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My Spanish Culinary Journey of the Soul

Hey gang! For those of you who don’t know, I’m in Spain on a culinary journey of the soul! And wow what an amazing journey it has been so far. Not only has this been a food adventure but also an awakening of what I’ve been missing out on when it comes to food around the world. I would like to share some of the menu items I have tried along with some pictures of the many things I’ve tasted.
Mainly, I have eaten Tapas, which for those of you who don’t know are small plates. But they are more than just small plates in my mind. There are various types ranging from olive kebobs wrapped with sardines and mushroom and iberico ham croquettes on toasted bread, to a tuna filled pimento peppers baked and drizzled with an aioli of some sort. Everything I ate was more than what I could possibly have imagined as the whole experience is what made it complete.

I have traveled from Madrid, to Barcelona, to San Sebastian, then to Sevilla tomorrow. I have asked myself which place is my favorite so far? Well, honestly I can’t even tell you as so much makes them very different; not only from the food, but the language is different in all three regions plus the history and architecture. I created an association for you to relate to…. Madrid is like a colorful New York, Barcelona is like a Los Angeles, and San Sebastian is like a Newport Rhode Island kind of feel. Now don’t get me wrong, they are really nothing like the states but if I were to compare, that’s what I would say.

Let me tell you a little bit about the produce in Barcelona that just made me glow! You name it, and it was there. Everything from various mushrooms, nuts, figs, dates, apples, dragon fruit, and even fruit bars. I really wanted to buy a couple things and start cooking but it was great just to see what was available. I have so many favorites from that market but the seafood and meat markets really topped it off for me. If you want tenderloin, bones, liver, heart, or head it’s yours. Any kind of seafood you could imagine is right there, and talk about everything being fresh… the lobsters and crabs are on ice but still moving! For a chef going into that market, it was like going into a candy store for a kid; I just wanted a little bit of everything. I didn’t walk away with a lot of goods but the many pictures I took are good enough for me.

Today we ate at a place called Asador Etxebarri that was about an hour away from our hotel in the middle of the mountains—in the middle of nowhere. This really small looking run down “cottage” opened a door I never could have even fathomed. The tasting menu was about 16 courses! I know you are all thinking so much for portion control, but I must say, I didn’t eat everything even though they were small portions. That said, I did try everything to experience it—even baby eel was on the tasting menu.

The service was pristine and the food had great presentation with smoky flavors and beautiful colors alike. Ever heard of a Goose barnacle? Me neither; and if you asked me to eat one on my own there is a good chance I would pass, but if you can get past the interesting look it sure tasted great! I ended the meal with a light ice cream with strawberry puree and some sort of Basque Cake that was filled with figs and vanilla bean custard.

If you ever get the chance to go to Spain or go back to Spain, make sure to really talk to the locals and try as many foods as you can handle. Everything has such interesting flavors and spices! Before your visit, be sure to brush up on your Spanish, Catalan and Basque if visiting to either region though. The Basque language is very old and very very different than Spanish, so grab a translation book for sure because few locals speak English. I managed to get through with my own version of sign language :)

I’m off to another adventure and hope you learned a little something and Spanish cuisine. Thank you for letting me share my experience!

Adios!
Chef Jen

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