If you are visiting Tarragona within the next two weeks you will notice an explosion in tapas offering which is due to a tapas war that is taking place between the two main organisers.
Tarragona has a third, ubiquitous and unmistakable patron, one which sits in the kitchen of every household, restaurant and bar and sells by the crate during Santa Tecla: the unmistakable Chartreuse.
Tarragona Restaurant Wine is the latest gastronomic initiative to fill the plates and glasses of Tarragona’s gastro circles. Running from the 19th of March till the 4th of April it offers a selection of 13 different local wines which can be sampled by the glass in accompanies by an excellent three course meal in 21 different restaurants.
In Tarragona February is a month where the smoky sweet smell of Calçots sweeps down from Valls and sets the tastebuds running. So what better way to dispel the winter blues than to take a leaf off one of the most compelling gastronomic initiatives of the year “Somriu a la Crisi” or, in other works, put smile to the crisis.
At Bar Cortijo everything is possible. It seems to escape every common sense of how things should be prepared, served and run, taking off on a tangent of its own instead. The result is one of the most unique gastronomic experiences Tarragona has to offer.
Rice is definitely on the menu in this new Tarragona gastronomic initiative aimed at promoting the rice grown in the delta region of the Ebro, an area which has just been declared a biosphere reserve due to its sustainable development.
We visit the upper part of the Part Alta in Tarragona, home of some of the best restaurants in town. There is only a few left before this weekend sees the end of another glorious edition of this great tapas festival and there are still much great offerings to sample.
With 18 different restaurants taking part, the Part Alta of Tarragona takes the lion share of the dTapes festival offering. Chapter one of the Part Alta tours start at Plaςa de la Font where you can literally hop from one restaurant to the next without looking at the map and stop for dessert in between.
Banners up, aprons tied, kitchens working at full speed as the doors open to the glut feast that is Tarragona dTapes tapas festival.
The mini gastronomic tapas hopping glut feast that is Tarragona’s dtapes is back, running three weeks, from the 25th of April until the 16th of May. Forty different restaurants and bars are taking part and there is even and Apple / Android app to show you the way along the dTapes route.
Calçotada is a real institution in this part of Catalonia and the best way to eat them is out in the country side surrounding Tarragona, together with family and friends.
It makes you wonder how it came upon that an onion grilled to death could become one of Catalonia’s greatest delicacies. Yet the calçot, as this uniquely mild onion is know, is one of the most deliciously simple culinary inventions I have ever come across.
If you happen to be in Tarragona this time of the year don’t miss out on the Oli del Raig, a sumptuous, unfiltered, first press, artisanal olive oil, made from the small but packed with flavor Arbequina olives, which are harvested and pressed locally in the Tarragonese .
Montsant and Priorat are unashamedly, one of the most prestigious wine growing regions in Europe, yet their fantastic output is largely unknown to the wider wine squaffing confraternities.
The Coca de Sant Joan is a traditonal sweet bread which is sold all over Tarragona (and Catalonia) during the festival of Sant Joan. Made of yeast, milk, flower, butter and eggs the doe additionally flavored with grated lemon rind and aniseed and additional spices. Once baked it’s garnished with candied fruit, pine nuts and a sprinkle of sugar.
Peix Blau is a gastronomic event organised by Tarragona Gastronomica in order to promote this very local catch, the Peix Blau, a type of sardine unique to these waters.
29 local restaurants are offering a bespoke tasting menu based on this versatile fish and ranging from 20 to 30 Euros a meal. So, in reference to an outstanding Tapas on offer last month, we thought to pay L’Orangerie du Marais a second visit and see what they came up with this time.
Wrapping it all up, there is little doubt that dTapes is getting more and more popular every year which is a credit to the fantastic organisation behind this event and the many great restaurateurs of this city.
Started in Tarragona, it has now been copied by many other places including the mighty Barcelona, but I have yet to see the same high standard replicated to equal measure – Tarragona still holds the crown.
Our final round up of the dTapes Festival in Tarragona, one of the best gastronomical experiences to be had this part of the woods. We started in the Part Alta with one of the most memorable entries, the beautifully named Visca La Terra! (long live the Earth) created by El Llagut Taverna Marinera, one of the top restaurant in town.
Just when you think it cannot get any better it does… I present you Nebraska, a mini hamburger creation so good it will follow you in your dreams.
Lovingly made at L’Orangerie du Marais this baby of perfection is perfectly cooked and seasoned and served a touch of brie, crispy bacon and (wait for this) caramelised apple cream and a pear purée all enclosed in to perfectly fresh perfectly warm and slightly toasted mini ciabatta. Glorious and straight in to the top 10!
It’s really interesting to find 3 different types of gastronomy in Tarragona ; these are represented by the Serrallo with the best seafood, the Centre where you get you traditional earthy Catalan cusine and then the Part Alta which adds a touch of fusion and leap to its food. Of course every part has a bit of both but there is a definite gastronomic character to each area.
Tarragona takes its Tapas reputation seriously and this is why we have not just one, but two Tapas events running next to each other this month: dtapes and tap Alta.
But let’s focus on dtapes: from the 19th of April to the 6th of May we have the fourth edition of the event which takes you around some of the best eateries in town – tapas hopping!
The versatility of Chartreuse, this time incarnated in to a a firm mousse topped with a thin layer of caramelised sugar served with no fuss at the small and established pastisseria / confiteria / cafeteria Conde.
I am typing this with sticky fingers and a lingering taste of lemony vanilla on my tongue… Buñuelos de Cuaresma are a typical Easter sweet here in Catalonia, consisting of fried dough balls filed with a creamy custard, rolled in sugar and piled high in local bakeries and patisseries
Marry Tarragona’s favourite liqueur Chartreuse with a Mojito and you get a Chartreusito!
This post is not strickly about Calçotada, but about the messy joy that life can be. Calçotada is local delicacy; a unique type of sweet onion that grows in this part of Catalonia and harvested around the beginning of February. And then something very strange happens … the onions (which look like tender young leaks) are heaped up on grill over a fire and burned till they are almost charred. Served on an upturned terracotta tile the vegetable is bought on your table and you pick one up with your fingers and hold it from the top, then you simply pull on the root end and pull down the outer layer (bit like removing a sock)revealing the succulent, sweet, caramelised flesh which is simply delicious. You dip the Calçots in a red sauce (similar to Romesco), bring it to your mouth and eat it!
If I can single out one drink that distinguishes this part of the world it’s Vermouth, but not as you know it.
The vermouth made here is complex, beautifully rich, with strong hints of caramel and bitter orange.
The classic way to serve this drink is in not mixed up with other stuff but neat, in a tumbler full of ice, garnished with aceitunas rellenas de anchoa (that is olives stuffed with anchovies which add a wonderful satly contrast to the flavour) a slice or orange or lemon.
People were queuing around the block for this, the Catalan Epiphany cake: Tortell de Reis (Cake of Kings).
Epiphany (here Dia de Reis) eclipses Christmas: it’s a sumptuous celebration which started yesterday evening with the stunning Three Kings parade and got in full swing today with the handing out of countless presents to children and the whole towns (aside from bakeries, cafe’s , restaurants and florists) closed for business.
These wonderful Pastissets are small parcels of pastry filled with pumpkin jam (Cabell d’àngel) which gives the filling it’s lovely texture. They are not overly sweet but dusted in sugar for extra crunchiness. You can get them from the main Market and any decent bakery/patisserie in town. I have mine with a nice cortado (shot of coffee) for a little afternoon break.