Fruit de la mer: Thanks to Almeria’s ideal location on the Mediterranean-Atlantic coast,
there is an exceptional and abundant array of fish and seafood
By Muriel Feiner
Photos: M. Feiner unless otherwise stated
It would be no surprise to anyone who has already visited Almería to learn that it has been chosen as the Gastronomic Capital of Spain for this year, 2019, because this Mediterranean city is well-known for its highly varied and extraordinary cuisine.
Thanks to its ideal location on the Mediterranean-Atlantic coast, more specifically on the Alborán Sea, there is an exceptional and abundant array of fish and seafood, and its mild, sunny climate produces an extensive variety of natural produce on land as well.
And there is also so much to see and do in this modern, friendly city, that has not lost any of its warm and traditional old-world charm. It is so easy to get around and you can find almost everything within easy walking distance.
What is the purpose of the Gastronomic Capital of Spain? To highlight and promote the extraordinary cuisine of the different Spanish cities. Spain is indeed an unusual country: Though relatively small as countries go, compared to the United States, Canada, Russia, China, India, etc., surprisingly enough it can boast of a great deal of diversity as regards the regional cuisines and specialties, due to the equally diversified landscape, natural resources and even historical background.
Other cities have preceded Almería in this honor: Logroño was the first in 2012, followed by Burgos, Vitoria, Caceres, Toledo, Huelva and León.
They say that “Tapear or tapa-hopping is an art” and in Almería thanks to its excellent and plentiful natural resources from sea and land, which are enhanced by the skilled and creative local chefs, it proves to be an incomparable culinary custom. In this city, for every beverage you order, you are entitled to choose a tapa which is served in healthy portions… so with two or three drinks, you have already eaten lunch!
Of course, you can also order raciones or regular portions, but the tapa-hopping, where each one can choose the appetizer he or she likes the most, is indeed fun. And without a doubt, there are some wonderful restaurants as well. We will provide a list of recommendations below, both for tapa hopping and restaurant dining.
The seal of “Sabores Almería”/Almería Flavors assures quality and prestige. Known as the Huerta or Orchard of Europe, it is, in fact, the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in all of Europe.
Furthermore, as Almería boasts of 360 days of sunshine a year, it can harvest more than one set of crops annually. Only roughly five days of rain may pose a problem. However, Almería has known how to cope with the arid climate and make even the extensive surrounding desert area flourish. The lack of rainfall has been compensated for with desalinization plants, tapping underground resources, modern irrigation systems and the use of greenhouses to cultivate all kinds of crops year round: tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, oranges, lemons, melons, watermelons, grapes, cucumbers, eggplants … and avocadoes, which were grown for the very first time in Spain, precisely here.
The crew of a recent U.S. space mission said that Almería could be clearly distinguished from their vantage point in outer space because it resembled a “sea of plastic”, the greenhouses.
We should also say a word about the “fruit de la mer”, from which its rich and juicy gambas rojas stand out! In fact, a visit to the Lonja, Fish Exchange, is a delightful experience. The fishing boats come in with their daily catch in the early afternoon hours and after they are unloaded into crates — with live octopus still thrashing about — they are tagged and transported to the Lonja Theatre where they are auctioned off to the highest bidders: markets, major food store chains, wholesalers, retailers and even private restaurants, bid on the crates of fish which cannot be fresher! And the selection is varied: shrimps and prawns in all sizes, octopus, hake, sea bream, grouper, tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies and many species which cannot be easily translated because they are autochthonous to these waters ( poto, gallineta, aguja, melva, raya, cazón, jurel, mujol, etc.). It makes your mouth water just to think about them.
Anyone for meat? Fine cured ham from Serón, sausages, chorizos, assorted lunchmeats, lamb, beef and baby goat, and different varieties of cheese for dessert.
There are also traditional dishes which date back for centuries and some from Moorish origin, like the soups and stews made with red garlic and the migas, prepared with semolina flour, water or milk, which are cooked on a rainy day as a celebration for the much-needed precipitation. Patatas a la pobre is a hearty dish, in which potatoes are fried with sausage, eggs and ham.
We should not neglect to mention the rich olive oil and the fine local wines, and the desserts which are especially noteworthy as a result of the Moorish influence. There is a long list of sweets and pastries, often made with honey and almonds, such as the papaviejos (fritters made with potato paste), the deditos de Jesús, with almonds, sugar, egg and honey, and the indalotes, shaped like the Indalo, the symbol of the region, made from oranges and almonds.
And the perfect way to finish up a gastronomical tour of Almeria is with a visit to the flamenco club Peña El Morato, run by a very talented and charming family of artists. The tapas are indeed great and the flamenco show even better.
-Las Eras (Tabernas, with chef Antonio Gázquez)
-El Quinto Toro
-Juan el Atravesao
Marisco from Almeria/Tamorlan, CC BY-SA3.0
Almeria Capital Gastronomia / https://almeria2019.es/, Fair use