Having been to Spain for the past 3 consecutive years, I’ve noticed that Spanish cuisine was nothing to write home about. Well at least for us North Americans because most of their diet if not seafood is primarily cured meats & bread. How people stay trim in this country is beyond me… well maybe because it’s so hot and you just sweat the calories off. It was 37c in Madrid and about 27c in Barcelona and I was sweating buckets! Everywhere you turn they sold bocadillos, which is a sandwich that is usually rubbed with tomatoes and stuffed with thin slices of cured meats like jamon serrano, chorizo, salami or jamon york. Not a site of green in any of these sandwiches not even condiments like mayo or mustard. Mind you, I did like the chorizo but after 2 weeks you quickly tire of the bocadillos. I’m allergic to shellfish so that rules out paella.

What is Paella? A Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.

Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.

There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), seafood paella (Spanish: paella de marisco) and mixed paella (Spanish: paella mixta), but there are many others as well. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans.

On my first trip to Spain in 2008, the best meal I had was at a Japanese restaurant in Pasaje de Grazia called El Japones & a restaurant in Costa Brava which I couldn’t remember the name but they served grilled vegetables with romesco sauce.

What is Romesco sauce? A sauce originating in Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain) that is typically made from almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and nyoras – a smaller, sweet, dried variety of red bell pepper.

On my recent trip, me and my friends discovered a couple of great ways to eat in Spain. One being an all-you-can-eat buffet for about €12 which was called the La Vaca Paca where they served churrasco.

What is churrasco? A Portuguese (IPA: [?u??asku]) and Spanish (IPA: [t?u?rasko]) term referring to beef or grilled meat more generally, differing across Latin America and Europe, but a principal ingredient in the cuisines of Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and other Latin American countries. The related term churrascaria (or churrasqueria) is mostly understood to be a steakhouse.

They also served croquettas!

Which is a small fried food roll containing usually as main ingredients mashed potatoes, and/or minced meat (veal, beef, chicken, or turkey), shellfish, fish, vegetables, and soaked white bread, egg, onion, spices and herbs, wine, milk, or any of the combination thereof, sometimes with a filling, often encased in breadcrumbs. The croquette is usually shaped into a cylinder or disk, and then deep-fried. The croquette (from the French croquer, “to crunch”) was a French invention that gained worldwide popularity, both as a delicacy and as a fast food. I love croquettas!

Another great way to eat in Spain is by checking out the restaurants “Menu del Dia” which means Menu of the Day. These are set menus ranging from €9 to €15 where you get to pick an appetizer, main course & dessert. On our last day, we went to a nice restaurant called L’Auca which had a great selection on their menu del dia. I had a grilled vegetable salad to start, and an herbed beef steak which was delicious & pineapple carpaccio. Not to mention, they also give you a bottle of cava free with your meal which was only €10 per person.

I am not a restaurant snob, what I care about the most is finding great food and great value. My Spanish friend actually thinks La Vaca Paca is gross but me and my friends loved it!