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The Best Things I Ate and Drank in Spain

Vermouth in Tarragona, Spain.

Any time planned in Spain means some suffering at the gym in the weeks leading to the trip and those following. And I’m fine with that. I’ve never regretted an extra mile on the treadmill with the knowledge that a plate of jamón serrano or a stack of patatas bravas covered in a tomato aioli sauce would be my reward. On my recent trip to the Iberian Peninsula, I did not hold back – here are my favorite experiences from several days in the country.

A photo posted by Dave Cole (@cooksipgo) on

Cuttlefish at La Pepona in Seville

Just a few blocks away from Seville’s Metropol Parasol near the city center, La Pepona was my first stop in Spain. The servers recommended a few dishes, but the one they insisted I try was stuffed cuttlefish on buckwheat. The seafood in Seville tends to be above average, but I have rarely tasted such exquisitely cooked squid. The texture of the cuttlefish was perfect and the grains I scooped up with each forkful contrasted nicely to deliver some sublime bites.

Sierra de Cadiz gastronomia cuisine barbazul wine vino

Barbazul Red Wine

I was fortunate enough to sample the Barbazul 2007/8 in a couple of places. First, at the Corral del Rey hotel bar, where I had a glass before my nightly tapas excursions, and then in the Sierra de Cádiz, where the wine is produced. A blend of tintilla de Rota, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes, the light fruits and smooth finish of Barbazul made for an excellent aperitif and paired nicely with various types of meat. The winery is located in Arcos de la Frontera and I’m planning to visit on my next trip to southern Spain.

Patatas bravas at Morryssom in Barcelona, Spain.

Patatas Bravas at Morryssom in Barcelona

I learned of Morryssom through a Spanish food podcast and I snagged a seat at the bar for a late lunch (even by Spanish standards) on a January afternoon. Morryssom’s atmosphere is entertaining in a way that shames the wave of pretentious purveyors of nouveau cuisine. The bartenders and waiters are in a constant state of messing with each other and a couple of the more creative insults one sever unleashed had me on the verge of choking. In the process, I devoured a plate of Morryssom’s storied patatas bravas. Served with garlic and tomato aioli sauces, the bravas are firm on the outside with a soft interior – perfection. Morryssom is a short pip from Gràcia, so I would highly recommend a tapas session at this classic spot after touring the neighborhood.

Rosita beer Tarragona, Spain.

Rosita Beer in Tarragona

A nearly three-year gap between Spain trips was sure to result in a noticeable change in the food and drink landscape. To my great pleasure, that development was the rise of craft beer. The pursuit of this art form was particularly evident in Catalonia, where each ordering decision involved a delicate game of multiple choice. Friendly bartenders were kind enough to temper the stress associated with the paradox of choice and one of the first recommendations I received was to try a Rosita. This blond brewed in Tarragona teases with initial sweetness, which evens out and culminates in a crisply even aftertaste. Ask for it nicely chilled – the manufacturer recommends serving the brew at 42-46F/6-8C.

Jamon Iberico in Seville, Spain.

Jamón Ibérico at Taberna Águilas in Seville

I’ll admit without any shame that I didn’t even make it out of the Barcelona airport before I ordered a tapa of jamón. But some of the best I had was at Taberna Águilas in the Alfalfa neighborhood of Seville. The cut was a little thicker than I’m accustomed to, so I just took smaller bites. The additional fat enriched the taste, which was as buttery and nutty as one can hope for with Ibérico.

Sierra de Cadiz gastronomia cuisine queso payoyo

Cured Queso Payoyo in the Sierra de Cádiz

I had a dozen or so slices of this goat’s milk cheese during my stay in the Sierra de Cádiz. Payoyo provides smoothly rich flavors without overpowering the palate. While I typically add a slice of Spanish cheese to a chunk of baguette, I never did so with the payoyo, so as not to diminish the taste experience.

Calamari in Barcelona, Spain - Bar Dinamic.

Calamari with Artichokes at Bar Dinàmic in Barcelona

My lunch at Dinàmic was one of the better meals I enjoyed in the Catalan capital. The menú offered ten main course options and I chose the calamari with artichokes. I had never thought of pairing an artichoke sauce with seafood, but it worked marvelously in this case. Some bread on the side enabled me to sop up every bit of the dish and the presence of calamari on a menu is enough to evoke memories of the flavors and textures of the dish.

And the drink portrayed in the first image of this post? Vermouth. Any visit to Catalunya would be empty without one or two of them.

Do you have a favorite food memory from Spain? Or maybe a few? Feel free to share them in the comments!

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Crystal April 9, 2015, 10:10 pm

    Great post! Now I’m hungry-ha! I studied abroad in Spain and have traveled there on two additional occasions and the cuisine never fails to impress me. One of my favorite dishes is tortilla espanola. Have you tried it? That with jamón Ibérico and a glass of wine makes for the perfect meal! And of course, Spanish coffee is always a treat.

    • Dave April 9, 2015, 10:24 pm

      Thank you, Crystal! I am a big fan of tortilla espanola and have even dared to make it a few times. I studied abroad in Spain as you did and it certainly was a gastronomic education. I couldn’t agree more that a few nicely prepared tapas make for an ideal meal.

  • Melodie K. April 9, 2015, 10:33 pm

    My favorite food memory of Spain? I’m thinking there are too many to choose from and still not enough . . . OK, it would be the bocadillos which were really bocaDOTES my Spanish host mom would make for lunch~ some with jamón and queso manchego, others with the JUICIEST tortillas (Spanish potato omelets). Always with the freshest crusty bread. Oh. My. Goodness. . . . well, you did ask.
    Melodie K. recently posted…La Sweet France: A Macaron-Free Tour of French PastryMy Profile

    • Dave April 9, 2015, 11:31 pm

      Nothing compares to host mom bocadillos! Mine in Valencia would not let me leave the house without one, no matter where I was headed. Who thought that an omelette sandwich could be so delicious?

  • Katinha April 10, 2015, 1:00 am

    I have just moved to Spain few months ago and I can assure you I gained weight. So I can perfectly understand what are you talking about. It is so hard to restrain from tasteful tapas and solomilo iberico. However, I think my favorites are pulpo ala gallega and arroz negro. :)

    • Dave April 10, 2015, 9:36 am

      Ooooh, pulpo! Such a wonderful dish. I missed it this time around, but it definitely was the highlight of journeys past. Hope you continue to enjoy your time in Spain. Where are you living?

      • Katinha April 10, 2015, 9:01 pm

        I am very happy to be living here as it is so easy to meet people. I live in Andalusia, or to be more precise in Gibraltar. Have you ever visited? But as it is really small town, every weekend we do some trips around Andalusia. 😀

        • Dave April 11, 2015, 9:54 am

          I have not yet visited Gibraltar, but have seen the rock from the Algeciras-Tangier ferry. That’s great to have southern Spain at your disposal. Look forward to reading about your time there!

          • Katinha April 12, 2015, 1:16 am

            Thank you Dave!
            Safe travels! :)

  • Lena April 10, 2015, 8:51 am

    Well, Dave this is what I call an appetite enticing article. It make you dream of wine and tapas at 8:45 am

    • Dave April 10, 2015, 11:26 am

      Thanks, Lena! I have usually dreamt about tapas by 9:00 a.m. most days, so I know the feeling :)

  • Madaline April 10, 2015, 2:28 pm

    Ok, in love with your blog! (However now I’m really really hungry). Going to look up a recipe for those potatoes because they (and the sauce look spectacular!)
    Madaline recently posted…Homemade Pasta Recipe | Magic of SimplicityMy Profile

  • Kiara Gallop April 10, 2015, 4:09 pm

    I’m working on compiling a very similar post myself, I love Spanish food! My favourite of late was tapas bar and restaurant El Mesón de Cervantes in Málaga :-)
    Kiara Gallop recently posted…Hiking the Colca Canyon with a Rather Unusual Guide (part one)My Profile

    • Dave April 10, 2015, 4:17 pm

      Can’t wait to see your post, Kiara. I have spent scant time in Malaga but hope to return soon – always nice to have a restaurant in mind for when I make it back.

  • Gran Canaria Local April 10, 2015, 11:00 pm

    You’ll have to come on over to the Canary Islands, Dave. Where you can sample such delights as helado de gofio (toasted cornmeal ice cream) and papas arrugadas con mojo (salted new potatoes served with a piquant sauce). Also Gran Canaria’s queso de flor (flower cheese).
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Sky RebelsMy Profile

    • Dave April 11, 2015, 10:03 am

      Hi, thank you for stopping by! I’ve been to Tenerife and La Gomera, but no Gran Canaria yet. I love mojo from the Canaries – always bring a few jars back with me. Also, the Tacoronte-Acentejo reds pair nicely with steak. Another part of Spain that evokes excellent food memories!

  • travelFREAK April 10, 2015, 11:50 pm

    What a delicious post, Dave! The Spanish food is so simple, but so tasty!
    travelFREAK recently posted…50 Lessons I’ve Learned After 5 Years of TravelingMy Profile

    • Dave April 11, 2015, 10:08 am

      Thank you, Jeremy. I was asked in an interview to choose one cuisine that I had to eat for the rest of my life – I’m sure you can guess what my answer was!

  • Vicky - We Are Not Lost Blog April 14, 2015, 7:50 pm

    My favourite memories of Spain are dining Al fresco in sunshine filled plazas that are steeped in history. I can never resist calamari with garlic aioli and a glass of Cava. I’m so hungry for Mediterranean food after reading this post :)
    Vicky – We Are Not Lost Blog recently posted…Delicious Raw Cacao BallsMy Profile

    • Dave April 14, 2015, 8:36 pm

      Those al fresco dining moments with the historical backdrop really are special! Seafood and cava definitely make for a nice combination.

  • Rachael@safari254 April 14, 2015, 9:41 pm

    No favourite food memory from Spain seeing as I have never been there. Everything looks delicious there and I am sure I would be spoilt for choice if I ever visit.
    Rachael@safari254 recently posted…Fort Jesus – A Piece of HistoryMy Profile

  • Corinne April 15, 2015, 7:08 pm

    Dave, I just got home from a trip to Spain as well…and the food was glorious! I can’t wait to go again in just a couple weeks!

  • Tim April 27, 2015, 9:14 pm

    As usual your photos are inspiring. This post brought me back to a time when I spent one day almost every month wandering down Las Ramblas in Barcelona…eating. Got to get back to Spain sometime soon.
    Tim recently posted…Kalahari’s New DayMy Profile

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