The refreshing spray of freshly poured cider. A plate of cured Spanish ham and gooey cheese. Fresh air in your lungs after a climb through the mountains. This is one of the scenes set in Asturias, the dynamic region along the Bay of Biscay. From rugged mountains to jagged coastline, Asturias – like other parts of Spain – has distinctive cultural aspects and inspires deep pride in its locals. As it’s one of the last places he visited during his globe-spanning career, you might want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Asturias.
Anthony Bourdain visited Asturias once on-screen, during season 12 of Parts Unknown. It was his only filmed visit to the region, and he shares the time with close friend Chef José Andrés who hails from the region and serves as both his guide and ambassador for what makes the area special.
Fair warning though: this is one of the most heartbreaking episodes in Anthony Bourdain’s career. It’s one of the only episodes that aired after his death in June 2018 (original air date: September 30, 2018) and was released lacking Tony’s distinctive voiceover narration. While watching, I was suddenly struck about a third of the way in that I was a bit confused and disoriented – I couldn’t tell what they were eating or where they were – and then I realized it was because Bourdain wasn’t guiding me as the viewer. It feels like an immense black hole at the center of the episode, which is an otherwise delightful and joyous exploration of friendship and ‘hometown’ pride.
Nevertheless, the Asturias episode is well worth watching especially if you plan to visit this part of Spain and are curious about where Tony ate during his visit. Below I’ve detailed each of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Asturias, and what he ate there with Chef José Andrés.
Places Tony Ate in Asturias
I usually like to start with a map of places that Anthony Bourdain ate in any destination as it gives you a sense of where each place is and how to plan your own trip following his footsteps – or forkfuls, as it were. As you can see on this other map, Asturias is a large area along Spain’s northern coast, so it’s no surprise that Tony and José visit places that aren’t as geographically close as in other places he/they visit.
Now that you’re oriented, let’s go through each place individually and I’ll share what the pair of chefs enjoyed together.
The Asturias episode opens with José Andrés and Anthony Bourdain enjoying dinner in an open-air plaza. While the restaurant isn’t named, a bit of research shows that the iconic statue in the plaza is “El escanciador de sidra” (“The Cider Pourer”). They’re ordering dishes from Ca’Laura (Pl. San Juan, 2), including arbejos con jamón (green peas with ham), croquettes, mussels, and steak with bleu cheese.
Additionally, they enjoy – as one should near a statue of a man pouring cider – plenty of cider. Fortified by the drink and with a swelling sense of patriotism for his home region, Andrés sparks a sing-along with other diners in the plaza.
Next, José and Tony set off into the mountains of Asturias, on one – what Bourdain would have us believe – of the most perilous journies he’s ever taken. In reality, the pair took a funicular and walked for less than 10 minutes to reach Bar Guillermina (Lugar Bulnes, 22A).
For their “well-earned” respite after all that hiking… (can you hear my eyes rolling!), the pair enjoy Fabada asturiana (tripe, blood sausage, pork belly, and sausage with beans) along with Estrella beer (for Tony) and cider (for José). If you want to earn this meal too, it’s a 2-3 hour, 4.2-mile out-and-back hike on the Ruta de la Canal del Texu.
Next, Bourdain and Andrés head to the Austrian coastal town of Avilés to enjoy the bounty of the sea. They visit Casa Lin, a sidreria (cider house) near the Ria de Avilés. There, they enjoy a series of seafood dishes with cider, including oricios Asturias (flash-boiled Asturian sea urchin) that Tony raves about, flash-boiled clams on the flattop grill, spider crab, and gooseneck barnacles.
Cueva del Queso de Cabrales
Heading back up into the mountains, Tony and José enter a dream realm – a cheese cave – also known as the Cueva del Queso de Cabrales. This is one of several cheese caves in the mountains around Asturias, and inspires the pair to have an al fresco picnic after their sojourn into the caves.
Their picnic spread includes cave-cured three-milk cheese, charcuterie, coffee, and beer, with incredible views of the mountains and some quality time together. (Following this scene, Chef José shares some poignant thoughts on his friendship with Bourdain; another touching moment in this unusual end-of-career episode.)
In the parish of Piñera, Bourdain and Andrés enjoy another traditional Asturian meal. Casa Eladia is located in the tiny town of Rozaes and serves a local dish of meat with rice. My research suggests it might be Pitu de Caleya con Arroz (free-range chicken stew with rice), but I’m pretty sure that there was also lamb in the dish, so it may be a regional variation on this traditional meal.
Restaurante Güeyu Mar
For their final meal, Andrés and Bourdain have a special meal. Throughout the episode, José tells Tony about the specialness of the first fish caught in the river each season – el compano – and they agree to buy that first fish at a very hefty price.
In the end, Chef José’s local connections make a little magic, and the two sit down to enjoy (one of) the first fish at Restaurante Güeyu Mar. They enjoy several preparations, including raw bites, grilled fillets, and the fish head grilled with sea salt.
Other Places Visited By Bourdain in Asturias
Lastly, there are a places I took notes on and saw in various show notes that aren’t mentioned above and I want to include in case you want to visit and/or can fill in the gaps:
- At one point in the Asturias episode, Tony and José visit an unknown sidreria for cured chorizo and pan (bread). It’s here they learn about el compano. (If you know where this is, please let me know in the comments!)
- In the credits roll for this episode, special thanks are given to Casa Gerardo and Casa Tino. Usually, these special thanks were given to the places that Tony and the crew stay – but neither of these places seems to offer accommodation. (If you have any idea how these spots fit into the story of Tony’s visit to Asturias, let me know!)
Normally I end these posts by suggesting a few food tours to try during your visit to make it easier to sample the flavors above – but Asturias is far enough off the beaten tourist track that there aren’t any I can find! So with that, I’ll ask as usual: do you have any questions about following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Asturias? Let me know in the comments.