León, 2018 Spanish Culinary Capital
León is Spain’s new Culinary Capital. The city and its surroundings are famous for its tapas, its lively areas of bars and restaurants, and products such as cecina or pork products such as botillo.
Take the opportunity in 2018 to try the cuisine of León. The city is east to reach by AVE high-speed train from Madrid in just over two hours. In addition, the city is part of the itinerary of St James’ Way.
Essential tapas in the Barrio Húmedo
The Barrio Húmedo is the quintessential place for tapas, offering the dishes of León in small plates. Cecina, chorizo, morcilla, and other cured pork and sausages are very frequent in tapas. To drink, from the regional wines of Castilla y León (those from Ribera de Duero, Rueda, and El Bierzo are particularly renowned) to beer, which people order here in “cortos” (small glasses).The Barrio Húmedo neighbourhood is very central, in the streets around Plaza de San Martín.
The essential dishes and tapas
León’s star product may be cecina (air-dried beef or horsemeat, similar to serrano ham). Another fine product is botillo del Bierzo (a pork sausage, similar to haggis in shape), typically eaten boiled with cachelos (the local potatoes), for example. The cheeses are good, especially the Valdeón blue cheese.Other popular dishes include cocido maragato (casserole), picadillo de cerdo (minced pork), sopa de trucha (trout soup), sopa de ajo (garlic soup), and caldereta de cordero (lamb stew).
Spanish Culinary Capital events
León expects to organise over 150 culinary events in 2018, some of which will run all year, such as the Gaudí – Casa Botines Museum Nights, with tastings, tours, and concerts; and monthly lecture-workshops taught by prestigious chefs and concluding with a charity dinner.Here are a few of the scheduled activities:- February: month of chorizo and culinary events celebrating puchero leonés, beef, and botillo. - March: botillo and lemonade month, special Easter menu in restaurants, and the national French Toast competition. - April: month of Montañas del Teleno milk-fed lamb, foal meat, and the monthly vermouth route.
- May: cecina month, and an attempt to break a Guinness record of the largest dish made with cecina, plus a blind tasting. - June: month of sweets, desserts, and pastries, and international León trout week. - All summer: dinners with concerts in the cloister of San Isidoro de León. - July: month of cheese and honey, and a garlic soup festival in the Plaza Mayor. - August: beer month - September: month of the vegetable garden, and bread festival to honour León’s traditional bakers - October: month of wine from Bierzo and morcilla from León, and the “Cook with A” initiative, to underline the active role of women in Leonese cooking. - November: month of León wine and of goat cecina. Tapas festival in León. - December: month of beans, chick peas, and lentils, and the creation of “magic menus” in restaurants for the City of León International Magic Festival and Christmas market.
What to visit in León
The historic centre of León is easy to walk through and is full of interesting sights. The Cathedral (especially the stained glass windows), the Royal Collegiate Church of San Isidoro (an important Romanesque monument), the Casa Botines (Gaudí’s modernist work), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC) are all must-sees.The Húmedo neighbourhood is also the best option for enjoying the atmosphere of León. There are also squares full of charm, such as the Plaza del Grano (medieval style) or the porticoed Plaza Mayor.
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