Esmorzaret: welcome to the promised land
In València, esmorzaret is a culinary tradition that defines both the city and its people: an irrepressible village, proud of its culinary localisms, against the tyranny of globalization, brunch and other customs in the age of orthodoxy.
Here, people show little passion for breakfast yet await the designated time for esmorzaret (between 9:00, for the purists, and 12:00, for the stragglers) with a veneration bordering on the religious. Valencianas and valencianos are brothers and sisters in this sentiment, which like so many others, is the result of the city's agricultural origins.
Origins of an ancient ritual
It all began in l’Horta, València’s fertile region, where the fruits of the locally sourced movement are gathered. Hard work in the fields was followed by a mid-morning snack (esmorzaret, in Valencian) at a nearby establishment. Some brought their own sandwich and ordered only a drink and an appetizer to accompany it. For this reason, the typical starter based on cacau del collaret (a highly regarded local peanut variety), various pickled vegetables, olives, tramussos (lupin beans), and even a salad with lots of tomato and spring onion, is still known as a gasto (expense), as it was the only toll that would open the gates of paradise.
Today the tradition continues. Every good esmorzaret begins with a good picaeta (appetizer). Once the epiglottis has been sufficiently greased, washed down with a nice cold beer or vi amb llimonà (wine with lemonade), it is time for the main dish, which consists of wrapping a more than substantial baguette around pork charcuterie, various meats, fried egg, omelettes filled with improbable combinations, and a selection of vegetables, limited only by the imagination.
From these particular “made in València” pairings, there have survived mythical examples of sandwiches which have come down to us today, the heirs of the out-and-out baroque style of the Valencian people and their joie de vivre: the blanco y negro (longaniza sausage and blood sausage) with broad beans; horse meat with green garlic; the Almussafes (sobrasada sausage, processed cheese and caramelized onions), the frugal chivito (grilled pork loin, fried egg and bacon, tempered by mayonnaise, cheese and of course, lettuce). The possibilities are endless!
The crowning moment of this modern feast comes with the final swallow: the cremaet. It’s as simple as augmenting coffee with rum, burning it to eliminate part of the alcohol, and flavouring the mixture with cinnamon, coffee beans and lemon peel. Amen!
Trips and tricks
There are innumerable bars and restaurants that observe esmorzaret culture. One way to discover them is to pay attention to the Cacau D’or Awards, experts in spotlighting the crème de la crème. Although it is no less important to heed a few practical tips when tackling your initiation in this ritual. The diminutive esmorzaret (‘snacklette’) is pure Valencian humourTM. In fact, don't feel embarrassed to order half a sandwich, despite the fact that you’ll see some smiles from those around you ... And if you opt for a king-size sandwich, please be sure to get an early start, for dinner in València is another experience you will not want to give up. Lastly, if you're visiting an area in the outskirts of the city or a rural area, follow the cyclists and motorcyclists. Their presence at a local establishment makes for guaranteed success.
Where to try it:
And now let’s offer a few examples of the temples of esmorzaret:
- Central Bar (Central Market), esmorzaret according to Ricard Camarena, two-Michelin-star chef.
- Bar Marvi (Santos Just i Pastor, 14), gasto, croquettes, king prawns, octopus, steak tartare and sandwiches ... Delicious!
- La Bernarda (Cobertis de Sant Tomás, 7), different size options and a long list of sandwich ingredients.
- La Pascuala (Dr. Lluch, 299), ‘no tomorrow’-sized sandwiches opposite Malvarrosa Beach.
- Cervecería Alhambra (Calixto III, 8), the temple of Spanish omelette, potato omelette, or whatever you like.
- Bar Mistela (Riu Nervión, 11), reinterpretation of the classics with flair and finesse.
- Casa Guillermo (Progrés, 15), the best anchovies in the city and a nice selection of salted fish.
- Bar Rojas Clemente (Plaza Rojas Clemente), if you've got a sweet tooth, take a chance on their torrijas (French toast) to finish off the celebration.
- Restaurante Puerta del Mar (Transits, 4), quantity, quality and variety in the city centre.
- La Pérgola (Paseo Alameda 1), small stand with a large outdoor seating area. A true class of lunch culture!
- El Trocito del Medio (Blanes, 1), classic and innovative sandwiches offered daily.
- Casa Cent Duros (Camí de la Cossa, 10, Borbotó), horse meat sandwiches in the heart of the farming region.