Dine out traditional style in Torrevieja

For too long we have relied on our own cooking and the odd takeaway. Now, with the restaurants opening again, it’s time to dine out, treat yourself and enjoy the opportunity to bask on your favourite terrace whilst sipping your favourite wine.

As we gradually return to some semblance of normal, we perhaps appreciate more than ever the joy of dining out. Eating isn’t just about the mechanics and though a quick sandwich has its place, most of us prefer to take our time and make our dining experience a social as well as a nutritional experience.

The bars and restaurants also need our support and even more so in a traditional tourist town like Torrevieja. So, it’s time perhaps to experiment a little and why not begin by trying a traditional Spanish dish that you can find in the bars and restaurants of Torrevieja.

The caldero

A typical dish for Torrevieja is the ‘caldero’ or fish stew. Caldero actually translates into ‘cauldron’ in English and this conjures up an image of a bubbling mixture of stock and fish with a few vegetables thrown in. Its origins date back to the original fishermen and their families who would have kept some of the fish they caught for themselves to perhaps prepare on the beach.

As the name suggests, they would have thrown the fish into a large pot or cauldron and allowed the dish to steep to bring out the many flavours of the different spices and other ingredients they might have had available on the day. Now, the ingredients are perhaps a little more carefully monitored and you can expect some garlic, peppers and a peeled tomato to be somewhere in there too.

Some restaurants still use traditional iron pots in its preparation. The key to a successful, tasty caldero is the broth which will be based on a variety of different fish such as monkfish, mullet, bream or seabass. The broth is then used to cook the rice and the meatier parts of the fish are fried and served separately. Accompaniments are nearly as important as the dish itself which might be served with a dollop of alioli and fresh bread.

Be warned – you will find other regions of Spain professing to be the master of this dish. It’s true that any seaside town is likely to have valued the rich source of fresh fish and developed its own variant of this popular meal. But we invite you to try this very special, traditional dish in the port of Torrevieja.

Torrevieja’s gastro events

As mentioned earlier, the bars and restaurants need our support, so there’s never been a better time to set out and try some new dishes. However, there are some special times of the year when there are specific opportunities in Torrevieja to sample what different restaurants have to offer in an economic way.

These ‘gastronomic’ events are spaced out across the year and although we’ve recently seen some interruptions in the calendar we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get back on track and enjoy them again. Perhaps the best known and most popular are the tapas route events.

Ruta de la tapa

For a couple of sequential weekends, bars and restaurants offer a special meal deal of a drink with a tapas for €2.50 or €2. Over the course of the two weekends, the tapas on offer change and you can pick up a leaflet that tells you what’s available and where. Each establishment prepares a traditional and a chef’s special and vegetarian and gluten options are available. There are other incentives to try a variety of venues that include getting your card stamped and entering in a draw for prizes. You vote for your favourite tapas and restaurants compete for the privilege of theirs being voted the best. It’s a cheap, cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable way of finding out about different places to eat.

Semana de la Cuchara

There are also special events across the year which offer a more sedate dining experience. This time, restaurants offer a specific menu based around a theme and these are published for potential customers to select the ones they wish to try. For example during ‘Semana de la Cuchara’ traditional recipes are offered across the town.

Usually held in November, the restaurants pull out recipes that have been handed down through generations. Up to 20 different venues take part, mostly based in the centre and suburbs of Torrevieja and prices usually range from €15 to €30.

Arroces de Torrevieja

During the month of March a ‘rice’ week is usually held. Again this involves different establishments taking part in offering a selection of menus that include some traditional rice dishes. Up to 22 different restaurants present menus with starters, sweets and, of course, a rice dish. Rice dishes are one of the specialities of Torrevieja and you might choose from arroz marinero de gamba (prawn seafood rice) or arroz meloso con bogavante (creamy rice with lobster), or even a good old paella. It’s an opportunity for restaurants and bars to use their imagination, create and reinvent.

La Cazuelica

During the month of February it’s time for Torrevieja to celebrate its casseroles. Usually at the beginning of the month, restaurants in the town offer a small casserole dish full of something tasty (€2) along with a glass of wine for only €1.50. It’s a little like the tapas route but the ‘cazuelica’ or traditional earthenware pot and its contents are served instead of tapas.

Restaurants usually provide a choice of different dishes and recommend the wine to go with them. You can select from albóndigas en salsa de Rioja (meatballs in Rioja sauce) or cazuela de alcachofa con piñones (artichoke casserole with pine nuts) to name just two of the many variations on offer. You’ll also see ‘calderas’ on the menu and this would be an ideal time to try this typical Torrevejense dish without spending a fortune.

Information about all these events can be found on www.torreviejagastronomica.com

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