Cooking in Valencia – a city full of culinary treats

IMG_1728One of the best things about visiting a new city for me is tasting the local delicacies and discovering new dishes. I’ve just come back from a gastronomic trip in Valencia courtesy of the Valencia tourism board, where I did just that! The aim of the weekend was to experience everything foodie Valencia had to offer and I wasn’t disappointed…

Valencia is a fascinating city, bursting with breath-taking modern architecture and beautiful historic cathedrals and winding stone streets. Tourists flock to Valencia each summer to experience the sandy beaches, largest aquarium in Europe, F1 racetrack, huge indoor food markets, and of course, the delicious food and wines.

The focus of our trip was to discover what Valencia has to offer from a culinary perspective, so here are my gastronomic discoveries for you…

My top 5 gastronomic experiences in Valencia: IMG_1760

•    Visit the Central Market – we visited the huge food market on Satruday morning and arriving before 11am is apparently the best time to avoid the crowds. Our hilarious guide, Constantin, walked us through the market and explained the different produce such as the difference between Iberian jamon and Serrano jamon, as well as providing us with tastings of olive oils, wines, cured meats, olives, cheeses and sweet desserts. A must see for all foodies as the aromas, colours and variety is truly unrivalled in the region.

•    Take a tapas tour – we took an evening tapas tour around the centre of Valencia, which involved visiting 3 local tapas restaurants for a tasting menu. In the first restaurant, Civera, we shared 3 delicious seafood tapas dishes which had been freshly caught that day. We then visited Orio, a quirky tapas bar with a rowing boat hanging from the ceiling, where we chose 5 dishes each to sample (my favourite being the black calamari sausage). Next we visited Navellos restaurant, for 3 more up market tapas dishes including dessert, mistelle and coffee, before heading to the delightfully decadent Café De Las Horas to sample the famous cocktail ‘Valencian wine’ which is made from cava, vodka, gin and orange juice – drink with care!

IMG_1940•    Taste the wine – Valencia produces a great deal of its own wines, and there are many nearby vineyards to visit. If you don’t have much time to explore the region, we spent a delightful afternoon at LaLola restaurant right in the centre of Valencia tasting a variety of local whites, reds and cavas in the sun

•    Learn to make paella – well you can’t visit Valencia without at least trying the traditional paella. For an unforgettable experience, I’d recommend joining a cooking class so that you can recreate it back home – Toni Montoliu’s class was a real treat with the family orientated atmosphere and pciking our own fruit and vegetables from the land to cook with. My personal highlight has to be watching the video of him teaching his horse to dance!

IMG_1798•    Visit the wine cellars at Requena – about an hour’s drive from Valencia centre, the small town of Requena has an underground cellar spanning the whole of the town which was once used for wine storage. The caves are fascinating, and you’ll see how the houses had their own wine amphoras in the caves and even private entrances from their homes to access their own special wines

My top 5 Valencian gastronomic finds:

•    Mistelle wine – a delightful aperitif drunk after dinner which is a very sweet fortified wine

•    Fartons – my new favourite desert, typically served with orxata. These are sweet spongy bread/pastry fingers glazed in sugar which are extremely light and addictive

IMG_1820•    Orxata (Horchata) – made from tiger nuts (which are strangely actually more of a carrot than a nut) submerged in water, liquidiserd then mixed with sugar, this milky drink is used by locals as a refreshing energy drink and is definitely worth a taste

•    Paella – of course! Traditional Valencian paella is made with rabbit, chicken and snails, making this dish both rich in flavour but light to eat

•    Bobal wine – the ‘Bobal’ grapes are typical to Valencia and feature in mainly red wines but also rose. The word ‘Bobal’ also means stupid, which funnily enough is how you might feel if you have one too many glasses…