Gourmet & Culinary
If You Love Food - Spain, Portugal & France are for You
Are you looking for a Michelin starred restaurant route? Or, a route of contrasts – with glamorous dining at one of the best restaurants in the World one day and a casual local fare lunch at one of our best hidden spots the next? Mix in some gourmet delights at artisan shops and cheese or olive oil tasting directly on the farm and you’ve got yourself one delicious tour.
Spain’s Mediterranean cuisine is an outcome of the many cultures that passed through, like the Greeks and Romans who introduced olives, olive oil, and wine. It was the Moors, however, who had the biggest impact, bringing fresh and dried fruits, honey, rice, many spices and more, thus enhancing relatively simple yet hearty dishes. As with Spain, the heart of Portuguese food is a rich Mediterranean cuisine with Moorish influences, not surprising really as the Moors conquered the whole Iberian Peninsula. With the dishes of Spain and Portugal being based on simple recipes, the South Western French cuisine has a more sophisticated Mediterranean take, influenced by Northern France. Away from the fine sauces and elaborate desserts associated with France, in the SW the emphasis is on rich foods.
All the fresh, seasonal and locally sourced Mediterranean produce can be found in the local markets, so what better way to experience the essence of the kitchens that entertain your gourmet fancies than with a visit to the market? One of the best and largest markets in Europe is the famous historical La Boqueria in Barcelona, like a museum of the brightest, most curious and delectable Mediterranean foods, and in Madrid the trendy Mercado de San Miguel is the liveliest culinary and gastronomic hotspot. Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon offers the freshest seafood and salt cod the country has to offer and in Porto the historic Mercado do Bolhao is a delight for the senses with the hearty northern Portuguese produce and freshly baked bread. Carcassonne’s authentic farmers market is a true pleasure for the eyes and taste buds, whereas Toulouse’s Victor Hugo market thrives with French delicacies.
With such great local produce the superchefs certainly keep their countries sparkling with Michelin stars. Maybe you’re looking for diversion in Madrid at DiverXO with Chef David Muñoz, the sublime at El Celler de Can Roca with the Roca Brothers in Girona or the marvels of Martín Berasategui in Barcelona and Guipúzcoa! But there’s so many more! And Michelin France is no exception! Maybe you would like a table at Le Table by the fantastic Franck Putelat in Carcassonne, delight in the luxurious La Grande Maison with Chef Pierre Gagnaire in Bordeaux or dine at the refined Michel Sarran in Toulouse. Portugal is going through a bit of a gourmet revolution and Michelin starred restaurants are slowly but surely rising with the likes of José Avillez at Belcanto in Lisbon, Ricardo Costa at The Yeatman in Porto and Dieter Koschina at Vila Joya in Albufeira.
You may like to learn some tricks of the trade for yourself with a fun cooking class (usually with a market visit first to get to know about the ingredients); where on the guidance of our chef you will make your deliciously local lunch of traditional dishes: Spain is gastronomically huge and the regional areas so diverse, but probably the most widely known dishes are paella, tortilla and gazpacho, to name just a few. Without a doubt the signature dish of Portugal is the omnipresent cod or “bacalhau” of which there are said to be around 1000 recipes! Rice is popular too but cooked so differently to Spain. In SW France the main specialties are duck, foie gras, prunes, oysters, mushrooms and truffles. Casoulette is a typical stew like dish and pork is popular, especially in Toulouse, in a tasty sausage form, so different from the Iberian cured sausages.
If you love food then Spain, Portugal and SW France are your destinations! Here below you will find some of our sample itineraries for your Gourmet & Culinary experience in Europe:
Tastes are made, not born. Mark Twain