My most recent trip was to review a hotel in the Costa Blanca. Not exactly a gastronome's heaven you might think but you'd be suprised what you can find. The hotel itself (Barcelo Asia Gardens - all endless infinity pool and lush gardens) was a slightly unbelievable mix of Thailand overlooking Benidorm but with that you got to eat in Spain by lunch and Asia (complete with Indonesian chef) come evening. Plus wine, which if you ever have been to Thailand, you'll know is usually prohibatively expensive what with their luxury tax. The first day we were told by the PR manager to try one of their 'rices' - paella - a local speciality. Unfortunately I was with my mother who is not a seafood kind of woman - the complete opposite of me - but I placated her with the chicken and rabbit 'Valencia' style paella. Goo-y, saffron-y goodness...
Washed down with a bottle of cava, well, we were on holiday.
The Thai, I have to admit, I was skeptical about. Thai food on the Costa Blanca?! But it came up trumps, and was almost as good as I had in Thailand, if a lot less spicy - they went sauce crazy but even the 'spicy' ones (furthest away) barely made my eyes water.
Beef and mixed mushrooms was a success.
But my favourite thing about the trip... a trip to Carrefour! Man the Europeans know how to do supermarkets. Goodbye aisles and aisle of ready meals and Pot Noodles, hello fresh hams, whole aisles of olives, cheeses - heaven. Why can't we go beyond the fish counter tucked away at the back of the Sainsbury's? Sigh. I came away with some chorizo, some whole morcilla, some sliced morcilla, olive tapernade, duck paté and two bottles of Rioja... and still managed to stay within Easyjet's luggage allowance.
Some other gastro-travels:
Gorgeous baby-boutique hotel in the South of France - take a trip on Saturday to nearby Pézanas for the Saturday food market, and relaxed chic-eat L'Entre Pots (8, avenue Louis Montagne 04.67.90.00.00) and olive oil factory L'Oulibo.
Mushrooms at the market
Fresh fish and local speciality - mussel (tomato-y) tarts
At L'Oulibo - amazing oils, olives and tapenades
Michelin-starred family-owned spa hotel - who just happen to also own sparkling wine vineyard Bellavista. Visit local restaurant Dispensa Pani e Vini for modern Italian cuisine (I had the most amazing vivid green soup of basil cream and mozzerella juice with cuttlefish ink rice island topped with raw fish. Bizarre but amazing) or classic La Mongolfiera dei Sodi set in a farmhouse (the Boy had what he described as the most incredible veal fillet he ever tasted there. It was just veal, pan fried. That simply good.) Wash down with plenty, plenty Bellavista (my favourite is the Saten made with 100% Chardonnay)
Bellevista vineyard and wine
Vineyards and bottles outside Dispensa