Gastronomy on the Natural Espace
The food and drink in the coastal towns along this route is based primarily on dishes where the main ingredients are delicious fish from the bay. Inland, the use of locally-grown produce, especially rice, makes for some hearty country dishes.
In Calpe, for example, Arròs de Senyoret is the most traditional rice dish. The story goes that this dish is called “squire’s rice” because all the shellfish and fish in it are peeled, so the squire in question did not have to get his hands dirty. You can also try the delicious and traditional cocas, pastry tarts with either sweet or savoury toppings.
Arròs a banda, although originally from Denia, is a dish that can be eaten all along the Alicante coast. Perhaps the most well-known locally sourced food in Dénia is the red prawn, while dishes from the local repertoire include Llandeta and Suquet de peix (both of which are fish stews), sea urchins, dried octopus and espencat, consisting of roast vegetables with olive oil.
Alcoy‘s most traditional rice dish is Bajoques Farcides, consisting of peppers stuffed with rice and a mixture of lightly fried minced pork, onion, tomato and parsley. Also popular in Alcoy are warming winter Mediterranean stews, such as Borreta, Olleta Alcoyana and Pericana.
One of Elche’s most traditional dishes is Arroz con Costra – literally “rice with a crust” – cooked in the oven and containing sausages and pork with beaten egg poured over the top. Other tasty dishes made in Elche are rice with rabbit and snails, stew with dumplings and the much-loved Mújol del Hondo con all i oli, grey mullet with garlic mayonnaise.
Although you can eat rice dishes in Benitaxell, the town is more widely known for its Puchero Dominical (Sunday stew) and the original pilota dolça, or sweet dumplings. The town also has a range of dishes made with squid and octopus, such as Calamars Farcits amb Blanquet, Putxero de Polp and Polp amb Penca. This is also where you can eat the traditional Cruet, made with rock-dwelling fish.
In Javea, seafood and food grown on the land make some delicious rice dishes that you can order in the town’s many restaurants. A wide range of fish and shellfish is also on offer, as well as salted fish and fish in brine, eaten as appetizers or served in salads. The traditional locally-produced sausages are also worth trying, as are coques, open pastry pies cooked in wood-burning ovens.
Going out for tapas, known locally as Picaetas, is an authentic way of trying the enormous variety of food along the Nature Areas route, all of which can be washed down with one of the excellent wines produced in the province of Alicante. The area’s prevailing weather conditions give the local wine its own particular colour and bouquet.
For visitors with a sweet tooth, the area’s handmade cakes and pastries use traditional locally-grown ingredients such as raisins and almonds.
For example, in Benitaxell you can try Coca María, Caspell with raisins and almonds, Pastissets and the typical Monas de Pascua eaten at Easter. In Alcoy, try the famous tostons, sugared almonds, pine nuts, sugar-coated walnuts, meringues, swiss rolls and turrón – a kind of nougat made with almond paste. Of course, Elche is famous for its dates, with sweet treats such as Tortada and Pan de higo, bread made with dates and figs.
Remember that all this traditional confectionery is made at different times of year and they all acquire on a special flavour when served with the popular mistela, the Muscat sweet wine produced in the province.
Local liquors include herbero, a traditional tipple made with sweet aniseed and aromatic herbs from the Sierra de Mariola mountain range, coffee liquor from Alcoy, the flower-distilled drink Cantueso and date liquor from Elche