A Spanish fare fit for royalty at the Parador de Avila
The City of Avila, located in the northwestern part of Spain, is known for its well preserved Romanesque structures or churches, hotels and palaces, truly a sight to behold when walking through this “Town of Stones and Saints” that seems to have been frozen in the 16th century.
Exterior of Parador de Avila
The best way to experience the spectacle of Avila is through a walking tour that starts at the Parque de San Vicente, and the goes through the plazas and cathedrals near Calle Cruz Vieja, then assing through the Puerta del Alcazar into another side of the city to find the Palacio de los Davila and the Plaza General Mola.
Restaurant inside Parador de Avila
One of the sights to include in your walking tour is the Parador de Avila (hotel info), a 16th century palace that was once torn down by war but was renovated back to its former glory. It is known for its spectacular maze of a garden, where you will find some archaeological artifacts to admire. And don’t miss sitting down for a nice dinner at their restaurant, where you can enjoy your meal while admiring the views over the city walls.
Beautiful Garden of Parador de Ávila
After walking tour of Avila’s Walled City, we headed to the Parador de Avila to enjoy an elegant sit-down dinner at the restaurant. The dim lights of the place exude a warm, cozy feeling that almost betrays the majesty of the palace from the outside. You will also admire the elegance of the place, which brings you to the time of royalty and courtesans.
Tour Participants with Parador de Avila General Manager
We were ushered into the palace by the maître d’ who showed us to our table. They treated us in true parador standards, making sure we had everything that we needed while we are waiting for the food to be served.
They had a special menu for the night, as the entire town is celebrating the 500th year anniversary of Saint Teresa of Avila, who of course born in Avila in 1515. To honor her, Parador de Avila has prepared a special menu inspired by the culinary tradition of the Discalded Carmelite order, which put importance in preparing their meals as their way of honoring God. Of course we had to try this!
Sampling the dishes inspired by Santa Teresa
While awaiting our orders, they served us freshly baked bread, which they make at the Parador. It was served on the table with a side of butter, and extra virgin olive oil produced in Spain.
Paprika-flavored mashed potatoes with bacon chunks
We started our meal with a hearty serving of paprika-flavored mashed potatoes with bacon chunks. It is believed that Saint Teresa had a hand in introducing potatoes into the Old World cuisine, based on a letter found addressed to the Abbess of the Carmen de Sevilla Convent, thanking Santa Teresa for several dishes she sent that included potatoes.
It was a great way to start our meal. Prepared home-style, with chunks of potatoes that tell you it is not the instant type of mashed sides, it really brings you back to the olden times of preparing a home-cooked meal.
They also served Aubergine casserole – This ancient recipe harks back to the convent gardens that provided self-sufficiency in the diet of religious orders, together with the cheese, a delicacy passed down from their ancestors and the esteemed spices.
Pickled sardine loin
We were also served pickled sardine loin, which supposedly was also mentioned in Saint Teresa’s letter as being served in a small barrel. Salting fish was a popular way of preserving fish in their day, and it was usually marinated in pickles and vinegars – which is similar to what we know sardines today. This dish provided a kick that whet our appetite just enough for our main entrees.
White beans with cod
Next on the table was a serving of white beans with cod. The dried cod, which is again a method of preserving food back in the day, was usually brought on ship by marines who traveled through the seas for months. Our cod was served with orchard vegetables grown in the palace’s garden itself. White beans served with the cod provided a different savory taste to the fresh taste of the cod.
Beef Steak from the black Iberian-Avilena breed
The main entrée we looked forward to was the Beef Steak from the black Iberian-Avilena breed. While we were of course used to having steak as part of a dinner meal, it was actually something eaten by the sick back in the time of the Carmelite Order. Our steak, dubbed “for the traveller” as inspired by Saint Teresa’s fond of travel to pursue her foundations. One of my travel buddy Kerwin requested for a well-done steak for both of us and they did it perfectly.
Our entire meal was paired with bottles of white and red wine produced in Spain, known for its world-class wines.
Our meal ended with a beautifully prepared Carmelitas, a custard similar to those prepared in their convents. It’s a classic dessert made with sponge cake, served with a side of lemon verbena ice cream. The dessert makes use of simple ingredients – flour, eggs, milk, sugar – but put together with skill to create this masterfully done traditional sweets.
When visiting Avila, I highly recommend going to Parador de Avila to sample their hearty traditional meals. Better to visit while they have their special Santa Teresa commemorative set, which is available for 29 Euros / pax (for at least two guests). Make reservations for an assured seat.
Visit Parador de Avila at Calle Marqués de Canales de Chozas, 2, 05001 in Ávila, Spain. Call this phone number for reservations: +34 920 21 13 40. Or email [email protected]