February 21 2014
Wander Around in Valencia – A Gourmet break
For many of the Spanish hedonists and gourmets, it’s in Valencia that they ought to live in order to profit from the sweetness of the city. Located by the sea, Valencia has a beautiful, rich cultural heritage and a hundred good restaurants.
Here, visitors can indulge in the sweetness of this seaside town which has a rich cultural heritage and numerous fantastic restaurants. In Valencia, paella is king. This is where the famous Spanish dish was invented, but the version you will inevitably sample during your stay is not likely to resemble the seafood paella you have encountered anywhere else. In the city’s best restaurants, one can expect highly inventive, deconstructed cuisine enhanced by the flavors of the ultra-fresh produce. We invite you to sit at the tables of two of the most celebrated chefs in Valencia. Bernd Knoller and Ricard Camarena are both friends of the city but competitors in the kitchen…They both offer individual, stunning cuisines to discover during your stay in Valencia. We suggest visiting in late March, when the great Las Fallas festival literally engulfs the streets of the old town…
There are more than 8,000 bars and restaurants in Valencia, so it should come as no surprise that the city prides itself on being the gastronomic capital of Spain! No surprise, as well, that the Mercado Central located in the historic heart of the city, with over 900 stalls, claims the title of largest covered market in Europe! Quite literally, everything can be found here. Meats, of course. But also fish and seafood in a vast wing that is entirely devoted to seafood. A real cave of wonders with something to suit everyone’s taste…Valencia’s iconic dish is paella, which the city claims to have invented. But true “made in Valencia” paella will look nothing like the one you have encountered elsewhere. The Valencia version is layered with rabbit and chicken, broad beans and mange-tout, and even little snails. It’s a delightful dish featuring very refined flavors that glorifies the vehicle that is the rice, which is grown in vast quantities in the region. Rice is the king ingredient in Valencia that is also used in arroz al horno, a very popular oven-cooked rice dish. Something else that absolutely must be sampled during your stay is horchata, “the” official drink of the city. Within its milky clouds, this drink made from nutsedge juice (an herbaceous plant of the family of papyrus) contains miraculous health benefits related to the cardiovascular system, similar to those of olive oil. Nutsedge is also good for reducing cholesterol and is a rich source of minerals. But the main reason horchata is consumed in such vast quantities in Valencia, especially in summer, is because it is wonderfully refreshing. Tradition requires that one orders a farton at the same time, a kind of small donut with a sweet glaze, to dip in a glass of horchata like the locals!
Yes, Bernd Knoller is a German native hailing from the Black Forest, but it’s been almost 20 years since he took his suitcases to Valencia where he is recognized as one of the most inventive chefs in the city. For 8 years, in his restaurant Riff, he is constantly under pressure to produce a menu that is continuously evolving and always seeking to surprise the taste buds of his discerning foodie clientele. Very present in the immaculate white restaurant, situated close to the beautiful Mercado de Colon, Bernd Knoller is a cook who loves to play with whatever produce is readily available to him from the surrounding area. His experimentation will start, for example, with a soda of tomatoes served from a syphon on a thin slice of bacon dipped in herbs…The menu is heavily focused on fish. It features an eel ceviche (a specialty of this marshy area), which is simple but so meticulously treated that this fish – which is prone to an overpowering taste – could pass for sea bass! The bonito, a type of very much sought after tuna, cooked at a low temperature offers an incredibly smooth texture, while preserving it’s very subtle, lightly fatty taste, revived by the black chanterelle that accompanies it. The lamb “à l’arabia” cooked for six hours is simply divine, as is dessert: a soup of very dark chocolate with plums and hot chocolate mousse. Set aside plenty of time to dine at Riff, for the tasting menu consists of 9 dishes and it takes at least two hours to enjoy everything. But when you open the door of this Michelin starred restaurant, time is suspended in an incomparable culinary experience created by the sensational Chef Bernd Knoller!
One must have plenty of time at their disposal to spend seated in order to experience the myriad of tapas and dishes served by Ricard Camarena in his new location in the neighborhood of Russafa. Here is another table – also adorned with a Michelin star – which pushes the boundaries of experimentation as far as the famous molecular cuisine popularized by Ferran Adria, the high-profile, multi award-winning chef of El Bulli .
As well as the hake gelatin filling and the silver throat of a fish, served in a spoon as an amuse bouche, and the chicken spine risotto, there are some truly culinary experiences to be had here. The tuna tartare arranged under a shell of young broccoli is beautifully graphic. The minestrone vegetable soup with truffles and a velouté of vinegar is a perfect note of fresh crispness. And the hare served three ways (meatball broth, hot terrine and fileted) alone is worth the detour to this highly sought-out gastronomic address. Ricard Camarena is very present in the restaurant and comes to each table to “finish” dishes here and there, by adding a broth or some secret sauce. Here, the best thing is to be ‘an adventurer of taste’ and dare to tackle the 8-course tasting menu of this very inventive restaurant. Camarena’s creations are an excellent example of the culinary movida that has been shaking up the Iberian food scene in recent years.
Each year, from the 14th to 19th of March, the city is alive to the rhythm of the festivities of Las Fallas. Immense monuments and statues made of cardboard and wood litter the streets of the entire city. They represent historical scenes, political caricatures and stars of the moment or illustrate the delusional visions of the artists who worked throughout the year to create these giant constructions. Some may reach more than 15 metres high and are very impressive in deed. In every district of the city, the fallas artists receive financial support from the old families of Valencia for whom it is an honor and a duty to sponsor a workshop. Each year, between 400 and 700 of these monuments – each more colorful and refined than the next – are installed in the streets, squares, and parks of the city. At the end of these days of festivity, punctuated by numerous firework displays and concerts, all the fallas are burned. All but one appointed by a popular vote to be saved and join the Museum of Las Fallas. Throughout the night, the city is illuminated by the hundreds of pyres that destroy these works of popular art. An estimated one million visitors flock to the occasion of the festival of Las Fallas. It is sufficiant to say that a reservation with Bernd Knoller and Ricard Camanera should be anticipated well in advance during this period…