Spain On the Road Again, Part 12 – A Fishy Paella for Foreign Visitors Reply

On Road AgainGwyneth is in heaven as the road trip heads to Valencia, a paella–lover’s paradise. Mario and Gwyneth spread a blanket out on a wild Mediterranean dune and swap stories about their long histories with Spain. Both had the rare opportunity to come here as adolescents and never got Spain out of their blood. Meanwhile, Mark and Claudia tour Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences.

Gwyneth and Mario venture into the rice fields of the Albufera to learn to cook a surprisingly non-traditional, seemingly market-driven seafood paella valenciana made with onions and seafood by a grumpy Zen Master Paellero, then eat it with the family. The four pilgrims are reunited at the end of the day over a dinner of broadbean secrets and canned tapas at local bar, Casa Montaña. The final leg of the road trip heads to Madrid for a drive around the city looking at skyscrapers. More…

Spain On the Road Again, Part 11– Island Hopping in the Balearics Reply

On Road AgainWith Bitty away on a book tour, the remaining three pilgrims disembark on what Mario describes as “the mind-blowingly-beautiful  island of Mallorca.” For a suitably sumptuous breakfast they head to the Juan de Saigo pastry/ice cream/chocolate shop, opened in 1700 and now run by the ninth generation. After a quick spin around Palma’s high spots, including the Miquel Barceló chapel in the Palma cathedral, they’re off for a four-course lunch at the Malvasía Restaurant, where chef, Joan Olives, sits down at the table and designs a special menu for them: baby broadbeans with sausage, a crusty seafood paella, sea bass pie, and almond cake. Mario is impressed by the food as well as the muscatel dessert wine. More…

Spain… On the Road Again, Part 8 – A Sultan’s View of Andalucia Reply

On Road AgainIn this chapter our pilgrims swing south into Andalucía, the part of Spain where the Muslim conquerors reigned for almost 800 years (711 till 1492). Gwyneth and Mark get a taste for Spain’s Moorish history at the majestic Alhambra, the legendary hilltop palace and fortress in Granada. Claudia joins the group for a scenic drive along the Andalucían coast and, with Mark chiming in from the back seat, the group stops in the town of Almuñecar in the province of Granada for local tropical fruit and a meal, after which Gwyneth proclaims, “This is the best day in terms of food.” She then embarks for England and Mark and Claudia push on to beautiful and historic Cordoba, where he teaches her a thing or two about Moorish architecture. More…

Spain… On the Road Again, Part 9 — Castillian Hog Heaven 2

On Road AgainFootloose Mark and Claudia are in hog heaven as the road trip winds through Castilla y León. They head for Salamanca’s amazing Plaza Mayor in search of a breakfast fix of ham for Claudia. “Ham is in the air here,” says Mark. Their interest perked, they decide to head right to the source — a traditional Salamanca farm that raises the famous black–footed pigs. Their porcine pilgrimage continues to Segovia–“one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” according to Mark Bittman– where Bitty and Bassols eat like emperors in the shadow of the city’s 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct. Feeling a little pigged–out, Mark and Claudia return to Basque country, unearthing a medieval cathedral and sampling Vitoria’s finest tapas or, in their own words, “pintxos to die for!” More…

Spain… On the Road Again – Part 7, From the Sublime to the Surreal Reply

On Road AgainMichael Stipe joins the road trip and cruises around Barcelona with Mario and Claudia, including a stop at the colorful La Boqueria market. Gwyneth and Mario cover the three-Michelin-star Sant Pau Restaurant in Sant Pol de Mar, near Barcelona where Chef Carme Ruscalleda prepares them a fish dish with grape leaves. A tour of the historic Jewish Quarter in Girona really hits home for Gwyneth. Mark and Claudia have a surreal time at the Dalí museum and then drive to the culinary hot spot of Roses, where Chef Rafa appeals to Mark with his minimalist style of cooking Catalunya’s finest seafood on the grill (a la plancha). (Secret: Make sure the grill is blazing hot.) More…

Spain… On the Road Again–Part 6 Reply

On Road AgainA Michael Stipe Surprise in Catalunya

Claudia takes Gwyneth for a nighttime drive through her hometown of Barcelona. Gwyneth does a celebrity appearance and then the two ladies sneak off to the gourmet department of a Barcelona department store to stock up on snacks for the next leg of their journey.

The next morning, Mario and Gwyneth dive into Spanish bubbly in the cellars at the Segura Viudas winery. Meanwhile, Mark and Claudia take to the seas to enjoy some of the most sought-after shellfish in the Mediterranean and later to a fish auction that has all the excitement of a Major League game.

Back in wine country, Mario and Gwyneth grill a vegetarian Catalan feast. Later, Mario shocks Gwyneth when they pick up an unlikely hitchhiker, Michael Stipe, the REM lead singer. More…

Spain… On the Road Again–Part 5 Reply

Basking in Spanish Wine and Cuisine in the Basque Country

On Road AgainGwyneth and Mario greet the day at the astonishing Marqués de Riscal Hotel with a behind the scenes vineyard tour which includes a sublime bottle of 1958 vintage wine opened by breaking the neck of the bottle with red hot tongs. Mark joins Gwyneth for some vine-side grilling of fresh Rioja vegetables where they learn a valuable barbecue tip: to revive the waning coals, sprinkle salt on them. Both Mario and Gwyneth head home for the weekend, and Mark and Claudia set out for San Sebastián with the glee of two school kids playing hooky. More…

Spain… On the Road Again–Part 4 Reply

Landmarks, Legends and the Lap of Luxury

Guggenheim Bilbao duskIn this first of two programs dedicated to the Basque Country, Gwyneth and Mario visit Bilbao (“a city in a bowl of green”) and its municipal-life-transforming Guggenheim Museum (which the incorrigible Mario calls “The Googie”) where they have a cordial and informative interview with Frank Gehry himself, who offers some fascinating insight into the construction of the building. Meanwhile Mark and Claudia are off into the green hills of Vasconia to visit Vitor, a chef specialized in grilling–especially seafood– who is such a perfectionist that he makes his own charcoal. The acid test is in the grilling and our two pilgrims are poleaxed by his shrimp, sea cucumbers (espardeñas), and caviar. More…

Spain… On the Road Again–Part 3 Reply

Coasting Along in Galicia

On Road AgainGwyneth, Mario, Claudia and Mark (“¡Tengo muchísima hambre!”) Bittman muck in with Galician mariscadoras, digging for some of the world’s best shellfish. Later Mario grills up an impromptu feast of lobsters and razor clams paired with the acclaimed Galician Albariño white wine. (Gwyneth calls these impromptu meals in the field “cook n’ eats.”) Next the road trippers head inland for meat and vegetable empanadas (think giant pasties) cooked in a wood-fired oven. After a morning cruising down the Río Miño, Mario and Claudia learn to prepare octopus, Galician style (“pulpo a la gallega”), and wash it down with a potent queimada made of the local 100-proof firewater, sugar, lemon and coffee beans heated slowly till the sugar dissolves. It’s a real witches’ brew, as Claudia discovers when she takes her first sip. More…

Spain… On the Road Again–Part 2 Reply

On Road AgainIf you love eating with your fingers this second hour of On the Road Again is for you. Our four hungry pilgrims; Mario, Gwyneth, Mark and Claudia; are consummate finger eaters, and they get to show their stuff at a lusty barbecue of milk-fed baby lamb and “morcilla” blood sausage cooked over hot coals in the middle of one of the great vineyards of the Ribera del Duero wine region. You will also learn a valuable barbecue tip: sprinkle a little sugar over the lamb chops. It will caramelize and give a great toasted flavor to the meat.

The next stage takes the pilgrims north to Galicia where they reunite with Gwyneth. While staying at a country inn, Mario and Gwyneth challenge Mark and Claudia to a race along on the Camino de Santiago, a historic pilgrimage route. The “race” turns out to be a leisurely drive, a short walk and a long supper of capon in red wine and salt cod simmered in olive oil served on a bed of turnip greens at an ideal Galician “casa rural.”

More…