Our first destination was the small hilltop town of Montanchez, where we stopped to visit the ruins of an ancient castle perched at the pinnacle of the mountain.
From there we made our way down to the Iberico production facilities of Extrem Puro Extremadura, an excellent smaller producer based out of Montanchez. We toured their facilities followed by a tasting of their fabulous Iberico de Bellota products including jamon, chorizo, salchichon, lomo and lomito. We feasted on these as well as some of the most delicious breadsticks any of us had ever had.
As great as this was, though, the highlight of the day was our first visit to a dehesa to see the Iberico pigs in their acorn eating environment. It was raining as we drove there with the owner of the finca and his wife guiding us, but once we arrived in the actual dehesa, the sun came out as we observed the beautiful pigs as well as some equally beautiful Charolais and Limousin cattle also ranging freely through the dehesa.
We had a little more rain as we drove down to our final destination of the day, the ancient Roman city of Merida. This city is rife with Roman ruins, most of which are in excellent shape. The impressive old Roman bridge spanning the river next to the city was in remarkable repair as it remains extensively used by pedestrians. Just a touch further down the river is a modern bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. We checked into our hotel, a lovely Parador that had formerly been a convent and then took a stroll through the city past a beautiful plaza, from which I could see the influence present in many a Mexican plaza, under the Trajan arch and through warren of narrow streets.
For dinner, we made our way to the area of the old 1914 bull ring, which stands on the site of ancient Roman bull sacrifices so that the Roman centurions could derive a sense of immortality. In a way, it has worked, at least to a degree. In this area was another non-prepossessing restaurant called Brasserie Puente, where we enjoyed a Torta de Serena and a variety of cuts of fresh Iberico cooked simply on the grill. I had the solomillo or tenderloin and had tastes of El secreto and La pluma, two other fabulous cuts. The meats had been well grilled and well seasoned and were quite satisfying.