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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


From Sevilla's Hotel Alfonso XIII to Lentejas con Chorizo: Adventures on the Mountain Roads Between Sevilla & Ronda: Feb. 5, 2019 Sevilla-Venta Los Polancos, El Coronil (Sevilla)-Zahara de la Sierra-Grazalema-Ronda

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Tuesday, Feb. 5 Sevilla – El Coronil – Zahara de la Sierra – Grazalema - Ronda
(Note: All text & photographs, except when otherwise indicated, are by Gerry Dawes©2019.)
Stuffed local wild boar's head at Venta Los Polancos, El Coronil (Sevilla province). 

Kay Balun and Gerry Dawes in the patio of Hotel Alfonso XIII, Sevilla.

At noon, we checked out of the Alfonso XIII and, because of the now very complicated traffic patterns in Sevilla, we took our luggage with us in a taxi to Santa Justa station, where we picked up our Budget (Avis) rental car and headed for Ronda via the foothills village of El Coronil, still in Sevilla province,  to Zahara de la Sierra, over the Puerto de la Palomas mountain pass to the spectacular mountain-bound white village of Grazalema, then to Ronda, where we checked into the Hotel Colon, calle del Pozo 1, Ronda.  

AVE high-speed train in the Santa Justa station in Sevilla.

On two successive days, I drove Kay through the stunning Pueblos Blancos, White Villages, of Andalucía’s Cádiz province and into neighboring Málaga to the mountain city of Ronda, once a hideout for bandoleros (mountain bandits and smugglers; see the opera Carmen).  I have been visiting these areas since 1968 and have made a score of trips through these spectacular towns that area imbedded in equally spectacular natural settings.

We left Sevilla on the morning of Feb. 5, 2019 and drove via the foothills village of El Coronil on our way to Ronda.  For lunch was looking for a restaurant that I knew from many years ago, but it was closed, so we drove on a few kilometers looking for a classic venta, one of those beloved roadside restaurants that attract people traveling through the rural areas of Andalucía and weekenders out for drives in the country.  If the venta is particulary good, it can be worry of a dedicated day trip.  

The one we found for lunch at Venta El Polancar, outside of El Coronil, was not a venta of legend, but it was cheap—just 8.5 Euros apiece—and the modest dishes we had were decently made and satisfying.    It was getting close to 4 p.m. and we were the only ones in the dining room, unless you count the stuffed boar's head mounted on the wall.

I had my long-time favorite, salmorejo, a thicker Córdoban version of gazpacho, and lentejas con chorizo, a lentil stew with chorizo, and they gave us a plate of house-cured green olives, plus I had a tall glass of draft beer.  Kay’s sopa de picadillo, a typical soup with diced ham and egg in it, and a fried fish and calamar plate did not fare as well as I did.   Total 17 Euros, plus a couple of Euros tip. 

Salmorejo, a thicker Córdoban version of gazpacho, with a tall glass of draft beer and house-cured olives.

 Lentejas con chorizo, a lentil stew with chorizo, at Venta Los Polancos.

See following posts on Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema and Ronda.
 Gastronomy Blogs
 About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on WPWL 103.7 FM Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York.

  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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