3 Interesting Observations about Spanish Food & Wine

Living in one country or city for most of your life you come to expect certain things when you go to a restaurant to eat.  Visiting another country, especially one that is significantly different in language and culture, I have found can suprise you about food and meals.  Here are 4 of my current observations from my visit in Valencia, Spain.

1. Condiments at the table

When sitting at a table and enjoying your meal, in North America you would expect salt and pepper.  In Spain I have observed that black pepper is not provided at all.  Salt is always at the table, and if it is not, the server will bring you salt when they serve you your dish.  People really like to salt their food in Spain.  I would love to sprinkle some pepper on my dishes, but am adjusting.

Many of the marinated fish dishes that I had, were heavily salted.  Maybe not using much salt back in Vancouver has sensitized me to sodium.  But a warning if you do order some marinated fish at a tapas bar, be prepared that it could be quite salty.

2. Patatas Bravas – tapas

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Back in North America, one of the tapas dishes I really like is Patatas Bravas; cooked potates, cut in cubes and then coated with a spicy tomato/paprika sauce, and sometimes with a poached egg.  Here in Spain, when I ordered the Patatas Bravas, I get a bit of the tomato/paprika sauce, but it is mostly mayonnaise that coats the potatoes.  It is quite filling and rich.  Sometimes dishes that are made in North America, do not match the dish in it’s country of origin.

3. Sangria

Similar to food dishes, drinks can also differ from country to country.  When I enjoy Sangria in Canada, I get a pitcher full of chopped fruits, and is not too sweet.  In my latest Sangria experience in Spain, my pitcher contained only 2 slices of lemon, wine, and a sweet fruit juice.  Not quite what I expected.  Again you need to be flexible and go with the flow.

Related to my Sangria observation, is the love of sugar here in Spain.  Desserts like turrone are quite sweet.  Non-alcoholic drinks, in particular, horchata, which is popular here, is quite sweet.  Along with the horchata, they love to have a sweet pastry, in particular a Farton, a long thin sweet bread topped with icing or icing sugar.

4. Salad Dressing

Salad with olive oil and salt in the background

Salad with olive oil and salt in the background

A typical salad dressing in Canada is oil and vinegar based, blended with various spices.  I have found in Spain that when I receive the salad, I am also given a bottle of olive oil and of course salt.  I miss the acidity of vinegar for my salad, but embracing the Spanish way of doing things.

I’m sure I will come across more observations on food and wine before my time in Spain is over.  Stay tuned on my blog and on Twitter.  Cheers.

Sangria for Summer!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Author: TamorlanSummer is just around the corner, your patio furniture is coming out. You need something refreshing to drink. How about sangria?

If you have never had a glass of sangria, it is a mixture of sliced fruit, wine, and club soda or other sparkling water. The wine can be white or red, so make a pitcher of each if you are having a party on your patio. Sangria, from Spain, works well with tapas, so try to put together a few classic Spanish tapas, such as grilled prawns with garlic in oil, potatoes in spicy tomato sauce, grilled sausages, olives, cheese, and more.

White Sangria Recipe

  • 1 bottle of a light, unwooded white wine, like Casal Garcia Vinho Verde or a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1/2 sliced orange
  • 1/2 chopped red delicious apple
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Dissolve the sugar with a bit of the wine in a pitcher.  After the sugar is dissolved, add the chopped fruit. Pour the remaining bottle of wine into the pitcher, then refrigerate overnight, if possible, otherwise give it a few hours.  The next day add a few ice cubes to a glass, fill the glass 1/2 way with sangria, and fill the other half with the soda water / sparkling water. Enjoy.  If you like peaches, you could use them instead of the apple or orange pieces.

Red Sangria Recipe

  • 1 bottle of an inexpensive red wine (try a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Tempranillo. Check wines from Chile or Spain)
  • 1 shot of brandy (optional)
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1/2 sliced orange
  • 1/2 chopped red delicious apple
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

As you can see the ingredients are very similar to the white sangria.  So are the preparations. Dissolve the sugar with a bit of the wine in a pitcher.  After the sugar is dissolved, add the chopped fruit. Add a shot of brandy (optional). Pour the remaining bottle of wine into the pitcher, then refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours.  The next day add a few ice cubes to a glass, fill the glass 1/2 way with sangria, and fill the other half with the soda water / sparkling water. Enjoy.  If you like peaches, you could use them instead of the apple or orange pieces.

Enjoy these two sangria with friends and with food!