Wednesday, 17 August 2016

LA RIOJA - Much more than a Wine

La Rioja is the smallest administrative region of Spain with only 300.000 inhabitants in 5000 km2 however is not easy to find in the rest of Spain where in such reduced place such mix of ancients cultures, old paths surrounded with a natural landscape that resume all the climates and biodiversity of Iberia  
Given such mix of different cultures, roads and travellers that local Monks decided to write a manuscript to understand each other given birth to the Spanish Language in the actual Monastery of  San Millan de la Cogolla.
La Rioja Monasterios.
When the Roman empire start to fall, the Visigoths arrive to Spain (c.V) creating some insecurity in the Riojan valleys forcing the local population to live in caves in remote parts of the forest, with the time new communities grow around the caves and new temples that afterwards La Rioja freed them self of the Muslin regime the new Christian monarchs subsidise to become important  centre of the culture and Christian faith
German favourite Monasteries

Monsaterio de Valvanera
From Finca de los Arandinos , you can start going to the Santa Maria de Valvanera Monastery ( in Anguiano). Valvanera means water veins valley. That monastery represent all about La Rioja, has traces of Visigoths architecture, Romanesque and renaissance surrounded by a forest of pines, oaks, beech trees and high peaks mountain. You will feel the spirituality of the place remain intact
As mentioned before the Monsterios de San Millan de  Cogolla also known as Monasterio de Yuso and Suso are a world heritage site and birth of the Spanish language,  a mandatory stop.  To know more about the place
After you visit Valvanera and San Millan you can head to nearby charming town of Ezcaray or keep going to finish in one of the towns that is one of the highlights of the Saint James Path, the baroque town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada with his spectacular cathedral tower, beautiful square and rich monastery altarpieces. The town is full of legends and traditional eateries.
In your way back,  in Najera is another must stop in the Monsatery of Santa Maria la Real where are buried the kings of the old kingdom of Pamplona-Najera build in 1056 sourranded by artificial caves  from those troublesome years. The cloister is breathtaking.
Logrono, the capital
Logrono is the capital of La Rioja with around 150.000 inhabitants, at the side of the majestic Ebro River. Unlike other capital cities in Spain, Logrono is quite modest in monumental architecture, but the best of Logrono are the old streets where thousands of programs cross the city every year on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
David favourite walk.  Starting from my aunt and uncle flat, David favourite walk start in Calle Portales to enjoy baroque buildings with very well conserved shops and cafes under the arcades, after you pass the old Post Office building (today under eternal refurbishment) and the local Museum in San Agustin Square he head to contemplate one more time the fantastic baroque cathedral towers but always glazing to his left to spot the Cafe Moderno facade and already 100 years of history.
Once we leave the Cathedral stroll around the San Juan Street until find de buzzing Fresh Market and surprise him-self of how crazy sound the stall owners.
Now when the clock has not even reached noon he knows is time to have some tapas in the frenetic Laurel Street. In a couple of streets around 50 tiny tapas restaurant, most of them only specialize in just one single dish always serves with a small glass of rioja. Without doubt David top favourite is El Soriano, which serve the best mushrooms pintxos that you had ever tested.   (that is very true!)
After a couple of pintxos and red wine glasses, the best for him is going down for Calle Sagasta and cross the Iron Bridge designed by English over the rio ebro and admire from the Rio Ebro Park the gentle skyline of Logrono predominated by bell churches and storks nest in some locations.
Back to the old town using the old Stone bridge is time to head back but this time through the Sant Way official path, the Rua Vieja, check what is on in the recently opened Cultural Centre a must stop for architectural lovers. And if the sun is too strong just have rest inside the church Santiago Real with a beautiful square and tower.
Streets of Ezcaray
Very close to Finca los Arandinos, only 7kms you can visit Navarrete, part of the Saint James path, you can visit the emblematic church and enjoy a coffee with the locals in the different terraces. The whole town centre is listed
Ezcaray 40 min by car from the hotel, no far from Santo Domingo and San Millan, really worth a visit. A little medieval Spanish gem that invite to walk through the street and under the porticos with Flemish and Renaissance elements collides in the street.
LaGuardia , without doubts my favourite, a fortified wall town in a top of the hills with views to la Rioja Alvesa vineyards, lovely houses, shops and historical buildings combine in this town in the border with the country basque. Good place to enjoy a long lunch in the many good quality restaurants. Only 30 minutes from the Finca and a good point to visit the best design wine cellars. Book you visit to the Calatrava design “bodega” Ysios
Haro is the official capital of the wine in LaRioja, the stand up of the town is the city hall build in neoclassic style, but also given their rich industrial past the house-palaces in baroque style are an authentic delight. Also pay a visit to the Wine interpretation centre and local artist modern art museum Museo del Torreon
Torrecilla de Cameros might not be historical rich as the towns mentioned above, but just go there and cross the medieval bridge over the Iregua River is a real experience to feel close with nature. Dont forget to try the local cheeses and visit the natural areas.
Landscapes and Parks

Land Art in La Cebollera
Thank you that my cousin Gabriel is professional a local expert in the region I have the pleasure to know the best landscapes of La Rioja. If you are looking more for a Natural escape, La Rioja is your place. La Rioja is where the Mediterranean climate clash with the cantabric from the north, creating all the years a very diverse landscape but especially colourful in autumn with a must visit to Parque Natural Sierra de Cebollera with wild pines, oaks and beech trees. A good place to spot deers. Also the park has its own land-art space
A different open air activity is to visit the Enciso dinosaur track finds. Yes you can find more than 1000 dinosaur track around the Enciso town which has his own learning centre.
For natural router to walk or bike in la Rioja, please download the guides from La Rioja Tourist Webpage  
Vineyards and Wine Cellars.
Ysios and Marques de Riscal
La Rioja is such beautiful region that I haven’t felt the need to mention yet the importance of the Wine culture in area. The Rioja wines enjoy of big popularity thank you to their quality and taste to the point of some vineyards has made good use of their fortunes embracing modern architecture
Our Top 3 Wine cellars are without doubt Marques de Riscal and their impressive Frank Ghery Guggenheim alike style, next to the picturesque town of El Ciego.  Bodega Ysios is well known for David and I thank you to my matron of honour Azucena. The wine tour is very interesting to learn all about how a modern Winery work, the building is a masterpiece and the wine.. and the wine will be your next favourite
The 3rd one, well the 3rd one you need to wait until 24th , but I can advise you a couple more like Eguren Ugarte for a perfect lunch or visit Bodegas Franco Espanolas, just in the other side Logrono Iron Bridge.
Most of the Wine cellar offers a tour and wine testing but booking is a must. Marques de Riscal has a 5 start hotel with spa and top restaurant

Yes! Even more, La Rioja has a lot of place to visit and must see is the Museo Wurth , lost between the countryside and a logistics centre you can visit a top art destination. Dont miss the change to see a Picasso or Magritte, Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein of one of my favourite Spanish Joan Miro exhibition

Finca Arandinos is located on the heart of La Rioja, however public transport is not an option
Most of the destinations inside La Rioja are no more than one hour by car from la Finca or Casa Josephine.
Bilbao is the nearest International Airport, AP68 is a good motorway without much traffic. Will take you around 90 minutes
From Bilbao you can take the bus to Logrono as well, only 90 minutes and we will organize to pick you up to the hotel. Train is another alternative from Bilabo, go to They don’t have many service but is cheap and the route is very enjoyable. Take 2:30 but is worth it.
If you want to visit any of the historical sites you need to remember the siesta time in Spain. Most of the places might be closed between 13:00 to 16:00.
Buy your wines directly in the wine cellars
In Spain you drink wine with food, if they put you a tapa without you asking the tapa is free
In the Laurel Street they will serve you the house wine, but you can ask for a better one
Because the area is a fertile river valley vegetables are  delicatessen, like artichockes or chard, the traditional dishes are:  Patatas a la riojana (potatoes with chorizo) , menestra de verduras (very light vegetable stew) pimientos del piquillo (stuffed roast peppers) chuletillas al sarmiento (lamb chops grilled over dry vine twigs) , bacalao a la Riojana ( cod with vegetables) , trucha a la riojana (trout in wine sauce) and caparrones (a smooth bean dish)
What to visit near La Rioja
La Rioja is in the centre of a wonderful area and not far of vibrant destinations
Bilbao, has shacked their industrial past and become a very trendy city. The Guggenheim museum is the reference, walk and shop in the big avenues is a pleasure.  Like the rest of country Basque the food is top quality and the pintxos restaurant are a wonder.
San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful cities in the world; the promenade is a world heritage and has at least a dozen of Michelin Start restaurant, some of them quite affordable. Just remember that all the Michelin start restaurant are close Monday and Tuesday, however you can visit the pinxtos area almost at any time. The fresh market is not as interesting as used to be but still worth it a visit. If you want to learn more about the rich history of the country Basque people, San Telmo museum is your stop. Also I like the aquarium and hang over the surfer beach Zurriola
Pamplona is another gentle northern Spanish with one of the best quality life standards in Europe, famous for their running of the bulls in July. The Cathedral, the citadel and the city hall are worth a visit.
Zaragoza is another human heritage city over the Ebro River. The Basilica of the Pilar is a immense baroque temple is one of the top peregrines places in Europe.
The city has a good remain of Muslim architecture, a castle from the time of the Aragon kings and even a Roman Theatre and a Roman Forum in pretty good condition.
Zaragoza communicate by high speed with Barcelona (1:45hs) and Madrid (2:30hs)
Also is worth to visit the capital of country Basque, Vitoria which has a very nice park surrounding all the city and good museum including modern art
Burgos is not far of Logrono (70 min by car) and has a must see Cathedral also hold a very interesting museum about the Human Evolution. The food experience is similar to Logrono.


Friday, 6 April 2012

The Last Sea Bream

Fourteen months ago I started food blogging, one of my first recipes was a traditional Madrid Sea-Bream recipe, today I cooked the same Sea-Bream recipe to celebrate the last post of KitchenVoyage, I am restarting my professional IT career.
I would like to say thank you to the 30.000 visitors that I had in all these months, I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading like I did writing and learning about cooking, blogging on social media, really was a pleasure and a great experience

Here are my conclusions about my food blogging experience

Cooking at home

1. Eating at home is healthier and the best way to lose weight. Before I started I used to "cook" or just heat from M&S or Waitrose easy cook or ready meals, since I cook at home I lost 8 kilograms having 5 meals a day including pasta twice a week, home-made pizza and cream and butter based dishes.

2. Eating and cooking at home will develop your palate and you will have a most accurate sense of flavours and food cost and learn when an ingredient is at its best.

3. With the time you will get more selective when you are eating out and you will appreciate the skills of a good chef and understand which top restaurants really are worth visiting.

4. Traditional local British food can be very tasty and healthy like Mediterranean cuisine.

5. Eating healthy, organic and local has a cost, but a good shop planning switching between your supermarket and local food store can be the key to becoming a greener consumer.

Food blogging

1. Amateur food blogging in Europe is economically unsustainable and very competitive, a company will pay you to have a banner or promote their products in your blog, for me it is a mistake because this kind of blog are the closest with the clients. But writing is the only way that they will get in touch with you and you will receive offers for joining their social media team.

2. Dont just write your blog, you need to Tweet often, have a facebook page or Google+ make interesting comments in another foodpages and activitly participate in at least 2 food blogging communities and when more local you can be more popular. It took me a while to understand but for me was a 200% increase in my visits.

3. Reply inmediately and listen to your followers and learn how to use Google Analytics and you will see which are your strong and weakest posts, when you reach that point focus on your best. I didn't and that was one of my problems to get more visitors. Funnily enough when I started I tried to make a blog about British and Spanish Food, but my most popular blog are about travelling and Japanese recipes, but I didn't change my subject and I reach a ceiling level of visitors.

4. Many social media say that the content and find a niche market is half of the job done, and it is true but when you are writing recipes the most important is the photography by far, shot professional pictures has a cost.

5. The last one more than a conclusion is some advice. For the Spanish speaking food bloggers just let you know that the American, British and other countries that speak or understand English are very keen to learn about your local cooking, so will be very good idea to translate to English all your food heritage instead to make them to read the food interpretation of out culture of the marketing teams of Jaime Oliver or Rick Stein (for example). The other advice is for the American/British digital marketing companies, Spain and mainly South America are catching up and growing fast with the new technologies and are a really big market with a big number of companies and business that with a good local digital marketing platform can be a good investment.


Friday, 30 March 2012

Affordable and Tasty Barcelona Tapas Bar

Poble Sec area. Photo by Jaume Meneses
Kiosko Burger Bar

Kisoko Burger Bar, yes! Because Barcelona is a modern and trendy city they also have a fantastic gourmet places like Kiosko burger Bar that have organic burger for just € 8  with tasty toppings and excellent bread. The burger bar has a simple young and trendy design.

La Tieta

La Tieta reminds you of an old spanish tasca but actually is a fresh little wine tapas bar that has delicious gourmet tapas like salmon tartar or classics like the Spanish omelette, and all can be washed down with very affordable good quality wine for 2 or 3 euros a glass.

Views from BellaVista Restaurant. Photo by CPGXP
Bodega Cal Marino

Bodega Cal Marino is another great place with very good food in the trendy Poble Sec, the Barcelona area where the locals and established Barcelona visitors mix together. Cal Marino offers different topped toasts which are very popular in Barcelona, croquets, and plenty of seafood to have a light and tasty meal at a very good price for about 10-12 euros and with plenty of space!

Bella Vista Restaurant

Situated in the Mediterranean forest that is above the hills areas of Barcelona, the Bella Vista restaurant is totally informal with paper tablecloths in the open air, but with astonishing views and with a surprising good service. They serve one of the favourite’s dishes of whole Spain, roast chicken with fries (roasted to perfection) and tasty and natural Mediterranean salads with cold beers for the hot and pleasant day of the Mediterranean summer overlooking one of the most exiting cities of the world.

More: Gourmet Barcelona


Barcelona for foodies

The new iconic W Hotel. Photo by by xavi talleda

Three Gourmet Restaurants

Sant Pau Restuarant

Sant Pau Restuarant is at just only 48 kms from Barcelona in the charming Mediterranean village of Sant Pol de Mar where Carme Ruscalleda has built a food temple working closely with the food products of the Catalan Maresma Region which she cooks in a natural and traditional way but with a lot of imagination and full of contrasting textures with some touches of Japanese cuisine. Carme Ruscalleda is the first woman chef to achieve 6 Michelin stars. Now she has opened with her son a new venue in Barcelona - Moments Restaurant where their team cook the best seasonal products in the finest way.

The charismatic Carme in Sant Pau Restaurant. By Monmar
Abac Restaurant

Abac Restaurant and Lasarte Restaurant are the two Michelin start restaurants of Barcelona. I recommend you to try to book a table in Abac in one of the quietest and rich areas of Barcelona mainly because the famous restaurant is now in hands of what many critics believe will be the best chef of the world. Jordi Cruz only 33 years old is in charge of the restaurant establishing a new era in Catalan cuisine; even though he respects and admires profoundly the Catalan cuisine in their signature menu you can find real gems like mini spheres of soya beans and orange or cylinders of pork feet with humus.

Bravo Restaurant

I know you will visit Bravo restaurant because it is situated in the last icon of the city the W Barcelona Hotel, even if you are not staying yet you must to visit the W Hotel, the landmark building has the best Spa and bedroom views of the city, the sea and mountains and also contains the last signature restaurant of chef Carles Abellan who create the definition of “glocal cuisine” where every cuisine in the world contribute to the skills of the chef. In the beautiful rooms and breath-taking terrace of the Bravo restaurant you can find a party of Catalonia flavours cooked with innovative and modern global gastronomic techniques where most of the seafood or meats are cooked over oak coals.

Three Gourmet Tapas Bar

Albert Adria in the Tickets Kitchen. Photo by Petits et Maman
Tickets is much more than a gourmet Tapas Bar, it is real Avant—garde cuisine; Albert Adrià former Creative Director & Pastry Chef at their brothers brother Ferran Adrià El Bulli is now the head chef of Tickets, where the food is served in a theatrical atmosphere where deconstructed tapas or a simple and traditional pan tumaca are made with refined skills. The good news is that the Adrià brother’s new adventure is a relatively affordable restaurant where you can find all the flavours of Barcelona and el Bulli for about 50 euros and you can book online. The late serving turn (after 10:30pm) is where you meet the locals

Dos palillos

In the famous Raval neighbourhood you can find Dos Palillos (Two sticks) where the traditional Spanish tapas get all the flavours of Asia thanks to the creativity of also former Bulli chef Albert Raurich. Dos Palillos doesn’t have a wow factor decoration- it’s even a bit kitsch and minimalist but in the Asian counter you can watch the kitchen in full action cooking real delicacies like won-ton of meat and vegetables (Chinese ravioli), razor clams Thai style or a kind of very crispy chicken nuggets and also the Japo Burger, a mini ox burger with black sesame seeds on the bread.

La Boqueria fresh market

The Boqueria is a festival of colours and flavours. By Mariano
La Boqueria market is a temple of the Catalonia food, sometimes a tourist spot, but is a must stop for any foodie where you can appreciate all that the Mediterranean sea and the mountains surrounding Barcelona can offer and understand part of the lifestyle of the city. Also the market has some very good places that serve very fresh tapas like the familiar tapas bar El quim with specialties like fideuá and black rice or just opposite Pinotxo bar where they cook just fresh food, so fresh that they don’t even bother to have a menu. If you find them too busy, just go to Llegums Cuits (stall 317) a stall that sale legumes (vegetables) but also have tasty legumes take away dishes

Three Gourmet Shops

Woki Market is around the impressive Cataluña Square. Photo by xn44
Woki Organic Market

Woki Organic Market is just around the corner of Catalunya Square where you can find plenty of organic Spanish products to put in your luggage, because when you go to Barcelona for sure you don’t want to come back empty handed to your kitchen. Also have an organic tapas bar managed by Michelin start chef Xavier Pellicer (now in Can Fabes) or before you go to Barcelona you can book some cooking courses.

Cacao Sampaka

Delicacies of Cacao Sampaka Barcelona. Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba 
Barcelona is one of the chocolate capitals of the world, where their chocolate master always has been in the avant-garde of the industry like the new chocolate architect Oriol Balaguer, Enric Rovira a deluxe chocolate maker or the  Escursell family that opened its first chocolate shop in 1897
Cacao Sampaka is one of the best chocolate shops in the whole of  Europe that produce more than 100 chocolate varieties in an elegant shop including herbal and flowers chocolate collections or chocolates with spices like saffron or Jamaican black pepper.

Food Cultura

Food Cultura is an art space where food and art mix together, you can find pop art kitchenware, food posters, weird kitchen appliance or extensive recipe book bibliotheca, but Food Cultura is not a food museum and not even an art gallery, it is a place to explore the universe of food and art through workshops and different art  activities. If you want to go, please first contact them at