Memories From A Unique Journey To The Foods & Wines from Spain
What memories did the eleven international journalists invited by Foods & Wines from Spain take with them from their visit to Madrid Fusión and Andalusia?
Eleven journalists specializing in gastronomy from six different countries: the United States, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Canada journey to Spain for a week that includes a visit to international culinary conference Madrid Fusión and a trip around Andalusia to learn about three emblematic Spanish products from three maximum-quality producers: extra virgin olive oil (Castillo de Canena), 100% Ibérico bellota ham (Cinco Jotas) and the wines of Jerez (Sherry Regulatory Council and Real Tesoro winery). This was the objective of this inverse mission for journalists organized by Foods & Wines from Spain and ICEX. The following is a selection of some of the most unforgettable memories that these journalists took home with them from this singular experience.
To get things rolling, we asked each of the journalists to answer these two questions:
1. Which culinary memories or experiences in Spain left the most lasting impressions?
2. If a friend asked you for advice or three recommendations for their upcoming culinary vacation to Spain, what would you tell them?
LESLIE CHESTERMAN – CANADA
Journalist Montreal Gazette and Radio-Canada
1. The pigs in the forest… the sublime plates of melting and marbled Cinco Jotas acorn-fed Ibérico ham... the sheer size of the Sherry wineries… the beauty of the countryside, even on gray days. The night at Corral De La Morería restaurant in Madrid was one I will never forget for the food, the Sherry pairings, the brilliant staff and the sultry flamenco. And the orange juice. I have never had such delicious orange juice as in Spain.
2. I would tell them to definitely eat some Jamón ibérico, to drink Sherry and Vermouth as well as Spanish wines, to try out both traditional and modern tapas bars in Madrid. And, if I could say more... I would tell them they MUST dine at Corral de La Moreria. Such a unique experience! I would also tell them to go to Madrid because so many people head first to Barcelona, but Madrid was just terrific — though I never got to try churros for breakfast. Next time!
IVY GENEVIEVE KNIGHT – CANADA
Contributing author Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Food & Drink Canada, Toronto Life Playboy and Vice. She is also a chef and cookbook author.
1. As a food writer I’m quite spoiled by amazing food experiences and I have to say that both the taste of Ibérico ham in the place where it is made (we visited Cinco Jotas in Jabugo), and the rice cooked over a wood fire in the cottage in the olive grove were exquisite and beautiful experiences that I will never forget.
2. I would definitely direct them to Andalusia and the beautiful places we stayed, to the incredible restaurant Mesón Los Arrieros near Jabugo where we had dinner in the old house of the husband and wife team. I would also tell them to go in the spring!
MARY-FRANCES HECK – USA
Senior Food Editor Food & Wine
1. It was thrilling to experience the dehesa landscape, home to the pigs raised for Ibérico acorn-fed ham. The terrain is unique to Spain and provides the perfect circumstances for the pigs to grow naturally. The cozy lunch by the fire at the Castillo de Canena extra virgin olive oil mill was very memorable, and I loved learning how to make arroz caldoso by watching the chef prepare it for us. Driving through the olive groves with Rosa Vañó (Castillo de Canena’s general manager) and seeing her experimental garden was inspiring. I can’t wait to learn what new, flavorful varietals she decides to grow.
2. I would tell them: I was surprised by the wonderful accommodations in the former monastery and convent. I might not have selected these types of hotels before, but will seek them out in the future.
The elemental flavors and cultural practice of a late, relaxed dinner is uniquely Spanish and a wonderful way to end the day.
I loved learning about how to properly slice Ibérico ham, and to appreciate the different cuts of the leg. It was fascinating to pair the meat with different types of Sherry and wine, and to taste dishes cooked with fresh Ibérico pork. It is a must-try when visiting Andalusia!
WILL BLUNT - USA
1. There were so many memorable moments. It’s hard to choose…but I would say one was witnessing Chef Ángel León’s very creative presentation at Madrid Fusión where modified liquid salt solution poured tableside onto Spanish prawns hardened/crystallized and cooked them upon contact. It’s a good example of a technique that is highly innovative and entertaining but has a super useful, practical cooking application at the same time.
2. Well, of course, I now know, love and appreciate the food culture of Andalusia and would send them in that direction for sure. A tour of Cinco Jotas and a walk in the dehesa in Jabugo. A visit to Jerez and an in-depth educational session about Sherry wine and vinegar. Although it’s not a very original recommendation, I would still tell them to do a tapas crawl in Madrid. There is nothing like it. It’s so much fun and there’s no better showcase of Spanish food and wine products
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Black-footed Iberian pigs in the dehesa in Jabugo in Heulva DOC, recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere preserve. . . . . Each farmer partnered with Cinco Jotas must allocate a full hectare of land per pig, limiting stress on the land and guaranteeing an abundance of acorns and other food for the pigs, incl grasses, mushrooms, and fruits. . The Iberian pig came from Northern Africa and is actually closer to a wild boar with a long, thin shank. They adapted to long hot summers by storing fat in their muscle tissue and can grow from 90 to 170 kilos in three months. . The flavorful fat so prized in Ibérico ham comes from the omega 9 in the acorns the pigs eat. Three oaks produce acorns at different times throughout the season. Each pig looks for best, sweetest first, and they get a lot of exercise looking for the best acorns (Cork - most bitter/Gall - medium sweet/Holm - sweetest).
ADRIANA SILVESTRE – MEXICO
Adriana Silvestre is the co-editor of Gourmet Grupo Editorial Expansión (Aire, Travel + Leisure, Life & Style and Quién magazines)
1. It was undoubtedly a great trip, one that allowed us to delve into the world of prestigious Spanish foods. All the professionals who hosted us were very kind and their passion for their products was contagious. And of course I’ll never forget the places, beautiful landscapes and architecture that we discovered in Andalusia.
2. I would recommend visiting Seville, making a stop in Aracena (Huelva) and traveling around the region until reaching Jerez de la Frontera. Visiting Cinco Jotas in Jabugo and tasting the 100% Ibérico bellota ham in its point of origin is a must, as is a visit to the magnificent wineries of Jerez.
CECILIA NUÑEZ – MEXICO
Editorial director of Food & Travel in Mexico and presenter of Food and Travel Radio on Grupo ACIR
I have three extraordinary memories from this marvelous trip: the intense and unforgettable flavor of the cuts of Ibérico bellota pork, like the pluma; the mastery of the Cinco Jotas ham carvers; and the tastings with different Sherry wines and the tasting of Castillo de Canena olive oils.
2. My recommendation would be: spend two or three days in Madrid to enjoy its markets and restaurants; reserve four days to get to know the sierra de Aracena (Jabugo, the winery, woodlands and drying houses of Cinco Jotas); visit Jerez and its wineries; and journey to Jaén and (learn about) its olive oil. In northern Spain I would recommend Basque Country, Galicia, La Rioja and Ribera del Duero (Castile-León)
LILIANA LÓPEZ – COLOMBIA
Freelace journalist. Contributor to several journals in Colombia and Mexico.
1. It was very interesting to see the proposal of chef Rodrigo de la Calle at El Invernadero restaurant, due to his creative use of vegetables as star ingredients. It was also wonderful to try the different cuts of Cinco Jotas Ibérico pork again, during the trip around Andalusia.
2. I would recommend visiting Basque Country to take a tour of the multiple Michelin starred restaurants. Visiting Andalusia for the wonderful world of Jerez, the gastronomy and the flamenco. Also eating at Ángel León’s unique Aponiente restaurant, and visiting the winery and woodlands of Cinco Jotas, one of Spain’s banner products.
MARGARITA BERNAL – COLOMBIA
El Tiempo newspaper, blog author and TV presenter
1. What impressed me the most is the excellent quality of the product — of all the ingredients that are produced in Spain. The best olive oil, the best ham, unbeatable fish and seafood. This is a country of produce, which, in culinary terms, is the best thing that can happen to a diner and a chef.
2. My recommendations would be to savor local and mainly artisanal produce, to travel to different regions in Spain to learn about the country’s culture and gastronomy — not just Madrid and Barcelona. And don’t let yourself get seduced only by the restaurants with (Michelin) stars, but be sure to seek out the homespun local eateries where locals and Spaniards eat in order to delve into the history, culture and life of the country.
RENATA MESQUITA – BRAZIL
Special reporter Caderno Paladar (gastronomy magazine published by El Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper
1. In general I love tapas bars and, of course, the unique jamón. But i think in the end, it’s the quality of the ingredients that translate into the flavor of every plate we ate.
2. Give Jerez a chance on the first day of your vacation and you’ll be drinking it until the end of your trip! Eat as much Ibérico ham as you can. And book a car and give the Spanish countryside a chance, there is mucho to see and eat all around the country.
CARLO VON MÜHLENBROCK - CHILE
Chef, Radio and Television presenter
1. The most memorable experience from my trip to Spain was the opportunity I had to learn about the process of raising the animals (Ibérico pigs) to get the ham, the details of the breeding process, how long the ripening process takes, and all the rituals that exist around the town of Jabugo. Another memorable experience was visiting a castle, the Castillo de Canena, where exceptional-quality olive oil is produced.
2. For a trip to Spain I would recommend: harvesting the olives in Canena and seeing those wonderful places, also visiting Jabugo to learn about the ham making process, and spending a couple of days touring the best gastronomy on offer today in Madrid.
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Definitivamente la enología de Jerez es una de las más evolucionada del mundo con tan sólo tres uvas todas ellas blancas los enólogos elaboran más de 10 tipos de vinos diferentes desde los más secos a los más dulces desde lo más pálidos hasta los más oscuros dentro de la amplia variedad de tipos de Jerez existen tres grandes categorías los vinos generosos generosas de licor y los dulces naturales para mí el que más me gustó fue el amontillado que marida perfecto con los jamones de Bellota #foodsandwinesfromspain
NICHOLAS CHARLESWORTH – CHILE
Photographer and journalist from Chef & Hotel magazine
1. Undoubtedly Coque restaurant was an unforgettable experience, from the flavor and melt-in-the mouth texture of the suckling pig to the escabeche de foie. But the most memorable (moment) for me has to be the combination of (sherry) wines, Osborne Amontillado 51-1a and Capuchino with the selection of Cinco Jotas acorn-fed ibérico pork cuts. Iván’s passion made this even more memorable. Oh, and the creamy Cortijo de Caideros cheese made from sheep’s milk from Gran Canary Island (discovered at Madrid Fusión) is outstanding.
2. There is so much to learn and discover that I would suggest having an excellent and knowledgeable guide. (I would also suggest) that he or she should treat each area of Spain as entirely distinct and unique, and each needs to be understood in its own cultural and geographical context. I would also suggest that they keep an open mind. Like all culinary experiences, the range varies immensely in terms of quality and expense, and each experience should be judged not only in terms of quality but also, and maybe more so, in the way that it is delivered. Sophisticated cooking does not necessarily make it extraordinary. And sometimes, simple cooking and the personal touch often entailed can be extraordinary.
Text: Foods & Wines from Spain
Translation & editiing: Adrienne Smith /@ICEX.