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Archive for the ‘gastronomy’ Category

When it comes to visiting Spain, San Sebastian isn’t a city on many people’s hit list but, did you know that this cosy city, just 1 hour drive from Bilbao, is one of the culinary capitals of the world?

When it comes to visiting Spain, San Sebastian isn’t a city on many people’s hit list but, did you know that this cosy city, just 1 hour drive from Bilbao, is one of the culinary capitals of the world?

Situated in the Basque Country, a region with a rich culinary heritage that today glitters with 23 Michelin-starred eateries, San Sebastian, known as well as Donosti, is an an elegant beautiful medium-size city by the Atlantic sea, with fantastic beaches and surrounded by nature, offering an outstanding gastronomy and a cosy old town, with excellent accommodations perfect for a weekend stay.

When you think about San Sebastian, you think about Gastronomy. Consider a city that counts with most Michelin stars per square metre, consider a city where you can enjoy up to 3 Michelin starred eateries. Ready to indulge in one of them? Then, you’ll want to start with the one with the most history: Arzak.

San Sebastian – Source: Donosti Turismo

History

Built in 1897, 3 Michelin star Arzak Restaurant has always been family-run. In the early days it used to be a wine shop and tavern until Juan Mari Arzak’s parents turned it into a fine eatery whose cook was Paquita Arratibel. Her stews and traditional recipes from the Basque Country, especially Donosti, were highly pleasing.

Arzak Restaurant – Source: arzak.com

In 1966, Juan Mari Arzak took over the family business along with his mother, from whom he learned about Basque food. His interest in learning and his innovative spirit led him to create his own recipes: traditional Basque dishes with a gourmet twist.

At the age of 32, Arzak got its first Michelin star. From mid-70s on, Juan Mari won one award after the other and his restaurant was placed among the best establishments across the country and around the globe.

In 1976, Arzak and a group of chefs created the New Basque Cuisine, a new culinary concept that was aimed to revolutionise the art of cooking. Michelin stars kept reaching his restaurant, with the 2nd one in 1978 and the 3rd in 1989. He was the second to get 3 Michelin stars in Spain and, after 30 years, he still holds them.

Source: arzak.com

A family-run business

Culinary genius runs in Arzak family. In the 90s, Elena Arzak, one of Juan Mari’s daughters, joined the family-run restaurant. She attended top hotel and restaurant management schools in Switzerland and improved her culinary knowledge in great European restaurants.

In May 2001, she was given the Chef de l’Avenir Award by the International Academy of Gastronomy; in 2010, the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy granted her the National Gastronomy Award and, to top it all off, she deserved in 2012 the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award.

Currently, Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena share the kitchen and management of their restaurant. 

Source: arzak.com

The lab

Arzak is a place to eat, to discover, to experience. Arzak is signature cuisine, market cuisine, Basque spirit, creativity, avant-garde and changing all time.

Elena Arzak said once, in one of the interviews published about her, that “Cuisine is shaped by history and environment” and “In the Basque Country, we are surrounded by mountains and the sea, which naturally have influenced our food.”

A great part of Arzak’s success has been its never-ending ability to come up with amazing dishes that are not only extraordinarily original, but also exquisitely plated. In order to perform these extraordinary creations and keep a 3 Michelin-starred eatery level, a special laboratory has been designed above the restaurant, where Elena and Juan Mari Arzak and their team work many hours to greenlight new items every yea, let it be a dish, an appetizer or an ice cream. Traditional dishes and local products are combined with world flavours and textures. The lab has a “flavour workbench” with over thousand products and ingredients used to do research and create new recipes. Their cuisine is all about research and experimenting, creativity and inspiration, flavours and textures, and shared long hours in a lab equipped with cutting-edge technology and a team of cuisine lovers trying to achieve what no-one else has tried before.

Source: arzak.com

Discover gastronomy, come to San Sebastian

San Sebastian is the cradle of gastronomy in Spain and one of its most elegant and cosmopolitan cities. With its sandy beaches facing out into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is synonymous with good living. Counting just 170,000 people, the city not only boasts more Michelin stars per resident than any other in the world, but it also has three restaurants with three stars each: Arzak, Martín Berasategui in Lasarte-Oria and Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre.

Source: Turismo de Euskadi

We invite you to discover it: in the Old Town area, famed for its pintxo bars, you will find both a huge selection of the local speciality – pintxos are tapas-like snacks served in typical Basque style, usually on a skewer or toothpick – and a wide variety of wines; walking its three beaches – from Ondarreta up to Zurriola, taking in famous La Concha in between, it is a must to all vistors. And if you have time, plan a tour to one of the wineries and cider houses located in the surrounded areas, enjoy a “txuletón” T-bone steak or a typical cod-fish dish, taste local cider and “txacolí” wine, while you admire the green mountains and valleys of the region.

Would you like to know more? Drop us an e-mail, we will come back with a programme designed to suit your wishes. info@across-spain.es

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Nearly 50% of olive oils in the world are produced in Spain, with 25% of the entire olive oil growing areas and over 260 endemic varieties. Almost 50% of the production is exported, which means that 1 of each 2 bottles in the world contain Spanish olive oil. Harvesting season will start in autumn, which gives us the perfect excuse to invite you to come to Spain and discover the leading production regions, visit olive oil mills and experience a gastronomical tasting.

Source: Turismo Provincia de Jaén

Designation of Origin & the importance of varieties

Denominaciones de Origin (DO)

Denominación de Origen (Designation of Origin) is a seal a seal that recognizes extra-virgin olive oils produced in a specific area with particular olive varieties and under very strict production and quality standards.  There are 29 DO in Spain, with Andalusia and Catalonia leading the ranking. In Andalusia, Jaén region gathers 20% of DOs.

Varieties

More than 200 varieties of olives are grown in Spain, each one with its own unique flavours and aromas: Picual is the most extended variety in the world and its name refers to the fruit’s pointed tip shape; Picudo, one of the great Andalusian varieties, with significant presence in the provinces of Córdoba, Granada, Málaga and Jaén; Arbequina, characteristic of Catalonia (Tarragona and Lleida) and Alto Aragon, although its growth has spread to practically the entire country, and we could continue with the 26 sorts that complete the DO list.

Source: Olive Oils of Spain

Olive oil, the liquid gold, a treasure dating back to Ancient Greece

Olive oils had a leading role in the economy of Ancient Greece, who began to produce and sell throughout the Mediterranean.

“The liquid gold”, as the Ancient Greeks referred to it, was introduced in Spain by the Phoenicians for 3000 years ago but it was the Romans who spread the oil groves across their colonies. As a result of its expansion into the Iberian peninsula, olive oils produced in Spain became most appreciated throughout the Roman Empire and Spanish olive groves fed the commerce throughout the same.

Spanish olive oil production regions

Large extensions of olive trees can be found in 34 regions across Spain. Among them, one area outstands above the others, Jaén, known as the “world’s capital of olive oil”.

andalucia – Jaén

The Andalucian region occupies the southern third of the peninsula, and it produces approximately 75% of the total olive oil produced in Spain.
With a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, winters with mild temperatures, and irregular precipitation, throughout the year many areas of Andalucia enjoy over three thousand hours of sunlight.
The production of olive oil is concentrated primarily in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba. It is interesting to note that the province of Jaén produces more olive oil than all of Greece, another large producer of olive oil in the world.
The types of olives cultivated in Andalucia for the production of oil are: Picual, Hojiblanca, Lechín, Verdial and Picudo.

This beautiful area of Spain is the perfect place to combine gastronomy & cultural heritage. Only 1 hour from Granada, you can enjoy olive oil routes, visits to “almazaras” (mills where olives are crushed), tasting & gastronomy experiences, while you let yourself be charmed by two cities full of history, Úbeda and Baeza, World Heritage Sites awarded by the UNESCO. These 2 small towns retain a 500-year old charm, with churches, palaces and museums, in an urban setting surrounded by a landscape of olive groves.

Andalucia – Córdoba

The province of Córdoba, is home to four different DO: “Bae­na”, “Priego de Córdoba”, “Montoro Adamuz” and “Aceites de Lucena”. In numerous villages it is possible to organize virgin olive oil tasting sessions and gui­ded visits. A must is Hornachuelos Nature Reserve, home to more than 100,000 ha. of oil groves.

Combine oleotourism and cultural heritage. Visit oil mills and small villages with ancient production history and take the chance to discover the fantastic heritage Córdoba city offers, with the impressive Mosque to its historic charming old town plenty of beautiful palaces and famous “patios”.

Castilla La Mancha

The Castilla – La Mancha region is located in the center of the peninsula, to the south of Madrid. This region produces about 14% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. With 4 designations of origin, the production of olive oil extends to the southeast of the region, concentrating in the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real.

The variety of olive that is cultivated in this community for the production of oil is Cornicabra, although in the southern region bordering Andalucia there are small areas that cultivate the variety known as Picual.

The historic city of Toledo may be the best known area of this region but, not only this UNESCO site is attractive. When we speak olive oil, the DO Montes de Toledo is a must. Its history with production goes back to Phoenician and Greek colonisations, that brought Cornicabra variety, which results in a production of an olive oil with remarkable health properties within cell aging and heart diseases.

Visit Mora and enjoy the “Fiesta del Olivo” in Mora, declared of National Tourist Interest, or the Virgin-Extra Olive Oil Fair. In this town, you will also be able to visit the Museo del Aceite, which keeps a collection of pieces to transmit the culture they witnessed, through the history and different periods, the olive tree, the olive and the olive oil; its uses, the farming olive elements and the machines to obtain it; the contrast of a 19th century oil mill with the 20th century ones. It Is structured divided in three rooms: container room (strainers, jugs, oil bottles), weights and measure room (weighting scales, steelyards and measure traditional system) and rural culture room (it shows the farmhouse with traditional jobs of the rural environment). We will end the visit with the tasting we all are waiting for: taste different varieties, visita an almazara and enjoy a walk through the olive tree fields.

Source: Turismo de Castilla-La Mancha

Catalonia

The Catalonian Community occupies the northeast corner of the peninsula and produces approximately 4% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. It is the second region in number of DO, with 5 designations, and production extends throughout the western region, bordering Aragón. The types of olives cultivated in Catalonia for the production of oil are Fraga, Empeltre and Arbequina.

Places not to be missed are: the olive oil eco-museum in Pobla de Cèrvoles; Castelldans olive oil museum; Uldecona’s greatest collection of thousand-year-old olive trees in the world and the olive oil theme parl in les Borges Blanques. A must not to be missed when speaking about gastronomy in this region is its famous pà amb tomàquet (sliced bread rubbed with tomato and topped with virgin olive oil as its best).

Olive oil products benefits go far beyond gastronomy. Did you know that olive oil is a great product for moisturising and exfoliating the skin? For years it has been applied as part of beauty treatments in various Catalan spas. What are you waiting for to live the olive oil experience?

Source: Agència Catalana de Turisme

Olive oil and gastronomy

Many are the travellers who when asked about “the best of Spain” respond sharply: “the food”. The importance of production of extra virgin olive oil and the boast of production of an excellent product has pushed Spanish gastronomy to a leading place in the world.

A tour to regions we introduced in this post will give you the needed knowledge about the common categories of Spanish olive oil and  you will be be ablre to pick out the one that best suits your needs.

With a strong flavour, extra virgin olive oil is the best choice to dress a salad or other cold dishes and it is the oil you will most find topping a cold tapa. It’s the best Spanish olive oil for preparing traditional Mediterranean dishes that are sauteed or pan-seared, too. But you do not want to use extra virgin olive oil to prepare fried dishes. It has a heavier taste and a lower smoke point. Instead, let’s use refined olive oil, the most basic, with a lighter taste and a higher smoke point that better withstands heat. Also, make sure to use the oil and not keep the bottle open for too long. Once opened, the olive oil should be used within a few months.

Source: Spain.info

 

Source: Mundo Agrario

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The capital of Spain does not only offer great architectural monuments and a lively day- and nightlife, but also a huge variety of typical gastronomic options. If you are coming because of the delicious cuisine or not, you should definitely not miss to spend some time in one of the historic taverns of Madrid. You will find most of them in the centre of the city, in public places like Plaza Mayor or Plaza Santa Ana.

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Source: Andaremos

 

Sobrino de Botín

The Guinness Book of World Records mentioned Sobrino de Botín once as oldest restaurant in the world. It went through several generations and carries a lot of history in the exterior as well as in the interior. The philosophy also reflects its past and the cuisine is kept traditional with regional products. The legendary restaurant is since back then located close to Plaza Mayor in Calle Chuchilleros.

2_Sobrino de Botin

Source: Wikipedia

 

La Cruzada

Also called the “mother of all Madrid taverns”, La Cruzada was founded in 1827 and you will find it in Plaza Oriente. Back then it was a meeting point for intellectuals and also the Spanish king Alfonso XII used to go there. The whole tavern is coloured in red, which in the 19th century used to mark taverns offering quality wine. Nowadays it still serves great wines as well as Spanish food like croquettes or stews.

Casa Alberto

Going to the street Calle de las Huertas, located close to Plaza Santa Ana you will see the next tavern, which ran through a number of generations and was opened in the same year as La Cruzada, in 1827. Casa Alberto belongs to the most ancient bars of the city. The local government even granted them a plaque in the streets. The cuisine differentiate from the others, it serves avant-garde dishes with a typical regional touch.

Los Galayos

Founded in 1894 under the name “Cevecería Rojo” the tavern starting with only a small bar, offering tapas and aperitifs. Los  Galayos adapted to the needs of habitants and tourists and offers now two terraces and five dining rooms. Perfectly located at Plaza Mayor, you can enjoy the typical Spanish cuisine on the terrace, while having an impressive view of the historical square and the colourful building Casa de la Panadería.

3_los galayos

Source: Redmago

 

Casa Labra

Casa Labra, famous for its croquettes, was opened in 1860 and is located close to Plaza de Sol in Calle Tetuán. The historic building has an ancient façade and an old-style interior, which is divided in a bar and a restaurant. The kitchen focuses of traditional dishes offering a wide variety of tapas.

4_casa labra

Source: Fotomadrid

 

Lhardy

The originally French bakery, Lhardy was established in 1839 by the French man Emilio Huguenin Lhardy, in the street Carrera de San Jerónimo, next to Plaza de Sol. Today it is divided in a shop on the ground floor, selling pastries, cold cuts and food to go, and a fine restaurant with a lot of different salons on the second floor. The cuisine nowadays is a creative and tasty mix out of the Spanish and the French kitchen.

5_lhardy

Source: Wikipedia

 

Having lunch, dinner or just a snack in one of the typical, legendary taverns in Madrid is always worth it. It will give you an additional insight into the past and a feeling of being part of it. The flair, the food and the location is perfect to enjoy some time of your stay there.

carta

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While culinary culture was always there as a side benefit, it has developed to the new reason why we’re traveling. And where can you have better food holidays than in the food mecca Spain – a country full with different flavors, delicious food, great restaurants and the famous local markets?

Gastronomy markets in Spain have always been the epicenter of civic life and a labyrinth of the freshest fruits, vegetable, meat and fishes. Hosted in historic buildings in the heart of the cities, some markets are no longer only offering local products but have developed to outstanding culinary experiences with a great variety of gourmet and crafts options and sometimes even live music. With their great culinary diversity, they are also the perfect food supplier for better restaurants in Spain.

market_cover

La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, (source: SuiteLife)

Gastronomy markets are a great way to get an insight into the food traditions of Spain. Sip a beer at the market of San Miguel, explore the wonderful market of Chamberí or stand around at the trendy food market San Anton to experience Madrid’s most popular and unique markets.

Market of San Miguel belongs to the gastronome of San Miguel society whose aim is to improve the traditional activity. La Boquería of Barcelona used as inspiration, the market focuses on high quality products, seasonal food and offering samples.

market1

Market of San Miguel in Madrid, (source: Spain Attractions)

The traditional market Chamberí, which has been operating for almost 70 years, is one of Madrid’s best known markets due to its great quality and variety of products. While it started as a food market, it has been modernized and features now also other services.

The biggest market in Madrid Maravillas is known for its fresh products which are great presented and of high quality. Maravillas is not only outstanding because of its architecture, numerous facilities and professional treatments by its merchant but also because the focus lays on developing eco-sustainable products.

The recently inaugurated San Antón Market in the heart of Chueca represents a new generation of markets with its recycling system. Spreading across three floors and focusing on perishable goods, wine, takeaway services and restaurant areas, the market is an absolute highlight.

market2

San Antón Market, (source: Pinterest)

Covered in high quality and well known markets, Barcelona is the perfect city to get back to basics and shop the old fashioned way at gastronomy markets. With markets such as Fira Artesana, Santa Caterina market and the famous La Boqueria market, the city offers a great variety and something for everybody.

Fira Artesana opens its doors on the first Friday and Saturday of every month and is specialized in homegrown and homemade products. With its nickname “the honey market”, it has turned into a small jewel of Barcelona.

market4

Santa Caterina Market, (source: BarcelonaHome)

As the first permanent covered market in Barcelona, Santa Caterina market is not only of great historic importance but also the perfect place to shop fresh fish, meat and delicious pastries. Moreover, the market features several restaurants to enjoy a beer with tapas, a perfect activity for a Sunday afternoon.

La Boqueria market, one of the most prestigious markets in the world, is an official landmark of Barcelona with over 800 years of history. The famous market is always busy and a hotspot for tourists as it offers everything a heart desires.

market5

La Boqueria Market, (source: Suites Life)

Known as the centers of gastronomy markets, Barcelona and Madrid feature the most famous food markets in Spain. However, other markets such as the central market in Valencia, the famous La Bretxa in San Sebastian and the gourmet market Lonja del Barranco in Sevilla are also must-see’s for food lovers. Experience a culinary journey through Spain and learn why Spanish food markets are treats for everybody when booking a gastronomy tour with us!

market_mapa

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Tapas take over the world! While a few years ago tapas were only offered in Spain, they are becoming a trend in bars all over the world: Greek tapas, Cajun tapas, Thai tapas or the traditional Spanish tapas – everybody loves them!

Commonly, you can refer to the name “tapas” when it’s a small portions to accompany a drink. Throughout the time, most restaurants started to charge money for serving tapas which used to be for free when ordering a glass of wine or beer.

tapas1

tapas, (source: Instituto Mediterraneo Sol)

There are many speculations and legends about the origin of tapas and several regions such as Andalusia and Castile claiming for its invention. While some stories involve King Alfonso XIII’s illness to have small portions of food and a glass of wine in between meals, other legends mention King Fernando XVII who got served wine with cheese over top to protect the wine from bugs and dust. Some people believe it was the working class who needed a glass of wine and small snacks to endure the long working days.

wine with tapas

wine with tapas, (source: Instituto Mediterraneo Sol)

Wherever tapas are from, over the time it has established a form of national identification and it seems like you need to experience tapas to understand the hype and discover the Spanish way of life – socializing with others while savouring delicious tapas and a glass of wine.

experiencing tapas

experiencing tapas, (source: Independent)

Although simple slices of cheese and bread might have started it, there is a huge variety of tapas nowadays. Each region has develop its own tapas attributable to its taste and traditions. However, some tapas are well-known and loved all over Spain.

tapas2

variety of tapas, (source: el telegraph)

A lot of bars love to serve olives as it is simple and loved by everybody. Fried balls are called coquetas and Spaniard can’t get enough of them whether filled with meat, fish or vegetables.

coquetas

coquetas, (source: hogarmania)

Additionally, calamares a la romana (fried squid rings) belongs to the favourites of Spaniards. Tortilla de patatas (omelette made with potatoes) is probably the most famous tapa and an absolute must try when in Spain! What we love the most about tapas is the ability to discover more than one of these tasty dishes without feeling stuffed afterwards.

To be known as the best place to have tapas is the aim of almost every Spanish city due to the culinary importance of tapas. Thus, the competition is extensive and fierce. There are countless tapas events happening in various cities to showcase the quality and originality of tapas. Many language schools and universities organize private “tapas evenings” for their students to familiarize them with the Spanish culture. Street food events such as Van Van Barcelona and MadridEat are often used to demonstrate superior quality of tapas and make tapas even more well-known. Moreover, tapas festivals such as “tapa a tapa” in Sitges, “TaPalma Tapas Festival” in Mallorca and “Palmarés de la Feria de Tapas” in La Roda offer the perfect occasion to find out more about the finest food the villages have to offer for often cheap prices. During these celebrations the best tapas of the year get awarded by either a jury or public.

Personally, we love to have our tapas in Andalucía, especially in Granada as it is one of the best places to get free tapas. Moreover, Alcala de Henares in Madrid and Valencia count to our top favourite places for having tapas. A real insider’s tip for those who like to have high quality tapas is the province of Castilla and León with cities such as Valladolid and León. However, we can truly say that almost every city has its own charm when it comes to experiencing tapas. When traveling through the Basque Country, don’t be surprised when you get pintxos served instead of tapas which are similar but generally speaking smaller. Pintxos are typical for this region and not less delicious than tapas!

pintox

pintox, (source: groupalia)

Regardless where you have tapas (or pintxos), here are some tips for your first visit in a tapas bar: Change bar after having some tapas as the idea is to have a gastronomic bar crawl and make sure to combine the right tapas by asking the waiter for his help! Don’t confuse tapas (small portions) with “raciones” (meal sized servings) and keep in mind that instead of splitting bills, everybody pays for a round in Spain. These simple rules will help you to experience tapas to its fullest!

tapas bar

tapas bar, (source: the culture trip)

We would love to help you understanding the hype about tapas! Get to know the Spanish tradition and experience tapas together with culture by booking your tapas tour through us!

mapatapas

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