Central Market, Valencia
Spanish cuisine is full of robust flavors and is often served in a family-style format that organically lends itself to group dining. Traditional tapas, for instance, are made for sharing and so are the popular paella rice dish platters for which the country is known, especially in Valencia.
“It’s tough to think of an activity in Spain that is not related to food,” says Jorge Rubio Navarro, director of the Chicago Tourism Office of Spain. “Each region has its own cuisine and typical regional dishes, and the majority of them are known worldwide.”
In Valencia, meeting planners can introduce groups to these Spanish cuisine traditions and offer them a teambuilding opportunity in the process with the help of Valencia Guias, a company that offers tailor-made tours. The company's tapas tour exposes groups to the Spanish custom of ir a tapas (going out for tapas snacks and drinks), which allows attendees to explore Valencia’s old quarter via the eyes of a true Spanish foodie.
Groups up to 250 will visit several restaurants and experience a variety of Spanish dishes by sharing the small plates, while seeing the city’s standout monuments along the way.
The tour company also offers a paella cooking class, where 30 to 200 attendees are taken to an authentic alquería (farmstead) surrounded by market gardens on the outskirts of Valencia. They are then divided into teams, given instructions on how to make the popular rice dish and encouraged to make their own under the head chef’s supervision. Once cooked, the chef determines a winner before everyone can eat their hand-made meals. Meeting planners can opt to take the group to Mercado Central (Central Market) before the class, where an explanation of paella ingredients is given.
Purchasing food at a local market has always been the traditional way for locals and visitors alike to get ingredients for their food; however, more and more farms are allowing guests to visit the farm and pick the food themselves.
“Although Spanish cuisine has always been farm-to-table, often by way of the local mercado, where individuals and restaurateurs alike shop daily for the best vegetables and fruits (as well as meats, cheeses, seafood, fish, nuts and more), we are now seeing experiences where the participant can go to the farm and help pick the white asparagus, for example, that will later be prepared by the farmer or chef,” Rubio Navarro says.
The orange grove tour, another Valencia Guias favorite, is a prime example of this more extensive farm-to-table experience. The excursion first takes groups to the only museum dedicated to the fruit in Europe, followed by a tour of the orange warehouse to learn about the orange selection process, production and storage. Planners can also arrange for attendees to visit an orange tree field, where guests can pick and taste the oranges they learned so much about.
Olive trees are also plentifully grown throughout the Valencia region, making it a source for virgin olive oil. As such, an olive oil tour is available, in which up to 70 attendees will taste four olive oils and be given an explanation of each from an expert that will educate guests on the oil’s origin, variety of olives, grade and acidity.