In the first episode of From Spain With Love, host Annie Sibonney visits the Basque Country, a fiercely independent region with more cooks per capita than anywhere else in the world and its own style of uniquely inventive cuisine that put Spain on the culinary map. Annie breaks through barriers at a men's only Gastronomic society, indulges in her favorite Basque dish, cod kokotaxas, prepared by Basque chef Andoni; enjoys a Basque-style tapas crawl; and cooks alongside the "godfather" of modern Basque cuisine, chef Juan Mari Arzak, whose reinvention of traditional Basque cooking revolutionized the culinary world in the '70s and '80s.
There's no dish more symbolic of Spain than paella, a saffron-flavored rice dish with meat or seafood. In this episode, Annie explores all aspects of this Sunday lunch dish that is cooked and served in one pan and is traditionally made by the man of the house. Annie travels to Valencia, Alicante and Barcelona to eat every type of paella she can get her hands on, including rabbit, pasta and seafood varieties; visits a family in La Mancha to pick saffron; visits the "Queen of Saffron," chef Maria José San Román, at her restaurant in Alicante; and ends her journey in the style-driven city of Barcelona, where everything - including paella - is done with a twist.
In this episode, Annie and her friends savor Madrid's nightlife as they drink, dance and dine until dawn. Annie starts her evening "food hop" with drinks and tapas at the historic Mercado San Miguel in the heart of downtown Madrid; enjoys the local "street meat" of Madrid: fried calamari sandwiches; and savors a fantastic multi-course dinner at El Fogon de Trifon, where the doors don't even open until midnight. Finally, no evening in Madrid is complete without an early morning treat of hot chocolate and churros, the traditional Spanish fried donut.
In Spain, the preservation of food - through canning, salt curing, drying and smoking - is practically a national obsession. In this episode, Annie feasts on the finest range of locally-sourced conservas (canned food) to be found in Spain at the pint-sized taberna Quimet y Quimet in Barcelona; prepares traditional dried salted cod (bacalao) with legendary aficionado Don Emilio Alberdi in Bilbao; explores a range of meat smoking techniques at a renowned smoking facility in Catalonia; and prepares chicken and vegetables in the traditional vinegar-preserved escabeche style.
If you don't love seafood, you're simply not Spanish. This episode brings audiences closer to the seafood of Spain than they've ever been before as Annie helps the female clam diggers of Galicia gather all they can before the tides come in; risks dangerous surf and treacherous rocks off of Spain's aptly-named "coast of death" in search of percebes (goose barnacles), a Spanish delicacy; enjoys a Galician-style octopus party on the beach; and works alongside innovative chef Marcelo Tejedor to cook up local seafood in his restaurant kitchen in Santiago de Compostela, including seaweed risotto and lobster cappuccino.
The Spanish have been passionate about chocolate since the Conquistadors first brought cacao back from South America over 500 years ago. The Spanish like to start and end their day with chocolate, and so will Annie in this sweet and sexy episode. Annie wakes up with chocolate in a cup in Madrid before moving on to Spain's chocolate capital, Barcelona, where chocolate is an art form. There, she visits the showroom of the Willy Wonka of Barcelona - avant-garde chocolatero Cristian Escriba - who transforms chocolate into surreal art. Annie also meets the well-loved Mama Montse Roca at her traditional tavern in Girona to help cook up a savory Catalonian dish of snails and crab with chocolate, then on to the high-end restaurant run by Mama Roca's three sons for more chocolate inspired dishes and a fantasy chocolate dessert.
Annie takes viewers on a whirlwind eating tour of Barcelona, fitting in all the meals of the day, and then some. Annie has breakfast with Barcelona's most popular barkeep, Juanito Bayen, who mans Pinotxo, the oldest and tiniest tapas bar in the bustling Boqueria market; moves on to lunch with chef Jordi Artal at his contemporary Catalan restaurant, Cinc Sentits; explores the designer boutiques of the city's Born district; and ends the day with dinner at legendary seafood restaurant Suquet de L'Almierall in the old port area of the city. And, because there aren't enough meals in the day for most Spaniards, she crams in an "in-between meal" at one of the most popular tapas bars in Barcelona.
In this fiery episode, Annie explores the many ways the Spanish cook meat, fish - and even ice cream - over fire, using wood, coal and even grapevines. Annie visits a busy grill house in the northern Asturias region to help cook Spanish-style steak, chuletas; treks through vineyards in the wine region of Rioja with renowned young winemaker Alvaro Palacios to collect grapevine cuttings for vine-roasted lamb; and joins extreme grillmaster Victor Arguinzoniz at his Basque restaurant for innovative dishes including grilled caviar, grilled baby eels and smoked ice cream. In the northern region of Galicia, Annie and chef Marcelo Tejedor raise a toast to fire with queimada, a 40-proof alcohol spiced with coffee and citrus peels that is set afire in a pot.
Annie explores the cultural and culinary crossroads of Granada, a city where ancient civilizations have left their marks on the food to this day. Annie explores the historic Albaicin Arab quarter of the city and cooks traditional Moroccan dishes including a festive lamb and vegetable cous cous and tagine of chicken with olives and preserved lemon; enjoys pomegranate salad and other classic Granadian dishes at the Mirador de Morayama, one of the most romantic destinations in the entire city; and makes a pilgramage to one of the best seafood tapas bars in southern Spain, BAR FM, where the house specialty is dried octopus (pulpo seco), prepared using an air-drying technique used by the Romans and Phoenicians that dates back to 300 BC.
Spain produces and distributes more olive oil than any other place in the world, including Italy. In this episode, Annie hooks up with a range of experts who demonstrate the versatility of olive oil. Annie travels to Jaen, Spain's olive capital in southern Spain, where she visits one of the most respected olive oil farms in the world run by the Vano family, who press their own oil on site and produce the Castillo de Canena brand; meets with Maria Carmen Velez, a self-taught cook and alioli expert (a Spanish garlic and olive oil mayonnaise-type sauce) at her restaurant in the small inland town of Petrer; and prepares olive oil chocolates with master chocolate artisan Paco Torreblanca, including chocolate oysters with pearl and chocolate caviar.
Sangria, flamenco, bullfighting and beautiful beaches; welcome to the south of Spain! In this episode, Annie explores the classic food, drink and culture of southern Spain including preparing traditional gazpacho and experiencing a flamenco performance in Seville; enjoying Andalusian-style fried seafood; learning about the centuries-old solera cask blending system at the Emilio Lustau sherry winery in Jerez; visiting the fishing boats of Sanlucar de Barameda's Bajo de Guja beach; and visiting the famous Casa Bigote beachfront seafood restaurant run by the Hermoso brothers since 1951.
Tapas is more than a type of food in Spain - it's a lifestyle. With tapas comes etiquette and protocol, but "no te preocupes" - don't worry. In this episode, Annie explores the range of tapas enjoyed in Spain and tells viewers everything they need to know about the art of eating standing up. Annie starts with a tapas tour in Sevilla, where these small plates were born and there are now more than 4000 tapas bars; enjoys the pre-dinner ritual of a txikiteo tapas bar crawl through the medieval cobblestone streets of San Sebastian; leaves the hustle and bustle of Spain's cities behind to enjoy simple, traditional tapas in Logrono, a charming town in Spain's Rioja region; and visits TapaÇ24, a hip, cavernous bar in Barcelona's L'Eixample district, where rock star chef Carles Abellan serves up an avant-garde twist on tapas.
Since the time of the Inquisition, what started off in Spain as "mandatory" pork consumption (under the threat of death) has evolved into a true passion. From the oak forests of Extremadura to the bistros of Barcelona, Annie discovers that there are more than a hundred ways to cook a pig. In this episode, Annie spots black-hoofed Iberico pigs gorging on acorns among the oak trees of the Dehesa forest; prepares chorizo sausages and ham at a traditional matanza pig festival; feasts on the traditional Castilian delicacy of roast suckling pig in the medieval city of Segovia; and visits Els Tres Poquets - The Three Little Pigs - a restaurant that specializes in Iberian pork products and dishes.