Juan Manuel Sanz/ICEX
Special thanks to COVAP for their help in the production of the cover shots.
Spring Features High-end Ham and Stunning Swine
CONTENTS SPAIN GOURMETOUR SPRING 2008
Isn’t it a wonderful thing when everybody agrees on something? When something receives unquestioned recognition and praise? Find out why Ibérico ham receives kudos from gourmets, food writers and conservationists alike .....................4
EXPO 08: World Sustainability and Human Sustenance in Zaragoza Through four months in 2008, the city of Zaragoza and its International Expo will host the world’s largest show on water sustainability and the methods to make clean water available to everyone in the world. A perfect excuse to visit this charming city where, culture aside, a tapas tour is not to be missed...........................12
Modern Day Architects of Wine
As the flowers bud and we begin to bid the cold goodbye, we could be forgiven for feeling like a celebration. Food lovers, in fact, have double cause to celebrate: at long last, the mouthwatering morsel that is Ibérico ham has made its way over to the States. After many years of waiting, the ham whose taste chefs world-wide rave about is up for sale on your side of the Atlantic. Not only is it a true delicacy but, as you’ll find in our cover feature, its production methods are a credit to sustainable farming and traditional food production. Speaking of sustainability, we also take a look at the region of Aragón, whose capital Zaragoza is hosting the world’s greatest show on water and sustainability, EXPO 2008. This historical city in the heartland of Spain will be welcoming the ideas and shows of hundreds of nations from all over the world on how to best use this scarce resource, and put up a great show while they’re at it. If you plan to visit you’d do well to extend your visit a few days and pop over to the subject of our next feature, the mountain region of Somontano, where the most modern production methods are being put to use to make world-class wines. All this plus recipes by our new chef, wine recommendations, an in-depth look at the king of Spanish olives and much, much more. So, a slice of jamón in one hand and a glass of Somontano in the other I wish you an entertaining read.
Cathy Boirac Editor in Chief
Hidden behind the snow-topped mountains of the Pyrenees is a region which, despite its small size, is one of the big players in the Spanish wine scene. We visit Somontano, the place where innovation and winemaking are one and the same ......................................22
HRM the Black Aragon Olive Black, juicy, fleshy and sweet, the Aragon black olive is often referred to as ‘The King of Olives’ in the market stalls in Spain. We tour Barcelona in search of tips, suggestions and recipes from the pros ...30
Regular Features Spain: small bites Our guide to a Spain close to home 2. Shopping Guide Find Spanish products near you 37. Recipes Chef Nino Redruello of La Ancha restaurant and sommelier María José Huertas of La Terraza del Casino offer you six delicious ideas and their choice of what to ‘wash them down’ with 38. Vistas Chef Paul Liebrandt visits the Costa Brava. A trip down memory lane and feast upon feast await him there 48. SPAIN GOURMETOUR 1
El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will examine the fascinating period (1598-1621) bookended by two giants of Spanish painting: the late works of El Greco and the early paintings of Velázquez. From immortalized austerity and spirituality to a close look at Madrid’s underworld discover the artists who flourished during Philip III's reign at this groundbreaking exhibition. Boston - Museum of Fine Arts www.mfa.org April 20 through July 27
SMALL BITES translated into English for the first time and is now available in the USA as 1080 Recipes (Phaidon Press, $39.95). This new edition has been completely redesigned and features over 400 handdrawings by designer Javier Mariscal, an introduction by Ferran Adrià and newly commissioned color photographs that conjure up the flavors of Spanish cuisine. In search of the perfect wine for a pairing? The 2008 Wines from Spain Far from Ordinary wine guide is now available. Created by WFS and Doug Frost, MS, MW, this beautiful 144-page book is packed with insightful, current and useful information on Spanish Wines, along with maps and eyecatching photographs. To obtain your free copy visit www.winesfromspainusa.com
A FEW FAVORITE RESTAURANTS NOT-TO-MISS BOOKS
For the past 35 years, no kitchen in Spain was considered complete without a copy of the bible of authentic Spanish cooking, 1080 Recetas de Cocina by Simone Ortega. Good news! This classic cookbook has recently been
2 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
We extend our gourmand wings all the way and fly across the country in search of recentlyopened, exciting Spanish restaurants. What a better way to warm up and get ready for the Spring? First stop: Seattle. From chef Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez and Carolin Messier de Jiménez, the creators of the pilgrimage-worthy Harvest Vine, comes Txori. Txori (bird
in the Basque language) opened its doors at the end of November. The counter and tables of this little bar, San Sebastián style, get covered with bite-size surprises in the form of authentic pintxos as served in Donostia (Basque for San Sebastián). A selection of eight Txakolis and 30 more wines accompany the menu. (Txori, 2207 2nd Avenue, Seattle. Tel.: 206 204 9771). At Laiola, in San Francisco, we quickly became fans of the vigorous wine list and splendid tapas. (Laiola, 2031 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, Tel.: 415 346 5641). In New York, chef Alex Ureña´s Ureña restaurant transitioned into Pamplona. The chef’s creative spark untouched, the new menu allows customers to get a glimpse of Spain’s new wave cuisine while bringing in instant favorites to step up the experience to a diverse audience. (Pamplona, 37 East 28th Street, New York, Tel.: 212 213 2328)
Fact or fiction, real or fake? This year’s program of Documenta Spain (New York City) challenges the conception of reality and fiction. Fiction films that use documentary techniques and documentaries that use traditional narrative fiction to portrait the world we live in. Guess which one is which and enjoy the new films by up and coming filmmakers from Spain. All films with English Subtitles. Upcoming screenings: Tuesday, March 11, 7:15 p.m. El taxista ful (the taxi thief), directed by Jo Sol, 90 min., Spain, 2006. Every day, José drives a cab on the streets of Barcelona. His life would be the same as any other 52-year-old cab driver, if it weren’t for the fact that the taxis he drives are stolen. Unemployed, he steals to be able to work. Tuesday, March 25, 7:15 p.m. Septiembres (Septembers), directed by Academy Award© nominee (for Balseros) Carles Bosch, 90 min., Spain, 2007 A delightful take on love, hope and desire behind the bars of Madrid’s Soto del Real prison, on occasion of a song festival. New York City – NYU’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 1st floor auditorium, at 53 Washington Square South (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets); www.nyu.edu/kjc; Tel.: 212 998 3650
Illustration: Javier Vázquez
MUSIC TO INDULGE
Eliseo Parra and Susana WeichShahak present Arboleda, April 12 (or 16, pending final confirmation) a selection of Sephardic music by one of Spain’s most adventurous musicians. Chicago - Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio, IL 60610; http://chicago.cervantes.es; Tel.: 312 335 1996
Nani Marquina (www.nanimarquina.com), doyenne of contemporary rug design, will demonstrate her love of the color red by showcasing her favorite pieces in evolving shades during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York (May 17th through 20th). She chose to explore and celebrate modern design from Spain via this color specifically because "its is intertwined with Spain’s culture and its people’s
passion for life”. A ‘red party’ will follow. For date and location of this event in New York please visit www.interiorsfromspain.com
A NEW HAM IN TOWN
Ibérico hams from Spain are finally here. Embutidos Fermín became the first producer authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture to export the delicacy. Look out for it at select restaurants and stores and at www.tienda.com
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: PJ WINE SPANISH WINE FESTIVAL 2008
So many outstanding Spanish wines under one roof! Join PJ Wine and sample over 100 of the best Spanish wines available on the US market paired with sublime Spanish cuisine. Every major wine region will be represented, from Jerez to Ribera del Duero through Priorat and Rioja, not forgetting hot emerging regions like Toro, Bierzo, Jumilla and more. New York City - Landmark on the Park, 160 Central Park West at 76th Street; www.pjwine.com Thursday, June 19th
To submit news for this section please email firstname.lastname@example.org
HAMS SWINE High-end
Eastern Spain is the home of a champion. A champion of the world table, a champion
of sustainable farming and, above all, a champion among unique and memorable foods. Benjamin Jones finds out what makes acorn-fed IbĂŠrico pigs and their ham so special. Text
Juan Manuel Sanz/ICEX
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 5
HIGH-ENDHAMS An hour’s drive northeast of the fabled southern Spanish city of Córdoba, tens of thousands of acres of meadowland stretch out towards the low mountains in the distance. These sun-dappled, emeraldhued meadows divided by granite walls in the Pedroches Valley are home to a native breed of pig unique to these parts: Ibérico pigs – the source for jamón Ibérico, considered by gourmets world-wide as the finest tasting ham in the world. Snuffling among the Holm oaks studding the meadow, the dark grey, black-hoofed 6 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
Juan Manuel Sanz/ICEX
FORAGED FOODS ALL CONTRIBUTE TO THE HAM’S EXQUISITE FLAVOR. ANOTHER KEY ELEMENT IS EXERCISE animals are searching for acorns or bellotas, the key ingredient that provides the robust, yet delicate flavor of Ibérico (Iberian) ham. “These particular pigs have very sensitive noses and can sniff out the sweetest acorns which they gobble up first,” explains Arancha Salamanqués, Communications Director for COVAP, an agricultural cooperative that markets Ibérico ham, beef, cheeses and other local farm products in Spain and abroad. “Then they go back and eat the rest.” Two hundred farmers raise pigs for COVAP which is based in Córdoba province. As
each animal must be able to graze from two and a half acres of Holm oaks the cooperative makes sure that every farmer’s land has enough trees to sustain his herd.
It’s a pig’s life But a pleasant one. Once weaned from their mothers, the piglets are fed grasses and grains in their sties until they grow to around 220 pounds in weight. Heavy and sleek, the animals are then released in the autumn into the meadows for what the farmers call the montanera –or free range–
phase, when they literally make pigs of themselves. They gain over 2 lb a day from the acorns, oak and cork buds, herbs and other aromatic plants that make up their exclusive diet for three months. These are the descendents of pigs that have roamed here since Roman times and after countless generations of feeding off acorns they have learned how to crack open the shell to get to the tasty nuts inside. The foraged foods all contribute to the ham’s exquisite flavor but another element key to the final
AN ENVIRONMENTAL GEM
The dehesa, home to the Ibérico pig, the last remaining free grazing pig in Europe, is a unique and valuable Mediterranean ecosystem. Years of adaptation of man and beast alike have made its more than two million hectares of open cork, holm and gall oak forests an ecologically and economically sustainable system. The production of cereal, combined with beekeeping, charcoal production and the complex free-grazing method for Ibérico pigs and other native breeds of livestock – such as Retinta cows and Merino sheep – are the economic mainstays of the region. This low-impact human activity allows this massive spread of land to remain virtually untouched for the benefit of wild species such as deer, wild boar, red-legged partridges or wood pigeons and endangered species such as, to name a few, the Iberian Lynx, the Iberian Imperial eagle, the black vulture and the Iberian stork. The dehesa is also a valuable haven to many species of plants and mushrooms, not to mention its role in sustaining the flocks of birds from Central and Northern Europe on their yearly migration to South West Spain in the winter.
product is exercise. “Trudging around the meadows all day helps the fat infiltrate the muscles and this gives the meat the streaks that are characteristic of Ibérico hams” Ms. Salamanqués says.
Fatty but healthy As the pigs put on the pounds, their acorn-derived fat also grows rich in oleic acid which is identical to that found in olive oil. In many tests, scientists have shown that high levels of oleic acid cut the notorious LDL, or bad cholesterol, and promote good cholesterol known as HDL.
Ibérico ham is also packed with proteins and vitamins B1, B6 and B12 as well as folic acid that benefits the nervous system and the brain. The meat contains high levels of copper, iron and phosphorous and nutritionists maintain that Ibérico ham is a strong antioxidant packed with vitamin E. With all these vitamins and healthy elements, this ham is a perfect food for the popular Mediterranean diet and when served in the Spanish way – on a piece of crusty bread smeared with olive oil and perhaps a few slices of ripe tomato – it’s a delicious and SPAIN GOURMETOUR 7
THE WORDS OF AN EXPERT
Juan Manuel Sanz/ICEX
THIS HAM IS A PERFECT FOOD FOR THE POPULAR MEDITERRANEAN DIET
Trying to find the best ham? Forget looking for Pata Negra, Serrano and Jabugo on the label: find the four words Jamón Ibérico de bellota on it and, says Pedro Hernandéz Martin, you’re in possession of genuine, top grade Ibérico ham. “Jamon Ibérico is simply ham produced from the Ibérico (Iberian) breed of pig,” he explains. “And there are three grades of Jamón Ibérico: Cebo (grain fed), Recebo (grain and acorn fed) and Bellota (acorn fed and, famously, the best).” Hernandéz Martín is the man behind the top Salamanca based producer Martín Raventós. In Barcelona, he owns an admirably serious shop, Jamonísimo, which sells the best of the best from all three producing regions (Salamanca – Guijuelo –, Extremadura and Andalusia – Huelva and Pedroches –) and makes a grand effort to do away with the tiresome terminology and general bunkum that many inferior hams like to hide behind. “Not all pata negra (black hoof) pigs are Ibérico,” he continues. “There are breeds in Hungary and Italy, and the Duroc Jersey in the United States, all with dark hoofs. Serrano refers to a ‘v’ shaped cut made at the knuckle of the ham to remove part of the fat, and it is not just made on Ibérico animals. Jabugo is a town in Huelva where ham is produced, but not all of it is Ibérico.’ His production in Salamanca is sweeter, “because I’m higher up than the other regions and this means there is more fat on my animals, I use less salt in the curing and hang them for longer. Hams from Extremadura and Andalusia tend to have a stronger flavor and be darker in color.’ Texture, he says, depends on the curing process and the animals’ feed but, with any ham, the barbilla (back side of the ham) will be firmer than the maza (front). Jamonísimo, C/Provenza, 85, 08029 Barcelona. Tel. +34 934 390 847 Text by Rohan Daft
HIGH-ENDHAMS But it’s ham that is the star of Spanish cuisine and today the country is the world’s leading producer, turning out approximately 30 million hams each year. The exquisite jamón Ibérico, however, accounts for just a scant five percent of output, while the more common jamón Serrano and other, lesser hams, represent the rest. Following 12 weeks of free range feeding, the 18-monthold Iberian pigs are put on the
Embutidos Fermín is the first and, for the time being, only Ibérico ham producer to have received an export authorization from the US Department of Agriculture. This producer from the region of Guijuelo (Salamanca) actually received approval in 2005. This means that the first hams have only recently arrived after having been cured for two years. In fact, the first Bellota hams will not arrive until May 2008 and can be booked in advance from online retailer La Tienda. www.embutidosfermin.com www.latienda.com
The cream of the crop
scales to ascertain if they have reached the required weight of between 310 and 330 pounds. Those that have achieved the ideal weight are taken to the processing facility in Pozoblanco, the region’s main town. “We handle an average of 58,000 pigs each season and the processing begins in the winter months with early February as the busiest time,” says Ms. Salamanqués. “After they are trucked to the plant we let the pigs rest from the short journey for a full day to be sure they’re completely relaxed and free of stress.” At the spotless, state-of-theart facility that was completed just two years ago the animals are humanely slaughtered, then butchered. The various parts are sorted, with cuts to be turned into chops, bacon, sausages and prized cured meats (such as chorizo, salchichón or lomo) separated from the fore legs and hind legs destined to become hams.
healthy tapa or appetizer. Pork products in their many forms are a staple of the Spanish table and along with hams, pork chops, bacon, sausages and luncheon meats, pork is used as a main ingredient in stews, soups and other dishes from Galicia in the north to the Canary Islands far to the south.
The art of the ‘maestro’ These are taken to the special salting rooms where maestro jamonero Pedro Ruiz takes over. With 32 years of
experience in handling hams, Ruiz is in charge of ensuring quality in every step of the salting, post-salting, natural drying and aging processes. “First we select and categorize the hams by size SPAIN GOURMETOUR 9
MAKING THE CUT
Cutting jamón Ibérico is an art and experts have provided the following tips to ensure that the process is as smooth as the taste of the ham itself. 1.Place the ham on a proper stand or jamonero with the hoof pointing upwards. 2.Use a knife that is long, thin and has a very sharp edge. 3.Always keep hands behind the knife as it cuts. 4.Slice the ham as thinly as possible. The more transparent the slice, the better. 5.Remove the surface skin gradually so the meat does not dry out. 6.Never cut more ham than is going to be eaten immediately. 7.When finished, protect the cut areas with an oily cloth. 8.If cutting isn’t your thing, or a whole ham is out of your budget, know that packaged jamón Ibérico keeps extremely well. Simply take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating so it can be served at room temperature.
with most of the pieces weighing between 25 and 30 pounds,” Mr. Ruiz says. “Then they are placed in large bins stacked between alternate layers of pure sea salt which is certainly the best natural preservative.” The hams remain buried in the salt for an approximate time period of one day per 2.2 lb in a carefully temperature-controlled environment of between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, liquid slowly drains from the ham to be replaced by salt. Next, the salt clinging to the surface of the tear-shaped hams is washed off with water and jets of air. The pieces are then hung on huge racks in pristine, all white rooms. “We constantly monitor the temperature and humidity of the post-salting chamber while the hams hang for a 10 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
minimum of one month and a maximum of two months,” the ham master explains. “It’s during this time that the salt spreads through the inside of every piece and, contrary to what you may think, the meat does not become salty tasting. In fact it’s quite sweet.” Now the hams are ready for the traditional drying process that not only further preserves the meat but also enhances the final flavor as the rich, yellowing fat continues to spread through the muscles. Placed in natural drying chambers, the hams are subjected to environmental variables which again affect the taste and texture of the final product: the direction and speed of the natural, brisk, mountain air flow, atmospheric pressure and daily variations in temperature which are
changed by the simple expedient of opening the windows. “Each of these factors conditions the ham and the most important variable that is unique to our hams is the bacteria and fungi which are in the air of the Pedroches Valley,” Mr. Ruiz notes. After up to nine months in the drying chambers, the hams are wheeled into the cellars where they remain for a further 18 to 36 months depending on size and quality.
Finding a top ham “Our top hams, which are known as Bellota because the pigs feed exclusively on acorns, remain in the cellar for between two and three years,” according to the ham master. “And a really large, special ham may be aged as long as four years. The Recebo hams,
from animals which have eaten a combination of acorns and fodder such as corn, are typically aged from 24 to 30 months,” he says.” Now ready for market, the hams are given a final test. Mr. Ruiz takes a wooden-handled awl made from horse bone and jabs each piece at different points on a ham and sniffs the tip of the probe. If there was even a hint that the cured pork has not aged properly, one whiff by the trained nose of the ham master would tell and the piece would be tossed out. But this one passes the test. Mr. Ruiz then takes a sharp knife and peels away the skin, revealing reddish-brown meat marbled with shiny fat. He carves off a thin slice and offers it to a visitor. It tastes absolutely divine: intense, nutty, slightly salty and with a sweet finish. Out of the shipping dock,
Juan Manuel Sanz/ICEX
But others are addressed to clients in France, Norway, Ireland and even as far a field as China and Japan. New markets like Australia and the Far East are targeted for further promotion, but the latest big destination to have received Ibérico ham is the United States. For many years, the U.S. government did not allow Ibérico pork there because of strict rules on imported meat. But the end of 2007 saw the arrival of the first Ibérico hams to have crossed the Atlantic legally. In his Washington DC
“Whatever one drinks with jamón Ibérico, it should be dry, so sherry from Andalusia is the obvious and traditional choice,” says Alberto Fernández, a wine writer and the sommelier at the Los Asturianos restaurant in Madrid. He recommends Fino Imperial from Bodegas Paternina or Fino Gran Barquero, made from Pedro Ximénez grapes, to sip with a dish of Bellota. “A less traditional and perhaps more exciting option is champagne or, better yet, a brut Spanish Cava. The bubbly dryness and the ham complement one another wonderfully,” he says.
In more than two decades as a foreign correspondent, American journalist Benjamin Jones has covered Spain's transition to democracy, the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, among other events. A one-time United Press International staffer in Madrid, he has also worked for Newsweek, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, Europe Magazine, The New York Daily News and many others.
restaurant Jaleo, Spanish chef José Andrés hosted the unveiling of the first hams to a crowd of connoisseurs and authorities. Ibérico ham, he claimed, is the “Rolls Royce of Spanish food, (…) one of the most stunning products in our food culture”. So, if you happen to be walking down the street and see that ‘foodie Rolls’ passing by, don’t forget to give it a try. You’ll be in for a treat.
MAKE YOUR TIPPLE DRY
cardboard boxes of ham await delivery to the customers with address labels showing that most are destined to restaurants, high-end supermarkets and specialty distributors in Spain.
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 11
World Sustainability and Human Sustenance at
Zarazoga hosts Expo 2008 for three months next summer with Water as its theme: how to preserve and best use this precious resource. But thereÂ´s nothing watery about the robust food and drink available in the Aragonese capital for those planning a visit. Elizabeth Nash digs in.
12 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
Elizabeth Nash Photos Tomás Zarza/ICEX
From mid-June and for three months the Spanish city of Zaragoza has a mission: to show the world how to conduct itself if it is to have a better future. This historical city in the heartland of Spain will be the site of Expo 08, the 63rd International Exhibition, an international show designed to promote awareness about the sustainable development of the planet. But even if Zaragoza is looking ahead, its roots lie deep in Europe´s history. The city was founded 2,000 years ago on the banks of the mighty Ebro river by the emperor Caesar Augustus, the base from which Roman legions advanced westward to conquer the rest of Hispania. Caesaragusta became Sarakusta under the Moors, who occupied the city for 400 years from 714, and left their mark on both the city’s architecture and its food. From the start Zaragoza owed its importance to its strategic position. Today it is the midpoint between four of Spain’s most prosperous regions – Madrid, Valencia, 14 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
Cataluña and the Basque Country. This covers an area of 22 million inhabitants, very nearly half the population of Spain. “The city is logistically well placed nationally and internationally to host an Expo and be an attractive destination,” says Roque Gistau, President of the Expoagua state organizing company. Water in Spain is an emotive topic. “In the Mediterranean region there is an imbalance between haves and have-nots. The Pyrenees are very rainy, whilst here in Zaragoza we´re in semi-desert, so we are acutely aware of the need to save water,” Mr Gistau says. The Expo, with its cute bugeyed mascot Fluvi, seeks to promote energy saving and watersaving measures in the construction of the site and its pavilions. “We seek an exemplary construction in the use of materials and terrain and disposal of waste.”
A hard rain’s a-gonna fall The Expo hopes to bring the ideals of a progressive
alternative lifestyle into the social mainstream. Bob Dylan has reworked his classic song “A hard rain´s a-gonna fall”, which warns of environmental destruction, as the Expo´s theme-song. “I am proud to participate in this mission to provide clean water for everyone,” Dylan says in a promotional video. Another high-profile international personality showcased in the Expo is the award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, whose spectacular Bridge Pavilion, shaped like a gladioli flower, is the architectural highlight of the show. “It´s a piece of art, but it has a functional use, to connect the Expo site with the city across the river Ebro,” the architect says. “As it´s a bridge it has a linear structure, with three spaces for use during the Expo. Afterwards it will remain as a footbridge. I wanted to transmit the idea of liquid that crosses the river, so the materials imitate the transparency of water. After the Expo, with the contents removed, the structure will appear more transparent, camouflaged by the river.” 16 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
Foldable bicycles and potato bags In addition to these eyecatching initiatives, the Expo seeks to promote good practices amongst citizens by offering 1,500 sturdy foldable bicycles as prizes for the best sustainability proposals. The cycles will make it easier for Zaragoza´s workforce to negotiate the streets of the city, cut carbon emissions and reduce motor traffic around the Expo site. The riverside has been streamlined with cycle lanes already popular with Zaragozanos. A public competition will decide the prizewinning sustainability projects. The Expo gives Zaragoza the opportunity to improve its cityscape by restoring neglected areas of the riverside and integrating the river into the life of the city as a principal highway. Another project is to resuscitate the historic Imperial Canal of Aragón, an 18th century waterway modeled on the Manchester ship canal that promoted waterborne trade and the development of river ports. This once grand project has languished, but the Expo plans to revive the canal to irrigate
the parched villages of Aragón beyond the immediate Ebro valley, and to become a leisure waterway. Those who fly into Zaragoza´s expanded airport – or glide into the highspeed train station from where you can walk or ride by cable car to the site – will be offered recycled CDs, recycled notepads, seaweed pencils and potato-flour carrier bags at the Expo. Such lowtech everyday objects embody the ideals of sustainability, says the Expo´s environmental spokeswoman, Maite Gálvez: “Optimization of resources, minimum waste, with environmental cost as close to zero as possible. Our aim is to give an example of what can be done; to show, not just tell.” The potato-flour bags – distinguishable from plastic ones only by their faint vegetable aroma – were invented when potatoes were in oversupply and very cheap. “It´s not waste, it doesn´t need treating, it doesn’t damage the environment. If you cut it up you can mulch your roses with it,” Ms Gálvez says. The bag factory operates 5 miles from Zaragoza. Other examples include the recovery of ‘grey water’ through
filtration in a reservoir, a bacteriological lavatory that uses no water, and rigorous recycling of waste generated on the site, such as crockery in the restaurants that is biodegradable or washable by low-energy machines. “We must educate our visitors,” Ms Gálvez says.
Family fun Apart from offering hands-on information to change your life, the Expo promises fun for all the family. The Water Park on the Ebro flood plain is an open door to the river, designed to thrive rather than drown when inundated by springtime melted snow from the mountains. The water park offers bathing beaches, horseriding, water sports and Olympic-level white water rafting canals, as well as performances by the Cirque du Soleil acrobatic theatre. Unwind in the spa pavilion where thermal baths replicate the baths of the world´s great civilizations. Admire 300 species of fish from the great rivers of five continents in the freshwater aquarium. Temporary pavilions roofed with solar panels examine all
THE EXPO HOPES TO BRING THE IDEALS OF A PROGRESSIVE ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE INTO THE SOCIAL MAINSTREAM
aspects of water: from the lack of it and the consequences of thirst, to extreme conditions like typhoons, and including water-powered energy and the challenge of sharing out this precious resource.
Expo aside If we follow the water from the Expo site and let our gaze be drawn across the river we find the great symbol of Zaragoza, the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar, whose filigree steeples are visible at every step. When transport links are complete in June, the old city will be just a 20-minute walk, or a swift busride, away. Zaragoza’s splendidly baroque Basílica del Pilar is dominated inside by an elaborate marble chapel that houses the Sacred Column of the Virgin, visited and revered by thousands every day. Behind the statue of the virgin is a fragment of the jasper pillar, where the Virgin Mary is said to have visited 2,000 years ago, worn concave from being kissed by generations of worshippers. The Basilica contains a colorful dome fresco by Goya, who came from Aragón, and a magnificent gothic and
renaissance alabaster high altar. Austerely plain outside but breathtakingly elaborate within is Zaragoza´s cathedral, La Seo del Salvador. Begun in the 12th century, the Seo is built of soaring pillars of brick painted to look like stone blocks, and is bathed with light from high circular windows. Focal point is the 1432 high altarpiece made by the German master Hans Piet d’Anso, which depicts biblical scenes full of life and human detail, including Teutonic moustaches and a realistic flock of sheep. Going back further in history, the 11th century Aljafería palace, with its moat and crenellated towers, is Zaragoza´s architectural jewel, a revelation to those who associate lacy archways and orange-tree patios with the south of Spain. This summer palace of Zaragoza’s Moorish rulers includes medieval halls with magnificent ceilings and floor tiles added by the conquering Catholics. For centuries used as a prison, the palace today houses Aragón’s regional government. Amazingly, this historical accumulation of styles has produced a building of harmonious beauty. SPAIN GOURMETOUR 17
Tapas, those masterpieces of Spanish mini-cuisine eaten while you stand at the bar enjoying a drink, also go back centuries. In Zaragoza they developed in the bars and cafes of the old centre in that network of narrow streets south of the cathedral. Townsfolk have gathered there since the mid-19th century to relax and gossip with friends in what many consider Spaniards’ favorite pastime, and Zaragoza built up a
reputation as a ‘café city’. Early tapas were fairly simple: slices of cured meat, sausage, olives or anchovies that you hold up by the tail before feeding down your throat. These remain the basic tapas to accompany your drink and spark your appetite. But people became more demanding and mussels in tomato sauce began to appear, slices of cheese or peppers, or morsels of liver, pig’s trotters, shrimp, sardines or slices of omelet with potato or chorizo. The custom of tapeo, of
strolling from bar to bar enjoying conversation with friends, savoring the microspecialties of each establishment with each person paying their round, is today a well entrenched ritual. The once humble tapa has become increasingly refined and elaborate, developing as a sophisticated branch of cuisine, with its own competitions and prizes. In one contest, in 1999, finalists served their offerings on trays of alabaster – that warm translucent stone renowned in Aragón.
Wine and beer are the most popular drinks to wash down your tapeo, but each tapa or pincho requires a drink that suits it best. Aragón is itself a wine region, and is surrounded by Spain’s finest wine producing areas, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra or Penedés which are in great demand. Beer is served in a variety of glasses from the generous jarra down through tubos, cañas and the stubby penalti. Vermouth – often homemade and drawn from the tap –, sherry (Fino or Manzanilla), cider and Cava are equally popular.
‘Tapeo’ in the Tube
The classic tapas route is concentrated in Zaragoza’s old centre, known as El Tubo, which offers the combined attraction of closely packed bars and the appeal of picturesque historic lanes. One of the most popular haunts is Las Victorinos (José de la Hera, 6), reputed to offer the best tapas in town. Its bar is laden with elaborate micro-dishes, including stuffed mushroom in sauce, vegetable mousse with duck, artichoke stuffed with hare, assorted mushrooms with liver, peppers stuffed with beef, liver with raspberry. 18 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
ZARAGOZA Bite by bite tour
TAPEO IS SIMPLY STROLLING FROM BAR TO BAR ENJOYING CONVERSATION WITH FRIENDS AND SAVORING THE MICRO-SPECIALTIES
ZARAGOZA NO PLACE FOR BOREDOM
Another venerable haunt, the Alta Taberna Pedro Saputo (Antonio Agustín, 19), offers fritters of Cabrales, a rich blue cheese from the northern Asturias region, from a bar lined with a huge variety of fresh seafood - shrimps, cockles, mussels, clams, goose barnacles, sardines – and a huge dish of shining black olives laced with pearly onion slices. Nearby Casa Luis (Romea, 8) offers the city´s finest Cojonudos – quail´s egg, ham and red pepper on a slice of toast, prepared on the spot – and mini helpings of meatballs in almond sauce, or oxtail stew.
In contrast to these cosy, traditional taverns, Meli Melo (Mayor, 45), with its spare white décor and youthful ambience, offers a fresh modern take on the tapa. The house specialty, minuscule roast potato stuffed with stewed veal in olive oil and garlic sauce, accompanied with poached onion, was a recent winner in a regional tapas contest. Their latest offering, a fritter of veal morsels cooked with Arabic spices and chickpeas, honors the city´s Mudéjar culinary heritage (Mudéjar is the name given to the Muslim inhabitants of Spain who lived on Christian territory in the Middle Ages). A toast of goose-liver mousse topped with red berries also presents the classic Moorish combination of sweet and savory. Whilst strolling from bar to bar, don’t miss the fabulously ornate confectionery shop Fantoba (Don Jaime I, 21), which specialises in the region´s fine crystallised fruits and marinated cherries bathed in chocolate. The walls are decorated with elaborate Egyptian-style friezes and masks dating from the 1870s. Equally striking, and welcoming, is the Bodegas
With over 3,400 shows by 350 companies and artists programmed over the three months that Expo will be open, visitors are sure to find plenty to do and see during their time in Zaragoza. Although some of the shows will be on for a limited time period (such as the suggestively named Night of Fire, a tremendous fireworks show programmed for 24th June), others will be on permanently throughout the Expo. A case in point is the daily parade, designed and acted out by the world-famed Cirque du Soleil, which will meander across the Expo grounds every day at noon or the interactive twenty minute ‘airborne theater’ show that the creators of Argentinean troupe De La Guarda will be performing six times a day. Another such case is Iceberg, a multimedia show that will combine spectacular lights, music, fireworks and acting on an iceberg-shaped stage floating along the Ebro river. Apart from the common ‘theme-based’ pavilions and showrooms, over 100 different countries, regions and NGOs will be presenting spaces of their own. From sub-Saharan Africa to ice-covered Scandinavia, each of the participants will offer their own take on water and sustainability through shows and exhibitions. Spain's pavilion, for instance, designed to simulate one of the poplar forests that are typical of the region of Zaragoza, will revolve around the idea of Science and Creativity, whereas Aragon's own building, designed to become the seat of the local government once Expo is finished, will explore Water and the Future.
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 19
ZARAGOZA A STONE’S THROW AWAY
Almau (Estebanes, 10) run by the fourth generation of wine enthusiasts, whose high walls are stacked with hundreds of bottles on shelves reaching to the ceiling. Downstairs is the bodega, and a terrace outside offers art shows and live music sessions, even in winter. An aperitif of cured ham and a salty anchovy, washed down
Less than one hour away from Zaragoza you can find much to do:
North of Zaragoza, the mighty Pyrenees mountains are the site of a wide range of skiing resorts that will accommodate any skier, from the novice to the pro. The largest Aragonese ski resorts are: Formigal, Cerler, Astún and Candanchú. For more information: www.aramon.es www.astun.com (in Spanish) www.candanchu.com
Trekkers, nature watchers and those seeking to escape the trappings of urban life can find some of Spain's largest wildlife havens very close indeed. The Pyrenees rise along the border of the province of Huesca, north of Zaragoza, bordering with France. Nature lovers will find a wide range of activities available, from rural tourism and trekking to adventure sports. The star of the Aragonese Pyrenees is the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido, one of the first nature reserves to be declared a national park (back in 1918) and home to endangered species such as the bearded vulture, the Iberian wood grouse or the royal eagle. South of the city of Zaragoza, in the natural park of the Monasterio de Piedra visitors can enjoy a two and a half hour walk along waterfalls, gardens and caves, and take a rest in a Cistercian monastery where the Calatayud Wine Museum lies. www.turismodearagon.com
The four wine regions of Aragón are within easy distance of Zaragoza. For more information, view the article on Somontano starting on page 22
20 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
with iced vermouth splashed with soda, offers a memorable stop on your tapas tour, and sets you up for more serious consideration of how the enjoyment of our planet can be prolonged and preserved. Elizabeth Nash is Madrid Correspondent for London’s The Independent newspaper
“This is Bob Dylan and I’m proud to be part of this mission.” The Expo of water and sustainable development has the support of Bob Dylan. And yours?
THE BIGGEST WATER FESTIVAL ON EARTH 14th June - 14th September 2008
The Water Tower, a pavilion bridge or vice versa. The biggest river aquarium of Europe. Cirque du Soleil. Piranhas, rock, jazz and classical music concerts. Calixto Bieito and Focus. Worldwide leaders' conferences, otters, Pichón Baldinu. As many as 25 Hectares full of surprises.
But the most important thing is the
COPE Gr upo HERALDO DE ARAGÓN Gr upo INTERECONOMÍA Gr upo PRISA Gr upo ZETA HACHETTE FILIPACCHI UNIDAD EDITORIAL VOCENTO
ARCHI TECTS Modern day
of wine Text Patricia Langton
Photos CRDO Somontano Illustrations Javier Zabala
If ever you should find yourself in need of proof that, at least in the wine world, size does not matter, head straight for the wine region of Somontano. Nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees, Somontano may well be small but, as Patricia Langton finds, it counts itself amongst the most innovative, respected and enterprising wine regions in the whole of Spain.
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 23
SOMONTANO The northern region of Somontano is one of Spain’s smallest wine regions and arguably the country’s most modern. In fact, it has propelled itself to the forefront of the exciting Spanish wine scene with remarkable speed over the last decade based on a successful formula of innovation and quality. To put Somontano’s wines into context, it’s worth taking a quick look at some significant
24 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
historical events. Winemaking has deep roots here dating back to the time of the Romans or even earlier. So, it was already firmly established when the French came to Somontano (and Rioja) in search of significant wine stocks when the deadly phylloxera vine louse attacked their vineyards in the 1860s. One Bordeaux wine family, Lalanne, recognized the potential of Somontano
around that time and settled in the region. By 1894 Lalanne had established a business at Barbastro, the main town serving Somontano, and introduced French grape varieties as well as more up-todate French winemaking practices. Generations later Lalanne is one of around 30 recognized Somontano wine producers and French grape varieties, having stood the test of time, still play a key role in
winemaking. Two other significant years bring us much closer to Somontano’s modern era. In 1984 the region was granted Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status, which paved the way for recognition on the national and international stage, and in 1986 Spain joined the EEC (now the EU) which boosted investment and encouraged local businesses to join the fray.
Getting with the times
To get yourself noticed in the world of wine, especially if you’re relatively small, you need to do something to stand out and Somontano does this in a number of ways. First, there’s bashful innovation. Each bodega that springs up manages to look more ultra-modern than the last, while at the same time
accommodating functional facilities to allow winemakers to achieve the best possible results from the grapes that enter through the winery doors. Viñas del Vero and Enate, two of the largest producers, were the first to emerge in the 90s with their dramatic cutting-edge facilities and more recently Otto Bestué, Olvena and Laus have joined the scene as local vineyard owners and winemaking
PATRICIA LANGTON’S STAR FINDS
EACH ‘BODEGA’ THAT SPRINGS UP MANAGES TO LOOK MORE ULTRA-MODERN THAN THE LAST
White Olvena Chardonnay FB 2007 Viñas del Vero Chardonnay Colección San Miguel 2004 Viñas del Vero Clarión 2006 (an impressive white blend based on Chardonnay) Bodegas Laus Gewürztraminer 2007 Bodegas Olvena Gewürztraminer 2007
Rosé Enate Cabernet Sauvignon rosé 2007 Otto Bestué Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon rosé 2007 Olvena Merlot Rosado 2007
Reds Laus Roble 2004 (a Merlot, Cabernet and Tempranillo blend) Viñas del Vero La Miranda Garnacha 2005 Laus Tinto Crianza 2003 (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) Viñas del Vero Gran Vos Reserva 2003 (an undisclosed blend of the best grapes of the vintage) Olvena Hache 2006 (Syrah and old vine Garnacha. A good example of the traditional and modern grape mix) Otto Bestué Finca Santa Sabina 2005 (a Cabernet and Tempranillo blend) Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2004 (mainly old vine Garnacha from the northern vineyard of the same name; a particularly interesting and original wine) Enate Merlot-Merlot 2004 Blecua 2002 (mostly Cabernet with some Merlot, Garnacha and Tempranillo. An extremely fine wine and arguably Somontano’s current peak of excellence) Smaller wineries offering good wines: Dalcamp, Sers and Bodegas Meler (only available locally).
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 25
Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Cariñena The three regions of Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Carineña are situated within the province of Zaragoza, to the south west of Somontano. These regions are all a rich source of Garnacha, a grape which is enjoying a renaissance in many different areas of Spain as a new generation of winemakers from both Spain and overseas realize its full potential for both red and rosé wines. The wines from these regions can offer great quality for their price tag, so they are well worth looking out for. Catalayud is the largest of the three and probably the best known due to the exciting developments of the last decade. These centre on the fact that this area has particularly old Garnacha vineyards (and to a certain extent Cariñena, also known as Mazuelo) and the grapes from these vineyards can make wines with great complexity, black fruit and chocolate flavors. The rainfall is low here and the climate is hot, but the vineyards are saved from extreme heat thanks to their high location which is between 1,640-2,950 ft above sea level. Producers of note include Jalón, San Alejándro and San Gregorio Cooperative. Campo de Borja may be much smaller by comparison, but a handful of bodegas have equipped themselves with modern facilities and they are making good quality wines. Here too there is some fine old vine fruit to be found from Garnacha which is flanked by Tempranillo, Mazuelo and even some Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are situated to the south of the river Ebro where the well-drained limestone soils are ideal for these red varieties. Producers of note include Borsao and Santo Cristo Co-operative. Carineña, borders Calatayud and the Huerva river runs through its heart before flowing into the Ebro at Zaragoza. Despite being named after the grape, Cariñena only represents around 6% of the plantings here and the region is building its reputation on red wines made from Garnacha and Tempranillo for the main part. Non-traditional varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are also playing an increasingly important role. Styles range from young reds to gran reservas and producers of note include Covinca, Gran Ducay and Solar de Urbezo.
26 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
ARAGÓN’S OTHER DOs
THE BEST SOMONTANO WINES ARE CHARACTERIZED BY ELEGANCE, REFINED TANNINS, FRESH ACIDITY AND RIPE FRUIT FLAVORS
· Located in the province of Huesca which lies to the south of the Pyrenees and to the west of Catalonia, Somontano has 11,500 acres of vineyards and is one of four wine regions within the autonomous region of Aragón. · Nearest international airport: Barcelona (around 3 hours by car). · Nearest town: Barbastro, nearest city: Zaragoza · The annual Festival Vino del Somontano takes place during the first week of August. The event includes a gastronomic showcase featuring over 100 tapas.
families join the modern vanguard. Irrespective of size – Viñas del Vero production capacity is 6 million bottles annually and whereas Otto Bestué’s output is 324,000 – the common goal is premium quality. The bodegas also share the challenge of getting wines made from non-traditional grapes noticed. So what is the Somontano wine style?
Somontano style In contrast to Spanish wine regions such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro, the Tempranillo grape plays a minor role in Somontano’s vineyards as the variety generally struggles to ripen in this coolish region although it
is often included as part of the blend giving the wines their Spanish character. The leading protagonists for red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with Garnacha and Syrah also providing an interesting contribution in some wines. Red wines are generally aged in oak for at least six months. Don’t expect to see much gold mesh on the bottles; the wines are presented in the same contemporary fashion of the wineries with some basing their labels on the work of modern artists. Red wines account for the lion’s share of the total produced although most producers offer rosé wine and white wines. These are usually
made from Chardonnay although some impressive dry Gewürztraminer wines have also recently appeared. The best Somontano wines are characterized by elegance, refined tannins, fresh acidity, balanced alcohol and ripe fruit flavors. This is achieved due to a combination of favorable altitude (vineyards are situated from 1,150 to 2,150 ft above sea level in the higher foothills of the Pyrenees), well-drained limestone soils, low rainfall and the all-important contrast between hot summer days and cooler nights which is ideal for the gradual ripening of the grapes a fresh quality in the final wines. Somontano’s winemakers have enjoyed a series of good
vintages: 2005 and 2006 were two of the best of recent years and the cooler summer of 2007 resulted in a particularly good harvest which bodes well for the new wines coming through – white, rosé and red. So it’s an ideal time to try Somontano’s wines and nothing beats a visit to the area to really appreciate this modern, dynamic Spanish region. Patricia Langton is a freelance journalist specializing in wine, wine tourism and gastronomy. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including Decanter, The Guardian, easyJet magazine, The Drinks Business, Wine & Spirit, Harpers and Off Licence News. She has also lived and worked in Spain and visits the country regularly. SPAIN GOURMETOUR 27
28 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
WHAT & WHERE TO EAT
SOMONTANO WHERE TO STAY
Gran Hotel Ciudad de Barbastro****, 4, Plaza del Mercado, Barbastro; www.ghbarbastro.com. Open since 2003, this comfortable, modern hotel makes a good base for visiting the wineries and Barbastro’s restaurants and shops. Rooms start at 80¤ per night Alodia rural house, San Gregorio, s/n, Alequézar; email@example.com; Tel.: +34 974 318 450. A comfortable and tastefully furnished casa de turismo in the heart of the enchanting medieval village and fortress of Alequézar. Rooms start at 65¤ per night. Casa Canales, 7, Plaza Mayor, Confita; www.casacanales.es. Another charming rural retreat. Bodegas Sers has renovated a vineyard house to offer four rooms alongside its boutique bodega. Rooms start at 50¤ per night. Hostería de Guara***, 2, Calle Oriente, Bierge; www.hosteriadeguara.com. A family-run, modern hotel within easy reach of Sierra de Guara, a popular nature reserve, while Bierge is reputed for its extra virgen olive oil. Rooms start at 75¤ per night.
The range of wines offers plenty of choice to match the region’s richly diverse cuisine: hams, lamb, wild boar, rabbit, partridge, excellent locally sourced vegetables, cheese, olive oil and truffles and mushrooms according to the season. Fish is also readily available due to an abundance of local rivers and good accessibility to the northern coast. Restaurante Casa Samper, 3, Calle Doña Zanca, Salas Altas; +34 974 30 21 02. A destination restaurant run by Carmen Laspuertas offering a high quality menu based on local specialities. Well worth seeking out and within easy reach of the Enate winery. Restaurante Flor, 3, Calle Goya, Barbastro. A Barbastro institution – imaginative dishes are prepared in a modern style for gourmets and there’s an extensive wine list to choose from. www.restauranteflor.com La Bodega del Vero, 13, Calle Romero, Barbastro; +34 974 311 183. The Mur family runs this relaxed, friendly restaurant in the cellars below its treasure trove of a food shop. High quality hams, local cheeses, meat and fish dishes. (The owners also run the La Viña de San Julián restaurant at the Consejo Regulador). Pastel Biarritz Albas, 23, Calle San Ramon, Barbastro; www.pastelbiarritz.com. For traditional almond cakes.
SOMONTANO WHAT TO SEE
If you’re planning to visit the region, Somontano’s administrative seat, the Consejo Regulador, is a good place to start. Located at Barbastro and conveniently situated right next to the tourist office, this former 18th century charity hospital now houses a large circular video room, the Espacio del Vino which showcases all the region’s wines along with some of the region’s finest olive oils, a restaurant and a tasting room. The idea is that visitors come away fully briefed about the region’s wines, the wine route and other aspects of interest. The wine route, created over the last two years, is the culmination of a project jointly managed by the Consejo Regulador and the local authorities to develop Somontano’s offering for visitors by links wineries, restaurants and hotels. All this is relatively new in a region which is developing quickly yet offers spectacular unspoilt Mediterranean scenery of olive groves and almond trees mingling with vineyards with no mass urban developments in sight. For more information about Somontano’s wine route and what to do in the region, go to: www.rutadelvinosomontano.com Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Somontano. Avenida de la Merced, 64 22300 Barbastro – Huesca; Tel.: +34 974 313 031; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.dosomontano.com (only in Spanish)
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 29
OLIVES Consistently ranked amongst Spain’s most popular olives, the black Aragón olive is quite unlike any other. Small and sweet, its distinct taste lends itself to many uses, at the dining table, in the kitchen or in the cocktail bar. Graham Keeley reports from Barcelona
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 31
Graham Keeley Photos Eloi Bonjoch/ICEX
The aceituna negra de Aragón or the black Aragón olive is described by some aficionados as the ‘King of Olives’. Like all olives, it has that distinctive bitter taste, but is mellower than in green olives. This smooth, black-brown fruit from eastern Spain, in fact, has a slightly sweet tang which marks it out in the rarefied world of olives. Indeed, the black Aragón olive is generally regarded as among the sweetest of the many hundred different varieties of olives. The Aragón olive is generally smaller and almond shaped in contrast to the average green variety often found in southern Spain or other parts of the world. They contain less liquid and as such are of less use in making olive oil, so are generally seen as something to be eaten, perhaps as an aperitif, although small quantities of Aragón black olive oil are produced. They are harvested by hand in December or January. They are traditionally collected by shaking them off the trees
with nets underneath. Or in some cases, they are collected from the ground once they have ripened and have fallen from the trees. Sometimes they are beaten off the trees with sticks. Once harvested, they are treated to try to rid the fruit of some of the bitterness which makes them initially inedible. Olive farmers have to rid the fruit of phenolic and oleropein compounds which cause this bitterness through a process which in turn, adds lactic acid which preserves the fruit. To this end, the olives are put in large tanks, buried in salt and left out in the open for between 25 and 30 days. The combination of the cold – it can reach temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit in Aragón in the winter – and the saline solution reduces the olive’s bitterness and produces that delicious taste. Once they have gone through this treatment they are ready to serve. But there is, of course, more than one way to enjoy the black Aragón olive.
32 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
Shopping for olives at the Boquería market, in Barcelona
THE BLACK ARAGÓN OLIVE IS DESCRIBED BY SOME AFICIONADOS AS THE ‘KING OF OLIVES’
Javier Muelas, owner of Dry Martini bar and restaurant, in Barcelona.
In a cocktail Javier de las Muelas is the owner of the renowned Dry Martini speakeasy bar and restaurant in Barcelona, which specialises in cocktails. He says black olives, although not as widely used as their green cousins in cocktails, provide an interesting alternative. “The use of the black olive in cocktails is not usual but the idea of using it as a complement and ornamentation is very interesting,” he said. “It has a velvety smoothness, is sweet, fleshy and if you eat it and all its juice bathed in a good vodka, it makes a fantastic complement for an extraordinary Martini.” Mr de las Muelas suggested a number of recipes to prepare cocktails using this type of olive. “These cocktails, to me, conjure up winter afternoons, before long nights. Veiled in joy, it should be perhaps be drunk with Cole Porter’s music ringing in the background SPAIN GOURMETOUR 33
34 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
1 glass of Bombay Sapphire gin A splash of dry Noilly Prat vermouth 1 black Aragón olive Prepare in a mixer (never in a cocktail shaker) with lots of ice. Remove ice after 15 seconds and serve in a cocktail glass. Add a black olive. No twist of lemon skin. A classic to share with a partner.
1 glass of Bombay Sapphire A splash of Canadian Club whisky. One black Aragón olive Prepare in a mixing glass and ‘baptised’ with a black olive. Without a twist of lemon.
Cooking a dish Carles Abellán, head chef and owner of Comerç 24, a Barcelona restaurant which was recently awarded its first Michelin star, said black Aragón olive is used more as a condiment than in the cooking process. “The black Aragón olive has an intense taste and texture. It is very characteristic of the Mediterranean world,” he said. “It is a sweet olive and contains little fluid – perhaps no more than 15 per cent of it is made up of oil. But at the same time it contains many very important vitamins.” Abellán said that, because of its salty taste and their traditional use as an aperitif,
Dry Martini Bar Calle Aribau 162-166, Barcelona, Tel: +34 932 175 072 Open: 6.30pm -2.30am, closed Sunday. Bookings recommended
while dancing at the New York Waldorf Astoria. Never just one, but never more than two, and always in company with the olive for the penultimate sip.” Mr de las Muelas suggested some music which would best accompany a cocktail made with a black Aragón olive: Cole Porter’s Night and Day or Easy to Love, Celeste from Verdi’s Aid’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, Bizet’s Carmen performed by Maria Callas or Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot performed by Pavarotti.
DRY FEELING COCKTAIL
Cocktails at Dry Martini
olive oil on top. This should be cooked for only 15 minutes per 5.5 lbs of fish. White fish should always be cooked at high temperature for a short time.” Mr Abellán said this type of olive can also be use in many other recipes from entrees to main dishes and deserts. The bitter taste of the olive can provide a novel contrast to traditionally sweet deserts. Comerç 24, Calle Comerç 24, Barcelona Tel: +34 933 192 102 Open 1-4pm, 8pm-12am, closed Sundays. Bookings recommended
the black Aragón olive is not as often used to cook with as green olives from southern Spain. “Olives on the whole are an essential part of Mediterranean cuisine, but the black Aragón olive is actually a more popular olive for aperitifs and tends not to be used for cooking save in some select dishes.” “One recipe which I use it for is cooking white fish. This can be sea bass or cod. You would put it into the oven at about 355 degrees Fahrenheit, with the fish salted and surrounded by black Aragón olives. You would then drizzle the juices the olives released and some
Recipe for Aragón black olive cakes by Carles Abellán
These cakes have a salty taste and are popular in Catalonia, north east Spain
Ingredients 1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz) softened butter 7 oz puree of black Aragón olives 5 eggs 3 tbsp (0.9 oz) glucose 2 1/2 cups (9 oz) sieved flour 1 1/2 cups oil of black Aragón olives 4 tsp yeast 3 tsp sugar Special equipment Cake moulds Put the butter, flour, glucose and sugar in a mixer. Work it for 10-15 min. Then add the eggs and the olive puree (not oil). Put it in the cake moulds and cook for 6 minutes at 390ºF. Take out of the moulds and serve warm.
Carles Abellán, head chef and owner of Comerç 24 SPAIN GOURMETOUR 35
Straight from the market Francesc Esteve, owner of the specialist Olives Fransesc shop in Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria market, put it simply: “The black Aragón is the king of olives. Its taste is simply magnificent, unlike any other.” In the bustling market where he works, Mr Esteve’s shop is a veritable shrine to olives, attracting tourists from around the world. “The black Aragón olive has a certain sweetness which makes it different from other types of olive. All olives are of course bitter – that’s what makes them special. But the Aragón black is my favourite and it is very popular with customers,” he enthused. Mr Esteve’s family has been selling mainly Spanish olives from the same market stall for the past 62 years. “My grandparents started here and the business has been handed down through three
generations.” Mr Esteve, whose bustling stall sells the black Aragón olives for ¤7 ($10.24) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) – making it one of the more expensive olives up for sale – said: “you would ideally have this type of olive with a salad or as a compliment before a meal.” He also sells an Aragón olive paste called, appropriately enough El Rey de la Aceituna (The King of Olives), for ¤3 ($4.39). “This is ideal for toast or to have with some soft cheese. Or you could have it with some salad,” he remarked. Olives Francesc, Mercat de la Boqueria, Plaça de La Boquería (off La Rambla) Barcelona +34 933 179 693 Graham Keeley is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona who has written about food, wine and travel for a number of newspapers including The Times, The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph.
Francesc Esteve, owner of Olives Francesc, in La Boquería market
BOSTON Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe 6 Brattle St. Cambridge, MA 02138-3711 Tel.: 617 491 8888 / 800 491 8288 Formaggio Kitchen Inc. 244 Huron Ave. Cambridge, MA 02138 Tel.: 617 354 4750 www.cardullos.com Guido's Fresh Marketplace 1010 South Street Pittsfield, MA 01201 Tel.: 413 442 9912 www.guidosfreshmarketplace.com Trader Joe's 117 Kendrick Street Needham, MA 02494 Tel.: 781 433 0234 For other locations visit: www.traderjoes.com
CHICAGO Convito Cafe & Market Plaza del Lago 1515 Sheridan Road Wilmette, IL 60091 www.convitoitaliano.com Fox & Obel Food Market 401 E. Illinois Street Chicago, IL60611 Tel: 312 410 7301 www.fox-obel.com
NEW YORK Balducci’s 155 Ave. West 66th St. (Broadway & Amsterdam) New York, NY 10023 Tel.: 212 653 8320 For other locations visit: www.suttongourmet.com Citarella 2135 Broadway (75th St.) New York, NY 10023 Tel.: 212 874 0383 For other locations visit: www.citarella.com Dean & Deluca 1150 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10028 Tel.: 212 717 0800 For other locations visit: www.deandeluca.com Despaña 408 Broome Street New York, NY 10013 Tel.: 212 219 5050 www.despananyc.com
E.A.T. 1064 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10028 Tel.: 212 772 0022 www.elizabar.com/eat Fairway 2127 Broadway (74th St.) New York, NY 10023 Tel.: 212 595 1888 For other locations visit: www.fairwaymarket.com Grace’s Marketplace 1237 Third Avenue (71st St.) New York, NY 10021 Tel.: 212 737 0600 www.gracesmarketplace.com Murray’s Cheese 257 Bleecker Street New York, NY 10014-4102 Tel.: 212 243 3289 For other locations visit: www.murrayscheese.com The Amish Market 130 Cedar Street New York, NY 10006 Tel.: 212 571 4232 And other locations The Garden of Eden 310 3rd Avenue (23rd & 24th) New York, NY 10010 Tel.: 212 228 4681 www.gardenofedengourmet.com The Gourmet Garage 453 Broome (Mercer) New York, NY 10012 Tel.: 212 941 5850 For other locations visit: www.gourmetgarage.com The Vinegar Factory 431 East 91st St (1st & York) New York, NY 10128-6801 Tel.: 212 987 0885 www.elismanhattan.com Trader Joe’s 142 East 14th Street New York, NY 10003 Tel. : 212 529 4612 For other locations visit: www.traderjoes.com Whole Foods Time Warner Center 10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019 Tel.: 212 823 9600 For other locations visit: www.wholefoods.com Zabar’s 2245 Broadway (80th St.) New York, NY 10024 Tel.: 212 787 2000 www.zabars.com
SAN FRANCISCO Cheese Plus 2001 Polk St. (Pacific Ave.) San Francisco, CA 94109 www.cheeseplus.com Dean & Deluca 607 South St. Helena Highway St. Helena, CA 94574 Tel.: 707 967 9980 www.deandeluca.com
Find Spanish products near you
Oakville Grocery 2801 Leavenworth The Cannery at Del Monte Square San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel.: 415 614 1600 For other locations visit: www.oakvillegrocery.com The Spanish Table 1814 San Pablo Ave Berkeley, CA 94702 Tel.: 510 548 1383 For other locations visit: www.spanishtable.com Village Market One Ferry Building # 29, San Francisco, CA 94105 www.villagemarketsf.com
SEATTLE De Laurenti Specialty Food & Wine 1435 1st Ave Seattle, WA 98101 Tel.: 206 622 0141 www.delaurenti.com
Metropolitan Market 1908 Queen Anne Ave N Seattle, WA 98109 Tel.: 206 284 2530 For other locations visit: www.metropolitan-market.com The Spanish Table 1426 Western Ave Seattle, WA 98101 Tel.: 206 682 2827 www.spanishtable.com
ONLINE SHOPPING www.tienda.com www.casaoliver.com www.deliciasdeespana.com www.zingermans.com www.igourmet.com www.ingredientsgourmet.com
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 37
Photos Toya Legido/ICEX
Nino Redruello is among the most important exponents of the fine tradition of Basque cuisine in Madrid. Born and raised in the restaurant business under the tutelage of his eponymous uncle, he took charge of the family restaurant, La Ancha, in early 2007. Before that, Nino spent many years working his way up in the restaurant before opening Las Tortillas de Gabino, his own venture, together with his brother. Las Tortillas took Madrid by storm, offering adventurous takes on the classic Spanish omelet. At La Ancha, placed alongside the Spanish Parliament and a favorite haunt of many a Spanish politician he has continued to serve the classic fare that have made it famous (its lentil soup is a legend in Madrid). La Ancha, C/Zorrilla, 7. Madrid. Tel: +34 914 298 186 La Ancha II, C/PrĂncipe de Vergara, 204. Madrid. Tel: +34 914 298 186
Las Tortillas de Gabino, C/ Rafael Calvo, 20. Madrid. Tel: +34 913 197 505 www.lastortillasdegabino.com (Advance booking essential in all three) Las Tortillas also offers cooking courses
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 39
REGIONAL (ARAGĂ“N )
ARTICHOKES WITH ALMONDS (Alcachofas con almendras)
SERVES 4 PREPARATION TIME 1 hour DIFFICULTY Medium INGREDIENTS 12 to 16 artichokes (depending on size) Extra Virgin olive oil 1 clove of garlic 1 cup blanched Marcona almonds 3 1/4 tbsps all-purpose flour 1/2 cup milk 1 oz Tetilla cheese 1 lemon
1. Peel the artichokes until only the heart is left. 2. Bring a large potful of water to the boil. Add the juice of one lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil. 3. Add the artichokes, boil until tender. Drain and keep 1/2 cup of the stock. 4. Chop the garlic and fry it together with most of the almonds (keep a few to decorate later) in a tablespoon of olive oil. 5. When golden, add the flour, stir and fry for a further 2 minutes. 6. Add 1/2 cup artichoke stock and the milk, season to taste. 7. Simmer for 15 minutes and take off heat. 8. Place artichokes in an oven proof dish. Pour sauce over them and grate Tetilla cheese on top. 9. Place under a hot grill until
golden. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top. 40 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
RED MULLET AND SQUID STEW (Marmitako de salmonete de roca y calamares)
SERVES 4 PREPARATION TIME 1 hour DIFFICULTY medium INGREDIENTS 1 lb (approx.) whole red mullets 1/2 lb squid 1 1/2 onion 1 clove garlic 1/2 green pepper 1/2 red pepper 1 1/2 leek 3 potatoes 1 carrot 2 soupspoons choricero pepper paste Parsley
1. Fillet the red mullets,
clean them of bones and cut into smaller pieces. Keep the bones for the stock. 2. Roughly chop 1 leek,
1 onion and 1 carrot 3. Make a stock by placing
the red mullet bones and chopped vegetables in a deep pan. Cover with water. Add a sprig of parsley and boil for 30 minutes. 4. Thinly chop the remaining
onion and leek, the garlic and the peppers. Gently fry in 1 tbsp olive oil. While they become soft, peel and dice the potatoes. 5. Add the potatoes and the
choricero pepper paste when the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper. 6. Pour red mullet stock until
well covered. Boil until the potatoes are soft. 7. Meanwhile, dice the squid
and fry in olive oil over high heat until golden. 8. When the potatoes are
almost ready, add the squid and red mullet pieces. Boil for 1 minute and serve immediately. (Alternatively, prepare the dish without the squid and red mullet in advance. Bring to the boil minutes before serving, add the fish and serve)
BAKED POTATO AND TORTA DEL CASAR CROQUETTES
(Croquetas de patata asada y Torta del Casar) SERVES 4 PREPARATION TIME 50 min DIFFICULTY Easy INGREDIENTS For the croquettes: 1/2 lb potatoes 1/4 lb Torta del Casar cheese, 3 1/2 oz double cream Salt White Pepper 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs 1 cup all-purpose flour 2 eggs For the side salad: 3 1/2 oz rocket 2 tbsps Marcona almonds Extra Virgin olive oil Balsamic vinegar or old sherry vinegar
1. Wrap each potato in tin foil
and bake in the oven at high heat until cooked through. 2. Peel and mash into a paste.
Mix in the cream, Torta del Casar cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cool in the fridge. 3. Once cold, roll the mixture
into small balls or cylinders. 4. Beat the eggs. Coat each ball
in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. 5. Fry in abundant oil until gol-
den. Reheat in the oven before serving if necessary. 6. Serve with the rocket, dressed
in vinegar and oil with chopped almonds sprinkled on top.
RECIPES FINGER FOOD
AVOCADO AND PINE NUT DIP
(Cazuela de aguacate y pi単ones) 1. Chop the spring onions very fine and set aside. 2. Dice the apple and the cheese. SERVES 4 (AS A SNACK) PREPARATION TIME 20 min DIFFICULTY Easy INGREDIENTS 2 avocados 1 1/2 tsps honey 2 spring onions 1/2 apple (Golden delicious) 1 3/4 oz farmer cheese 1 oz pine nuts Salt White pepper Sherry vinegar
3. Open up the avocados and spoon out the flesh. Mash with a fork, add the honey, a generous helping of olive oil and a dash of vinegar. Blend it all in. 4. Add the apple, the cheese
and the spring onion. Mix well. 5. Fry the pine nuts in olive oil. 6. Spread some of the avocado
mix on thin pieces of toast or crackers and sprinkle pine nuts on top, or serve in a bowl as a dip.
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 43
TEN MINUTE TAPA GRAPE JUICE WITH CUCUMBER AND BLACK ARAGON OLIVES
(Mosto de uva con pepino y aceituna de Arag贸n) SERVES 4 PREPARATION TIME 5 min DIFFICULTY Easy INGREDIENTS Grape juice 4 black Arag贸n olives 1 cucumber 1. Peel and dice the cucumber. 2. Skewer a piece of cucumber
and an olive on a stick. 3. Pour juice into glasses and
place the skewer inside.
44 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
DESSERT FRUIT ‘TARTARE’ WITH SPANISH RICE PUDDING
(Tartar de frutas con arroz con leche) SERVES 4 PREPARATION TIME 45 min DIFFICULTY Easy INGREDIENTS For the rice pudding: 3/4 cup rice 2 pints full-fat milk 6 oz (14 tbsps) sugar 1/2 lb whipping cream (35% fat) 1 stick of cinnamon Peel of 1 lemon For the fruit Tartare: 2 1/2 oz Mango 2 1/2 oz pineapple 2 1/2 oz melón 1 1/2 tsps honey 1 tbsp lemon juice Spearmint 1. Pour the milk into a pan,
add the lemon and cinnamon and place over medium heat. 2. When it begins to boil, add
the rice and lower the heat. Simmer gently for 35 minutes stirring regularly. 3. Take off the heat, add the
sugar and stir it in. Then add the cream, stir in and set aside to cool. 4. Chop the fruit into small
pieces. Mix and dress with the lemon juice and honey. 5. To serve, pour some
pudding into a bowl, spoon some fruit on top and decorate with the spearmint leaves. SPAIN GOURMETOUR 45
WINEMARRIAGE Photographs courtesy of the winemakers
ARTICHOKES WITH ALMONDS
RED MULLET AND SQUID STEW
Wine GRAMONA III LUSTROS 2001 Varietals Xarel·lo, Macabeo Origin D.O. Cava Winery Gramona Description Pale golden in color and with fine bubbles, this cava yields aromas of fresh bakery, roast apple, white fruits and toast. Classy and structured, the crispness of the wine is underscored by the bubbles, giving way to a long, herby and slightly bitter finish. Why this wine? This tasty and fresh dish, with a hint of bitterness from the almonds, is slightly complex to match, so I doubted between two options, a dry, salty Manzanilla (a type of sherry) or this aged Cava. The aromas of the Cava match those of the dish, and the bitterness of the wine blends into that of the artichoke and almonds, but its silkiness softens and ‘rounds off’ the edges of the mix.
Wine CHIVITE COLECCIÓN 125 CHARDONNAY 2004 Varietal Chardonnay Origin D.O. Navarra Winery Bodegas Julián Chivite Description Attractive lemony and slightly golden color. Complex and intense on the nose, apples rise over a buttery background with roasted and aniseed hints. Pleasantly fruity in taste with a good structure and very good acidity. The long finish reveals a touch of oak, the fruit of its barrel aging. Why this wine? This wine, without a doubt one of Spain’s best, most interesting barrel-fermented Chardonnays, is sure to please. I choose it based on the leading role of the red mullet and squid in the dish, since the wine contributes freshness and a density that combines the flavors of the dish without drowning them out.
46 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
BAKED POTATO AND TORTA DEL CASAR CROQUETTES Wine HÉCULA 2005 Varietal Monastrell Origin D.O. Yecla Winery Bodegas Castaño Description This very Mediterranean wine has a dark, black cherry color, revealing its beefy nature. Even the slightest whiff reveals intense fruit, especially blackberries and raspberries. Closer examination shows it to be peppery and spicy, with a hint of flowers. On the tongue, it is and meaty with a good acidity, with a great deal of fruitiness and a pleasant, fresh finish. Why this wine? The cheese in the dish makes the choice of a young, fruity red a sensible choice. This red, particularly, is not too full-bodied to drown out the taste, but its Mediterranean character and the fruit it packs lends a sweetness and a certain hint of liquor that go very well with the cheese.
YOUR SOMMELIER IS… MARÍA JOSÉ HUERTAS Award- winning sommelier María José Huertas has developed her whole career at Michelinstarred Madrid restaurant La Terraza del Casino. She was among the first female sommeliers to leave the official school in the Madrid Chamber of Commerce and join one of the top restaurants in the Spanish capital, where she has now spent ten years finding the best wines to accompany the creative cuisine of head chef and Ferrán Adriá protegé Paco Roncero. "When you begin to 'marry' wines to food", María José says, "you soon find that, for every dish, there tends to be at least four or five wines that are a particularly good match. You choose those according to the tastes, textures and aromas of the dish, finding wines that will not drown any of the subtleties out and will bring a little something extra to the mix that will make it special. But the only way to get it just right is to find out about the personal taste and preferences of the client, so that you'll make the perfect selection out of the wines that initially come to mind. I therefore like to chat a little about the favorite wines of a client before I suggest one for the meal. Since I can't quiz you readers, in my choices here I have favored wines that I find particularly interesting myself and that are, on occasion, a little daring". La Terraza del Casino, C/ Alcalá 15-3 E. Madrid email@example.com www.casinodemadrid.es
AVOCADO AND PINE NUT DIP Wine PAZO SE SEÑORÁNS SELECCIÓN DE AÑADA 2002-2003 Varietal Albariño Origin D.O. Rías Baixas Winery Pazo de Señoráns Description Pale yellow with glints of golden. Complex and interesting on the nose, with mineral, floral and fruity aromas rising above the subtle smell of fennel and aromatic herbs. Dense and silky, with a pleasant sharpness and a long and fruity finish. Why this wine? This succulent tapa calls for a wine that has a touch of aging and a certain aromatic likeness to its ingredients. We therefore highlight the flavors in the dish, complement them with the complexity of the wine and, to top it off, refresh our mouth between bites with its crispness.
GRAPE JUICE WITH CUCUMBER AND BLACK ARAGON OLIVES Wine JUVE & CAMPS RESERVA DE LA FAMILIA 2004 Varietals Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo Origin D.O. Cava Winery Juvé & Camps Description Dedication and care for the vine shine through in this cava. It is a Gran Reserva, having spent, on average, 42 months aging in the bottle. Light golden in color, it has fine rising bubbles and a persistent crown. The aroma of fresh apples dominates, flanked by freshly baked bread and some toasted notes. Fresh and velvety, with a long, elegant and slightly bitter finish. Why this wine? Cava is a wonderful appetizer, so it is an easy choice for this dish. I would first have the grape juice and the brochette, followed by the Cava, which will refresh and clean the palate.
FRUIT ‘TARTARE’ WITH SPANISH RICE PUDDING Wine DON PX ETIQUETA DOBLE 1981 Varietals Pedro Ximénez Origin D.O. Montilla-Moriles Winery Toro Albalá Description Black pearl color with glints of topaz. Subtle yet fragrant: we can find the smell of ripe grapes, prunes, coffee and licorice. The first burst of flavor in the mouth brings the fruit forward balanced by a well judged acidity, then eases away until the long finish reveals coffee and licorice. Why this wine? A great number of sweet wines would suit this dish, but I always like to recommend the gems that are the wines of Jerez and Montilla-Moriles, always full of nuances and complexity. In this case, the Pedro Ximénez will bring new flavors to the dish, the slight acidity will compensate the sweetness while complementing the fruit and the almost infinite finish prolongs the pleasure of its taste.
SPAIN GOURMETOUR 47
VISTAS Editor-in-chief Cathy Boirac
Editorial coordination Etnín C.B. Saúl Aparicio Hill Iria González Panizo
Journalists Benjamin Jones Graham Keeley Patricia Langton Elizabeth Nash
Design and Art Direction Estudio Manuel Estrada
Photo Archive Mabel Manso Esperanza Ibeas
Cover Tomás Zarza
Colour Separations Rastercolor
Advertising All Mediterránea Contact: Thilo Ullmann-Zahn Tel: 518 587 94 09 firstname.lastname@example.org SPAIN: Cedisa Contact: Esmeralda Capel Tel: (+34) 913 080 644
Printers RR Donnelley
NIPO 705 08 041 6
ISSN: 0214-2937 Publisher ICEX State Secretariat for Trade and Tourism
email@example.com The opinions expressed by the authors of the articles are not necessarily shared by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX), which cannot be held responsible for any omissions or errors in the text. For more information on Spanish products contact: Spanish Commercial Office Tel. 1212 661 4959 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information on tourism to Spain see: www.spain.info All rights reserved
48 SPAIN GOURMETOUR
One of the best memories I have of growing up in London was our yearly family holiday to the Costa Brava, that wonderful stretch of the North Eastern coast of Spain that is descended upon each summer by hoards of English bucket and spade vacationers. This is where I first tried salt cod fritters, Spanish olive oil and (although I did not know what it was at the time) the heavenly Ibérico ham. So a recent trip was just the thing to ignite all those childhood memories. Staying in Barcelona for the first time was quite an experience. Leaving the entrance to our hotel and stepping on the street there was one thing on my mind: the Boquería market. The first time I went it felt like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – but for adults. I’ve never felt so connected to Spain as when walking down the narrow stalls of salt cod fillets, row upon row of Ibérico ham, lomo, Catalan dry sausages, chanterelle mushrooms, wild strawberries, melons, Padrón peppers and the best shellfish market in all of Europe: purple cabanerie prawns, cigale de mer or slipper lobsters, small pink langouste or spiny lobsters, sea cucumbers (espardeñas or espardenyes in Catalan) and every fish known to man. There is also a stall at the back of the market that sells scorpion candy and caramelized centipede. As I walked – no, let me rephrase that – ran through the stalls, I became an eight year old boy in a sweet shop; eyes wide open and giddy with excitement. After about an hour of
MENTIONS OF THE COSTA BRAVA BROUGHT CHEF PAUL LIEBRANDT CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF BANANA HAMMOCKS AND SAND CASTLES ON BEACHES. NOW THE NAME MAKES HIS MOUTH WATER. hyperventilating I felt it was time to sit down and eat something at the pintxos stalls. Local sepia (cuttlefish), blood clams and Palamós shrimp all cooked on the griddle, of course accompanied by a huge plate of Joselito bellota ham and followed by an amazing bottle of Agustí Torelló’s Kripta, a rather fine Cava I must say. The final destination of this trip the next day was El Bulli, but the drive from Barcelona through Girona is great, with a few multi Michelin stared restaurants on the way. Arriving in Roses is seeing the British holidaymaker in his/her element: sun-burnt lobsters drinking out of plastic coconuts with mini umbrellas attached – ahhh my child hood! It still blows my mind that the number one restaurant on the planet is tucked away in this bucket and spade heaven. The meal? Well, I can only describe it as transcendent. One thing you must try in Spain are percebes or Goose-foot barnacles. Lunch the day after consisted of a giant bowl of them freshly picked that morning. The taste is like eating the best clam, oyster, shrimp you ever had whilst standing smelling the fresh ocean air: an absolute definition of the sea in one mouthful. Back to Barcelona for dinner at Abac, a great restaurant on the side of the Hotel Park. Beautiful food: Spanish blue fin tuna belly with local asparagus the size of a toothpick! Oh! And the best olives I have ever eaten, so good in fact that when I opened my restaurant, Gilt, I phoned them up to find out where they got them from.
If you are in Barcelona and are in need of a dessert fix might I suggest Espai Sucre on Calle Princesa. The space is tiny but the desserts are genius. My personal favorite? A warm Manchego cheese cake with fresh green apple sorbet piped in a ribbon and the lightest white sesame caramel. All that was left before returning home was the huge dilemma that faces most chefs when they go to Spain: whether or not to bring back vast quantities of the aforementioned Ibérico ham. I found myself staring for a good thirty minutes at the hams, wondering how I could get one of these legs through US customs. How could I stop anyone from noticing a hairy black hoof sticking out of my hand luggage? If I did get pulled to the side what possible explanation could I give? Much tempted as I was, the thought of being charged with ham smuggling did not appeal to me. My rational side won over so I opted for the pre sliced vacuum sealed packet. Back in New York with my very own lobster tinge – the Costa Brava never felt so good! Paul Liebrandt began his career under some of the top chefs in England and Paris, before moving to New York. He found his first executive chef position at Atlas, where he became the youngest chef ever to be awarded three stars by The New York Times critic William Grimes. Liebrandt then founded renowned restaurant Gilt, whose kitchen he departed in August 2006 in search of his next culinary adventure.
ENJOY a free subscription!
Would you like to have the best on Spanish food, recipes, wine recommendations and travel features delivered free to your doorstep three times a year?
If the answer is yes, visit www.spaingourmetour.com/subscriptions/usa Fill in our brief questionnaire, and you will begin to enjoy a no-strings attached subscription to Spain Gourmetour magazine.