Once a quick bite now a gastronomical food concept

Tapas have been part of Spanish culture for many years. Today “tapas” is a food concept that stands for fun, drinks and sharing food with friends.  Back in the 20th century the Andalusian habbit slowly gained more popularity all over Spain , I you might even call it a food revolution that took over Spain  and maybe even the entire world. To think it all started like a little piece of food to go with you glass of wine like olives or a slice of ham??!! Nowadays this has changed into a table full of little plates with which you take a glass of wine 🙂 🙂 Today besides the “traditional” tortilla, patatas bravas, etc..; chef also try to be more creative and you get the feeling you’re eating 3 Michelin starred dishes.

krokets Tapas classic

I have travelled quite a bit in Spain and for me the best “Tapas” Can be found in San Sebastian. In most other places I found that most tapas were deep-fried or very fat, whereas in San Sebastian I found more creative and refined ones. Not that I mind eating a ‘classic’ patatas brava once in a while, but not every day. The world famous Spanish chef Ferrán Adriá  calls the tapas the best Spanish (gastronomical) export product, which is most certainly is. If now people are serving lots of little plates of food or going to a restaurant where they serve little dishes that are to be shared..; everybody always refers to it as “Tapas style”… I find it remarkable that in such a short period of time it gained so much success. I also would be surprised it would become a new word in the dictionaries 🙂 in all languages.

Tapas exist out of 3 essential basic elements: Quality of ingredients, taste and  the ambiance of the location. Although it must be said that the “social aspect” like good company, etc… of Tapas experience is becoming the most important. A few weeks ago I was invited in Brussels to celebrate the Day of the Tapas. For this celebration Michelin star chef Iván Cerdeño (Carmen de Montesión ). What he brought was the classics in a revisited version… I can only say that what he served was again great example of the top level of Spanish gastronomy!!

Ivan Cerdeno tAPAS 2 Tapas

I know it seems strange that an Italian writes about Spanish food, but I’m a big Tapas (or Spanish cuisine for that matter) lover and I’m not afraid to say it 🙂 !!!  It are also our Spanish friends like the Roca brothers  (El celler the can Roca) and before them the Ferrán brothers (El Bulli) that changed the entire world of Gastronomy! Let’s not forget that!! Spanish kitchen today stands for innovation and refinement.

tapas el bulli

If you would like to know some spots where I enjoyed eating Tapas all over Spain, please following link


Spanish premium style bubbles

When people talk about Cava wine they always feel the need to compare it with Champagne (the same goes for Spumante or Prosecco). They mostly also see Cava (or prosecco or Spumante or any other sparkling wine) as an inferior product compared to Champagne. To my opinion the only things they have in common is the way they get produced and the fact they both have bubbles in them… besides that it are products that have their own style with their own identity and characteristics. That one prefers drinking Champagne over Cava (or another sparkling wine) or vice versa is a matter of taste and preference for a particular style (or that’s what it should be, not just because of the name of a product). This doesn’t mean I don’t like Champagne, I’m just saying there is more than only Champagne 🙂

Cava premium pic by CRC

A few weeks ago I joined a dinner hosted by the Spanish Ambassador to get to know the top segment of Spanish bubbles aka Premium Cava’s. The choice of restaurant for this dinner at ‘Le Chalet de la fôret’ didn’t come as an entire surprise knowing the restaurant recently added a new TOP member to their team. After working 4 beautiful years at the legendary restaurant ‘Comme Chez Soi’ my dear friend César Roman decided it was time for something new and joined the 2 Michelin starred restaurant ‘Le Chalet de la fôret’s team. I cannot imagine a better ‘ambassador’ for Spanish wines than César, he’s one very proud Spanish person 🙂 (who can blame him?). César’s aim at ‘Le Chalet de la fôret’ is making their wine cellar the most beautiful/best in Belgium…





Did you know the following things about Cava? Did you know that yearly there are produced around 241 million bottles on over 33 352 hectares of land ? With 97% of the land being in the Sant Sadurni d’Anoia region, basically the area around Barcelona (to keep it simple). It also seem that Belgians are on the most important cava drinkers. There are 3 kinds of Cava: Cava (around 9 months of aging), Cava Reserva (around 15 months of aging)and Cava Gran Reserva (around 30 months of aging)?  Of the 241 million bottles I mentioned before 30 million are considered as Premium cava which are Special Cuvées, Reserva’s and Gran Reserva’s….

Types of cava

The biggest “problem” during the dinner was keeping up the pass :-). There were about 10 different Cava’s served during our 5 course meal. It might not seem a lot, but you would be surprised…. You probably think I will say I loved every Cava we were served during the dinner, to that I say no! There were some I preferred over others, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t good, they just were not my cup of tea…  (of course not, you were having Cava not tea 😉 OK, bad joke). We started and ended in the same way, with beautiful bubbles 🙂

Just FYI the full list of cava’s we tasted:

My preferred Cava’s of the night were the 2010 Núria Claverol by Sumarroca because of its complex brioche/almond/ smokey aroma’s with citrus accents and even hinds of pear… basically a rich cava with refined buttery touches 🙂 (butter = good). Fun fact, the bottles of the Núria are numbered… Another favorite is the 2012 Maria Del Mar Brut Nature  Gran Reserva by Pere Ventura that has a ‘creamy’ texture with more or less the fruity accents as the previous one, but this time more herbal tones as well. Next in my favorites list would be the 2004 Reserva Particular by Recaredo. I notice  loads of tropical fruits, ‘jammed’ citrus (like a marmalade), fresh bakery accents with sweet spices  with a very fresh and pleasant elegance with a medium long after taste… simply beautiful!! Last but not least the 2013 Subirat Parent Brut Reserva by Vilarnau. The last one is one that I think is the biggest ‘everybody’s friend’ of the whole evening as the other cava’s were more complex and therefor more special… The Vilarnau had a very fruity (lycee, peach) smell, the taste reminded me a bit of a tropical fruit salad 🙂 basically a very pretty and distinctive wine. I was surprised that eventhough of the premium Cava’s came from bigger Bodegas, they were not of lower quality!! SO basically size doesn’t seem to matter in Spain 🙂 😉 (just pointing out the facts)


As we ate at a lovely restaurant like Le Chalet de la fôret something must also be said about the food?! In general you can say that ever dish looks like a picture and you can see the advanced way of cooking from the first look you give to the plate…however you do see that the chefs knows his basics as they come back in every dish (you need to know the basics before you can start experimenting). The first dish one the menu was (after some appetizers) a grilled cadoret Oyster from Bretagne, buckwheat  and iodée vinaigrette, followed by a seabass (line caught) salisfy, Jerusalem artichoke and a Xarel-Lo sauce . To continue with pheasant breast with white truffle, foie gras sauce, pumpkin variation and sautéed ceps. Followed by a melted Old Bruges cheese. To finish with a chocolate dessert with mushrooms. Yes mushrooms 🙂 I must admit that this was the strangest dish of all and not really my thing, but i finished it anyhow

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The dish that after 2 weeks is still the first image that pops in my head when thinking of Le Chalet is  the pheasant breast with white truffle, foie gras sauce, pumpkin variation and sautéed ceps. Maybe for that reason the Cava served with this (Particular de Recaredo Gran Reserva by Recaredo) was one of my favorites? Who knows 🙂


The dinner wouldn’t end perfect without all the ‘friandises’ aka sweets that come with the coffee 🙂 The chefs have outdone themselves as I like every piece of the assortment 🙂 🙂

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An evening to remember!! In case you would want more info on Cava don’t hesitate to contact the Cava Rugulatory board as they will be able to answer all you questions 🙂

Spanish summer in a glass

Who knew Halle (near Brussels) could feel like Spain or even feel like summer in middle of winter?! Andy De Brouwer did as he was the one to create this oasis in his restaurant Les Eleveurs (aka a Walhalla for food and wine 🙂 ) together with the Rueda wine region.  Rueda might not seem too familiar, but Verdejo might ring a bell for more people as it is without any doubt the Spain’s most famous white wine… or one of as technically speaking Sherry (Jerez) is also a white wine 🙂

Rueda location

Rueda location (2)

The Rueda region is located in the North of Spain between Portugal and that other very famous Spanish wine region Rioja. You can see it as the Spanish part of the Portuguese Douro valley as the Duera (Douro) river continues its path in this region. The vineyards/vines in the Rueda region are planted 700 to 800 meters above sea- level on dark grey – brown soils… mostly  stony (but easy to farm), with good ventilation and draining. Important to know is that the soil is very rich of calcium and magnesium essential for a good development of the vines.

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I must rephrase what I said before as I said this region mostly know for it white wine, but it does also have some world renowned red’s of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Leon. The wine grape of Toro, called Tinta de Toro, has long been considered a mutant of Tempranillo (one of the main grapes in the Rioja region).  Today we’ll be focusing on the white wines.

Why I referred to summer is because the Rueda wines or Verdejo is the perfect wine for on a warm summer’s day in the garden under a pergola with some olives or some thinly sliced Parma ham or Pata Negra. Basically an everyman’s friend…  young, playful, refreshing, smooth and floral. Typically Verdejo wines are aromatic (very fruity), often soft, and full-bodied. That full-bodyness it has to thank to the altitude on which the grapes  are grown (+600m)

Rueda wines

If Andy wouldn’t have told me it would have taking me much longer to find out what the smell and taste of the Verdejo reminded me of, as it did remind me of something I had tasted before… Apparently the Verdejo grape is a sister grape of Sauvignon Blanc and therefore has more or less the same notions as a Sauvignon Blanc and the confuse the enemy even more they sometimes also blend the 2 grape kinds together 🙂 . Sooo being a Sauvignon Blanc lover it won’t come as a surprise I like Verdejo wines as well??!! Also this was the reason it seemed so familiar.  But do keep in mind that it are young wines that should be drunk young as they are not really aging material… also most Verdejo or Rueda wines in general (white ones) haven’t seen too much wooden barrels, which also isn’t necessary as it would make this already  lovely wine more complex without too much reason if it would stay a long time in wooden barrels:-).If they blend the Verdejo with the Sauvignon Blanc it will make a richer and more aromatic wine.



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We can do is a make a little distinction between the wines that are really ‘apero’ material as other do require a little snack or dish with it… From the 9 wines we tasted, the first 3 were the perfect example of non expensive (around 7 EUR)  ‘apero’ or ‘summery’ wines (don’t get me wrong all 9 go well without food, but the 3 first best). The wines I’m talking about were a 2013 Rueda Verdejo by  Marqués de Riscal (100% Verdejo), a 2013 Verdejo by  Emina (100% Verdejo)  and last but not least the 2013 Badajo Rueda Verdejo by Gotica. I loved the label from the Badajo as it reminded me a of the wallpaper I used on one of the walls from my still to be born daughter 🙂 🙂  (JUST FYI). Although all 3 wines are 100% of Verdejo grapes you could taste a small difference, the Marques de Riscal fruitier, whereas the Emina was more silt/salty like. FYI all the wines I’m mentioning are available in Belgium.

Apero Ruedas

What I did enjoy was that for the remaining wines Andy and Nico (chef from Les Eleveurs) created and found some great matching dishes tapa style to go with the wines :-). The first matching dish they had to find was to fit with the 2013 Analivia Verdejo by Pagos del Rey. Although it won’t come as a surprise that most dishes included fish as although with can also match some meats the best pairing is still with fish… So for the first dish they went for a puffed  codfish skin with hand peeled grey shrimps and avocado. The freshness of the dish went perfectly with the fruitiness and freshness of the wine. I do love my grey shrimps from the North-sea!!


Followed by crayfish with a risotto ‘croquette’ to match the Verdejo de Alberto still in the wine types of before nothing extravagant yet, just lovely and easy to drink.


The wines that were about to follow were slightly more ‘complex’ wines in comparison with the previous ones as some of them did get a little wooden barrel time (not too much though). The Verdejo from Traslagares  is a good example.Well balanced acidity with a touch of bitterness and the taste for 2nd glass and one the favorites of the evening 🙂 Perfect for the hand-caught bass with eggplant caviar and a black olive crumble.


As first non fish dish we received a on low heat roasted chicken leg Moroccan style paired for the Rueda Verdejo wine by Reina de Castilla probably the most complex wine together with the last wine of the night.


The frosting on the cake is always the dessert, isn’t it? Normally they had forseen cheeses, but as I’m not really a cheesy guy (in every sense of the word) they gave me a caramel/pear/ice/chocolat dessert which also match perfect with I think favorite wine of the evening the PR3 Barricas Verdejo by Prado Rey that has been on wood for 9 months… which is a long time for this type of wine and results in a stronger wine, but still not too complex, I’d rather call it tropical with a light wood sense in between .



I can’t wait for it to be summer, but I’m sure glass of Rueda wine will help me to keep patient as it truly is summer in a glass!

Hope to visit this region some day!

Thanks to Rueda Wines and Andy De Brouwer for learning me more about wines…

The mandatory holiday wine trip: Bodegas Beronia

The last few years my interest for knowing more about wines has grown a lot. I’m also of the opinion that you learn the most about something (in this case wine) by visiting the actual vineyards instead of reading about it in books… That’s why mostly in the last 2 years I visited quit a few vineyards in Europe. Being only 1 ½ hour drive from the Rioja wine region during my stay at San Sebastian, it would  be a crime not to visit some Bodegas… Like with the food I promised my beautiful wife that I would only be visiting 1 vineyard during our trip (although there were a few more I wanted to visit), so I had to choose wisely :-). Just like with the food in San Sebastian, here I again have the perfect excuse to come back to Rioja.

Beronia logo

I decided to visit Bodegas Beronia, which was a decision I quickly made because the first time I tasted one of their wines at restaurant Pazzo in Antwerp I became a fan. I know there are lots of great Bodegas in Rioja like Muga or Viña Tondonia… but 1 vineyard is 1 vineyard and a promise a promise 🙂 and Bodegas Beronia seemed like the perfect place to start learning more about Rioja wines. Bodegas Beronia was founded in 1973 by a Gastronomy club and since 1982 is part of the Gonzalez-Byass group who helped Bodegas Beronia to grow and to invest in new technologies. In 1973 the winemaking was more to provide friends and family from wine, nowadays they produce around 5 million bottles and this without reducing the quality the founders aimed and cherished. They basically helped them to make an even better product.




Just like with all my blog posts about wine regions, also for Rioja wines there are a few basic things you should know. But don’t worry I won’t get to technical and try to keep it as simple as possible. Let me start with the Rioja region itself. This region can be subdivided in 3 regions – Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. With the last area (Baja) being the most southern, where due to the drier and warmer climate than in the other 2 resulting in deeply coloured and higher/more alcoholic wines with some wines at 18% alcohol (due to the more sugar in the grapes because of the warmth). They usually blend this wine with wine from the other 2 regions. Rioja Alta on the other hand is close to the little town called Haro and as “Alta” may already make suspect is also located more North. Rioja Alta  is also the region where Bodegas Beronia is located. In the Alta region (located higher above sea level) produces brighter fruit flavored wines and in comparison with the ones from the Baja region with a lesser alcoholic percentage. The most full body wines will be produced in the Alavesa region. So mix the 3 together and you have a winner ;-). I must also add that most of the wines produced in the Rioja are red, you can also get white and rosé wines (some also very good ones), but the focus is mostly on red wines.

Rioja by wine & excellence

To make the Rioja wines they always use a blend (mix) from a few grape variaties mostly Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Just FYI, the Tempranillo will make that you can age the wine more. For the white ones they will mostly use Macabeo in combination with another grape like Malvasia for example.


FYI, just like in other wines region in Rioja there also is a Supervising board to make sure the wine is made according to the rules and tradition. For example vineyards can only use small barrels not the huge ones you sometimes see in other wine regions… or the cost of the grapes used to make Rioja must exceed by at least 200% the national average of wine grapes used in all Spanish wines.

The aging of the Rioja wines happens in French oak, American oak or both types of oak. The biggest reason (historically) why they also started using American oak is that French oak was getting very expense back in the days… and this would in the end result in the wine makers having to sell their wines more expensive and having less competitive price







After the location and grapes used is maybe the difference between the types of wines. There are 4 categories:

  • Rioja: less than 1 year aging in wooden barrels
  • Crianza: aged for at least 2 years from which 1 at least in wooden barrels. At Bodegas Beronia. 1 year in wooden barrels and the rest in bottle.
  • Rioja Riserva: aging at least 3 years of which at least 1 in wooden barrels. At Bodegas Beronia it stays 18 months in wooden barrels and 18 months in bottle before being released.
  • Rioja Gran Riserva: aging at least 2 years in wooden barrels and 3 years in bottle and only produced in exceptional years. In case of Bodegas Beronia the last vintage for the Gran Riserva was 2005 and aged 24 months in French and American oak and I don’t think it has yet been released on the market

The references I make to the Bodegas Beronia wines above are the ones from the Classic range as they also have a few other ranges like Single variety (100% wine of 1 type of grape), Premium Range (special vintages) and ecological wines.


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A vineyard visit without tasting is like going to a bakery without buying bread… Bodegas Beronia or better Julia and Maria-Jesus assembled a collection of wines for me to tasting out of the first 3 wine ranges. If you don’t know much about wines and want to get introduced or better to get used to the Rioja wine taste the best way to do this by tasting the Single variety wines that as mentioned are made 100% from 1 grape kind (Tempranillo, Graciano, Viura and Mazuelo). You can see them as an “everybody’s friend”. With as exception the Mazuelo as it has a quit exceptional taste that most people would only appreciate accompanied by a good steak or aged red meat (or strong cheeses)… so more for the advanced wine lover to taste without food :-). I liked the Mazuelo a lot even without the food and can’t wait to heat up the BBQ for that meat 😉 to complete the wine taste even more. Oh yes, a taste I liked a lot in this wine was the taste en smell of mele cotogne jam (I think in English this is called quince apples)  which brings me back to my family in Croatia who filled pancakes with this jam 🙂 and is a standard to eat when I visit them.


The Classic Range (or better Reserva and Gran Reserva) and Premium wines where definitely of a next level and 100% my cup of tea. It was actually their Rioja Reserva that convinced me of their quality a few years ago at restaurant Pazzo and during my tasting at the Bodega convinced me again. Having a alcohol percentage between 13,5 and 14% and having aged in new oak barrels their taste is much more elegant, fruity and fresh than one would expect. You would expect a more aggressive and wood taste and scent. Which one I liked best if difficult to say, that’s why I bought all of them to try again at home 😉 (Les excuses sont fait pour s’en server). I have already done the effort of not going to the top restaurants, so some wine for me seems like an honest alternative.

No the real reason is just because they all have their particular taste and depending on the occasion one wine will be more fitting than the other. Still keeping some similarities between for example the Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva in the chocolate and mature black/red fruit taste. Sometimes I did smell things thanks to the help of Maria-Jesus, because sometimes you just can’t put your finger on what it exactly is. The frosting on the cake however was the Reserva 198 Barricas so if I must really choose a favourite it would be this one (I think because of the slightly more spice aromas, but also because it was just good 🙂 ). Again here as these wines are stronger it is better to enjoy these wines paired with a meal, some cured ham or cheese.

198 barricas

Mmmm, not as short as I had hoped to keep it… ah well that’s the way it is 😉 Tonight I’ll sit back and relax with a nice glass of Rioja wine 🙂 hope you will too. Hope you learned something new thanks to this post?! I know I did…


A special thanks to Julia and Maria-Jesus for their wonderful explanation and introducing me more in the world of Rioja wines !

My favourite places combined in 1: the food part

A reason besides surfing to visit San Sebastian would be the food!! San Sebastian is for me one of the culinary highlights of Spain and it seems the Michelin guide agreed with me as San Sebastian has the biggest amount of  starred restaurants in 1 city per X  inhabitants. They have for example 3 three Michelin star restaurants (Arzak, Akelare and Martin Berasategui), Rekondo a restaurant with one of the most incredible wine cellars for old Spanish wines you’ll ever see (in the sommelier’s world an institute) and only 15 minute drive of one of the best fish restaurants in the world aka restaurant Elkano (to name a few) . I behaved!! YES I did!! I wanted to try all of these restaurants, but I promised my wife I would take a hold of myself. Now I have the perfect reason to go back with my favourite partner (after my wife) in crime to go to good restaurants aka Carlos 🙂 🙂 (YES Carlito prepare yourself for another trip after our next trip to France 😉 )

Martin Berasategui

So to keep my promise I asked a few Spanish friends of mine which pinxtos (tapas) bars they would advice me to try (THANKS again César and Jaime). In Spain every tapas/pinxtos bar has one or more tapas/pinxtos it is famous for and it therefore is a habit to change bar after having tried their best one(s).The only problem being in our case was that the places we went to had such a great and big selection, that by the time we tried everything we wanted we didn’t feel going to another bar anymore (already ate too much 😦 )… with as exception to one night where we obliged ourselves to do it the Spanish way and move to another bar after 1 pinxto. What my wife on the other hand didn’t always like was the standing up to eat… and the ones where you could sit down were indeed the most popular with most non-Spanish people.

We liked all the tips Jaime and César gave us, but there are always places that are liked more than others…The pinxtos bars we enjoyed the most were Zeruko, Bergara and Zazpi. They were just more special and gave that extra attention to their pinxtos/tapas. This is also why we ate more than once in these places and I think we tried almost everything they had displayed or on the menu (no not greedy). FYI in these Pinxtos bars you can also sit.

Bar Zeruko was the bar with the biggest and most advanced (modern) pinxtos. They didn’t have the classic pinxtos you can find in all the other bars you’ll find in the old part of town. They thought out of the box and tried (and succeeded) with use of local ingredients making special pinxtos and serving them with a little sauce or serving them to get a different eating experience. With the last I mean for example that they serve it like you would get it at a Michelin star awarded restaurant with for example a smoking plate or used special food pairing techniques… hope the pictures below show you what I mean!? If not, just go there and see for yourself 🙂 or look on their facebook page. Do try the Bob-limón as a dessert!!

Zeruko 01

Zeruko 02  Zeruko 04

Zeruko 03


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Zeruko 07 Zeruko 09

Zeruko 10

Bar Bergara on the other hand served more classic refined homemade pinxtos. What made them so special was that you could just taste they were all made with fresh ingredients and sometimes they did give some combinations you wouldn’t immediately expect to be good. Even something as ‘simple’ Iberian ham croquet, where most bars wouldn’t even bother of making them freshly and just buy them “freshly made” Bergara prefers making them themselves… but I’d choose homemade ones over the factory made any day!! They are so much more ‘moelleux’ and tasteful. It of course didn’t stop here… each single pinxtos was a delight to taste! Do try the Bakalao ajoarriero!!

 Bergara 04

Bergara 01


Zazpi was a place we looked up ourselves and was also a big surprise. When we entered we weren’t sure what to expect as unlike in most pinxtos bars at Zazpi there were no pinxtos on the counter yet (besides olives and a tortilla). Again here we tried ALL their pinxtos (or almost) + salted potatoes with garlic mayo 🙂 (no, not the patatas bravas) and still don’t regret it one bit!! We did start of slow with only ordering 2 croquettes to see how they were, but my wife was so greedy she ate both of them 🙂 🙂 No, I’m just kidding… she was just so hungry that I gave mine to her and decided to order all the rest from on the blackboard for me :-). Here again they were able surprise me in the way of serving and the full taste of every pinxtos. My favourite however was the ‘’Cubo de Panceta’ as the taste in some way reminded me a bit of one of my all time favourite dishes Rendang (Indonesian dish)… but everything we got was very tasty no doubt about that.

Zazpi 01

Zazpi 02

Zazpi 03

The restaurants that are still on my list to try the next time I get to San Sebastian can be found below and are all tips from 2 guys who know their gastronomy and therefore I don’t doubt the level of the list below is exceptional… so if you get to try them before me, let me know 🙂

I was surprised there was such a big bread culture in San Sebastian. I love bread so this made me a happy camper!! With bread culture I mean that they have different kinds of bread in all their bakeries and there were lots of bakeries in San Sebastian. One of our favourites and our fix value for lunch during our stay was “The loaf”. One of those places where you cannot pass without walking in and having the thought you immediately want a piece of bread or cake 🙂 . For our lunch I would always buy some fresh cute ham from a local butcher, one sliced whole-wheat bread (pan integral in Spanish) and as dessert a brownie with nuts… to eat it on the beach… talking about lunch with a view (our view on picture below).  We also ate at Loaf itself once… also very nice I had a BLT sandwich and orange cake and my love had a grilled cheese sandwich.

The loaf 04



The loaf 01   The Loaf

The loaf 03


San Sebastian is a true paradise for people who like eating as much as I do!!

To be continued….

My favourite places combined in 1

The last few years I’ve explored quit a bit of Spain. Last week it was Basque country time or better San Sebastian. This region/city has been high on my (and my wife’s) list for a while now and in the end met up to all our expectations!! I might even say it is/was one of our favourites if not the favourite in Spain until now. I immediately felt home in San Sebastian!! The only tricky part upon arrival was to get to our hotel as it seemed they had restructured some of the streets and our GPS didn’t know that yet 🙂 … But we got there alive 😉

San Sebastian city

For a long time before our departure for San Sebastian we were not 100% sure that we wanted to go after all… not because of the destination in itself, but rather because of the weather. Apparently San Sebastian or North Spain in general is known for its unpredictable weather and rather in the bad way… either we have been very lucky last week or the talk that is spread around the weather is not true?! We had 7 days of wonderful sunny weather aaaaand got to see Denzel Washington (he was there for the San Sebastian Film Festival) which made the sky even brighter 🙂 :-). We love Denzel!!

Denzel at Zurriola Beach by Zimbio

Walking through San Sebastian feels like you are waling through a city you’ve lived your whole life, it feels like home and in contrast to for example Barcelona felt much cosier. Of course San Sebastian is a lot smaller and has a much more beautiful beach (or even beaches) without big boats and ships passing. The whole time I was also trying to figure out how will I be able to put into words how beautiful this city is and convince everybody go at least go there once in their lives… True I might try to do this in all my blogposts, but that’s just to make it harder for you guys to decide to plan your next trip 😉 no no, when I’m enthusiastic about something there’s no stopping me to try to convince people… usually the first victims I try to convince are my parents 🙂 . This is also why I only write posts about what I liked…

I’m not sure with which city I would be able to compare San Sebastian though. The first ones that pop into my head would be for the home feeling of Antwerp, the beautiful buildings like Torino, a beach that reminds me of Costa Nova (Portugal) or Conil de la Frontera (Andalusia) and the life at night like in Seville. A unique place and a combo of some of my favourite places!!














The city of San Sebastian can be subdivided in a few parts with the most “important” (or at least the ones where we spend all our time) Gros (where we stayed), Parte Vieja (Old town), Centro, Amara Viejo and Amara Nuevo(In case you want to know all the parts of town). There are 3 city beaches La Concha, Ondaretta and our preferred and in our part town beach Zurriola (also well known with the surfers). It would take you a bit more than 1 hour walking (for me at least) to get from Zurriola to the end of Ondaretta beach… just FYI 🙂 this way you know the distances are not enormous is San Sebastian

Tourist map san sebastian by San Sebastian tourism

La Concha Beach



Zurriola beach



During our trip we stayed at the Pension Ondarra in the as mentioned Gros part of town which is the less touristy part of town (so basically a bit calmer and the way we like it 🙂 ). The big difference between a pension and a regular hotel would be that at a pension you can only sleep, so there is no breakfast possibility. Besides that everything is the same. Some might see it as a disadvantage that you can’t have breakfast, but we just had to cross the street for a bakery where we could eat… and if that one wasn’t of our liking (but it was) there were at least 10 bakeries where you can have breakfast in the near area 🙂 . We also saw it as a way to mingle with the locals and do s the locals. It really didn’t bother us. Before I forget I must thank Tom and Veronique for giving this tip!! The fact they only had 5 rooms made it again cozier (and we had a car parking 2 minutes from it only for 10EUR a day) then a regular hotel with +100 rooms. For people who want more luxury and a wonderful breakfast I would advice to go to the Maria Cristina Hotel.


Pension Ondarra

To be continued ….

Andalusian roadtrip: the food

I know I always write long blog posts about the food I had during my trips, but this time I figured to take a different approach as there were far too many restaurants I did 🙂

The restaurants you see below are not the only restaurants we did during our trip in Andalusia, but they sure were our favourites with DéO and Eslava in Sevilla as two of the best during are whole trip. No Michelin starred food or fancy smancy things, just good honest food and mostly tapas in all kinds!!  With special thanks to trip advisor and some local people to guide us to these places 🙂


El meson de Cervantes

El Meson de Cervantes Malaga

El Tapeo de Cervantes : this might also be the smallest restaurant we did during our trip (you are literally breathing down each others neck ), but they serve some great tapas and I hope you don’t mind the waiters telling you what you should be eating 🙂

Tapeo de Cervantes Malaga

Vino Mio : we did this restaurant at the end of our trip when we had enough of eating tapas every day. They serve Balinese inspired food 🙂 (I know! But we were so sick of eating the tapas the whole time) and they also sometimes have some flamenco dancers dancing the night away (not really my thing, but it was nice to watch)

Restaurante Vino Mio  Malaga

Jerez de la Frontera


Albala Jerez

Reino de Leon Gastrobar: on top of the good food we got a beautiful interior :-). I also can’t get enough of one of the dishes on the picture below 😉

Reino De Leon Gastrobar Jerez

Detabernas: in a small street where you wouldn’t immediately go, but it is worth going.

Detabernas Jerez


Eslava: One of our favorites and looking at the people waiting in line for a table tells me I’m not the only one who likes it here and lots of locals btw.  I can still taste the rich flavors of fresh food prepared in the perfect way! Simple, but amazing!

Eslava Sevilla

DéO: together with Eslava one of our favorites. Refined food, great wine selection, good prices aaaand the most friendly staff!!

DéO Sevilla

Vineria San Telmo

Vineria San Telmo Sevilla

Taberna Coloniales: no nonsense food for low prices and great portions. Special thanks to the Taylor family for this one 😉

Taberna Coloniales Sevilla

Conil de la Frontera

Doña Lola: Serves the most fresh fish ever! From the sea directly in your plate (Great tuna!!)


Andalusian Roadtrip

Andalusia flag

It seems like ages ago I went on holiday, but in reality it has only been a month… time flies when you’re having fun I guess 😉 My last trip was a 2 week tour through Southern Spain aka Andalusia where people are happy, eating good food and enjoying life. Just the way I like it.

Andalusia by parador

We started our trip in Malaga that to my opinion is the perfect city to transit when visiting Andalusia as when comparing it with the other cities we visited like Sevilla, Malaga was the one that convinced me less to visit again (but this is a personal opinion of course). What we did like when arriving in Malaga was finally feeling the sun (I could use some of that right now actually) and we did have some very nice food, but more about that later

Malaga 7 Malaga 6

Malaga 5 Malaga 4

Malaga 3

Malaga 2 Malaga 1

After 1 day in Malaga we set sail to our first destination Jerez de la Frontera. One tip when you are planning a trip to Andalusia renting a car is a must!! The panoramas you get to see when crossing Andalusia are just amazing and would be a shame to miss. AND when having a car at your disposal you can stop whenever and where ever you want. For example while heading towards Jerez we drove by Gibraltar and as neither me nor my fiancee had ever seen the “Strait of Gibraltar” we decided to have a quick stop and photo moment 🙂 ooooh yeah baby!!

Gibraltar (1)

Gibraltar 2

Gibraltar 3

When me and my fiancee (and when I was younger and still traveled with my parents) travel we like to have a “base” point, so sleep in one town like in this case Jerez and travel from this base to other cities, towns… you could of course also stay in every town or city you visit, but that would be too much fuzz to always pack and unpack your luggage :-).

Although we also became a big fan of Sevilla, when thinking of Andalusia we (my fiancée and me) think of Jerez and all the beautiful towns around it that we visited…strange. Not sure why, maybe it was the visit at the Tio Pepe Bodega (as you could read in my 2 previous blogposts: post 1post 2). Or maybe was it Conil de la Frontera one of the famous “Pueblos Blancos” with its narrow streets (when you see the pictures below you’ll figure out why they call them that) overlooking the Atlantique Ocean. Conil? (Definitely the “happy place” I think about when I’m sad!!) Or the thought of walking to one of Europe’s most ancient cities like Cadiz?

Conil 1

Sometimes I really which I could just share all my mental pictures with you guys (mmm, maybe better if I didn’t ;-)) that you could see all the beautiful places I have seen during this trip!! Cadiz was maybe the biggest surprise as it is maybe the most undervalued city in Southern Spain that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I think it is the only city I have every visited where as a tourist you can walk around and find your way without using a map. Yes sir! Cadiz has 4 different routes (each one has a different color) and to make it more easy when walking out of the Tourist office you only have to pick a color and follow the lines painted on the street. I thought the lines were only to give you a head start, but they are all over the city!! So basically you be a tourist without looking like one always looking at his map to make sure he’s taking the right street…OK, if you’re wearing white socks in white sneakers or sandals, I sure they’ll still figure it out, but besides that they won’t 😉

Cadiz 1

Cadiz 2

Cadiz 3

Cadiz 4

Cadiz 9 Cadiz 10

Cadiz 11

Cadiz 7Cadiz 6

Cadiz 5

Cadiz 8  

The lines lead you through the most important streets and make sure you see the most important sights of this ancient town. Oh and there is a nudist beach, not that I’m against saying the gifts of nature, but some pieces of nature are too rough to be explored or seen 🙂

Andalusia got a very special place in our hearts and even though it will never replace Italy, it is getting very close! Stay tuned for more about our trip in Andalusia and of course my preferred topic the food 😉

Enjoy your day!

To be continued…

Unknown is unloved, the sherry saga continues

I must confess, I always thought there was only 1 kind of Sherry (I’m sure I wasn’t alone thinking this), but I have never been more wrong as there are a few more :-). Behold and feast your eyes on the different kinds of Sherry:

  • Fino (‘fine’ in Spanish) is the driest and has to me the sharpest smell of them all. The wine is aged in barrels under a cap of flor yeast to prevent contact with the air. This wine is made 100% of Palomino grape and only has 1g of sugar per liter of wine (4 years aging using the Solera system). Goes well with Spanish tapas or sushi.


  • Amontillado finds its existence when the “flor” from the Fino disappears and so basically the wine comes in in contact with oxygen, this will give a sherry that is darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso (8 years aging using the Solera system). This sherry has much a softer aroma than the Fino and I could smell some almonds (FYI, the aroma mostly comes from the yeast). Also 100% Palomino, but already a bit stronger alcohol level of 16,5%. This goes well with white meat, fish and aged cheeses.


SAMSUNG CSC-> Aged for 30 years.

  • Oloroso is my personal favorite (both the “dulce” and the “dry” one) and has aged in contact with oxygen for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado, (again using the Solera system) producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%. I don’t know if it is the fact the Oloroso’s are the most alcoholic Sherries is why I like them this much ;-). Goes perfect with red meat.


  • Palo Cortado maybe the most unique wine of them all as initially it is aged like an Amontillado and also smells like it, but eventually gets similar character closer to an Oloroso when you taste it. This “mix” happens by accident when the flor dies, or is killed by fortification or filtration. So basically this doesn’t happen very often. Also this wine ages for 12 years using the Solera system and still using 100% Palomino grapes. Goes well with red meats.


SAMSUNG CSC -> Aged for 30 years. Mix of 87% Palomino and 13% PX

  • Jerez “Dulce” wines (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez (PX) (or Moscatel grapes, but less), which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety. Like the Nectar or Noe

SAMSUNG CSC -> Aged 9  years

SAMSUNG CSC -> Aged 30 years. This is also the sweetest wine/sherry they have with around 400g  sugar per liter.

  • Cream is a common type of sweet Sherry made by blending different wines, such as Oloroso sweetened with PX. A good example of this one is the Solera or Matusalem both consisting of 75% Palomino and 25% PX grapes. Don’t worry it is not too creamy


SAMSUNG CSC-> Aged 30 years.

It was an eye opener for me to find out there were so many and I know this might all seem weird, but try to put all of these sherry’s next to each other like we did during our visit and taste and compare them attentively and I’m sure you’ll understand it instantly 🙂 just like I did.







Isn’t it special that depending in which “stage” the wine is in the it will change its kind? Like It all starts with the Fino and at the moment the flor is not there anymore they speak of a Amontillado and eventually evolve into a Solera which as I mentioned before is one my personal favorites as are other Oloroso’s and Amontillado’s.

The one that was less my taste was actually the Fino. Not that it wasn’t good, its smell and taste was just too sharp for me, but it is very possible that if you put them all next to each other you’d prefer the Fino over the other ones…

I do also want to share a few anecdotes from the Bodega. The first one would be about Bodega Tio Pepe being in the Guinness book of records :-). Yes, as they have the largest weather vane in the world (48 feet tall, with an arrow 26 feet long).

Tio pepe windroos

Did you ever hear about the sherry mouse? The story goes that a worker from the founder Manuel Gonzales saw that a mouse was sipping and liking glass of sherry that they had forgotten in the cellar… so since that day you’ll find in that exact same spot a glass filled with sherry with a little ladder next to it specially for the “sherry mouse” being able to have their daily sip of sherry 🙂 (see pictures below)




And the last thing I want to share is that Gonzales Byass’ barrels find a very good cause after being used for making sherry, as the factory first repairs them and afterwards get send (sold) to whiskey makers in Scotland like Dalmore.




One thing is sure that I’ll be having a dinner with friends where I’ll be pairing sherry with my dishes instead of regular wine hoping they’ll become as enthusiastic as me (OK, maybe not 100% like me, but close enough 😉 )  As to my opinion sherry is a wine that doesn’t get the attention it deserves!!

Good that I said I’d keep it short 😉

I would like to thank William for telling me I had to go, Peter for helping me to get in and Oscar and Lola for teaching me and introducing me to the wonderful world of sherry!! Thank you all, both me and my fiancée learned a lot and became a big fan of sherry!!

BTW in case you Belgian readers would want to know more or even taste the TIo pepe (or other Gonzales Byass products check the following link 


Unknown is unloved, how I discovered Sherry

Something for old ladies and English Lords, that’s what most people think of when you say the word “Sherry”. For me sherry was something unknown. I mean I did know what it was but that’s where it stopped. A couple of weeks ago I was doing a tour of Andalusia and stopped for a few days in Jerez de la Frontera and as the name might tip-off this is the place where the Sherry comes from… so not visiting a sherry bodega would have been a crime… luckily my friends William Wouters and Peter Bollinger could help me with which one to visit as they know much more about this than me 🙂 . So with a little help from my friends my fiancee and I were able to visit Spain’s n°1 sherry Bodega Gonzales-Byass also known as Tio Pepe.


Since my visit to the Bodega I’m VERY excited about sherry, so I’ll try to temper my enthusiasm and keep it as “short” as possible ;-)…

The whole Gonzales-Byass Sherry making story started around 1835 by Manuel María González Angel, who was later joined by his English agent Robert Blake Byass  I think this makes it clear where the name of the Bodega Gonzales Byass comes from… the part of the company Robert Blake owned got bought back by the González family, they decided to keep the name.  The name Tío Pepe actually comes from Manuel González beloved uncle. Today the whole bodega is still owned by the family (unlike lots of others).

Tio pepe kathedraal

Walking through this enormous bodega (I have never seen something this big) is like walking through history as every corner and even every barrel has a story behind it.  One of the stories Lola told us (our guide) that is quit special was that for the visit of the Spanish Queen Isabella II the firm had a special barrel build “La Concha” commissioned by nobody less than engineer Gustav Eiffel (Yes, that Gustav Eiffel), next to this barrel you will find 11 others that represent the apostles… no this isn’t a typo, 11 as they put the one from the bad apostle (Judas) with the sherry vinegar barrels as they were afraid his barrel would bring bad luck for the others. I could tell you more stories, but I promised to keep it short(er) and I would just advice to visit the bodega and be as amazed as me.




One of the most impressing views you see during your tour in this Bodega is without any doubt when you enter this “monument” which is a very big round depot filled with 250 barrels that represent every country they export to (every barrel has a different flag on it). BTW did you know they also make the wine for during mass in Church? 🙂 They do, I really didn’t know this.



I must say that the oldest barrels or cellar or even the barrels with signatures from famous people are also impressive 🙂 (I’m sure you will be as well)








Or the 1st “office” from Tio Pepe’s founder Manuel Gonzales. On this picture you see all different bottles, this way Mr Gonzales knew which blend/ mix was in which bottle. As there was not a lot of light inside of the room, Mr Gonzales had something that looked like a bird cage with a candle in it. He would hold his glass against this candle to be able to see the color of the wine…




Now I think the time has come to talk about Sherry… First things first, something important to know is that sherry is a wine and it is not only something that can be drunk before or after dinner, but something also very suitable for during your meal. Sherry only gets made using 2 kinds of grapes (the 3rd one would be moscatel, but this is rather rare) Palomino and the Pedro Ximénez (which is the sweetener in the Sherry making process). Depending on the mixing of these grapes (of course in combination with a few other steps during the production process) make the wine either sweeter or dryer. A special process they use to make sherry is called the “Solera” system. What basically happens is that the barrels are piled up with all the top barrels filled with the youngest sherry and the oldest at the bottom. Every x months they will bottle sherry, but only using the bottom (oldest) sherry and only 1/3 of what is in the barrel. After this they will fill this barrel again with the sherry from the barrel on top of this and that barrel on its turn will be filled with the sherry from on barrel on top of it… and this continues until they get to the youngest and that one gets filled with newly made wine. (Check this link for more details about the process). So basically when you buy a bottle of sherry that has an age 30 years on the bottle in reality is a blend from much older sherry sometimes up to a few hundred years. It is it is not as simple as how I describe it, but that is in big lines what it does. What is amazing is that every step of this system will give a different type of sherry (BTW the Solera wine is also one of my preferred ones). Something very cool to see was the inside of a barrel while the wine was in there, as the Bodega used glass as closure instead of wood and you could clearly see the yeast which works as a kind of wall to keep the air separated from the wine. FYI this white layer is called “Flor” 🙂




A difference with the vines from “regular” wines (that rimes) and the ones to make sherry is that these vines are put deeper in the soil as the weather in the South of Spain can get very hot and the top layers would be totally dried out and the lower layer of the soil would still contain water. Talking about the vines, a question that came to mine when I was driving through Andalusia was that I did see a lot of olive trees, but not too much vines… so one of my first questions during my visit was where they have their grapes 🙂 and it seems they are more north around Sanlucár (and I can confirm it as I drove by them 🙂 ). Also something interesting to know is that because the vines are so low, every x time they flip the branches (and grapes) over a wire… this way the grapes won’t touch the ground.





Now that you know a bit of the basics we can continue with something that I’m sure most of you didn’t know, so stay tuned for next week’s post as I was amazed 🙂