Savour the World with Chef Dominique Rizzo
Why Spain, why Catalonia - map of the world

Why Spain, why Catalonia?  It’s hard not to think of Spain without thinking about flamenco dancing, red wine and tapas.

One of the questions that I am often asked is why I choose Spain and why Catalonia for my upcoming food tour.

It is the flamenco, the red wine, the tapas and all the amazing garlic-rich prawns “gambas al ajillo” and even more it is about the rich history of food, culture and art of this region that rubs shoulders with the borders of France.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Gambas al ajillo                                                                                                        Photo by School of Tapas

Catalonia has beautiful sandy beaches like Costa Maresme, reaching into the Mediterranean Sea, unlike those other feet-breaking pebble beaches, that were until more recently were unknown to tourists who happily headed south of Barcelona to Sitges (although Sitges is still a favourite). Many locals of Barcelona preferred to head north where many owned their weekender beach apartment – white tiles throughout, clean and cool in the summer months.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Beach Maresme Photo by Travel.365

What do you do after a day swimming at the beach but eat fresh seafood and this is where the famous fish markets at Arenys de Mar comes in to play. They say it is something else to watch the fishing boats come into port in the late afternoon, followed by flocks of seagulls hoping to feed on some fish. There is a fish auction at the port at night – perfect to take home the freshest of fish to cook for dinner.
Why Spain why Catalonia - Arenys de Mar Photo by Best Maresme

The history of food in this area is what really is fascinating – from sauces introduced by the Phoenicians, olive oil brought in by the Greeks, and then the influence of the Romans, Carthaginians and Jews bringing with them their own exotic flavours and spices.

While paella is the traditional food of Spain, the Arabs instilled the love of almonds and gazpacho, while the Christians introduced Spanish jamon (ham) previously banned by the Jews and Arabs alike. Garlic, garlic, garlic – it’s gastronomical flavor making even garlic soup a must-do.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Spanish Jamon Photo by Jamon.com

When not at the beach or eating bocadilos – the amazing bagette with Spanish ham or drinking carva the champagne of the area or rich coffee, then it is total immersion in the art and culture of Barcelona with major art galleries from the classics to street art, stunning libraries and museums.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Bocadillos Photo by Ricardo

Wander the streets, gazing at the Medieval buildings, Roman walls from the 13th century, the Gothic quarter between the Ramblas and Via Laientana.

Sometimes the reasons why I chose Catalonia are endless.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Dominique Rizzo's tour to Spain

After a day of art, culture and history, then do as the locals do and head to one of the many fantastic bars in Barcelona. Here is the low down on bars in Barcelona as a starting point.

Can Cisa Bar Brutal – Natural wine bar and Wine Shop .
This has one of the best Natural Wine selections in Barcelona you can buy everything at takeaway prices.

L’Anima del Vi – is so Spanish, great food, great local vibe.
Lots of bottles on the walls but as always, ask for anything you are chasing. They have an extensive off list cellar and back vintages of great things!

Vila VIniteca – A great wine shop with big vibes, near the marina.

Boadas – Pretty cool spot for a cocktail. Has been open since the ‘30s and is one of the oldest art deco buildings in the city.


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La Cova Fumada – This is a classic tapas basement restaurant with heaps of attitude and charcoal grilled vegetables and smoked meats.

Bar del Pla – another classic tapa place, good natural wine too . This is a good lunch spot.

Bar Mut – Super old school place. Ask to eat in the bar upstairs that always has live music and gets rowdy. Great cocktails and old school wine list.
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ABaC Restaurant – Michelin star – definitely worth considering.

ABaC Restaurant

Quimet y Quimet – some of the best smoked, canned, and dried, pickled seafood and meats in the city. Canned Quail is the hot tip here.

Tickets – Adrias bros tapas – it is really good but you will want to book or line up early.

Bodega 1900 – Adria’s Vermut Bar. Its actually opposite Tickets. Must book for dinner.

Cal Pep – an absolute institution, sit at the bar, drink heaps of beer and eat heaps of seafood from the Plancha.

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El Tres Porquets – the three pigs, pork, pork and more pork. Fantastic flavours and dishes.


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With thanks to a Chef in Barcelona for sharing.

A Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Chef Dominique Rizzo in Barcelona

Experience A Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia in September 2018 starting in Barcelona

Here is an insight into where we go and a bucket-list of the top places we visit in each city, what to look out for on your free days, the best bites we will be trying along the way and tastes not to be missed.  Let’s start with Barcelona as it is our first destination.

Where we go

Barcelona, the capital and largest city of Catalonia, with a population of about 6 million including the city and outer suburban regions sits as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Barcelona was founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages where it became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today not only an important cultural centre but also renowned architecturally with the works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Places we visit

**La Sagrada Familia

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - La Sagrada Familia

Photo credit: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/

Like many of Barcelona’s architectural feats, La Sagrada Família was and continues to be, controversial. For years scholars have debated whether engineers strayed too far from architect Antoni Gaudí’s original vision (he died when just a quarter of the project had been realized). And while many citizens deem La Sagrada Família the greatest achievement of Catalan building, others view the structure as a glaring, expensive parody of it. Academic bickering aside, it’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of this place, which, pending completion in 2026 after 150 years of construction, will be the tallest religious building in Europe. Fusing Gothic and Art Nouveau styles in unprecedented ways, the basilica also draws on nature as a central inspiration. The hyperboloids, bright colours, and unconventional animal representations (e.g., chameleons, turtles, pelicans) epitomize Gaudí’s belief that nature and the divine were inextricably linked. Insider tip: Lines here are notoriously long, so it’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance.

**Las Ramblas

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Las Ramblas

Photo credit: By Ralf Roletschek – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44806990

No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll through Las Ramblas, the wide, shady boulevard that runs through the heart of the city from Plaça de Catalunya down to Port Vell. Whether you’re taking in a street performance, ambling beneath the trees, or people-watching from a terrace, there’s never a dull moment here. To get a bird’s-eye view of all the action, finish your Ramblas route at the 18th-story mirador at Columbus Monument for panoramic views of the city and sea. Just be sure to watch your wallet around these parts: this is pickpocket central.

**Cava and Vermouth

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Cava and Vermouth

Prosecco and other budget sparklers rely on industrial carbonization to make their wines bubble. But Catalan cava, like fine champagne, gets its effervescence and complexity from bottle fermentation. You can taste some of the region’s best bubblies at La Vinya del Senyor, a cozy, understated restaurant with several by-the-glass boutique cavas to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table on the plaça, you’ll be rewarded with views of Santa María del Mar’s 14th-century façade.

On sunny weekend afternoons, neighborhood bars fill up with locals out to fer el vermut, the Catalan ritual of catching up with friends over a few dainty glasses of this aromatic, garnet-red aperitif, customarily garnished with an orange slice and an olive. Barcelona’s best vermouth bars, like Morro Fi, blend their own vermouths by infusing fortified wine with any range of botanicals, but in a pinch, the bottled stuff is perfectly passable, too (just ask the bartender for a quality Catalan brand such as Vermut Yzaguirre).

**Museu Picasso

Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Picasso

Pablo Picasso may have hailed from Málaga in the south of Spain, but he chose Barcelona, the city where he apprenticed as a young artist, as the location for his namesake museum. Housing 4,251 of Picasso’s early works in sculpture, paint, and engraving, it’s a virtually complete representation of his portfolio all the way up to the Blue Period. Picasso’s art isn’t the only draw at Museu Picasso, though; the five adjoining 13th and 14th century residences that comprise the museum are precious in their own right.

**La Boqueria

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - La Boqueria

Photo credit: EuroCheapo

A gastronomic mecca that attracts more than 45,000 visitors a day, La Boqueria may be the most famous food market in the world, and for good reason. Its endless stalls entice shoppers with abundant displays of the region’s finest cheeses, charcuterie, seafood, and produce. Some vendors have adapted over time to tourists’ demands, but for a taste of how things were at La Boqueria way back when, sidle up to the bar at Pinotxo, where quick-witted 75-year-old Joan Bayén (“Juanito” for the locals) has been churning out hearty country fare like cigrons amb botifarra negre (stewed chickpeas with black pudding) and calamarcets amb mongetes (tender baby squid and white beans) for a half a century.

**Barri Gotic

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Barri Gotic

Photo credit: By Llull – http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=14973110&size=o, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4025194

No place on earth can hold a candle to Barri Gòtic when it comes to concentration and breadth of Gothic architecture. This is the most ancient part of the city, where labyrinthine streets empty into medieval plaças. Yet amid all the antiquity, Barri Gòtic boasts some of the city’s best shopping. Handmade espadrilles, or alpargatas as they’re known in Spain, make cheery, affordable souvenirs; find them at La Manual Alpagatera, worth a visit if only to marvel at the floor-to-ceiling stacks of sandals available in every hue and style. For rarer finds, wake up early on a Sunday morning to explore the Mercat Gòtic, where you can treasure hunt for antiques and, if luck strikes, witness a traditional Catalan dance on the plaça called the “Sardana.”

**Castle of Muntjuic and El Mirador del Alcalde

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Castle of Muntjuic and El Mirador del Alcalde

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mirador de l’Alcalde is a belvedere overlooking the sea and the city which boasts spectacular 180º panoramic views. Dotted here and there, the tallest, best-known landmarks rise up among the densely built-up city, while the sea, the harbour and beaches can be viewed with admiration and respect. The Mirador was designed by Joan Josep Tharrats, and opened in 1969 it comprises of a series of terraces set out on different levels which feature a series of attractive gardens and ornamental fountains. A curious mosaic made from shards of recycled glass demarcates the different levels of the belvedere. At the top, there is a cooling fountain designed by Carles Buigas. There are also two noteworthy sculptures: L’Homenatge a Barcelona (Tribute to Barcelona) by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, and the popular Sardana, by Josep Cañas.

There are so many travel tours on offer every year and it can be tough choosing the right tour for you. Dominique Rizzo’s Personally Escorted Tours are a great way to travel and here are the Top 10 reasons to book a Dominique Rizzo Food Tour:

  1. A tour gives you an extra sense of security – strength in numbers, plus the expertise of a guide to help you through. Some people just aren’t interested in all of the finer details in planning a trip, and they don’t want to deal with changing them while they’re travelling. It’s all about relaxing, right? So if you want all the details taken care of for you – the hotel bookings, the transfers, the restaurant choices, the sights to see and things to do once you arrive – then an escorted tour is a perfect option.
  2. If you’re really worried about the language barrier, however, particularly in places that don’t see too many tourists, it can be nice to have a guide who’s both a source of information and a translator. You will find you will gain a deeper knowledge of the area and it’s a great way of learning some of the language.
  3. Since all the members of the group are experiencing the same sites, conversation and friendship are inevitable between members. New friends and relationships are easy to gain through escorted tours.
  4. A tour guide is also provided for escorted travel groups- Tour guides can be a great benefit for members of a group because they can get more questions answered and can obtain in-depth history about certain sites, unlike those who may be viewing these sites alone. A tour guide can also be very valuable in cities that use a foreign language you’re not familiar with. The tour guide can help you with shopping and ordering food to make sure there is no communication breakdown between languages.catania-markets
  5. Planning of transportation, navigation, food and entertainment has already been taken care of. Your only job is to wake up in the morning and your day is laid out for you. The package price that is given for an escorted tour is also generally the full amount you will pay for your trip, not including any souvenirs or extras you pick up along the way. Most of the time, meals, site admissions, transportation and lodging are included in the price. We survey our past clients to get feedback on the tours which helps us to create new itineraries that include sites that have received good reviews and exclude sites that past travellers were not impressed with.island-food-platter
  6. After running many tours Dominique understands the needs and requirements of travellers and is personally available to assist travellers in any way.
  7. Dominique has personally designed the tours to include down time, understanding that we all need a holiday from the holiday sounds crazy but travelling can sometimes be exhausting and we all have different lifestyles and different reasons for taking time away.
  8. Dominique has personally visited many of the attractions and worked closely with the guides to bring you a unique tour that is tailored to her tour requirements with a focus on exceptional food, showcasing all types of cuisine styles and not eating the same thing through out the tour.

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    Wineries

  9. Dominique’s tours also include a focus on art, history, wine, experience and enjoyment. These tours are not a cookie cutter tour where you are only taken to places with hundreds of other people. Also she understands that a tour is not about seeing every church and museum in every town and with diversity of activities and having the days flowing perfectly into each other allows for a relaxed tour full of surprises.
  10. Dominique’s innate hospitality and service means she is there to meet you on arrival and say good bye when you leave and we all know there is nothing better than a friendly, familiar face to greet you when you arrive in a foreign country and wish you well on your way home.

A Taste of Spain- Unique Catalonia a Personally escorted Tour with Dominique. Dates have just been release for 2018 click here to find out more.

IMG_1128If visiting a country rich in art, history and flavour is on your bucket list, then decide to take my “Taste of Spain” tour, with like-minded people and myself, departing in September 2014.

You’ll learn firsthand how make delicious tapas from the local experts, enjoy indulging Spain’s most up-and-coming food destinations, plus take-in at your own leisure the jaw-dropping architecture through the bustling streets of Barcelona.
FOR ALL THE DETAILS CLICK HERE

The tour doesn’t end there – it leisurely takes in the stunning scenery of Northern Spain where fashion, beauty, delicious summery wines and culinary creations will surprise and inspire you.

The towns that we slowly visit are: Barcelona, Girona, Figueres, Rosas, Cadaques, Ripoll, Besalu, Sant Saturni D’ Anoia, Gombren, Pals, Peratallada, Perelada, Calella de Palafrugell, LLafranc, L’Escala, Sant Marti D’Ampurias.

The tour will depart Saturday 20th September and return on Saturday 4th October. It costs $8852.00 per person which includes a special arrival night package. EMAIL TO BOOK HERE

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This stunning tour of Eastern Sicily offers you the opportunity to not only discover the islands of the Aeolian, and the rich lands surrounding the famous Mount Etna, but also to journey to some of the most beautiful historical provinces of Sicily being Catania, Syracusa, Ragusa, including the towns of chocolate-loving Modica and the island of Ortigia.

We welcome you to Catania which is, after Palermo, the lively and second largest city in Sicily. We enter into Sicily’s age-old history, rich in unique archaeological sites and monuments, with one of the more famous being the Villa Romana del Casale. We indulge in the surrounding historical towns that showcase timeless crafts such as hand-painted ceramics, dine on regional artisan products created using proprietary and specialized techniques, and spend evenings dining with newfound friends and locals. You will experience the triumphant shouts of the Siciliani, and a spectacular array of vibrant colours of spices, seafoods, and seasonal fruit and vegetables as we wander through the iconic food markets of these areas. You’ll be thrilled to see the local produce displayed as if they were works of art instead of mere merchandise for sale, and you will relish the tempting morsels offered by locals to sample.

We welcome you to Sicily and the busy airport of Catania. Our beautiful Hotel is an elegant palace recently restored, located on the Steps by Alessi. Set like a jewel, between Via Etnea and Via Crociferi and in the heart baroque of the historical center of Catania. You will have time to relax or wander around the hotel admiring the terrace with sweeping views across the historic centre of Catania overlooking the roof tops of the late Sicilian Baroque style.

We head into the historic centre of Catania for a tour on foot visiting “La Pescheria” markets with an atmosphere that has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years and noted especially for the fresh seafood where we can witness the colourful behaviour of local fishermen selling the mornings catch. Here you will also find all sorts of wonderful fruits, vegetables, meats and deli items as local pick up their daily shop. We continue our tour to Catania’s stunning Cathedral where the cities patron Saint, Sant’ Agata and precious treasures are kept and we wander through the Piazza Duomo where the heart of Catania beats and the city’s symbol monument: the fountain with the Elephant stands. This is a lava-stone statue that dates back to the Roman era, mounted on a more modern structure by Vaccarini from the eighteenth century. Legend goes that this animal became the city symbol because in ancient times pigmy elephants lived in this place, that protected the city’s inhabitants by chasing away fierce animals.

We meet for lunch giving you the rest of the afternoon and evening to wander this beautiful city, do a spot of shopping or rest in the hotel. We meet in the evening for dinner at one of the local restaurants and spend over night in Catania.

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Not to go into too much detail so as not to have you feeling completely envious that I spent my Christmas in Spain although I do want to let you know if you have never been before that Spain supplies all the wonders of a European city that evokes the senses in all ways leaving you walking around with your mouth open in awe and inviting you with open arms into a divinely rich culture, fashion to die for and at that time, a very cold cold breeze.

These are just some of my highlights:
The Architecture:

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The antiques:

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rszphoto-7-610The pintxo and tapa that became the ruin of me and yes I did eat all of these….

 

rszphoto-8-646Left: French stick with sliced tomato, picked anchovy and capsicum, tomato onion salsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Right:Roasted peppers filled with tuna and mayonnaise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rsz-photo-10-649Left: Boiled octopus with roasted potato, smoked paprika and seasoned olive oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rszphoto-11-582Right: simmered chicken with spiced apricots and plums ok this was dinner at a ridiculous hour of 7.30 by Spanish standards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below: A selection of seafood pintxo – crab mousse with prawns and caviar, smoked fish with caramelised onion, caviar, pickle and tomato

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