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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)




10/16/2017

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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The Magic of Málaga, Picasso’s Hometown: 
Part Four of Four


Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes©2017
 

Pablo Picasso refrigerator magnets, sold on the streets of Málaga.

Frequently during my peregrinations in the old quarter, I saw signs pointing to the Picasso Museum and to his natal home, announcements with photographs of Picasso on them, drawings and photographs in restaurants (like the ones at Casa de Guardia and El Chinitas), Picasso reproductions in souvenir shops and even refrigerator magnets of Picasso as a mature artist painting.  There is also a bronze statue in the Plaza de la Merced of middle-aged Picasso seated on a bench with a pencil and a drawing pad.  

The statue in the Plaza de la Merced depicting a scene of a middle-aged Picasso on a bench in Málaga poised to make a drawing, something that could not have occurred here during his adult life, as depicted.  (Photo courtesy of Lovely World.)

But, though Pablo Ruíz Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881, he lived there for just the first ten years of his life.  His father was an artist and art instructor and Picasso, then just Pablo Ruíz (Spaniards take both their father´s and mother´s names, but are usually known by the father´s name).   Legend, abetted by Picasso himself, has a very precocious young Pablo beginning to draw before he could talk and when he did began speaking, it is claimed that his first word was "'piz," a shortened version of lápiz, Spanish for pencil. 

Picasso hated school and as a young boy he had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the old quarter of Málaga to school, where he ignored his teachers and spent most of his day drawing at his desk. 

Because of the family´s fragile economic circumstances, his father took another job teaching art  and his family moved to A Coruna in Galicia for a few years, then to Barcelona, where Picasso began hanging out (and drawing inspiration) at the artists-owned Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats) Café in 1900.  During vacations, the Ruíz Picasso (his father was José Ruíz, his mother Maria Picasso) family had visited relatives in Málaga.  But, Picasso returned to Málaga for the last time after Christmas in 1900 with his ill-fated, suicidal Catalan friend Carles Casagemas.  He moved permanently to France in 1905 and returned to Spain only for vacations in and around Barcelona.  

During the Spanish Civil War and WWII, Picasso, a fervent anti-Fascist, remained in France.  Commissioned in 1937 during the Civil War by the Spanish Republic,  Picasso painted Guernica, the famous anti-Fascist painting inspired the Nazi-led bombing of the Basque village of Gernika on market day during the Spanish Civil War.   After the war, Picasso kept the vow he made to never return as long as Civil War victor, the Fascist Dictator Francisco Franco, was alive.  

 Guernica (Gernika in Basque) by Pablo Picasso, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid.

Sadly, Franco outlived Picasso, who died in 1973, by two and a half years, so the great artist never returned to Spain after the Civil War, and apparently, except for those few family visits and the post-Christmas jaunt when he was 19, never returned to Málaga.  Though the city has every right to promote itself as Picasso’s birthplace and to promote the excellent Picasso Museum, there is little of substance to Picasso’s early home and the statue in the Plaza de la Merced depicting a scene of a middle-aged Picasso on a bench in Málaga poised to make a drawing, something that could not have occurred here as depicted.  

During our stay, our crew of journalists spent one day outside of Málaga, visiting the good La Torre olive oil producing facility and orchards, then to Cortijo de la Fuente, a Sierras de Málaga winery making unremarkable wines, and on to the Stone Age dolmens in Antequera, one of Málaga province’s oldest and most interesting towns.  

 Víctor Pérez, Director, Finca la Torre Olive Oil producer (owned by a Swiss company) near Boabadilla (Málaga).   Shown with a bottle of Finca la Torre Hojiblanca variety Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The high point of the excursion was a marvelous restaurant in Antequera, Arte de Cozina, which is ensconced in the charm-ing, take-me-back-three-centuries patio of a 17th-century building that houses the restaurant and charming small hotel.  

Patio dining room at Arte de Cozina.

Chef-owner Charo Carmona and her son, Francisco, are cook-ing exceptional modernized versions of area classics, some with recipes dating from the 16th Century, but it is highly doubtful that they ever tasted as good then as they do now from Charo’s kitchen.  Her food exemplifies the best of this style of retro-Spanish cooking.   She gives out cards with descriptions, citations from 16th-18th- century cookbooks that inspired the dish, and the recipes.  

 Chef-owner Charo Carmona and her son, Francisco,
Restaurante Arte de Cozina, Antequera


At Arte de Cozian, Carmona offers classic porra antequerana (similar to the thick gazpacho-like Cordoban salmorejo), served in three different versions in a three-portion china rectangle. . .

Carmona offers classic porra antequerana (similar to the thick gazpacho-like Cordoban salmorejo), served in three different versions in a three-portion china rectangle and accompanied by thin strips of toasted bread:   Porra de tomate, a thick gazpacho-esque locally sourced ecological tomato-based soup-sauce-dip; porra blanca, a white garlicky version; and local oranges-based porra de naranja.  

Carmona’s menu is brilliant and enticing, yet homey and comforting.  She offers five kinds of gazpacho, including the traditional tomato-based classic, one made with organic green asparagus, ajo blanco (white garlic gazpacho, one with almonds and another with dried fabas) and a Sephardic-inspired one with yogurt, cucumber, parsley, walnut and onion. 

Carmona’s croquetas, the indispensable croquettes of Spain, come filled with stew meat, salt cod, shrimp, spinach and pine nuts or goat cheese.  Perdíz en caldo gazpacho is a traditional  dish of partridge in a Antequerana gazpacho sauce. There are three different cuts of Ibérico pork (the pigs from which the famous hams come), local suckling goat sweetbreads with garlic, and traditional or Russian-style caviar from nearby Río Frío (Granada). 


Perdíz en caldo gazpacho is a traditional  dish of partridge in a Antequerana gazpacho sauce.  

That same evening, the lunch that we had at Arte de Cozina was in stark juxtaposition to the Spanish chef-driven modern cuisine experience we had at dinner.  We were bused to Benalmadena (26 kms. west of Málaga) to the Michelin one-star cocina de vanguardia restaurant, Sollo, in the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa, the domain of budding Brasilian rock-star  chef Diego Gallegos. 

 Michelin one-star cocina de vanguardia restaurant, Sollo, in the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa, the domain of budding Brasilian rock-star  chef Diego Gallegos. 


Gallegos learned a lot about river fish, particularly trout and sturgeon, when he worked in Río Frío (Granada), a mountain river fish farming town where he sources his trout, sturgeon and sturgeon caviar (he is known locally as the “caviar chef”).   

 Granada Riofrio caviar Restaurante Sollo, Benalmadena.

 Fish in the pisifactoria at Restaurante Sollo.

Diego Gallegos also raises many of the fish he uses in his dishes in tanks at this fish farm- (river and sea) to-table restaurant, which ironically overlooks the Mediterranean.  With the chef, we visited his pisifactoria, where fish were being raised in large tanks to become part of such dishes on the 18-course menu as Yogurt Protein with Piranha Slice Sumac (sic) and Black Olive Powder (I wondered whose job it is to tell a piranha it’s next?), Grilled Fish mixed with Sturgeon Blood Sauce and Ramen Soup of Catfish Whiskers and Skin.  If these dishes don’t sound particularly appetizing, perhaps on snack served on a dried, chopped off sturgeon head won’t either. 

 Snack served on a dried, chopped off sturgeon head at Restaurante Sollo, Benalmadena.

Fortunately, for the traditional Spanish cuisine lover in me, most of my experiences were centered the traditional aspects of Màlagan cuisine.  The remainder of the visit would be concentrated on what makes Màlaga such a discovery for culinary explorers.  

On the last day, we ran a gamut of traditional cuisine experiences that makes Málaga so unique.  On an ambulatory prowl around the old quarter, we stopped for our “first” breakfast at La Malagueña, where we were served piles of crisp, freshly fried churros, called tejeringos in Málaga that has its base in a naughty double entendre having to do with an “injector,” a syringe or jeringo in Spanish (you can fill in the rest).  Loops of hot tejeringos, stacked several inches high on a plate, come with cups of thick rich hot chocolate Spanish style or coffee. 

 Waiter with tejeringos at La Malagueña. 



Loops of hot tejeringos, stacked several inches high on a plate, come with cups of thick rich hot chocolate Spanish style or coffee. 

 Pablo, the tejeringos cooker at La Malagueña.


Gastronomic research is Hell, so we moved on for what would be a peripatetic, unique multi-course desayuno-tapas-almuerzo meandering across the old city.  The next stop was in a funky antique-curio-gift shop-restaurant (open for breakfast and lunch only) called La Recova (egg and poultry shop) with a few tables and a small kitchen surrounded by furniture, ceramics, baskets, bric a brac, etc.   

 
We sat at a few tables pushed together in the center of the room and ate rebanadas, thin slices of toasted bread, served with little dishes filled with jam, sobresada (Mallorcan paté-like soft chorizo) and zurrapa (the Spanish equivalent of rillettes) and sides of sliced tomatoes, Spanish cured sausages and olives. 

 
Our merienda—meal between breakfast and lunch—drink at La Recova was the lightly sweet house vermut rojo (red-brown vermouth) on the rocks with slices of lemon and orange.


We toured the Ataranzas market (Click on link for report on market), then stopped at nearby Antigua Casa de Guardia, where we sampled copitas of Málaga wine with clams on the half shell, steamed langostinos (prawns), mejillones (mussels) and skewers with anchovies, pearl onions, pickles and olives.  

Chef-owner Willie Orellana, Uvedoble Taberna.

Many of the group went on another museum tour, but I opted for meeting up later at Uve Doble, the eponymous “W” for chef-owner Willie Orellana, whose very good food features tasteful modern twists on classics such as a Spanish tortilla de patatas trufada al momento (classic potato Spanish omelette with truffles) and fideos negros tostados with calamarcitos de Málaga (a smallish macaroni-like pasta, toasted, “blackened” with squid ink and cooked with baby Bay of Málaga squid).  

Orellana intersperses his menu with internationally inspired dishes such as swordfish ceviche with avocado grown in the nearby Axarquia region and deboned suckling pig with cous cous.   Wine offerings on the blackboard at Uve Doble are some of the most inspired in the city. 

 Spanish tortilla de patatas trufada al momento (classic potato Spanish omelette with truffles).


Fideos negros tostados with calamarcitos de Málaga (a smallish macaroni-like pasta, toasted, “blackened” with squid ink and cooked with baby Bay of Málaga squid).  

Following an hour sampling food at the Málaga Gastronomy Festival, which was held down by the port, I organized an escape with four other journalists by taxi to Pedregalejo, where I returned to those fabled chiringuitos, beach front restaurants specializing in sardinas al espeto, sardines impaled on a cane spit and grilled over wood coals.   

 Sardinas al espeto, sardines impaled on a cane spit and grilled over wood coals at chiringuito Las Acacias, Pedregalejo (Málaga)

There were a dozen chiringuitos on the beach, all with sand-filled fisherman’s dinghies permanently beached in front of each restaurant, all glowing with hot coals cooking sardines and fish on spits.  We settled on the outdoor terrace of Las Acacias and I ordered two dozen sardines, communal plates of salad and bottles of cold Spanish Rosado and we ate and drank just a few feet from the Mediterranean with the smell of the sardines and the sea, the embers of the fish cooking coals glowing in the night and beyond, the lights of Málaga, just three miles down the coast to the west. 


On Pedregalejo beach, I had closed a circle and gained a new appreciation of Málaga, one that I regret not taking more advantage of in my youth.  Spaniards have a saying, mejor tarde que nunca, better late than never.  As late as my re-discovery of Málaga may have been, I plan to make up for lost time and put this magical city high on my agenda. 
 
Painting on tiles at Las Acacias of el Cenachero, the fishmonger with baskets of sardinas and boquerones, the great folk symbol of Málaga.

See also:


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

 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.
 
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