León is Spain’s Culinary Capital in 2018. The city and the surrounding area are famous for tapas, busy areas of bars and restaurants, and cured meat products such as cecina and botillo. The city is easy to reach by AVE high-speed train from Madrid in just over two hours.
The honor of being the Spanish Culinary Capital is annually given to a Spanish city that offers excellent cuisine in quality restaurants, while also promoting gastronomy tourism, quality products and traditional cuisine. It also recognizes the coming together of culture, heritage and gastronomy in the creation of exceptional visitor experiences.
León’s candidacy was presented under the slogan “León, manjar de reyes” (loosely, “morsel for kings”), and promises to showcase both the traditional products of this city and province, as well as its haute cuisine and the gastronomic innovation of its restaurants. Support for León’s candidacy was widespread, with famed Spanish chefs like the Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui and the Roca brothers, lending their support.
The Place for Tapas
The central neighbourhood of Barrio Húmedo is the quintessential place for tapas, offering the dishes of León in small plates. Cecina, chorizo, morcilla, and other pork sausages are very frequent in tapas. To drink, from the regional wines of Castilla y León (those from Ribera de Duero, Rueda, and El Bierzo are particularly renowned) to beer, which people order here in cortos (small glasses).
The Essential Dishes and Tapas
León’s star product may be cecina (air-dried beef or horsemeat, similar to serrano ham). Another fine product is botillo del Bierzo, a pork sausage typically eaten boiled with cachelos (the local potatoes), for example. Other popular dishes include cocido maragato (casserole), picadillo de cerdo (minced pork), sopa de trucha (trout soup), sopa de ajo (garlic soup), and caldereta de cordero (lamb stew).
Activities in 2018
León expects to organise over 150 culinary events in 2018, some of which will run all year, such as the Gaudí – Casa Botines Museum Nights, with tastings, tours, and concerts; and monthly lecture-workshops taught by prestigious chefs and concluding with a charity dinner. Here are some of the scheduled activities for the following months:
April is the month of Montañas del Teleno milk-fed lamb, foal meat, and the monthly vermouth route. May is cecina month, and an attempt to break a Guinness record of the largest dish made with cecina, plus a blind tasting. June is the time of sweets, desserts, and pastries, and international León trout week.
Cover photo: León Gastronomica