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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


Espardenyes (sea cucumbers), Some Very Strange Creatures from the Sea, Are a Highly Prized Delicacy in Catalunya

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 Espardenyes (sea cucumbers) served on pancetta, which I had with my great friend Juli Soler of elBulli fame, at Restaurante Fermi Puig, Barcelona.  Jan. 11, 2014. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

Espardenyes, sea cucumbers, also called by the far less appetizing name, sea slugs, and you can read below, by quite a more exotic name by the fishermen in Cádiz.

The word espardenyes is the Catalan equivalent of the Spanish alpargatas (espadrilles) and are so-called because these equinoderms (akin to starfish), are reminiscent of the ribbed soles in the famous typical peasant footwear, which now re-designed and produced in stylish colors, sometimes with heels, is now sold in fashionable shops around the world. 

Espardenyes (in Catalan), espardenyas (in Spanish), the sea cucumbers, were once considered junk creatures from the sea and were usually only consumed by fisherman in Catalunya, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.  Now espardenyes, in limited supply, are considered a delicacy and are quite expensive. 
Espardenyes creatures secrete a substance that forms a reddish, rough, linear  protective outer body, whose texture resembles the outer shell of starfish.  

Espardenyes, it has been written, have evolved a unique defense against a tiny parasite fish that invades the espardenyes's outer covering and dines on the sexual organs of its host.  The affected espardenya, merely (it would seem) rejects and jettisons the gnawed-on genitalia, then begins anew by re-generating the preyed upon (and undoubtedly prayed for) sexual organ in question.  Ironically, in the ports of Cádiz, on the Atlantic side of Spain, espardenyas (Spanish) are popularly know as carajos de mar (carajo is a naughty, but commonly used slang term for a phallus).

Now espardenyes, in limited supply, are considered a delicacy in Catalunya and are quite expensive.     

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. 

Pilot for a reality television series with Gerry Dawes  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Customized Culinary, Wine & Cultural Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at

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