A few weeks ago, two of my work friends and I went on a road trip to Extremadura (a region in Southwestern Spain) and Alentejo (a region in the South-Central part of Portugal). We had another puente, or long weekend, and decided to check out a lesser-known part of the world and go on a different sort of vacation. Our friend J had already been to Extremadura many times and told us it was his favorite part of Spain. He worked at a few summer camps there, traveled around the region extensively, and house-sat at a bed-and-breakfast. J convinced M and I that it was worth seeing so we decided to stay at the bed-and-breakfast for the long weekend. On our way to our destination, we stopped in Cáceres, the 2015 gastronomic capital of Spain.
We arrived just in time for lunch and we were more than ready to sample the food that was one of the gastronomic capital’s claims to fame. We started out in a restaurant that was highly recommended to us, La Minerva.
Located in the historical Plaza Mayor de Cáceres, La Minerva is a very chic and modern restaurant that looks like it could very well belong in Manhattan’s Upper East Side among the rich and famous. The restaurant has a nice outdoor terrace in the plaza, but since it was a bit chilly, we decided to eat inside. The server lead us past two rooms full of white tables and white chairs, past a fully-stocked bar and into the back room where we finally sat down. In addition to being stylish and classy, the restaurant also seemed like a maze.
We sat down and were given the tapas menu as well as the lunch menu. Our idea was to sample different things, so the three of us ended up getting tapas. My first dish was the ensaladita de hojas tiernas y germinados. It is a small salad with sprouts, butterhead lettuce, goat cheese marinated in licorice oil, topped with apples and charcoal-roasted peppers. It was one of the most delicious and creative salads I had had in a while.
For my second tapa, I decided to get the gazpacho de frambuesa, or raspberry gazpacho, that my friends had ordered as their first dish.
Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup that is originally from Andalucía in the south of Spain. It is normally consumed during the hot days of summer. Although the ingredients may vary, it is usually made from raw tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt. La Minerva‘s gazpacho instead uses raspberry in the soup base. On top of the soup, they add light garlic cream and basil jelly. For the non-vegetarians, they also top the soup with migas, day-old bread crumbs soaked in garlic and spices, with ham. The raspberry gazpacho was a nice combination or sweet and salty with a kick. It was probably one of my favorite variations of gazpacho I’ve had.
My tapas at La Minerva were both exquisite and affordable. Food of this caliber would have easily set me back 25-40 EUR in Madrid, especially given the elaborate presentation of the dishes. However, my grand total was only 8,50 EUR and I left the restaurant feeling completely full and satisfied.
After our first round of tapas, we decided to walk around and explore old town Cáceres while we burnt off our food. This part of the city is quite small and compact and only took us about 15-20 minutes to see. Since we were only stopping in Cáceres on our way to our final destination, we did not have enough time to check out any museums or tour the cathedral.
We could have done more touristy things but we opted for spending our time eating. After all, Cáceres’s food has a good reputation.
Since two of us were vegetarians, we looked for a vegetarian place for our next restaurant. Although Cáceres is only a medium-sized city of about 96,000, we did find one restaurant that had some nice vegetarian options.Casa Mijhaeli.
Casa Mijhaeli is a cute and colorful restaurant with lots of flowers and hippie designs painted on the walls. It had a sort of beachy/southern feel to it and reminded me of something I might see in Sevilla or Málaga. The restaurant had a very eclectic offering of food which is not well-advertised on its website. They also had a great selection of wine, so my friends and I tried the house wine, an excellent local organic red wine.
I had the queso freso a la plancha con mojo de cilantro. Queso fresco is a kind of soft cheese that has the consistency of tofu. It is a very light cheese that sort of tastes like mozzarella. I’ve never seen it in the States, so I’m not sure what it would be called or if there is some sort of equivalent. In Spain, queso fresco is usually eaten in salads and can be used as a substitute for feta or Gorgonzola in many recipes. When I saw that Casa Mijhaeli grills their queso fresco and soaks it in a cilantro sauce, I decided to try it. It had a very interesting, light flavor. Grilling the cheese gave it a nice texture and added a slightly smokey flavor.
I really enjoyed our brief pit-stop in Cáceres and would love to go back someday. It’s a beautiful city with lots of history and amazing food. Although we did not spent much time in Cáceres-only about 4 hours total-we got a good feel for the city and we were able to sample quite a bit of its food. I highly recommend you visit the 2015 gastronomic capital if you would like to have a unique, high-quality and affordable food experience in Spain.