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Friday, March 26, 2021

Flavors of Mallorca

     Mallorca's flavors can vary from rustic picnics to Michelin star dining

The culinary profile of this island jewel, located just off the coast of Barcelona, is strongly influenced by its past conquerors.   Like most of Mediterranean Spain, Mallorca’s food has been influenced by the Romans and the Moors.  The Romans were on Mallorca well before the birth of Christ and left a significant mark on the island’s food.  But, it was the Moors nearly 1000 years later who most profoundly influenced Mallorca’s gastronomy.

                                     Mallorca's landscape is dotted with 350,000 olive trees

Both the Romans and Moors brought olives & olive oil with them to Mallorca.  To this day, the olives and their oil are a big part of the Mallorcan diet.  Two World Wars, a Civil War, and 40 years of Fascism brought Spain to its knees economically.   Many people on the mainland died of starvation.  Those on Mallorca stayed alive by only eating a diet of pa amb oli, a slice of bread soaked in olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  Today this dish has become a symbol of survival and pride.  It is also Mallorca’s version of slow-food, with islanders fighting McDonaldization.

Wine-Knows will dine in this ancient winery that has been converted into a destination restaurant.

The Romans were responsible for another important flavor of Mallorca, wine. They not only brought the first grapevines, but vinified the first wine.  The island’s wine industry, like all businesses, collapsed during the 20th century, however, for the last 30 years there has been a renaissance.  Money from the EU has allowed Mallorca to rethink, rebuild and replant.  A sip of Mallorca today means international varietals like Cabernet or Chardonnay, but more importantly it means native grapes not seen nowhere else in the world such as Callet or Prensal Blanc.  For the adventurous wine lover, it’s an island paradise.

                        The island's top producer of sea-salt will be on Wine-Knows' itinerary

The last flavor attributed to the Romans is salt.  Historical evidence shows that the Romans were mining salt from the sea on Mallorca a few centuries before the birth of Christ.  That’s no surprise as salt was a valuable currency in the Roman Empire.  Today the island has had a resurgence in their salt industry.   France’s labor-intensive process for premium quality sea salt, Fleur de Sel, is being used on Mallorca.  The island’s Flor de Sal  is outstanding.  Michelin star chefs on the island are now combining it with items such as wild herbs or dried black olives to make authentic tastes only possible on Mallorca.

Paella would not exist if it weren't for the Moors bringing rice & saffron to Spain

While the Romans left an indelible imprint on Mallorca’s food tapestry, it was the Moors who changed the very fabric of the island’s food.  These North African peoples brought with them the technology of advanced irrigation, changing a dry, somewhat barren island into fertile valleys and lush plains.   They also introduced new food items, many of which remain intricately woven into Mallorca’s modern day cuisine.

                           Mallorca's famous almond cake is topped with a touch of cinnamon

The Moors brought almonds, citrus and stone fruits.   It is estimated that there are five million almond trees on the island today.   Almonds can appear in every course during a meal, from pre-dinner nibbles all the way through to dessert.   The citrus industry is also important to the island’s economy.    Citrus begins at breakfast with juices and ends the day in the form of cakes or custards.  Apricots, peaches and plums (all brought by the Moors) are still popular fruit on the island. 

Sugar came to Mallorca via the Moors.   But, it was the spices that they brought that had even a more profound influence in the island’s flavors.  Saffron (essential in paella) first arrived with the Moors, as did cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon.  These spices remain prominent flavors in the Mallorca’s cuisine.

                    Come & experience the flavors of Mallorca with Wine-Knows this autumn

Wine-Knows has only two spots remaining on its September trip to Mallorca.  Why not join us for the island's unique cuisine, never before tasted grape varietals, and seductive scenery?

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