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Eating in Spain

   A Taste of the Spanish Gastronomic Pleasures

Do you love to eat?  Do you love to drink?  Are you the type who wakes up on the wee of hours just to look for something to eat?  If so, then you are going to be very happy if you are living in Spain.  Yes, Spain as far as I know is today’s most favorite travel destination for the most meticulous chefs in the world.  But, for what reason?  There are actually a lot of reasons and much to your surprise, all of them are rooted on one main fact – Spain boasts a wide selection of gastronomic pleasures.



What Makes Spain a Culinary Center?


There are a lot of factors that make Spain a culinary center.  However, if we will look at it in a general sense, we could see that the culinary blessings in Spain could only be brought about by two main factors: the Spanish cultural diversity and its unique climate.


On the most basic, Spain is located in a pretty perfect location.  It is bounded by two main bodies of water: the Atlantic in the north and west and the Mediterranean on the south and east.  Also, it is located at the Iberian Peninsula which for long years has been the hodgepodge of the cultures of the Jewish, Latins, Arabs and Christians.  It is even nestled at the center of the continent of Europe, being the front line of discovery and trading events on earth.


The culinary delights of Spain are not just brought about by its perfect location and the mixture of culture.  Much to your surprise, Spain is one of the most popular places in Europe blessed with good climate and great soil.  A variety of crops grow on its soil, the reason that Spain is now deemed as the home of heavenly wines, fruits and vegetables, oranges, and olive oil.  This condition is even coupled with the culinary interests and desires of the people.


With such factors, it’s no wonder that for centuries, Spain is able to produce the most tasty and unique selection of culinary pleasures.



The Basics of Spanish Cuisine


Cooking in Spain is tremendously varied and rich.  The country is well-known for the unique and authentic quality of its food that is typically prepared with the high quality ingredients.


The Spanish culinary pleasures, although so varied, can be described as a preparation that boasts both an Atlantic and Mediterranean influence.  It is very much Mediterranean in a sense mainly for the fact that the Spanish cuisines are usually prepared with garlic and olive oil as the main ingredients.  Well, it’s worth noting that these ingredients are deemed unmistakable in the Spanish region.   It is shared by the Spanish commoners with the other countries in the Mediterranean region, and much to your surprise, the influence is very much evident in various dishes prepared anywhere in Spain, be it regional or local cuisines.


There are other ingredients common to Spain.  The list includes vegetables, eggs, beans, poultry, meat, fish, and game.  The New World also introduces much of its favorites to the Spanish and now Spain uses tomatoes, sweet and regular potatoes, chocolates, vanillas, as well as a wide variety of pepper, beans and zucchini.  In addition, the Spanish cuisine is much well-known for its use of golden spice termed saffron, which is commonly employed as a food enhancer.



When to Eat in Spain


Just like the other regions in the world, Spain has its own time for eating.  In a typical Spanish day, the Spaniards get up early in the morning to start their breakfast, which they call in Spanish as “el desayuno”.  The breakfast happens anytime before the clock hits 11AM.  It was during this time when the people in Spain put little importance on their meals regardless of the fact that they often prepare two breakfasts: morning coffee and the true desayuno.


In Spain, there is actually no formal way of taking breakfast.  You only need to head directly for a coffee bar or cafeteria and order your favorite Spanish drink, plus a freshly squeezed orange juice, un zumo de naranja, and sweet roll.  Coffee, bread or pastries are basically the most preferred for a Spanish breakfast.


After breakfast, almuerzo or lunch comes in.  This is usually served from 2PM to 4PM and is typically a long affair.  What are served during this time are no fewer than three meal courses, the reason that lunch is considered in Spanish as one of the most serious eating event of a typical Spanish day.


Then, there is the merienda or snack, which is often skipped by most Spanish.  Well, those who consider this meal usually prepare a good cup of coffee or tea, plus a slice of cake or something else tasty and sweet.


Dinner comes around 8:30 in the evening until 10PM or even later.  For those who are used to eat later than that time, note that you may have a difficulty finding for a restaurant to serve you a good dinner, and if that happens, you’ll be eating alone and you have no choice than to serve your own meal.  Also, dinner time is the busiest time of the day, the reason that reservations are often recommended especially for travelers.


For those who can’t wait to eat, Spain has the right option for you, and that is the tapas.  The tapas actually refer to finger foods that are typically served in cafes and bars.  They come in different prices and styles, but finding them can be easy with lots of bars serving it all day long.  However, since most Spaniards love to eat earlier than the normal meals, the bars serving this option are often crowded.  As such, it is always good to go out for such meal as early as possible.  Another helpful tip is to look for cervecerias or bars that specialize in beer, as well as mesons, bodegas, tascas and tabernas.  It is these stores actually that serve the best of tapas in Spain.



What to Eat in Spain


So you’ve learned about the usual eating time in Spain.  The question now is what to eat?  Well, there are a lot of answers to that, and this is due to the fact that Spain has a wide selection of specialties for the travelers to choose from.  Note that in Spain sausage and lamb are two of the very common dishes.  Ham is also served everywhere, as well as tomatoes, beans, garlic, peppers, and olive oils.  To mention in particular, below are some of the most specialized in Spain.


Paella – Spain is the home of paella.  Yes, according to several claims, the paella was first invented in the province of Valencia and was originally prepared without seafood, but with meat.  Many Spanish have been attracted to this favorite, and paella until these days still holds the first place.   The paella, however, is now prepared in a bit different manner.  The Spaniards usually cook it with rice and saffron as the primary ingredients.  Then, there are the seafood, vegetables, beans and sausage.  In a typical Spanish meal, it is served in a flat and special pan and is usually prepared for two or more people to feast in.


Empanadas – You’re familiar with empanadas, right?  Well, the empanadas hold a very special place in most of the Spanish restaurants and bars.  They are made from fish and meat and served in special dishes.


Albondigas – The albondigas are the typical meatballs you may have consumed in one of your visits to a Spanish restaurant.  This specialty is often served in different style.  Many of the restaurants in Spain serve it from large to small bacon wrapped and with sauce.  Also, it is served as a form of tapa, so don’t be surprised when you see it as a part of your special tapas.


Gazpacho – If you love soups, gazpachos could be your best option.  This is served as a cold soup made from peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes that are combined together.  Many of the Spanish families also prepare this with bread which for many is a popular version of gazpacho, the Salmarejo.


Pimentos de Padron – In Spain, this typically is small green peppers that is fried and deep fried in oil.  You can see this everywhere and since they are made of pepper, they are naturally spicy.


Tortilla – Have you tasted tortilla?  Well, this is very common in Spain and this is made from baked potato and egg.   For the Spanish, tortilla is one of the best tapas available.  It appears as a baked cake and tastes so good.  When served fresh, tortilla is a very delicious part of a light lunch and dinner.  Many have also said that it is perfect for every vegetarian.


Queso Manchego – This is simply a milk cheese made from sheep’s milk.  People of all ages in Spain eat this.


Flan – Of all the Spanish desserts, this is the most popular and the most consumed.  Flan is simply made from caramel custard.


Roast Meats – This is but another Spanish favorite and this comes in all sorts, be it lamb, sucking pig, veal or beef.


Seafood – Currently, many have been drawn to seafood in Spain. However, unlike the rest of the world, the Spanish only prefer seafood such as the lobster Catalan, angulas or the tasty baby eels, anchovies that are served fresh, and shellfish, as well as the so-called hake a la Gallega, which is often served at Galicia.


There are other varieties of food to eat in Spain.  If you want to have a good lunch or dinner, you can have a serving of green salad or a bowl of gazpacho, whichever you prefer.  After that, you can taste some roasted meats and end you meal with a flan.  What’s nice to know about these specialties in Spain is that they are often served at a pretty low, fixed price.



Where to Eat in Spain: Some of the Favorite Dining Spots


Being a culinary center, Spain has a lot of wonderful spots to visit for a good meal.  Each city in Spain has its own restaurants, cafes and bars where you can enjoy a good taste of something Spanish.  Well, with a myriad of them, finding the right portal is then as easy as pie.


But to give you an idea of where exactly in Spain you can find the best meals, I have outlined below a few of the top rated and most visited Spanish restaurants in Spain.  Just note the following and if you have time, visit these sites and see how best their meals are.


La Dorada in Madrid


La Dorada is by far the most popular seafood restaurant in the city of Madrid.  According to several claims, it is one of the largest, thus it is ideal for large groups.  The restaurant even provides some reserved sections they call as cabins, which are designed for those who want to have more privacy.  The usual visitors of this restaurant are families and group of businessmen and women.  La Dorada is most visited during weekends.


Al Zaraq


 Arabs have left a strong influence in the culinary style of Spain.  With that, it’s no wonder that Arab restaurants are operating in Spain.  Al Zaraq is simply one of them.


The Al Zaraq restaurant has been considered as one of the best Arab restaurants in the whole Spanish region.  It is located near Benissa and Calpe, and they serve both Lebanese and Palestinian dishes for Arabs and non-Arabs to enjoy.  Perhaps what’s nice to know about this Spanish dining area is that all of their specialties are served in great presentations.  The surroundings are even elegant in style with the breathtaking views of the Costa Blanca area.  Aside from, this restaurant offers their services at varying prices, but all taste good, the reason that Al Zaraq is strongly recommended.


Las Rejas


Nestled in a small charming village in the province of Cuenca, the Las Rejas is another well-known Spanish restaurant that serves a fine dining.   Several claims have it that Las Rejas serves an excellent selection of Spanish cuisines, plus an outstanding list of tasty wines.  Aside from that, Las Rejas an inviting environment with works of the local artists displayed on walls.  They even put up a large hearth in the main dining area during winter to help their guests feel comfortable.


Restaurante Juanito


Another famous Spanish restaurant, the Restaurante Juanito sits beautifully in the village of Baeza at the center of Jaen.  It is named Juanity after its owner who founded the restaurant decades ago.  Here, you can find not just a wide selection of Spanish cuisines, but an impressive list of tasty wines and desserts.


Restaurante Reads


If a luxurious restaurant in Spain is what you are looking for, then the Reads can be your best choice.  Yes, Reads for long years has been considered as one of the most luxurious dining areas in the whole region of Spain.  It is considered as one of the best in Mallorca and is even rated number one in the Veuve Cliquot Top Ten Luxury Restaurants.  This restaurant also receives a number of other great titles such as “Chef of the Year 2002” and “Restaurant Service of the Year 2003” among the other.


Today, Restaurante Reads in Mallorca is open every day to serve you a very good lunch and dinner.



The list does not just end there as there are still a number of great dining areas to visit in Spain.  What’s nicer to know is that, where you may go, restaurants, bars and cafes will welcome you with a list of fine dining options for you to choose from.  You can go to Madrid, to Cordova, or to Barcelona and you will surely enjoy the some of Spain’s best.



Other Eating Tips


When eating in Spain, it is important to note that tipping is a common thing.  The tip should be left for the waiters or bartenders, and there are some instances when restaurants and bars include service in the bill, making the tip a bit open.  This is also true in hotels and taxis. 


Other than tipping, it is always important to note that most of the restaurants and bars in Spain accept Mastercard and Visa, while others do not.  If it happens that you have an American Express, then note that it is not commonly accepted anywhere in Spain.

So that’s it.  Eating in Spain is very much interesting and even fun.  And with lots of options available out there, you can be assured that you can have one of the best dining experiences of your life.  So while in Spain, eat to your heart’s desire.

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