Sunday, 27 July 2008


Now that the Man of Mode has returned to London after his travels, he is craving the flavours of Spain. And there are few better ways to cool off on a hot summer day than with a bowl of salmorejo, the wonderful cold soup from Cordoba.

It's often described as a thicker version of gazpacho, that other tomato-based cold soup from Spain. However, salmorejo is an altogether gutsier dish. You can easily turn it into a complete meal. It's usually served with some slivers of ham and a bit of crumbled hard boiled egg sprinkled on top; with some crusty bread on the side and a glass of cold fino sherry, it makes a fantastic lunch or supper.

The recipe below is pretty forgiving, and it's hard to give exact measurements. The important thing is keep tasting it as you make it, adjusting the consistency and flavour to your own tastes.

8 large tomatoes, seeded (ideally you would skin them too, but that's not really necessary)
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Stale bread -- roughly 1/4 of a loaf of Italian bread or similar, with the crust removed
1 or 2 tablespoons of wine or sherry vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons of good olive oil
Sea salt
Crumbled hard boiled egg and jamon iberico to sprinkle on top

Start by soaking the bread in a little water. Then squeeze the excess water out of the bread, leaving a damp, bready pulp.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender, then add the bread, a little at a time, while continuing to puree the mixture. The consistency is very much a matter of personal preference: the bread will quickly thicken up the tomato puree, but don't make it too thick. If you add too much bread and you want to thin it back down, add a splash of cold water.

Mix in the garlic, vinegar and olive oil, and season with the sea salt. Add a little at a time and keep tasting the soup again and again until you're happy with the flavour. Continue pureeing the soup until it's smooth and completely blended.

Chill the finished soup for an hour or so in the fridge. You want it chilled through, but not ice cold. Serve in bowls and sprinkle some slivers of ham and crumbled hard boiled egg on top.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Brooks Brothers, Las Vegas

I've seen some stupid things in Brooks Brothers over the years, but this takes the biscuit. The sparkly rhinestones make it all the more preposterous.

Yours for a mere $44.50 plus tax.

Hoover Dam

A few pictures from a recent trip to the Hoover Dam. It's difficult to convey the sheer size of it through a photograph, at least without taking pictures from an aircraft.

A Georgian treasure in West Baltimore

West Baltimore is usually associated with the urban decay and lawlessness depicted in the television series Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. While it's true that the area is blighted by crime and drugs, there remain a few oases of calm here in the middle of the city.

One such place is Mount Clare, a Georgian manor house standing on a hilltop in what is now Carroll Park. The house was built in 1760 by Charles Carroll, Barrister (so-called to distinguish him from several relatives of the same name). Carroll was a leading figure in Maryland in the cause for independence and went on to serve in the state senate until his death in 1783.

The house was built on Georgia Plantation, a 2,500 acre estate on the banks of the Patapsco River. It replaced an earlier wood-framed dwelling built by Carroll's father.

This handsome brick building is a good example of American Palladianism, with a classic 5-part profile and a Venetian window placed centrally above the colonaded portico.

The rear of the house has a simpler appearance, with a central pediment but without the portico. I prefer it to the front, with its stronger, cleaner lines.

Behind the house, the grounds slope down steeply towards the river.

A view from the house towards downtown Baltimore

The stables, located at the foot of the hill behind the house

Mount Clare is maintained by the Colonial Dames of America and houses a museum of decorative arts. There is an informative website at

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Market day in Cadiz

Freshly-caught tuna

Tuna, looking more like a side of beef than fish

Lunch at El Faro, the place to eat fresh fish in Cadiz.

Something non-fishy -- bocaditos de bacon (small pieces of soft cheese, wrapped in bacon and fried)

Flakes of cod, lightly warmed through (practically raw) with orange slices and dressed with olive oil

Tomato stuffed with tuna salad, an old standby to make at home with canned tuna, but here made with fresh tuna from the market

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

A tapas crawl through Seville

The Man of Mode recently visited Seville and immersed himself in the tapas culture of the city.

Seville is known for Islamic architecture, flamenco and bullfighting, but tapas are equally important in the life of the city. Eating and drinking are just as fundamental to life here as in Paris or Rome, but tapas are the best way to absorb what this city is all about.

Timing is crucial. Nothing opens until after 8pm, so have a long, late lunch, and plan to start the tapas crawl around 8.30. Also, don't stay too long in any one place. Have a drink, and two or three small dishes, then move on to the next place.

Las Teresas, on the Calle Santa Teresa in the Barrio Santa Cruz, is a good place to start the evening. It's a classic tapas bar, with hams hanging on hooks over the bar and bullfighting posters on the wall. The ham is the classic jamon iberico, from black pigs raised on acorns, and like at every tapas bar is carved fresh for every order. I recommend a media racion -- tapas menus generally offer three portion sizes, a racion (large plate), media racion (half plate) and tapa (small nibble). A fino sherry matches perfectly to the ham, the dryness of the wine nicely setting off the rich silkiness of the ham.

Next, move around the corner to Alvaro Peregil, on the Calle Mateos Gago. The guidebooks all recommend Las Columnas, a couple of doors further down the street. That's an excellent choice too, but I prefer this hole-in-the-wall. It's a tiny place, with nowhere to sit, and the menu is very short. However, the food and drink are wonderful. I highly recommend the salmorejo, a version of gazpacho originating from Cordoba, that's thickened with breadcrumbs. It's usually served with some crumbled hard boiled egg and bits of ham sprinkled on top. It's available everywhere in Seville, but it's especially rich and garlicky here.

A 10 minute walk away is Bar Alfalfa, a small, cozy place with a lively crowd of customers. The tapas here are very good value.

My best recommendation for food in Seville is Enrique Becerra, on the Calle Gamazo. There's a full restaurant that specializes in traditional Andalucian cooking, as well as a separate bar area with a tapas menu. Unless you're craving a sit-down dinner, I suggest staying in the bar. The tapas menu is more creative than the restaurant menu here, and it has the advantage of allowing you to try a variety of different dishes. The staff is friendly and helpful, and can be relied on for recommendations about what to eat and drink.

A brochette of shrimp and squid.

Elvers (baby eels), topped with a dollop of aioli, resembling little fishy spaghetti.

Finally, on to El Rinconcillo, the oldest bar in Seville which dates from the 1670s. It's a 15 minute walk from the centre of town. The late night crowd there is very mixed -- well-dressed Sevillianos out for a nightcap, 20-somethings starting the evening with a glass of wine and a snack before moving to the next place, and tourists drawn to one of the most atmospheric bars in town.

I prefer the back room, with the usual hams hanging from the ceiling and barrels of sherry lined up behind the bar.

The front room feels more modern (practically into the 20th century), with stained glass windows fronting onto the street and art nouveau shelving lined with wine bottles.

Service is old school. The gruff waiters keep track of your tab (is that the third or fourth glass of fino?) by jotting on the top of the bar with grease pencil.

Macro photography

The Man of Mode tries his hand at some macro photography. Here are a couple of examples, taken in the gardens of the Huntington Library, Pasadena, California.