Friday, December 06, 2013

Taking in Andalucian culture in Jerez. And falling in love with their tocino del cielo.

Jerez de la Frontera is arguably one of the destinations to discover the heart of Andalucia.  It has the horse culture and the flair for flamenco.  The larger cities like Seville and Granada get more of the attention with their numerous buildings and monuments.  But, Jerez is a wonderful place to explore and to taste some of Spain's most known specialties: sherry and tocino del cielo - our two reasons to drive to Jerez for the day.

We arrived into Jerez from Seville an hour before our tour time at Tio Pepe/Gonzalez Byass Bodega (the infamous sherry producers.  More on our Tio Pepe tour in my next post).  To kill time we explored the surrounding area which holds a couple of Jerez's most known structures.  The Alcázar is a former Moorish fortress which now houses a beautiful park.  The first of the fortresses dates back to the 11th century.  Nearby is the Catedral de San Salvador.  It was built in the 17th century and became a cathedral in 1980 by Pope John Paul II.

Apart from the sherry, we were in Jerez's for one of their
most famous creations: tocino del cielo.  It translates to bacon from heaven.  It's an iconic Spanish dessert named because of its caramelized appearance, heavenly texture, and religious origin.  Tocino del cielo was created in the Convent of the Holy Spirit of Jerez de la Frontera by nuns who were given egg yolks from their neighboring sherry producers (because sherry is clarified with egg whites).

After some internet research and advice from some locals, we knew there was only one place to try it, La Rosa de Oro - neighborhood pastelería with Spanish cakes, pastries, ice creams, and sweet drinks.  It's a place for locals to savor an afternoon snack and for kids to get a treat after school.

Hands down, their tocino del cielo was the best dessert I had on the entire trip.  I'm willing to drive back to Jerez for more of this.  I can still taste the caramelized sweet silky texture.  Seriously from heaven.

Near the pastelería was a local grocery.  It was so fun to see all the local goods found only in Spain.  You can host your own tapas party at home and not have to cook a thing!

An entrance to Alcázar

The courtyard

The other side of the courtyard

The park filled with orange trees

Catedral de San Salvador

The architectural details

Pope John Paul II's statue commemorates his making the church a cathedral in 1980

La Rosa de Oro

Fresh squeezed Andalucian oranges

Tocino del cielo

Bacon of heaven

And we bought more for the next few nights

Local products sold at the grocery.  Boxed gazpacho

Patatas bravas, with it sauces

Tortas and tortillas


Packs for instant tapas at home

Including bacon wrapped around dates

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