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Spanish Food and Drink

{Guest post – Gwyneth Graham}


Pinxtos Tapas

This post is written by Gwyneth Graham. Gwyneth and I worked in the same office together for a number of years. I eagerly followed her travels and looked forward to hearing about her experiences when she returned. While she is away Gwyneth dives in and explores the local food of the country. It is always the part of her trip that she recounts with the most pleasure. I am more than a little envious of her adventures, and also full of admiration as she often travels alone.

Please make Gwyneth feel welcome here as she shares some of her food and drink highlights from a recent trip to Spain.

Many tourists come back from Spain disappointed about the food, having gone to tourist restaurants. On a recent trip to Barcelona and Madrid I was keen to experience the famous Spanish food and drink as the locals do. Eating in Spain is a late night thing, which is a bit harder when you are traveling alone as I was. I decided to get some help from the experts and chose an Intrepid Tapas Tour in Barcelona and an Adventurous Appetites Tapas Tour in Madrid.

Spanish Tapas Culture

In Spain socializing, eating and drinking go together – and it all happens much later than in Australia. In Barcelona, according to my guide Enrico, people meet over tapas from about 7pm to about 9pm before moving onto restaurants or back home to their families.

In Madrid the tour didn’t start until 8 pm and we ate and drank until midnight – and beyond! Our guide in Madrid, James, said that tapas is all about meeting friends, having a drink and something to eat at one bar and then moving on, maybe to meet other people or maybe taking your friends with you, ready to try a different place. All ages join in, filling up the squares and bars.

Catalan Barcelona

Tapas Bar

In Barcelona the locals are fierce about their identity as Catalans – culture, history and language. As we walked away from the crowded tourists streets of Las Ramblas and the Barri Gotic into the Raval area we saw many Catalan flags hung from the windows, and not a tourist in sight.


  • Delicious fried eggplant chips, tasting of salt, honey and cinnamon in a local square
  • Pinxtos tapas bar hopping along a strolling mall
    • Anchovy on a mix of soft cooked peppers
    • Fried eggplant with a round of soft cheese
    • Prawn on a mixture of egg and mayonnaise with a dollop of black caviar
    • Sweet cheese with blueberries


    • Drinking fresh tasting white wine, dry cider or cava (a Spanish dry sparkling also popular at breakfast bars)

Pinxtos Tapas

Originating from the Basque region, this is a tapas of baguette with various toppings, held together by long toothpicks. Pinxtos tapas is popular and cheap in Barcelona bars.  Some say that is was invented to stop flies getting into your drinks – the bread was placed on top of the glass. Another story tells of a King who thought that people were getting drunk too often and needed to eat while they were drinking and so he mandated that bread and topping were to be served with drinks.

Pinxtos are spread out across the counter for you to choose from. It is a warm, welcoming sight to walk into a bar and see the counter covered with many plates of colorful tapas with a forest of vertical sticks. They are all the same price and payment is by toothpick when you have finished.

Spanish Madrid

In Madrid we explored the crowded local bars in the La Latina area – with small plates of food being passed around to accompany a drink. No Pintxos in these bars. The guide, James, brought us the specialties of each place. We tasted an interesting variety of food and drink.


  • A cold salad of cod, cooked in milk a couple of times and served on top of a mound of very soft sweet caramelized onions, courgettes and aubergines
  • Little pots of chick peas and tripe in a spicy sauce
  • Cold soft cooked pimentos, salty and spicy
  • Pieces of classic potato tortilla
  • Jarmon (cured ham)

Spain is famous for Jamon and our tour included a Jamon Emporium whose walls hung with large hams of different quality grades. Similar to the bars, small plates of Jamon were offered with drinks. The red wine spritzer was a great accompaniment.  The Emporium is recommended as a good, and popular breakfast option – much cheaper and more authentic than most hotel breakfasts.



  • Dry Spanish cider that was only slightly effervescent. The cider was poured from a great height creating some theater and also aerating the cider. It was very different to the popular sweet cider in Melbourne.
  • Refreshing red wine spritzers (1/2 red wine and soda, ice and lemon)
  • Great red wine from the La Ribera region – complex and spicy. The Spanish label their wine quite differently from Australia. The region, and sometimes the vineyard, take pride of place on the front of the bottle. The grape variety is often in small writing on the back. 

As a hungry and tired tourist I often relied on evening tapas as it was available earlier than the restaurant meals and was easy for a solo traveler. The tapas tours were a great way to experience the local lively bar atmosphere and eat really good food.

In Spain it seems like every night is a night out. The Spanish and Catalans must be made of stronger stuff than me – I don’t know how they get up to work the next day after a night of bar hopping!

Gwyneth Graham

Gwyneth has traveled throughout Asia and Europe, always with a strong interest in the local food – markets, food shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. She is enjoys experiencing the culture of a country through its food; the way people buy and cook food, eat and drink, giving interesting insight into local life.

After hearing about Gwyneth’s food adventure in Spain it is now on my list. Italy ignited a strong desire to travel and see more of the world and it’s food. The fried eggplant chips with salt, honey and cinnamon are at the top of my recipe testing list for Summer when my eggplants are flourishing.

Have you experienced the food and drink of Spain? Is it on your bucket list also?

* All photographs in this post are Copyright to Gwyneth Graham and reproduced here with her permission. If you wish to contact Gwyneth you can do so via emailing me.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • gillian vance September 5, 2013, 1:46 pm

    I am planning a holiday in Spain and Portugal with my tow adult daughters next June. We live spread out around the world and meet up somewhere special every couple of years.

    • Kyrstie Barcak September 9, 2013, 8:10 am

      That sounds really wonderful Gillian. I am sure that you will have a beautiful holiday and get together. It is a lovely way to plan a get-together.

  • Krista September 5, 2013, 3:09 pm

    I have never been to Spain but am aching to. 🙂 I lived in Portugal as a nanny and was SO CLOSE but never made it. One day I will and shall eat my way through Spain. 🙂

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