As a culinary travel specialist, I love helping my clients experience the best of a destination through its food, wine, and culture. I was lucky enough to sample some of the best cuisine in the world during my recent trip to Barcelona and finally found a restaurant that prepared what I consider the best Paella I’ve ever tasted! Spain is a foodie’s paradise, and I’ll tell you why.
Spanish food is simple, comforting, and, most importantly, fresh, made with love, passion, and cultural pride, always with premium quality ingredients. Spain’s cuisine reflects a conquered country with a long history of colonization.
When North African Moors arrived in Spain in 711 CE, they shook things up on the culinary scene. Alcohol was banned for well over 345 years, meaning wine production halted.
However, olive oil production exploded with innovative techniques and irrigation technology brought over by the Moors.
Olives may have arrived in Spain thousands of years earlier. Still, the Moors introduced olive oil for use in cooking, a method that is a fixture in Spanish cuisine today.
It was 1492 CE that marked the end of Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula, and it was also the year the Spanish made their foray into the New World. Their empire stretched from the Caribbean and parts of North America to Central and South America. They discovered local crops, varieties of fruits and vegetables, and culinary methods that they later brought back to Spain. By the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries, Mesoamerican crops like pumpkin, chilis, tomatoes, cacao, papaya, and avocado had been incorporated into Spanish cuisine.
Like every other nation on earth, multiple empires and ethnic groups invaded Spain, the Romans, Phoenicians, and late descendants of the Berber peoples, to name a few. Because of this, feudal villages and kingdoms existed throughout the country, each run with its own cultural practices, languages, currency, and cuisine. While there are distinctive regional culinary differences, you can always find two ingredients across the country; olive oil and garlic.
Today, there are six distinctive culinary regions. If you’re looking to have the whole Spanish culinary experience, try and plan your itinerary around some of these regions.
The Pyrenees: Here, you’ll find dishes that include fresh tomatoes, onions, sauteed peppers, and Chilindrones, a hearty Spanish stew made with chicken, venison, wild boar, or beef.
Eastern Region: This region is the birthplace of Spanish paella. You can also enjoy various rice-based dishes like Arròs Negre (squid ink fish) and Conejo con Arroz (rice and rabbit).
Central Spain – This area would include the stunning baroque region of Castilla-Leon, home of comfort food. Here you’ll find plenty of Cocidos (Spanish stews), Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), and Manchego cheese. Prepare for a more robust menu in this region with a heavy focus on roasted meats.
Cataluña (Catalonia) – Heavily influenced by Italy, France, and the Mediterranean, Catalan food is bursting with flavor and creative fusion foods. Esqueixada (salt cod), Mongetes amb Botifarra (sausage and beans), and Escudella i carn d’olla (meat and mixed vegetabel stew).
Northern Spain – This is Basque Country, and if you eat anything here, let us suggest one word: Pintxos. Pintxos are similar to tapas in that they are served at bars and taverns, but the ingredients are different. These bite-sized flavor bombs are often topped with everything from seared green peppers, cheese, and fresh octopus, to cured ham, croquettes, and sausages. Northern Spain is also to some of the best Mediterranean-influenced seafood dishes in the country.
If a culinary adventure through Spain sounds like your type of travel, we’d love to turn that dream into a boarding pass.
Our bespoke itineraries are uniquely designed to completely immerse you in your destination, with delightfully unexpected surprises along the way.
We have a special passion for all things culinary—and we would love to introduce you to your destination’s distinct (and delicious!) food and wine traditions through one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. The best part? You won’t have to do a thing except relax, recharge, and create memories that last a lifetime!
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