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Jan 18 2018

A Journey Through the Cuisines of the Valencian Community and Andalusia

The dehesa, pure bellota Ibérico ham, the elaboration process for an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), the cradle of Spanish rice and the authentic recipe for paella valenciana. All of this and more was on the menu for a group of Canadian chefs and Austrian journalists during a recent trip to Spain. The following is a description of the tour, as well as a few of their impressions from the trip.

Text: Rodrigo García Fernández / ©ICEX

There’s no better way to learn about the gastronomic culture of a country than by sharing in culinary experiences first-hand. This is the goal that Foods & Wines from Spain (ICEX) aspires to every time it organizes a reverse mission for foreign journalists and chefs, a promotional tool that facilitates the creation of unforgettable experiences for industry professionals interested in learning about the reality, quality and distinction of the foods and wines from Spain.

Recently, ICEX, Foods & Wines from Spain, and the Spanish trade commissions in Toronto and Vienna, organized a trip for three Canadian chefs and four Austrian journalists. Among them was Canadian celebrity chef, Christine Cushing, a popular television personality. The other two Canadian chefs were Alonso Ortiz Ávila (Pintxo restaurant, in Montreal) and Daniel Joseph Vorstermans (Field Guide and Highwayman restaurants in Halifax).

The objective of this trip was to provide a complete culinary immersion centered on Spanish products like rice, fruits and vegetables, Sherry, olive oil tortas, Ibérico ham and fresh Ibérico pork, and extra virgin olive oil.

Gastronomic Valencia

This culinary journey began in Valencia, in some of the region's most emblematic places, including the city’s Mercado Central (market), the area known as the Albufera (where DO Arroz de Valencia rice is grown) and Casa Salvador restaurant, where the visitors received a master class on how to cook rice for paella.

Other products from Valencia that these Canadian professionals were able to learn about in situ in their place of origin were kakis (persimmons) and citrus fruits, emblematic products from this Spanish region thanks to their quality and importance in terms of Valencia's export offering. Their tour of Valencia continued through its shops specializing in products like turrón (Hermanos Galiano), a horchatería (Santa Catalina) and tastings at the tapas bar La Boatella and Rafael Vidal's Levante restaurant.

Andalusian flavors

The next stop on this journey was Andalusia. This group of Canadian chefs was joined by the following food and wine journalists from Austria: Wolfgang Schedelberger (editor-in-chief of Lust & Leben and Drinks Austria magazines) and Aimée Klein (of the programs “TW Frisch gekocht” and “Frisch gekocht mit Andyi & Alex”, on ORF2).

Here they discovered the versatility of the Sherry wines thanks to a visit and guided tasting at González Byass winery. They also had the opportunity to sample the culinary richness of the Mercado Central market in Jerez de la Frontera, followed by a cooking demonstration of Spanish recipes using Sherry wine as a key ingredient, from chef Javier Muñoz of the mythical Jerez restaurant La Carboná.

There were three other star products from the region of Andalusia that captured the attention of these professionals. One was extra virgin olive oil, whose elaboration process they were able to see first-hand on a visit to the company Hacienda Guzmán, near Seville. The second was the famous olive oil tortas made by the company Inés Rosales – a product unlike any other in the world – which are still made by hand and can be used to prepare both sweet and savory recipes.

And, finally, Ibérico pork. The participants got a first-hand look at this breed of pigs, which are raised only in Spain and some parts of Portugal. They visited the striking landscape of the dehesa as guests of the Jabugo-based (Huelva) company Cinco Jotas, where they learned about the importance of the montanera, the pig’s diet and their outdoor lifestyle.

Later, at Cinco Jotas, the guest professionals learned the basics of carving a 100% bellota Ibérico ham, and how to recognize and distinguish the different cuts of Ibérico pork: presa, lagarto, carrillera, secreto... along with their many interesting culinary applications.

Translation: Adrienne Smith/©ICEX.

The objective of this trip was to provide a complete culinary immersion centered on Spanish products like rice, fruits and vegetables, Sherry, olive oil tortas, Ibérico ham and and extra virgin olive oil.
Rodrigo García Fernández/©ICEX.
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