A certain someone and I are DIY-type travellers. We book all our flights and hotels, we stumble on sights unassisted, we manage to eat quite well on our own; why would we need someone to guide us along? The thought of joining a tour has always filled us with dread and distain because we’re not fans of organised fun and we hate following people. We like to wing it and do our own thing, winging it has worked out well for us so far but recently I’ve come round to the idea that there is a time and a place for certain tours…
We still won’t be going on package holidays or shuffling behind a person with a flag for days on end, but a few hours we can handle. If we hadn’t joined a walking tour in Sofia, we wouldn’t have learnt anything about Bulgarian history and without the wine tour in Bordeaux, I wouldn’t have set foot in any of the gorgeous chateaus. With these enjoyable experiences in mind, we decided to take a chance on a food tour and book the Tastes, Tapas and Traditions Tour with Devour Seville.
Devour Seville is part of a food tour company who also run tours in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga – they’re made up of a small but passionate team of Spanish food-lovers, eager to share the best of Spanish cuisine. We chose this particular tour, which runs every morning, because we liked the idea of going off the beaten track, visiting family-run establishments, and sampling a wide range of food and drinks from breakfast to dessert! Here’s what happened on tour…
Tostada de Pringa
To start the tour, we joined other Sevillians at a local bodega for a sandwich and a coffee; however this wasn’t just any old boring jam sandwich… we had a classic tostada de pringá which is filled with a hearty pork stew, much to a certain someone’s delight! As the Spanish head to bed late and rise late, our breakfast was much later and also much heavier than we’re used to but it certainly set us up well for all the walking that was to come!
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
The next stop was a nearby market where we visited a speciality jamón store to sample the famous jamón iberico de bellota. The production of this jamón is very specific and tightly regulated: it must come from Iberian black pigs who spend the final three months of their lives eating acorns, they must reach a certain weight for the classification, and be cured for at least three years. This creates a meat which is a deep red, heavily marbled with fat, and widely described to be the best in the world. The professionals make cutting the wafer thin slices of jamón look like a cinch but it requires a certain technique which takes years to perfect!
Yemas Nuns’ Sweets
We then wound our way through some narrow streets to somewhere I would never expect to go for food – a convent! It’s quite a common practice for the nuns to make and sell sweets to generate some income; at the one we visited the speciality is yemas which is made simply from egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice. Eating one of these tooth-achingly sweet balls was an experience, but the process of ordering them really caught us by surprise! As this was a fully cloistered convent, you place your order through an intercom, put your money into a turnstyle, one spin later and your wooden box of sweets appears!
Montadito and Tinto de Verano
In order to bring our sugar levels back down to normal, we stopped for another sandwich and a drink at a snug bar elaborately decorated with Holy Week memorabilia on every inch of the wall. While we munched on moreish montaditos filled with chorizo and roquefort cheese, we also tried a refreshing tinto de verano, Seville’s version of sangria made from red wine and lemonade, and learnt all about the fascinating traditions around Holy Week in Spain!
Vino de Naranja
I’m an avid drinker of red and white wine, but drinking orange wine or vino de naranja was definitely a new experience for me. At this next stop, we each tried a small glass of this Andalusian speciality made from a sherry base and flavoured with the bitter Seville orange peel – the citrus flavour is unmistakeable but it’s also incredibly sweet, has a syrup-like consistency, and should definitely be sipped!
Cazón en Adobo and Manzanilla Sherry
I was a little surprised to find that the next stop was a fried fish shop, who knew the Spanish were so fond of fish and chips?! Our little gang of Kiwis know a thing or two about fish and chips, but this version was quite different to our usual battered cod fillet with a scoop of chips on the side. Instead, we got bite sized pieces of dogfish, a type of shark, which is commonly marinaded in a combination of vinegar, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper, before being coated in flour and fried. As a result, the pieces of fish were soft and tangy on the inside with a light crunch from the coating, and quite aptly paired with a small glass of sharp Manzanilla sherry.
Round of Tapas
After a couple of hours on our feet, we piled into the bustling restaurant of one of Spain’s most famous chefs and restauranteurs for a well earned rest and of course, more food. The style of food here was traditional and showcases the local cuisine and produce, but all with a modern twist which really elevated the dishes. We shared a couple of the house specialities such as tuna with salmorejo and honeyed lamb with couscous, but my favourite of day were the braised pork cheeks with chocolate and raspberry which just melted in my mouth!
Mini Cakes for Dessert
Despite feeling very content, we still had room for one last stop… a teeny tiny cake from one of Seville’s oldest patisseries to finish off our day of eating! It was about mid-afternoon by the time we arrived and the shop was absolutely jammed packed with locals and tourists alike, slowly edging their way to the front of the cabinets to make their selections – with so many flavours to choose from, I was hardly surprised that there was a bit of a wait… but it was worth it for one last sweet treat before parting ways!
Over four hours later, we had clocked up an admirable number of steps to compensate for the admirable amount of food and drink we consumed along the way. I can safely say we all enjoyed every single stop but it wasn’t just because of what we ate – of course, the food is a big part of a food tour… but in my opinion, all the tidbits about Spanish cuisine and culture we learnt along the way were just as important! Our guide Jaimie was really knowledgeable, answering all our questions with ease, but he was also friendly and personable which made the tour engaging – we had so much fun, it felt like we were being shown all the best bits of the city by an old friend!
Are you a fan of tours? Have you been on a food tour?