La Pepica: the mother church of paella in Valencia

[caption id="attachment_593" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="La Pepica kitchen"][/caption] When Valencianos say that they are "going to the beach," they usually mean Playa de Malvarossa, an urban strand blessed by fine sand, gentle waves, surprisingly clean waters—and the mother of all paella restaurants, La Pepica. While three-quarters of the menu of this venerable eatery (founded 1898) consists of fish and shellfish, the other quarter is a golden litany of nearly two dozen classic Valencian rice dishes. [caption id="attachment_594" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A maestro of La Pepica"][/caption] The main entrance is on the beach, but we prefer entering from the street just to walk past the dynamic kitchen where dozens of cooks in gleaming kitchen whites prepare pristine ingredients and juggle huge paella pans. The dining room is daunting....Read More

What to buy in a Spanish grocery store

We love visiting fresh markets when we travel. But except for dried herbs and spices, most of the goods won't make it through US Customs. Once we've snapped dozens of photos of mounds of vegetables and tables of glistening fish on ice, we head to a neighborhood grocery store (the kind where homemakers, not tourists, shop) to stock up on food essentials to bring home. Here’s our Spanish grocery list: Saffron Spaniards claim their saffron is the world’s best and price it accordingly. The larger the container, the better the deal. We usually purchase saffron in 20-gram boxes or larger. (A half gram is sufficient for a 15-inch paella.) Stored in an airtight container out of the light, it will keep up to seven years—or...Read More

Cabrales – why it’s good to get the blues

We saw many more cows than sheep or even goats as we drove the twisting mountain roads through the Picos de Europa mountain range last spring. Although the Principality of Asturias is the oldest of Iberia’s former kingdoms, the steep green mountains looked more like Switzerland than Spain. Cows may have predominated, but milk from all three dairy animals goes into Cabrales, possibly the most pungent blue cheese in Europe. When we stopped for lunch in Las Arenas de Cabrales, we made sure we got the blues. The cheese is made by shepherds in the nearby hills, but Las Arenas (pop 797) is the market town. In Sidrería Calluenger (tel: 985-646-441), a hard-cider bar on Plaza Castaneu, we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of stuffed red...Read More