Last summer on a trip to Spain, I had a culinary epiphany. It happened late at night at a nondescript seafood shack along the Guadalquivir River in Sevilla. My wife, N, and I were completely spent from the day. I had dragged the poor unsuspecting girl through the warren of streets in the old quarter to find a particular convent famous for its sweets and Seville orange marmalade. A reasonable plan, until you learn that it was the hottest part of the day on what we would later learn was the hottest day of the year. After 5 minutes in the blazing sun, our cooked brains stopped thinking, but my stomach insisted on soldiering on. (I tell this as a precautionary tale to those who think it would be fun to marry a chef or foodie. Be warned: we are not reasonable people). When we finally located the convent half an hour later, we discovered that the nuns, no fools, had closed for the afternoon. By nightfall, the city’s power supply failed and plunged Sevilla into darkness.
It was in this context that we arrived at Los Chorritos, the most convivial looking of the temporary outdoor seafood shacks, or chiringuitos, in the Triana district. We placed our order at the counter and melted onto two stools at a tiny table with a view of the makeshift kitchen. A refreshing clara, icy beer mixed with lemon soda, in hand, I watched the cook dust the griddle with crunchy sea salt, top it with several big, fat sardines, and douse it all with fruity olive oil. After about five minutes, our sardinas a la plancha were delivered with crispy skin, bursting with salty juices. It tasted like the sea, with more flavor than any other fish I’ve tasted before or since. With the memory of those sardines as my guide, I now know the kind of food I want to cook and eat: rustic, seasonal foods with a sense of terroir, rooted in the place that they came from.
I am naming my blog In Praise of Sardines not just to write about these tiny, delectable fish, but really to discuss all the foods I crave and the people who grow and harvest them, the cooks that prepare them, the restaurants that serve them and the writers and their cookbooks that describe them. I hope to serve up a smorgasblog that will feature my impressions of books and articles that intrigue me, products that excite me, and small restaurants that satisfy my appetites. With a decade’s experience cooking professionally in the San Francisco Bay Area and many more years eating my way around the world, I also want to share my humble insider’s perspective and maybe a few tricks of the trade in the form of recipes with whomever stumbles along this website. All in all, I'm excited and looking forward to having a bit of fun writing about my passions for all things gastronomic. Cheers!