The tinkle of ice. The scent of fresh-cut lemon and the cool, bittersweet, tongue-tickling fizz of that first sip. A perfectly seamless blend of crisp, junipery gin and thirst quenchingly zesty tonic water, it’s no wonder that Gin and Tonic is one of the most popular summertime drinks.
Certain drinks are irrevocably associated with certain cities or countries. The Singapore Sling and Manhattan are obvious. Cuba has its Daiquiri, Puerto Rico the Piña Colada. Dublin’s drink is Guinness, Rio has the Caipirinha, and for the best Gin and Tonic, you would naturally look towards… Spain?
I was more than surprised when a gin distiller friend of mine told me that Spain makes the best G&T, served in a tumbler or red-wine glass and garnished with citrus peel and fresh spices like star anise or grated nutmeg. The “Gintonic” as it is known, has apparently been the off-duty drink of choice of Spanish chefs for more than a decade now, and their infatuation has gone large with many trendy bars and restaurants offering an entire menu dedicated to gin and tonic. The British may have invented the drink, but the Spanish have elevated it to an art form.
The classic choice for a Gin and Tonic remains a London dry-style gin. This crisp, bold, junipery category includes the brands Tanqueray, Beefeater, Seagram’s, and Gordon’s, to name a famous few but with so many varieties on offer, it would be churlish not to try a few of the lesser known but more exotic brands as well. Ice, slice and a berry or two for you?
If you are reading this article as you eat your morning breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, the chances are the strawberries in your bowl are home grown right here in Spain. Andie Anderson tells us more.
The continuing growth of the strawberry sector in Huelva, Spain continues to symbolise one of the greatest successes in international agriculture in recent years. In addition to the huge economic importance of the sector, the province has singlehandedly made Spain the leader in strawberry production in Europe. With more than 95% of Spanish strawberry production coming from Huelva, this achievement would have been impossible without the dedication of the growers and organisations in Huelva.
How has this small Spanish province managed to give strawberry producers worldwide a run for their money? Without any European Union subsidies, Huelva’s farmers would proudly boast. Yet, despite the lack of EU help, Huelva is the only zone in Spain that has been declared it’s own economic zone. This has allowed them to create a series of agrarian and commercial laws (approved by the European Commission) that all growers must comply. The result has been the creation of a sector with strong economic and technological backing, in constant search of innovations and improvements.
With over 1000 strawberry varieties worldwide, nearly ninety-eight percent of the strawberries produced in Huelva come from the Camarosa variety (The Tudla, Big Bear, Cartuno, and Carisma varieties make up the remaining two percent). Farmers claim that Camarosa’s dominance is due to the idylic adaption of the Californian variety to the excellent soil and climatic conditions in Huelva. Camarosa strawberries are characteristically large, bright red in colour, have a good sheen to them, and are known for their early collection. The berry holds well, so it preserves its full red colour despite its long shelf life.
Did You Know?
* Spain is the second largest strawberry producer in the world behind the USA
* Ninety-five percent of the strawberries produced in Spain originate from the province of Huelva.
* Huelva produces approximately 300,000 tons of strawberries annually
* Fifty percent of Europe’s strawberry production comes from Huelva.
* There are approximately 93 strawberry growers in Huelva alone, 85 of which are members of Freshuelva, the main organisation assigned to promote Huelva’s strawberries worldwide.
* Nearly half of Huelva’s strawberries are exported. Generally France and Germany both import roughly thirty-three percent of Huelva’s total exports, with the UK, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Austria, and Italy making up the rest.
From China to Thailand, Japan to India, the cuisines of Asian origin are as
fascinating as they are delicious.
Let’s start with Chinese cuisine: The Chinese people enjoy eating good food at all levels of society so cooking has developed into a very sophisticated art form. There are naturally many kinds of Chinese food from North to South, East to West. Famous dishes include Peking duck, Shanghai noodles, Szechuan soup and Guangdong dumplings. Many Chinese dishes are cooked with less meat and more vegetables, so the foods contain lower calories and are less rich than Western style food. Vegetables stay bright and crisp by cooking them for a short time over high heat, either in their own juice or in a small amount of water. This method retains most of the vitamins and minerals, giving you a very healthy and enjoyable meal.
Thai cuisine: Although primarily thought of as a single cuisine, Thai food is really divided into four major regional styles that relate to the four main regions of Thailand: Northern, Northeastern, Central and Southern. For example southern curries tend to have coconut milk and fresh turmeric ingredients, while northeastern dishes like to include lime juice as an ingredient. Over the years Thai Food has incorporated properties of Chinese stir fries and Indian curries while maintaining its own unique flavours, using only fresh (not dried) herbs, spices and fish sauces. Thai food is extremely popular in many Western countries, not only because of the taste and flavours but because of the fresh healthy approach to food and the way it is prepared.
Indian cuisine: This style of cuisine has been around for at least 3000 years and of course has changed much over the years. The use of many different herbs and spices make each dish quite unique. Each different region in India is known for it’s wide selection of recipes, cooking styles and tastes. Food is such an important part of Indian culture and plays an important role in the family life. There are always a couple of main courses and they are served with different pickles, chutneys and different types of Indian bread.
Japanese cuisine: If we asked you to think of one Japanese food, what comes to your mind? Sushi probably. With Japanese restaurants and Sushi bars popping up all over the world these days, Japanese food is no longer considered as one of the world’s unsolved mysteries. With rice and abundant marine products at it’s mainstream, the traditional Japanese diet is impressively low in cholesterol, fat and calories and is high in fibre. No wonder Japanese people have a high longevity rate.
So there you have a quick round up of some of the more popular cuisines on the Asian map. We have many fantastic restaurants that feature these exciting cuisines, so I hope you will be tempted to go out and try some.
Located in the city’s historic centre, the Hammam Al Ándalus is a recently renovated monumental space that captures the essence of the old Arab baths of Al Ándalus. Its cold, warm and hot water thermal baths form part of the ritual of purification and together with steam, rest and massage rooms, make up an architectural ensemble characterised by beautiful Moorish decoration which induces relaxation of the mind and body.
Our visit to Hammam al Ándalus was to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and offered exactly the relaxing and indulgent experience we desired! We had booked their top package, ‘Al Ándalus Ritual and Bath’ which proved to be an amazing experience. On arrival, everything
we needed to know was explained to us by their professional staff. Numbers at any given time are limited to ensure each guest enjoys a feeling of peace and tranquility. As we headed on in to our stylish and luxurious dressing rooms we saw that everything was provided; towels, bath gel, hairdryers, combs all we needed were our bathing suits. We were then transported back in time as we headed into the stunning interior of Hammam Al Ándalus. As my husband was called first for his ‘Ritual’ treatment, I was able to indulge my senses as I soaked in splendour changing from pool to pool, before being called for my treatment. The ‘Ritual’ itself was both relaxing and fascinating. First being gently washed /scrubbed and then gently covered in clouds of wonderful smelling soap bubbles created by the masseuse filling a pillowcase with water and soap, shaking air into it, then squeezing the air out from top to bottom, thus producing massive clouds of scented bubbles that gently settled onto the skin. To finish the Ritual Al Ándalus, the traditional Kessa mit is used for a relaxing massage with essential oils (Amber, Rose, Lavender or Jasmine) leaving the skin baby soft. We finished off our experience with some mint tea which complemented our experience perfectly as we reflected on our beautiful experience. They even send you home with a slice of their amazing smelling soap and the Kessa mitt from your session nicely tucked into a beautiful little organza bag. With the authentic decoration, the absolutely stunning pools, steam rooms, relaxation areas, wonderful aromatic essences, the touch with the tradional Kessa, the Nazari music …all of this makes a visit to
these Arabic baths a pleasure not to be missed. Unlike most Arabic baths, Hammam Al Ándalus is mixed and welcomes both men and women as well as children older than five years of age.
It is often said that one of summer’s pleasures in Spain is eating fresh sardines, roasted on a fire in the salt air at the beach. For readers new to the art of sardines allow me to explain. The sardines are speared on skewers stuck into the sand in front of the flames and grilled until crackly. The aroma is irresistible, tantalizing. You pick them up in your fingers and eat the flesh off the bones. Accompanied by icy cold beer and chunks of fresh bread to absorb the drips, sardines make a memorable meal, to be followed by a plunge in the sea and a siesta on the warm sand.
Spanish humorist and commentator on life, Julio Camba, once wrote “with sardines, you should never eat fewer than a dozen, but watch how you eat them, where you eat them and with whom you eat them.” “Sardines”, he added, “are not to be consumed at home with the virtuous wife, but out with a shameless hussy not afraid to get her fingers greasy. People once united in eating sardines together, will never be able to mutually respect each other again, so, when you, dear reader, wish to organize a sardine feast, choose well your accomplices.”
His sentiment is because the pungent salty-smoky smell of grilled sardines clings to ones fingers, chin, moustache and clothes long after the feast is finished. During the summer sardinada, sardine festival, in La Coruña (northern
Spain), doormen at nightclubs and discos are said to spray revelers with air freshener before letting them in to eliminate the fishy smell.
Sardines, plentiful both in the south (Mediterranean) and the north (Atlantic and Bay of Biscay), are of the blue fish family, related to herring. They are a greenish-blue touched with gold, with a silvery belly. Sardines never get much bigger than 8 inches (20cm), though smaller ones are also appreciated and often preferred.
El Avalon reopens from it’s winter break on the 18th December to help you celebrate the festive season. As well as serving the ever popular Winter menu Kevin cooks up a storm in the kitchen producing some fantastic Christmas specials. Christmas Eve lunch, Christmas Day lunch and dinner and Boxing Day lunch and dinner are always popular. El Avalon is open all day, everyday throughout the festive season for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. Enjoy Kevin’s home-made, traditional festive food and the creative, international menus prepared by Kevin and his experienced kitchen team
If the weather is warm, relax outside on the stunning terrace with it’s panoramic views of the beach, the sea, the mountains and Nerja in the distance. Of course being the winter season we can expect a chill in the air at the very least, so the cosy restaurant with it’s huge open fire and beautiful Christmas decorations provide a wonderful place to enjoy time with friends, families and loved ones.
The bar at El Avalon is open all day from 9 am and you are welcome to pop in for a coffee or a drink and enjoy the relaxing ambience. Private parties, business lunches and festive gatherings of all kinds with bespoke menu’s to suit are all possible at El Avalon, call or email Alix to discuss your requirements.
New Years Eve is always a fabulous event at El Avalon with a luxurious dinner followed by grapes and cava at midnight. Numbers are limited, so if you are interested in seeing in the New Year at El Avalon please make your enquiries at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid disappointment.
Alix is an avid ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fan and is planning a special evening for the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ final – to be shown on a large screen TV. Fun and games are planned with drinks and lovely nibbles prepared by Kevin. Dress code is strictly sparkley. Numbers are limited so if you are interested in finding out more please do give Alix a call.
El Avalon also offers six light and spacious bedrooms with full en-suite facilities for those who would like to stay overnight or even for a short break. If you have visitors coming during the festive season El Avalon is a lovely option for your guests.
Greetings to all of you. My name is Peter Wallbridge and over the coming months I’m going to tell you a little bit about the fantastic wines available to you from your great local wine shops. But first, to introduce myself…
I have a Bsc (Hons) Oenology & Viticulture (Winemaking and Grapegrowing to you and I) and have been making wine in France, Australia, the UK and of course Spain – both La Rioja and Malaga. Last year I had a thesis published in the American Journal of Enology & Viticulture but now am looking to start writing in a more informal manner. So enough about me and onto the important stuff…vino! Read More…