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At the Cava Codorniu winery in the Penedes Valley, 50 km from Barcelona, we drink the country’s liquid treasure – the cava. This medium-bodied, dry wine accompanies us throughout our trip to taste some of the best wines of the Spanish cauldron.
The novelty of the food lies in tradition. The Spaniards attach particular importance to the preservation of traditions in all forms of life, but especially when it comes to eating. Much of what we’ve tried is still made the same old way as it was almost three hundred years ago. You will see many Middle Eastern influences – a result of years of Arab invasion, in addition to elements of American and European cuisine.
We’re starting with one of the best finds – Dos Cielos – a two-star Michelin restaurant owned by Torres twins Sergio and Javier. They keep their childhood memories based on what was cooked in their Catalan household. The grouper is the best on their menu. It is mildly flavored with a lingering sweetness. Rosemary is a key ingredient in this recipe that gives the fish a distinct pine flavor.
Our next stop was another Michelin star restaurant on Mallorca, approx. 200 km from Barcelona. It’s called Zaranda in Castell Son Claret. At the top is the dynamic chef Fernando Perez Arellano. After previously working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland, London and Italy, including the Gordon Ramsay restaurant, he opened his first restaurant in Madrid. He left no stone unturned to show us his best when we were there. The Mallorca oysters with caviar, horseradish and pickled pearls are a star dish. It has a light flavor of the pickled horseradish and the nuttiness of caviar.
When in this part of the island, go to this restaurant especially for that one dish. The red shrimp dumplings with surprising sweetness are another trademark of the chef. Don’t leave without trying the chef’s special Black Egg – a creation made from eggs along with the blackened skin of sepia and calamari caviar. Pierce and the golden yellow egg yolk will emerge.
Next on the list was a Spanish tapas bar – an integral part of Spanish culture. Finding one is not difficult, but finding the right one can take some time. After visiting several, we checked out the Jai-Ca bar in the old fishing district in Barcelona. We loved their signature large plates, the best was the fried seafood tapas with octopus, calamari, white fish, clams, clams and fried anchovies. If you don’t like seafood, the bomba, a potato ball stuffed with roast meat, is a house specialty.
Finding the best paella in Spain takes time. There are many variations of this national dish, but we wanted the most authentic one. Our search ended at Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria), a wine shop and bar in Port Vell. We chose the seafood paella with prawns, crabs and clams. Paella dates back many centuries and was first introduced in Valencia, Spain. Over time, the dish developed innumerable interpretations.
To round out our trip, we returned to our starting point and tried some of the best cavas. This popular sparkling wine was first made in 1872 by the enophile Josep Raventós. To learn more about this drink, visit Penedes in Barcelona. You can also book a trial experience with two of the top cava producing companies – Freixenet and Cordoniu. The latter’s massive tunnels are evidence of centuries-old winemaking. A trip to the caves begins with an audiovisual presentation before a train takes you to the vineyards. After dusting the cobwebs off some bottles, let’s drink the best cava we’ve tried.
A really grand finale.