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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Barbecue Pitmaster Stars Exclusive Trip The Grand Jamón Ibérico & Pig Tasting Tour of Spain 2015

Barbecue Pitmaster Stars Exclusive Trip

The Grand Jamón Ibérico & Pig Tasting Tour of Spain

 (Limited to qualified Barbecue team members and their family members and crews.)

 Horno de Asar, oven for roasting, part of the famous murals of La Chata restaurant on Cava Baja, old quarter of Madrid. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2009. Contact: / Facebook / Twitter.

Suggested Dates: 
Dates to be Determined 
(Below is a sample itinerary.)

Pricing on request at
(Based on a minimum of 20 travelers.)

Led by Spanish Food & Wine Expert Gerry Dawes
Spanish National Gastronomy Prize 2003
(Originally from Southern Illinois, born in the same town as BBQ Legend Mike Mills.)

17th Street Bar & Grill / Memphis Championship Barbecue's Mike Mills "The Legend" with Gerry Dawes at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party 2012. 
Photo by Kay Balun©2012 /

Correspondent on Spain for Food Arts Magazine,
Contributor de Departures, Conde Nast Gourmet Live, Sommelier Journal
Tour Leader to Spain, Commonwealth Club of California (2), World Trade Center Club
Michael Chiarello & Many Other Top Chefs

See Pinterest for Gerry Dawes photographs of BBQ stars, Big Apple BBQ Block Party, NYC

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A Gastronomic & Touristic Visit to Spanish Pig Country

Home of Jamón Ibérico (the World's Finest Cured Hams)

Superb Embutidos (Cured Pig Meats; Sausages; etc.)

Roast Suckling Pig & Pig Tapas

Plus We Will Dine on Some of the World's Finest Fish & Shellfish,
Lamb & Beef and Bean Dishes for Light Relief

With Opportunities to Sample Other Superb Regional Cuisine

Great Wines, Refreshing Beers and Excellent Regional Cheeses

 Travel to World-Famous Tourist Sights &

The Little-Known, Unspoiled Villages of the Spanish Conquistadores
(in the heart of Spanish Pig Country)

 Gerry Dawes, Pat Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint, Nashville, TN  with Gerry's fiancee Kay Killian Balun 
at The Big Apple BBQ Block Party 2013, New York City.  Photograph by John Sconzo©2013

Day 00 Thursday, Feb. 1, 2015 - Flight to Madrid from gateway cities.

Day 01 & Day 02 Friday, Feb. 2 &
Saturday, Feb. 3 Madrid

Arrive in Madrid, Spain’s capital, where we will rendezvous at our hotel, which will be near the Prado Museum. We will allow everyone to freshen up, then we will meet at 2 p.m. for a short optional tapas tour of the area near our hotel.  In the afternoon, there will be free time for siestas, shopping or touring.  In the evening, we will eat cochinillo asado, roast suckling pig and/or roast suckling lamb in the world’s oldest continually operating restaurant (Hemingway wrote about it). 

Cochinillo asado, roast suckling pig, specialty of the house at Casa Botín, an old Hemingway hangout where a major scene in The Sun Also Rises was set, on calle Cuchilleros, old quarter of Madrid.  
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2009. Contact: / Facebook / Twitter.

In Madrid, we will also visit the Prado Museum and other sights, have time for shopping and getting over jet lag, get our first introduction to jamón Ibérico, the world’s best hams from acorn-fed, pata negra (black foot breed) pigs; to a wide variety of tapas (small plate specialties); and to some of the best shellfish in the world, not to mention a couple of egg and potato dishes that may soon become staples on some of your menus back home.

 Cutting jamón Ibérico at Mas Gourmets, El Mercado de San Miguel.  
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Day 03 Sunday, Feb. 4  Madrid - Segovia - Ávila

From Madrid, we will go to Segovia, the roast suckling pig capital of Spain and home to an amazing 2,000-year old Roman aqueduct that still crosses the city.  For lunch, we will have exceptional roast suckling pig, so tender they cut it with the edge of a plate, in a restaurant that has been a must visit for celebrities and just plain folks for decades.  
 Segovia, Mesón de Cándido, a major roast suckling pig restaurant alongside the Roman Aqueduct. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes ©2008

 After lunch we will visit the amazing Medieval walled town of Ávila, stop off to see one of Spain’s greatest jamón Ibérico ham cutters–he travels the world showing how these hams should be cut–and sample his hams.   We will spend the night in Ávila and dine on this city's version of roast suckling pig.

The great cortador de jamones (ham cutting artist), Florencio Sanchidrián, at Florencio's Rincón de Jabugo restaurant in his Gran Hostal San Segundo in Ávila, Spain. Jan. 21, 2014. With John Sconzo (Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life), L. J. Sconzo and mi pareja, Kay Balun. Flores explains there are seven different flavor profiles in each ham. Video by Gerry Dawes©2014 / / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III

Day 04 - Monday, Feb. 5  Salamanca -  Guijuelo - Cáceres - Trujillo

We then move on to spend the morning in the historic university city of Salamanca, whose Plaza Mayor (main square) is the most beautiful in Spain, and sample the area specialty, tostón, roast suckling pig with crackling skin.  (You may recognize the Plaza Mayor square in Salamanca from the 2008 movie Vantage Point.)

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 /

Before lunch, we will head south through the major pig town of Guijuelo, where we will stop to visit one of Spain’s top jamón Ibérico producers, sample some primo jamón and sausages, then travel south to the monumental medieval city of Cáceres, where we will have lunch and sample the sensational local Torta del Casar cheeses.  After lunch, we will tour the old quarter, then move on to nearby Trujillo to spend the night. 

The hilltop town of Trujillo, hometown of Pizarro (conqueror of the Incas) and Orellana (the first European to make the 2400-mile trip down the Amazon), has a major cheese fair every year in May and producers here make great goat cheeses, including Ibores.  Here we will take a break from pig, have some roast goat and try other regional dishes and Extremaduran cheeses.

Equestrian statute of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Incas, in the Plaza Mayor of Trujillo, Extremadura.  
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /
Day 05 Tuesday, Feb. 6 Trujillo - Montánchez - Mérida

What an exciting day we have in front of us! After a walk around picturesque Trujillo, the next stop is Montánchez, an incredible hilltop town, where we will sample the prime hams, including some of the best in Spain, from this village and visit a hermitage with stunning views. 

Iberian pata negra pigs, the ones used for Ibérico Jamones de Bellota, foraging for bellotas (acorns) near Montánchez (Cáceres). Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 / / Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 70 200mm f/4L USM with Canon 1.4 Telextender.

We will roll on to Mérida, one of the best preserved Roman cities in Europe. The Roman bridge across the Guadiana River, a superb amphitheatre and arena and well-preserved remnants of this important Imperial city are scattered all over town.  (One shop in this city has the figure of a Roman Centurion whose shield is an Ibérico ham.) 

 Depiction of a Roman centurion with a ham in Mérida, which has the most important collection of Roman monuments in Spain and is at the center of pig products in Spain's western provinces.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 /

We will stay in the Parador de Mérida, in a renovated convent, just a couple of blocks from the main square (excellent evening lollygagging territory) and within an easy stroll of all the major Roman ruins.  This afternoon will be free to relax, tour the Roman monuments, stroll across the river on a pedestrian-only Roman bridge and take the evening off.

 Mérida’s Roman bridge, mirrored by a modern bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava, spanning the Guadiana River.  Mérida has the most important Roman monuments in Spain. 
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 /

Day 06 Wednesday, Feb. 7 Mérida  - Jerez de los Caballeros - Jabugo - Sevilla

We will leave Merida in the morning, stopping off for a short visit to Jerez de los Caballeros, the evocative and picturesque hometown of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (discoverer of the Pacific Ocean) and De Soto (explorer of the Mississippi River). By lunchtime, we will arrive in Jabugo, the jamón Ibérico capital of the Andalucía. We will tour a jamón processing plant and have lunch in a picturesque nearby village with local specialties and some of the best pig products in the world. 

Employees at Consorcio de Jabugo checking the jamones Ibéricos de bellota (hams from acorn-fed Ibérico pigs) curing in their plant. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Julio Revilla, President of Consorcio de Jabugo, jamón Ibérico de bellota producers, at his stand at the Madrid Fusión gastronomic conference. ("Signature Jabugo hams. The Ibérico (pig), a singular breed. A place with a unique climate, Jabugo. And special treatment, the arte of Ibérico Ham Maestros.") Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

After lunch, we will arrive in Sevilla, the city of Carmen and one of the most beautiful and evocative cities in Europe.  After checking into our hotel, we can relax until early evening when I will lead a walking tour of this stunningly pretty city where Gerry Dawes lived for nearly six years.  We will sample tapas in a few places, then sit down in a particularly good tapas bar for some grilled shrimp and other special tapas, including, no doubt, a plate or two of Ibérico ham.

La Giralda, the former minaret of the Moorish mosque, now the bell tower of Sevilla's cathedral. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / 

After the tapas tour, we go with some native Sevillanos to an authentic flamenco joint. 

Flamenco, Sevilla. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes, copyright 2010 /

Day 07 Thursday, Feb. 8 Sevilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda - Sevilla

In the morning, we will have a guided tour of the Cathedral and the Moorish fortress-palace El Alcázar, do some strolling and shopping, then travel south to the superb fishing and wine town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where Columbus set sail on his second voyage to America.  We will prevail upon one of my friends to open his 200-year old sherry bodega and let us taste some of his exceptional manzanilla sherries, then we will have lunch at a beachfront restaurant with more manzanilla, grilled shellfish and some of the best fried fish in the world.  

Javier Hidalgo, one of the Directors of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana,Sanlúcar de Barrameda. 
All photos by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact for publication rights.

Hopefully, we will see one of Sanlucar's spectacular sunsets from the legendary Bajo de Guia fisherman's beach with a glass of manzanilla in hand (more on this later). Afterwards, we’ll return to Sevilla in the early evening to relax.  Those still game can go with me for an optional tapas crawl of the old city's famous taverns.

Day 08 Friday, Feb. 9 Sevilla - Córdoba - Toledo

We will leave Sevilla in the morning and head for Córdoba, where we will visit the old quarter and tour the Mezquita-- once one of the great Mosques in the world, so huge that it has the Christian full-sized cathedral built into the middle of it. 

The Mihrab in Córdoba's Mezquita (former mosque during the Moorish occupation of Spain). 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2013 / 

We will tour the labyrinthine streets of the old quarter, one of Spain’s finest, stopping at a special Córdoban taberna, where the berenjenas fritas (fried eggplant) may also end up on your home menus, along with salmorejo (a thick kind of gazpacho that is at its best here).  We will then travel north less than an hour to visit the great up-and-coming jamón Ibérico region of Pedroches, tour a ham-curing operation and see the Ibérico pata negra (black foot breed) pigs grazing on acorns in the picturesque countryside and have lunch with the producers. 

Salmorejo with chopped jamón Ibérico and egg at Taberna Juan Peña, Córdoba. 
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2013 / 
Juan Luís Ortiz Pérez, Secretario General, Consejo Regulador Denominación de Origen Los Pedroches Jamones y Embutidos Ibéricos (Ibérico hams and charcuterie) talking (in Spanish) to Madrid Fusión Mexico Director Blanca Villarello and me about Ibérico pigs and some new rules about the use of the term "pata negra" (black hoof pigs). Videoby Gerry Dawes©2014 / / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III
After lunch, we will drive across La Mancha, land of Don Quixote, stop to see some of the famous windmills and arrive in the early evening in the historic city of Toledo, where the following day our barbecue stars will exhibit their cooking skills for the Spanish press and gastronomic luminaries in a spectacular location overlooking Toledo.   Some of our lucky barbecue esperts will go to Chef-owner Adolfo Muñoz's (Restaurante Adolfo) cigarral country house (a couple of miles) overlooking Toledo and the Alcazar and get the pig smoking for tomorrow's event and leave a couple of crew, along with Adolfo's crew, to keep things going.  You will be supplied with plenty of beer, vino, food and probably a bed.  The rest of the group will have dinner in Toledo at one of Adolfo's restaurants.

La Mancha, text and photos by Gerry Dawes, The Wine News.  

 Day 09 Saturday, Feb. 10 Toledo (cooking exhibition) - Chinchón

Chef-owner Adolfo Muñoz's (Restaurante Adolfo) Ama vineyards at his cigarral country house overlooking Toledo and the Alcazar.  Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / 

This morning most of us will tour Toledo and see the sights, including El Greco's home, then in late morning, we will all go to the cigarral and finish preparing the pig feast for the press and invited Spanish chefs and culinary luminaries.

After lunch, we will load up and travel for about 45 minutes to the enchanting city of Chinchón, where we will check into our charming hotel just a block from Chinchón’s legendary Plaza Mayor, one of Spain’s best restored and loveliest plazas, which is like a page out of the 16th Century.   

We will relax a bit, perhaps have a world-class gin-and-tonic then have dinner overlooking the charming Plaza Mayor, whose romantic restaurants offer classic Castillian dishes, including more pig of course, but with the option of having wood-grilled steaks, bean dishes, fried potatoes with “broken eggs” and other specialties. 

We can linger over a glass of local Madrid D.O. wine or the town’s famous Anis Chinchón liqueur, watch the peregrinations of the people down in the plaza and reminisce about the high points and comedic episodes of our trip to the great pork regions of Spain.

A glass of local garnacha rosado wine served with huevos rotos con patatas (fried eggs "broken" over fried potatoes) at La Balconada restaurant, overlooking La Plaza Mayor of Chinchón.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2013 / 

Day 10, Sunday, Feb. 9 Chinchón - Madrid Airport (1 hour) - Flights to USA

In the morning our bus will take the tour members to Madrid Airport for the flights back home.

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About Gerry Dawes

Writing, Photography, & Specialized Tours of Spain & Tour Advice

For custom-designed tours of Spain, organized and lead by Gerry Dawes, and custom-planned Spanish wine, food, cultural and photographic itineraries, send inquiries to  

I have planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez and led on shorter excursions and have given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities such as Drew Nieporent, Norman Van Aken, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Christopher Gross, Rick Moonen, James Campbell Caruso and many others.
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“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . . the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” Michael Paterniti, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. 

"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
contributing authority Gerry Dawes, a noted expert on Spanish food and wine.  Coqueta's (Chiarello's new restaurant at Pier Five, San Francisco) chef de cuisine, Ryan McIlwraith, later joined Dawes for his own two week excursion, as well. Sampling both old and new, they visited wineries and marketplaces, as well as some of Spain's most revered dining establishments, including the Michelin three-star Arzak, Etxebarri, the temple to live fire-grilling; Tickets, the playful Barcelona tapas bar run by Ferran Adrià and his brother, Albert; and ABaC, where Catalan cooking goes avant-garde." - - Carolyn Jung, Food Arts, May 2013.

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"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

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Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés. ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
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Trailer-pilot for a reality television series 
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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