Ibiza and the Balearic Islands Feature
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Eating and Drinking Well in the Balearic Islands
Mediterranean islands should guarantee great seafood—and the Balearics deliver with superb products from the crystalline waters surrounding the archipelago. Inland farms offer free-range beef, lamb, goat, and cheese.
Ibiza's fishermen head out into the tiny inlets for sea bass and bream, which are served in beach shacks celebrated for bullit de peix (fish casserole), guisat (fish and shellfish stew), and burrida de ratjada (ray with almonds). In addition to great seafood, traditional farm dishes range from sofrit pagès (lamb or chicken with potatoes and red peppers) to botifarro (sausage) to rostit (oven-roasted pork). Majorcans love their sopas de peix (fish soup) and their panades de peix (fish-filled pastries), while Minorca's harbor restaurants are famous for llagosta (spiny lobster), grilled or served in a caldereta—a soupy stew. Interestingly, mayonnaise is widely believed to have been invented by the French in Mahón, Minorca, after they took the port from the British in 1756.
Almonds are omnipresent in the Balearics, used in sweets as well as seafood recipes. Typically used in the picada—the ground nuts, spices, and herbs on the surface of a dish—almonds are essential to the Balearic economy. After the 19th-century phylloxera plague decimated Balearic vineyards, almond trees replaced vines and the almond crop became a staple.
The tumbet mallorquin is a classic Balearic dish made of layers of fried zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant with tomato sauce between each layer. It's served piping hot in individual earthenware casseroles.
There are several seafood dishes to look out for in the Balearics. Burrida de ratjada (ray with almonds) is boiled ray baked between layers of potato. The picada covering the ray during the baking includes almonds, garlic, egg, a slice of fried bread, parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Caldereta de llagosta (spiny lobster soup) is a quintessential minorcan staple sometimes said to be authentic only if the minorcan spiny lobster is used. Guisat de marisc (shellfish stew) is an Ibiza stew of fish and shellfish cooked with a base of onions, potatoes, peppers, and olive oil. Nearly any seafood from the waters around Ibiza may well end up in this universal staple.
Rostit (roast pork) is baked in the oven with liver, eggs, bread, apples, and plums—it's a surprisingly cosmopolitan combination for a country kitchen. Sobrasada (finely ground pork seasoned with sweet red paprika and stuffed in a sausage skin) is one of Majorca's two most iconic food products (the other is the ensaimada, a sweet spiral pastry based on saim, pork fat). Sobrasada originated in Italy but became popular in Majorca during the 16th century.
Mahón cheese is a Balearic trademark, and Minorca boasts a Denominación de Origen (D.O.), one of the 12 officially designated cheese-producing regions in Spain. The curado (fully cured) cheese is the tastiest.
With just 2,500 acres of vineyards (down from 75,000 in 1891), Majorca's two D.O. wine regions—Binissalem, near Palma, and Pla i Llevant on the eastern side of the island—will likely remain under the radar to the rest of the world. While you're here, though, treat yourself to a Torre des Canonge white, a fresh, full, fruity wine, or a red Ribas de Cabrera from the oldest vineyard on the island, Hereus de Ribas in Binissalem, founded in 1711. Viniculture on Minorca went virtually extinct with the reversion of the island to Spain after its 18th-century British occupation, but in the last decade or so, a handful of ambitious, serious winemakers—mainly in the area of Sant Lluis—have emerged to put the local product back on the map.Updated: 12-2013
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