A mild Mediterranean climate, outstanding infrastructures and a fascinating culture make Spain a world leader in Meetings and Events Tourism every year. The 2018 report from the International Congress & Conventions Association, in which Spain is in fourth place, confirms that it is one of the best destinations for hosting forums, congresses and important professional events. Cities like Barcelona and Madrid occupy prominent positions within the top 10 in this report.
What sets Spain apart are the immense variety of venues, a great number of DMCs and other excellent professionals with extensive experience in MICE, top-quality accommodation and extraordinary transport infrastructures. It is also a culturally diverse country and one of the world’s major tourist destinations.
Planners can also count on the services offered by the Spain Convention Bureau (SCB), which gives free guidance and advice on available resources to companies organizing events, making it easier for them to reach local offices for assistance.
In Spain, you’ll have a wide selection of experiences to make your stay unforgettable, so those attending your event can enjoy a perfect blend of work and free time. You can ride on horseback through vineyards, enjoy wine tastings, play on the best golf courses, fly over islands in hot air balloons, taste our world-famous traditional cuisine in a tapas tour or savour avant-garde dishes in a Michelin star restaurant…. you name it! (Scroll down to learn how to make paella!)
Furthermore, the wide-ranging and renovated hotel accommodation in Spain is internationally renowned. There is a wide selection of four- and five-star hotels, in addition to the famous Paradores hotel chain, which offers unique accommodation and event venues in historical buildings, including castles, stately homes, monasteries and palaces.
This, together with fantastic beaches and the yearly hours of sunshine (an average of 2,500 throughout the country!!) make Spain an unbeatable destination for incentive travel.
For more information, please visit Spain.info
How to make Paella
Recently a group of Canadian MICE professionals had a virtual lesson on how to make paella, one of the signature dishes of Spanish cuisine. The Zoom class, which was put on by the Tourist Office of Spain (Toronto) and Select Group Marketing, was led by Chef Rob Bragagnolo of Labora, an award-winning Toronto restaurant. Step by step, Chef Bragagnolo demonstrated how to make Paella Mar I Montana. The Incentivist cooked along and the result was delicious! Here’s the recipe. Buen provecho!
Paella Mar I Montana (serves 4)
Ingredients (in order of use)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs seasoned with salt
- 4 chicken wings seasoned with salt, or 2 chorizo or garlic sausages*
- 8 prawns or shrimp
- 1 large tomato, grated
- 1 cup (240g) Bomba rice**
- 4.5 cups (1.1 litre) chicken stock
- A pinch of saffron***
- 1 tsp paprika (sweet)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 4 lemon wedges (served on the side)
- 2 tbsp garlic aioli, served on the side (“Optional but just do it, trust me,” said Chef Bragagnolo.)****
- Preheat the chicken stock in a separate pot and keep it at a steady simmer. The stock needs to be ready and hot for when you add it to the paella pan.
- Place the paella pan over a larger burner (or position the pan over two burners to make sure the entire pan has heat) and add the oil.
- When the oil is hot, add the seasoned chicken, skin side down. The heat should be at medium-high temperature. Sear the chicken until it is lightly browned on both sides (approximately 3 minutes per side). Remove the chicken and set aside. If you are using chicken wings or sausage, sear them now.
- Brown the shrimp on one side only, approximately 60 seconds and set aside for later.
- Keeping the fire at medium-high heat add the grated tomato, saffron, and paprika to the pan. Using a wood spoon, mix well and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Now add the rice, mixing it with the tomato mixture until every grain is coated. After mixing, you shouldn’t see any white grains. This should take 1 minute.
- Add the hot stock to the hot paella pan and mix the rice and stock together. Set a timer for 6 minutes, keep the heat on high and let the liquid absorb into the rice and cook down.
- Add the chicken pieces back into the pan by gently distributing them evenly in the paella.
- When the 6-minute timer goes off, reduce the heat to low for 7 minutes.
- After 7 minutes you should see just rice, no stock.
- Add the prawns back to the pan.
- Now it’s time to make the soccarat—the brown, crispy crust on the bottom of the pan. Raise the temperature to high once again and cook for 3 minutes. Make sure all the rice has absorbed all the residual moisture.
- Remove from heat and let rest 2 minutes.
Place in the center of your table along with lemon wedges and garlic aioli. Enjoy!
NOTES FROM THE INCENTIVIST
Pandemic restrictions meant some substitutions were required. No paella pan? No problem. Chef Bragagnolo said any low-sided frying pan would work just as well and it did!
* We used chorizo instead of chicken wings, searing it after the chicken and adding it back to the pan along with the chicken (step #8)
** We couldn’t find Bomba rice anywhere. Used Arborio instead. Not a perfect substitution, but the result was still delicious.
*** Used “American saffron.” It gave the dish a red rather than yellow hue. Taste was fine.
**** We had never made aioli from scratch and didn’t have any store-bought on hand. A quick Google search delivered this “Quick aioli” recipe: Mince 2-3 garlic cloves and juice 1/2 a lemon; soak minced garlic in lemon juice for 10 minutes; strain garlic from lemon juice, keeping juice. Just before serving paella, mix lemon juice with mayonnaise (maybe 1/2 cup) to reach the desired consistency.