(A rich and creamy rabo de toro croqueta at La Milagrosa, Plaza de la Alhóndiga)
After what seemed like the longest winter ever, Granada has been a lot sunnier lately. Yay! Note I say ‘sunnier‘ and not ‘sunny’ as the weather still hasn’t fully committed. Two days ago I was scantily clad in 28-degree heat, while today it’s raining, and I have the lights on. I have faith though, I feel like we’re almost there!
Last week’s glorious sunshine reminded me just how much I love this time of year. I mean, who doesn’t? Longer evenings, the warmth of the sun on your skin, an excuse to get ice cream several times a week, the fresh scents of spring…and the excited feeling of simply wanting to be outside, where seemingly everyone else is, all the time. Speaking of everyone being out and about, to-ing and fro-ing, walking tours are very much back in the swing of things. Granada is the perfect size for walking, and what better way to get to know it than meandering the streets, tasting tapas and enjoying the sunshine (even if you have to pack an umbrella for the odd shower.)
I recently attended one of the newest Granada tours, Spain Food Sherpas Taste of Granada Food Tour. This newcomer is unique because it’s more than just walking and tapas. You get a chance to experience Granada as the locals do, visiting some of the small businesses and producers and veering off the beaten track.
The tour is led by Molly, a native English speaker who fell in love with Granada and has been living here for over 10 years. Molly speaks Spanish fluently so you get the best of both worlds, and since she’s been living in Granada so long, she can recommend plenty of great spots.
We met outside the Isabel La Católica theatre, right in the centre of the city close to Puerta Real. Our first stop was Ibérica, a tiny shop specialising in wines, cheeses, conserves and ham. Ivan, Ibéica’s expert jamón slicer along with Molly gave us a rundown of the different kinds of jamón. We then tried different types, including the famous Trevélez ham from right here in Andalusia (Trevélez is the highest village in mainland Spain) and of course the king of all Spanish ham, jamón ibérico de bellota, the delicious ham from free-range black Iberian pigs that eat acorns exclusively. Bellota (acorns) add such an incredible flavour to the meat. We each had a small cup of manzanilla to enjoy with the ham, something I don’t normally like, but they really went well together. So my opinion has changed slightly on the manzanilla front. Or maybe it was just that particular brand, Zuleta.
We then moved a few doors down to Abuela Ili, an artisanal chocolate shop from the Alpujarra region. The flavours are so creative, and we were invited to try as many as we liked. My favourites were white chocolate and lime, strawberry chocolate and of course their incredible chocolate covered figs. Their chocolate is unique with all sorted of flavour combinations and very well priced. A nice gift to bring home to remember Granada. Which reminds me to make a note to go back and buy a box of the chocolate covered figs. They really are that good.
After Abuela Ili we headed toward Plaza Bib Rambla, stopping at a shop on Calle Salamanca; Andalucía Delicatessen. I pass along this street all the time and couldn’t believe I never noticed it. Shame on me! These are the reasons why a tour focusing on local producers and traders is great, I’ve since revisited this store and it’s a gem – a treasure trove of local olive oils, cheeses, chutneys, wines, cava, liqueurs, beers, sweets and a very good find, hot sauce from the Sierra Nevada. It can be difficult to find spicy stuff in Spain, the majority don’t seem to have a taste for it!We walked through Bib Rambla and onto Plaza Pescadería, the old fish market now occupied by bars and restaurants that are always a hive of activity. We turned the corner to pass by the cathedral (my favourite building in the city) and around to Plaza de la Trindad to pay a visit to Oliver, one of the oldest stores in all of Spain, in business since 1850.
The Spanish love to snack on dried fruits and nuts, you’ll see signs for frutos secos anywhere you turn. Oliver caters to the locals with all sorts of treats (including a selection of wines!) and source nuts from all over the world. They toast them, salt them, caramelise them, or simply serve them as they are. We tried a few and I was surprised at the texture and how sweet some of them were, it’s amazing how different they can taste when they’re this fresh and not purchased in the supermarket. One of the girls on the tour purchased Oliver’s most popular product, peanuts from America that they roast and salt themselves. She purchased 100g for 75 cent so prices are very reasonable too.
Another local business we passed, Espartería San José. This shop sells wooden plates, spoons, bowls and plenty of other wooden accessories from olive wood, locally sourced of course. They also sell beautiful wicker chairs and baskets.
We then stopped by La Milagrosa, a restaurant and tapas bar on Plaza Alhóndiga. It’s a quirky little spot with a modern take on a lot of classic dishes. The reason La Milagrosa is on the tour is because they won the best tapa of Granada in 2017. Again, something I didn’t know before the tour. We sat in a cosy little corner by the open kitchen and ordered a drink (I went with cava, no surprise there) and soon after, our first tapa was served. The most delicious rabo de toro (oxtail) croqueta. Crisp batter and rich tender oxtail. We then enjoyed their winning tapa (which isn’t on the menu anymore, it’s made especially for Spain Food Sherpas) slow cooked lamb, cream cheese and tomato on an almost prawn cracker-like base. Good quality food, nice atmosphere and friendly staff.
The last stop on the tour was Los Manueles, a very popular restaurant among Granadinos. I really liked that every stop on the tour was to experience the city as the locals do, not what’s suggested for tourists in guidebooks. The last stop of the tour is always a restaurant with traditional dishes but the destination can change. It could be Los Manueles, Chikito or another choice, but rest assured it will always be a local favourite.
We shared raciones (larger plates than tapas) of berenjenas fritas con miel de caña (fried aubergine with molasses) a hugely popular dish in Andalusia, especially in Granada and Córdoba. They’re crispy, salty and sweet; I really love the texture. Los Manueles serve spectacular berenjenas fritas! We also shared habitas con jamón (broad beans with ham) a simple but delicious dish originating right here in Granada. We enjoyed a glass of wine with our meal and it was very pleasant, simple really is often the best.
We ended the tour on a sweet note, with the ever-popular Granada pastry, the pionono, an addictive sponge cake with cinnamon that many of the local bakeries and coffee shops sell. The meaning of the name ‘pionono’ is 9th Pope. It was created in the 1800s in honour of the pope paying a visit to Granada.
Spain Food Sherpas Granada Food Tour opened my eyes to a lot of places that I never came across on my own, and I really enjoyed learning things about my adopted city that I never knew before. After the tour, I felt far more confident approaching local shops and businesses to continue enjoying the best of what Granada offers.
The tour lasts about 3 and a half hours, costing €65 per adult and €35 per child which includes all food and drinks. If you have any food intolerances or allergies, Spain Food Sherpas will accommodate you.
Won’t get a chance to visit Granada but will be around Málaga? There’s a food tour there too!
Spain Food Sherpas Granada, click here.
Spain Food Sherpas Malaga, click here.
Disclosure: I was a guest on the Spain Food Granada tour on this occasion. However and as always, all opinions are my own!