The first time I ever went to Catalonia I was about 10 years old. Other than a less than pleasant school trip to Germany, it was the first time I’d been on holiday abroad. We stayed in Salou, a popular tourist resort with long beaches, a landscaped promenade and very close proximity to Port Aventura, a huge theme park.
Despite the tourist friendly nature of Salou, one of my most vivid memories is experiencing Catalan cuisine for the first time. As a 10 year old, I hadn’t quite developed the love of food I have now. I had never eaten squid or any form of shellfish other than prawns before, so getting to try the Catalan delicacy of seafood fideuà for the first time was an eye opening experience. Despite being somewhat fearful of all the shells, legs and eyes staring at me, I remember being pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was with earthy saffron and delicate langoustines and mussels. It was also the first time I tried Calamari after my mum told me they were onion rings! I even got brave and tried grilled baby octopus one night when we had a barbecue.
With so many flavours and textures I’d never experienced before I can almost pinpoint that holiday as the start of my ongoing love affair with Spanish food. Even now I still can’t resist calamari with allioli, Crema Catalana or a chilled glass of Cava.
We returned to Catalonia many times after that first holiday, staying again in Salou, then Cambrils, Lleida and L’Estartit.
I then returned in my adulthood with a trip to Barcelona in 2013. Again I experienced even more foodie firsts, trying Veal for the first time, and immersing myself in the sights and smells of La Bouqueria.
From the salchichón to pata negra, crispy fried empanadas to an array of exotic fresh fruits, it was hands down my favourite place in Barcelona! Hidden away in the middle of Las Ramblas, it’s a foodies paradise that is not to be missed.
As a lover of Catalonia, the Catalan Tourist Board recently got in touch with me to try some Catalan wines, as the region has a strong wine-making heritage and wine tourism there is growing in popularity. I was sent a Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon and a Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay to review. I’m not normally a fan of Chardonnay, preferring drier French and Italian whites. With a really floral taste and a slight oakiness, I couldn’t drink a lot of it, but this transported me right back to Spain on balmy summer evenings.
The red is spicy and rich, a stronger flavour than the light Rioja that I usually drink. Paired with strong flavours or barbecued foods, this would work really well.
I’m not sure how it would fare in a jug of Sangria though, which admittedly is the only red I drank in Barcelona. Naughty me…
Catalonia has so much to offer especially for foodies. With Gastronomic Holidays now available to explore Catalonia’s vast range of unique products, as well as its stunning landscape, I’m certain it won’t be too long before I return. For now, I’ll share this shot taken on the beach in Barcelona, as I enjoy my Viña Sol and daydream of being back there!