Three pilgrimages for food devotees

Idiazabal Cheeses © Alamy
Idiazabal Cheese Contest, Ordizia Market: a humbling sight for cheese lovers

Spain is a foodie paradise. Here are three of the best destinations. Chris Carter reports.

You cannot help but notice the food in the Basque Country, says Timothy O’Grady in Condé Nast Traveller. “There are more Michelin stars per square  metre here than almost anywhere else in the world.” Food devotees make pilgrimages to the old quarter in San Sebastián for tapas-style pintxos, just as art lovers head for Florence. “Even a boiled egg tastes better in this town.”

Two chefs from San Sebastián – Juan Mari Arzak and Pedro Subijana – each  with three stars to their  name, travelled to the food market at Ordizia, south  of San Sebastián, for the  annual Idiazabal cheese competition. On a table,  14 shortlisted cylindrical cheeses had been set out,  “like sculptures at a Paris auction”. Both chefs were “humble before the cheese”.

The Basques have been  able to hang on to  such traditions despite the onslaught of change all around the region. How have they managed it? “We had no kings, so our business model is not the corporation, but the cooperative,” a cheesemaker explains.  “We’re natural egalitarians.” It is from such “simple ingredients as these that their tenacity is made”.

Beyond the cathedral in Seville

Calle Feria, Seville

It’s a crying shame that the majority of visitors who come to Seville never get beyond the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, says Adam Turner in The Guardian.

“Although the cobbled streets and alleyways that surround it are worthy of close inspection, this enchanting city has much more to offer a little further afield.” Calle Feria (pictured above), just off Plaza Calderón de la Barca, “is my favourite street”. The narrow road is closed every Thursday for a flea market, with everything from handmade photo frames to flamenco dresses for sale.

“Down the street at the Feria food market there’s local olive oil, Seville goat’s cheese, artisanal chorizo (all from Negrete 1934, a gourmet shop) and seafood (fresh tuna, salt cod and octopus empanadas).” There’s loads of fresh fruit and vegetables besides. And it’s not all Spanish cooking – Pitacasso, “a veggie-friendly restaurant with delicious falafel pittas”, is a great place to stop for a bite.

Ceviche and tiger’s milk in Madrid

In the Chamberí area of Madrid, Mercado de Vallehermoso looks like an ordinary farmers’ market, says Kevin EG Perry in Lonely Planet. “Inside, motes of dust twinkle in the light from high windows as butchers, fishmongers and fruit sellers push trolleys around.” Tiny new restaurants sit between the traditional stalls, “giving some of the city’s most creative chefs an opportunity to experiment”.

The capital’s new food scene is heavily influenced by South American cuisine. At restaurant Tripea, Roberto Martínez Foronda and his team create a fusion of Peruvian and Spanish dishes (see below), served up in front of a psychedelic mural. His creations include hot ceviche with mussels and tiger’s milk (“a Peruvian citrus-based marinade – no actual tigers are milked in the process”). The market allows Martínez Foronda to experiment with fresh ingredients and new cooking styles.

“Though this restaurant has Peru at its core, it also reflects a mix of other influences,” he says. But above all, “I want to make sure it has a really Spanish flavour to it”. Such imaginative venues are all part of the “outpouring of Madrid’s creative spirit”.

Cooking Nikkei-style


Roberto Martínez Foronda
Peruvian cuisine is a puzzle of many pieces

“Peru’s cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes and Lima is its epicentre,” says Eric Rosen in National Geographic Traveller.

Lunch could be “sea-fresh ceviche paired with quinoa and potatoes from the Andes mountains, followed by a dessert of fruits from the Amazonian rainforest”. The indigenous Quechua and Aymara peoples, along with immigrants from Spain, Japan and China,

have all contributed to the gastronomic mix. “Peruvian cuisine is like a puzzle of many pieces,” Lima-born chef Mitsuharu Tsumura tells the magazine – “and Nikkei (a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking) is one of them”. At Tsumara’s restaurant, Maido, “the standout dish is chicharrones – crispy pork cooked overnight with chillies, miso and saké,” says chef Sanjay Dwivedi in the Financial Times. (Maido, Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores, Lima.)