Chef Tim Tibbitts & Sommelier Rebecca Tibbitts
When you are a chef everyone is interested in what you are choosing to eat. If you go to the grocery store, everyone looks inside your cart to see what you are purchasing. If you go to a restaurant, they ask what you like to order when you go there. The same thing goes for a sommelier. Anyone who knows you in the wine store will look for advice on what to choose. Therefore, it seems logical to have a chef and sommelier guide your way around a great food country like Spain.
Upon arrival in Spain, the first thing you will likely encounter - along with pretty much every meal after that - is Jamon, the amazing cured ham of Spain. Jamon Belotta Iberico Pate Negra, the black footed Iberico pig, is one of the greatest things you will ever eat in your lifetime. Jamon has many different grades from delicious to transcendental, each with a price tag to match. Served alongside some young Manchego, (the sheep’s milk cheese famous around the world) and a few bottles of white Rioja, this is the best way to recoup after a 16-hour journey.
We spent a couple of weeks traveling around Spain, mostly in the Andalusia region, and found some amazing little gems as you go from town to town. Every little region in Spain has a unique flavor that is steeped in history. Always local and seasonal, Spain has some of the best product in the world. It’s amazing stuff for any chef to work with, along with some of the best wines in the world when you compare price to quality.
Alfonso XIII Hotel
Our first overnight day trip was to the historic city of Sevilla. It is a beautiful city, full of history and culture. We were fortunate enough to stay at the magnificent Alfonso XIII Hotel, which was previously the summer palace of King Alphonso XIII. It is truly a spectacular building. We chose to do the tourist thing and did a horse and carriage ride through the city stopping for churros con chocolata, and then the never ending hop through the hundreds of tapas bars and bodegas throughout the old part of the city.
Calle San Fernando, 2, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
T: +34.954.91.70.00 | Website
We made many stops, but this is an incredible locals' stop we found. We sampled braised pork cheeks with a North African influence, fried hake with lemon, fried Padron peppers, a selection of different sheep’s milk cheeses, jamon, and a few more bottles of wine including an Albarino by Martin Codax (Buy), which became synonymous with our trip. This was a perfect way to end our night in Sevilla.
Calle de Manuel Villalobos, 15, 41009 Sevilla, Spain
La Linea, Cádiz
Mercadillo de la Linea
La Linea is a very interesting place; it is the border town between Spain and Gibralter. It is also the poorest city in Europe with more than 50% of its citizens unemployed. They did, however, have a nice little fresh market hidden deep in the old part of the city. Here I gathered things for my first meal I cooked in Spain. Beautiful fresh squid, langoustines, figs, cherries, tomatoes, olives, basil, Manchego, Jamon, and fresh peas all made contributions.
Open each Wednesday
Avenida Principe, 11300 La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain
Tarifa is a stunning old walled city. Most of the streets behind the wall are not big enough for a vehicle to pass through, so it’s basically a walking city. Most of the city was built more than 1500 years ago, some even as far back as the 2nd century. When you come from North America you sometimes have a hard time reconciling the age and history of Europe. They have restaurants older than most western countries but we’ll get to that a little later.
El Chiringuito Tarifa Lounge
This is the farthest point south in continental Europe. It is swimming distance from Morocco and has a very Moorish / African history. It’s also famous for the red tuna of Tarifa and fortunately we arrived just after the tuna did. At the gorgeous restaurant El Chiringuito Tarifa Lounge, the freshest, fattiest, most amazing Bluefin tuna is served in its simplest form as tartare. The restaurant is on the longest beach I’ve ever seen. This was such a memorable day. The restaurant also specializes in paella, the famous rice-based dish of Spain. Again, whites were the drink of the day, the typical low acidity Verdelho being the grape of choice on this stop.
Paseo Maritimo s/n, Playa de los Lances, 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain
T: +34.639.05.97.31 | elchiringuitotarifa.com
Our next stop was the capitol city of Madrid, a massive metropolis where everything is huge. It also is the center of bull fight culture. A good friend of ours lives in Madrid and was our tour guide for the day. He took us first to a tapas bar that salutes the bulls from the fighting arena, Cerveceria. Kind of creepy, but the oxtail tapas was delicious.
Plaza de Jesús, 7, 28014 Madrid, Spain
La Pulpería de Victoria
La Pulpería is a salute to the octopus. It’s served everywhere in Spain in various forms: stewed, grilled or fried. But this tapas bar specialized in the eight-legged creature, incredibly tender and delicious. We also got our first taste of one of my favorites: the razor clam. These are so delicious, but easy to cook wrong. They were smoky and delicious right off the wood-fired grill.
With every bottle of wine we ordered (which was more than a couple) we were also given a snack of potato salad, amazingly delicious. Looking back, I should’ve begged for that recipe: a creamy delicious garlic-based sauce over firm potatoes was just amazing.
Calle Victoria, 2, 28012 Madrid, Spain
T: +34.910.80.49.29 | pulperiadevictoria.com
Earlier I mentioned that Spain has restaurants older than most western countries. The oldest and most famous is Botín. It has served continuously since 1725 and still uses the 18th century wood oven in its preparations. It is in the Guiness book of records as the oldest continually serving restaurant in the world. Be warned, it also is impossible to get a reservation.
Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
T: +34.9188.8.131.52 | www.botin.es
Madrid was a one night stop over en route to our main destination, Barcelona, which is arguably the food capital of Spain.
There are so many choices in Barcelona for great food that our choice of Lasarte, with its two Michelin stars, seemed like a shot in the dark. It did however create one of the best dining experiences of our lives.
Lasarte is a gorgeous, newly-built restaurant by superstar chef Martin Berasategui and manned by chef Paolo Casagrande. We were fortunate enough to be guests at the chefs’ table for the evening, which is a glass room above the kitchen with a spectacular view of the action below but with the privacy of a private room. If you have the chance to book this room, be sure to do so. You will not regret it.
The food is distinctly Spanish, but very modern. It’s thoughtful and technical, but with a soul and history in it that you can’t miss. It’s a long meal. There were six courses of snacks before the eleven-course menu even started. However, every dish was delicious, artistic and beautifully paired to an almost exclusively Spanish wine pairing. You must finish a meal like this with a traditional Spanish coffee, the Cortado (equal parts espresso and milk).
Carrer de Mallorca, 259, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
T: +34.9184.108.40.206 | www.restaurantlasarte.com
This is a gorgeous space, modern and exquisitely decorated, with chef’s gardens neatly tended to in the yard. It is part of the hotel of the same name and boasts the youngest two-star Michelin chef in Spain’s history. The food is very inventive and theatrical. You have two choices of menu: Short (14 courses) or Long (21 courses). For lunch, we chose the short. Good thing too, because we had a 1:30pm lunch reservation and ended up going straight to our 8:30pm dinner reservation.
Tasting menus are my favorite way to eat. I love many different tastes and textures and to see the ideas and style of a chef. However, they are difficult to do well.
Av. del Tibidabo, 1, 08022 Barcelona, Spain
T: +34.933.19.66.00 | www.abacbarcelona.com/en
After that endurance test of a lunch we had to cross town to Roca Moo, the Barcelona outpost of the Roca brothers. It's located in the Hotel Omm. It has one Michelin star and features the food from the Roca brothers' famous restaurant El Cellar de can Roca in Girona, which is the worlds’ number one rated restaurant.
The room is sterile as it is in the lobby of a hotel and not a separated space, but the food was wonderful. The wine pairings here were beautifully done as well. Our sommelier hailing from Brittany in France brought an outsiders view to Spanish wines with some French influence. Excellent wines throughout the night made the food that much better.
Omm Hotel, Carrer del Rosselló, 265 Barcelona, Spain
T: +34.9220.127.116.11 | Website
Our last day in Spain we decided to take a walk and stumbled upon a small tapas bar called Tapeo in El Born. We sat at the cramped bar and started ordering tapas dishes that were amazingly different than any other tapas we had seen during our trip. Starting with sangria made with cava (Spain’s famous sparkling wine), we dove into truffled eggs over foie gras, rabbit ribs with aioli, Iberico pork ribs, ages of Manchego with quince, sweetbreads with figs and more and more and more. By the time we tapped out we had sampled more than two thirds of their amazing menu. The space had less than zero ambience and was cramped, loud and uncomfortable, but the food was so good you forget all about your surroundings.
Carrer de Montcada, 29, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
T: +34.933.10.16.07 | www.tapeoborn.cat
Mercat de la Boqueria
The famous Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona is a magical food world and one of the greatest farmers markets on earth. Hundreds of vendors with millions of products all show their wares in an incredible display of abundance and variety. We were looking for great products for a dinner I was cooking for a winery owner the next night so I wanted it to be special. Some amazing 45-day dry aged beef, wild mushrooms, asparagus, new potatoes, freshly-caught scallops, duck eggs, baby greens, Manchego, jamon and amazing Spanish olive oil all made it into our basket.
Les Rambles, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Tim and Rebecca Tibbitts
Chef Tim Tibbitts and his wife, sommelier Rebecca Tibbitts, are the owners of Flying Fish Restaurant in Freeport, Bahamas. Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Tim grew up in Toronto, Canada. After many years working in high-end kitchens in Toronto, he moved back to the Bahamas with Rebecca, who is the only certified sommelier in Grand Bahama and the only female certified sommelier in the Bahamas. Together they opened and ran a modern Asian restaurant and sushi bar. In 2012, they opened Flying Fish which was awarded the 4 Diamond Rating by AAA.
FLYING FISH RESTAURANT
1 Seahorse Road, Grand Bahama, Bahamas
T: 242.373.4363 | www.flyingfishbahamas.com
More Tim Tibbits -- read his Bahamas Guide.
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