Santander to Andalusia
We are heading to Spain in late September and will be driving down from Santander to Andalusia. I would be grateful for recommendations and advice on where to eat.
We like good quality authentic food. Great food to us is the combination of quality ingredients, good/passionate execution and a atmospheric environment. So we can be very happy in a 3 star Michelin or sitting on a beach with BBQ'd fish.
We will be staying in:
Arcos de la frontera
We already have San Sebastian (Mugaritz) and Seville (La Aqueria) booked so would be interested in any suggestions for the other towns. As we are in Seville for two nights are there any other recommendations?
Segovia is known for its cochinillo (roast suckling pig). The two famous places, IIRC, are El Duque and Candido. One is right under the Aqueduct. Don't miss eating this.
There's a small bar in Seville called Meson 5J, that serves really high quality jamon iberico de bellota. It's a small bar, not a dinner place, but the ham is worth stopping for. You can get it elsewhere, though. It's near the main tapas area, on the other side of the river.
I'm probably biased, but I think the best food in Spain is in Asturias and Cantabria.
While you're in Santander and San Sabastian, eat all you possibly can, especially if it comes from the sea. In particular, I love rabas, a fried calamari/squid thing but better than any I've ever had anywhere. Eerily good with a glass of calimocho.
Consider driving south through the Picos de Europa. In Asturias, the thing that must be eaten is fabada. A bean, chorizo, blood sausage, and pork stew that you will remember for the rest of your life. Cross the border into Cantabria and there's no more fabada but in the mountains there's the somewhat similar Cocido Montañés which throws in pork ribs and cabbage. There is no shortage of restaurants serving these in the respective provinces and everyone claims theirs is the best. They're probably right.
And the cheese! Cabrales and picon in particular are astounding. If you're feeling unadventurous you can pick up some good stuff from any supermarket. But a shop in a small mountain village selling whatever they make locally is going to be an entirely different experience. The one I can think of with the least chance of getting lost is in the town of Potes. Head south from Llanes on the coast (on N-621 if google maps is correct). There's a little row of shops in what passes for the center of town. One of them sells local cheese and cider. A bottle or two of cider, some cheese and bread, sitting near the bridge is a pretty great meal. There are a couple of places to stay in town in case you overenjoy the cider like I tend to.
On the way from San Sebas to Segovia, you'll be going through roast lamb country. Maybe you could do a stop in Sepúlveda, Roa, Quintadueñas, or another little Castilian town.
If you are going to be around Zahara de los Atunes, you might want to to go to Barbate, the next town over to check out El Campero. It's something of a temple for all things related to tuna, though their other seafood dishes are great, too (we loved the ortiguillas--fried sea anemones). The town itself isn't much to look at given that it is a very industrial fishing port--so stay in Zahara or elsewhere--but the nearby beaches between Caños de Meca and Barbate are really beautiful. Also pick up some of the smoked tuna and mojama that is a specialty of the area. Bolonia beach is also really beautiful--though the town is nothing at all--there you can see the ruins of a Roman fish sauce factory and hike around on the giant dune overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar at one of its narrowest points.
On the drive from Seville to Salamanca, you'll be going through ham country. Check out all of the other dishes and tapas that make use of cerdo ibérico.
You're in luck in what you look for in a restaurant in Spain. I believe that since Spanish people love and appreciate good food, and demand it from any restaurant, what you get is the absolute best you can expect for your money. Be it a lunch menu at a sleazy looking bar for 7 euros or an incredibly expensive meal at a beautiful restaurant, you won't be disappointed. When you're at the 7 euro place, order any of the legumes--lentils with sausage, white beans, garbanzos, etc. Going upmarket, as others have mentioned, roast suckling pig and anything with lamb shouldn't be missed. Any of the pork products here are fantastic as is the chicken.