submit to reddit GoNOMAD Travel          Instagram
Serving up the beef at O Dezaseis. Paul Shoul photos.
Serving up the beef at O Dezaseis

Eating Galicia:

Stalking the Wild Tapas of Santiago de Compostela

The capital of Galicia, Spain, Santiago de Compostela, is home to one of the world’s great cathedrals, the end of the road for thousands of Pilgrims who have walked here since the Middle Ages seeking salvation.

Santiago is a beautifully preserved historic town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Galicia is also blessed with some of the best food anywhere. Brilliant fresh local produce, cheese shaped like a woman's breast, grass-fed beef and the most abundant seafood in Spain.

It is a foodie's holy land. I saw a funny sign about the religious pilgrims with a picture of two blistered feet and the caption "No Pain No Glory" to describe their arduous journey to the cathedral.

My pilgrimage to Galicia was to be equally inspirational but was to attend the Atlantic Food Conference, learn as much as I could about Galician cuisine, and search out the best restaurants in town.

There would be the inevitable  "pain" of eating too much on this journey, but what the hell, one must expect to pay something for enlightenment.

This is the second year that Galicia has hosted the Fórum Gastronómico Santiago. It features presentations and classes by some of the world’s great chefs and a multitude of exhibitors from the best Spanish food and wine companies.

Aside from the crowds grazing on free samples were the restarauteurs, wine experts and chefs who had come to the conference learn from each other.

I attended a presentation by Chef Pedro Roca on a traditional Galician specialty. This was a nuts and bolts presentation for professionals.

He made three empanadas (meat pies): an open-face sardine tomato red pepper and onion in the traditional Galician shape of an oval boat: an autumn pie with chestnut flour and wild mushrooms and one of layered crusts with mushrooms and chicken.

Pedro Roca, a Galician chef, prepares empanadas.
Pedro Roca, a Galician chef, prepares empanadas.

Galician empanadas are renowned, and he is a master. I went with some star-struck trepidation to the next presentation by the chef who has changed everything.

When Ferran Adria speaks... the food world perks up its collective ears, clears its palate and pays close attention to this enthusiastic man whom many have labeled the best chef in the world. Ferran’s “Molecular Gastronomy" breaks down food to its essence and then rebuilds it into any form.

The creator of culinary foam, he turns apples into caviar and given the urge could surely transform a grilled cheese sandwich into an asparagus. He entered the auditorium like a rock star. We were food people and he was our Messiah, a mass of cameras surrounded him (myself included). 

It was quiet when he spoke. His words would be repeated over time like the gospel at food temples around the planet. During a multimedia presentation he showed us some of his fascinating cooking techniques. Each new creation was unique, whole new species of food emerged.

It was miraculous; Ferran could turn water into wine. The problem with the words of the Gods are that they are often not taken as the metaphor lessons as they were intended. They are internalized self interpreted and re-preached as absolute truths.

Ferran Adria, famed for 'Molecular Gastronomy'
Ferran Adria, famed for 'molecular gastronomy.'

He has shown the cooking world that our limitations are self-imposed. That anything is possible. I am a huge fan, but to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: "just because you can does not mean that you should." 

Ferran is a true abstract artist, unrestrained by convention, but his food is like an edgy fashion show, fun to look at, it makes you think, but if you wore it to work you would look ridiculous.

His creations escaped from his laboratory, and when let loose on an impressionable world, spawned many little copycat monsters.

My concern is that when taken too far, the Ferran effect is in fact turning wine into water. Traditional cooking in Spain is a glorious thing; perfect food created by the world’s real greatest chef, Mother Earth.

Ferran is closing his famous restaurant el Bulli in two years, has been appointed a tourism ambassador, and commented on a need to return to traditional foods. Thank you, holy one. It is exactly what I had come to Galicia to do

Oysters getting washed in Santo Tome.
Oysters in San Tome.

Let's Eat!

Galicia is famous for its seafood. It has the largest fishing fleet in Spain and is the second largest producer of mussels in the world. We took a day trip out to Rías Baixas on the coast to the town of Cambados to visit the nearby shellfish beds at Santo Tomé - Serrido.

They thrive in the balance between fresh and salt water from the estuaries. You can arrange a guided tour with one of the members of Guimatur, a cultural association of women who work as shellfish gatherers.

There is a continuous effort to monitor and maintain the health of the shellfish crop by limiting the amount that can be taken each day and strict standards for the minimum size of each type of clam.

After the backbreaking work of digging, the entire harvest is purified for at least 24 hours in large tanks to purge them. They are fantastically fresh and clean, which we had a chance to discover in one of Cambados leading restaurants, Yayo Daporta.

Named after its young chef and owner, this is an upscale restaurant that combines playful nouvelle cooking, with a devoted respect for the integrity of local products.

According to Chef Yayo, everything on the tasting menu (55euro) was locally grown.

Octopus Cannelloni, oysters and cockles served with a terrine of foie gras, and my favorite, Scallop Carparccio with crunchy bread, garlic and paprika sauce were just part of the menu. Read more...




Next Page

Page One Two Three

Back to GoNOMAD Home Page



The Guardians of the Sun above the Puerta del Sol in Madrid

Read more GoNOMAD stories about Spain



St Pauls Convent, Cuenca, Spain. photos by Rosalie Bebawi. Cuenca, Spain: Off the Beaten Path
of times. First by the federal government who advised that Spain was safe to travel in but look out
Watch Travel Videos on GoNOMAD Spain Perfect Day In Madrid Watch more Madrid videos
writer for Planet Eye Travel." A Her personal blogs areA thesinglewomantraveler A andA . Read more about Spain on GoNOMAD
View of the Old city from Santa Maria church procathedral. Kerry Parke photos. CA!ceres, Spain
Spanish StreetA Markets: Clothes at the street markets in Spain. John Towler photos. Bright, Loud
are fluent in English. Coming to Seville Seville is extensively connected with the rest of Spain
Fisherman going out to sea in San Sebastian, Spain. photo by Paul Shoul.Click to return to the story.
Delights in R ural Alfarnatejo Spain By I nka Piegsa-Quischotte AlfarnaAwhat? YouA might ask and I
and one half-bath flat with a kitchen carved out of the hallway. Tossa de Mar Spain on the Costa Brava
in the world is Menorca? Archway of Medieval Stone Walls in Menorca, Spain. The island of Menorca lies
Skyline of Ancient City of TolA(c)do Spain. Holy TolA(c)do!A A Daytrip in Spain Wandering around
Traveling the North of Spain Witches, Bulls and Hemingway A river in Baztan Valley, Spain. Inka
! Teaching English in Valencia, Spain A Great Place to Vacation -- and teaching pays the bills


Tags: storySection: Food and wine
Location: Europe,Spain
author: Paul Shoul
New Travel Articles


Subscribe to GoNOMAD's monthly enewsletter for all of our new travel articles
Get our free monthly travel newsletter
and help support sustainable and responsible tourism.
No spam, no selling
your email, we promise!

Subscribe to our email newsletter!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

amazon ad300x250