The culinary getaways Spaniards love
Spanish people love good food, and Spain is full of destinations perfect for the discerning foodie. Places that are worth a trip for their culinary traditions and special dishes alone. As well as the delicious tapas you can enjoy anywhere in Spain, we have 17 foodie getaway suggestions for you.
Wine tasting in La Rioja and La Rioja Alavesa
Wines from this area in northern Spain are among the most appreciated worldwide, so a tasting session at a local winery is sure to be a great experience. You can find anything from small family wineries to the striking avant-garde buildings of established wineries like Marqués de Riscal or Ysios. Wine culture is very important here, and as well as tastings you can try many more activities, such as yoga among the vineyards, star-gazing, horse riding, hot-air ballooning, Segway tours…
Pintxos in Donostia-San Sebastián
Visiting the different bars of this lovely city and finding counters laden with pintxos is a spectacular culinary experience. You’ve probably heard of Spanish tapas. Well, pintxos (pronounced pinchos) are similar, but from the Basque Country, and are usually fastened to a piece of bread with a toothpick, although more original ways to present them are increasingly popular. Try as many different hot and cold ones as you can. They really are miniature haute cuisine! A drink to go with them? How about a txakoli wine, a small glass (zurito) of beer, or a cider? Here’s a list of the 99 best pintxos of Donostia-San Sebastián, selected by 11 local Michelin-starred chefs.
Suckling lamb in Aranda de Duero
The best time to go is June, during the Roast Suckling Lamb Fair, when some asadores (roasting restaurants) in Aranda (Burgos, Castilla y León) offer a menu based on local products, and you can visit the curious underground wine cellars. This area is also part of the Ribera del Duero region, and its wines are justly famous. Another traditional and iconic dish of Castilla y León is Segovia’s roast suckling pig.
A volcano in your glass?
Don’t worry, we’re just talking about the vineyards of La Geria in Lanzarote, one of the volcanic Canary Islands. The area produces white and sweet volcanic wines - the vines grow in hollows which farmers carve out from the volcanic gravel. Many of these wines have won international awards, such as the Malvasía varieties. Did you know that Shakespeare refers to this type of wine in several of his plays?
Tuck into a calçotada
This culinary tradition in Catalonia means getting your hands dirty, because you eat the calçots (pronounced cal-sots) with your hands, dipped in salvitxada (salvichada) sauce, in a fun and very sociable ritual. So what are calçots? A type of long, white, mild onion which are barbecued and eaten in a unique way - there are even special bibs to keep you clean! The best culinary tours for enjoying calçots go through Valls (Tarragona), and if possible, you should go on the last Sunday of January when the Great Calçotada festival is held. If you try this tradition, you’re likely to end up a little dirty, and very full.
A Galician spell to keep evil at bay
The spell is recited over the queimada, a drink based on marc, with a ritual preparation designed to ward off evil spirits. The liquid is burned and stirred with a wooden spoon. While the flames are burning, the spell is spoken out loud. We recommend this experience in any of the Galician bars which organise it. While you’re in Galicia, you should also try its most iconic dish, pulpo á feira, boiled octopus sprinkled with paprika, and usually accompanied by cachelos (potatoes boiled in their skin) with olive oil poured over.
The only cider in the world poured from a height
It’s made in Asturias. Cider here is served in such a unique way that a verb was invented - escanciar: the bottle is held high in one hand and poured into the glass held as low as possible in the other. The best way to enjoy this ritual is at an espicha or traditional dinner. And when in Asturias, you absolutely have to try fabada and cachopo. These dishes are substantial... and delicious!
Let’s go to market
More and more old food markets in Spain are being reinvented and relaunched as gourmet food markets offering innovative culinary delights. Here we want to recommend one of the most famous, the Boquería, in the heart of Barcelona and a must-see if visiting the city. According to history, there were already open-air market stalls here in the 13th century, although the present market was officially opened in 1840. Now, as well as bars and restaurants preparing ingredients from the market, you can also find special activities like Spanish cooking classes, classes on Catalan tapas and wines, or wine tastings and pairings.
The art of skewering sardines on the Costa del Sol
This highly addictive way of preparing, serving and eating fish has been popular in this part of Andalusia since the 19th century. Although you can find it in restaurants, the best way to try an espeto is at a chiringuito or beach bar. But what is an espeto? It’s a way of threading sardines onto bamboo and cooking them over a charcoal grill, on a boat or on the beach. By the way, using a knife and fork to eat an espeto of sardines is frowned upon!
Keeping the cold out with cocido
There are many regional variants of this traditional Spanish long-simmered stew: cocido lebaniego in Cantabria, cocido maragato in León, pote in Asturias… But here we want to focus on the Madrid version, cocido madrileño, famously served in “three goes”: the broth, the chickpeas and vegetables, and finally, the meat. Incidentally, the Cocido Madrileño Route, celebrating the dish, is held throughout the Madrid region in February or March, including many restaurants.
Queso Manchego, a unique cheese
If you visit Castilla-La Mancha it’s pretty much inevitable you’ll bring one of these cheeses home with you. Manchego is a delicious sheep’s milk cheese which matures over a period ranging from a month to two years, and comes in three varieties: soft, semi-cured and cured. The best way to find out more about it is a visit to one of the local cheesemakers.
A sea of olive groves in Jaén
The province of Jaén and its 60 million olive trees produce 20% of the world’s olive oil. The oil shapes its landscapes, its food, and even its culture. As well as enjoying the local extra virgin olive oil, there are plenty of related experiences to try, such as visiting oil mills; tasting and pairing oils, wines and foods; visiting olive oil museums and visitors’ centres; hiking through olive groves; and spending the night in the country guest houses at the centre of oil-producing estates.
Paella by the sea in Valencia
Paellas taste so good in Valencia, the city where they originated! Could you enjoy them even more? Yes, next to the sea, on one of the many restaurant terraces on seafront promenades. Another sure bet is the region of El Palmar, famous for its paellas, in the heart of the rice fields of La Albufera. You can make the experience even more interesting with a boat ride on the lagoon of Albufera Natural Park, a day trip to the market farms and orchards surrounding the city, or even a paella cooking class.
The Iberico Ham Route in Extremadura
Spain has several different routes for exploring the world of sensations that is Iberico ham, but one of the most famous regions is Extremadura. Activities are organised there, such as visiting the places where hams are cured and dried, tastings, hiking the sweeping plains of the dehesa… A particularly interesting Ham Day is held in the village of Monesterio every September, with tastings, meals, ham-slicing competitions, etc.
The best caldereta de langosta in Menorca
–This Mediterranean island with its coves and turquoise blue water has an especially delicious local dish: caldereta de langosta, a casserole of spiny lobster. Although you can find it in different locations in Menorca, the village of Fornells is regarded as the temple of this recipe. In most restaurants in this area, booking in advance is essential. Rest assured, it’s worth the effort! And here’s another tip - as the sun sets, you can stroll over to the iconic cove, Cova d´en Xoroi, where you can enjoy a drink and some tapas with an amazing view of the sea.
Chestnuts for All Saints
Castanyada in Catalonia, amagüestu in Asturias, magosta in Cantabria, gaztainerre in the Basque Country, chaquetía in Extremadura, magosto in Galicia… But despite the different names, all these fiestas are held on All Saints’ Day, 1 November. It’s traditional to roast chestnuts at gatherings, while sharing other products like chestnut cake, cider or chocolate, accompanied by live music and other activities.
And to finish… A star turn
It can sometimes be tricky to reserve a table at one of the Spanish restaurants with 3 Michelin stars, but it’s worth treating yourself at least once, because prestigious chefs like Dabiz Muñoz, the Roca brothers, Martín Berasategui and Arzak create amazing culinary universes.
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