I’ve been recently been doing a series of posts based on wonderful food tours whilst travelling as well as creating your own. To add to the collection of food tours I’ve been on around the world, I recently arrange a birthday trip to Valencia to celebrate my 30th. With the grand total of 14 adults and 4 children under 3 years, I couldn’t think of a better way then explore the city and it’s food together on a food tour.
I booked the tour through Urban Adventures, and Lenny our local specialist was great at planning and communicating with such a large group with different requirements. The plan was to visit the many food markets of Valencia and see how they vary on offerings and sampling treats along the way.
We met her at beautiful ceramic clad, Mercado Colón, for a typical Valencian breakfast of Horchata de Chufa with fartón. The horchata is made by soaking the crushed tiger nuts to make a lighter sweet drink, similar to soya milk but with a cleaner smoother taste. Dunking the fartón, a pastry baked but coated in a crisp sugar glaze, in the horchata to put a skip in your step. The Mercado was converted from a food market to a centre of bars, cafes and high-end restaurants when the residential area became more affluent and didn’t need a market to buy their food from when they had cooks to do that for them.
We then headed to Mercado Central, Valencia’s most famous public food market. Domed ceiling and full of every possible food item you could ever want, in such glorious quality and freshness, including live eels. Firstly, we stopped at a spice stall to learn all about Spanish saffron and pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika). Pillars of paprika and vials of precious saffron, the key to any good paella. We learnt about the grading as well as the care needed when harvesting the valuable spice.
Our second stop in the mercado was a Jamón and local cheese stalls with a glass of red wine. I love the buttery meaty wafers of the Iberico ham, spicy oily chorizo and the sharp salty manchego cheese, with a full-bodied red wine. Of course, we took the opportunity to pose with the hams legs. The only regret of the holiday was that I didn’t take a big enough suitcase to bring a leg home to enjoy! The differences between the minimal aged hams to the Iberico, acorn-fed ham was so noticeable. Nutty and buttery, with the quality and the care taken to produce the ham just shone through.
The next stop on our foodie adventure, was a small artisan chocolate shop, Trufas Martinez. Founded in 1931 and making fresh truffles and Cubanitos Martinez, which we tried. A wafer tube with a creamy nutty filling, coated in a thin dark rich chocolate. Sold in tins like cigars, I challenge you to eat just one of these rich beauties. Of course, I had to try their fresh truffles too. Apparently, If you buy them to take home they will check how long your flight is home, too long and they won’t sell them to you to preserve the quality of the truffle. I ate mine on the doorstep of the shop. I wasn’t going to take mine too far in the hot Valencian weather.
The final stop on our tour was at Mercado de Ruzafa, a neighbourhood market, where we had a tasting of two local extra virgin olive oils, two olive patés, a marmalada de pimiento (red bell pepper jam) and a glass of crisp Valencian white wine. We tried different pressings of the olive oil and compared the flavour profiles as well as the salty punchy tapenade. The jam made from red peppers were a great balance of tart and sweetness that would be a great addition to any cheese board.
As ever I would recommend a food tour whilst travelling, as introduces you to new flavours, different areas of the city, history and culture that you might not have experienced when researching and exploring by yourself. Lenny was an absolute star and even arranged a surprise birthday cake for our paella lunch after the tour.
It also showed to me the varying tours you can go on, you can’t compare fairly say a tour from Rome to Istanbul to New York to Madeira, as the food and settings will be so different, which I love that you don’t know what kind of experience you’ll get. Just that you need to experience them whilst travelling.
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