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Andorra - Food and Drink

Andorra, which was established as a principality in 1278, is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe. It is landlocked between France and Spain. Sitting in the high altitudes of the Pyrenees mountains, its capital city of Andorra La Vella is 1,023 m (3,356 feet) above sea level, which makes it the highest capital city in Europe. The dishes Andorra is best known for today reflect the terrain and its impact on the food sources for past generations.

Not much agricultural produce grows in the high altitudes of Andorra, but sheep are content to graze on the sloping summer meadows. As a result, lamb is one of the consistent sources of meat, supplemented in the past by the occasional wild boar. Beef was a prized meat.

The cuisine of Andorra also reflects the influence of nearby countries. The population was historically dominated by Catalan people, who brought their own traditions and ingredients to the area. However, so too did incomers from other areas of Spain, nearby France, and to a lesser extent Italy. As a result, many ingredients not available locally were imported and became assimilated into the regional dishes. These include fish, vegetables and fruits commonly used across France and Spain.

Many local dishes will be familiar to well-travelled visitors and expats, although they are often served tapas style rather than as one hefty dish.

Foie gras made from duck or goose liver is widely available, as are pasta, goat-cheese salad, duck, Iberian ham and snails. You can usually order fries to accompany these dishes.

Bread is served with just about every meal in Andorra. Pa Amb Tomaquet takes a slice of bread to a new level, serving this staple rubbed with garlic, topped with a halved tomato, drizzled in olive oil and finished with a pinch of salt.

Trinxat is similar to bubble and squeak in that it contains cabbage and potatoes and is fried, but the patties are small and topped with seared gammon.

Stews and roasted meats are popular. Chicken, sausage and meatballs combine with pasta, vegetables, and lentils to make a rich stew called Escudella.

Xai is a succulent, roast lamb dish which warms up any chilly day in the mountains.

For those who crave foods from home, burgers, curries and all-day breakfasts can be found in bars and cafes serving the tourist market.

Eating Out In Andorra

Dining in Andorra is a relaxed affair and not as expensive as many other ski regions, although the food is usually of good quality. You might wear a suit for your business lunch, but it is generally culturally acceptable to dress as you please while dining.

Tipping is expected for good service in restaurants, with the going rate being about 10 percent. In the United States, the restaurant owner can pay a lower wage for waiting staff as long as the tips bring the final hourly payment to the legal minimum wage. Across Europe, the national minimum wage should be paid by all employers, and tips are an additional, taxable extra. As a result, Europeans are accustomed to paying a lower level of tips than US customers, even though they eat later and the waiting staff work more unsociable hours.

If you get a taxi back home after a night out, a 10 percent tip would also be appropriate.

Drinks In Andorra

You will never be short of drink options in Andorra, and again, they are not quite as expensive as found in many other ski regions.

The same soft and fizzy drinks, tea and coffee that can be found across the world are available here. Hot chocolate with lashings of cream awaits skiers coming back from the slopes, but coffee is sold in a variety of forms to suit any taste at any time of the day, even with a liqueur added if you fancy it.

Tap water is safe to drink in Andorra, but bottled water is widely sold, as fizzy (con gas) or still (sans gas). Unfortunately, the only local bottling plant, which was at the ski resort of Arinsal, has now closed, so the most common brands available are Font Vella, Vichy Catalan and Luchon.

You can also purchase Granizado, a Catalonian speciality. A liquid of your choice, including but not limited to fruit juice or coffee, is poured into a blender along with crushed ice. After blending, the thick liquid is transferred into a serving glass and a straw is usually added. If you prefer, this can be made into an alcoholic drink with the addition of a liqueur before blending.

Andorra is home to five wineries. Viticulture only started in the territory 30 years ago but there is a range of local wines available. Pinot Noir is the dominant local product. The terrain demands enormous amounts of human labour, since machinery cannot navigate the steep slopes, but those visiting wineries will be rewarded with spectacular views.

Only imported beer is available in Andorra, but there is plenty of choice. You can ask for a glass of draught beer, or a bottled beer.

Bars and restaurants also offer popular drinks such as cider and sangria.

A breathtaking array of liquors can be found in any Andorran bar, including the Catalan brandy known as Acqua d’Or, aniseed flavoured Anis, the wine-based aperitif Byrrh, which is blended with medicinal plants as well as cocoa and orange peel, and the violet infused digestif known as Liqueur de Violette. These are all usually imported from nearby France and Spain, as they have been for centuries.

In Pas de la Casa, the nightlife attracts a heavier drinking British crowd than other resorts, which may or may not be the destination you are looking for.

Women should be watchful against the use of ‘date rape’ drugs. This is not a risk isolated to Andorra, but the combination of strong alcohol, tourists and lone women makes a busy bar an attractive target for this type of crime, and distressingly, such incidents have been reported to the local police.

The Smoking Ban In Andorra

Andorra has now introduced a ban on smoking indoors in public places. It did so many years after most other European and Western countries implemented the ban.

Drinking And Driving In Andorra

Motorists drive on the right-hand side in Andorra, and are only allowed on the roads after the age of 18.

You should carry all spare equipment as required by law, otherwise you will be fined. This includes two warning triangles and a reflective jacket in case you break down, a spare wheel, a set of spare light bulbs and the tools to fit them, and a spare pair of glasses if you need them to drive safely. In winter you will need snow chains and spiked tyres.

Children cannot sit in the front seat until the age of ten. Younger children must travel in car seats appropriate to their age and size. Seat belts must be worn.

Do not hold a mobile phone whilst driving, as it is illegal to do so. If you must make or accept a call, this can only be done on a hands-free unit. Be sensible about when to do this; the mountainous hair-pin bends will require all of your concentration when driving.

From the legal requirements of equipment you have to store in your car, you will already have gathered that Andorra takes road safety seriously. Drink driving laws form part of that protection. You may only consume 50mg in every 100ml of blood. This is much lower than the amount of alcohol you may consume in the UK and many US states before driving. The penalties for drink-driving are severe, so be careful not to drive after drinking any alcohol at all.

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