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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



8/17/2017

Awards & Article in The New York Times


* * * * *
 

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

  ___________________________________________________  

 Gastronomy Blogs
 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. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

8/15/2017

More Travels in Spain with Gerry Dawes - A Magificent Series of Articles by Docsconz on A Week in The Heart of Spanish Iberian Pig Country

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The Art of The Iberian Pig – A Week in The Heart of Spanish Pork Country – Part 1 – Segovia and Avila


Gerry Dawes at Mesón de Candido doing what he does best

 Gerry Dawes at Mesón de Candido doing what he does best

 

My son, L.J. and I recently had the opportunity to experience this wonderland of pork up close and in a number of different ways. We flew to Madrid, where we met up with my good friend, “Mr. Spain,” also known as Gerry Dawes. I have been in awe of Gerry’s knowledge of Spain, its foodways, its wines, its culture and its people for some time and both my son and I have experienced first hand in Madrid, his exceptional range of contacts and knowledge. L.J. had also had the good fortune to have accompanied Gerry this past spring on a trip that encompassed parts of Catalunya and across northern Spain into Galicia on a wine-tasting expedition. Arriving early in the morning on an overnight flight from JFK, we took an inexpensive hotel room for a quick nap, shower and breakfast before meeting Gerry and picking up our rental car to head out to the nearby and beautiful city of Segovia, where several treats were awaiting us.

 

Click here to read the rest of Part 1 

 

The Art of The Iberian Pig – A Week in The Heart of Spanish Pork Country – Part 2 – Guijuelo

 

We had an appointment to visit one of the very best, Arturo Sanchez, at their production facility. We saw the production of lomo and jamones Ibericos de Bellota from the earliest post-mortem stages through consumption with the father-son team of Arturo and Ricardo Sanchez leading our personal tour and tasting. The products were sublime with the jamon, in particular, somehow becoming more and more delicious with each bite. It was a truly unique and special experience, from which much more will come to this blog.

 

Click here to read the rest of Part 2

 

Pursuing Porcine Perfection – Ibérico de Bellota- Part 3 – The Cure

 

Most connoisseurs know it to be one of the finest food products of any kind in the world, let alone the greatest of hams. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, as it is known, comes from southwestern Spain, primarily from the regions of Extremadura and Andalucia, but with  a number of great jamónes made in Castilla y León, using Ibérico pigs raised in Andalucia. This winter, my son, L.J. Sconzo and I joined our good friend and Spanish culinary expert, Gerry Dawes, on a tour of these regions to see, sample and fully experience as much as we could about  this fantastic product. In previous posts, I highlighted the special diet of these special pigs in the oaken dehesas of southwestern Spain and then the process by which they are slaughtered and butchered. Here, I will relay the process of how these extraordinary hams and embutidos are made.

 

BU4A7845

 

Click here to read the rest of Part 3

 

Pursuing Porcine Perfection – Ibérico de Bellota- Part 4: Jamónes, Embutidos y Carnes

 

 Finishing the Iberico steaks on an open fire

 Finishing the Iberico steaks on an open fire

 

After our tour, we were directed to an even smaller nearby town to find a restaurant that served their product. The restaurant, called El Camino, served us both cured and fresh products from that facility. It was a welcoming place in the middle of the country and their dishes were quite delicious.

 

Sherry at Casa Bigote

 Manzanilla Sherry at Casa Bigote in Sanlúcar de Barrameda



From there, we entered a long drive down to Sanlúcar de Barrameda along the Quadalquivir River and the Atlantic Ocean in southern Andalucia, where we would have a brief respite from porcine products. This respite came in the name of Casa Bigote, a renowned seafood restaurant that serves nothing but locally fished seafood. Atmospheric to the extreme, we engaged in a fine tasting of the local specialties, which in addition to a variety creatures from the ocean, included a number of excellent local Manzanilla sherries that left us all in a happy and laughing mood.

 

The Art of The Iberian Pig – A Week in The Heart of Spanish Pork Country – Part 5 – Los Pedroches

 

We had one more day of pig ahead of us, but we had to get up and out early to do it. We left Sanlucar after breakfast driving east into a bright sun. We made our way up past Sevilla, then through Córdoba and into the hills and dehesa of Los Pedroches, a D.O. in northern Andalucia. It is a small D.O., but there is a lot of land devoted to the dehesa and a high concentration of pure Iberian pigs.

 

Iberian pigs on the move

Iberian pigs on the move

 

 Click here to read the rest of Part 5




Gerry Dawes can be reached at  gerrydawes@gmail.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@spanishartisanwine.com

_____________________________________________________

 Gastronomy Blogs
 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. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

8/14/2017

The Docsconz Chronicles on Food, Wine Adventure Travels in Spain with Gerry Dawes


* * * * *
Wining & Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes
A Six-part Chronicle
by John Sconzo 

Dr. John Sconzo, aka Docsconz, writes and photographs one of the most important gastronomy and travel blogs in the world.  John is indefatigable and covers more ground than anyone we know.  It has been a great privilege showing him Spain on multiple occasions.  This is just one of three extensive trips (and numerous shorter excursions) that we have taken together.

  

 Gerry Dawes, John Sconzo and Aldea Chef-owner George Mendes at Casa Botín, Madrid
(To read each full article, click on the link.)
 

I have said this before and I’ll say it again, nobody knows Spain like Gerry Dawes. I sincerely doubt that there is another American, and very few, if any, Spaniards can approach, let alone surpass his knowledge of the people, food, wine and culture of Spain."


Cgerry con una Caña y Fondillón  
Gerry con una caña y Fondillón at Bodegas Salvador Poveda, near Alicante.

Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 2 – Ribera del Duero & Rueda 

 With a four day stop in Madrid for Madrid Fusión 2015 now history, it was time to begin the next leg of the trip.  Galicia was the part of Spain that I hadn’t yet been to that I most wanted to visit. It would be the main focal point of the trip as we squeezed a ton of tasting both food and wine into a very abbreviated time frame. It would not be our first stop, however.

Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 3 – North By Northwest

I used to think way back when, that Spain was all about red wines, but then I had my first Spanish whites, which happened to be from Galicia. My view changed in a hurry and I came to realize that Spain is full of excellent white wines, yet, Galician whites remained my favorites.  

Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 4 – Rapturous Ribeira Sacra
 

Vineyards are inherently beautiful and I am never less than enthralled with a visit to one, but despite visits to gorgeous vineyards in France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Chile, South Africa and elsewhere in Spain, I was unprepared fo the unparalleled gorgeousness of Galicia’s mountainous Ribeira Sacra region.

 

  Gerry Dawes showing off one of his glorious wine finds Abaceria O Batuxo<br />
Club Fluvial de Belesar<br />
C/ Belesar, S/N<br />
27540 Belesar<br />
Lugo, Spain</p>
  

  Gerry Dawes showing off one of his wine finds

Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 5: Loving and Leaving Galicia


While I don’t know how the street food octopus was, I suspect it was pretty darn good. However, once again, Gerry knew what he was talking about. At the quaint, unadorned Pulperia El Dorado, the boiled pulpo Gallego was sublime and as delicious as I have ever had anywhere. Bathed in quality Spanish olive oil and pimentón, it was supremely tender and full of flavor. Snipped into manageable bites, I couldn’t resist going back for more and more. This is the kind of cooking one hopes to find along one’s travels – authentic, of the area, expertly prepared and consummately delicious – something that can’t quite be repeated as such anywhere else.  

 Pulpo Gallego at Pulperia El Dorado 

Pulpo a la Gallega at Pulperia El Dorado, O Barco de Valdeorras


Sunday nights in small town Spain are generally quiet affairs and it was no different in sleepy San Asensio as we followed our GPS through dark, empty streets and alleys to reach Bodegas Lecea, perched high on one of the area’s many hills, in what appeared to be one of the older areas of the town in a neighborhood called “Barrio de las Cuevas” or “Neighborhood of the Caves” named for the proliferation of wine caves underneath. We were greeted at the large, heavy door by Luis Alberto Lecea, the winemaker/owner of Bodegas Lecea, who escorted Gerry, Bill and I upstairs to a cozy, fire-warmed apartment at the back of the winery. Lecea was in the process of making dinner to share with us – a typical, delicious meal of tortilla Española with bread, embutidos, and, of course, wine. Posts with more trips with Gerry Dawes and Docsconz to follow. 

_______________________________________________________________________________  


 Gastronomy Blogs
 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. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

8/09/2017

The Magic of Málaga: A Quintessentially Andalucian Port City With An International Outlook Is Rapidly Becoming a Not-to-be Missed Attraction on Any Discerning Traveler’s Tour of Southern Spain (Part One of Three)



* * * * *

The Magic of Málaga

 Part One of Three

Photos and Text 
by Gerry Dawes©2017

 Painting of breakfast churros being made in times past at La Malagueña, one of the great breakfast stops for tejeringos, a type of churro made famous in Málaga. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Churros cook Pablo at La Malagueña, one of the old quarter's great breakfast stops, making tejeringos, a type of locally famous in MálagaPhoto by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Until a trip in early May to attend the Málaga Gastronomy Festival, I was truly ignorant about Málaga and its unique culinary traditions.  For more than forty years I have wandered Spain, incessantly crisscrossing the country from top to bottom.  I have left few stones unturned. Except for places in the Catalan and Aragonese Pyrenees in northeastern Spain, Cartagena and much of Murcia province, a few outposts along the Portuguese border such as Cuidad Rodrigo, the city of Huelva in Andalucía and the farthest reaches of the northern coast of Galicia, I have pretty much covered the country and have visited many areas dozens of times.  It would seem that I would have delved as deeply into the major Andalucian city of Málaga--birthplace of Pablo Picasso and hometown of Antonio Banderas, who lives there now no less--as I have the other jewel cities of the South:  Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Cádiz. As I was to discover on this trip, I would regret that I had not made more time for Málaga, something I plan to remedy as soon as possible. 

I even lived for nearly three years in the province of Málaga 35 kilometers west of the city. My late former wife Diana and I ran The Dawes Gallery for Contemporary Art in Mijas, a picturesque tranquilo ex-patriate artist’s village perched high above the Costa del Sol.  But we seldom visited the provincial capital of Málaga itself, except on infrequent missions to deal with filing documents with the exasperating Spanish bureaucracy.  Even back then in the mid 1970s, traffic seemed to be a problem, so we generally avoided Málaga city.  
 
In retrospect, when we were living in Andalucía, the several pleasure outings we made to Málaga were memorable, including a few luncheons at the legendary seafood restaurant Antonio Martín (now revived as El Merendero de Antonio Martín), where my wife Diana and I had magical times dining at open-air tables right along the seawall.  We had a lovely lunch, invited by a sadly long-forgotten benefactor, at the rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Málaga Palacios overlooking the harbor and we spent a night at the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro on its spectacular perch high above the city.    

Málaga harbor from the rooftop terrace restaurant of the Hotel AC Málaga Palacios. 
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Read the rest of the Magic of Málaga, Click Here



If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this great information and these photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $100 or more will be acknowledged on the blog. Please click on this secure link to Paypal to make your contribution.

8/08/2017

A Taste of Northern Spain Tour Fall 2017 (October 25 - November 5, 2017) With Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía


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A Taste of Northern Spain Tour Fall 2017

With Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía

Wednesday, October 25 - Sunday, November 5, 2017  

Galicia - Asturias - Basque Country
Navarra - La Rioja - Madrid   

Gerry Dawes, John Sconzo and George Mendes at Casa Botín during Madrid Fusión 2013.  Photo by L. J. Sconzo.

Click here for Itinerary & more information 

8/07/2017

Horchata, Chufa de Valencia, Tigernuts, A Tuber Cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians and the Moors, Who Left an Enduring Legacy with This Drink Along the Mediterranean


* * * * * 
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2017. 
(Publication prohibited without written permission.)

Chufas are now widely grown in the sandy soils of La Comunitat Valenciana and are used to the make the very popular milky-like drink, horchata de chufa, L'Orxatería, Mercat Central de Valencia.

Read the rest of the post on Horchata



If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this great information and these photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $100 or more will be acknowledged on the blog. Please click on this secure link to Paypal to make your contribution.
 

8/05/2017

A Homage to Patxaran (Pacharán): The Pretty Ruby-colored Macho Drink of Northern Spain



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Patxaran (from the Basque paitar (liquor) and aran ("sloe"), called pacharán in Castilian Spanish, the red sloeberry anís made by macerating arándanos, or endrinas, (sloeberries) from the blackthorn shrub in fine anisette spirits for several months (one part fresh sloeberries to three parts anisette).   Patxaran Navarro is controlled by an official denominación de origen, or D. O., like wine, and must contain no artificial flavorings or additives.  Sometimes a few coffee beans or cinnamon sticks are added to the patxaran casero housemade styles.   The maceration period can run from one to eight months.  Some homemade patxaran leave the berries in the anís.

8/02/2017

Quim de la Boquería, La Boquería Market, Barcelona. Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watches (Update)


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Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watches

to Quim de la Boquería, Where You Eat Like a King on a 

Taburete (Barstool)



 Gerry Dawes's Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí) Melting Watch Awards.

All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017 / gerrydawes@gmail.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.

Quim Márquez, Quim de la Boquería, La Boquería Market, Barcelona with his costillas de ternera (veal ribs) with potatoes, Maldon salt and black Chinese garlic.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. 


English Version of Boquería Gourmand, a Book about Barcelona's Fabulous La Boquería Market (Foreword by Gerry Dawes)
 
(With an opening quote from Quim Márquez, Quim de la Boquería. Click on link above.)

 

Yuri Márquez, son of Quim Márquez, Quim de la Boquería, La Boquería Market, Barcelona.
 It seems only like just last year, when I took Quim, Yuri, then barely a teenager, and his little brother to Chinatown in New York City for dinner.  Now the guy is the heart-throb of La Boquería.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4. 

* * * * *

This article on Quim de la Boquería in Barcelona, is another in  a series of articles on restaurants and tapas bars from around Spain that I think, from my very personal experience, deserve Five of Five Dalí POM (Persistence of Memory) Melting Watch Award pins.  I frankly don’t give a damn about Michelin ratings, Repsol or any of the rest.  I have been traveling and eating and drinking wine all over Spain for nearly 50 years and I have been to the restaurants in these articles multiples times.  Yes, I am influenced by the friendly relationships I have with many of the chefs and owners of these establishments, but I would not have built these friendships if these chefs, restaurants and establishments were not as good as they are.  And I take into consideration the downside for those who might not be connected in some of the restaurants I am writing about.  Nonetheless, I personally have had repeated Five Melting Watch experiences in all the places I am going to write about.  


8/01/2017

Madrid Classics: Casa Lucio, Cava Baja Update on Lucio´s Birthday Today - Five Salvador Dalí Persistence of Memory Melting Watches



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Periodically I, Geraldo (one of my nicknames), rate restaurants or experiences in Spain with 1-5 Salvador Dalí Persistence of Memory Melting Watches. You will find my ratings at the top of some posts.  Casa Lucio has been upgraded to five of five on my Salvador Dalí Persistence of Memory Melting Watches
 
  
Lucio Blásquez with his Virgen del Rocio pendant. This photo was published with a calendar featuring some of Spain's top restaurants. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009. gerrydawes@aol.com

Casa Lucio is one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid. It is one of Madrid's best known restaurants and reservations are hard to come by, but Lucio Blásquez, Mari (his daughter) and Javier (one of his sons) treat me like a long-lost family member when I show up and somehow manage to find me a table. 

7/20/2017

Looking Back on Lo Mejor de La Gastronómía 2009: San Sebastian Chefs' Conference Celebrates Spanish Extra Virgen Olive Oil with an Epilogue-Slide Show of the Olive Harvest

* * * * *


Lo Mejor de La Gastronomía*Star Chefs Compete Using Jaén Province’s Picudo Variety Olive Oil

Plus An Epilogue Featuring Slide Shows of the End of the Olive Harvest in Jaén with Bailén de Oro & in Córdoba with Soledad Serrano at Beloyana

With a visit to the fabulous Mesón Juan Peña in Córdoba

* * * * *

By Gerry Dawes

Premio Nacional de Gastronomia 2003


(Click on slide show to amplify and see full screen.)


The Lo Mejor de La Gastronómía chefs’ conference, held each November in the Rafael Moneo-designed Kursaal center in the stunning Basque seaside city of San Sebastián, is among the world’s top five culinary events. But Lo Mejor de La Gastronómía is a culinary conference with a difference, since almost all the attention is on chefs, primarily cocina de vanguardia - avant-garde cuisine chefs from around the world, but with a focus on Spain’s star chefs who come at the end of each year to show their best dishes and techniques from the current year and give glimpses of what is to come the following year.

This year’s Lo Mejor de La Gastronómía 2009 included a standout presentation from Ferran Adrià, the man called “the world’s greatest chef,” and jaw-dropping demonstrations from Can Roca’s Joan Roca, El Poblet’s Quique Dacosta and super-star pastelero (desserts and chocolates) Paco Torreblanca. Torreblanca, one of the greatest pastry chefs in the world, has devised ways of using Spanish olive oil instead of butter in his desserts and chocolates, so now all his lines of supernal Totel and Barry Callebaut desserts and chocolates use no animal fats in their preparation.

One of the highlights of the event was the VI Annual “Jaén, Paraiso Interior” Premio Internacional de Cocina con Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra (International Cooking Prize for the Best Dish Featuring Spanish Extra Virgen Olive Oil), which carried a an astounding First Prize of 18,000 Euros (about $25,000). Sponsored by the Junta de Andalucía and the Diputación de Jaén, the competition featured 11 chefs from Spain (Madrid, Alicante, Jaén and the Basque Vizcaya province), France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. Each chef, a finalist chosen from a field of 135 contestants from seven countries in preliminary contest, presented a creative cuisine dish that used Spanish extra virgen olive as a prominent taste component.


Felipe López, President of the Diputación Provincial (regional government) de Jaén, said his administration was sponsoring the contest because Lo Mejor de LaGastronómía offers “an extraordinary showcase, since it represents cocina de vanguardia, for showing the excellence of the great olive oils of the province of Jaén.”

Rafael García Santos, Founder & Director of the conference, commenting on the leap in quality that extra virgen olive oils from Jaén have made–in the six years since they have been giving the prize at Lo Mejor de LaGastronómía–said “Jaén extra virgen olive oil producers are doing ever more select olive oils. They have changed their production techniques, harvesting and the final product, which has shown a steady evolution in quality. Before Jaén was known as the biggest producer and now the name is associated with brands of extra virgen olive oil that have become universally recognized for their high quality, which has brought world-class prestige to Jaén and raised the value of the product. This has made the oils of the province of Jaén an ever more important player in top kitchens everywhere.”

This writer came to cover the conference and the “Jaén, Paraiso Interior” Premio Internacional de Cocina con Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra cooking contest for Foods From Spain News. But, I was soon pressed into service as a member of the jury panel by Lo Mejor de LaGastronómía’s founder and director, Rafael García Santos, whose directive I followed with honor and with gusto, since it entailed tasting all the finalists’ wonderfully creative dishes, accompanied by glasses of Spanish cava. The competing chefs, while making extra virgen olive oil a discernible component, still managed to smoothly integrate the oils into each dish and make most of them visually spectacular.

The very first dish by Vitor Manuel Da Silva from Le Poivron Rouge in Portugal, which was called Mi Conserva de Sardina, featured a olive-oil dressed sardine, a razor clam and a mussel in a shellfish tin, complete with a rolled-up lid. Fernando Pérez Arellano of Zaranda in Madrid presented a seawater-colored, arbequina olive oil-infused “gazpacho en aspic al aceite de arbequina,” which was gelatinous rectangle on which he had perched a clam, a cockle, a bit of sea urchin, a goose barnacle and several tiny mussels, with several pools of olive oil-sea urchin mayonnaise alongside. Another spectacular dish was “Tomate. . .un salmorejo con caviar,” a lovely, re-constructed light orange-red tomato “shell” filled with a delicious salmorejo--made with an extra virgen olive oil with a distinct personality--from Jaén’s own chef Raúl Clemente from Restaurante Paquito Diaz in Baeza.


The winner of the competition was Carlo Cracco’s chef de cuisine, Matteo Baronetto (Cracco, Milan, Italy) , who wowed the judges with his Crema Quemada al Aceite con Cañaillas (Crême Brûlée made with extra virgen olive and winkles, or sea snails) scented with vanilla. This sensational dish was presented in two artistic silver serving vessels, one resembling a tea steeper and holding the Crema Quemada, the other a scalloped silver dish holding butter-like ribbons of a creamy extra virgen olive oil that could have passed for butter except for their distinctive olive oil flavor.

The jury, an international panel that included Rafael García Santos, Cristino Álvarez (Spain), Duarte Calvao (Portugal), Licia Granello (Italy), Jean Paul Perez (Belgium), Bob Noto (Italy), Jacques Trefoir (Brazil) and myself, judged the creations on culinary virtuosity, imagination, originality, and aesthetics, as well as the techniques used in making each dish and on how the presence of extra virgen olive oil was handled by each chef. In all these dishes, there was a lightness and fresh, healthy flavors that would be hard, if not impossible, to achieve with animal fats, so good Spanish extra virgen olive oils have become essential to achieving this healthful effect in kitchens around the western world. Matto Baronetto was awarded the 18,000 Euro prize and a sculpture trophy designed by Jaén artist Antonio Blanca.

Surrounding this intensive star chef conference is a gastronomic fair featuring products from around Spain: Joselito and other hams from Guijuelo (Salamanca), the Dehesa de Extremadura and Jabugo; a daily walk around tasting of more than 100 wines from Navarra; a multitude of stands promoting Spanish foods–cheeses, paprika, olives, tinned seafood, etc.; cookbook publishers’ stands from Montagud, De Re Coquinaría and Everest; and, of course, Spain’s superb extra virgen olive oils. One of the most frequented stands was the “Jaén, Paraiso Interior” (Inland Paradise) pavilion itself, where there were daily guided tastings of the fine extra Virgen olive oils, sponsored by the Junta de Andalucía and the Diputación Provincial de Jaén, a province that is literally one vast picudo variety olive orchard. The olive orchards of Jaén are so vast in fact that the Spanish poet Manuel Machado (brother of Antonio Machado, one of Spain’s best known 20th Century poets), in his famous “Ode to Andalucía” described the province simply as “silvery Jaén” due to the fact that in the slightest breeze the olive trees provide a constant light show of the dark-green leaf tops of the olivares alternating with flashes of silvery grey from their flip sides.

The daily tastings, of some dozen different quality Jaén extra Virgen olive oils were led by Anunciación Carpio Dueñas, a biologist who specializes in olive oil. Sra. Carpio and Jesús Zafra Ocaña from the Tourism, Local Development and Sustainability office of the Diputación Provincial of Jaén set up and led me through a private tasting of ten high quality, mostly Picual variety-based extra virgen olive oils from their province.

Using a map to show me the location in Jaén province of each olive oil producer, they expertly explained each of the different extra virgen olive oils, which included the newly bottled Vadolivo Gran Selección Royal, a deep green-yellow, pungent, grassy, complex, silky oil made from the Royal olive variety in the wild game region of the Sierra de Cazorla; Eolea Zumo de Oliva (olive “juice”), a very pungent, grassy, piquant, almondy, full-bodied blend of Picual, Picudo and Arbequina olives grown around Mengíbar near the famous town of Bailén; Oro Bailén Reserva Familiar, a deep green and intensely aromatic (fresh cut grass, plantains) with pronounced, gutsy flavors of stone fruits, but with a smooth, silky feel on the palate and Ánima Áurea, a much lighter, more neutral flavored Picual and Arbequina blend, both from the immediate area of Bailén; and Tierras de Canena Escencia Milénario, a green-gold, finely aromatic, light, smooth, silky, balanced oil from the higher altitude Picual-based orchards near the monumental towns of Baeza and Úbeda in north-central Jaén.


From Escañuela, northwest of the capital, Jaén, the Cortijo de la Torre 100% Picual extra virgen olive oil was a pretty, deep green, had a pungent nose of fresh grass, green apples and green plantains, and was full of character with grassy, picante, almond and artichoke flavors that reached every corner of the mouth; from Torredonjimeno, just west of Jaén, Carmen Edición Limitada showed a lighter chartreuse color, had a ripe nose of apple and stone fruits and was very suave with only light bitterness and no picante flavors, which makes it ideal for dishes that call for a light olive oil flavor; from Pegalar, east of Jaén, Melgarejo Selección Gourmet was a pretty green-gold color, had a very clean nose with some typically grassy and appley aromas, and showed great structure, personality and balance with very pleasant grassy, bitter almond and olive flavors.

Two of the last oils came from the mountainous areas of northeastern Jaén province near La Puerta de Segura. Oro de Géave, which produces only 25.000 bottles of ecologically cultivated, unfiltered extra virgen olive oil was typically cloudy, had a nose of riper apple and was pungent with appley, bitter almond, picante flavors full of personality. Fuenroble, the Jaén oil with the greatest international distribution, comes from the Sierra de Segura National Park area. It had a deep green-chartreuse color, a nose with some grassiness, but more apple and green tomato and was very smooth and silky with complex, pleasing, apple, bitter almond and green tomato flavors.


I felt privileged to have been personally educated about the extra virgen olive oils of Jaén and the flavors of the Picual olive variety. Later on this same trip, at Adolfo Muñoz Tapas Bar in Toledo, right next to the Cathedral, I would get another impromptu tasting, this time with owner José I. Millán Valderrama, President of Valderrama, producer of extra virgen olive oils from orchards in Castilla La Mancha and Córdoba. And upon returning to New York, I was invited to come to the olive harvest at Beloyana in Córdoba and I still owe a visit to Extremadura to the estate of the Marqués de Valdueza, which produces oils with Arbequina, Picual, Hojiblanca and the rare Morisco olives.

I have a feeling that my education in the great extra virgen olive oils of Spain is just beginning.



–The End–

Epilogue:

The next phase of my olive oil education produced this slide show on the tail-end of the olive harvest (la recogida) and Bailén de Oro olive oil mill (almazara) near Bailén in the Andalucian Jaén province with Anuncia Carpio and José Gálvez as my guides and luncheon hosts at the Resturante del Hotel Bailén (a former Parador de Turismo). Those of you who have ever driven through Jaén know that it is one huge olive orchard. Anuncia Carpio is emphatic in pointing out that "these photos are the last of the harvest, when the olives are too ripe (over-ripeness is something that doesn't stop many winemakers these days!) and most of them have fallen to the ground. The highest quality olive oils are extracted when the olives are green (during the first two weeks of November) and all of the fruit is taken directly from the trees."



Still, if you have never seen the olive harvest, even the end of la recogida is fascinating as I think you can see in the photographs in the following two slide shows.


(Double click on the image above for a large screen view of my slide show on the fascinating harvest & milling process.)


After Jaén, I went on to take in another version of la recogida, this time with my old friend, Javier Hidalgo, owner of La Gitana Manzanilla (see COPA Jerez report and article on Manzanilla). We visited the Beloyana olive oil producing estate of Soledad Serrano near Espejo, a half hour southeast of Córdoba.





(Double click on the image above for a large screen view
of my slide show on the fascinating harvest & milling process.)



We spent the night at the Beloyana estate and my companion, Kay and I got a chance to go into Córdoba and arrived at the gates of La Mezquita just as the 5:30 bells were tolling. La Mezquita closes at six, but the security guards refused to let us in even for a quick look at it and closed the door in our faces, even after we told them that we had come to Córdoba especially for that. They were quite antipático in the bargain. These people live off tourism, but they seem to really dislike tourists, or what they think are tourists.

We strolled around the old quarter until it was time for the taberna/mesón of my old friend, Juan Peña, to open. Juan was not due until 10 p.m., but I had an employee call him and he soon appeared as did a selection of his incredible dishes, including the best salmorejo and berenjenas fritas (fried eggplant sticks) I have ever tasted. Juan makes a number of of salmorejos--his spectacularly good tomato-based one is the benchmark for this wonderful thick gazpacho-like dish that can be used like a sauce with his supernal fried eggplant. He also makes a green-and-white asparagus salmorejo and garnishes both with chopped Pedroches jamón Ibérico (a little-known, but now widely served ham from a mountain valley on the north side of the Sierra Morena mountains.

Stayed tuned for a slide show (coming soon) on la recogida at Soledad Serrano's Beloyana estate and the food at Mesón Juan Peña, one of the greatest tapas bars in Spain.

About the author

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.
Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at
gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com


7/15/2017

A Homage to Culinary Adventures with Juan Suárez, One of the Great Non-professional Cooks in Spain: Teaching Famous Culinarians How to Fry an Egg, Cocido Madrileño, Cooking in Napa Valley at Cindy Pawlcyn's, Cooking at Home for the Madrid Fusión Mejicano Contingent and a Magical Adventure at Kaia near San Sebastián


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Gerry Dawes's Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí)  Melting Watch Awards.

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Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010
gerrydawes@aol.com

Juan Suárez and his grandson, Borja, in a photo in Juan's kitchen in Madrid.

Juan Suárez, husband of Esmeralda Capel, one of the Directors of the  annual Madrid Fusión Gastronomy Summit, is one of the most accomplished non-professional cooks in Spain.  For several years, I have been following the cooking exploits of Suárez, a retired lawyer, avid golfer, one Hell of a culinarian and one of my great friends.  Even calling Suárez “non-professional” chef is stretching the point.  Technically, he does not get paid for cooking, but he is so well thought of by the great Chef Juan Mari Arzak that he has been invited to spend a week cooking in Arzak’s kitchen on several occasions.

Juan Suárez and Juan Mari Arzak at Arzak, where Juan has spent whole weeks cooking.

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