Stars in their eyes

Stars in their eyes

Food is one of the biggest sells for Andalucia as a holiday destination, with delicious two-euro tapas available in bars in town and cities all around the region. The quality of the ingredients is what makes it so good - your tomatoes were grown in the region, as were your peppers, potatoes and most of the other veg; the olive oil, of course, grows on trees all over the place. Fish and seafood is caught daily in the Mediterranean, while the jamon serrano (cured mountain ham) is legendary (look for the pata negra, black hoof, which proves it is genuine). The wonderful seasonal dishes - scrambled eggs with mushrooms, gazpacho and salmorejo, are all simple concoctions which have been around for years, originally using ingredients brought in straight from the fields, traditional dishes which have won worldwide acclaim. Not forgetting, of course, the area's specialist wines and liquors, including sherry and brandy.

While many were sad, and some outraged (ABC accused it of being a fix), that Ferran Adria was pushed off the top spot at the recently-announced annual World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, there remain plenty of top-notch eateries here in Andalucia. At a recent event to celebrate the region's eight Michelin-starred establishments, a group of chefs stated the importance of Andalucian gastronomy.

Indeed, various Mediterranean countries, led by Spain (namely Greece, Italy and Morocco) recently made a joint application to register the "Mediterranean diet" as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is classified using ten principles, which include using olive oil; eating plenty of fruit&veg (including legumes and nuts); bread and grains; fresh, local, unprocessed foods; dairy products on a daily basis; moderate red meat (ha! jamon every morning on your tostada, moderate?) , eggs and wine; plenty of fish and poultry; lots of water. And an "essential condiment, perhaps a basic ingredient: sociability". Not exactly earth-shatteringly innovative.

To return to our eight Michelin men, three of whom ply their trade in Marbella, they stressed that they use local products, organic where possible. These champions of Andalucian haute cuisine stated that "Andalucian cuisine has its own personality, produced from a long culinary history and a ┬┤storeroom┬┤ like no other in the world - outstanding, internationally-renowned fish, vegetables, meat and wine."

Marbella itself has taken centre stage in spreading the word about Andalucian gastronomy, as a major top-level tourist destination, said its mayoress.

The restaurants and their respective chefs are:
Diego del Rio, El Lago, Marbella
Dani Garcia, Calima, Marbella
Victor Trochi and Daniel Rosado, Skina, Marbella
Jose Carlos Garcia, Cafe de Paris, Malaga
Walter Giest, Tragabuches, Ronda
Julio Fernandez Quintero, Abantal, Seville
Jose de Alvarez, La Costa, El Ejido, Almeria
Alejandro Sanchez, Alejandro Roquetas de Mar, Almeria

Up to date guide to all Michelin star restaurants in Andalucia.

I've only eaten at one of these myself, Tragabuches, and it was the day after I got engaged to my husband, so I have to admit that my attention was more on our forthcoming nuptials than the food, although I do remember a particularly fine soup - normally I take notes, but on this occasion my professionalism slipped. Dani Garcia has a restaurant in Seville, El Burladero, in the revamped Hotel Colon, which I haven't yet visited (small children, no money, yadayada).

These chefs are promoting Andalucian haute cuisine, and good on them, because there's more to local gastronomy than the standard tourist fare of gazpacho and sardines on the beach (although both are delicious). My view is, there are so many good restaurants (and tapas bars) here in Andalucia that it's hard to have a really bad meal. Eating out is so reasonably priced and so widely available here, that it is a way of life, rather than something kept just for special occasions. Bon appetit.

Blog published on 29 April 2010