The great thing about travelling through Spain, is discovering the variety of food available. When you travel about Spain, you will see various versions of cuisine. Some of them are familiar in style and concept, but the ingredients differ. Each region has their specialty and you will discover very quickly, that France is not the only country in all of Europe with great cheese.
If you do travel through Spain and you want to see the whole or at least a large part of it, I suggest taking a minimum of three weeks. I have said it before, but get off the highways and travel the local roads. It is the only way you will get to experience the authentic stuff. We start this text coming over the French-Spanish border through the Pyrenees. This is where the tapas trail begins, however as you are in Basque country, locally they are referred to as ‘pintxos’. The tapas you might be familiar with are fairly small bits of rich and wonderful food you can typically consume bite after bite in one bite. Pintxos are a bit larger. You will find various pintxos with varying ingredients, but they are served on a slice of bread (kind of like bruschetta) or skewered on large toothpicks. It is usually a form of seafood stacked with pickled vegetables. One memorable pintxo I had over a few days travel through Basque country was fresh, raw salmon with a slice of goat cheese topped with a runny poached egg dressed with squid ink and garnished with chive! My teeth and lips were coated black, but I was not worried about aesthetics. I was in heaven.
I mentioned cheese. In this area you can pass through a handful of villages selling Roncal. You might not recognize the name but after passing by road sign after road sign through various villages, one gets curious. It is a delicious, sheep milk, nutty cheese with strong nuances of all that it delicious about animals who graze freely and eat the local grasses and wild herbs. Mahon is another you may find in the area, just a bit more mild.
Head towards the west along the north coast and you will stop off in places for the famous seafood paella. You are still in tapas country, just different versions with the locally sourced ingredients. A bit south in the region of Rioja you stop off at family restaurants to get Churassco or skirt steak that typically starts out with a hearty soup and served with the local wine that just might have been stomped out the season before in the back yard. Close to Madrid you can enjoy the same juicy and delicious thin cuts of beef, but you can also get a leg of lamb, grilled pork ear and various versions of potato. You can still enjoy some fruits of the sea like calamares (fried squid), but the further you go south and inland, the local delicacies are going to be of land animals. Take gallinejas, for example, which are fried sheep entrails.
Another specialty you will find in various routes and regions throughout Spain is ‘morcilla’, or blood sausage. In many parts you will not find many places open for breakfast during early starts on your road trip. An early lunch around 11:30 might be the next best thing at a roadside stop in a small village. Around the area of Madrid and the surrounding regions, this is where you will find specialty morcilla. You can typically order by starting off with some tapas of pickled mild chilies and onion, hard-boiled quail egg and oil-cured anchovies, followed by the morcilla with an omelet. If you happen to be the passenger, get a beer. Get the espresso later. The morcilla of this region is made with rice and warm spices. If it is made just right, the skin should be crispy and crunchy while the inside is soft and almost silky in texture. Spread it over some bread and you will be glad you missed breakfast.