Tuesday, November 16, 2010


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Or small goat. A grand grouper or a heap of spiny sea snails. 

One sunny Saturday a friend and I hopped on a commuter train for the 50-minute ride to Málaga to visit the recently reopened Atarazanas market and have lunch at La Moraga a “gastrobar” that’s been getting a lot of attention since it opened two years ago.

We entered the market through a grand marble arch, all that remains of a naval fortress from the 14th century when Málaga was under the Islamic rule of Moorish tribes. The fortress, known as Atarazanas, gradually fell into ruin and was demolished to make room for a municipal market. Opened in 1879, the market was built of iron struts, somewhat in the style of Les Halles in Paris. It shut its doors two years ago (stall holders moved to provisional locations) for complete remodelling and reopened to the public only a few months ago.

Many years ago, when the variety of produce and food products was very limited in the small Andalusian village where I live, I trekked to Málaga to shop every couple months. Now, with big hyper-markets near my home, I had not been to Málaga market in many years. It was a delight to see the great variety of local foods.

All the parts of a pig—snout to tail, fat and lean, fresh and cured—were on display at market stalls. Blobs of white fatback hung from meathooks and coils of skin for making cracklings were piled on counters. At the delicatessen stall were several sorts of cured hams, both ibérico and serrano, as well as manteca colorá, paprika-flavored lard, the Andalusian alternative spread to butter.

Málaga is famous for its chivo, small kid-goat, as esteemed as baby lamb and just as expensive. It is the meat of choice for Malagueños for the family feast on Christmas Eve.The province is also known for goat cheeses, from the fresh, white ones to crumbly aged ones. The market is the right place to find a good selection of them.

Produce stalls were heaped with seasonal fruits—persimmons, quinces, custard apples, as well as the more usual apples and pears. Wild mushrooms shared pride of place with fresh chiles. Jugs of new olive oil were displayed on many counters and tubs of new-harvest tangy, thyme-scented olives were lined up on others.

Málaga is a famed fishing port, so the market reflects the seafood riches, from the sublime—whole grouper, jumbo shrimp—to the curious—armored fish, spiny sea snails, fatty livers from monkfish (considered a delicacy like foie gras).

 I Checked out almost every shoe shop on Calle Nueva and Larios, Málaga’s main shopping streets; discovered a purveyor of body creams and bath salts called LUSH, where the products quite literally looked and smelled good enough to eat, then wound through the narrow lanes off Plaza Constitución to find LA MORAGA (Calle Fresca 12), a trendy “gastrobar” directed by Dani García. Dani is chef of La Calima in Marbella, a one-star restaurant, but the La Moraga franchise serves up “designer tapas,” or ”haute cuisine in small plates”. (Look for La Moraga to open in New York in the near future.)

At 2 pm on a Saturday, the place was packed with Malagueños, mostly young, some with kids in tow. Most belly up to the bar to select from a varied tapas list. We decided on a tasting menu (menu de degustación) and claimed a small table off the bar. For €20 (about $27) each we selected four different tapas.

We sampled a pair of gazpachos—cherry with a powdering of queso fresco, and peach, with tiny cubes of tofu. Olive oil, Sherry vinegar and a hint of garlic brought them all back into Andalusian focus.

Next came a brace of ensaladilla rusa, “Russian” salad, a tapa bar standard. One was almost classic—smashed potatoes, olive oil mayo, and tuna belly. The other was bound with a smoked salmon mayonnaise, dill and sprinkled with salmon caviar. Quite delicious.

Two croquettes each, crisp balls with hammy-fatty meat (pringá) in one and sausage in the other.

Then a cazuelita of pork cheeks stewed with spicy garbanzos and the house signature dish, bull burger, a patty of oxtail cooked sous vide until meltingly tender, heaped on a mini-bun and served with mushroom-mayo. With a couple glasses of cava to celebrate a birthday, this was a very nice Saturday lunch.


  1. Hi Janet, I can't believe I just discovered this wonderful blog of yours (through Facebook with which I have a hate/love relationship). Why didn't you tell us you had a blog? Are you keeping it a secret? From here on out Maureen and I will be your fervent followers. By the way, I recently read a newspaper article which said that saffron growing is on the rise in La Mancha due to the collapse of the building trades. Maybe the price will come down from 3,000 euros a kilo, and we'll be able to buy a few kilos!

  2. Just visited La Moraga last week. The best Foie I have EVER head!

  3. Dani García's La Calima restaurant just awarded second Michelin star.