Gourmet Walking Holiday: Olives & Fiestas

Gourmet holiday mallorca hikingA perfect opportunity to shake off the Winter blues and treat yourself to a gourmet adventure through the Olive groves and fiestas of Mallorca…

January is a very busy month in Mallorca with the Olive harvests and Fiestas.  Every year at this time, we offer a week’s magical Mallorcan experience that combines an insight into the local production of olives and olive oil, and 2 of the island’s favourite “fiestas”, San Antonio (17th January) and San Sebastian (20th January). These fiestas are enthusiastically celebrated with music and street antics, bonfires and barbecues, fireworks and processions…. This is a fantastic time to be on the island, as these exuberant celebrations involve ancient and very traditional customs (as well as a lot of fun!), and we see the island in a very special light…

The location is the north west of the island around the beautiful area of Fornalutx. Just outside Sóller, Fornalutx  is one of the prettiest villages on the island. It has a small central square, and narrow cobbled streets full of character and charm – it has even won awards for Mallorca’s “best kept” village. It is within easy walking distance of central Sóller, and also has a few cafes and restaurants of its own, a bank, post office and other essentials.

The village is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and is a truly spectacular location for a walking holiday.

The History of Olive Oil production in Mallorca

It is said that olive trees (Olea europaea) were first introduced by the Phoenicians and Greeks to the Spanish mainland, and from there they eventually reached Mallorca. After the re-conquest of the island in 1229 by Jaime I, olive oil was exported from Mallorca to Northern Africa together with other agricultural products. For centuries, olive oil played a key role in the island’s economy, both as a basic ingredient in the natives’ diet and as a product for trading and exportation. Olive oil became Mallorca’s leading export product during the first half of the 19th century, accounting for up to 80% of the island’s total exports in monetary terms. Mallorca’s olive oil achieved recognition outside the island in the late 19th century, when the second prize at a gastronomic award for quality oils held in Catalunya went to a Mallorcan oil produced by one of the local olive mills.

Walking Itinerary

You start your holiday with an opportunity to participate in something really special – the traditional Mallorcan methods of olive oil production. After breakfast on your first day, we walk to the neighbouring village of Biniaraix, where we visit the 600 year old olive farm of Ca’n Det. Here we pick our own olives and then take them to the local 15thC press. While our olives are being processed, we enjoy a deliciously typical Mallorcan lunch of Pamb Oli (featuring plenty of olive oil, of course!) before collecting our own individually labelled bottles of oil made from the olives we picked earlier!

In the afternoon, we walk back to your hotel via some of the pretty villages in the area, before getting ready for a gastronomic evening in Palma (30 minutes by car). Michelin star chef, Marc Fosh and his team, will demonstrate the art of Cooking with Olive Oil… to include recipes such as chocolate olive oil mousse! We get to sample and enjoy all their delicious and creative dishes, while sipping some Mallorcan wine to accompany them… This is a real treat!

The next day, after a leisurely start, we set off from your hotel on today’s walk – a one and half hour walk downhill through some of the most ancient and spectacular olive trees in the valley. We lunch with Maria and Guillermo at their 17th century farmhouse, Balitx d’Avall. The menu will be either roast home-grown goat, or another Mallorquin speciality, rabbit with onions. We have time to relax or explore their 13thC tower, the chapel, the ancient olive press and Guillermo’s eccentric art collection before walking back to Fornalutx and your hotel.

Whichever day of the week the fiestas fall on, the eve of the fiesta of San Antonio (the patron saint of animals) sees the start of the celebrations. A huge fire and barbecue is set up in the main square of Soller, where we barbecue local sausages, sobrasada and other meats, accompanied by the music of the Ximbomba!

The next day after breakfast we walk into Soller, where the town celebrates the fiesta of San Antonio with a charming ceremony of blessing the local animals. From here, we set off on our walk down to the port of Soller and the Muleta lighthouse and then on to Deia, a delightfully pretty village further along the coast – see W-NW11 for more details.

During the course of your week’s holiday, we do another excellent walk in the Sóller area (see W-NW12), and then we go a bit further afield to visit one of the island’s most historic sites – the ruined Castle of Alaro, from where we experience some of the island’s history, and get sweeping views of Palma and much of the rest of the island (see W-NW03). We also visit Valldemossa and walk the so-called “Archduke’s Bridleway” – a classic Mallorcan hike and an insight into one of the island’s historical figures W-NW10. On each walking day we have a picnic lunch at one of our special picnic spots along the way.

The 20th January is the fiesta of San Sebastian, which is celebrated with spectacular fireworks in Palma. This is well worth a visit and a good opportunity for a stroll around the beautiful old town of Palma as well.

Hotel

Your base for this holiday is a delightful, 8-bedroom hotel in the centre of Fornalutx (see Ref. A-NW04 for details). You are very well looked after by your extremely hospitable hosts – their breakfasts are legendary and so are their evening meals.

The hotel is centrally heated and at this time of year there is always a fire roaring in the grate of the sitting room. This is a warm, friendly, cosy and exceptionally welcoming place to stay.

The price

If you would like to use this itinerary as the basis for a tailor-made walking holiday for you and your party, please contact us. The price will depend on the number of people in your party, how long you stay and other factors.

If you’d like to join one of our small group holidays, then please see the holiday itinerary on our website to check the price and the next dates scheduled (at the bottom of the page).

Please note that this is a popular walking holiday, and as our tour groups are small (8-10 people) it fills very quickly. We recommend you book early.

Mallorca Hiking routes – Alaro Castle

Views from Alaro Castle - Mallorca HikingHave you discovered the history and magic of Alaro castle and its wonderful panoramic views? We highly recommend a visit to this part of the Sierra de Tramuntana mountains when you’re in Mallorca. From the heights of the castle you can see most of the island – the bays of Palma and Alcudia, the flat lands and the incredible Sierra de Tramuntana. There aren’t many places on the island that give you such far-reaching views.

The castle or Puig de Alaro, which stands at an imposing 822 meters, dates back to 900 A.D. and the Muslim occupation of Mallorca. It was built as a refuge against frequent attacks from Arab forces. There are many stories of battles and sieges surrounding the castle and there is no better way to experience these stories than from within the castle walls.

Time and a tumultuous history – having in turn been seized by the Moors, Romans and Christians – have taken their toll.  The castle is in ruins now. But in the tranquillity of its surroundings and spectacular views all around, the accounts of battles and sieges between Moors and Christians are easy to imagine.

We offer 2 walks that include a visit to the Castle – one is short and easy and the other is more difficult, but both are real favourites! The short route climbs gently out of Orient through beautiful olive groves, which line the Orient valley. We follow a narrow path that winds through beautiful holm oak woods and then we join an ancient cobbled path that leads up to an imposing entrance to the Castle. It is at this point that we realise just why this spot has been so significant in the island’s history!

After visiting the castle we then zigzag gently downhill through more holm oak woods to the famous “lamb” restaurant, where we like to stop for a delicious lamb lunch and a very rural Mallorcan experience!

A perfect end to a perfect hike.

Wines of Mallorca

Vineyard tours with Tailor Made holidays from Mallorca HikingFollowing on from our Mallorca Food posts, a superb collection of local wines. Wine making in Mallorca goes back to 1 BC and the Romans, who showed the locals how to grow and cultivate the vines – a skill that is today producing some of the finest wines in a world market. Wine making was prolific on the island between the 14th and 19th century, when a plague of phylloxera attacked the Mallorcan vineyards. The wine industry was decimated by this disease and most of the vineyards were subsequently replaced with almond trees. Although some wine production continued, it was not until the 1990’s that real investment and determination by local vineyards resurrected this great Mallorquin tradition. From this “re-animation” the wine making process of many of the Mallorcan vineyards has advanced significantly over the last few years, giving us an envious selection of red, white and rosé wines to choose from.

The equipment found in most vineyards is now of the latest technology with stainless steel installations and storage tanks; sophisticated refrigeration and temperature control for the fermentation process, and maturing of the wine in oak barrels.

A quality standard was introduced by the Balearic Councillor for Agriculture and Fisheries in 2007, which can only be used by wines grown, produced and bottled in Mallorca. Similar to the French AOC designation, the ‘Denominacio d’Origen’ classification ensures the quality of Mallorcan wines.

A wide range of grape varieties are used including: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, vionier and malvasia. Blending is also becoming popular and creating some excellent variations of what used to be a limited selection. Monastrel is the traditional wine grape used in Mallorca, which alone had not produced very imaginative or distinctive wines. Now, bringing in more grape varieties and blending has seen a dramatic improvement in choice and quality.

There are two key wine producing “districts” in Mallorca:  The first is located around Binissalem and Santa Maria in the centre of the island. Here there are more than 140 different wines produced from vineyards including the now well known Jose Louis Ferrer family and the bodega of Macia Batle. The second is to the east of the island centering around Porreres, Manacor and Felanitx. Here another 130 or so different wines are produced.

The result of all the investment and dedication poured into the vineyards of Mallorca over the last twenty years is now recognition worldwide for many of our wines. This year at the prestigious Mundus Vini awards the bodega Macia Batle won two gold and one silver award at a worldwide blind tasting competition (5800 wines from 42 different countries). At the same awards Bodegas José L. Ferrer received one gold medal and two silver. These are just a few of the long list of awards now pouring in for our fine Mallorcan wines.

The phenomenal success and growth of this gourmet market in Mallorca is now seeing our vineyards opening to the public for tours and tasting activities that are becoming very popular for many tourists visiting the island. Mallorca Hiking for 2011 will be adding tours of bodegas to the Tailor Made holiday activities – why not add this to your holiday itinerary with us. If you would like more information contact us here for details.

With such an irresistible combination of inspiring walks, great gourmet food and wine, plus an incredible range of alternative activities to complement your holiday – don’t waste another minute …. contact us now to make your reservation.

Local Mallorquin Food specialities

frito mallorquin at mallorca hikingFollowing Mallorca Hiking’s food theme this week, let us introduce you to some great mallorcan food specialties. The island is well known already for almonds; oranges from Soller; olive oil and now some incredible wines – that are winning awards world wide.

Mallorca also has a vast range of great restaurants, many of which you will find descriptions and even interviews with the chefs at Sky Blue Mallorca.  Today we are going to start with a traditional dish that had a lowly past, but now graces the best tables and restaurants throughout the island – the unassuming Frito Mallorquin

This is an extremely delicious fried meat and vegetable dish that originally was the only way the lower classes could enjoy some meat in their food.  Now widely enjoyed by locals and fine restaurants throughout Mallorca. You can order this traditional Mallorcan dish in many Restaurants all over the island as well as featuring in many buffet menus.

The Ingredients:

1 medium piece of lamb, 1 lamb’s liver, 2 medium onions, 5 medium potatoes, 1 fennel bulb, 3-4 artichokes, 1 red pepper, 5 cloves of garlic, fresh peas, half cup of olive oil, 1 bay leaf.

Method:

–          Cut the lamb pieces and lambs liver into small bite size pieces.

–          Peel the potatoes and cut them into small bite size squares.

–          Peel and chop the onions into small pieces.

–          Wash the red peppers, remove the seeds and slice into small bite size squares.

–          Strip back the pea pods and place the peas into a cup. Alternatively frozen peas can be used, but you will need to add these to the recipe at the very end to avoid “mushy peas”.

–          Wash, peel and chop the fennel. It’s the fennel that really makes this dish and gives it a lovely taste.

–          Peel outer leaves of the artichokes. Cut the hearts of the artichokes into 6 to 8 pieces, depending on how large they are.

–          In a large and deep frying pan, fry the potatoes and the whole pieces of garlic until slightly golden in colour. Drain the oil from the potatoes and garlic and set aside in a cool place.

–          Fry the lamb gently for approximately 20 minutes in the same oil with bay leaf and salt.

–          In another frying pan, heat 5 spoonfuls of oil and add onions until they become clear add the vegetables and fry for about 15 minutes constantly stirring.

–          Place all of the fried ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring very carefully. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tip: As an alternative to lamb and lambs liver you can also make this dish with beef and calves liver. Either way, this very tasty Frito Mallorquin dish is sure to please all.

Bon Profit!

Looking for more Mallorcan food specialities? Visit our blog post: Great outside, great inside – Hiking and Gourmet Food

Great outside, great inside – Hiking and Gourmet food – enjoy!

Mallorca Hiking Gourmet restaurantsTaking a Walking/Hiking holiday or short break is of course a healthy, refreshing way of really appreciating the beauty and sights of a new environment. As we mentioned in our previous post, there are many advantages of doing this with a local guide. But one, very significant advantage that will actually be more relevant AFTER the walking is knowing the best places to EAT – and in Mallorca you are spoilt for choice.

Mallorca through the centuries has always had many cultural influences – many times brought by conquering armies and more recently through a more civilised source with tourism. These cultural influences have also brought their culinary influences and Mallorca is now home to hundreds of different styles and tastes from Fast Food to the highest levels of gourmet cuisine.

Five restaurants have been awarded the prestigious Michelin Star in Mallorca for 2011 – two of them being new awards.  But great food is not limited to the excellence of the Michelin chefs. Mallorca has a strong history of excellent food and also a very versatile use of the unlikeliest food items particularly from it’s farming roots of previous centuries.

The pig was and still is a popular ingredient to many local dishes including the now famous sobrasada; the very popular roasted suckling pig and also variations of the Frito Mallorquin which is a descendant of the poorest families’ staple diet in olden days.

Pa amb oli is another Mallorquin favourite with varied platters. These are usually cold dish choices with either a meat or cheese selection (but can also be fish) served with a thinly sliced rustic Mallorcan bread; olive oil; ramallet (spreading) tomatoes, garlic and sea salt. Simply crush the thin skinned ‘ramallet’ tomatoes with a garlic clove, sea salt and a generous glug of olive oil and serve on a slab of rustic bread. A variety of toppings can then be added from slices of locally cured hams, chorizos and sobrasadas or cheese. This meal choice is particularly popular through the summer and can last for hours along with great conversation and some superb Mallorquin wines.

The Mediterranean diet also includes many fresh salads and there are lots of local markets serving a wonderful array of home grown fruits and vegetables. Together with the local olive oil and the now famous Flor de Sal flavoured sea salts from Ses Salines – another great meal combination.

Fresh seafood is also very popular in Mallorca. The fishing ports of Andratx, Soller and Palma itself still holds fresh fish markets daily, direct from the returning fishing boats. The age old custom of the fishermen sitting repairing their nets with the gulls floating overhead still continues today. Everybody has their special fish restaurant to recommend but my favourite (and many others for over 30 years) is Casa Manolo’s in Ses Salines.

Preparing for your visit to Mallorca there are many authoritative web sites now dedicated purely to your gastronomic enjoyment whilst here on the island. Our recommendation for the widest and most current range of information, news and even video interviews with the chefs and owners of the hundreds of venues you can visit is the award winning Sky Blue Mallorca

Do not be daunted by this incredible choice and the gastronomic delights that await you in Mallorca – your guides are well equipped to help you make the best choices during your stay. But we have to warn you – you’ll definitely need to return for more!!