When you consider the culinary impact that Spanish food continues to make on a worldwide scale, it’s not hard to see why people flock to this country for a tastebud-tingling tour of the eateries and cafes that created famous dishes. The Basque Country is probably the most important tourist destination in Spain because it has one of the richest and most innovative cuisines in Spain, based on a solid gastronomic tradition, and a wealth of internationally famous restaurants.
Their varied culinary delights are due to the mixture of surf and turf combined with top-quality cooking. In the last few decades, a cooking and food trend has emerged from the area and has been named “Basque Nouvelle Cuisine.” This delicious food is a reflection of the incredible character of the Basque people, who are committed to creating good food and embracing traditions—the centre of any social occasion they celebrate. Here is a brief overview of the Basque Country in Spain and the parts of their culture and meals that make it an absolute culinary paradise.
Vizcaya, pronounced “Bizcaia” in Basque, has a mild climate, and 80km of coastline along the Cantabric Sea. It is often called the Capital of “Bacalao” or salt cod, which is a traditional staple on menus. Locals have hundreds of recipes for how to prepare the salt cod, and you are pretty much guaranteed to have your pick of them on any restaurant menu. Looking beyond the salt cod options, food in Vizcaya often features other fresh fish and seafood with options like baby squid, sardines, anchovies, and clams included in dishes. If you travel to this province in Basque Country be sure to try the Cod in Pil-Pil Sauce or “Bacalao al pil-pil” and the Fresh Tuna Stew or “Marmitako.”
Guipuzcoa is the northern-most province of the Basque Country and boasts a lovely 90km of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, right near the border of France. It’s smaller than the rest of the provinces and has the biggest contrast in landscapes –mountains and coastlines, big cities and small villages, booming industry and thriving agriculture. The climate is generally mild with warm summers and rainy winters. The cuisine of this province is perhaps the most famous because of the chefs who practice their trade in San Sebastian; the province’s capital city. Some of the specialities to come out of Guipuzcoa are baby eels, broad beans with baby peas and spring onions, stuffed spider crab (“Txangurro a la Donostiarra”) and salmon from the Bidasoa River (“Atun eguna”).
Alava is the southern-most province in Basque Country and has the coldest climate of the three. There are vast mountain ranges, large valleys and rivers and no coastline. Because this region is comparatively landlocked, the people here eat more beef, veal and game such as quail and partridge. Potatoes, beans and mushrooms from Alava are also renowned for their high-quality. Some specialities from this are stuffed artichokes, fried potatoes (“Patatas Viudas”), lightly seasoned blood sausages and a liquor-soaked cake with pastry cream and caramel sauce (“Goxua”).
Once you are exposed to the incredible meals and restaurants waiting to be enjoyed in Basque Country, you will be hard pressed to find a better meal in Spain. The food scene in this northern region of Spain hasn’t received the attention it deserves—yet. Talented chefs flock here to learn, to create and to enjoy the art of cooking among people who appreciate their skills. If your mouth is watering and you are ready to jetset to Basque to try their food, then start making your plans. As always, a part of your travel plans should be a travel insurance plan. Compare Cover-More’s travel insurance plans to see which policy will best fit your holiday and your needs and once you’ve got that in your back pocket, you are ready to get going and get tasting!
Image courtesy of Flickr user Pug Girl