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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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 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!