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Food Arts Silver Spoon Award to Gerry Dawes


 Premio Nacional de Gastronomía - - James Beard Foundation Nomination (Best Wine Writing) - - Premio Cava

Gerry Dawes's Article Medieval Riches of El Cid's City (About Burgos, Spain)
Front Page, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section



10/22/2011

The Chiarello Chronicles: My Travels in Spain in October with Napa Valley Bottega Chef-owner Michael Chiarello & Botegga Executive Chef Ryan McIlwaith



* * * * *

"Las investigaciones gastronómicas son unas putadas, pero alguien tiene que hacerlas.”
(Gastronomic research is Hell, but somebody has to do it.)


Paco Dovalo and Gerry Dawes eating percebes and drinking Cabaliero do Val, Paco's great Albariño 

at Paco's Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas Feria de Vinos de Autor in  Val de Salnés, Rías Baixas, Galicia.


As I normally do when I am taking someone around Spain, I arrive in the country a day or more earlier in order to get over jet lag and tie up any loose ends before the trip begins.
 
On Sunday, October 2, I arrived in Madrid's Barajas Terminal One, then took an Air Europa flight two hours later from Terminal Two from Madrid to Vigo in Galicia and Ole!, the Air Europa flight was a pleasant surprise. Air Europa, an economy airline, had comfortable seats and plenty of leg room on this one-hour, in-country flight (unlike the monumentally uncomfortable, no  legroom,  seven hour-plus Atlantic crossing on an American carrier).

After landing at the Vigo airport, I called Hertz Rental Car, who (in Spanish) gave me directions to the bowels of the airport garage where an employee was waiting to drive me to an off-airport site a quarter mile away. Hertz is rapidly becoming a rental car company to avoid for the average traveler. Too many off-airport or off-train station sites, like the one at Barcelona Sants train station, which is a nightmare during which you have to be a magician--or have already been there to figure out where to pick up and drop off the car. Other companies like Avis and National are usually on-site.

Alright, rants aside, most of them about the first day.  I arrived in Galicia, got the car and was about to embark on a two-week adventure with Michael Chiarello, Chef-owner of Bottega Restaurant and Napa Style (a specialty item and imports food store, who products are available on-line) in Yountville, California.


Chef Michael Chiarello and Chef Ryan Mcilwaithe
in the port of Cambados on their first day, Galicia. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


I left the airport, crossed the awesome bridge over the Río de Vigo, where thousands of bateas (anchored rafts for farming Galicia’s famous shellfish) fill the broad estuary.



View of the Rías de Vigo with bateas from Bueu. Thousands of bateas (anchored rafts for farming Galicia’s famous shellfish) fill the broad estuaries of the Rías (fjords) de Vigo, Pontevedra and the other Rías of Galicia. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Just across the bridge, I exited the tollway and drove south towards Marín to find a town on the coast called Bueu and a place called Playa de Beluso, where my new-found friend, Javier Rioyo, Executive Director on the Instituto Cervantes in New York, told me I would find A Centoleira, a century-old fishermen's tavern turned restaurant. I found the place, but it was too early and the owner had not yet arrived, so I had my first tapas--deviled eggs and tuna empanada with Estrella Galicia draft beer--of the trip at the bar, then decided to push on to Cambados, check into my lodgings Hotel Rosita, then find lunch in Cambados. 


After I checked in to Casa Rosita, I was tempted to stay there and try the well-regarded salpicón de mariscos (a melange of shellfish in a vinaigrette), but, since it was still early in the dining room of Casa Rosita's restaurant was still empty, instead I decided to set out to find a fishermen's quarter bar-restaurant I had heard about on an earlier trip.


Casa Rosita Hotel in Cambados (Pontevedra).
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


I had been told that this bar served bi-valves that were harvested directly by the women licensed to collect shellfish at low tide off Cambados and that the bi-valves served there went straight to the restaurant without passing through the depurificacion plants, where they undergo several days of water changes before being released for sale. They were purported to have very natural, fresh-from-the-sea flavors.  Here I have to say that I have no verification that the restaurant in quesion serves such untreated bi-valves. I did not ask because I was tired and forgot to, but they would not have told me anyway, since serving such straight-from- the-wild oysters, clams, etc. is not exactly kosher. 


Beach as low tide, Santo Tomé, the ancient fishing port barrio of Cambados (Pontevedra), Galicia. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


I made a couple of passes by the fishing port and saw two restaurants, but neither looked to be the storied place that I sought, so I drove up into the narrow streets of the old Santo Tomé fishermen's quarter and parked my car alongside a plaza that had a house whose façade was completely covered in scallop shells.
 

Scallop shells as decorative siding on a house in Santo Tomé, the old fishing port of Cambados. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Then up a side street, I saw a sign that said "Ostras (oysters) - Bar Pintos" and pointed in the direction of the restaurant.  Down the street a hundred feet was a nondescript building of recent vintage, but the cooking smells emitting from the spot and the sounds of diners inside sounded promising.   

Bar Pintos in Santo Tomé, the ancient fishing port barrio of Cambados (Pontevedra), Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


I climbed the half-flight of stairs and entered a simple, clean dining room with a few tables filled.  I was seated by Mari Carmen one of the two sisters--MariaTeresa is the other--and given a plastic covered menu that consisted mostly of quite inexpensive seafood items.  


Oysters, Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Of course, I had to try a half-dozen raw oysters with the house's (and only) own Albariño, then a square of tuna empanada and a vieira (a baked scallop with onion and bread crumbs).  Mari Carmen and Maria Tere took me into their kitchen and showed me plates of beberechos (cockles), navajas (razor clams), nécoras (small crabs),  camarones (small shrimp) and zamburiñas (small scallops, still with their coral).  


Maria Tere y Mari Carmen Pintos DaPorta at Bar Pintos, Barrio de Santo Tomé, Cambados, 
with a lineup of the day's specialties: cigalas, beberechos, zamburiñas, navajas, nécoras, and camarones
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Tomorrow, I thought this would be the perfect casual place to introduce Chefs Chiarello and McIlwaith, both just off long plane trips from California.  They will be tired, but hungry.  An inexpensive, but delicious lunch at Bar Pintos, then a siesta at Casa Rosita would be the best way to get them started.  I paid the bill and drove back to Casa Rosita, where I decided to have their salpicón de mariscos and a beer before heading up for my own siesta.  They wouldn't sell me a half ración, even though I was booked into the hotel for three nights, so I opted for a whole portion, ate about half of it and went up for a nap.  I have had many other better versions of this dish (one of my favorites), most notably at Casa Rafa in Madrid and at Restaurante Mirador de Doñana and Casa Bigote, both in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.


Salpicón de mariscos seafood melange in a vinaigrette), Casa Rosita Hotel Restaurante. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


A couple of hours later, I awoke to go to the bathroom and either a bad oyster and something in the salpicón--the lukewarm oysters, number three of six I suspect as the culprit--hit me full force and I spent the better part of the next three hours worshipping off-and-on, off-and-on at the ivory throne, sometimes clinging to cold porcelain projective vomiting and telling myself how glad I was to be back in Spain again.  

But a bad piece of shellfish was not going to stop me.  I still planned to take Chiarello and McIlwiath to Casa Pintos the next day.  I just didn't intend to eat oysters or let them eat them.  Why would I go back to Casa Pintos?  Because a bad oyster is a bad oyster.  I got one in a oyster dish once at Sign of the Dove in New York (That was an adventure involving the George Washington Bridge and the woods off the Palisades Parkway in New Jersey!).  My ex-wife got one at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central and I got a bad piece of shellfish at one of my favorite restaurants in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and something worse in Burgundy.  This happens during the course of in-depth gastronomic research and it can be Hell, but as they say "somebody has to do it."  Mercifully, over more than forty years of traveling, eating and drinking in Spain, it has not happened that often. 


Stay tuned, this was just Day Zero!



Slide show of Day Zero in Galicia:  Vigo - Bueu - Playa de Beluso - Cambados
(Double click to enlarge slides.)


________________________________________________________________________________  
About Gerry Dawes   

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

 
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