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Parador Food


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I am going to be staying in some paradors during my trip to Spain in early April. We will be staying one night in each of the following paradors and I am wondering about the food and the quality of the rooms (recognizing that rooms are not covered in egullet, but if you have comments I would appreciate them).

If you think the food is not particularly authentic for the area, or if it is just not inspiring, I would appreciate your candor and any recommendations for alternative dining. We are interested in both fine dining and economical local fare as well as tapa bars.

Here are the paradors -

Chinchon

Jaen

Cadiz

Carmona

Trujillo

Toledo (I have noted the Toledo dining thread, but there is no reference to the parador).

Any general comments on the paradors are also appreciated - I have had both good and mediocre meals in the past at paradors in Arcos, Granada, and Guadalupe (one of the better ones at that time with fine migas y huevos).

Thanks,

Glenn

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We've stayed in a few paradors, but haven't eaten in enough of them to offer a personal opinion. I recall reading about a plan to have paradors offer examples of regional cooking, but I have no idea if it was a proposal or a plan now in affect. I seem to recall a few comments in the forum that were not particularly positive about parador food in general and it seems to be a hit and miss sort of thing. It would be interesting to learn which paradors had good food.

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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The paradors overal do not have a very good reputation for food, or service either, remember that these people are government employees, and what that means in Europe. However, the buildings and locations are often wonderful.

My understanding is that they are trying to serve local dishes, and that the food is usually described as "correct", rather than inspired. The deluxe parador in Santiago de Compostela is reputed to have the best restaurant in the system. I have not eaten in their main restaurant, but did find their informal restaurant, at lunch, to be really very good. In general, you will do better by using one of the Spanish restaurant guides, Gourmetour or Campsa, Campsa is online, Gourmetour no longer, and going outside the parador to eat.

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The only one I know on that list is Carmona. I stayed in the town a couple of years ago and had a drink in the parador. It's certainly a stunning place - an old fortified medieval palace with interesting mudejar architecture, lovely pool, great views. But I couldn't comment on the rooms or food.

I stayed at the Alcazar de la Reina. A smaller hotel, it's another conversion of an ancient palacio with fantastic views over the plain and truly wonderful staff. Their not very well designed website http://www.alcazar-reina.es has photos of the rooms (though actually the rooms are a bit nicer than the photos make out). A double ranges from 93-187 euros a night - a bargain in low season. I thought the restaurant Ferrara was excellent - trad dishes given a creative, modern twist with beautiful presentation. The desserts were extra special.

Nearby, yet another luxurious palace conversion is the Casa de Carmona www.casadecarmona.com. It's absolutely stunning - like staying in a stately home. The bar is a drinks trolley in the lounge - you just help yourself. Even the standard rooms are gorgeous and all individually decorated. The restaurant in the palace's old stables (the fanciest stables you've ever seen!) looks wonderful (see the website) but I haven't eaten there.

Edited by Saborosa (log)
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It's impossible to know at any given moment in which parador one can eat well and which one will be disappointing. Hotel managers and chefs in this state-run chain are actually like civil servants who get rather frequently shipped from one post in Granada to another in Alarcón, and it's hard to keep track of all of them. There are a number of good, dedicated cooks in the chain who will often pay attention to local produce and culinary traditions and offer something quite attractive - but how can one say if they'll be here this month and not gone the next?

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Like others here, I have stayed in several Paradors but never have I been drawn to eat dinner in any of them. No matter how attractive the surroundings, a glance into the dining room at night always left an impression of somewhere rather dull and half full of non-Spanish tourists looking for a safe option. Much better to search out a good local restaurant - the helpful staff will even give suggestions and make your reservations.

But hold on a moment - the drive to add a comment does have a positive foundation. The paradors do great breakfasts! These seems to run almost to mid-day and if you are in to an occasional slow lazy morning, then the combination of a buffet with good local ingredients and an attentive staff to bring fresh coffee and warm dishes is recommended as an occasional treat.

Try this at least once and allow yourself plenty of time - bring something to read, write some letters or even talk to your partner. You can sit for an hour and a half or longer in an evocative high roofed medieval hall. Nobody will disturb you and you can keep returning for delicious (and even sometimes interesting) food.

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I have just returned from a month in Spain/Portugal. I rented an apartment in Estepona..this is just west of Marbella. I have read the negatives from othrs about the area...I must agree. It is heavily owned by the British, with english being the primary language and food served locally. The construction in the area is horrible. Can't imagine anyone wanting to be there.

Re: food in Paradores. We stayed in Merida, Malaga Golfe and Jaen and Pousadas, Al Portal, Sousel, Crato and Marvao. I would NOT recommend their food..as mentioned breakfast, which is generally included, is fine. I was even disappointed in the Jaen Paradore..having heard of it being magical....It was built in 1977(I think) on a previous convent site. I would consider them to be like places in our national parks. I did find the Portuguese people to be so very friendly and welcoming..much more so than the Spanish...sorry, but the difference was very noticeable.

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Just to add my two cents worth, the only Parador that we have eaten in was the one in Granada, for breakfast, and it was well worth it. Nice buffet with a large selection of local meats and cheeses, and some very nice fresh pastries, fruits, etc. Beautiful patio and view.

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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I can't vouch for the parador in Chinchon, but I can vouch for the roast lamb at Meson Cuevas del Vino. Been there twice in two visits over the past few years. Don't miss a visit to this place. Delicious. It's shocking how massive the place is once you get inside the unassuming doorway, and be sure to get down into the wine caves.

As for the rooms themselves, you can probably learn a lot from Madrid Man's bulletin board.

Edited by syzygy8 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

As I started this, and as we stayed at 3 paradores during our recent visit, I can't say much for the parador dining experience. Admittedly, we only had breakfast in one, and dinner in two (once by default and tiredness).

I guess my main complaint is that they seem so sterile. There seemed to be only Ameicans and English in them. The service was not up to the standards of other restaurants in the same area, and the food, while probably authentic, was not very interesting.

The single exception that we had was the Migas that we enjoyed in Trujillo (which was also on the menu in Carmona and Toledo; however, we didn't have dinner in either of those - but as Migas is much more an Extemaduran item, we opted to try it there). The Migas was (were?) very good. It was was served in what almost seemed to be a barber's bowl (with the cutout) that Sancho utilized as a hat. In the middle were the bread crumbs fried with garlic, surrounded by green & red peppers, melon balls, green olives, chorizo, pork, and veal, and melted chocolate! :blink: Each was mixed individually with the bread crumbs. It was very good, and while I have had Migas as a tapa, this was a first to have as a meal.

The breakfast that we had was fine, but too much like a typical buffet. What we enjoyed so much more was to stop at a truck stop, or some other cafeteria, and have cafe con leche and a pan tostada. Much more interesting dining companions.

:rolleyes:

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The breakfast that we had was fine, but too much like a typical buffet.  What we enjoyed so much more was to stop at a truck stop.

I just spent a few hours' rest in a parador - something I hadn't done in quite a while. It was the Tordesillas Parador, in the heart of old Castile - a modern but pleasant terracotta-colored building resembling a Castilian mansion amid a pine tree-covered park. Breakfast did resemble a regular buffet, but I knew that the paradores will always have original regional fare. Only they don't advertise it - it's just there, with the rest of the paraphernalia - yogurts, scrambled eggs... I noticed a couple of foreign customers completely pass by three things that are, IMHO, a must in Old Castile: some very good cottage Burgos cheese, some home-made quince jelly that is traditionally eaten with that cheese, and a plate of glorious cured beef 'cecina' - the wild, pungent Spanish cousin of Italy's bresaola or Switzerland's Bündnerfleisch. The foreign customers looked hesitantly at the dark-red, irregular slices and went instead for a very undistinguished serrano ham next to them. It made me reflect on just how much one can pass by in Spain simply because one doesn't know what to look for - and no one explains to us what it is that is regional and interesting! (Then again, such explanations are hard to come by anywhere in the world...)

I would never build a Spanish excursion around the paradores' dining rooms. As I've explained above, there is a bureaucratic organization here that's not conducive to great cuisine - and there are too many interesting restaurants around to waste your time there! For instance, if I had arrived earlier than 1.30 AM in Tordesillas, I would have stopped at El Torreón for some of Jeremías' great sautéed foie gras and grilled beef steak with some top-notch Ribera del Duero served in the proper Riedel glasses.

However, in some places it may be more difficult to find alternative restaurants. In such cases, it's usually more interesting to be in a parador at the time they are holding some of their 'jornadas gastronómicas' - festivals around food or wine with special menus, which can be more rewarding than the usual fare. As an example, here's what they have in store for the rest of April and May:

At Limpias, Cantabria, through April 30: Cuisine of 'mar y montaña' (sea and mouuntain).

At Santiago de Compostela, through April 30: Galician cheeses.

At Verín, Galicia, April 29-May 8: Dishes made with Limia county potatoes.

At Trujillo, Extremadura, April 29-May 2: Extremaduran cheeses.

At Santiago de Compostela, May 3-31: The artisanal, farm-raised Galician chickens are featured.

At Cambados, Galicia, May 7-22: Cuisine and wines of the Val do Salnés in the Rias Baixas.

At Tordesillas, May 1-8: Farm birds (chickens, poulardes, ducks...) and springtime wild mushrooms.

At Santo Estevo, Galicia, May 6-15: Menus re-creating the cuisine of Galician monasteries.

At Cangas de Onís, Asturias, May 5-15: Local products from Eastern Asturias (cheese, coastal fish, cider, kidney beans, wild boar chorizo...).

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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. . . I noticed a couple of foreign customers completely pass by three things that are, IMHO, a must in Old Castile: some very good cottage Burgos cheese, some home-made quince jelly that is traditionally eaten with that cheese, and a plate of glorious cured beef 'cecina' - the wild, pungent Spanish cousin of Italy's bresaola or Switzerland's Bündnerfleisch. The foreign customers looked hesitantly at the dark-red, irregular slices and went instead for a very undistinguished serrano ham next to them. It made me reflect on just how much one can pass by in Spain simply because one doesn't know what to look for - and no one explains to us what it is that is regional and interesting! (Then again, such explanations are hard to come by anywhere in the world...)

. . . .

This is also the case where a little information can be more harmful than helpful. If you knew nothing about Spain, you'd have a 50-50 chance of picking the right meat, but once you know that Spain is most famous for its ham, you're most likely to overlook a local specialty. Waveryly Root's The Food of France was an invaluable guide for me on our early trips to France, but I don't know of a comperable tome for Spain. In general there's less about Spanish food written in English than there is about French food. Penelope Casas has been of some use, but I don't have good paperback guide to regional cuisine in Spain and I know I've missed local specialties just as your foreigners above. Then again I rarely leave anything untried on a breakfast buffet. That's one reason I try to avoid them.

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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