The cooking of Spain, noted for its uncommonly appealing flavors and the exceptional quality of its produce, has long been a source of pride to Spaniards. The foods of Spain are not hot and spicy as some imagine them to be, but closely linked to robust Mediterranean flavors based on olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, grains and fish -all recognized today as important elements of a healthy diet. In its own inimitable style Spain combines these ingredients into simple but exceptionally tasty dishes.
Each of Spain's political regions is also a gastronomically distinct entity. For the most gratifying dining experiences, the traveler in Spain should seek out the specialties of each region: exquisite fish dishes all along the country's extensive coastline (and also in Madrid, which features the very best seafood from all of Spain's coasts); magnificent roast lamb, suckling pig, game, bean dishes and sausage products in central Castile; and rice dishes -most especially paella- in the southeastern regions of Valencia and Murcia.
Hearty traditional fare often shares menus with creative new wave cooking by some of the world's most acclaimed chefs. Indeed, outstanding restaurants have proliferated in recent years, and you will find fine eating in the most deluxe restaurants as well as in humble inns and taverns.
Not to be missed are Spain's tapas, appetizer foods that are offered before lunch and again before dinner in thousands of bars and taverns across the country. Tapas come in endless varieties and provide the opportunity to "graze" in casual and spirited surroundings and to feel the pulse of the country. Eating tapas style is an exciting way to sate hunger between meals or a splendid alternative to a traditional full course meal.
The wines of Spain, quintessentially Spanish in their taste, are the ideal accompaniment to Spanish foods, and wine experts agree that Spain is producing some of the world's finest and most exciting wines today. Wine making in Spain is a 3,000 year-old tradition, although production of quality wines is a much more recent development that began at the end of the last century. The variety of Spanish wines is also remarkable, running the gamut from dry sherry and sparkling cavas, to distinctive table wines, dessert wines, sweet sherries, brandies and liqueurs. Spanish wines, although appropriate with any kind of cuisine, compliment the foods of each region of Spain like no others.
Food and wine should be an integral part of every travel experience. By seeking out all the best that Spain has to offer, travelers will enjoy Spain to the fullest.