This week´s foodie adventures in Spain are dedicated to the delicious Artichoke Tasting Menu in Benicarlo and the Gastronomic Weeks of Artichoke (also called Festa de la Carxofa Benicarlo in Valencian).
Artichoke Tasting Menu in Benicarlo, Spain
New Blog Series
Even though I´ve already confessed to you that local food is one of my favorite things about being an expat in Spain, my foodscapes across Spain have been quite overshadowed by landmarks on my blog so far. Some local delights might occasionally appear on my IG stories. But I must admit – most of the time I left those mouthwatering dishes and restaurants all for myself. However, this is something I´m pretending to turn upside down this year with my new Blog Series Spain For Foodies.
Gastronomic Weeks in Spain
Gastronomic Weeks in Spain or Jornadas Gastronomicas are some of my favorite Spanish Festivities. What are they like? – First of all, there´s always a local seasonal product or typical dish at the center of any Gastronomic week. Depending on the area and the time of the year, there might be Gastronomic weeks of Truffles, Mushrooms, Artichokes, Cherries, or even Gastronomic Weeks of Tortilla, Paella, and Arroz a Banda.
Local authorities often organize multiple activities to promote the event. There might be some seasonal markets, street foods, concerts, and competitions, like during Spanish Medieval Fairs, except for the focus here – it is definitely on the culinary side. Restaurants are often the key players during the Gastronomic Weeks in Spain.
Also read: Gastronomic Weeks in Spain – Hazelnut
They create special menus (often with a creative twist) available for a limited time. All the courses on the menu normally include the featured product of the Gastronomic Week. That is to say, let’s imagine it is a Gastronomic week of Truffles in Morella (usually takes place from the end of January till the beginning of March), so every dish (or almost every) on this special tasting menu will include truffles. When you talk about truffles, it´s easy to imagine truffle-themed starters, main courses, and even desserts – let’s face it, everything tastes good with a little truffle touch. But how about Artichokes or Cherries? – Making everything taste great with those is slightly more complicated.
Local restaurants compete in some way to make the most creative and delicious offer: healthy competition is a driving force of any progress, isn’t it?
Benicarlo´s Artichoke Gastronomic weeks
Even though Spain in winter still gets a fair share of visitors every year thanks to many winter-sun locations, most of the travelers set their eyes on the Canary Islands, Andalusia, or Catalonia&Barcelona. The rest of the Spanish provinces do notice their drop in tourism once the peak season is over. Therefore, the local authorities try to bring back attention to festivities and, in particular, the Gastronomic Weeks.
Benicarlo is no exception here. The region of Benicarlo is Spain´s Artichoke Capital and Artichoke Gastronomic weeks have been a boost in tourism for years.
Where is Benicarlo
Benicarlo is a small coastal town near Peñiscola (one of the top dreamy castles and a GOT filming location) in the Spanish province of Castellon / Valencian Community. It can be visited as a day trip from Valencia, Tarragona, and Castellon.
The nearest airports are Castellon Costa Azahar Airport (47km), Aeroport de Reus (123km), Aeroport de Valencia (145km), and Aeroport de Barcelona – El Prat (207km).
If you don´t plan to rent a car in Spain – check this post about Top Valencia Day Trips by train, where I describe how to get to Benicarlo/Peñiscola by train from Valencia.
Benicarlo is a nice place to spend a day, if you have more time in the region – consider hiking in Castellon and the routes of Sierra D´Irt Natural Park. Also, there´s another amazing place for nature lovers and kids nearby – Jardin del Papagayo, and a fairytale Castle of Morella in only 1h drive from Benicarlo.
How, when, and where
The last time we attended, the opening feast of the Artichoke Gastronomic Weeks took place on January 9 (but this date often varies every year). The celebration included a Demonstration of Artichoke Pinchos (in Valencian Festa de Carxofa Benicarlo) at Benicarlo´s Central Square Plaza de La Constitucion. Later on, from January 10 to January 26 (same here, the dates slightly vary every year), you can download the 3 pincho routes on the local web ajuntamentdebenicarlo.org to make a self-guided food tour across the city of Benicarlo. Every route includes a bunch of local restaurant bars, where each one would make their one signature pincho. Each pincho often costs around 3 euros.
On the other hand, the restaurants of Benicarlo prepare unique Artichoke tasting menus, available from January 26 till March 1 (note, that the dates slightly vary every year).
My Experiences of Artichoke Tasting Menu
One of Benicarlo’s most famous places to savor the Artichoke tasting menu is the Michelin Star Restaurant of Raul Resino, which we visited years ago before having kids. The food was delicious, but a 4-hour-long lunch there would be too exhausting for our kids for now. Therefore, last few years we opted to explore other restaurants and their Artichoke dining options.
While I´ve visited the Demonstration of Artichoke Pinchos once, this was honestly way too crowded for my taste. By and large, the event itself is an interesting experience (the overcrowdedness doesn´t mean you won´t like it, especially if you´re into the Spanish festivities). It´s simply that this is not my case. Personally, I feel like the essence of Spanish food culture is a calm meal in a cozy place with a glass of wine. Therefore, most of the time I wait till the restaurants launch their menu offerings on ajuntamentdebenicarlo.org to pick one and explore their unique Artichoke tasting menu, once the Pincho feast is passed.
Also read: Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region
Over the last few years, there have been some trials and errors with the local restaurants of Benicarlo for me. From the last ones, San Raphael in 2020 was a hit, and Restaurant Pau in 2022 – a miss. Food is usually good during the Artichoke Gastronomic Weeks even for the peaky eaters, but when it comes to the waiting times, these might stretch your patience to the limit.
What´s on the plate?
Here they are, some of the most delicious treats from the Artichoke tasting menus of Benicarlo. So that you won´t pass up the opportunity to visit the small town of Benicarlo on your next Spanish getaway.
- Artichoke entrees with a touch of Greek and Turkish Cuisines / Variety of Mezzes, Babaganush with Artichoke Chips, Lamb Kibbeh with Artichokes, Beef Souvlaki with Artichokes, Artichokes al muhammara
- “Fish&Carchofa” fried artichoke with squid
- Chicken Coxhinas with Artichoke
- Artichoke Flower filled with seafood cream
- Artichoke, red shrimp, and truffled egg
- Macha cake with mango-maracuya cream, yuzu mousse, and artichoke coulis
Have you ever experienced the Gastronomic Weeks in Spain? Which Artichoke tasting menu dish would be your first choice?
*On the Pin, you can see the creative side of Benicarlo, as the whole town is full of painted Artichoke statues