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Alicante and surrounding area's


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Alicante hasn't been mentioned here very often. Vserna posted this in February in a thread about regional food in Spain.

"The retired/unretired Joël Robuchon has had an apartment for years on the Alicante coast. He once told me that he craved as much 'conejo al ajillo', rabbit sautéed with garlic, in the Alicante hills he often crosses on car and on foot, as the refined modern stuff at Moraira's La Sort restaurant, whose chef, Josep Moll, is a Robuchon protégé."

Here's the web site for La Sort. It's in five languages including Spanish, Valenciano and English. As always, I'd urge trying Spanish if you can understand enough Spanish. Valenciano is, if I recall correctly, a dialect of Catalan.

If Moll is a protégé of Robuchon, and worth a mention by vserna, I'd give it a try. I see that La Sort doesn't rate a star in the Michelin Guía Roja, but La Seu gets one star. It and La Sort are in Moraira -- 75 kilometers up the coast from the city of Alicante. Girasol is a mile outside of Moraira and rates two stars along with red forks and spoons for it's refined elegance, impeccable service and wine cellar. Generally speaking I find Michelin reliable when it comes to little restaurants as well as the starred ones, but it's not necessarily the last word. Ask around when you get there. I am leery of recommendations by hotel people and others in the tourist industry, not so much because they may get a referral fee, but because they're used to satisfying the tourist taste.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice area to visit, and one where Americans don't go much; OTOH, to northern Europeans Alicante is like Florida or possibly Arizona, so you'll find a huge bunch of Germans, Swiss, Dutchmen or Britons who have vacation homes there and often live in them permanently after retirement. The coastal region is somewhat stark and semi-desert-like, but this has a counterpart – that it’s almost always sunny, of course, and also the very balmy winters. Look at a map: Alicante is closer to Algiers than to Madrid!

But don't let the barren, often grandiose landscapes fool you into believing you’re in the middle of some gastronomic Kalahari: there's much of culinary interest here, plus some very interesting wines. (And some unexpected greenery inland and also in places like Elche, which has Europe's largest palm grove.) Of the three Valencian provinces which cover a large swathe of eastern Spain’s Mediterranean coast, Alicante is the southernmost and also – IMHO – the one where the great regional dish, paella, is done best in a larger number of restaurants.

There are somewhere below in this part of eGullet some rather peculiar threads in which all sorts of patronizing opinions were cast about that supposedly technique-less dish, paella. Well, some people have no idea. Paella is pretty devilish as traditional dishes go, and indeed it’s usually dreadfully done in most restaurants, not just outside Spain, but also here. Alicante will give you a few chances to taste the real thing.

There are indeed legendary paella cooks in Spain (contrary to what was stated in the aforementioned threads...), headed by Paco Gandía and his wife Josefa of Pinoso, which is inland from Alicante. Casa Paco is revered by paella lovers for delivering the goods. This means short.grain Calasparra rice, extended over a very wide iron paella (which simply means ‘skillet’) in which chunks of rabbit and small snails called ‘vaquetes’ (which feed on thyme and impart a tangy herby taste) have been sautéed in olive oil. The rice is spread extremely thin: the layer will be no more than a third of an inch thick when the dish is cooked (and it must be cooked over an open fire of vine cuttings, which impart a decisive part of the flavor). So a correct paella for two, done in the basic inland style which reigns in Pinoso,l demands a very large skillet (something like 18 inches across) and takes up a lot of space in the kitchen, more so when they’re cooking 20 paellas simultaneously!

Paella is a fried rice dish, not a soupy rice dish like risotto, and therefore is absolutely different in that the grain must be dry and firm, somewhat al dente – the exact ‘punto’, as we say in Spain, is achieved off the fire and determined with an eagle’s eye by the truly good paella chefs.

Segismundo Amorós is No. 2 among paella stars in Spain. He’s had the good idea to open branches in several towns and cities (including Madrid), and there’s one of them, Mi Casa, near Alicante’s San Juan beach.

But there are many other good addresses for the many styles of Alicante paella, including (in the capital) Nou Manolín and Piripi (their signature paella: ‘verduras y magro’, i.e. vegetables and pork loin). Of the several seafood paellas, Alicante is most proud of ‘arròs a banda’, in which the fish- and shellfish-infused rice is eaten alone, with just a few tiny bits of calamari and tiny shrimp; in the old times, the fish was eaten separately, with some ‘all i oli’, but this is infrequent now. It’s very good at La Sirena (Petrer/Elda), and paella with shrimp is also a strong point of Estanquet (Elche).

The inventive, highly personal cooking styles that have now flourished around Spain are also well represented in the area. Make a note of these names: El Poblet (Denia), Casa Pepa (Ondara), Monastrell and Mastral (Alicante), and the foursome in Moraira, a pinetree-shaded resort that is one of the most pleasurable places on this coast because it lacks the oppressive high-rise development of such places as Benidorm: Girasol, La Seu, La Sort and the French-managed Le Dauphin. Girasol, with two Michelin stars, is the most celebrated restaurant in southeastern Spain, and it’s very fine indeed, but I tend to find a bit of academic predictability in Joachim Koerper’s cooking – a relatively frequent trait of modern German chefs. By the way, all of them save perhaps Girasol serve their own, excellent albeit sometimes quite modern, versions of paella.

Valencianos need rice like Italians need pasta.

You’ll see many coast-side vineyards in the Marina Alta area near Jávea and Moraira. This is the land of muscat (moscatel), and Gutiérrez de la Vega makes some of the world’s best sweet versions (Casta Diva Cosecha Miel and Casta Diva La Diva). The Bocopa co-op makes an inexpensive, very tasty dry version, Marina Alta – very good with a seafood paella! The best area for red wines in Alicante, instead, is in the harsher, more continental climate of Villena, on the Castilian plateau. That’s where the excellent Enrique Mendoza reds are harvested.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Go to Ca'Sento definitely. And if you can get to Francisco Torreblanca pasteleria he makes the best chocolates in Spain. We use his chocolates in Martin and they are phenomenal. I would also try and go to El Poblet. Valencia and Alicante are fantastic places to eat and as I said for pastry there is none better than Torreblanco, equal but not better.

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  • 3 weeks later...

El Campello is just six miles from Alicante proper, so it doesn't make much of a difference. A good little restaurant nearby: Albatros, at Sant Joan d'Alacant. (Just off the N-332 road as you drive down to Alicante.)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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  • 7 months later...

My sweetie surprised me this morning with a long weekend in Alicante Spain for my 40th, we leave in the morning.

Any recommendations as to where and what we should eat,see, buy or do...

It's a short time, so I would love to here from people with great ideas or experiences they had there.

Thank You in advance!

Cheers!

Renee

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Let us know what you find. I'll be passing through Alicante and staying for one night towards the end of the month. My sights are set for Casa Paco, which is out in Villena. [edit This is misleading and, in fact, we made the mistake of heading for Villena. Casa Paco is in Pinoso, which may be closer to Murcia than to Villena and Villena is certainly not on the way to Pinosa from either Murcia or Alicante.]

While looking for an appropriate post on Casa Paco to cite as my justification for selecting it, I ran across this thread started by Sara W last summer. I'm merging the two threads so as to put the information on Alicante in one place

Edited by Bux (log)

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Miquel Ruiz, chef and owner of "La Seu" has closed his restaurant in Moraira and will be opening his new “La Seu” in Denia before summer. It’ll be located in the new marina of Denia. He’s already opened a bar right beside the restaurant for “tapas” and “paellas”.

I’ve always found La Seu one of the best places to go in the Alicante area for a modern style of food, together with El Poblet. Let’s see how Miquel Ruiz does in this new location. It seems like Denia is becoming “the place”: Poblet, Casa Pepa, El Raset, now La Seu…

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It seems like Denia is becoming “the place”: Poblet, Casa Pepa, El Raset, now La Seu…

We're were thinking of spending a night between Allicante and Valencia. I know it's a short drive from Alicante to Valencia and I know it might be very nice to spend a week or so basking in the sun on the coast, but we're really interested in absorbing a bit of the local food on our eventual way to Madrid. Moraira really appears to be the nicest place along the way, but it also looks like a place that suggests a nice rest stop to unwind and that perhaps Denia might be better suited for a one night stand for someone who's interested in food and people watching. My fear is that it's tackier and over built. I realize I can get to either one from the other for lunch anyway and perhaps it's a matter of which one I'd most enjoy having some tapas and a drink in the evening.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Just a short update on our trip to Alicante this past weekend. The first night there we found our way to Nou Manolin....great tip, very much enjoyed our meal and the wine.

The second night for my Big 40 we were given the name of a wonderful place called Monastrell...... fantastic.....a very Zen place.

We opted for the menu degustacion.......superb! Each taste was of the highest quality of ingredients.....the food, wine, service, the ambience.....flawless!

It may be a well kept secret as it was mostly locals, this we enjoyed.

I highly recommend Monastrell....see more on the web http://www.Monastrell.com if interested.

The third night was not worth a mention!

Each day...we lunched at little places by the beach up and down the coast while enjoying all the fresh grilled fish.....

Fantastic trip, it was our first time to Alicante and the area...would do it again for sure....enjoyed the city....the beaches but most all enjoyed the bright sunny warm skies with a nice cool gentle breeze.....hard to beat!

Cheers!

Renee

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Monastrell is indeed an interesting choice in Alicante. (The name is endearing to me - one of the world's great grape varieties! It may be better known to most of you as mourvèdre or mataro.) Visually it's certainly the most attractive place in the region, and María José Sanromán (one of the best women chefs in Spain) is very ambitious. A bit uneven, but more hits than misses IMHO. Lots of simple things too, like the fabled red shrimp of southeastern Spain, or breaded and fried sardines on a parsley and red bell pepper sauce. Some otherfs are more complex, like the artichoke hearts cooked over a low temperature in virgin olive oil with sliced scallops and black truffles.

I've been spending a few days in a forgotten corner of Spain, Almería province (I hope to file on that later), then drove north yesterday to take a look at a certain vineyard. On our way here (a long 350-mile drive...) I briefly dipped into Alicante province, just at its westernmost tip, far from the capital city, at Pinoso, to have one of Casa Paco's (or restaurante Paco Gandía's, to use the formal name) fabled rabbit and snail paellas. Terrific stuff, as ever. But pricey, and Paco is as surly as usual!

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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In October and November of 2003 and in January, 2004, I ate in a slew of Spain's most highly-rated restaurants. I found Ca Sento in Valencia to be the most pleasant surprise and probably the most memorable of all the meals I had. Casa Pepico northwest of Valencia (about 10 miles away, I believe) was good for typical food (escalivada, anchoas, croquetas, calamar a la plancha and tomates de Valencia con bacalao y ajo) and local ambience.

As far as Alicante goes, I felt Nou Manolon, except for the almejas de carril and gambas rosas de Santa Pola at the bar, was a major disappointment. And, after taking a look at how thousands upon thousands of Euros worth of rare old bottles of wine were stored (in a warm dining room reeking of eons of cigar smoke) at Nou Manolin, I would not order any other than a very young wine there, let alone an older vintage of Vega Sicilia or a great classic Rioja. (Friends have apparently tried to tell the owner about this, to no appreciable effect).

Quique Dacosta does great work at El Poblet in Denia (especially if you can get him to prepare some of the more typical dishes of the region). The revelation on this trip, aside from Raul Aleixandre's great food at Ca Senta, was Restaurante Elias en Xinorlet near Pinoso, which was recommended to me over Casa Paco (Gandia). We began lunch at 4 p.m. with wonderful, pan-fried, salted almonds and a plate of embutidos, that include four delicious varieties of small sausages (longaniza, chorizo, morcilla and a fuet-like sausage) sliced into rounds. Then we had a plate of beautiful and beautifully grilled niscalos (boletus) with alioli de ley (the real stuff). Pan con tomate came next, then gachamiga (?) a kind of a pan- or grill-fried, flat, tortilla-like cake made with garlic, flour, water and olive oil) and served with tomate confit. Next was a plate of fat grilled snails sprinkled with grains of sea salt and redolent of the fresh rosemary branches that came with them. At 5:10 p.m., a casserole of gachas, a great campesino dish similar to the Manchegan gazpachos (a thick soup-consistency game dish that is more akin to the stuffing we use for Thanksgiving birds than to Andalucian tomato gazpacho). These gachas were flavored with nutmeg and cloves and made with rabbit and dumpling-like pieces of dough. The dish came in a casserole with triangles of pita-like bread stuck around the edges of the thick gachas mixture. It is typically eaten with mountain honey drizzled on top. The main event was the arroz con conejo y caracoles, the famous thin-layered inland Alicante rice dish made with short-grain rice, natural saffron, rabbit and snails cooked over grape vine cuttings. It was delicious. We drank Alhambra Reserva 1925 dark amber beer, the excellent Salvador Poveda Añejo Seco palo cortado-like vino generoso made from monastrell vidueño (old clone of Monastrell)and a young Poveda monastrell-based vino tinto with lunch. With the desserts - - good leche frita, flan, a café ice cream cake, chocolate cake and a wonderful turrón ice cream--we had one of Poveda's superb old Fondillons. Needless to say, Elias is highly recommended and apparently the owner is a lot easier to get along with than the dueño of Casa Paco.

Like Victor de la Serna, I am a big fan of the Casta Diva moscatels of Felipe Gutierrez de la Vega, the opera-loving Renaissance man who is delight to be with. He also makes some excellent red wines including the monastrell-based Imagine (dedicated to John Lennon), Viña Ulises (dedicated to James Joyce and Homer [!])), and Roja y Negro (a blend of tempranillo, garnacha and Monastrell). His 100% monastrell Casta Diva Fondillón (dedicated to William Blake) is one of the best made. If you ever visit Felipe's charming bodega in Parcent, buy the wine that comes with a CD of Antonio Cortes, the great Valencian tenor who was a contemporary of Caruso and rivalled him in talent (though he was the lead tenor at the Chicago Opera in his day, Cortis could never take full advantage of an offer by Caruso to become his protege because of the illness of one of his children.

I do not share Victor's enthusiasm for the wines of Enrique Mendoza. A great admirer of New World winemaking, Pepe Mendoza mostly eschews native varietals for chardonnay, CS, merlot, shiraz and pinot noir. His Shiraz 2000, CS Reserva 1997, Peñon de Ifach (a cab, merlot & pinot noir blend), Santa Rosa 1998 and, especially, his pinot noir show promise, but after tasting Mendoza's wines at the winery and at Madrid's Salon de Gourmets, plus drinking different bottles with meals, I find the wines to be too New World formulaic, quite alcoholic and, IMHO, loaded with far too much new French oak.

Edited by Gerry Dawes (log)
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It's amazing how consistent and one-sided you are with your views on "New World" and "traditional" wines, Gerry. I often feel you fail to see the forest for the oak... :rolleyes: Felipe's red wines are a curiosity, no more. Santa Rosa is an excellent wine, with the structure to carry the new oak and integrate it, which it does perfectly. What it isn't is Viña Tondonia, granted. Anyone making Viña Tondonia-lookalikes on the Villena plateau should be prosecuted for fraud.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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  • 2 years later...

I'm reviving this old thread to ask if there is anything new to report in and around Alicante? I'm visiting later this month, not least because of Robuchon's recommendation.

I've already done my homework via the search function, which reveals that Nou Manolin, La Sort, Girasol and Mas Pau are the obvious choices. Are they still on form? Would I be missing any gems? I'm particularly looking for recommendations in central Alicante itself, rather than the outskirts.

Thanks in advance.

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I've already done my homework via the search function, which reveals that Nou Manolin, La Sort, Girasol and Mas Pau are the obvious choices. Are they still on form? Would I be missing any gems? I'm particularly looking for recommendations in central Alicante itself, rather than the outskirts.

Thanks in advance.

You've done good asking because some of the info is out of date.

Girasol closed it's doors a couple of years ago and Mas Pau is far away from Alicante, in fact it's almost in France.

Maybe you should add to your list this names: La Sirena in Petrer, Monastrell and Piripi in central Alicante and Casa Pepa in Ondara.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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I would also recommend one of my favourite places from this summer: El Rodat in Javea, where Sergio Torres is making a very interesting cuisine. He has helped developing the gastrovac, a sort of a vacuum pack pressure cooker which raises most fish to their ideal point

And if you try El Poblet, I'd definitely go for lunch to get some rice dishes. The rice there is amazing, and I wasn’t very fascinated this year with the rest of his offer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all who replied. I'll offer a full write-up later. In the meantime, I can report that El Poblet was a highlight -- equal or better to my experiences of similary ambitious places in France, London and New York. I simply cannot imagine how the meal could have been improved.

Monastrell was closed every time we attempted to visit, which was a big disappointment, although the more relaxed bodega next door averted hunger with tapas using superior ingredients (I'd guess Monastrell owns it too, right?).

Nou Manolin seemed a bit of a tourist trap, to be honest. Spaniards were nowhere to be seen and food not noticably better than the local average. In fact, I'd say I ate just as well at Capri, an honest little tapas place that spills out onto the street a few doors away. It's perhaps worth stopping by Nou to look at the pickled wine collection above the bar, but on my evidence the food not worth a major detour.

El Raset seems a good and safe option in Denia, although with the raw ingredients on offer in the area it doesn't take culunary genius -- just cook it simply and stick it on a plate. They were well capable of that.

There were a few other places around Alicante, which I'm sure I'll remember once the flight haze wears off, as well as a few great meals in Valencia (which I'll write up in another thread). Thanks again for all the help.

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Monastrell was closed every time we attempted to visit, which was a big disappointment, although the more relaxed bodega next door averted hunger with tapas using superior ingredients  (I'd guess Monastrell owns it too, right?).

The probable reason that Monastrell was closed was because the chef, Maria Jose San Roman was participating at the CIA's World of Flavors "Spain and the World Table" program in St. Helena, California around the time you were in Alicante.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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