Our second trip to Spain centered on the Andalusian region in the southwest portion of the country, and our first few days were spent in Córdoba. Córdoba’s history can be traced back to prehistoric times, but the first historical reference is probably the Carthaginian settlement of ‘Kart-uba’, literally meaning “the City of Juba.” It was one of the few places in Europe where free Muslims, Jews and Christian people could mingle quite comfortably together. From 756 to 1031 it was the capital of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain).
As part of our trip, we had pre-scheduled a personal tour of the walled city with a third-generation tour guide Wallada (shown below with Russ) who was named after an Andalusian poet. At some point in her explanation of the history, Russ asked what her favorite restaurant was, and without hesitation she replied Casa Pepe. That was all we needed to hear…
Casa Pepe de la Judería restaurant is located in the heart of the city’s Jewish quarter. They specialize in southern Spanish cuisine with a modern touch. It boasts an eclectic interior, replete with a typical Andalusian patio, pleasant dining rooms and a charming rooftop terrace. Our first choice of getting seated in the center courtyard was not possible due to the long list of hungry diners, so we were shown to a small room with soaring ceilings featuring a chandelier and a chocolate-colored back wall.
While contemplating the menu, Russ was thrilled to see they stocked a Bai Gorri Tempranillo, a winery we patronized on our first trip to Spain over five years ago. It was a nice segue to begin our dining experience, and it only got better from there.
For starters we ordered their well-merited Creamy Croquettes, individually hand-made with stewed meat and Ibérico ham. After one bite, we literally died and went to heaven! Soft, fluffy pillows of luscious goodness, they will forever be the ultimate croquette to which we will compare every future croquette we encounter.
Desiring some colorful vegetables, we also chose another starter of Grilled Lettuce Hearts with Garlic and Peppers. Typical of Córdoba, this method of preparing lettuce hearts is served with crunchy garlic fried in extra virgin olive oil. There wasn’t a morsel left on the platter. FYI, the area surrounding the nearby settlement of Montalbán is one of the largest garlic-producing areas in Spain.
For my main, I couldn’t resist the Iberian Pork Fillet—after all we were on the Iberian Peninsula. Iberian pork is an especially tender and succulent meat because of the animal’s foraged diet of acorns and pasture. On top of being extremely tasty, it is also very healthy because its fat graining contains fatty acids that are beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Hands-down, the BEST pork I’ve ever eaten, my 100% acorn-fed grilled shoulder fillets came plated with roasted potatoes and Padrón peppers—their peculiarity lies in the fact that, while their taste is usually mild, a minority (10-25%) are particularly hot, although mine we are all on the milder side.
For Russ, it was also all about the pork. His choice was the Taco of Iberian acorn-fed ‘Presa’ fillet, marinated and grilled. Taco in Spanish means “tube” which describes the tenderloin that was then sliced down and spread across the plate with a side of bright red piquillo peppers sprinkled with fresh chives. We did exchange a bite of each other’s pork, but we couldn’t choose a winner because both of them were truly memorable.
Of all the places we ate in Spain on this trip—and there were a LOT—Casa Pepe stands out as the pinnacle choice of the eating establishments. Thanks Wallada for the suggestion! If you ever happen to find yourself in Córdoba, don’t miss the opportunity to feast on some of the best pork and croquettes you’ll ever taste.