaurants are closed, so I go to two places.  First, Marisquería Rafa, in the other side of Retiro Park in the Ibiza Metro area, where Rafa Andrés serves one of the best salpicónes, either with lobster or with shellfish in vinaigrette, one of the best ensaladillas rusas (“Russian” potato salad), wonderful jamón Ibérico and other dishes such as beberechos (cockles).    

After having some of Rafa’s dishes as appetizers, I usually go to Casa Lucio on Cava Baja in the Old Quarter of Madrid and eat setas a la plancha (plancha-grilled mushrooms with garlic, for which I request a raw egg yolk or two as a sauce, and huevos rotos con patatas (eggs “broken” over friend potatoes) and maybe a steak brought out on a sizzling platter.  Yes, Casa Lucio is getting my Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watch Award as well.  If I am in Madrid on a Sunday night, 99% of those nights I will end up at either Casa Lucio or Marisquería Rafa.   Yes, I know there are supposed to be better places for traditional Castilian food in Madrid than Lucio and Rafa and I know a lot of them, but both places are home and family to me and it would be hard to beat the overall experiences at either place. 


Marisquería Rafa
Calle de Narváez, 68
28009 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 915 73 10 87
  
 Juanjo Mateos Fornelio with mariscos at Marisquería Rafa, Madrid. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2016.
   
Marisquería Rafa, which has been in business since 1958, began for me more than twenty years ago as one of those Sunday nights-in-Madrid-when-everything-else-is-closed experiences and, over the period of a decade, became a regular stop on my prowl of Madrid restaurants.  And, because Casa Rafa was reliable I booked a couple of gastronomic tour groups that I was taking around Spain into the upstairs dining room, where I could bring special wines in and talk to my fellow travellers about them over lunch or dinner.

I began to establish the relationship I have today with Rafa Andrés, who owns Rafa with his cousin Miguel Angel Andrés, who alternates between being Chef and running the front of the house.


 Gerry and Rafa having a serious discussion about some item of gastronomic importance.   Maybe I am bugging Rafa to triple the size of the small entry way bar area, which might seat a half dozen people on one side, with maybe room for three-to-four more patrons at a side bar.

Though I have been going to Rafa for more than two decades, my afición really began to ratchet up, beginning with the advent of the Madrid Fusión Gastronomic Summit in 2003, which is held in Madrid every January.   The foreign chef and press contingent always arrives on Sunday the day before the event begins, so I began to look for places where I could take visiting journalists and chefs for one of the only free nights on the town in Madrid.  Thus, Marisquería Rafa and Casa Lucio, both being open on Sunday nights, when many other restaurants are closed, became my go to places to take foreign gastronomic luminaries to experience traditional Spanish cuisine before they began the vortex of cocina de vanguardia Ferran Adrià-inspired creative fusion cuisine on Monday morning.  

  Amercian journalists Arthur Bovino, John Sconzo and George Semler at the Bar at Rafa. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2015.

I began to rally groups of invitees to Madrid Fusión to these nights on the town.  Over the years they have included Chefs Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill (NYC), Michael Ginor (Hudson Valley Foie Gras), Ken Oringer (Toro, Boston), Jonathan Benno (then Chef of Per Se, NYC), Santa Fe’s Mark Miller, author Harold McGee, Ruth Reichl (then editor of Gourmet magazine), Jeffrey Steingarten (food critic of Vogue), Colman Andrews (Managing Editor, The Daily Meal and author of Catalan Cuisine), journalists Arthur Bovino, George Semler and John Sconzo (Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life). 



Several Madrid Fusión Gastronomic Summit attendees at the bar at Marisquería Rafa.  Among them Anne E. McBride of the Culinary Institute of America, John Sconzo (Docsconz) and Catalan events promoter, Santi Mas de Xaxàs, CEO and Founder of HuddleApp.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2016.

But, the year that the Bar at Rafa legend began to kick into high gear was 2006, when the likes of Charlie Trotter, Norman Van Aken, Tetsuya Wakuda and Don Alfonso Iaccarino were all at Madrid Fusión.  That year, I arranged, along with star Spanish food journalist, Juanma Bellver, to meet them all–three of the chefs with their significant others with them–at the Bar at Rafa for some stellar shellfish tapas, a bit of bubbly and some conversation. 
 

  Gerry Dawes, Tetsuya Wakuda, Rochelle Smith, Livia Iaccarino, Janet Van Aken, Charlie Trotter and Norman Van Aken.  Photo by Don Alfonso Iaccarino.

Casa Rafa would be the first stop, then we were going on to Sergi Arola’s new place.  Still, between the plates of jamón Ibérico de bellota, gambas rosas, salpicón de mariscos and Champagne, we managed to run up an impressive bill.  

Norman Van Aken pulled out an American Express Platinum card and tried to pay the bill.  Charlie Trotter trumped him with TWO American Express Platinum cards, then Tetsuya Wakuda pushed them both aside and plopped down his American Express BLACK card and paid the bill. 

 Spanish journalist Juanma Bellver, the late Charlie Trotter and his great friend Chef Norman Van Aken at the bar at Marisquería Rafa.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

Over the years, with or without celebrity chefs in two–more often it is talented foreign journalists who join me on these jaunts–Casa Rafa had become one of my favorite places in Madrid.  Usually with friends, sometimes alone with my friend Rafa Andrés, drifting in and out as he fulfills his duties as maitre’d and cashier, I corner one or more of the half dozen seats at the small bar and the parade of superb quality product-driven begins.

The All-Star Food Gallery at Casa Rafa
(All photos copyright 2017 by Gerry Dawes; gerrydawes@gmail.com)

 Rafa Andrés, who owns Rafa with his cousin Miguel Angel Andrés Poyo, alternates between being Chef and running the front of the house.  Miguel Angel with a plate of gambas rebozadas with romesco sauce (deep-fried, tempura-like battered shrimp).

 Rafa Andrés at the bar with his prized salpicón de bogavante, lobster melange in vinaigrette.

 Rafa's salpicón de bogavante, lobster melange in vinaigrette.

Employee at Rafa shows off a huge centollo, spider crab.

Ham cutter at Casa Rafa slicing a jamón Ibérico de bellota (ham from acorn-grazed pigs) from Joselito in Guijuelo, Salamanca.

Plate of Jamón Ibérico de bellota (ham from acorn-grazed pigs) from Joselito in Guijuelo, Salamanca at Casa Rafa.

 My long-time friend Gabriella Llamas at a table on the sidewalk terrace at Casa Rafa having the house ensaladilla Rusa (Russian potato salad with ventresca de bonito, bonito belly tuna), which has been proclaimed one of the ten best ensaladillas in Spain.

Almejas a la marinera, superb clams in a light sauce, at Marisquería Rafa.

 Boquerones en vinagre, fresh anchovies dressed in vinegar and oil at Marisquería Rafa.

 Percebes, prized Galicia goose barnacles, that taste of the essence of the sea, at Marisquería Rafa.

Rafa's salpicón de langostinos, exceptional prawns in vinaigrette.


 Espardenyas, rare "Royal" sea cucumbers, from Catalunya, an expensive and prized delicacy in Spain, at Rafa.

 Angulas, baby eels caught in estuaries in northern Spain, another rare, expensive and legendary Spanish delicacy at at Marisquería Rafa.


 American journalist Arthur Bovino doing justice to his share of angulas, baby eels caught in estuaries in northern Spain, another rare, expensive and legendary Spanish delicacy at Marisquería Rafa.
 

  Fried salmonetes, excellent small red mullet, at Marisquería Rafa.

 Langostinos cocidos, steamed prawns, at Marisquería Rafa.


 
  Exquisite gambas rosas de Denia at Marisquería Rafa.

 Exquisite gambas rosas de Denia at Marisquería Rafa done on the plancha grill with sea salt.

  Exquisite gambas rosas de Denia at Marisquería Rafa done on the plancha grill with sea salt.

 
  A pair of exquisite gambas rosas de Denia at Marisquería Rafa done on the plancha grill and served on a brick of sea salt.

My fiancee Kay Balun with a pair of exquisite gambas rosas de Denia at Marisquería Rafa done on the plancha grill and served on a brick of sea salt.

It is not all seafood at Casa Rafa, mollejas de cordero (lamb sweetbreads), served with a bottle of Décima, a lovely Ribeira Sacra Mencía-based red wine made by my friend José Manuel Rodríguez, an artisan grape farmer-winemaker, who is the only viticulturist in Spain who is the President of his denominación de origen (Ribeira Sacra).


Chuletas de cordero, baby lamb chops with fried potatoes at Casa Rafa, also with a bottle of Décima.


My long-time friend, Juan Suárez, lives near Rafa and sometimes meets me at the bar for a glass of vino and a tapa or two.   Even though Marisquería Rafa is one of the best seafood restaurants in Madrid, it is still somewhat of a neighborhood hangout in the well-to-do barrio beyond Madrid's Retiro Park.

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About Gerry Dawes

 Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

12/11/2017

The Magic of Málaga: An Ancient Quintessentially Andalucian Port City With An International Outlook Is Rapidly Becoming a Not-to-be Missed Attraction on Any Discerning Traveler’s Tour of Southern Spain (Part One of Four)



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The Magic of Málaga

 Part One of Four
Photos and Text 
by Gerry Dawes©2017

 Painting of breakfast churros being made in times past at La Malagueña, one of the great breakfast stops for tejeringos, a type of churro made famous in Málaga. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Churros cook Pablo at La Malagueña, one of the old quarter's great breakfast stops, making tejeringos, a type of locally famous in MálagaPhoto by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Until a trip in early May to attend the Málaga Gastronomy Festival, I was truly ignorant about Málaga and its unique culinary traditions.  For more than forty years I have wandered Spain, incessantly crisscrossing the country from top to bottom.  I have left few stones unturned. Except for places in the Catalan and Aragonese Pyrenees in northeastern Spain, Cartagena and much of Murcia province, a few outposts along the Portuguese border such as Cuidad Rodrigo, the city of Huelva in Andalucía and the farthest reaches of the northern coast of Galicia, I have pretty much covered the country and have visited many areas dozens of times.  It would seem that I would have delved as deeply into the major Andalucian city of Málaga--birthplace of Pablo Picasso and hometown of Antonio Banderas, who lives there now no less--as I have the other jewel cities of the South:  Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Cádiz. As I was to discover on this trip, I would regret that I had not made more time for Málaga, something I plan to remedy as soon as possible. 
I even lived for nearly three years in the province of Málaga 35 kilometers west of the city. My late former wife Diana and I ran The Dawes Gallery for Contemporary Art in Mijas, a picturesque tranquilo ex-patriate artist’s village perched high above the Costa del Sol.  But we seldom visited the provincial capital of Málaga itself, except on infrequent missions to deal with filing documents with the exasperating Spanish bureaucracy.  Even back then in the mid 1970s, traffic seemed to be a problem, so we generally avoided Málaga city.  
 
In retrospect, when we were living in Andalucía, the several pleasure outings we made to Málaga were memorable, including a few luncheons at the legendary seafood restaurant Antonio Martín (now revived as El Merendero de Antonio Martín), where my wife Diana and I had magical times dining at open-air tables right along the seawall.  We had a lovely lunch, invited by a sadly long-forgotten benefactor, at the rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Málaga Palacios overlooking the harbor and we spent a night at the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro on its spectacular perch high above the city.    

Málaga harbor from the rooftop terrace restaurant of the Hotel AC Málaga Palacios. 
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

A couple of times, we ventured just east of Málaga’s harbor for lunch at one of the famous chiringuitos (way casual beach restaurants) on the Pedregalejo fishermen’s beach.  There were chanquetes (tiny whitebait crisply fried) and sardinas al espeto, half a dozen sardines stuck on cane spike espetos (spits) and grilled over wood fires right on the beach (now the government has decreed that these grill fires cannot be on the beach, instead they are done in sand-and-pebble filled fishermen’s dinghies in front of each restaurant).  And there were particularly memorable non-Spanish dinners at Le Pic Nic, a restaurant run by a very eccentric middle-aged French couple, she at the stoves in her slip cooking marvelous old-fashioned French country food such as rabbit in a cream sauce while her husband waited the tables and dispensed the vino. 

 Sardinas and whole fish cooking al espeto, on cane spits, over live wood coals at Las Acacias chiringuito on the Pedregalejo Beach in Málaga.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Ironically, another memorable night took place on an American aircraft carrier anchored in Málaga harbor.  We had somehow met a U. S. Navy Captain pilot, with whom I had hit it off, since I had flown off aircraft carriers on Navy aircraft chasing the Soviet fleet around the Mediterranean as a Russian linguist enlisted man.  I invited the Captain to our house in Mijas for paella and he asked if he could bring a friend, an Iranian pilot training with American forces (Iran and the U. S. were still friendly then).  We passed an enjoyable afternoon with the two fliers and the Iranian pilot remarked that our paella reminded him of some Persian rice dishes in Iran.  The Navy Captain invited us to have dinner with him in the Admiral’s stateroom on board the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy in Málaga harbor.  

A Navy launch picked us up on the docks and took us to the carrier and we were given a tour of the flight deck on the carrier, where a mechanic working on an airplane with his boombox blaring American country music was a very surrealistic counterpoint to the backdrop of the illuminated Gibralfaro parador, the ancient Moorish Alcazaba fortress and Málaga harbor.  The dinner with half a dozen officers and the Admiral of the Sixth Fleet, a man who would not have surprised me if he opened his jacket and there was nothing but a robot underneath, was equally surreal: “Could you please pass the salt shaker, Fleet Commander, Sir?”

Ten years ago, one of the shore stops for a cruise ship on which I was lecturing about Spanish gastronomy, cheeses and wine docked in Málaga.  I went ashore like a tourist and photographed the wonderful Atarazanas Market, which is in a 19th-century iron-frame building fronted by a large 14th-century Moorish gate that once opened on to the harbor--but now due to centuries of development and landfill is a few blocks inside the city.  

 The wonderful Atarazanas Market, which is in a 19th-century iron-frame building fronted by a large 14th-century Moorish gate.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

  
Atarazanas Market, which is in a 19th century iron-frame building fronted by a large 14th-century Moorish gate.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.


 Olive seller, Mercado de Atarazanas, Málaga.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

On my shore prowl, for the first time, I visited the evocative Moorish fortress, the Alcazaba, which begins at the edge of the old quarter near the restored ruins of the Roman theater.   And I visited a few bars and restaurants, the most memorable of which were the venerable 19th' Century Málaga wine-dispensing bodega Antigua Casa de Guardia and the emblematic flamenco-and-bullfighter-centric restaurant in the old quarter near Málaga’s Cathedral, El Chinitas, which took its name from the 19th-centrury Málaga café cantante-teatro Chinitas (located nearby) made famous by Federico García Lorca and said to be the oldest flamenco café in Spain.  

El Chinitas, Málaga.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

 Painting of sailors on shore leave at La Antigua Casa de Guardia, Málaga.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.


 La Antigua Casa de Guardia, Málaga.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

All I saw in my short cruise ship shore excursion was promising.  I put Málaga on my list for a re-visit, but my some fifty wine-and-gastronomy travels and personal visits to Spain over the past decade were mostly in northern Spain, along the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Alicante or in the western part of Andalucia.  Except for a return visit to Mijas to visit old friends, Málaga did not tempt me enough to make time in my schedule for a follow-up visit.  

 Málaga Gastronomy Festival 2017 poster. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

I will not try to claim that Málaga’s culinary scene rivals Barcelona, San Sebastián or Madrid, but I found that not only were there some good authentic regional restaurants (augmented by the classic chiringuitos, those legendary beach-front joints specializing in wood-fire grilled sardines and whole fish);  funky, wonderful old-time tapas bars;  churros and chocolate emporiums; and the great Atarazanas market and its market bars, there were several promising modern cuisine restaurants.  And there are more than enough tourist attractions and ambience to warrant a serious visit and even an extended stay to this ancient, yet simultaneously modern, international and vibrant quintessential Mediterranean city.  

 Human statue of El Cenachero on Calle Larios, one of the most famous streets in Málaga.  Cenacheros were men who used to sell boquerones and sardines that they brought up in cenachos (baskets) from the fishing boats in the port, and sell them in the streets (and in villages, sometimes miles away from the sea).    Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

First off, it helps to separate Málaga city from the storied and somewhat notorious Costa del Sol, famous for its beaches, booze and high-rise vacation package tour hotels and apartments blocking views of the Mediterranean for miles. Much of the Costa del Sol caters to mass tourism, is attractive as a retirees’ haven and is home to Marbella, where I also once lived before it became the full-bore, high-rent magnet for well-heeled, but not well-behaved, nuevo Euro-ricos, Spanish celebrities, aristocrats, wealthy yacht owners, corrupt politicians (a redundancy these days) and those attracted to that scene which might be likened to a mini-Las Vegas, but by the sea and without the surfeit of casinos.  

Most people who fly into Málaga airport, located between Málaga and Torremolinos, upon landing take an immediate right turn and head west for Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Marbella, Estepona and on down to Sotogrande, the famous golf resort in neighboring Cádiz province.  And, though some of them may make a perfunctory day trip to Málaga for a visit to the Picasso Museum (Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and lived there for the first ten years of his life), but most visitors to the Costa del Sol remain scattered throughout the beaches town along the coast.   

Although there are plenty of foreign visitors, many of them off cruise ships for the day, Málaga has managed to maintain its very singular Andalucian character.  This ancient city that the Phoenicians knew as Malaka now deserves to break into the ranks of the not-to-be missed Andalucian classics--Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba--and become the fourth must-see city on the Andalucian circuit.  And, like, those other three cities, the restaurants, tapas bars and shopping in Málaga are intertwined with central city sites of real tourist merit such as the restored Roman theater, the 8th-century Alcazaba fortress, the 14th-century Moorish doorway to the wonderful Ataranzanas market, the 16th-18th century Italian Renaissance-style Cathedral (called La Manquita, the one-armed lady, because the builders ran out of money to finish the second bell tower meant to complement the existing one) and the life-size bronze statue of the great Danish fairy tale author, Hans Christian Andersen. 

Málaga harbor, lighthouse and Moorish Alcazaba fortress (middleground).   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.


Commissioned in 2004 for the 200th anniversary of the author's birth by the Danish Royal Family, the Statue of Hans Christian Andersen is a work in bronze by sculptor José María Córdoba and is located in the Plaza de la Marina de Málaga.  Andersen visited Málaga in October of 1862 and loved the city.   You can sit beside him on the bench and peek into his bag, which contains The Ugly Duckling.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

Augmenting the city’s historical treasures, Málaga, in just a little more than a decade has become a serious art museum attraction with the Picasso Museum (opened in 2003), the Casa Natal de Picasso (the artist’s restored home of his youth), Museo Carmen Thyssen (a collection of more than 200 paintings from the collection of the Spanish baroness who owns many of the paintings at the  Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid), el Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Centre Pompidou Málaga (the only branch outside of France), the Colección del Museo Ruso (believe it or not, an outpost of the State Russian Museum collection in St. Petersburg),  and a burgeoning artsy neighborhood called SOHO next to the port contribute to the city’s now considerable cultural attractions. 

 Sign on a bus stop in Málaga, advertising the then relatively new Picasso Museum, which opened 2003 and has been a major draw for tourists ever since.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

Spaniards have a saying, mejor tarde que nunca, better late than never.  Late my re-discovery of Málaga may be, but I plan to make up for lost time and put this magical city high on my agenda for future visits.

 Spanish draft cerveza and habitas con jamón (baby faba beans with serrano ham) at Restaurante El Chinitas in Málaga.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006.

End of Part One

The Magic of Málaga (Part Two of Four: A Quintessentially Andalucian Port City With An International Outlook Is Rapidly Becoming a Not-to-be Missed Attraction


The Magic of Málaga, Picasso’s Hometown: The Unique Traditional Andalusian Ambience and Cuisine of a Trending Modern City (Part Three of Four)



The Magic of Málaga, Picasso’s Hometown: Unique Traditional Andalusian Ambience and Cuisine of a Trending Modern City (Part Four of Four)

 

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 About Gerry Dawes

 Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

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