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Welcome to the farm: Catalonia’s food-filled festival

Welcome to the farm: Catalonia’s food-filled festival

by Great British Chefs 09 May 2018

Every June, the farmers of Catalonia open their gates to the public so they can get a better idea of where their incredible ingredients come from. Discover the Benvinguts a Pagès festival and why it’s the perfect time to visit the region.

When it comes to produce, Catalonia has a pretty enviable reputation. Incredible seafood, some of the best pork and charcuterie in Europe and an array of cheeses, wines, oils and vinegars that are coveted across the continent. On top of all that, Catalan fruits and vegetables are treated with the same respect as meat and dairy, which is why the region’s peaches, apples, pears, beans and calçots are some of the best you can get.

That’s what makes Benvinguts a Pagès (‘Welcome to the Farm’) such a fantastic festival. Taking place on 9–10 June 2018, it’s a time when farmers all across Catalonia invite the public to come and see how some of the region’s most famous ingredients and products are made, with local chefs putting them centre stage on their menus. It offers people the opportunity to get up close and personal with incredible food – be it cheese, cured meats, wine or fresh produce – and learn from the artisans that produce it.

While the city of Barcelona is undoubtedly where most visitors to Catalonia flock to, Benvinguts a Pagès is all about getting tourists to experience the rural parts of the region. Hotels in the countryside offer reduced rates over the weekend, while restaurants ensure their dishes are made with the very best of what’s grown, reared and produced locally. Catalonia is divided into four provinces, each of which will be taking part in the festival in its own way. Here’s what to expect from each.

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Barcelona

Best known because of its capital city (which is also the capital of Catalonia), Barcelona is a large province which reaches the pre-Pyrenean ridge, so there's lots to explore beyond the Ramblas and other busy Barcelona streets. It's the most populous part of Catalonia as it not only includes Barcelona but other commuter cities like Sabadell, Terrassa, Hospitalet de Llobregat and Mataró (along with plenty of other more rural areas as well). The Penedès area in the south is were Catalonia's amazing Cava DPO comes from.

With 272 different events happening across the province of Barcelona, there’s plenty to get involved with. Visit an artisan cheesemaker and meet the small herd of goats that provide the milk; join a breadmaking workshop to learn how to make artisanal, rustic loaves; try a variety of different honeys; learn how fishermen bring in the daily catch or get to know more about Catalonia’s ‘0km’ movement, where everything on a restaurant menu is sourced from the immediate area.

Girona

Girona is where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean and a region which boasts the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in Catalonia. It's full of pristine rugged beaches, like the ones at Costa Brava; protected natural areas like the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà and ski resorts up in the mountains. The capital of the province, Girona, is incomprehensibly overlooked by tourists, despite its beautiful 980-year-old cathedral, Jewish quarter and the colourful houses along the Onyar river.

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Lleida

An inland province within Catalonia, Lleida is the gateway to the Pyrenees and a paradise for nature lovers and those who love being outside. It includes a special county (or comarca) called Vall d'Aran (Aran Valley), which has its own language called Aranese, a dialect of Occitan. Specially known for its olive oil, it has a rich Romanesque heritage with the Vall de Boí declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of the 231 events happening in Lleida for Benvinguts a Pagès, the casa-museu have to be the most interesting. These are traditional houses which are opened to the public by the families that live in them, to give visitors a taste of how the locals live. There’s also the opportunity to watch vultures and mountain goats in their natural habitats; make your own soap; walk with horses across beautiful landscapes and watch beer being made from start to finish.

Tarragona

As well as being the Roman capital of Catalonia (known as old Tarraco) Tarragona is also home to the better-known Costa Daurada. It's where you'll find some great PDO-protected wines, including Montsant, Terra Alta, Conca de Barberà, Priorat (DOQ) and Tarragona. Keep an eye out for the olive oils and rice from the Ebre Delta in the south, too.

For Benvinguts a Pagès, Tarragona will host thirty percent more events than last year, with 200 different activities to get involved with. Help harvest grapes for the region’s wine; visit the world’s oldest olive press still in use; walk through a zero-waste pomegranate orchard or make your own jam using the region’s incredible fruit.

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