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August 2013

From French Cheese to Spanish Garlic

If cheese is your chocolate - it certainly is ours - you'll want to read all about Ossau-Iraty, a raw sheep's milk cheese from the mountains of southwestern France. And, holy Toledo! Do we ever have news from Castilla-La Mancha in Spain. Chef Adolfo Muñoz treats us to a bevy of local goodies. We also get to see one of literature's great inspirations, an art museum on a cliff and bulbs of purple garlic. Speaking of purple, the region is also known for its fragrant fields of saffron - the precious spice may be a golden red color, but it comes from the crocus flower the color of lavender.

Azafran, Castilla la Mancha

A Basque Cheese - Ossau-Iraty

by Kathy Morton & Debra Fiorittoby

Like so many cheeses in France, the name of this unpasteurized sheep's milk cheese reflects the distinct area where it is made. Ossau-Iraty is bounded by the Iraty Forest and the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. Basque and Bearn shepherds still make cheese every summer.

The process to make Ossau-Iraty is precise, from the breed of sheep used to the prescribed aging period. In mid-May, some 2,000 herds begin the climb to higher elevations, where the rich grasses and flowers they eat give the cheese its nutty, fruity flavor. Enjoy it is as they do in Pays Basque: with a dollop of black cherry jam.

If you visit the region, be on the lookout for the Manech Tête Noire sheep. They are a beautiful but rare breed. A few young Basque shepherds have banded together to make sure they are preserved.

Manech Tête Noire sheep

Viva Castilla-La Mancha

by Melissa Joachim

One hour south of Madrid, Toledo, in the Castilla-La Mancha region, is known for its El Greco, its Jewish ghetto and for Chef Adolfo Muñoz. He's one of Spain's top chefs; his restaurant, Adolfo Restaurante, is the best in town. Because wine and food go hand-in-hand, Adolfo also grows Syrah in vineyards overlooking Toledo. The hot, dry climate produces beautiful wine, perfect for pairing with local partridge, olive oil, saffron, Manchego cheese and Alto Tajo truffles.

Southeast of Toledo, Consuegra is worth the drive. The little town is famous for its molinos, the windmills of Don Quijote. This region is also where azafran (saffron) is grown and harvested in the fall.

The historic walled old town of Cuenca is Unesco World Heritage site; its breathtaking Casas Colgadas (the "Hanging Houses") are home to the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español. Should the art make you hungry, head to Manolo de la Osa, a restaurant inside the glass pavilions of the Natural History Museum. Amazing views of the old town are paired with regional specialties of wild boar, Manchego cheese and the famous purple garlic from nearby Las Pedroñeras. Try it in the house favorite: sopa de ajo (garlic soup).

For a customized trip to Castilla La Mancha, contact us at 888 345 3005.

Hanging Houses, Cuenca

For further information and other destinations call us Toll Free on 888 345 3005 or email

We look forward to helping you plan your uncommon epicurean adventure!