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Welcome New Year!

One we hope is full of cheer

And of far travels for you

And great experiences too!

Dream that two thousand 18

Brings you sights you’ve not seen?

And tastes of local food,

Or dining a la Michelin mood?

Dream of Portugal, Spain,

Stroll a French country lane?

Take a walk through the vines

And sip fine top class wines?

Well, there’s no need to dream,

Contact your Gourmand Breaks team

As we’ve got lots to share

To take your dream there.

Nerua Interior

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At Gourmand Breaks we are specialist Food, Wine and Cultural Private Tour creators, custom designing exclusive trip itineraries just for you!

On our website you will find many great sample Food, Wine and Cultural Private Tours in Spain, Portugal and SW France, to give you ideas. But, remember, while these samples are all “ready to wear” we can modify any to suit your preferences or build your personal ideal Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour Itinerary from scratch!

Don’t delay, contact us today :-)

Are you heading to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this coming February? Or maybe you have a conference or seminar in Barcelona to attend next year?  If so, why not add a few days of well-earned break after (or before) your intense working schedule.  A Gourmand Breaks private food, wine and cultural tour may be just what you need!

MWC

Take the opportunity of you travelling to Spain to head out of bustling Barcelona and discover more of the country for a few days, to:

  • the peaceful wine country for fine wines and wineries in Penedes and Priorat
  • the Basque Country to delight in this famous foodie mecca
  • lose yourself in the many museums of Madrid
  • discover the treasures of Andalucia

 

Make the most of your time in Spain, before or after all your hard work, and enjoy some days of Luxury Food, Wine and Culture on a private Gourmand Breaks Tour.  We have many sample private tour itineraries, of varying length, published on our website to give you some ideas or just drop us line with your time frame and interests and we will custom build your ideal tour.

 

F.Y.I: The Mobile World Congress hits Barcelona again in 2018 from the 26th of February to the 1st of March 2018

 

 

 

 

El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, is the current World’s Number 1 Restaurant!!

The NEW World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2016 will be presented next month but, in the meantime, we’ll be looking at how the current Spanish and Portuguese entries (from the 2015 list) have evolved  in the prestigious Restaurant Magazine’s list in our “A la Crème de la Crème” Gourmand Breaks Blog series.

In 2006 El Celler de Can Roca entered the acclaimed Worlds Best 50 restaurants list, compiled by Restaurant Magazine, in 21st place, rising to 11th place in 2007 and then falling to 26th place in 2008.  In 2009 El Celler de Can Roca established it’s Top 10 placing and  rose to 5th place then in 2010 and 2011 rose even higher, to 4th and 2nd places respectively. In 2012 El Celler de Can Roca stayed put in 2nd place but the following year, in 2013, hit the Number 1 spot, but just for one year as in 2014 Noma regained its crown and El Cellar de Can Roca had to settle for 2nd place.  But, not for long as in 2015 El Celler de Can Roca took it’s place at the Top and is the current Number 1.

 

Can THE Best Restaurant in the World, in 2013 and 2015, El Celler de Can Roca, hold on to Number 1 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2016 ? We’ll let you know on the 13th of June ……

Celler de Can Roca

There are literally thousands of restaurants all over the world – hundreds of thousands! – and acclaimed Restaurant Magazine narrows it down to organize, compile and present, year after year, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards and List.

This prestigious list, coming up to its 14th year,  is an annual recollection of the opinions and experiences of over 900 international restaurant industry experts and the ceremony is attended by the world’s finest chefs, international media and the world’s most influential restaurateurs.

This year, 2016, sees the awards ceremony being presented from the United States of America, the first time the ceremony has moved from its beginnings in England, from London!

We’ll keep you updated on the results of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016  (June 13th 2016 live from New York) but in the meantime over the next couple of weeks we’ll be taking a look at the Spanish (and Portuguese) movers and shakers in our Gourmand Breaks series “A la Crème de la Crème”

 

Although El Celler de Can Roca is booked up well over a year in advance we have many fine dining opportunities for you all over Spain and / or Portugal. Any of our sample private Gourmand Breaks Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tours gives you the chance of fine dining – contact us for your personalized quote!.

 

Marg and Phil Roeterdink joined us from Perth, Australia, back in May/June 2015, for their Private Gourmand Breaks Food, Wine and Cultural Tour covering Spain and Portugal.  In a Customized 17 day itinerary Marg and Phil were able to experience the sights and delights of Barcelona, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Ronda, Salamanca and Madrid in Spain as well as Lisbon and the Douro Valley in Portugal. Marg has since shared  her impressions with us through paintings that she entered into her Personal Journal along the way.

Here are some of the beautiful paintings that Marg has very kindly allowed us to share with you:

Marg Barcelona

Marg Cordoba

Marg Farmhouse

Marg Granada

Marg Lisbon

 

Many thanks againto Marg for sharing these beautiful impressions of the Spanish and Portuguese experiences she shared with her husband Phil.

We’d love to help you make your own special memories  too in Spain and Portugal and look forward to welcoming you on a Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour with Gourmand Breaks.

Summer may be over but ice-cream never goes out of season!! If you are heading to Girona, Spain, then a must stop is Rocambolesc, the Willy-Wonka-esque ice cream shop of the Michelin 3 star Roca Brothers, in particular Jordi Roca. The sweet brother in charge of desserts at El Celler de Can Roca, current World’s Number 1 restaurant, invites you to experience the sweet sensations of El Celler de Can Roca at Rocambalesc – a world much more than just ice-cream!

Rocambolesc Girona

Just a small shop, on Carrer de Santa Clara in Girona, Rocambolesc radiates a vintage feel and as soon as you step inside you will instantly return to your childhood with “oooos” and “wows” as the colors, smells and sights hit, invade and delight your senses.

Rocambolesc ice-cream

Rocambolesc – Enjoy El Celler de Can Roca delicacies at a fraction of the cost  –  just 3.90€ for a large tub (as per the photo) with 3 toppings!

There are six different flavors of ice-cream to choose from, in cones or tubs, including the classics of vanilla or chocolate and the more adventurous green sorbet or baked apple. Your server will recommend the 3 toppings ideal for your ice-cream flavor choice although you can choose your own 3 from over 30 options such as parma violet marshmallow, strawberries, caramelized apple, nut sprinkles, flaked sugar, crunchy caramel, honey rocks, coconut……

Jordi Roca and Rocambolesc

The youngest of the three Roca Brothers, Jordi Roca was proclaimed “The World’s Best Pastry Chef “in 2014 (the current holder of this title for 2015 is Albert Adrià). At El Celler de Can Roca Joan Roca heads the sublime kitchen; Josep Roca is the expert sommelier and Jordi Roca creates the imaginative desserts.

 

Where to find Rocambolesc:

Rocambolesc in Girona:
Carrer de Santa Clara 50, 17001 Girona
Open: Sun -Thurs 12:00 – 21:00, Fri and Sat 12:00 to 23:00

Rocambolesc in Platja d’Aro (Girona):
Avinguda de S’Agaró 59, 17249 Platja d’Aro
Closed in winter

Rocambolesc in Madrid:
Calle Serrano 52, El Corte Inglés- 7th Floor, 28001 Madrid
Open: Sun-Thurs 12:30 – 00:00, Fri and Sat 12:30 to 00:30

 

Experience the ice-cream joys of Rocambolesc on your Gourmand Breaks Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour.  We can customise any of our Our Sample Spain Portugal Private Tour Itineraries to include a stay in Girona county and among other fascinating visits a private guided visit of the city of Girona.

Nouvelle Cuisine, when mentioned, brings thoughts of small plates of food that many feel will see you leaving a restaurant with a lot less money and a lot more hunger than when you went in!!!  But, is this true?  What is sure, is that this French revolution has spread all over the World but, is Nouvelle Cuisine for everyone ? for the Gourmands? or just for the Gourmets? or is it a chance for a personal culinary experience that will excite the tastebuds and leave memories for a lifetime?

Nouvelle cuisine 

The term “nouvelle cuisine” has been used several times in the history of French cuisine, to mark a  break with the past, with tradition.  In the 1700’s several French writers emphasized this break with tradition, calling the new cooking style  “modern” or “new”.  In the 1880s and 1890s, the cooking of Georges Auguste Escoffier was sometimes described with the term.

Today, the French term “Nouvelle Cuisine” is  attributed to authors Henri Gault, Christian Millau, and André Gayot,who used nouvelle cuisine to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé, and Raymond Oliver, many of whom were once students of Fernand Point. Paul Bocuse claimed that Gault first used the term to describe the food that he prepared, along with other top chefs, for the maiden flight of  Concorde in 1969.

The style that Gault and Millau wrote about was a reaction to the French cuisine classique placed into “orthodoxy” by Escoffier.  Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes, nouvelle cuisine is not cuisine minceur (“thin cooking”), which was created by Michel Guérard as spa food.  It is thought that World War II was a significant contributor in the creation of the phenonenom of nouvelle cuisine, as  there was a short supply of animal protein during the German occupation hence the need to experiment.

Gault and Millau “discovered the formula” contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. The ten characteristics of “Nouvelle Cuisine” were identified as:

  • A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
  • Cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés were greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic.
  • The cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients.
  • Large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus.
  • Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used.
  • They stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, high quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • They used regional dishes for inspiration instead of cuisine classique dishes.
  • New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens.
  • The chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes.
  • The chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings

Nouelle cuisine dessert

Today Nouvelle Cuisine is Worldwide and plays a part in many kitchens. It is an art, a science, an explosion of sensation and a treat for the tastebuds that has foodies and the general public alike craving the escapism that it provides from everyday life. 

Join us on a Gourmet Private tour of Spain and/or Portugal  to escape into a Gourmet World of sublime enjoyment.

Spain’s wine history dates back to pre-Roman times, but it is only over the past few decades that the quality of Spanish Wine has significantly improved throughout the whole country and led to Spanish Wine being exported, sought after and enjoyed all over the World.  Wine is BIG in Spain and vines are cultivated all over the country!

Wine Regions of Spain

Thanks to http://www.beaconwinecompany.com/ for the great map

Spain is a vast country with differing climates and soils and all of the autonomous communities of Spain produce wine with their own grape varieties, Regulatory Councils and specific types. Due to the expanse of the land – Spain has around 3 million acres of vines planted – climates and types of grapes, there are numerous Wine Regions in Spain resulting in a fantastic variety of Spanish Wine. The best-known Spanish wines, however, are Cava, Rioja, and Sherry which are three very different wines made in three very different wine regions.

Quality Spanish wines are classified using a system based on the “Denominación de Origen” or “DO”, designated origin, which determines where each wine has been produced. Spanish wine laws created the “DO” system in 1932 and it was later revised in 1970. The “DO” system is similar to the Appellation d’origine contrôlée “AOC” system of France, the Denominação de Origem Controlada “DOC” of Portugal and the Denominazione di origine controllata “DOC” of Italy.

priorat wine day tour

In addition to the “DO” system in Spain there is also the Denominación de Origen Calificada “DOCa” or “DOQ” in Catalan, a status for DOs that have a consistent track record for quality. There are currently only two DOCa/DOQ regions in Spain: Rioja and Priorat.

In 2009, there were 79 Quality DO Wine regions across Spain, but undoubtedly, the most well-known Spanish DO Wine Region, especially for its red wine, is La Rioja – also a DOCa/DOQ Wine Region of Spain. There are, however, many other Spanish wine regions that produce high quality red wines, like Ribera del Duero or the other DOCa/DOQ wine region of Priorat.

Although the known type of Spanish wine is red wine, Spain also produces high quality white wines, especially in Galicia, Cava and Jerez (sherry) which is produced in the south, near Jerez in Andalusia.

Over the coming months we’ll be showcasing some of the DO Wine Regions of Spain in our “Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards – Wine Regions of Spain” series like:

 

If you love Wine you can’t miss Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain like our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain and Portugal to explore the Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Priorat and Penedes Wine Regions of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

When in Cordoba, Spain  …….. apart from the famous amazing ‘Mezquita’ – the Mosque – there’s so much more to see and do in the Andalusian city of Cordoba.

Cordoba Bridge

Take time to visit the local taverns to savor some typical Cordobese tapas. A Tavern in Cordoba used to be a place where the local people could go to drink wine.  Every tavern had an interior courtyard with a well that was not only used for decoration but also to keep the drinks fresh.  Nowadays Cordoban taverns are designed as lively, yet less frenetic, venues to taste tapas. You will have the chance to sample local specialties such as Flamenquín (battered pork or ham), Salmorejo (cold tomato soup thickened with breadcrumbs), Rabo de Toro (Bull’s tail) and for dessert the typical ‘Pastel Cordobés’ – a pastry filled with sweet pumpkin.

Cordoba has many charming squares to watch the world go by, but maybe the best is the Plaza de la Corredera which is like a mini Venetian St Mark’s Square. The first bullfights in Cordoba were held here, but today the restaurant and bar terraces fill up with visitors taking in the grandeur of it all. Another renowned square in Cordoba is the Plaza del Potro featuring an interesting fountain dating back to 1577 and a historic inn mentioned by Miguel de Cervantes in his famous novel, Don Quixote.

Cordoba Plaza

As the city is located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, it is no surprise that you will find bridges here. The most famous is the ancient Roman Bridge that links the area of Campo de la Verdad with Barrio de la Catedral. It was built in the early 1st century BC, during the period of Roman rule in Cordoba, and the 16 arches stretch over a length of about 250 meters. It was the only bridge in the city for twenty centuries, until the construction of the San Rafael Bridge in the mid-20th century.

Jews formed a part of Cordoba’s cultural mix from as early as the 2nd Century until their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Cordoba’s large Juderia is the best-known part of Cordoba’s historic center, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984 and is one of the largest in Europe.

Join us on a Private Food, Wine and Culture Gourmand Break to discover Andalusia and Cordoba. Our Majestic Madrid and Authentic Andalusia Private Tour includes not only Cordoba, but also Seville, Granada and Ronda in the South of Spain.

Looking to escape the bustling city for the day while you’re staying in Barcelona ? Then why not get out into the country and include the Penedes Wine Region in your custom-built tour itinerary, where you will Visit Vines, Taste Wines and enjoy an excellent local lunch overlooking the vineyards of the Penedes Wine Region of Spain.

Here’s what you can expect on your exclusively Private Penedes Wine Day :

Our friendly chauffeur will collect you this morning from your Barcelona hotel  and whisk you away in his luxury vehicle to the Penedes wine region of Spain.

You will start your day with an unforgettable visit to an exceptional Vineyard, owned by one family since 1790 and situated in the heart of the Penedés wine region of Spain. A bilingual in-house expert will take you on a private tour of the vineyards, which have been ecologically cultivated for more than 300 years. It is no wonder their wines have been officially certified as “ecological-organic” since 2004. You will be amazed at how the “intervention” of bees, sheep, and lunar phases can help create such outstanding wines. What’s more, the grapes in this vineyard are all hand picked to ensure harvest at the ideal time for each vine.

Back at the cellar, the in-house oenologist will proudly show you the entire wine making process and finally guide you through a complete tasting of an array of ecological and organic varieties of wines and cavas. Additionally, the vineyard owners make their own olive oil, and they will gladly explain to you the process and properties of this “liquid gold” while you enjoy a tasting, accompanied by local bread.

Surely after this intense vineyard morning visit you will be ready to be treated to a fine lunch of delicious local home-made cooking at an elegant, yet cozy restaurant located in a charming typical Penedes village with magnificent views to the Montserrat mountains. Enjoy delicious Catalan cuisine with superior presentation, accompanied with fine wines from the surrounding vineyards.

In the afternoon, your venture will take you to a very well known cava cellar in Spain and one the most important vineyards in the Penedes Wine Region. The owner was born into a dynasty of tailors and musicians but went into the world of cava at a very young age, a world that turned into his profession and his passion. Pioneering, passionate and tireless, he created the first wine analysis laboratory in the industry, managed important wineries in the Penedès region and set up his own cava winery in 1950.

The top-quality sparkling Spanish wines, made by this Penedes winery, use the traditional method of making Champagne but with a blend of the classic Penedes region grape varieties of Macabeo, Xarel·lo, Parellada. They only produce Reserva and Gran Reserva vintage cavas here because it’s the long ageing that creates the complex bouquet and fine bubbles of the cavas. You will have a private visit with an in-house bi-lingual wine specialist and will enjoy the beautiful masia and grounds, as well as the underground stone cellars and several private tastings!

Sit back and relax now, as your chauffeur will return you to Barcelona after your wonderful Penedes Wine day.

 

Explore the Penedes Wine Region of Spain on one of our great Private Wine Tours.  

Our Extensive Grand Wine Tour of Spain and France is an incredible private wine tour covering top wine regions in Spain & France, including Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Bordeaux, Priorat and Penedes. With time in between to explore the wonders of Madrid, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Carcassonne, Emporda and Barcelona, this truly all encompassing private wine tour also provides a smattering of culture, delightful accommodation and an opportunity to sample the differing foods of the regions.

Cruise ships are, today, bigger and better than before, so it’s no surprise that cruise vacations are more popular than ever!  Whether your cruise vacation in Europe is with MSC, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Crystal or Costa Cruises, the chances are you’ll be docking in Spain and/or Portugal!  Make the most of your free time in port with a Luxury Private Offshore Excursion!

Port of Barcelona

Whether you’re meeting your cruise ship in Lisbon and want to spend a few days, pre-cruise, before setting sail, in the Portuguese capital, or you’ve got 10 hours to kill in Cadiz, Malaga or Barcelona and want to stretch your sea legs on land, we’ve got a luxury private shore excursion for you!

Our excellent officially licensed guide and/or chauffeur will meet you off your Mediterranean cruise ship and take you on a private guided tour to discover the best of your European port destination.

Make the most of your limited time in port by visiting historical and cultural sites and immerse yourself in the local life with gourmet food and wine tastings.  Here’s a few ideas for some private luxury offshore excursions in Spain and Portugal:

Barcelona Port, no 4 worldwide, is Europe and the Mediterranean’s leading cruise port  with 2.6 million passengers embarking or disembarking in 2013.

In Barcelona, on your luxury private shore excursion, you can marvel at Gaudi’s inspiring architecture or feast on delicious tapas in a shaded pavement cafe; explore the city’s many churches and cathedrals or hit the shops for a shot of Catalan style. With our excellent officially licensed guide beat the queues to savor the wild and wonderful cathedral, Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s unfinished symphony, discover La Boqueria Market, explore the Gothic Quarter and indulge in Gourmet Tastings e-route before a delicious delicatessen lunch.

 

Malaga Port, on the Costa del Sol receives around 900,000 passengers who dock in or embark on cruises in Picasso’s city each year.

In Málaga, on your luxury private shore excursion, you can visit nearby Granada to see the world-famous Alhambra Palace, a masterpiece of Moorish art.  Learn about this fascinating city with our officially licensed guide who will take you through Grand Granada on a private tour.

 

Cadiz Port, gateway to the South of Spain, received a total of just over 370,000 passengers in 2013 on cruise liners and regular shipping lines (to/from the Canary Isles).

In Cadiz, on your luxury private shore excursion,  you can visit Seville,  a beautiful area with a wonderfully joyous atmosphere, where flamenco, bullfighting and fiesta are a way of life. Explore the old city to admire the Cathedral and Giralda Tower, the orange scented Barrio de Sant Cruz and do as the locals and enjoy a fun tapas hopping lunch.

 

Lisbon Port is the departure port for many European cruise itineraries, with over 250,000 cruise passengers passing through the Portuguese capital each year.

Lap up the Portuguese life in Lisbon, on your luxury private shore excursion,  with a great private tour of the history, sights, food and wine of Portugal’s capital city.  Hear of the terrible earthquake in 1755 that brought the city to its knees and how if Lisbon had a sister it would be San Francisco.  Visit the fantastic St Georges’ castle and the salty sefarers district of Alfama, indulge in Portuguese and try the famous Port Wine.

If you are planning a cruise in Europe around Spain and/or Portugal why not see if you can squeeze the most out of your day in dock  by joining us for your day shore excursion to Lisbon, Barcelona, Seville or Granada .  Our local officially licensed guides are true experts who, love to show off their cities and, promise to take you off the beaten track to see a different side of these enchanting cities.

Alternatively, if you have a few days free pre-cruise, before embarking on your cruise, or after desembarking, after your cruise, make the most of the city with a private short break such as our Lisbon Getaway Tour or our Barcelona Food and Wine Tour.