Sam Zucker is far from a Spanish native, but his passion and dedication to Spain has been profound. For years, he’s written on Catavino, not only infusing his writing with his love of food and wine, but for discovering the undiscovered nooks and crannies of Spain. (header photo by Sam Zucker)
Sam Zucker’s Top 5 Tips for Spain and Barcelona
- Barcelona’s diversity in food, wine and culture is one of the greatest assets!
- Take your time, don’t rush it. Instead of trying to see it all, pick one or two places and dive in, including day trips to nearby villages, cities, farms, wineries, or natural parks.
- If you’re interested in food and would love to know the more about spanish cuisine and food culture, book a food tour. It’s well worth your while.
- Go off the beaten path to: Calella de Palafrugell and Cadaqués in Costa Brava, Asturias, and Lekeito and Hondarribia in Basque country.
- If you happen to go to Barcelona, visit the newer, high-end restaurant concepts like following restaurants: Estimar and Dos Pebrots, as well as life-long classics like Bar Ramón or Jai-Ca.
Read full interview below!
1. You’ve been in Spain for a considerable amount of time, so what makes it such a fabulous place to live and work?
I have been in Barcelona nearly five years now, and quality of life and international community is what kept me here so far (and I have no plans on leaving any time soon). In addition to the fact that I get to speak a foreign language every day and enjoy sunshine all year round, the food, wine, history, and proximity to the rest of Europe make Barcelona a perfect home for a creative person like myself with multiple freelance pursuits and a circle of friends from dozens of different countries.
2. Your passion for food has extended to pop-up food and cocktail workshops, photography and videography. What makes Spanish gastronomy such a muse for your creative endeavours?
Spanish gastronomy is a huge draw to tourists visiting the city, so being able to introduce people to this important part of the local culture is great. Everyone, both travelers and brands, need information or content about local gastronomy, so being a native English speaking writer and trained chef with an intimate knowledge of Spanish cuisine helps me grow my personal brand and reputation as a freelance writer, food expert, and content creator. When it comes to my photography, videography, and my various brand collaborations on Instagram, the truth is that it is a pretty even mix between “traditional” Spanish and Catalan brands and food products, and international ones. I am equally, if not more, likely to be shooting photos of sushi platters, Indian street food, and Italian cocktails as tapas, paella, and jamón. Everyone needs photos of their restaurant’s food, and Barcelona is full of great international restaurants, which is part of why I love living here.
3. From tiny medieval towns to hidden natural escapes, Spain is brimming with undiscovered gems for people to experience. What are a few of those for you?
I love visiting the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona. It’s less hidden than it once was, but visiting a charming village by the sea like Calella de Palafrugell or Cadaqués outside of peak tourist season (June and September are best) is wonderful. I also have really enjoyed hiking in the mountains of Asturias and visiting the medieval, coastal villages in Basque Spain, like Lekeitio and Hondarribia.
4. You’ve spoken extensively about the bar and restaurant scene in Barcelona. Where are some of your favorite new places people should seek out on their travels and why?
In Barcelona, Estimar, by chef Rafa Zafra, is a great (though pricey), relatively-new place for visitors to try some of the highest quality seafood, and in some cases rare seasonal delicacies like angulas baby elver eels, percebes (Gooseneck barnacles), and erizos de mar (sea urchins). Dos Pebrots (also recently opened) is a follow-up restaurant for Dos Palillos, by chef Albert Raurich. Dos Palillos is a Japanese-Catalan fusion concept, while Dos Pebrots is all about the “culinary history of the world”. Dishes are based on ancient and contemporary techniques and ingredients and are both homey and experimental. It’s honestly hard to recommend “new” places since there is so much hype surrounding new restaurants, which often end up feeling over-priced and more style than substance. I usually prefer old-school tapas places like Bar Ramón or Jai-Ca, as the quality to price ratio better fits my casual style and budget. I eat fancy food often for work, but prefer simpler food for my daily meals. Here are some suggestions on the top 20 gastronomic gems I would seek out in Barcelona.
5. If there was one travel tip you would give someone visiting Spain, what would it be?
Take your time. Give yourself time to explore each place you visit. Spain has 17 distinct regions, or “autonomous communities” and each has its own history, culture, food, and in some cases, language. A day or two per city just isn’t enough if you want to go deeper than just seeing the historical landmarks and trying a couple famous dishes. I prefer to spend at least 3-5 days in a city minimum, preferably longer. Instead of trying to see it all, pick one or two places and dive in, including day trips to nearby villages, cities, farms, wineries, or natural parks. This idea of not rushing also carries over into your daily interactions with locals. Don’t expect a restaurant meal to be fast, and the wait for service is generally longer than on other countries, like the USA. Shopping on Sunday is pretty much impossible, as is shopping after lunch as many small business still close for a few hours each afternoon. Is you go into your trip expecting things to move at a more relaxed pace, I think you can much better enjoy your time in Spain.
Find Sam Zucker
Sam Zucker is originally from Boston, MA. USA. He studied writing, photography, music, ecology and Spanish language during his undergraduate degree at Hampshire College (Amherst, MA). He then went on to train as a chef at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY) and earn an introductory certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2013. He currently works as a social media professional, culinary tour operator, wine educator, social media influencer, private chef, photographer, videographer, and freelance food/travel writer for several outlets.