Food in Spain is taken very seriously.
an indispensable ingredient in the country's ebullient social lifestyle.
Meals are long
and leisurely, providing an opportunity to enjoy good company, freshly prepared dishes,
and fine wines, such as the world-famous Riojas. Lunch is the big meal of the day and is
generally served between 2:00 and 4:30 pm. Dinner is traditionally served between 9:00 and
11:00 pm. Restaurants are rated by vertical forks (from one to five) on a plaque outside
the entrance. Prices must be listed both inside and outside the establishment.
Spanish cuisine is based on the healthy
Mediterranean diet. Prized Spanish olive oil, garlic, fresh daily produce, and wine are the staples.
The striking cultural contrasts between Spain's many regions are reflected in the tremendous
variety of cooking styles. The central plateau of Castilla is known for its delicious
roasts: lamb, kid, suckling pig, and game such as partidge. Try the garlic soup, hearty
beef stews and famous Manchego cheeses. Valdepeñas and Ribera del Duego make exceptional
red wines. Catalanes (Cataluña) are marvelously bold cooks, combining game or poultry
with seafood, and savory meats with sweet sauces and dried fruits and nuts. Vasco, País
Vasco cooking is considered the most sophisticated and innovative in Spain.
The city of
San Sebastián (País Vasco) is exemplary, with tremendous concentration of five-fork
restaurants serving some of the finest food in Europe. Traditional cuisine is at its best
in fish and shellfish. The northwestern region of Galicia is Spain's source for a wide
variety of fresh shellfish, from scallops and mussels to more exotic delicacies such as
barnacles and spider crab. Try the octopus, accompanied by the famed Albariño and Ribeiro
wines. Andalusía is home to the refreshing gazpacho and garlic-almond soup, delicious
olives, and world-famous sherries. The rice fields of Valencia gave birth to the paella as
well as a wide variety of delicious rice dishes.
Spain's greatest contribution to gastronomy may
well be the tapa. These little portions of regional specialties are served in restaurants
and bars throughout Spain and are generally accompanied by wine, beer or sangria.