After a glorious summer in the Baltic, Marina traveled along the Brittany coast and around Portugal to call on several ports in Spain. Today I want to share with you the delightful Andalusian city of Cádiz and our Culinary Discovery Tour focusing on tapas, olives, fish and sherry!
One of the most influential ports of its time, Cádiz became the center of the culinary universe when Christopher Columbus returned with treasures from the New World. (Imagine Mediterranean cuisine before tomatoes, peppers and potatoes!) Because of its position on global trade routes, Cádiz was where the New World ingredients met the spices of the Far East and the 800-year influences of the Moors and Arabs in the sophisticated cuisine of North Africa and the Levant.
We began our tour of Cádiz with a short stroll along the cobblestone streets, picturesque squares and narrow passageways to the Mercado Central, where I shopped with Chef Jacques Pépin during his last visit. The market was overflowing with freshly caught fish and seafood, from exotic species of shrimp to the pearly white strips of squid, tiras de chocos. Local fish roe, such as huevas frescas de merluza, was a delicacy in abundance this season.
The market also offered copious fresh produce, olives, jamón and cheeses, so we selected some for our class later in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board. We also picked up two bottles of local Fino and Pedro Ximénez sherries to taste.
Another specialty of Cádiz is olive oil. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, with Andalusia contributing over 50 percent of that yield, thanks to the ideal growing conditions and the passionate dedication to the craft of producing, harvesting and pressing olives. We chose two olive oils for tasting in class: picual and arbequina. Produced locally, the picual varietal creates an extra virgin olive oil with the slight fragrance of dried fruits. The more bitter arbequina is grown farther north and typically used in aioli or salad dressings.
After exploring the market, we walked through the Old Town to El Faro. A Cádiz institution, the restaurant has hundreds of photos of celebrities and politicians crowding the walls, not unlike Sardi’s in New York City. After being seated in the elegant yet friendly surroundings, we were treated to a fabulous tapas luncheon.
Because of the abundance of fresh ingredients available to chefs in Cádiz, the cuisine is simple, allowing the ingredients to shine. We enjoyed Iberian pork, shrimp mini-omelets, chickpeas with tripe and cod, and several other delicious tapas. Fresh seafood, exquisite meats, seasonal vegetables, exotic fruits and aromatic olive oils were perfectly complemented by world-famous wines and sherries from this sunny piece of heaven in southern Spain.
After a fond farewell to our hosts, we returned to Marina for a short respite before reconvening in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. We enjoyed a class on fish cookery and sampled the treasures we found at the market – the perfect ending to the perfect day!