There is no better way to discover Cantabria than in road trip. Covered by the famous slogan of Cantabria Infinita that persecuted us endlessly, the reality is that we are talking about a very manageable community in distances and that gives rise to furtive getaways of two or three days in which it is easy to get to know a lot of towns, beaches and, what concerns us today, restaurants and lighthouses.
From the Cabo Mayor lighthouse, classic and with views of the Madeleine Palaceup to the Garlic Lighthouse, the Cantabrian coast is not only dotted with coastline, but also with a gastronomy that successfully mixes the most attractive of restaurants with more traditional offerings.
The plan, as Cantabria marks, is perfect for touring with your partner, friends or family. 48 hours are worth, although they are not always enoughto take a panoramic view of towns like Santoña, capital of the anchovy, or of those towns that flourish on the outskirts of Santander and that shine with Michelin lights as happens with Hoznayo and Arce.
In between, silhouettes cut into a coast loaded with memory. Silent but luminous witnesses are the iconic lighthouses that become sentinels of the Cantabrian coast. Past and present that come together in a community that has also known how to mix the culinary between the modern and the classic with great success.
Morning: an awakening at the foot of the lighthouse
Ajo claims us from the first hour. There we approach with the new Peugeot 408, the new hybrid model of the French brand that has financed this press trip, to contemplate the lighthouse, modernly repainted by the artist Okuda San Miguel
Noon: saltpeter and anchovy
Bocarte, as anchovy is called in Cantabria, is the most precious treasure of the spring coastal, moment in which the first networks are raised. Plated and whole, the best anchovies for canning are those that appear in April and May.
Later, in summer and early autumn, the palate changes and people prefer to use these anchovies to eat fresh. They are spring, they explain in Anchoas Sanfilippo, a century-old house, the favorites for cans. “They don’t have as much fat and they ripen much better,” they say.
A reality that also supports a Santoña, perhaps the great name of the spanish anchovy, like an unusual city. “Here we have always been a matriarchy,” they say, because “women have been earning a salary at home for more than 100 years.”
It is they, in this combination, that are in charge of rub and debone the anchovieswhile it is the men who go to sea in the inshore boats that arrive from Asturias, Euskadi and Cantabria itself, even from Galicia, for the anchovy campaign.
Food: The Bicycle, a wheel with a ‘star’
Says edward quintana, the Michelin star who governs the kitchens of this 18th century Cantabrian mansion, who prefers to be called a cook over a chef. And he is right. Forged in the kitchens of Zuberoa, his way of understanding gastronomy involves being present, cooking, backgrounds and respect for tradition.
Here he made a stop in 2011 together with Christina Cruzhis partner, who is in charge of managing the restaurant and to whose pairing professionals of the stature of Love Lianoroom manager, so that everything runs smoothly in the discreet town of Hoznayo, very close to Santander itself.
His cuisine is understandable and varied, revealing that classicism is his way of understanding gastronomy. Respect for the product and the season and one of the average tickets with best value for money of the Spanish Michelin stars endorse La Bicicleta.
Furthermore, it does so with generosity and freshnessgiving a lot of use to the garden, but without ever giving up the sea —fundamental in Cantabrian cuisine— and very measured touches of the use of meat, also present, but without being the protagonist of his menus.
Afternoon: Santander, a place to return
Majestic, royal and with that northern capital haloSantander invites you to stroll and discover its beaches, such as the Sardinero, and to enjoy the eternal views that it offers on both sides of the Cabo Mayor lighthouse, which acts as the spearhead of an ideal city for any time of the year.
One cannot escape from here either without enjoying the charms of the Palacio de la Magdalena, a relatively contemporary work that served as summer accommodation for King Alfonso XIII. Today it is fully visitable and serves as a university campus.
In a perfect state of preservationthe Palacio de la Magdalena is the great tourist attraction of the city of Santander and a trip to the past of the first order, verifying what these royal rooms were like until just 90 years ago.
keeping its external appearance intact and numerous details of the interior decoration, the Palace is an almost obligatory visit for all those tourists who want to see first-hand a landmark of Cantabrian architecture —two architects from Santander were in charge of the work— and one of the great jewels of heritage national.
Dinner: word of tudanca
Few regions of Spain are good enough to pamper and protect their cattle as much as it happens in Cantabria if we are talking about beef. Although there are endless races, the truth is that the flag is the tudanca cowflagship of the Cantabrian interior.
Now, recovered for the gastronomic causethe reality is that the tudanca breed also suffered particularly harsh moments in the 80s, as the decline in the countryside left cattle farms aside and this animal, with a lower meat and dairy yield, was not as profitable for the industry.
However, its taste is exquisite and the tudanca cow hut has managed to return to high levels without endangering its continuity. In addition, with the respect that characterizes his cuisine, he has managed to elevate it to culinary wicker in places of great pomp.
It is essential to make a stop along the way in the El Nuevo Molino restaurantin the charming town of Arce, where an ancient mill and an Asturian-style granary welcome you to a Cantabria that seems frozen in time.
Here, with skill and care, Toni González not only does shine a Michelin star with more creative menus, but also puts all the meat on the grill of classicism. Impressive croquettes, squid rings or porrusalda share the backdrop with tudanca cow cuts brought directly to you by a local butcher.
As in its beginnings, the deployment of the tudanca is integral. Its bones and tendons are used for broths, its tighter meats are used in stews and the finest and most elegant cuts, such as the entrecote, are marked on grills with a unique twist and turn to make even the most carnivorous salivate.
Images | Peugeot/iStock
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