Tag Archives: Almuerzo

Valencia and the Culture of Esmorzaret! Almuerzo in La Matandeta, Alfafar.


The Almuerzo Group!

The Almuerzo Group!

That social media is a powerful tool has not been in doubt for some time as its use in recent government elections has shown. But the same media has the effect sometimes of drawing attention to something which has been going on for a very, very long time and in Valencia that is the `almuerzo´or `esmorzaret´. Today, Facebook in particular seems to be full on a daily basis of pictures of the mid-morning meal so favoured by the Valencians. I well remember being amused, 11 years ago, when going for a coffee in the local bar after the shopping had been done. Sure enough it would be full of local people and travelling salesmen/ delivery staff etc, eating a long French style loaf of bread full of something which smelled good! This would be washed down by a glass of wine or  a beer and be accompanied by the local peanuts and olives.

Standard Almuerzo!

Standard Almuerzo!

Gradually we started to join in , maybe a bocadillo with jamon and tomato, or tortilla. It seemed incredibly good value as well at about 4€ a head and often was sufficient for lunch. There seem to be no hard and fast rules about almuerzo. You do not have to eat your chosen `filler´from the bread. It was perfectly acceptable to have a plate of sausages, or a `pincho´of tortilla on its own. All that seemed to be necessary was to pitch up to the bar anytime from about 10.00am and order what you wanted ( until lunch at 14.00pm took over). Gradually we learned to try the other `fillers´ on offer in our local and were rarely disappointed. Over the years my understanding of this traditional elevenses,  come `brunch´ is that not only are there no rules, there is an unlimited seasonal selection of fillers with many  regional variations. I am not even going to take a stab at telling you how old the tradition is. But I will explain how it appears as a new phenomenon and how there seems to be a huge `revival´spawned by the Facebook coverage! Every true Valencian will down tools at some point in the morning, they may not go to the bar but they will have something to eat and drink. This applies to everyone, there is no class element involved. Humble agricultural workers, bank staff or town hall employees all down tools and take a break. Chances are they will probably go to the same place regularly, meet the same people, talk about the issues of the day, catch up with Fb or twitter on their smartphones but they will all be having almuerzo!!

Inside La Matandeta

Inside La Matandeta

In the last few months one of the fastest growing groups on Fb has been `La Cultura del Almuerzo´. This group has not influenced the culture one iota! Bars have not changed their traditional dishes one little bit! No! But what has happened is that members of the group  photograph their food. The pictures are instantly uploaded to Fb and shared, very often together with a commentary on the quality and the price. Then other members of the group will visit when they are in the vicinity on business or, in exceptional circumstances make a big detour to try the latest recommendations! The group itself has started having collective almuerzos. The first held in the Terrace Cafe of MUVIM in central Valencia attracted around 50 people. The second in Meliana in the Horta Nord saw some 75 people go to the very traditional Barraca de Toni Montoliu and the third with over 110 adults and some younger `next generation´ almeurzistas descended on a windy Albufera Natural Park and specifically La Matandeta restaurant.

Some Modern Pottery in the Restaurant.

Some Modern Pottery in the Restaurant.

Rafa Galvez and Maria Dolores Baixauli are the current owners of a former livestock  farm converted some 24 years ago into a traditional restaurant serving the dishes from the South of Valencia. Today its agricultural shell has been converted into a superb `sala´decorated with replicas of traditional Valencian pottery and modern artworks. It is situated on the road between Alfafar and El Saler. Here the lake which is fed by rainwater and natural nutrients such as algae grows DO Valencia rice, the major  component of the paellas and arroces for which the restaurant is also widely respected. Not surprisingly , it was not in their best interests to provide bocadillos for all the guests. So the almuerzo took the form of a `menu degustacion´ where we all tried all of the plates which were on offer. photo(9) The peanuts  were replaced by a selection of modern style`crisps´ made from rice flour with rosemary and a second version with curry. The olives, home cured,  were too good to be replaced with an alternative! The bread, served throughout the meal was a mixture of traditional sticks, cheese or olive breads etc. There were also a salmuera of preserved vegetables, a salmorejo and  a hummus with cummin.

Octopus and onion

Octopus and onion

The `fillers´were represented by slow cooked artichokes stuffed with a salt cod sauce, a triangle of bread with baby sausages, chorizo and morcilla, a tomato salad with tuna in escabeche, baby broad beans cooked with lardons of jamon in a snail based stock, octopus cooked with onions and a pisto ( very like a Provencal ratatuoille) .

Baby Broad Beans and Salmoreja

Baby Broad Beans and Salmoreja

The dessert was a traditional coca ( sponge cake) with an excellent citric sorbet.

Dessert

Dessert

All of this was washed down with beer or a good Crianza Shiraz from Sebiran, the Requena bodega whose owner Ken Waggener is an enthusiastic almeurzista!! photo 1(51) The quality of food produced was superb and La Matandeta lived up to its reputation! The restaurant will organise almuerzos for groups by prior arrangement. Sadly the weekends weather was too windy for the planned boat ride around the Albufera but this was replaced by a  talk from Paco Bauxali whose knowledge of the history  of the gastronomy of the Albufera was fascinating.   Few for example would know about the many types of wild rice which eventually coalesced into todays well know speciality varieties, nor that it was all from Egypt, that the planting methods are very special and that historically the Templars (and the Knights of the Maestrat) sent moors to the Albufera because they were better at growing the rice! The discussion on eating the wild rats from the area is probably best passed over quickly! So, in conclusion, the phenomena which is Social media  has not changed the traditions. It  HAS almost certainly produced not only an increase in the interest in them but a boost for local restaurants and bars across Valencia serving them as aficionados and interested visitors understand more and seek out the best examples! Saborea, El Mundo´s publishing arm recently produced a helpful book written by Paco Alonso , Valencia´s crusading foodie journalist, #LaCulturaDelAlmuerzo.…which may just give you an idea where to find out more on Twitter!!! Cultura Almuerzo

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Almorzando, Ollas and Almedijar….Breakfast in Serra and Lunch in The Alt Palancia!


Feria Oficios Almedijar

 

Valencia is enjoying that time of year when Bank Holidays take over the calendar. Last week started with Easter Monday!  Today is San Vicente Ferrer, Patron Saint of Valencia, so everything will be shut…and Thursday is May Day so, heck, another good excuse for a day off…even if you don’t have a job. Now,  this actually means you can take pretty well  the whole week off!

It is not such much a `bridge´ which is when you take Friday off when Thursday is the Bank Holiday or Monday off when Tuesday is the celebratory day.

Outside Restaurante Chaparal.

Outside Restaurante Chaparal.

Anyway, never mind the fact that nothing will get done,  it is just a great opportunity to get out and enjoy  what is on offer. It is very much part of the local way of life !

Valencia City is currently enjoying the Feria de Andalusia with a whole range of activities in the dry river bed.

In complete contrast Almedijar, which is an incredibly pretty little village nestling in valley between two mountain slopes near Segorbe,  has enjoyed its Feria de Oficios this weekend. More on this later.

Since it was a long weekend there seemed no great hurry to rush to do anything… a long leisurely breakfast was called for this Sunday. No point in cooking for yourself when there are bars and restaurants  throughout Valencia that are happy to cook for you. Not that this is a holiday thing…….if you go to a bank, a town hall or just about any business, regardless of the day of the week,  do not do it between 10.00 and 11.30 am. This is when every official or employee will find time to go for Almuerzo.

Typical dish, Salt Cod and Red Pepper with garlic and Olive Oil.

Typical dish, Salt Cod and Red Pepper with garlic and Olive Oil.

 

Almuerzo is a cultural institution. A veritable celebration , and it is not expensive. There are bars that specialise in a huge variety of snacks or tapas, but do not mistake this for Almuerzo! Almuerzo requires time, to read the paper or to chat to your colleagues or friends, to enjoy a plate of olives and cacahuetes, a drink ( wine, beer, water, soft drinks) and then an early lunch…..or a late breakfast. Many bars will serve a range of bocadillos. ( A bocadillo is a long length of `baguette´ style bread,  or a shorter version, or a `paquette´. You can have virtually whatever you like in it as long as the chef can cook it. Tortillas, esgarret, baby squid, cuttlefish, whitebait, pincho morunos, meatballs in tomato sauce, broad beans  with jamon, jamon with cheese, jamon with tomatos, (all three if you prefer) a whole range of revueltos ( scrambled eggs ) such as prawns and asparagus,  prawns and wild mushrooms,  jamon with prawns, artichokes and jamon, potatos and bacon, loin of pork with green peppers…..you get the idea I´m sure……whatever takes your fancy!!! ( Expect to pay around 5€ in villages and 7-10€ in cities.)

If you do not want a bocadillo, well, you can have a wedge of tortilla or any of the rest of above on a plate…the bread will just come sliced in a basket instead!

Bocadillo de Blanco, Negro  y Rojo!

Bocadillo de Blanco, Negro y Rojo!

Yesterday we  left home early, passed through Betera and climbed up through Naquera and Serra until we came to the turn-off for Barraix, at the point where the mountain is fully climbed and starts to fall away towards Castellon province. I say we climbed, the car did the work, but we must have passed hundreds of cyclists, each rider dreaming of the calories available at the top!

 

The first stop was Restaurante Chaparral, nestling amongst the pine  trees which populate the mountainside here.

As it was our first visit and there is no printed menu to choose from, we listened very attentively to the camerero as he reeled off a choice of bocadillos….and then suggested we really should try the meat from the brassa. We did…..and before long three rather large terracotta plates arrived, nine  lamb chops ( chump and cutlet) nine sausages, ( three each of chorizo, longaniza and morcilla) … a plate of proper double fried chips, a plate of grilled aubergines and courgette slices garnished with green peppers accompanied by a bowl of home-made alli olli and the obligatory fried eggs. This of course had been preceded by the bread, olives and salted nuts and beers!

Our Almuerzo!

Our Almuerzo!

I can only say the food was awesome! We cleaned the plates and finished off with coffees……all for the princely sum of a 10€ note each!!!!

Kike Serrano Escribano´s restaurant is definitely  on the list to be visited again!

Then we were off down the mountain and on the way to our  final destination, Almedijar. Half an hour later we had successfully avoided suicidal cyclists hurtling down hill, cutting blind corners and we arrived at the fair. The Feria de Oficios is effectively a craft fair, typical of many in the area such as Benlloch or Les Useres. It is in its sixteenth edition this year. Local ice-cream, cheese, olive oil, wine and pottery, artworks, hand-made knives and axes, woodwork, charcoal ovens etc vied with the torrijas and bunuelos and the crowd grew well beyond the supposed population of under 300 souls!!

Eagle Owl at the Fair.

Eagle Owl at the Fair.

The village is best known for its spring water, its Olla Almedijana ( a one pot dish with a base of white cabbage and white beans) and increasingly for the quality, award-winning wines  from its Alcovi cooperative.

The local housewives prepared the olla, soaking the white beans, chopping the white cabbage and the potatos before the cooking began. The trestle tables had been laid out for the villagers and public to enjoy the final dish!

In the meantime, we tasted three wines whilst the local kids enjoyed pony rides and the birds of prey were displayed.

Wines and Awards from Alcovi.

Wines and Awards from Alcovi.

The white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Plantafina. A relatively strong 13.5%ABV it has a fresh floral nose with citrus and tropical notes. In the mouth it has a fresh acidity, an easy pass across the palate and and a long dry finish. perfect for a hot day!

The rosado is a blend of Garnacha with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. A light strawberry pink colour, the wine is also fresh and fruity with a good balancing acidity. Quite full in the mouth  and an easy drinker.

The Alma de Vid is a 100% Monastrell from 2011. At 14% ABV it is a deep black cherry colour, good characteristics of the variety on the nose, mature sweet fruit and hints of black olive. In the mouth, full and fruity, round. Very nice!

The Olla, Ready for the Fire!

The Olla, Ready for the Fire!

It would be fair to say that the combined trip was a relaxed affair! We will probably not need to eat for a few days and if you are anywhere near Serra at weekends Chaparral is more than worth the visit!

Look out for the posters for fairs like this one over the summer ( the next is probably in Les Useres in June) because they provide an easy opportunity to try local products on their home ground and to buy them, as well as providing a day out with something for all to see or do.

 

 

 

 

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