I love a good road trip book. All the better if the purpose of the trip is to seek out new culinary experiences. And, Spain is a country with one of the most diverse and exciting cuisines going. So, it was with high expectations that I approached Spain, A Culinary Road Trip. Here’s what drew me in, firstly Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, first rate cooks, writers and food-obsessed wits. I love that they will unabashedly try anything new with genuine curiosity and appreciation, they are not culinary show-offs. And, Spanish food and countryside together, what a combination. In Spain, A Culinary Road Trip Mario and Mark join up with actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols on a mission to eat, drink and explore their way across the Spanish countryside. The goal is simple, seek out and enjoy foods unique to Spain.
This book is more than a companion to the Food Network series of the same name. It really stands on it’s own and one need not to have watched the show to enjoy this books, in fact all the better if you haven’t. What works surprisingly well in the book is the charming chit-chat between our travellers. Rather than annoy, which this could easily have done, snippets of their conversations give the book a personality and highlight the reality that we all have different tastes and approaches to food. For example, when asked to list their favorite things to find on their hotel pillow at night our celebrity authors show a bit of their true selves; Gwyneth (fresh baked cookie), Mario (my head), Claudia (chocolate), Mark (cake crumbs).
The celebrity authors willingly take a back seat to the food and culture of Spain and although there are plenty of photo ops of our travellers it does not take away from the fact that the true star of the book is the country and it’s food. The book is full of stunning photos of the many historic and cultural sights they visited. The dishes featured vary from simple country fare like Pisto Manchejo (pureed ratatouille on bruschetta) and Pineapple with lime and Molasses to more elaborate, yet still homey dishes like Capon Grandma Style. Naturally our visitors take in a few of Spain’s best restaurants and some of those highlights are featured including a visit with acclaimed chef Ferran Adria. But never does the book have a ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous snobbery to it. The authors seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves and their road trip through Spain, then again who wouldn’t?
Categories - Celebrity Chef, Restaurant, Regional, International