A Mediterranean cuisine of character, resulting from the fertile and unusual meeting of Catalan, Arabic, French and English cultures, is one of the possible definitions of serenity in Minorca. If nowadays fusion is on the rise in the various cuisines of the world - some very good addresses of Italian, Japanese and Indian inspiration dot the cities and coasts of the island -, century-old recipes and know-how Menorquin remain, for our greatest pleasure, the norm. To whet your appetite, let's mention a few dishes - known all over the world - such as caldereta de llagosta (rice soup with lobster), whose existence is obviously a sufficient reason for the sailors sailing the Mare Nostrum to call at the island's ports. Mayonnaise is also native to the island. Yes. The mayonnaise! When the French conquered Menorca in 1756, the Marshal's cook in charge of the troops had the audacious idea of removing garlic from the typical all-i-oli recipe, and named this new sauce "Mahonnaise" in homage to the city of Maó, the island's current capital. This simple anecdote says a lot about the island's culinary culture: historical influences and deeply rooted traditions, fresh and local produce and a natural drive for inventiveness and experimentation. Today, Menorca, more than any other island in the Balearic Islands, is an authentic gastronomic destination, a mosaic of flavours, affordable for all budgets, but also at any time of the year. So tie your towel around your neck, will you? And come with us for an exquisite mouthful
An ant day in MenorcaThe sun barely rises when already in the four corners of the island the trolleys of Maó, Ciutadella, Alaior or Fornells shake lazily to the sound of the coffeemakers ringing. Visitors and locals meet around a tallat (or cortado, hazelnut coffee) accompanied by an ensaimada (the most famous sweet pastry shop in Menorca) or a solid sobrassada warehouse (or bocadillo), while fishermen and farmers with tanned skin perpetuate the tradition of the ginet, the emotional nickname of the very good local gin (British heritage). Tradition has it that it is mixed with homemade lemonade during popular village festivities. In Ciutadella, Santa Maria Cathedral rings at noon at twelve o'clock, in concert with the church of the same name in Maó. The signal is given: it's time to sit down for a picoteo or a more consistent meal. You can choose the terrace of one of the city's downtown bars or perhaps the shaded pergola of a chiringuito on the south side, before taking a look at the menu. Sea and land products abound: èpia amb pèsols (cuttlefish with small lice), pop amb ceba (octopus with onion), caragols amb "cranca" (snails stuffed with crabs, a unique and excellent recipe), "trunyelles de be" (braided lamb intestines, all the essence of the rural tradition in Minorca concentrated in a plate !) or even the sensational aubergines stuffed with menorquina, a recipe that is typically summery and perfectly adapted to the season. There is a custom in Menorca that has survived the ages quite well: the mid-afternoon snack, which is called here "fer sa bereneta". Here again, bistro terraces and other beach bars are perfect for snacks. The sweet spouts will gladly choose a "dolç" assortment, marzipan and cabell d'àngel - with indisputable Arab heritage -, while lovers of salty flavours will love a slice of bread or a substantial sandwich topped with the ancient and emblematic cheese Queso Mahón-Menorca, and a few thin slices of the island's delicatessen products.
Then comes the magical hour of twilight. After sipping a cocktail of gin or a glass of wine from Ferreries, Es Mercadal, Es Migjorn Gran, Sant Lluís or Es Castell ñ with both masculine and charming aromas ñ facing a splendid sunset, the main difficulty the visitor will have to face is the choice of restaurant. Indeed, Menorca, in addition to enjoying a fantastic quantity of quality products, is populated by fine gourmets for whom going to the restaurant is a full-fledged activity, or rather, a full sensory experience. The addresses are as numerous as they are dazzling in terms of decor and atmosphere: sometimes chic and refined, sometimes more popular and relaxed, in a port, in the hollow of a country house in the heart of the island or even on the beach, the possibilities are vast. And that's not to mention the menu. From the classic gastronomy carried out with the greatest respect for the recipes of the land to the most contemporary version (the chefs here have neither a lack of flair nor fearlessness), the influences of the Mediterranean world are very real and in constant evolution. A light and healthy meal, a delicate tasting session... or perhaps a feast? All you have to do is choose, then let yourself be carried away
Unique dishes and productsPastry making is an essential part of Minorcan culinary culture, the result of the influence of Arab, French, English and Catalan cultures. The recipe for these biscuits and cakes - sweet and sour - has been carefully passed down from generation to generation by the island's inhabitants, to the point of becoming, for some, true symbols of Menorca. These include the famous flaons i formatjades, a kind of doughnut (made of flour and pork fat), filled with various fillings (meat, fish, cheese); crespells, prepared in the same way but presented in the form of flowers and this time decorated with sobresada or fig (fig jam from the island); pastissets (miniature version of the previous one) or cocas, also available in many forms. All these sweets are available in many ways, in accordance with the calendar of patron saint's days that punctuate the course of the year. On the salty side, carnivores should find their happiness in Menorca, and the cool season is a perfect time to make some unexpected culinary discoveries. The arrival of winter is celebrated there with the annual porquetjades, i. e. the moment when the pigs are killed before being transformed into delicious salted meats, generically called embotits: sobrassada, carn-i-xulla, camot and botifarrons. The variety as well as the finesse of these preparations, with their multi-century-old origins, will put more than one French palate to the test as much as they will delight them. Last but not least, Menorca cheese closes this gourmet trilogy. The green pastures of the island's interior, flanked by quiet white houses and covered by herds of equally peaceful cows, are not there for nothing. Archaeologists estimate that cheese consumption on the island dates back to the year 417! This means that the relationship between the premises and dairy products is old. The production of Queso Mahón grew over time and in the 18th century, with entire boats dedicated to the sole trade in this cheese, mainly in the western Mediterranean. Today, it is one of the island's gastronomic treasures, popular on the spot as in the rest of Europe, and can be enjoyed in three ways: dry, semi-dry and curate. A must have.
Festivities: a vibrant culinary culture
Enjoying a good meal is one thing. Enjoy it in a setting as superb as the mouth of the port of Maó or Ciutadella, the green setting of an old-stone masia surrounded by bucolic valleys, or on the terrace of a confidential creek is another. But celebrating gastronomy as Minorca does season after season, this shows the attachment of the inhabitants to the good things in life. The year begins on a high note with the Gastronomic Days of Fish in February, during which the participating restaurants give their best to impress the gourmands who love iodized flavours; the Menorca al Plato festival (Menorca al Plato) is held for 10 days in June and offers a wide range of island specialities at reduced prices for lunch and dinner; in December comes the so-called Els Dimecres es dia de Brou ("Wednesday is Brou Day") celebration, featuring Brou or Bullit, a delicious hot fish stew, perfectly adapted to the cool winter climate. Oliaga is another typical hot dish - based on vegetable gardens and mainly eaten in summer - that you will have the opportunity to taste during the summer event Ruta del Oliaiga.
If a country knows itself by its flavours, Menorca certainly has something - in its lands as well as in its waters - that rubs shoulders with nectar and ambrosia. Something like a little paradise for gourmets.
more information about the island's establishments, recipes and gastronomic events, visit the Asociación menorquina de cafeterías, bares y restaurantes website: www.gastronomiamenorca.es or by email [email protected]