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Standing at the Cava Codorniu winery in the Penedes Valley, 50 km from Barcelona, ââSpain, we sip the country’s liquid treasure: cava. This medium-bodied dry wine keeps us company throughout our journey, leading us to try some of the best from the Spanish cauldron.
The novelty of food lies in tradition. The Spaniards are particularly concerned with preserving tradition in all forms of life, but especially in food. Much of what we tried is still being prepared the same way it was almost three hundred years ago. You see many influences from the Middle East as a result of the Arab invasion that lasted for many years, in addition to elements of American and European cuisine.
We start with one of the best finds, Dos Cielos, a two Michelin star restaurant owned by twins Torres, Sergio and Javier. They preserve their childhood culinary memories based on what was cooked in their Catalan home. The grouper is the best on their menu. It is lightly scented with a lingering sweetness. Rosemary is an important ingredient in this recipe, which gives the fish a distinct pine flavor.
Our next stop was at another Michelin star restaurant in Mallorca, about 200 km from Barcelona. His name is Zaranda in Castell Son Claret. At its head is the dynamic chef Fernando Perez Arellano. After working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland, London and Italy, including restaurant Gordon Ramsay, he opened his first restaurant in Madrid. He left no stone unturned to present his best to us when we were there. Mallorcan oysters with caviar, horseradish and marinated pearls are a star dish. It has a slight acidity of pickled horseradish and nutty caviar.
When you are in this part of the island, visit the restaurant for that particular dish. The red shrimp dumplings with an explosion of surprising sweetness are another hallmark of the chef. Don’t leave without trying the Chef’s Special Black Egg, an egg creation with the skin darkened with sepia and squid caviar. Stitch in and the golden yellow oozes out.
Next on the list was to find a Spanish tapas bar, an integral part of Spanish culture. Finding one isn’t difficult, but finding the right one can take time. After visiting several, we focused on Bar Jai-Ca in the old fishing district of Barcelona. We loved their signature large platters, the best being the fried seafood tapas with calamari, squid, white fish, mussels, clams and fried anchovies. If you’re not into seafood, the Bomba aux Ã©pices, a potato dumpling stuffed with fried meat, is a house specialty.
Finding the best paella in Spain takes time. This national dish has many versions but we were fond of the more authentic. Our search ended at Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria), a wine bar in Port Vell. We chose the seafood paella with shrimp, crab and mussels. Paella dates back centuries and was first introduced in Valencia, Spain. Over time, the dish has developed a myriad of interpretations.
To end our trip, we returned to our starting point, tasting some of the best cava. This popular sparkling wine was first produced by oenophile Josep RaventÃ³s in 1872. To learn more about this drink, head to Penedes in Barcelona. You can also book a tasting experience with two of the most important cava producing companies, Freixenet and Cordoniu. The massive tunnels of the latter bear witness to the centuries-old wine-making process. A cave tour begins with an audiovisual presentation before a train takes you through the vineyards. After dusting the cobwebs of a few bottles, we sip the best cava we have tasted.
A real grand finale.