Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aged Rioja Wine Dinner at Terrys

Finally..after a month or so of preparation (and a lot of coordination), we finally had our Aged Rioja Wine Dinner. Thank you Aaron for having the idea of a Rioja dinner and Noel for organizing all the food with JC de Terry. We were 9 in total (Noel, Catha, Aaron, Jo, Jojo, Jay, Keichi, Johnny and myself) and each one was to bring a old/aged Rioja wine (some had acces to their deep collections, some had to scramble and buy -like me) and some brought not so aged wines but very good as well.

The ff was the line up of our wines:

• 1985 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva (Miguel)
• 1985 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial (Jojo)
• 1989 Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 (Noel)
• 1995 CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva (Jay)
• 1995 Campillo Gran Reserva (Aaron)
• 1997 Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 (Aaron)
• 1998 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial (Jay)
• 1999 Cerro Añon Gran Reserva (Johnny)
• 2001 Marqués de Riscal Barón de Chirel (Keiichi)

• 2001 Ondarre Reserva (Care of JC de Terry)

The food was carefully prepared (to pair perfectly with the wine) by JC in coordination with Noel, so we were assured that the food would be top notch and woud pair perfectly with the wines we had.

For starters, we had: Pavia de Ventresca en Remoulade de Anchoas (Deep Fried Tuna Belly with Anchovy Remoulade), paired with a Marques de Caceres Blanco 07. The Tuna belly was soaked overnight with the same wine that it was paired with. A light tempura batter coated the Tuna...delicious. Also a very good touch, the Anchovy Remoulade, which gave it that zingy taste.

Next, and still with the white wine, Gratin de Ostras en Crema de Manchego y Espinacas (Oysters Baked in Manchego Cheese and Spinach Cream). Again, perfectly paired with the wine, the cheese was not just manchego but a bit of Parmesan. Another Beautiful creation...

After a quick break, the third of our appetizers arrived. And for me, one of the best of the night: Suprema de Piquillo Relleno a la Vinagreta de Chistorra (Stuffed Piquillo Peppers topped with Chistorra Vinagrette). This was one of my favourites..stuffed Piquillo with a Pate de Cabrales, tiny bits of Chistorra Chorizo and vinagrette. With lots of flavors and contrasts, I just loved this dish. At this point we still had the white wine for the pairing of this.

They then poured the 2nd wine, a Protos 2007 Rosado. This was a more full bodied, potent slightly aged Rosado which JC recommended as pairing for the ff: Salmis de Caracoles a la Andaluza (Escargots Bathed in a rich Andalusian Sauce) and for me, another one the highlights of the night: Sinfonia de Crustaceos al Rosado de Penafiel (The Quintessential Mediterranean Seafood Soup).

The wine with the dishes were a perfect match..the Escargots, neatly tucked into small clay pots, with some mashed potatoes and a pice of crispy bacon, simply fantastic. The soup, was a semi-clear broth (If I am not mistaken, he used some rosado wine for to make the broth), with a mix of Scallops, Mantis Shrimp, fish and Squid. On the side, a mixture of Extra virgin Olive Oil, Parsley, Garlic to give the dish some kick and spice. I am really not a soup person, but this kinda of soup, I can have everyday.

We then took a breather and while waiting, we had the red wines opened. The staff at Terrys were not keen on opening it themselves for fear of damaging the cork, since many of the bottles were old. We then decided to have the "Masters" in opening old bottles Jojo and Johnny do the job, which did did very well and willingly. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

The first flight of red wines were served, together with our 'first' Main Course: Bien-Me-Sabe de Caballa (The famous Seared Adobo Mackarel from Cadiz). Very lightly seared mackarel, with a salad and slightly drizzled with Olive Oil and 12 year old Balsamic Vinegar. At this point I wish I had saved some of my white wine for this, but since I had no more, so I decided to have this without any wine.

Wines were poured and we started the tasting of the first flight or reds.

The main dish was served: Rabo de Toro en Chilindron de Tempranillo (Ox Tail in Chilindron Sauce enhanced with tempranillo). Chilindron is a typical sauce from Aragon, where they use several kinds of peppers and paper thin slices of Jamon Serrano, which eventually melt away and become part of the Sauce. JC tweaked a bit the sauce by adding tempranillo (red wine made of tempranillo grapes) to match our theme dinner. The Ox Tail was very tender, and the sauce was just to die for. It was perfectly accompanied by a side of Arroz Bomba with some Garbanzos. This dish I really enjoyed with the latter wines of the first flight (La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 1989 and the CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1995). They had more body and weight and paired good with the heavy sauce of the Ox Tail.

The 2nd flight of red wines were poured (sorry I have not pictures fo them-I was having too much fun drinking and laughing that I forgot to take some pictures) and we continued our tasting. Of the second flight, I enjoyed the Baron de Chirel, very dark, masculine powerful wine, although I think it was still a bit tight/closed but with more time in the bottle, or some decanting, this wine can show its worth.

For dessert, another masterpiece from JC: Recuerdos de mi Infancia - Pera Confitada en Vino Dulce de Jumilla sobre Espuma de Anis Avainillado (Pear Confit on a fluffy foam of Anis Seed and Vanilla). The Pear was poached with the same dessert wine that was served, a Casa de la Ermita late Harvest Viogner 2006. The fact that the wine was not so sweet I liked, since it did not overpower the pears, which was really the star of the dish.

We then lingered around the tables (there were several other clients in the Restaurant that we knew) tasting and re-tasting the wines. JC gifted us with a short piece on the Piano, an Andalusian piece of his own creation, and a few minutes before 12, we called it a night.

Again, I would like to thank everybody who made this possible. Also a very special thanks to JC de Terry, who went out of his way to prepare us this special meal and all the passion he put into creating it. I hope some time very soon we can repeat and have another spectacular meal like this..a Riber del Duero dinner perhaps??....

Viva La Rioja !!!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Barcelona: Vell Sarria, Andreu, Bar Tomas, etc.....

I'm on a roll and decided to post this, from my trip to Spain 2 months ago. They are bits and pieces of different food I had, but not lengthy enough to post them separately, so I decided to put them all in one post.

My last Sunday in Barcelona, we decided to go to a place that we have been many times: VELL SARRIA. a classic place where they serve "arrossos" or "arrozes"..basically: Paella. They do not like to call it Paella because it's not really traditional Paella. It is more the Catalan way of cooking, more wet/soupy than usual. Usually the ingredients are the same. In our case, we had Paella de Verduras. Like I said it was not as dry as the paellas I am used to but the taste was just heaven. How in the world can they make vegetable Paella taste so pork, fish, seafood, etc..just plain simple veggies.

This was a light lunch so we had the Arroz de Verduras, Calamares a la Andaluza (Andalusian Calamares - slight fried with flour) and Pescadito Frito (Fried baby fish), another typical dish from the South of Spain. The fish and squid were so fresh, refreshing, that we had second orders of both. With this we had a bottle of Martin Codax Albarino, which was a perfect match. What a good way to spend a lazy Sunday summer lunch.

The day before that, we decided to have the 'aperitivo' - a typical Spanish term, for having a drink-tapas before a meal, which is usually lunch. Our Aperitivo, which ended up being our lunch, was at a place called Andreu. Its basically a Charcuteria (Deli) which has a small bar. They specialize in Cheese, Jamon Iberico and other Spanish deli.

All of them are served in a Coca (typical Catalan bread) drizzled with Olive Oil. We had: Sobrassada with melted Manchego, Virutas de Jamon Iberico (Virutas are the small bits and pieces that fall off the leg of Jamon while they are slicing it - for me the most tasty part of the leg) and Queso de Cabra con Miel (Goat Cheese with Honey).. Needless to say, we had double orders of all of the dishes, washed down with house red (Ribera).

Last, one of my all time favorites bars to go to in Barcelona. Growing up, we used to go practically weekly, for some beers, and what they are most known for: Patatas Bravas. The place is called BAR TOMAS. Even if located in the residential part of town (Sarria), people go out of their way to pass by, order a couple of beers and a small plate of Tapas. The Bravas of Bar Tomas, probably the best I've tried. They don't serve anything else (aside from Olives, Anchovies and Croquetas), so they basically survice on selling mainly Patatas Bravas and Beer.

Patatas Bravas, for those who don't know, consists of potatoes that have been cut into irregular shapes and then boiled in brine first then fried in oil and served covered in a sauce made of olive oil, red pepper, paprika, and vinegar with a side of alioli. I could easily describe this a little piece of heaven on a plate (if properly done of course) and together with draft beer, it can't get any better. I know the dish looks very simple and you are probably asking why I am raving about this so much, so you will have to try it to understand..

This ends my post on various meals I had in my last trip to Spain. Watch out for my next post: A dinner at Terrys with Aged Rioja wine as the main attraction...Hasta Pronto!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Restaurante Hofmann, Barcelona

Ok ok... I admit, I've not been posting for a while, since I got caught between work and travelling, so now that I have time, I decided to continue. Hofmann is a Restaurant In Barcelona I've always wanted to try. Heard so much about it that I told myself that on my next trip to Barcelona I had to try it, so I did.

My aunt, who is my eating partner in while I am in Spain was treating for this meal, so what more could I ask for? My mom also joined us for this dinner. Hofmann is a very elegant, refined, classic restaurant with some modern dishes. They have had one Michelin star for a quite some time now and they also run a culinary school, one of the most recognized in Barcelona.

For starters, the Amuse Bouche: a platter of several dishes: Sweet olives, Bunuelos de Bacalao, Cinnamon sticks, Gazpacho in a shot glass and Cheese Ice Cream topped with grated Reggiano. They were all correct, but quite simple and noting really stood out of the ordinary.

For our first plate, I had Calamar de Potera Asado con Guisantes, Crema de Cebolla y Tempura de Cebolla Negra (Squid caught the traditional way (line or Jig Caught)Peas, Onion Cream and Tempura of Black Onions. As you can see, the dish looks quite complicated but I enjoyed the freshness of the Squid and the sweetness of the Onion cream. I've noticed that the seafood caught in the Mediterranean waters are much tastier than any others I've tried, and this was not an exception. I paired this dish with a fresh Albarino, which went very well.

Another Starter I'd like to highlight, was the Farcellets de Acelgas rellenas de Mascarpone, Pinones y pasas con crujiente de Panceta (Slightly fried Swiss Chard filled with Mascarpone with Pine nuts, raisins and crunchy Pancetta Iberico)..whew that was long...this was actually one of the best dishes. The chard, which is a type of beet, slightly fried with melted mascarpone cheese was delicious. The crunch of the Iberian Pancetta gave the dish good contrast.

For mains, we had: Pichon Crujiente en Dos Texturas, con Chutney de Cebolla Especiada (Crunchy young Pigeon 2 ways with Spiced Onion Chutney), another great dish. The crispy part was very tasty while the 'other way' was gamey, perfect for the Ribera del Duero glass of wine I had. The Onion Chutney had the exact spice and sweetness to give the pigeon.

I did not have a chance to try the other 2 dishes my Mom and Aunt had, but I will post the pictures. My Aunt had a Foie dish (probably the biggest cut of Foie I've seen served on a single plate) which had chocolate, a balsamic reduction and cherries. Quite simple straight forward Foie, correct but just way over-sized...

Over all, another great dining experience. You can never really get enough of the dining/food scene in Barcelona, although many tend to be on the modern/molecular type, which quite frankly I am getting a bit tired of already. Hofmann was different, a combination of classic, traditional, modern cooking but not to over the top. On my next trip, I plan to search for more traditional Spanish cooking restaurants, basically like a back to basics, not so fancy cooking.