Departures for Australian-based Wandering the World’s 12-day Indulging in Southern Spain and Portugal tour can be arranged for two or more travellers on dates to suit. From €7745 ($10,700) a person, twin-share. An escorted small-group 11day Indulging in Portugal tour departs June 14 this year and September 1, 2018. Tours include local guides, boutique accommodation, meals with wine, and private transport. More: wanderingtheworld. com.au. tray that returns with a box of buttery almond and walnut biscuits.
Another day, another highlight. At Cartagena, I’m at a pig farm, but these are no ordinary pigs. We are in Iberica ham country. At Finca Montefrio, they roam free among hundreds of oak trees, and eat only acorns. Inside the curing room, where 500 hams hang from the ceiling, I discover what makes this meat so special. Armando explains the extraordinary four-year process in hushed tones, as if we’re inside a church. The climax of our visit is the tasting in the farm kitchen, where he slices the ham with the reverence of a religious ritual, and instructs us how to eat it. First smell, then let it linger in our mouths, finally swallow. It’s so luscious, it all but dissolves.
On our last day in Andalusia, we drive to Linares de la Sierra. Strolling along its labyrinth of ancient alleys, we come to a cobbled square where a woman is washing her laundry in the well. It’s quaint, but I have no idea why we’re here. David is smiling. “You think you’ve eaten at good restaurants,’’ he says. “Just wait.” It’s hard to believe that a restaurant in this remote hamlet has been enthusiastically reviewed by food writers in The New York Times, but that’s the case with Arrieros, once a stopping point for postmen delivering mail on donkeys. We’re ushered into a cosy private room that overlooks wooded hills, and the feast begins.
We start with potatoes and diced onions in cumin, parsley and olive oil, followed by pork carpaccio with foie gras, drizzled with wine vinegar. Then comes the signature dish of tomato soup spiced with garam masala and fresh figs. The platters keep coming — local goat’s cheese with oregano, organic honey, lavender and thyme melted on bread, and Iberian pork hamburger with minced mushrooms and red capsicum jam. The seven-course meal includes glasses of verdejo, a red and a dessert wine that’s perfect with a lemon mousse with ginger, cinnamon and sesame seeds. It’s all surprisingly light. After a week of Spanish feasting, however, I can’t say the same about myself.
Diane Armstrong was a guest of Wandering the World.