One of the best things about Spain was the food. If you’re a wanderlusting food-lover, Spain is the place to go. I traveled with the most food-enthusiastic and food-adventurous people I know, so you bet every meal was an ambitious effort to try something new, different and top-notch.
As any country, Spain has traditional dishes unique to the country. Tapas (small plates) are popular and ordering a few tapas to share satisfied our group of four on more than one occasion. A few restaurants had the traditional counter-top tapas, giving you the option to take and pay by the bite, which was like a crostini with your choice of toppings. Other restaurants were small servings of dishes, providing an easy way to order several to try.
For breakfast, we usually enjoyed pan con tomato, which is bread rubbed with tomato and drizzed with olive oil. Sometimes jamón was added on top. Similar to prosciutto, jamón (serrano or iberico, depending on where it’s from) was abundant. As we learned at our meal at a Spanish family’s home, families have jamón at the ready on their kitchen counter. I also loved the tortilla de patata, which is like a potato slice-filled, crustless quiche.
For drinks we loved getting fresh-squeezed orange juice and cafe con leche, which was a small but potent cup of coffee. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was one of my favorite things about waking up in Spain.
We tried churros con chocolate (fried dough and chocolate to dip it in) one morning. Yum!
Lunch and dinner were tapas meals, though every meal was slightly different and depended on the city we were in. Side note: we stayed pretty close to an American eating schedule since eating lunch early meant avoiding crowds, but we did end up eating dinner later on multiple occasions. Spainards eat lunch between 1-3 p.m. and dinner between 9 p.m. to midnight.
Hands down, our favorite dish was rabo de toro (oxtail). It was a flavorful, beef stew-like, braised dish.
We also had an abundance of seafood, including fried calamari, anchovies, and shrimp.
In Segovia, we had to try the famous cochinillo asado (roasted suckling pig). We also tried the fried version. (Yes, that’s what it looks like below.)
In Toledo we tried the famed marzipan dessert. It’s very sweet and made with sugar and almond meal. It was not my favorite at all but it looked pretty.
Of course, we can’t forget paella! The ones we had were made with different kinds of seafood. We even ate a paella buffet at Ayo’s on the beach in Nerja! Mr. Ayo, the ever-present owner, and his team were cooking it nonstop in a huge skillet.
We had plans to go to Morocco one day but all boat trips were cancelled because the wind was too strong to get across the Strait of Gibraltar. We were disappointed but we made up for it with Granada’s Moroccan quarter a few days later. Arrayanes is where we enjoyed the best and my first Moroccan meal I’ve ever had.
Cupcakes aren’t a popular dessert in Spain since they’ve got plenty of other delicious dessert choices, but we managed to run into one cupcake shop, Cup & Cake in Barcelona. (The American-born cupcake popularity made it over there!) The one we tried, something with honey, was delicious!
When it comes to drinks, water is usually more expensive than wine in Spain, and yes, you had to pay for it! (Side note: After I got back to the U.S., I gulped down cups of free water at restaurants since I had taken it for granted!) If you’re supposed to do what the Romans do when in Rome, when in Spain, you drink wine or sangria with every meal except breakfast.
Of course, we indulged in gelato!
We thought almost all of the restaurants we went to were stellar and we found most of them through the Rick Steves guidebook. The least favorite restaurants were places we found on the fly because we were hungry or in a hurry. Thanks, Rick!
What’s a favorite food/dish you’ve discovered while traveling?