New miniseries brings culinary gems from Spain to the Food Network, with love (and sheep's brains)

Toronto’s Annie Sibonney brings her love affair with Spain to the Food Network in a new 13-episode miniseries, From Spain With Love. Airing on Thursdays, the show profiles different traditions, recipes and restaurants from all across Spain. From brains to balls, Sibonney shares with us the details of her Spanish inquisition.

How did you choose the restaurants, chefs and families that you wanted to showcase?
It was a collaborative process. A lot of the guests and families, people that you can see I have an authentic relationship with, are people I’ve known for years. They’re people I collaborate with in Spain. We had a research team as well. We reached out to as many people as possible. We shot this grandmother in our Preserves episode and she’s the mother of a good friend of mine from the ‘A Pig’s Tail’ episode, so it’s really one huge family.

What was your favorite meal?
I ate so much food it’s a mystery where it’s all gone. By the end of the day you’re at 60 courses. If I had to pick some of the most memorable meals it would be the kokotxa that I had in a restaurant called Mugaritz in the Basque country. This kokotxa is the lower muscle of the jaw of a cod or a hake fish and it’s a very special product and unique thing. It has a very luxurious texture. It’s an incredible product and I miss it every time I’m not in Spain, but I think there’s a beauty in that, missing dishes that you can’t have all the time.

Were you surprised by any of the cooking or the ingredients?
Absolutely. I have a rule that I never say no when something is offered to me. There is a moment in the ‘Granada’ episode that airs this Thursday where I get offered, as a surprise, this tortilla de Sacromonte. It has a ton of folklore. It is basically a tortilla, which is an omelette, but inside the omelet are some beautiful vegetables and also some balls and brain from the lamb. There is the traditional version and a modern version which has just the vegetables. I enjoyed it. What I loved more was when we started to put together the episode, I saw the amazing reaction by my guest. He was staring at me to see my first reaction to the dish, it reminds me that that’s the power that food has. There was such a magical moment and he was so honored that I enjoyed it and would try it.

What did you learn about Spanish cooking that you didn’t already know?
I would say the pork carpaccio for me was eye-opening. I also had never been to a Cacoltada, which is like an onion roast. It’s these long onions between the vines in Catalonia. I’m amazed every day at the passion and the way people relate to their food. We also visited this street called Calle De Laurel in a town called Logrono in Rioja wine country. I go there for tapas and it’s one of the only remaining places in Spain where each bar has it’s own specialty. We visit a bar where they have a potato and egg omelette, and another bar that just does mushrooms. Just to experience that was totally new. It had the most lively night life that I have ever seen in any city because it was just a jam packed street of tapas bars and restaurants where everyone is just piling in and out.

Favorite episode?
I love our ‘Seafood To Die For’ episode. It’s really action packed. I go on this boat to get this crustacean that grows on rocks. The guys that get them are aquatic superheros and jump from jagged rock to jagged rock. We were in 13-meter swells and I am very afraid of the water. It was murder to get through but one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my life. This week’s episode, ‘Granada,’ is for sure up there as one of my favorites.

From Spain, With Love, The Food Network, Thursdays, 10:00 a.m, 3:00 p.m, 7:00 p.m.

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