Autumn..Time to Visit Valencia for Wine and Food Fairs!!!


Torrijas in Utiel.

Torrijas in Utiel.

September , October and November is definitely the right time to visit Valencia if it is good food and wine you are after. These three  months are  full of gastronomy fairs, the weather an average of 4.5º above average, the sun shone continuously and all over the community people were out in the streets and plazas, eating top quality artisan food and drinking the best wines produced in the regions five denominated areas.

Here follows my  round-up of some of the activities.

Mariscada at the Feria de Mariscos.

Mariscada at the Feria de Mariscos.

Though strictly not a celebration of Valencian cuisine September got off to a start with the Feria de Mariscos, which showcases seafood from Galicia. This is a good opportunity to try various fishy dishes, mainly from shellfish which you may well see in the local markets but not know how to cook yourself. ( The plancha is the key here!) Great plates included the goosefoot barnacle ( people still get killed harvesting these off the rocks) and the obligatory Mariscada….a platter of lobster, large prawns, razor clams, scallops, queen scallops, mussels etc and wash it down with Albariño, the dry white of the region whilst watching local dancers accompanied by a traditional Galician folk band.

Mid-month sees the International Paella cooking competition which was covered in my 20 September post.

Gastronòmo is the professional fair for the restaurant and hotel trade although the public are allowed in the first two days. Here you can immerse yourself in all the latest gadgetry, try wines from sponsoring bodegas or attend any number of cookery demonstrations and discussions.

Joan Carlos Galbis and Gastraval.

Joan Carlos Galbis and Gastraval.

The fair this year was a bit smaller than previously reflecting the crisis in Spain. Nonetheless there was plenty to keep you interested.

The rise of craft beers was well represented with `birra and blues´,  Socorrat and Nispra beers all represented. Socorrat , the Xativa based brewery were showcasing their new `Boquerone´ brand, made with a dash of sea-water! The Nispra brand is made with Nispero fruit ( lowquat) and the Socorrat has a dash of honey and rosemary in the brew whilst the birra and blues from Alboraya has horchata ( tiger nut ) in it. The beers themselves are all natural, fresh and high quality real ales.

I was particularly impressed this year with a new paella company. Fronted by Master rice chef Joan Carlos Galbis from L ´Alcudia and Esther Valero, Gastraval is producing single portion pre-prepared paellas for home cooking. www.gastraval.com

On a historical note Baetica were showing wines infused with herbs and spices, ( honey, rose petal, violets and Cinnamon ) reproductions of Roman period drinks with a Cabernet Sauvignon base, ( an early variety of the varietal was known to exist during this time). www.vinoromano.com

Boquerone...beer with sea-water!

Boquerone…beer with sea-water!

Gastrofestes de La Dipu is a fair run by the Governments tourism agency. Essentially a roaming fair this year it visited four venues and gave local restaurants, food, wine and other producers an opportunity to showcase their talents. The first of the chosen venues was Gandia, actually at the end of September , where the regional cooking is seafood based and principally Fideuà. 17 participating exhibitors showed off this famous dish as well as a range of tapas, and `reposteria´, sweet dishes of `pastissets de moniato´a pastry made from sweet potato or a traditional local tapas.

Mortuerelo and Gelatina de Cordero....Requena.

Mortuerelo and Gelatina de Cordero….Requena.

The second fair was in Requena, where the gastronomy reflected the production of wine as well as the location in the interior nearer to La Mancha Here the principal dish is Gazpacho Manchego, a plate of rabbit and partridge, stewed gently till the meat falls off the bones at which point `cocas´( these look like Carr’s Water Biscuits ) are added and these absorb the liquid and become like a pasta.  The typical sweet here is `Torrijas´a bread which is deep-fried and covered with sugar and the tapas were varied….ajoarriero, mortuerelo etc.

The third was in Xativa over the fifth and sixth of the month. Here the main dish was `Arroz al horno´  ( see last post ) .

Finally the fair visited Cullera, another fishing port and holiday destination where the range of tapas was at its widest and there were endless arroces to choose from. Here traditionally the sweet is Coca Cristina and of course lots of the local rice, `señorial´ was being sold by the kilo!!!

Tapas in Cullera.

Tapas in Cullera.

All the fairs had cookery exhibitions run by the Governments own training schools and prices were very good…a glass of wine or a beer was 1.50€, tapas 2.00€ or a main plate just 3.00€ making a family day out affordable and fun!! A great way to learn about the regional cooking of Valencia.

The month continued with the Feria Gastronomica in Utiel, held over the weekend of 18-20 October. Food again dominates at this fair and it holds a competition annually for amateur chefs to cook an arroz al horno. The local housewives associations continue to provide the local tapas and there is a tapas trail through the town where each participating bar provides a tapas and a drink for a couple of euros. This year the  trail was matched by one producing  cocktails, reflecting the growing revival of these drinks in Valencia!

Arroz in Utiel

Arroz in Utiel

Moving into November,  the last but one fair of the year is held in Ontinyent and is the Feria Gastronomica de la Val d´Albaida. Normally held in the open air this year it was moved into the towns covered market…..somewhere which for me lacked any atmosphere. The move was made to heighten the involvement of gastronomy in the region but the fair seemed disjointed. Nonetheless it got off to a great start with free sweet bread and hot chocolate! Four bodegas, the Ontinyent coop, the Quatretonda coop, Bodegas Angosto and Heretats de Taverners were showing wines and there was a range of freshly cooked tapas and main courses to complement some of the artisan producers from the area between Xativa and Font de Figueras. There was a superb display of local breads and `cocas´( here these are like pizzas).

Cocas, in Ontinyent.

Cocas, in Ontinyent.

Valencia is also famous for its honey and one of two fairs dedicated to the production of honey, licors etc is held each year in the small town of Montroi. For three days the town plays hosts to honey producers, bakers using honey in their products, the towns olive oil mill and cooperative as well as a medieval market. Here you can buy honey naturally flavoured with orange flowers, thyme, rosemary, nispero etc as well as pollen, soaps, royal jelly and licors such as orujo ( aguadiente) flavoured with honey. Local bakers and turron producers vie for the custom of the sweet toothed!

Honey at Montroi.

Honey at Montroi.

The visitor to Valencia will experience something different at each of these fairs, eat and drink well from the cornucopia that is Valencia and do so cheaply…..and this weekend Castellon holds it´s first Wine and Food fair showcasing artisan products such as cheeses and olive oils from the North of the Community. More on this next week!!!

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