All the Best with Zita Keeley in Almeria, Spain

From filming on Holland America Line Mediteranean Cruise – MS Oosterdam

Cheers,
Zita

 

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Sailing into Spain and Almeria

I have been to the Andalucia region of Spain before but never to the historic city of Almeria. This is the next stop on the MS Oosterdam and where I have around 6 or so hours to find out why it’s becoming a popular holiday destination.

After disembarking the ship, I meet with my guide for the day, Virginia Maria Chocarro Cervino. (She tells me to call her Maria.) She first wants me to experience a typical breakfast in Almeria and so we head into town and the Central Market area for some churros and chocolate at Bar Barrea. If you don’t know what a churro is, it’s a fried doughy pastry type thing that here is served round and spiral shaped. The idea is to dip it into the hot chocolate and eat it. It’s decadent and delicious and I could only have a bite or two before surrendering to my crew to finish. We then made our way into the central market full of all kinds of interesting types of fish and seafood. You can pick out a fish and the market person will filet, debone, slice or whatever you want them to do for no extra cost.

One of the most important sites in Almeria is the Alcazaba fortress, built by the Caliph of Cordoba around 955 AD when the area was ruled by Muslims. Three walled areas make up the fortress. The first was for living quarters that is now gardens and pools. The 2nd was for the kings residence and the 3rd was added by the Christians when the Catholics occupied the area. It was worth the big climb up for the magnificent views of all the city and the port below.

Maria has now arranged for me to meet with Chef Jose Torrente of Restaurant Catedral where he has prepared an outdoor cooking demonstration. Located in the historic center at Catedral Square, it was quite something to be standing out on the pretty patio with the cathedral tower looming over us as he made his special cold tomato soup called Salmorejo. Different than gazpacho, this soup is made with tomatoes, red pepper, garlic, bread , olive oil, vinegar, salt and ham and chopped egg for garnish. It’s creamy and cooling on a hot July day. He then prepared one of his favorite tapas with a local St. Peter fish fried in a thin pasty and served with a garlicky white sauce and tomato jam. We all got to have some as well as a thirst quenching glass of white wine from the winery of Cristina Calvache.

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We continue on our eating journey with a walk through the narrow, twisty  streets  to La Mala Bar, a super busy, funky looking little place where Maria says the tapas are incredible. Owner Pablo Asensio is there to assure we get the best and we manage to squeeze ourselves into the bar and I get a nice cold beer, (aah),  while we wait for the dishes to come out. He keeps bringing dish after dish from seafood to meat and finally a  very special dish, a truffle omelette that is a larger plate than the normal tapas. This is raciones, a plate you share and actually pay for in Spain. Tapas are generally free and are small plates served along with your drink.

From here Maria wanted me to see the Moorish influence in Almeria so we went to Aljaima Restaurant for some traditional Moroccan/Spanish food. While we started out with just a plate of pastries and teas,  owner Mustafa Fazouli was kind enough to bring out their award winning couscous dish as well as some local red wine. What was meant to be a dessert stop turned into yet another feast. Lucky me (and crew!)

As if the day wasn’t complete enough, outside the restaurant was a 1966 (I think) convertible jaguar to take me back to the ship. I arrived at the dock in style.IMG_4483

Cheers and all the best,

Zita