Cellar Tours Blog

Archive for the ‘spanish gourmet’ Category

Top Basque Gourmet Restaurants in Pais Vasco and Pays Basque

Cellar Tours recommend:

The Basque country – and in particular the glamorous resort of San-Sebastian – is now a must visit destination for lovers of fine gastronomy traveling in Spain. Its inhabitants, the fiercely proud Basque people, have always enjoyed spending money on food and drink, and lots of it! They are privileged to have access to an abundance of superb raw materials – fish, seafood, excellent game, vegetables, mushrooms, fine wines and other delicacies can all be sourced locally. Moreover, over the past thirty years Basque cuisine has been going through a phase of creative renewal, inspired by the French nouvelle cuisine cookery school. The result is that the region is now Spain’s uncontested gourmet stronghold and a paradise for visitors looking to immerse themselves in good food and wine.

pays basque in autumn

Unsurprisingly, there are more Michelin starred restaurants in the Basque country than any other part of Spain and with standards ever rising; the number is set to increase in the future. The city of San-Sebastian alone has 8 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famous Arzak, one of the pioneers of the new Basque cuisine school of gastronomy. Of course, plenty of superb restaurants can be found across the region without a Michelin star and not having a star does not mean that the restaurant does not work to the highest gastronomic standards. As a guide for discerning visitors keen to sample one or two of the finer points of Basque cuisine, we have selected our top Basque country restaurants below:

1. Akelarre, Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

pedro

With over 38 years experience of wowing diners, head chef Pedro Subijana rarely hits a wrong note with his incredibly refined, exquisite take on traditional Basque dishes and cuisine. This 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in San-Sebastian simply has it all: spectacular views of rolling hills which plunge into the sea, sublime food, a lengthy wine list and professional, but not overly formal service. To savor Subijana’s star dishes, you must try the seven course menu de degustacion. Every dish is a gastronomic treat, but particular highlights include the Sauteed Fresh Foie Gras with Salt Flakes and Grain Pepper and the utterly irresistible Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato “Bolao” and Iberian Emulsion. One for that special occasion! And a personal fave were our clients get extra special service here.

akelarre 2

2. Arzak, 273 Avenida Alcade Elosegui, 20015, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

arzak 2

Considered to be one of the word’s best restaurants in any gourmet guide worth its salt, and, judging by the consistently excellent standards at this icon of modern Basque cooking, we’d have to agree. Founded in 1897 as a house by the current owner’s grandparents, Arzak’s fame can be attributed to one man with a great vision – Juan Mari Arzak. After returning home from the army, Arzak trained in his mother’s kitchen and founded what would become Spain’s first restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars in 1989. Today, he works with his equally passionate daughter Elena to bring diners a taste of his incredible take on Basque dishes – Arzak literally is the godfather of new Basque cuisine. Signature dishes include his marvelous Rape Marea Baja, which is Monkfish with mussels and nori flavored shells and his sublime Pichon con Chia, a moreish concoction of roasted pigeon with a Mexican Chia seed cracker and chia spheres filled with broth. A venue everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

arzk ok

3. Azurmendi, Corredor del Txorierri, Salids 25, Barrio Legina, Larrabetzu, 48195- THREE MICHELIN STARS

azurmendi eneko-atxa-pequena

If Azurmendi were up for sale then it would pull in a fortune for its location alone! A spectacular hilltop setting 10 minutes drive from Bilbao airport houses a modern glass and steel building that serves 3 Michelin-starred food of the highest quality. A relatively new kid on the block, Azurmendi was founded in 2005 by superstar chef Eneko Atxa who cut his teeth at such prestigious venues as Andra Mari and Mugaritz. Its fame quickly rose and in 2013, the venue was awarded a third Michelin star. The restaurant, in addition to being celebrated for its Nouvelle Basque cuisine, is noted for its exceptional and well stocked wine cellar, which is also excellent value. A bottle of the superb Alion from Vega Sicilia can be obtained for €60 for example, which is equivalent to the retail price. Atxa’s prize winning dishes include his roast lobster with a tapenade of lobster, mushrooms, black olives and spring onion emulsion and the already legendary Confit of pork on a breadcrumb base salted with pork bones and acorns, garnished with pork jus, herbs and pork crackling. Divine!

azurmendAZURMENDI_015

4. Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria, 20160, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

ChefMartinBerasategui
A living legend in Basque gastronomy, Martin Berasategui currently holds more Michelin stars than any other Spanish chef. He opened one of the Basque country’s leading restaurants in 1993, in a charming converted farmhouse. He quickly earned a Michelin star and was awarded his third in 2001. This is a restaurant that strives for perfection and easily achieves it; the service is some of the best in Spain, each dish is meticulously crafted and most importantly, Berasategui will happily substitute any dish for something more to your liking. He will also design a menu to fit your budget, which is a rarity in Michelin-starred establishments. Add into the mix an extensive wine list and beautiful setting, and you have the recipe for gastronomic perfection. His signature dishes include a cold potato soup with smoked bacon and the award winning roasted Araiz pigeon, with fresh mushroom pasta, spring onions and light touches of truffle cream.

bera 4bera 5bera 6

5. Elkano, Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808, Getaria

elk

This restaurant is justly celebrated for being a seafood lover’s paradise. Located in the charming Basque village of Getaria, head chef Pedro Arregui, aided by grill master Luís Manterola are famous all over Spain, in fact Europe and beyond for their exquisite shellfish and grilled fish dishes, washed down with the local Basque wine, Txacoli. Their secret is simply only using the freshest, seasonal and locally caught produce which is clearly reflected in the menu. The undisputed highlight at Elkano is the turbot-rodaballo, whole turbot cooked on oak charcoal ashes very slowly, without touching the fire, the result being the finest turbot we have ever tasted. Visitors must also try the delightful kokotxas pil pil, which is grilled hake jowl served with a sauce prepared with its own gelatin, olive oil, parsley, and garlic. Finish with the delicious helado de queso de Idiazabal, ice cream made from a mascarpone-like local cheese served with fresh strawberry coulis.

getaria 2

6. Etxebarri, Calle de San Juán, 1, 24549 Atxondo- ONE MICHELIN STAR

etxebarri 66Head chef and founder Victor Arguinzoniz is the master of Asador style cooking, which is a traditional Spanish method which cooks everything over a large charcoal grill, including dessert! Located in the beautiful Basque countryside, the restaurant offers new culinary creations based on classic techniques and Arguinzoniz is not afraid to grill baby eels, rice, clams, anchovies and black truffles in his quest for culinary perfection. At the heart of this gastronomic temple, however, is a love of freshness and flavor rather than aesthetics for aesthetics sake or overwrought creations.  The wine list is a similar delight, packed with diverse offerings from Spain’s finest regions. Start your feast with his signature grilled baby eels. Follow with baby sea-cucumbers and green beans and tartar of fresh lobster, then move onto the obligatory chuletón or gilled rib eye. This restaurant, although off the beaten track is an essential visit for lovers of great food and wine!

etxebarri

7. La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais, 1 Avenue de l’ Imperatrice, 64200, Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

One of France’s greatest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie can be found in the stunningly beautiful Hotel du Palais in the glamours French resort of Biarritz. The hotel was founded in 1855 as a private villa (known as Villa Eugenie) for the Empress Eugenie. In 1880 the villa was sold and subsequently converted into a hotel casino and then the luxury hotel we see today. It is now a must visit destination of gourmets traveling in the Basque country and the favourite of many Parisians, who say it exceeds the finest restaurants in the French capital. Head Chef Jean-Marie Gautier is a culinary master, but unlike some of his contemporaries prefers to serve classical dishes and is not a slave to the inventiveness of the new Basque school of gastronomy. The ornate, opulent dining room is a sight to behold and one of the most romantic destinations in France. Diners come from far and wide to enjoy his wonderful creations, including the sangria poached duck foie gras and sautéed sucking lamb with artichoke. As expected, the wine list is extensive and a Bordeaux and Burgundy lovers delight.

La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais

8. L´Atelier, 8, rue de la Bergerie – Quartier St Charles, 64200 Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

atelier galerie_9atelier3atelier 5

Another fantastic example of fine gastronomy in the resort of Biarritz, L’Atelier is run by a husband and wife team who recently gained their first Michelin star. A deserving accolade for one of the region’s finest restaurants, presided over by head chef Alexandre Bousquet, while his wife runs the front of house. This small, intimate restaurant serves modern, refined cuisine which mixes the best elements of its French and Basque heritage. Some dishes that must be tried include the sea bream and mashed potato with a pistachio sauce, fried oysters with coconut foam and his divine veal sweetbreads. The wine list offers many gems from both France and Spain, including a great selection of vintage Champagnes. Magnifique!

9. Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, 20100 San Sebastian- TWO MICHELIN STARS

mugaritz

Andoni Luis Aduriz, who founded Mugaritz in 1998 has a pedigree like no other in Spain. This incredibly talented chef worked at the legendary El Bulli in the 1990s and also trained under Martin Berasategui in 1996, another of the Basque country’ leading chefs. He is widely acknowledged to be at the forefront of the new Basque haute cuisine of the region, following the template set out by chefs like Arzak, who wished to investigate the science behind food preparation in their pursuit of perfect molecular gastronomy. Dining at Mugartiz – a mere 20 minutes drive by car from San-Sebastian – therefore, is an experience rather than just an evening of great food. Expect such creative delicacies as noodles of milk skin wrapped in lard served with a tomatoes and pumpkin emulsion, hake with cauliflower and marscarpone cheese and lamb with brain ragout! Service as you’d expect is flawless and attentive throughout and the wine list is a monument to every major Spanish wine producing region.

Mugaritz - gnoc

10. Zoko Moko, 6 Rue Mazarin, 64500, St Jean de Luz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

zoko 2

This elegant and beautiful venue is now undoubtedly St Jean de Luz’s best restaurant. Presided over by head chef Remy Benedeyt since 2011, his cooking is a veritable showcase of sophisticated Basque cooking, and is well worth the visit to this delightful seaside resort on the French Basque coast. The emphasis is squarely on providing diners with a warm personal touch, service is friendly rather than overly formal and the restaurant is only too happy to accommodate your personal requests or preferences. Highlights include prawns on a bed of a julienne of avocado and courgette and the famous cannettes (female duck) which comprises of a pan fried breast and a confit leg. Desserts are also splendid, as is the carefully prepared wine list. Prices are reasonable considering the quality on offer and if this fantastic restaurant has a drawback, well then we can’t see it!

zoko 1

11. Zortziko, Calle Alameda Mazarredo 17, El Ensanche, Bilbao, 48001- ONE MICHELIN STAR

zortziko class

The legendary Zortziko remains today Bilbao’s finest Michelin-starred restaurant; founded by Daniel Garcia in 1989 it continues to wow visitors with Garcia’s superlative, contemporary haute cuisine. The destination is worth the price of admission alone, a gorgeous and elegant building which was actually declared a historic monument. Garcia keeps the menu seasonal, allowing diners to return and sample different innovative dishes, which are always sublime. Service is totally professional and the wine list impressive. Start your meal with the signature langostino con risotto de perretxikos (prawns with wild mushroom risotto), followed by the suprema de pintada asada a la salsa de trufas (guinea fowl in truffle sauce). Finish with strawberry soup and rhubarb ice cream for real gastronomic heaven.

Zortziko comedor

12. Zuberoa, Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz, 20180 Oiartzun- ONE MICHELIN STAR

Restaurante-Zuberoa

Another of Spain’s best restaurants, Zuberoa is set in an idyllic 600 year old farmhouse in the Basque countryside. Founded by the Arbelaitz brothers, the restaurant has maintained over the years a flawless consistency in its culinary artistry, head chef Hilario Arbelaitz is a devotee to the new Basque school of cookery, although he never forgets the traditional origins of Basque cooking which shines through in his creations. Service is perfect, complimenting his delicious, inventive cooking. Signature dishes include: foie gras with chickpea sauce, roasted Norway lobster, vichyssoise and vanilla ravioli, roast duck foie gras with a red fruit sauce and his legendary strawberry and tomato soaked gazpacho.

restaurante-zuberoa_

Barcelona Restaurants Open on Sundays and Mondays

Posted by gen On November - 18 - 2013

Which restaurants open in Barcelona on Sundays and Mondays?

Sundays and Mondays are traditional closing days in Spain for restaurants and Barcelona is no exception. It is notoriously hard to find nice places to eat on these days and if you don´t plan it properly you can end up in terrifyingly bad tourist dives, very disappointed and in a city as famous for gastronomy as Barcelona, there is no excuse to eat badly!

As our clients are always asking us to recommend excellent restaurants on these days, we have put together a little list of places we enjoy and who are open on Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner, Monday lunch and/or Monday dinner, so you will never be without some foodie recs under your belt on your next trip to Barcelona! Always book in advance to avoid waiting in line or being turned away.

barcelona bravo

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday lunch

Arola at Hotel Arts- mythical Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola has this wonderful, breezy  eatery at the Hotel Arts and on a balmy, Mediterranean afternoon there are few nicer settings in Barcelona for lunch! Enjoy easy going delicious tapas like fried calamari; Arola´s signature Patatas Bravas; Iberian pork with Basque Idiazabal cheese, pistachios and chili; succulent Girona beef marinated in soy, wasabi and ginger; ravioli cooked in red wine, oxtail and mushrooms; crab salad and garlicky shrimp, to name  a few goodies.

barcelona hotel arts arola restaurant

Sauc at Hotel Ohla – this Michelin starred eatery at the trendy 5* Ohla hotel is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, unprecedented in Barcelona for a fine dining restaurant. The cuisine is traditional Catalan cooking reinvented with a twist.  You will find adventurous dishes like smoked eel tartare with green apple and herring roe, and more comforting dishes like suckling pig with sauteed potatoes and shallots, and roast turbot withe potato and pancetta terrine in a red wine sauce. Desserts are very tempting, although we usually opt for the cheese plate and Sauc do a great artisan cheese platter.Good choice for a cheffy meal when many of the Michelins close.

barcelona sauc

Taller de Tapas- you cannot go wrong with the super high quality tapas at the Taller de Tapas chain in Barcelona (our favorites are the ones on Calle Argentaria and Rambla de las Flores). Prices are superb for the quality of food and wine you have on offer here. We always order about 10 dishes and royally pig out, and no visit to Barcelona is complete for us without a lunch or dinner at Taller de Tapas. We especially love their Jabugo ham croquettes (homemade), Esqueixada de bacallà (delicious salt cod salad with black olives), Pulpo a feira (Galician style octopus), Cazuela de almejas gallegas al alvarinho (Clams cooked in white wine, soooo good), Cecina de Astorga (cured beef thinly sliced similar to Brsaola from Italy), Pimientos de Padron (tiny roast green peppers, one in 10 is super picante), sautéed artichokes with wild mushrooms and the stunning Girona beef with caramelized onions…I personally love cava with tapas and Barcelona is of course at the gateway to the Penedès wine country where cava comes from and on menus including here you´ll always find some nice offerings. At Taller de Tapas they carry Juve i Camps and Gramona, both faves. Also sparklers from Alella, just half an hour north of Barcelona, like Parxet.

barcelona taller

barcelona taller 2

Jaume de Provença- top quality Catalan cuisine and an extensive wine list with over 300 offerings. Very old school and not interested in being trendy, off the radar mostly with international foodies. Dishes we love include their Spinach Catalan Lasagna, Galician pulpo (octopus), Catalan fish soup, and their mythical broad bean, shrimp and mint salad. They also have classics like steak tartare, baked hake with mussels, duck a l´orange, or if you want to try a local delicacy- pig´s trotters! Many Spanish celebrities, professional athletes and high society dine here so you might spot someone famous :)

Barcelona Jaume de Provença-3

Petit Comité – This attractive and always happening eatery is Michelin starred Fermi Puig´s casual offering, with nostalgic traditional Catalan cuisine served in a hip (but still cozy) setting. They currently have a fabulous 40 euro tasting menu including wine pairings, crazy good value for Barcelona, that includes Croquettes, Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce, Catalan saucisson and wild Garlic Omelette , Tuna with Samfaina and Crema Catalana (like Créme Brulée) with cava, an Emporda white and a Monsant red. Nice place to come with a group of friends.

Barcelona petit comite 1

Paco Meralgo- this self described high end tavern serves brilliant tapas. We love the cuttlefish meatballs, grilled razor clams, periwinkles, roast artichokes, cod Buñuelos, croquettes, Andalusian eggplant… delish and so worth it, don´t miss the tapas here. They open 7 days a week (minus Christmas) for lunch and dinner and lunch is particularly lively.

Barcelona paco

Chicoa- stellar traditional Catalan cuisine, in a handsome, cozy setting. Perfect if you are looking for home cooking and if you have been over indulging in haut cuisine and looking for something more quaint and rustic. The specialty here is Bacalao- cod- and some particularly special dishes include the Bacalao a la ampurdanesa (with plums, pine nuts and raisins), Bacalao gratinado al alioli con langostinos (au gratin with alioli sauce and langoustines) and Bacalao a la llauna (oven baked). There are also a ton of excellent local veg dishes like Spinach canelloni and artichoke fritters.

Barcelona chicoa 2

Bravo 24 at the W- Carles Abellan (of Comerç 24) has this venture at the mega trendy beachfront W Hotel. Rice, seafood and excellent tapas feature heavily on the menu and this is a groovy place to have an upmarket yet casual lunch. Highlights include Zarzuela fish stew, razor clam salad, White asparagus from Gavà, and Wagyu beef. Chilled out and cool.

barcelona bravo 2

L’Olivé- this elegant eatery is owned by the same group who run Paco Meralgo. Located on the shishi Calle  Balmes, the Olivé offers excellent Mediterranean cuisine in a cozy space, we quite like this one for lunch. Go with a group of friends so you can taste an array of dishes! Start with breaded Calçots (similar to leeks), marinated anchovies from Ondarroa, Fabulous Jamón de Bellota (hand cut when you order), and perhaps their beautiful Catalan spinach dish (with pine nuts, raisins and pancetta). The stuffed eggplant is also great as are the road red peppers stuffed with cod. For the main course you could taste their seafood paella or more traditional Fideos (noodles) with squid ink.

Barcelona- olive 2

Casa Delfin- Again, top notch tapas in a lovely location in the buzzy Born quarter, near the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar cathedral and a host of trendy shops and wine bars. We love sitting on the terrace at lunchtime and tearing into their mythical Catalan fish stew (Suquet) while guzzling Cava, this is one of life´s pleasures! They do very traditional offal and seafood fishes too and are one of the last breed of traditional, honest, high quality  (not designer and trendy) tapas eateries left in Barcelona, refreshing.

114

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday dinner

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Arola at Hotel Arts (description above)

Bravo 24 at W Hotel (description above)

Petit Comitè (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday lunch

Alkimia- super fabulous Michelin starred creative cuisine in a minimalist, chic setting in the Eixample quarter. One of the few high end fine dining options on Monday nights. Run by the very pleasant Jordi Vilà. The dining room is bright and airy and the dishes are a revelation!  Try beautifully presented dishes like Pickled oyster with glazed pork, Crystal bread with anchovies, Ñora pepper rice with saffron and bright red langoustine and then seasonal offerings (they have white truffle from Piedmont now for instance). Classics like Roast chicken cannelloni and baby lamb shoulder are given photogenic, cheffy presentations.For dessert try masterpieces like Spiced pineapple with lemon and ginger sorbet or simple but utterly intoxicating Figs with soft cheese and black olives

barcelona alkimia 3

Manairó- Barcelona´s newish “Snout to tail” specialists, but don´t let this put you off! Dishes include Wild sea-bream with stewed cuttlefish, mousse of grilled sardines, croquettes of roast chicken, scallops in rice,and so much more. While the presentation is creative the dishes are actually appetizing and with flavor combos that actually work (not pretentious flavor combinations showing off the chef´s cleverness, there is a little bit of an epidemic of chefs using ingredients for the sake of novelty rather than flavor).

barcelona manairo

Hisop- contemporary and stylish very small dining room, this is one of Barcelona´s best value Michelin starred restaurants with  accomplished creative cuisine. Signature dishes includes their “After Eight Foie Gras” and grilled milk and hazelnuts. The current autumn menu looks very tempting with appetizers of pumpkin, scallops and Comté cheese & Squid with trumpets (wild mushrooms), sausage and fennel; and main dishes of Monkfish with green “Romesco” and grilled duck with figs and endive. And the pistachio with kaffir lime also sounds delish, we need to go back to Hisop to taste their current menu as have not been since last season, yumm!

barcelona hiso

Enoteca at Hotel Arts- This is the fine dining option at Hotel Arts (which also houses excellent Arola) and they have a fabulous al fresco terrace with views of the Port Olympic. They have one of the best wine cellars in Barcelona with over 500 wines, hence the name. Two Michelin starred chef Paco Perez offers inspired creations like gnocchi, red fruit and squid; grouper fish al pil pil with fresh herbs and caviar; gambas with Boletus, super premium cured ham Gran Reserva Joselito; for daring types, try the Sea cucumber with duck egg, and Iberian pork or the seabass with seaweed and calamari broth (nicer than it sounds). Do try the chef´s tasting menu. This is fine dining with a view on a Monday in Barcelona, no easy feet!

barcelona enoteca

barcelona enoteca 2

Tapas 24- Michelin starred chef Carles Abellan´s casual tapas joint. They don´t accept reservations  and open from 9am to midnight so you can come at nearly anytime of the day, very handy to have a quality place like this in your agenda to avoid the ubiquitous greasy, touristy tapas places smattered around town. The tapas are all super traditional, just served with ultra fresh ingredients. You´ll find classics like “La bomba”, the curious Russian salad, Pork croquettes, anchovy fritters,  the Bikini sandwich, rabo de toro, stewed lentils, and then a few cute creative tapas like the McFoie burger. They serve Vermut here, THE trendiest drink in Barcelona at the moment.

barcelona tapas 24

barcelona tapas 24 2

Topik - excellent chef Adelf Morales makes Asian inspired creative Mediterranean cuisine. He has trained with the best at Berasetegui, Arzak and also in Japan and Italy and his Catalan cuisine is heavily Asian influenced. Stand out dishes include Baby lasagna with tuna and samfaina, spider crab rice, hake cheeks al pil pil, Sald cod with a miso dressing, steak tartare, free range chicken with a romesco sauce.

barcelona topik

Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday dinner

Gelonch- creative cuisine and pretty hot right now with globetrotting gourmets. Chef Robert Gelonch who worked at El Bulli and Gaig, is a young, innovative chef whose menu features a fusion of modern and classic dishes, ranging from uber traditional dishes like pigs trotters and suckling pig to gambas al Pisco with hibiscus and Chinese cabbage. The best way to enjoy the food roller coaster here is to dedicate 3 hours to his 10 course tasting menu, what a journey!

barcelona gelonch

Cal Pep- this wonderful fish restaurant is a veritable institution in Barcelona. Specialties at Cal Pep include Xipirons amb cigrons (Baby squid with garbanzos), hake wrapped in Swiss chard, artichokes stuffed with olives, tuna tartare, fried calamari, clams with cured Spanish ham and so many more tantalizing dishes. They always have fresh fish of the day specials and you cannot go wrong with their recommendations.

barcelona pep

Alkimia-(description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Tapas 24- no reservations (open all day)

Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

Hisop (description above)

Enoteca at Hotel Arts-(description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Manairo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Jaume de Provença 2

Spanish Sidra/ Cider from Spain

Posted by gen On November - 14 - 2013

On the beautiful Atlantic coast in northern Spain, the production and consumption of cider has a history that stretches back to the first century B.C. Particularly in the region of Asturias (and to a lesser extent the Basque country) cider is considered far more than a simple drink.

sidra producto-llagar-fozana-g

Cider is a central part of the local history and folklore – its enjoyment has been part of the Asturian culture for many centuries. In its most basic form, cider is simply fermented apple juice, however, many different forms of cider, known as “sidra”, are produced in northern Spain- from artisan, hand crafted still ciders to slightly sparkling generic varieties. Drunk on a warm evening, chilled with a selection of Basque tapas or pinxtos, it is one of Spain’s greatest gastronomic pleasures, just waiting to be enjoyed by discerning visitors.

The first mention of cider production comes from the Greek Geographer and visitor to Spain, Strabo, who noted during the 1st century B.C that “the Asturians have a drink they call Zythos, made from fermented apple juice.” Many centuries later, by the mid 1800s cider was an important part of the Asturian economy and there were over 250 apple presses across the region.  Today, Asturias produces more than 80% of the total production in Spain and consumption in the region runs at over 50 litres per person, each year.

sidra poster

Traditionally, a distinction is made in Spain between sidra natural and sidra gasificada. Sidra natural is usually made in small-scale operations and is fermented without any additional additives. Only the finest, locally grown apples should be used as the Atlantic coast has over 30 different varieties of apples grown in market gardens. A skilled cider maker will blend the juice of different apples – sour crab apples and sweeter varieties for example – to attain the perfect balance of richness of fruit and acidity. A good Asturian cider should have a strong, sharp flavor and good acidity. It is best consumed young, the alcohol will usually range from  4–8% strength, making it the perfect drink to enjoy alone or with various tapas dishes. In addition, some producers are now making bottle fermented, Champagne style sparkling ciders, a wonderful alternative to cava.

sidra1

In contrast, Sidra gasificada is industrially manufactured cider, usually quite sweet as sugar is added during the production process. It is fermented in large scale stainless steel tanks and although pleasant as an aperitif, lacks the finesse and favour of a authentically made sidra natural. However, it is inexpensive and usually keep longer than its artisanal counterpart. Popular all over Spain, but less so in Asturias as locals tend to prefer the definite article!

The fermentation process for sidra natural is relatively straightforward. The ripe apples are washed and diced, softened in water and then pressed. This unfermented must is then typically fermented in chestnut barrels and not bottled before the spring of the following year, before which it must be filtered to remove any solid residue. It is sold across bars, restaurants and shops in the region, but its traditional home is the Sidreria or Chigres, bars specializing in cider and delicious tapas to wash down with a glass (or 6)

Now, you may think that the process of ordering a glass of delicious cider is easy, surely the bartender simply open a bottle and pours? I’m afraid not: the Asturians take their traditions quite seriously and there is an important ritual that must be observed when serving sidra. The bartender will raise the bottle above their head and the cider cascades from the bottle into the glass which he is holding below. Only one or two inches of cider are poured, which must be drunk immediately, before the glass can be refilled. This technique is known as escanciar un culin and it is said that it develops the flavor and aerates the drink, giving it a slight fizz and pleasant, effervescent texture. It can also be drunk straight from the barrel in some bars, served with such Asturian delicacies as bean stew, baked sardines or salt cod tortilla or omelette. Divine!

sidra info

In addition to its natural homeland in Asturias, sidra also has quite a popular following in the neighboring Basque country, particularly in the province of Gipuzkoa, around gorgeous San Sebastian! The Basques are very fond of drinking cider straight from chestnut barrels, which works fantastically well with their variety of pinxtos (basque tapas). Of course, many different brands compete for your attention so we have done the hard work and selected our top 5 cider drinks below.

Recommended Spanish Ciders:

Asturvisa – Ciders of Spain´s special inaugural release, Sidra Fanjul Sidra Natural Ribanora, Sidra Viuda – Sidra Brut Viuda de Angelón, Sidra Fanjul – Sidra Llagar Fozana, Guzman Riestra – Sidra Brut Nature, Sagardoa sidra natural

sidra ristera

 

Taste Cider in Northern Spain! Known as Green Spain the northern coast is absolutely gorgeous and you could enjoy a cider tasting tour starting near the French border in Getaria, heading west weaving your way through lovely Basque Country (San Sebastian is a must), Cantabria (elegant Santander, darling San Vicente de la Barquera) and Asturias (Villaviciosa is the epicenter of cider production and you can visit many sidrerias, also taste cider in the elegant town of Oviedo and lively Gijón, not to mention the adorable hamlets of Tazones and Lastres.

Here are some good resources for your cider tasting travels:

Excellent database of ciderhouses in Spain

Ciders of  Spain

Basque Cider Info Sagardoaren Lurraldea

The Cider Route in Asturias

Cantabria Tourism

Cider and the Sea in Euskadi (Basque Country)

sidra 2

Best Wine Bars in Barcelona – Cellar Tours Shortlist

Posted by gen On September - 22 - 2013

Our selection of fave wine bars  in Barcelona….

Madrileños will strongly disagree, but there is no doubting that Barcelona‘s nightlife and bar scene is now one of the most vibrant in Europe. For while the citizens of Catalonia’s capital are all too happy to culturally distance themselves from their regional neighbors, they have in common with all Spaniards a love of social drinking that supports the highest number of bars per capita in the world. So banish those clichés of pitchers of Sangria on Las Ramblas and instead be prepared to party in a city that continues to sizzle with creativity: Barcelona’s wine bars and restaurants speak more of bold contemporary design than tradition!

barcelona cata 181 2

Today, Barcelona’s wine bars run the gamut from trendy, design led hotel bars to wood-paneled wine cellars and backstreet local haunts. An explosion of nightlife has occurred in recent years in the City’s waterfront area, which continues to attract large volumes of tourists in the summer. Cava and wine bars, some elegant and cool, some funky and style conscious are also reaching new heights of popularity, especially in the trendy Born district east of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. These bars vary enormously in clientele and vibe, but all are extraordinary atmospheric.

Just don’t expect things to get going before 10pm, especially at the weekend as people get into their night-time stride. Of course, not every venue in this captivating city is worth a visit, so we have done the hard work and listed Barcelona’s best wine bars below:

Salud!

The Bankers Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 38-40 Passeig de Gracia

Since opening in 2009, this world-class hotel has won pundits far and wide for its service and has emerged as one of Barcelona’s finest and most sought-after hotels. Housed in an old bank vault, the Mandarin’s classy and refined Banker’s Bar has become a popular choice for both locals and visitors wishing to sample a range of Spanish and international wines by the bottle or glass. There is a real sense of sophistication about the space – sleek, softly lift with a black bar counter and black leather chairs. The service is exemplary and a range of high-quality tapas compliments the extensive wine list.

barcelona-restaurant-bankers-bar-2

Monvinic – 249 Carrer de la Diputacio

Could Monvinic be the best wine bar in the world? It certainly comes close, as Monvinic has an incredible selection of both Spanish and imported wines by the glass or bottle. The emphasis here is on merging the traditional and cutting edge – visitors are handed an iPad like device instead of a wine list, however, a very large wine library is free for anyone to peruse at their leisure. The space is relaxed, elegant and refined, with soft cream colors and chairs replaced by loungers. There are over 60 selections by the glass and unusually for a Spanish destination; there is no bias to local wines. The bite-size accompaniments are also some of the best to be found in the Catalan capital – try the langoustines!

monvinic 2

Hotel Omm’s Lounge and Terrace bar – 265 Carrer Rossello

Hotel Omm led the way in re-defining Barcelona’s hotel and bar scene with its extremely smart, sophisticated urban accommodation for discerning travelers. It’s informal but chic lounge bar has become a firm favorite with Barcelona’s night crowd at the weekends, in addition to the hotel’s guests. Relax in the ridiculously comfortable sofas and peruse their extensive wine menu, which includes some brilliant cava options by the glass. An ultra-trendy club occupies the basement, whilst in the summer months the action takes place on Omm’s fantastic terrace, with views straight over to Gaudi’s masterpiece La Pedrera next door.

Omm

La Vinya del Senyor – 5 Placa Santa Maria

Still in a class of its own, La Vinya del Senyor occupies a space on the delightful Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar right in front of the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, gorgeous spot. Hoards of both tourists and natives come here to taste a wide variety of red and white vintages, accompanied by great value tapas. A good and varied selection of around 300 Spanish and imported wines, including some great cava and sherry, is served at the counter; or in the summer months on the fantastic outdoor terrace. There is no finer spot for people watching in Barcelona. Don´t miss it!

vinyadelsenyor3

La Vinoteca Torres – 78 Passeig de Gracia

Torres’ global wine empire now extends to serving excellent tapas and pretty much every Torres wine by the glass at this deservedly popular wine bar on the city’s famous Passeig de Gracia Boulevard. The place’s secret is its ability to be things to all men: purchase wine, stay for a glass, and sample a few tapas or a full-blown 5 course meal. The venue is sleek and stylish and the tapas are some of the finest and most inventive in the city -  Vinoteca offers a great opportunity to enjoy the top-end wines of Torres without having to commit to a bottle. Service is uniformly excellent too.

Cata 1.81 – 181 Carrer de Valencia

The clean, modern interior of this ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ underground venue in Barcelona’s Eixample district suggests that this is no ordinary tapas bar. It is in fact a haven for oenophiles and mini gastronomic surprises. Cata 1.81 serves more than 250 wines by the bottle, with a clear emphasis on wines from every major Spanish region, and a list of over 25 by the glass that changes every 15 days. The only drawback is that space at this wonderful wine bar is quite limited so get there early!

barcelona cata 181

El Xampanyet – 22 Carrer de Montcada

Barcelona’s best-known cava bar still packs them in with its inviting atmosphere and selection of tapas and cava by the glass. Discover the finer points of Spain’s bubbly by sampling the wares of different produces by the glass, accompanied by perhaps a selection of sardines or a Jamon platter. The colorful tiles, stacked casks hung with a variety of bottle-openers and well-worn interior bespeak the informal, fun atmosphere for which this family run operation is well-loved. There is nothing cutting-edge or trendy about the place, which only adds to its timeless appeal.

xampa

The Gin Boom has exploded all over Europe’s cities, trendy clubs and bars in the last few years. Not since the roaring twenties has Gin been so “in”.

And in our view, the most delicious, sexiest, buzziest gin on the market is definitely “Ish”.  We chatted with the creator and founder of The Poshmakers“, Elli Baker, about how Ish came about.

Ellie who is based in Madrid, and owns the Bristol Bar (premier gin bar and restaurant) is indeed also from Bristol. She actually studied  Oenology & Viticulture at the University of Brighton and worked at a vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa (as well as the UK!) before moving to Madrid. She had intended to move to Chile and make wine, but fell in love with a Galician (her husband and business partner) and stayed. The past few years have been whirlwind for Ellie, as within a year of creating the now firmly established Bristol Bar, she had a baby and if not busy enough with that, she created her own Gin (Ish) and Rum (Virgin Gorda British Caribbean Rum), and a new Vodka is in the works for September of this year. How does she do it?!

CT- 1. What encouraged you to create your own Gin?

Ellie- As a gin lover I was disappointed that out of all of the new, premium gins that were coming onto the market nobody was producing a premium London Dry Gin. So by producing exactly that a super premium traditional style London Dry Gin, but with a modern twist I filled both a personal desire and a gap in the market.

CT-2.  Where did the name Ish come from?

Ellie- -ish comes from the suffix Brit-ish/Engl-ish and also stands for “Irresistible Scandalous Hallmark” The name really works well as it’s short, so easy to remember and helps to explain the gin’s personality.

CT-3. How is your gin made, and where?

Ellie- -ish is a London Dry Gin, which means that all of the botanicals are steeped for 24 hours before distillation in a pot-still, using 100% British  Natural Grain Spirit, a total of 5 distillations are involved providing a very pure, high quality gin concentrate. After distillation the concentrate is allowed to rest during two weeks before it is blended with more natural grain spirit and then reduced to the desired alcoholic strength of 41% with water. (London Dry Gins must include all of the botanicals in the distillation and cannot add any flavourings or colours).
-ish is distilled and bottled in Clapham, London.

CT-4. Gin is famed for its botanical ingredients, what botanicals make Ish so special?

Ellie- One of the important things about -ish is that we haven’t played around with any weird or wonderful botanicals, we have stuck to traditional London Dry Gin botanicals, but added a little twist “an extra shot of juniper”, basically double the amount of juniper you find in most London Dry Gins. We source the highest quality, Baltic juniper which is much more resinous and helps provide a desirable oily texture. So -ish is obviously a very Junipery Gin, but we have included another 10 botanicals, providing complexity and balance, these include lemon and orange peel, liquorice, nutmeg, corriander, orris root, angelica, almond and cassia. Apart from the quality and ratio of botanicals, another important factor in the quality of -ish is the high ratio of gin concentrate to alcohol and water, -ish includes almost 4 times the amount that you find in other London Dry Gins, this provides a fantastically smooth and full body.

CT-5. What are 3 of your favorite gin cocktails?

Ellie- Gin and Tonic, Breakfast Martini and White Lady

CT-6. Can gin be paired with food?

Ellie- Yes, it most definitely can. Especially at the moment with such a wide range of styles available. Some of my favourite pairings include; a Dry Martini with Steamed Mussels, -ish & tonic with Traditional Fish & Chips or with an Ostrich Burger

CT-7. Gin bars are all the rage these days, tell us about your own gin bar.

Ellie- Bristolbar is a British bar and Restaurant in the heart of Madrid. Within a few months of opening we launched Gintonize, our gin concept within bristolbar. Gin & Tonic being one of the most “British” long drinks we decided to focus on that and started with a list of 60 gins, many of which weren’t commonly found in Spain. We provided the opportunity for new/unknown brands to present their gins as “Gin of the Month” including a special event where brand representatives/owners could meet the customers. Over the years the list has doubled and we now have over 120 gins and numerous tonic waters. Although our  tonic water list has been recently modified, now focusing on the British tonic waters; Schweppes, the Schweppes Premium range, Fentiman’s, Britvic and Fever Tree. We also offer numerous gin based cocktails including a Martini list inspired by the 50th Anniversary on Bond. We organise tastings, Master Classes, Gin & Food Dinners…

CT-8. Where are great spots in London for gin lovers?

Ellie- The gin boom that took place in Spain two years ago is only just getting going in London, so everyday there is a new gin bar to be found. Some of my favourite spots for my favourite tipple include; Graphic Bar – Golden Square, Christopher’s – Covent Garden, Coq D’Argent and Royal Exchange – The City (Bank) Calloh Callay, Lab – Soho. And the next time I’m in London I’ll be visiting Gaucho; they have just taken ish on board, so after one of the best steaks in town I can now enjoy one of the best G&Ts!

CT-9. Any advice on making the perfect Gin Tonic?

Ellie- For me the perfect serve is; A large balloon glass or wide neck highball glass with plenty of good quality, large ice cubes (so that they don’t melt too quickly) a twist of fresh lime peel, 60ml of -ish gin and 200ml of Schweppes Original Premium Tonic Water. A gentle stir with a bar spoon or mixer and serve immediately. Drink within 15 minutes to enjoy optimum quality!

Contact>

The Poshmakers, Ltd.

Burwood House,  14-16 Caxton Street SW1H 0QY – London

U.K.:  +44 (0) 7503526419  |  Spain:  +34 (0) 654718925

[email protected]

 

Also interesting:

10 Cocktails with Ish Gin on Summer Fruit Cup

Memorable Dishes of 2010in France, Spain, Italy, and Ireland

It’s become an annual tradition: we look back at the last year and consider what the best meals of the year were.  Last year we focused on Italy, and this year we are doing it across the board.

As we travel throughout the five countries where we offer our gourmet tours (France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France) throughout the year, between the whole team we get to try literally hundreds of restaurants throughout the year. These range from hole- in- the wall – family restaurants to gastro pubs to Michelin starred high end eateries.

We have selected some of our favorite dishes (as you can see we tended to favor simple preparations and top quality ingredients over complicated dishes)  this past year with links to where we were lucky enough to taste them.

May 2011 be a terrific year for all our readers, may you eat and drink very well!

1. Seafood platter, with delicious lobster and oysters, at Aherne’s in Youghal – county Cork, Ireland

Memorable Dishes 2010

2. Frog legs at Maison Lameloise in Burgundy

Memorable Dishes 2010

3. Pizzoccheri at Locanda Altavilla in Valtellina

Memorable Dishes 2010

4. Amazing Irish breakfast with wild smoked salmon and carragheen pudding at The Mill in Dunfanaghy – county Donegal

Memorable Dishes

5. Scallops at Le Coquillage of Chateau Richeaux and informal tasting of oysters (creuses and plates) in Cancale


Memorable Eating 2010

 

6. Pan fried eel and salad with shallot vinaigrette at 2 Michelin starred restaurant at Domaine des Hauts de Loire in the Loire Valley


Memorable Dishes 2010

7. Spring specialty with wild asparagus at La Subida in Friuli

Memorable Dishes 2010

8. Strawberry millefeuille at Venissa (owned by top Prosecco producer Bisol) in Venice

 

www.PassioneGourmet.it

 

9. Grilled Rodaballo (Turbot ) at Elkano in Getaria, Spanish Basque Country

Memorable Dishes 2010

10.  Sole with Fennel, Bergamot and Med Flavors at Celler de Can Roca in Catalunya, Spain

Memorable Dishes 2010


The Mercado de San Miguel- Gourmet Gem in Madrid

Posted by gen On January - 4 - 2011

The Mercado de San Miguel is the best thing to happen to Madrid in forever, and the popularity of the market’s food and wine stands and convivial atmosphere has soared to a stratospheric level. The weekends are heaving with happy locals and tourists alike munching on the gourmet goodies (stuffed peppers, oysters and champagne, Galician octopus, Catalan canelones, marinated olives, artisan cheeses, Jamón de Bellota, Chorizo, etc) and buckets of vino de Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Sherry, Cava, Priorat….

We got the camera out and took some shots of this lovingly restored historic market, enjoy! And if you find yourself in Madrid, a visit here is a must. Best enjoyed midweek and before dinnertime. If you don’t mind crowds, the weekends are a whole lot of fun, with occasional entertainment. They recently had a Galician themed night with food and wine from Galicia, Galician musicians performing and a fantastic -but packed!- ambience.

Information on the Mercado de San Miguel:

Opening Times:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10AM- midnight
Thursday, Friday and Saturday- 10AM – 2AM (after 10PM the whole market becomes a cool wine bar!)

Address: The Plaza San Miguel, Madrid (right next tot he Plaza Mayor)

Other tips while visiting Madrid: Best tapas in town, Viridiana restaurant, a wine tour to La Mancha, the Prado Museum, DiverXo restaurant, the Retiro Park, jazz at the Cafe Central…

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

 

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

 

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

 

 

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

 

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

 

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid- Cellar Tours

See you at the Mercado for a vino!

 

Dining Highlights Barcelona- Foodie Weekend

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2010

Restaurants in Barcelona- Notes from a Foodie Weekend

Dining Highlights Barcelona

We were in Barcelona last weekend checking out new suppliers, taking in some meetings and visiting some of our favorite foodie partners, here are some notes from our trip and tips for your next visit to Barcelona.

FRIDAY- CASA CALVET- We arrived to town after 9PM but managed to get freshened up before our late dinner at Casa Calvet. What a beautiful place! Located in a Catalan mansion designed by none other than Gaudi for a textile mogul at the turn of the last century, the whimsical dining room is all stained glass, “Modernista” design, mirrors, polished wood and brass. A “brindis” (toast) with cava was in order as we admired the setting and ordered the food. We shared wild mushrooms with chestnuts and Jamón Ibérico, perhaps not the most adventurous, but delish.  Other interesting starters included Bomba rice with conger eel and seasonal veg & Apple and foie gras ravioli with truffle cream. Alvaro Palacio´s “Terrasses” from Priorat was good value here and just gorgeous.  The mains selected were a delicate cod steak confit with porcini mushrooms and arbequina olives, artichoke chips and a rich duck liver with chickpeas and Iberian pancetta, aromatized with cumin. Gluttony, not hunger, made us finish with Apple tart tatin, made fresh to order. The other patrons dining this late were a mix of elegant Catalan couples and tourists. The food was not ground breaking or unique enough to be featured in a Bourdain episode, but was still very good and the setting beautiful, recommend for a special occasion.

Dining in Barcelona

SATURDAY- EMBAT AND FONDA GAIG- While we normally breakfast at the Boqueria market when in town (cava and Joan´s garbanzos with Morcilla at Pinotxo in the market are a MUST), we had a meeting so had a quickie breakfast at “any old bar” of simple pan amb tomaquet (country bread drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and rubbed with tomatoes) and freshly squeezed orange juice as you do when in Spain…

Breakfast in Spain

Lunch was with our friend, writer Tara Stevens who is launching a new cookbook as we speak (more on that later…) at the quite fantabulous “Embat“.  We had heard good things about this swish little eatery, and it was the perfect lunch venue- light, airy, friendly, and not so crowded (dinner is more “sceney” apparently). Dinner was supposed to be the highlight today but lunch stole the show.  The wine list is very, very good, we selected a bottle of the current vintage of Vallegarcía Viognier (one of our favorite Spanish white wines), and it was peachy, fresh and creamy, love that wine.  An amuse bouche of Cauliflower pannacotta with caviar set the tone (mmmmms and ooooohs) and we continued with STUNNING cannelones stuffed with duck (a flagship dish,  Canelons d’ànec amb rossinyols de pi”), seared scallops with apple and pancetta, and followed with heavenly slow cooked beef, lobster rice and pigeon three ways. Simply yum, yum and more yum. I think dessert was actually a favorite dish, a refreshing “Sopa de romaní amb meló i llimona” ( a kind of soupy sorbet of melon, lemon and rosemary). Too delicious to describe in words… We were stuffed at this stage so decided to walk it off and do some gourmet shopping while in town. Visits to Escribà, Cacao Sampaka, the Corte Inglés supermarket were in order!

Dining in Barcelona

Dinner then was at Fonda Gaig, an old time favorite, relaxed, understated and  chic, with traditional Catalan cuisine served in a brasserie setting by mythical Michelin starred chef Carles Gaig (Fonda Gaig is his nostalgic eatery, known for its trad cuisine while “Restaurante Gaig“, located at the stylish Hotel Cram is the trendy, creative Michelin starred eatery.) Don´t ask us where we found room (the more you eat the hungrier you get!), but we managed to have a full dinner and dessert (!):  Salteado de setas de temporada (sautéed wild mushrooms) and Senyor Gaig’s biblical croquettes. For mains Pato con peras  (duck with pears) , Vieiras con salteado de alcachofas  (scallops with artichokes) and Albondigas con sepia  (meatballs with cuttlefish). To finish, nothing else would do but Crema Catalana, sublime. We were dying for a bottle of Artadi Rioja, but they just sold the last bottle so we had a very good bottle of Muga. We waddled back to our hotel, luckily a good 20 minute walk so we were able to digest… a bit….

Dining in Barcelona

SUNDAY- CASA DELFÍN- Our friend Kate who owns the truly wonderful Taller de Tapas chain (in our view the freshest and absolute best tapas in Barcelona!) invited us down to her newest venue in Barcelona, the Casa Delfín, a historic and well loved neighborhood restaurant that Kate recently took over.  Respecting the clientele and traditional Catalan cuisine, Casa Delfín has all the classic dishes on offer, as well as traditional tapas (Padrón peppers, anchovies, Jamón, calamares, you name it). While the inside of the restaurant is darling, kind of Parisian bistro a la Catalana, it was a sunny day and sitting inside on such a beautiful afternoon was not an option! We tasted our way through their tapas menu (major highlights were the savory garbanzos, and the nearly sweet, utterly buenísimo sautéed artichokes) and for mains had absolutely delicious seafood rice and a Sunday staple, liver and onions. They serve zippy Alella by the glass and, unusual for Spain, have some nice half bottles on offer. The crowd inside was all local, many older, elegant Catalan couples, while outside on the “terraza” was a mix of funky, younger locals and tourists like us :) Recommended, especially for Sunday lunch.

Dining in Barcelona

Casa Delfin, Barcelona

For our digestif, we took a long walk from the Borne quarter into the Eixample and sat down for a Campari at  the lovely Casa Fuster, our main hotel partner in Barcelona. They have a beautiful bar which is a stylish, relaxed place to have an afternoon drink or coffee and read the newspaper, listen to jazz. Casa Fuster is the coolest place to stay in Barcelona in our opinion, for location, rooms and setting. And alas, late afternoon called for packing, weighing suitcases exploding with our gourmet shopping, and heading to the airport.  A reveure, Barcelona!

Other spots we love in Barcelona: Cinc Sentits (for an elegant but unpretentious Michelin starred dinner delivered in perfect English as the owners are Canadian-Catalan), Abac (for a special “date night” Michelin dinner in glam setting), the old fashioned and pretty “La Dama” restaurant (romantic), Katherine´s Formageria de  la Seu cheese shop (where onsite cheese tastings can be organized), Sergi Arola`s trendy tapas bar at the Hotel Arts, and the tremendous wine selection at the Vila Viniteca enoteca (we organize  Spanish cheese and wine masterclasses here in their cellar). On our next visit to Barcelona we plan to dine again (it´s been a while) at Alkimia and will check out Carles Abellan´s newish Tapaç 24.

Shots around town…

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Spanish Cheese From Coast to Coast- Quick Glossary of Cheeses from Spain

By Martina Hemm

 

Murcia Al Vino

 

Known for their wine and fanatic adoration of everything ham, Spaniards are equally as enamored with their cheese, and rightly so. Running the gamut from sharp and creamy to firm but mild, the range of Spanish cheeses mirrors the varied terrain that characterizes their distinct flavors.

Here’s just a sprinkling of Spain’s lactic delights to whet your appetite.

CABRALES, D.O.P. 1981

Elaborated in the lush mountains of Asturias, in the north of Spain, the flavor of this acclaimed blue cheese is tied to the region’s landscape. The herds of cows, sheep, and goats, that produce the milk for Cabrales, feed in the high pastures of Asturias. The ripening process takes place in natural mountain caves that are passed on from generation to generation—from which Cabrales receives its characteristic blue-green veining. Slightly granular, Cabrales has a spicy yet salty bite that pairs perfectly with a sweet sherry from the South of Spain.

IDIAZABAL , D.O.P. 1987

Another cheese from the northern regions of Spain, Idiazábal is located on the other end of the flavor spectrum. Mild with a nutty presence, this firm cheese is produced in two varieties, smoked and plain. The smoked variety spends up to 10 days over fires of Cherry, Birchwood, or Hawthorne, from which it retains an ocher rind, compared to the buttery yellow tone of a plain Idiazábal.  Predominantly elaborated in the Basque country and Navarre region, Idiazábal was given its D.O.P. to protect the Latxa and Carranza sheep. These native species of the region only produce a small quantity of milk per year, resulting in a limited and exclusive supply of true Idiazábal.

Idiazábal

Idiazábal

MAHON, D.O.P. 1985

The tiny Balearic island of Menorca is a culinary hothouse, the birthplace of mayonnaise (Mahon-aise) and the cultivating ground for Mahon cheese, whose salty sharp taste is reminiscent of the island’s briny coast. A cow’s milk cheese, Mahon undergoes a series of baths in olive oil and/or Pimentón, a spice similar to paprika. Like cheddar, the bright white cheese grows darker, sharper, and crumbles with age.  You can find three different stages of Mahon: soft, semi-cured, and cured. A soft Mahon has a barely developed white/orange rind and white to yellow creamy yet firm interior. The taste, while suave, still has the characteristic brine and a sharp tinge to it. In comparison the semi-cured Mahon’s rind is a brownish orange, the cheese an ivory yellow. With a more developed bouquet of flavors typical of Mahon, including notes of toasted nuts, the cheese still retains the milky notes of a younger Mahon. The cured Mahon, on the other hand, is a cheese made in cheese-lovers heaven. Powerful, evoking flavors of tobacco, leather, and spices, the aged cheese crumbles to the cut and lingers on the palate—especially paired with a strong honey.

Mahon

Mahon

MANCHEGO, D.O.P. 1996

Mentioned by Cervantes, in the world’s first modern novel Don Quijote, Manchego has always been a protagonist on the culinary scene. Found in tapas bars across the country, Manchego belongs to Spain like flashy clothes to flamenco. Produced in central Spain, the region of La Mancha, Manchego’s savor reflects the arid landscape it is crafted in. The ancestral race of Manchegean sheep that supply the milk, feed off of the sparse vegetation, marking Manchego with a distinctive zest. Similar to Parmesan, Manchego demonstrates fruity notes that balance out its sharp acidity. The texture is firm with small air pockets spread throughout the yellow/white cheese surrounded by a hard rind.

MURCIA AL VINO, D.O.P.

Known as “Drunken Goat” in the U.S. this goat cheese matured in wine comes from the region of Murcia from which it gets its name. The idea to soak this goat milk cheese in baths of red wine came as a governmental impulse to create an innovative cheese to put Murcia on the gastronomic map. The non-pasteurized cheese is washed and pressed into shape before multiple wine baths can give the rind its signature dark pomegranate color. In contrast the cheese is a stark white, supple yet easy to cut, with a creamy mild quality underlined by a hint of yoghurt.

TORTA DEL CASAR, D.O.P.

The name Torta del Casar comes from the rather irregular shape the cheese took on when the soft inside was unable to sustain its shape, reminding the people of Extremadura of a cake instead. This semi-liquid interior, strikingly similar to a cheese dip, is what makes this cheese so famous and delectable. By using vegetable rennet made from thistles to coagulate the sheep’s milk, the producers achieve this highly creamy texture and signature taste. To enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth experience that is Torta del Casar, you must cut of the top of the soft rind so that you can scoop out the inside with pieces of bread. Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature so that the aromas can unfold and the cheese becomes runny.

More Information:

Cheese from Spain Official Site

Spanish cheese masterclasses, tours and tastings

Spanish Gastronomy

Manchego

Manchego

Seville`s Atmospheric Bar Scene- A Bite of Sevilla

Posted by gen On February - 26 - 2010

A Bite of Seville, By Martina Hemm

Seville Tapas Bar

When making a culinary pilgrimage through Spain, Seville is not to be missed. Home to a vibrant flamenco scene and extensive network of tapas bars, Seville is clearly a town of bon vivants. And Sevilleans are not greedy. They are more than happy to share their lust for life with anyone who makes it down their winding cobblestone streets aged by history and heavy with the essence of lives lived to the fullest.

Start your day at the tiny Bar Europa café. Tucked into the corner of the quaint Plaza del Pan, patrons can look out onto passersby as they sip at their café con leche. Sidle up to the long mahogany bar, still part of the original decoration from 1925, and browse the menu of tapas that has secured Bar Europa in Seville’s Ruta de la Tapa.

Sevilla Cafe Europa SM
Continue on to the cathedral. Built upon the foundation of an old mosque it is the third largest church in the world in length but the largest in square meters. Climb the 35 floors to o the top of the minaret and you will be left breathless, not only because of the hike, but the reward: an expansive view of all of Seville.

After a well-deserved siesta, ring in the evening at El Rinconcillo, claimed to be the oldest bar in Seville. Lined with years of wine and vermouth, the decades converge in El Rinconcillo, where hams hang from the ceiling and the waiter jots down your tab on the bar in chalk. Order some wines and share a bowl of salmorejo, a true Andalusian specialty similar to a gazpacho.

Sevilla El Rinconcillo Wine glass
Continue your tapas tour to Bar Eslava—a narrow tapas bar with a smattering of tables in the back. Hugely popular, the spot fills up early with dancers, musicians, writers, and the grande dames of old Seville. Be sure to catch the name of your waiter! As long as you address them directly and aren’t scared to be vocal with your orders, a flurry of tapas will come your way. The menu has some of the best tapas in Seville, but the Navajas, or Razor clams, are sure to change your life. Cooked on the grill, with a splash of olive oil and pinch of sea salt, their maritime taste is enhanced with a dab of lemon juice.

But don’t have your last glass just yet!  Leave some room for La Carboneria , a flamenco bar hidden behind a red door in the old Jewish district. Enjoy the intimate flamenco shows, and perhaps some impromptu dancing…after all, that is how Seville seduces all her lovers.

Seville tapas bar

INFO

La Carboneria

Calle Levies, 18
41004 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 95 421 44 60

Bar Europa

Calle Siete Revueltas, 35,
41004 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 217 908‎

Bar/ Restaurante  Eslava

Calle Eslava, 3
41002 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 906 568

El Rinconcillo

Calle Gerona, 42
41003 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 223 183

Sevilla Oranges in the morning

Madrid Top 10 Tapas Bars

Posted by gen On February - 5 - 2010

Madrid’s Best Tapas Bars

Everybody in Madrid has their Tapas bar- their secret neighborhood hideaway. Whether for a morning coffee, a midday snack, or a late night bottle among friends, madrileños live their lives in their favorite haunts. Here are just ten of our favorite tapas bars in Madrid, to give you a taste. But when you walk through the winding cobblestone streets of Madrid, you will be sure to stumble upon your very own taberna.

by Martina Hemm

 

La Camarilla

La Camarilla

 

Le Cabrera

As the collaboration between Argentinean mixologist, Diego Cabrera and Sergi Arola, the culinary mastermind behind many of Spain’s great restaurants, Le Cabrera could settle back on their good names, but that would go against this new Gastrobar’s principles. Whether in its boutique tapas or distinct cocktails, Le Cabrera gives top ingredients the limelight. Split into two levels diners can start the evening upstairs with a glass mellow red Terrazgo, and follow up with one of Cabrera’s signature drinks in the downstairs cocktail lounge. Or enjoy the night at the open kitchen’s bar, where you can watch the chefs create the stars that make Le Cabrera shine.  Even though head chef, Benjamin Bensoussan, is originally from Marseille his traditional tapas with a twist could fool any Madrileño into believing he was a native. Tiny rolls of potatoes hiding a spicy center and topped with a smooth garlic aioli, are what Le Cabrera calls patatas bravas; a worthy addition to any gourmand’s dictionary.

Calle Bárbara de Braganza 2
Madrid
Tel +34 913 199 457

Taberna Matritum

Rustic yet refined, Matritum is set back from the busy bustle of Cava Baja. Enter into the cozy dining room and watch the dim lighting reflect off of the over 400 wines on display, which the in house sommelier will be more than happy to go guide you through. Treat yourself to one of Matritum’s specialties: pan seared foie with a confit of oven roasted apples and onions or a gratin of scallops in a luscious Cava cream. Better yet, brings friends and join in on a family style serving of patatas bravas with five cheeses.

Cava Alta 17
Madrid
Tel +34 913 658 237

Best tapas Bars in Madrid

Taberna Agrado

Meaning to please in Spanish, Agrado does everything to stay true to its name. Although only a week old at the time of publishing, the tiny modern taberna tucked in amongst the winding backstreets of Madrid, already has a large following of locals who know to appreciate good customer service.  For those in need, the openhearted bartenders are quick to give a wine recommendation, favoring those from their hometown such the 2008 La Vendimia. Drinks are served with crumbled aged Parmesan drizzled with a tart olive oil. If you have come with an appetite Agrado has empanadas de carne with a spicy pebre of onions, pepper, and cilantro, and an excellent list of small dishes focusing on seasonal produce such as the ceviche with ripe mango and crunchy red onions, to please your hunger.

C/Ballesta 1
Madrid
Tel +34 915 216 346

Casa Lucas

Long lines speak for the popularity of this Cava Baja mainstay. So be sure to arrive early and put down your name for one of the coveted tables. This will give you enough time to browse the chalkboard’s daily specials and skim the crowds for a friendly face. Dim lighting and laughter make it easy to find a conversation and enjoy the homey atmosphere over a glass of dry white Peñedes and their classic tapa of pork loin on a confit of onions.

Best Tapas Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 30
Madrid
Tel +34 913 650 804‎

La Perejila

The tiny entrance to La Perejila is easy to miss despite its green color, but sneak a peak inside and the soft breeze of Andalusia will beckon you in.  Flamenco memorabilia covers the walls and lends a distinct touch to the colorful nightspot frequented by the La Latina’s bohemians. Saddle up to the bar and toast to the vibrant atmosphere with a glass of Cava. Be sure to try the salmorejo, a deliciously refreshing soup similar to gazpacho, and if you are feeling like something heartier the toast of sobrasada and warm goat cheese with a drizzle of caramel will leave you craving for more and happy you haven’t missed this jewel of a bar.

Best tapas bars in Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 25
Madrid
Tel +34 913 642 855‎

La Camarilla

A total contrast to the sleek dining room, the bar area of la Camarilla with its bistro tables and worn terra cotta tiled floor, is the perfect pit stop on a tour through La Latina. After a morning of scouring antiques at the Rastro market around the corner, enjoy a typical Madrid breakfast of café cortado and toast with tomato and olive oil. Come back at night to pick and choose from the tapas on display, from salmon rolls filled with a scallop béchamel to sautéed mushrooms topped with green pardon peppers. While the night is still young, browse the long list of wines representing every corner of Spain and enjoy a glass while the music continues to play until the early morning.

Best tapas Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 21
Madrid, Spain
+34 913 540 207

Mercado San Miguel

Come on a weekend and hear a medley of languages bounce off of the beautifully restored marketplace. Crowds of Madrileños and world citizens pulse through the wrought iron stands whittling away the hours with laughter and conversation. Home to small upscale shops by day, the market turns into one big tapas bar at night offering a wide range of delicacies from cured ham, to artisan cheese, olives, almonds, and melt in your mouth seafood tapas. Try the traditional sardine tapa with an unconventional curry sauce, a surprisingly divine combination. The Pinkelton & Wine bar has an excellent red, 2007 CLIO, the perfect way to sip the night away watching as the world passes by the glow of the Mercado.

Best tapas Madrid

Plaza de Oriente 3
Madrid
Tel +34 915 415 104‎

Bar Miguel Angel

Hidden within the entrance to an apartment building, is a white door that takes you down into a cellar filled with small wooden tables. This is Bar Miguel Angel, the secret tip of everyone in the barrio: breakfast joint in the morning, white table dining at lunch, after work hangout for young professionals on weekends. But those who really know stop in between 7pm and 9pm, when the mood is mellow and the tables in the alcove are still free. Following tradition every glass comes with a heaping plate of tapas to choose from. Cured ham on pisto with melted goat cheese, or the ubiquitous tortilla Espanola, the options change everyday but the flavor is consistent.

Calle de Miguel Ángel 6
Madrid

Jose Luis

An institution for over 50 years, Jose Luis has locations throughout Madrid, as well as in Sevilla and Barcelona. But the original is in the prestigious Calle Serrano in Madrid. A fashionable establishment of the 60’s, artists, writers, and professionals were drawn by the ambient and the large variety of tapas. Today’s crowd is a mix of decades of regulars, enjoying drinks at the bar or the daily menu. Try to get a seat at one of the two tables in the bar area to enjoy a casual meal among friends with all the pomp that Jose Luis has retained over the years. The counter offers a broad range of traditional tapas to choose from, be sure to savor a variety to see what makes the Madrileños come back day after day, year for year.

Best tapas Madrid

Calle de Serrano 89
Madrid
Tel +34 915 616 413‎

Lateral

The answer to many Madrileños search for modern, sleek, tapas at a good price, Lateral has several strategic locations throughout Madrid. Take a break from shopping your way down Calle Fuencarral with a medley of tapas at Lateral.  But make sure to plan in some waiting time as the young and the fashionable flock here in droves for light dishes with a blast of flavor. Try the rolls of salmon filled with cream cheese and caramelized apples, a warm salad of grilled eggplant, caramelized onions, and goat cheese, or roasted pimientos de pardon with olive oil and sea salt-an emblematic tapa throughout Spain.

Best tapas Madrid

C/ Fuencarral, 43
Madrid
Tel +34 91 531 68 77

Spain for Vegetarians

Posted by gen On August - 10 - 2009

Spain for vegetarians

Spanish “jamón” is known all over the world, and Spain´s seafood is legendary. There is no question that Spain is one of the most fascinating culinary destinations in the world. But often vegetarians worry if Spain also offers enough non meat/fish options for them to have enough interesting and tasty options while touring. The answer is: you have to look for them and do your research, but yes, yes, yes!

Some sample veggie dishes you can find in Spain, particularly in the Atlantic and Mediterranean north include:

* Sautéed Boletus mushrooms

* Mushrooms (champiñones) served “al ajillo” (panfried with olive oil and loads of garlic)

* Marinated and often smoked spicy piquillo red peppers

* Risotto style “arroz” rice dishes featuring Idiazabal cheese (from Basque Country), or wild mushrooms or asparagus

* White asparagus from Tudela

* Pimientos de Padrón- delicious little green Galician peppers roast with sea salt and olive oil. 1 in 10 is seriously spicy!

* Marinated artichoke hearts from Navarre

* Lightly breaded and expertly fried eggplant (a Spanish recipe with Moorish origins)

* Endives with a Cabrales (blue cheese from Asturias) sauce

* Swiss chard in a delicate cheese sauce

* Caneloni stuffed with spinach (Catalan recipe)

*Escalivada- roast eggplant, peppers, onion, tomato dish with tons of olive oil and course salt. fabulous…

* Pisto Manchego- similar to Ratatouille. Warning: sometimes come with tuna, so do ask.

* Gazpacho- that quintessential summer dish is a healthy and delicious cold soup made of tomatoes, bread, garlic, and plenty of variations

* Ajoblanco- another great summer soup made of almonds, garlic, grapes

* Goat´s cheese salad with walnuts and apples (ensalada de cabra)

* Manchego cheese with pinenuts and honey

* all manor of scrambled eggs (“revuelto”) with asparagus, queso, setas (wild mushrooms), etc

* Catalan style spinach (“espinacas catalanas”), sautéed with raisins, pinenuts, breadcrumbs and onion

* Fruit brochettes (pineapple especially)

And of course tapas like marinated olives, pan fried almonds with chili (“guindilla”) and patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy sauce).

Here is a terrific list of vegetarian restaurants in Spain

And info on Spain´s gastronomy and A-Z Food Glossary.

When ordering in restaurants, a word of advice is to tell the wait staff that you are medically and seriously “allergic” to meat/seafood as often bits of chorizo/jamón, even fish are thrown into veggie dishes without letting you know.

Happy travels!

Spain for vegetarians