A trip to the world of calçots
The calçotada is one of the most popular and significant gastronomic festivals in Catalonia with more than a century of life. It has its reason for being in the calçot, a variety of white, sweet and elongated onion that is eaten grilled, with salvitxada sauce and accompanied by a grilled meat and a good wine.
From femTurisme we propose a gastronomic route in Valls, the epicenter of calçots, as well as other nearby towns: Masmolets (Valls), Fontscaldes (Valls), Alcover or Montblanc where you can also savor a magnificent calçotada. Isn't your mouth watering already?
Valls, capital of the calçots and the " fet casteller "
Valls, capital of the Tarragona region of Alt Camp, is the place of origin of calçots. Connoisseurs say that this region and its geographical area of influence is where they know best. It must be true because since 1995 the production of calçots from Alt Camp, as well as from Baix Camp, Tarragonés and Baix Penedés, has its own quality denomination. To benefit from it, the calçots must measure between 15 and 25 centimeters in length and have a diameter between 1.7 and 2.5 centimeters.
This gastronomic route has its epicenter in Valls, where the calçots season is inaugurated on the last Sunday of January with the " Great Calçotada Festival ", which has been held since 1982.
Valls is a city that concentrates half of the population of the Alt Camp and that conserves in very good condition a large part of its important medieval past. From this period are the convents of San Francisco (now a hospital), the Capuchins (now Casa de la Caridad) and Carmen. You can also visit monuments from later times, such as the Archpriest Church of San Juan, in Gothic style with a Renaissance façade, or the Roser Chapel. The latter has important glazed ceramic panels from the 17th century. In addition, you cannot miss the arcaded squares of Blat and Oli.
Valls is considered the place of origin of calçots because, according to legend, at the end of the 19th century a farmer from this city (Xat de Benaiges) was the first to start cooking them on the embers of a fire and who devised a romesco sauce very similar to those of today (in Valls the salvitxada ).
During the first years of the 20th century, and progressively, calçots became the usual food of many families for holidays, but it was especially from the 60s when their consumption began to become popular. This was so thanks to the action of many restaurateurs who saw calçotada as a very attractive business.
The touch of grace was given by the travel agencies by including the calçotada in the tourist itineraries of the area. In this way, a rather humble dish has become part of the most lively tradition in Catalonia and has spread to other areas of the country, where calçots are also produced and consumed.
On the last Sunday of January, the " Great Calçotada Festival " is celebrated, a festive gastronomic day that serves to inaugurate the season and, incidentally, promote calçots. It has a varied program of contests and popular tastings that attract more and more people interested in living a calçotada in the most traditional style.
In addition to the calçots, Valls is known for being the cradle and point of reference for the " colles castelleres " throughout the country. The city has two, the Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls (documented in the 19th century) and the Colla Joves dels Xiquets de Valls, founded in 1971.
Visit to Alcover
From Valls and seven kilometers along the C-37 road, we can approach the municipality of Alcover, located on the banks of the Glorieta river. In this old walled city we can visit the Vella or Puríssima Sang church, in Romanesque style and popularly known as "the Mosque".
Montblanc, medieval city
If you return to Valls and you want to visit the medieval city of Montblanc (Conca de Barberà) you can take the N-240 road, which will allow you to first pass through the towns of Masmolets and Fontscaldes, added to Valls. These are two very old towns, in fact, near Fontscaldes, some excavations were carried out that allowed finding one of the best sets of Iberian painted ceramics in Catalonia.
Finally you will arrive at Montblanc, the capital of the Conca de Barberà region, a wonderful city that was the center of a medieval dukedom whose old town was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1948.
It has a wall of more than 1,500 meters which makes it the most important military work in medieval Catalonia. As a curiosity to tell you that, according to legend, the fight between Saint George and the dragon took place just in front of these walls.
In addition to the walls, in Montblanc you must visit the church of San Francisco, from the 13th century, in Catalan Gothic style, the Romanesque bridge and the church of Santa María la Mayor, from the 14th century.
Visit to Nulles, Bràfim, Montferri and Salomó
If you still want to lengthen the route a little more, from Valls, we recommend you visit three small towns in the Alt Camp region and one in Tarragonès, to do this when leaving Valls you must take the TV-235 road and you will arrive at Nulles, a small a town where you can visit the Sant Isidre Agricultural Cooperative, in the noucentista modernist style, and taste a good wine or cava from the area.
Leaving Nulles, you can turn left to reach Bràfim, a small municipality that extends to the right of the Gaià river, and where you will find some beautiful places near the Sanctuary of the Madre de Dios de Loreto. Leave Bràfim taking the Santes Creus road and you can make a stop in Montferri, a town where, in addition to medieval architecture, there is the beautiful modernist sanctuary of the Virgin of Montserrat.
Finally, head towards Salomó, (Tarragonès region) where you can visit the church of Santa María de Salomó, well known since every May 3 the Sant Crist Dance is held inside, a very popular representation of a medieval legend. where the Invention of the Holy Cross is narrated.
The ideal calçotada
To taste a calçotada "com cal", you need some good coals, Valls calçots, romesco sauce or salvitxada to accompany, lamb meat, bread, alioli and a good wine. For dessert, the usual thing is to savor a homemade Catalan cream.
Once cooked, the calçots are presented wrapped in paper and placed on a tile. This is done to better retain heat. Surely you will receive them already with a bib on to avoid getting dirty (some restaurants also offer plastic gloves); At this point you will only have to dip them in a little sauce before tasting them.
NOTICE: They are eaten with the hands. Although traditionally it was done standing up, today it is more common to eat the calçots sitting at the table, if it can be with a good group of friends or accompanied by the family. They usually consume between 25 and 30 calçots per person, but there are contests in which the winners eat up to 300.
What is the best time to eat calçots?
The ideal season to eat them officially begins on the last Sunday of January, the date on which the "Great Calçotada Festival" is celebrated in Valls, and lasts until the beginning of April. However, more and more people want to try them and this means that since November they can already be savored. During this period, more than four million pieces can be consumed.
How to get?
- By coach: the Hispano-Igualadina company covers the route at various daily times.
Tel. 93 804 44 51
- By train: RENFE covers the route but does not offer much.
- By car: From Barcelona you can take the AP-7 towards Tarragona until the fork with the AP-2; then you can continue along it until exit 11 for Vilarodona/ Valls.