In a decision voted on this October 17th by representatives from the Spanish Restaurant Industry Federation (FEHR) and the Spanish Federation of Travel and Tourism Writers and Journalists (FEPET), León beat out the other finalist city of Cuenca for this honor, which is annually given to a Spanish city that offers excellent cuisine in quality restaurants, while also promoting gastronomy tourism, quality products and traditional cuisine. It also recognizes the coming together of culture, heritage and gastronomy in the creation of exceptional visitor experiences.
León’s candidacy was presented under the slogan “León, manjar de reyes” (loosely, “morsel for kings”), and promises to showcase both the traditional products of this city and province, as well as its haute cuisine and the gastronomic innovation of its restaurants. Support for León’s candidacy was widespread, with famed Spanish chefs like the Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui and the Roca brothers, lending their support.
León’s star product may be cecina (air-dried beef or horsemeat, similar to serrano ham). Another fine product is botillo del Bierzo (a pork sausage, similar to haggis in shape), typically eaten boiled with cachelos (the local potatoes), for example. The cheeses are good, especially the Valdeón blue cheese. Other popular dishes include cocido maragato (casserole), picadillo de cerdo (minced pork), sopa de trucha (trout soup), sopa de ajo (garlic soup), and caldereta de cordero (lamb stew).
León expects to organise over 150 culinary events in 2018, some of which will run all year, such as the Gaudí – Casa Botines Museum Nights, with tastings, tours, and concerts; and monthly lecture-workshops taught by prestigious chefs and concluding with a charity dinner.
Here are a few of the scheduled activities:
- February: month of chorizo and culinary events celebrating puchero leonés, beef and botillo.
- March: botillo and lemonade month, special Easter menu in restaurants, and the national French Toast competition.
- April: month of Montañas del Teleno milk-fed lamb, foal meat, and the monthly vermouth route.
- May: cecina month, and an attempt to break a Guinness record of the largest dish made with cecina, plus a blind tasting.
- June: month of sweets, desserts, and pastries, and international León trout week.
- All summer: dinners with concerts in the cloister of San Isidoro de León.
- July: month of cheese and honey, and a garlic soup festival in the Plaza Mayor.
- August: beer month
- September: month of the vegetable garden, and bread festival to honour León’s traditional bakers
- October: month of wine from Bierzo and morcilla from León, and the “Cook with A” initiative, to underline the active role of women in Leonese cooking.
- November: month of León wine and of goat cecina. Tapas festival in León.
- December: month of beans, chick peas, and lentils, and the creation of “magic menus” in restaurants for the City of León International Magic Festival and Christmas market.