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1/26/2017

Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017 in Photographs / Images From The 15th Anniversary Edition of One of the World's Greatest Gastronomic Conferences Day One, January 23, 2017


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 Star chef Juan Mari Arzak (Arzak), Esmeralda Capel (Directora Asisa Madrid Fusión) and Albert Adrià (Tickets, Enigma, Bodega 1900 and more) on stage during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.  #amf17 #arzak #albertadria

 (L to R, faces visible) Star chefs Angel de León (Aponiente), Juan Mari Arzak (Arzak), Pedro Larumbe (Restaurante El 38 de Larumbe), María José San Román Pérez (Monastrell), Joan Roca (Celler de Can Roca), Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta), Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz), Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui) and Esmeralda Capel (Directora Asisa Madrid Fusión) on stage during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017. #QuiqueDacosta #amf17

 Star chefs Pedro Larumbe (Restaurante El 38 de Larumbe), Ángel León (Aponiente), María José San Román (Monastrell) and Joan Roca (Celler de Can Roca) on stage waiting to be interviewed during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

 Star Chef Joan Roca (three-star El Celler de Can Roca) on stage by the Madrid Fusión 15th Anniversary celebration cake made by star pastry chef Paco Torreblanca, at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017 #amf17


 (L to R, faces visible) Star chefs Angel de León (Aponiente), Juan Mari Arzak (Arzak), Pedro Larumbe (Restaurante El 38 de Larumbe), María José San Román Pérez (Monastrell), Joan Roca (Celler de Can Roca), Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta), Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz), Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui) and Esmeralda Capel (Directora Asisa Madrid Fusión) on stage during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017. #QuiqueDacosta #amf17
 
 Star chefs Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz) and Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz), Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui) and Esmeralda Capel (Directora Asisa Madrid Fusión) on stage during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017. #Mugaritz #martinberasategui #amf17

 
Star chefs Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui) and Albert Adrià (Tickets, Enigma, Bodega 1900 and more)  on stage during the 15th Anniversary Madrid Fusión celebration, Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.  #amf17 #martinberasategui #albertadria
 
 My dear friend Marco Sabatini, truffles expert, on screen in a video commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Madrid Fusión at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017, Palacio de Congresos, Madrid, Jan. 23, 2017.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017 #amf17

 Legendary elBulli Chef-owner Ferran Adrià (who was noticably absent in person) in a video commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Madrid Fusión at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017, Palacio de Congresos, Madrid, Jan. 23, 2017.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2017 #amf17
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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. 

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 &riane 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.
 

1/18/2017

Looking Back: Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes, Days 1 & 2, Jan. 13 & 14, A Gastronomic Adventure in Barcelona


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(Edited by Gerry Dawes with input from Chef Brian Limitone, Meadow Ridge Senior Living, Redding, CT)


 
Club Chefs of Connecticut (and New York) Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes: Outside the trendy wine bar Monvinic in Barcelona about to tour the wine cellar, meet the owner, Sergi Ferrer Salat, and have lunch. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 28mm f2.8 rented from http://lensrental.com for this trip. 


During the week of January 12-19, the Club Chefs of Connecticut, along with several Club Chefs from New York, took a gastronomic journey through Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Madrid. This prestigious group of ten executive chefs from Connecticut experienced a crash course in the tastes of Spain under the guidance of Gerry Dawes our organizer, guide and Spanish food and wine expert.

Gerry Dawes is widely recognized as one of the very top American experts on the gastronomy, wines and culture of Spain.  Recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Spanish National Gastronomy Prize (2003) and Food Arts magazine’s Silver Spoon Award (2009), Gerry has long been educating American Chefs about the gastronomy, wines and culture of Spain.

Participating on this tour were Chefs Brian Limitone, Meadow Ridge Senior Living, Redding, CT;  Gerard Resnick, Century Country Club, Purchase, NY; Robert Rainone, Larchmont Yacht Club, Larchmont, NY; Carey Favreau, Glen Arbor Club, Bedford Hills NY; Wayne Kregling, Brownson Country Club, Huntington, CT; Wayne Klingman, Garden City Country Club, Garden City, NY; Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY;  Dan Neuroth, Bronxville Field Club, Bronxville, NY;  Austin Simard , Brownson Country Club, Huntington, CT; and James Rosenbauer, Country Club of Farmington, Farmington, CT.


Flying out of JFK and arriving in Barcelona early Monday morning we gathered at the Hotel Cram, carrer Aribau 54 the tony Eixample district and proceeded to a classic Catalan breakfast restaurant, Bar Gelida. This small bar-restaurant was bustling with patrons so we were ushered through the tiny kitchen to a table set up in the storeroom. Sitting among boxes and cases of product we enjoyed a multi-course morning feast featuring the grilled sepia (squid), Spanish tortilla (egg and potato omelette), and mongetes amb botifarra (white beans with Catalan sausage).    


Club Chefs of Connecticut Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes: Sitting at the kitchen storeroom 'family' table, just a couple of hours after an all-night flight from New York, at Bar Gelida, Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 43-86mm f3.3 – f6.4.

Along with strong Spanish espresso coffee to accompany our desayuno, Gerry introduced us to drinking Cava (sparkling wine) from a glass wine vessel called a porrón (a needle-spout glass carafe, from which wine is drunk bota-like, from a long thin stream that must be expertly guided into one’s mouth). 

 
Club Chefs of Connecticut Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes: Sitting at the kitchen storeroom 'family' table, just a couple of hours after an all-night flight from New York, at Bar Gelida, Barcelona, having an old-time Catalan breakfast: Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY, drinking Catalan Cava (methode champenoise sparkling wine) at Bar Gelida as Wayne Klingman decides to go the safe route and pour himself a glass of Cava.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 43-86mm f3.3 – f6.4. 

After our Breakfast of Champions, Gerry led us on an orientation walk around Barcelona’s fashionable Eixample and showed us architect Antoni Gaudi’s famous landmark buildings on the Passeig de Gracia, Casa Mila and Casa Batlló, then before heading back to the Hotel Cram for a nap before lunch, we made an impromptu stop at Reserva Ibérica (the ham shop), which specializes in aged, salt-and-air cured Ibérico hams and charcutería, which we sampled.    

Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes. Chefs James Rosenbauer (r), Country Club of Farmington, Farmington, CT and Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY observing a ham cutter at Reserva Ibérica (The Ham Shop), Carrer Aragó, 242 Barcelona (http://www.reservaiberica.com), Jan. 13, 2014. 
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

For Gerry, this encounter turned out to be the first stop for him on what would be a two-and-a-half week long ham run through Spain. 

After a shower, a brief nap and a change of clothes, we walked a few blocks from our hotel to fashionable Monvinic, one of Spain’s top wine bar restaurants, where we met the owner, Sergi Ferrer, and toured to wine cellar with wine director César Canovas, Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy’s Best Sommelier 2011 and had a lunch of modern cuisine-inspired Catalan specialties.  

 
Cellar Master / Sommelier César Canovas, Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy Best Sommelier 2011 of Monvinic Wine Center, Wine Bar & Restaurant in Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24mm f/2.8 (from http://lensrental.com).
 
The afternoon was free to rest before dinner at the classic Barcelona institution Restaurante Set Portes, where we dined on Catalan regional specialites including exquiexada (a ‘salad made with bacalao) and escalivada (grilled vegetables), plus we were introduced to the first of what would be many rice dishes on this trip through Mediterranean Spain: arròs caldoso (a soupy seafood rice dish), arròs negre (black paella with squid ink) and fideuà (pasta, instead of rice, cooked in a paella recipe).   

Club Chefs of Connecticut (and New York) Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes: Fideuà (pasta, instead of rice, cooked in a paella recipe), dinner at the classic Set Portes Restaurant, Barcelona. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 43-86mm f3.3 – f6.4.

We drank Catalan wines, cava, rosat and negre and, for dessert, we got our first exposure to crema catalana or Catalan crème brûlée.  After dinner, we migrated to Javier de la Muela’s famous cocktail bar, Dry Martini, located a few blocks from the HotelCram, for a couple of adult libations. 

 
Club Chefs of Connecticut (and New York) Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes: Javier de la Muelas' Dry Martini Bar, Barcelona. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 43-86mm f3.3 – f6.4. 
 
The second morning in Barcelona, we visited Jorge Mas’s Mas Gourmet specialty shop in the upscale shopping mall, L’Illa del Diagonal for a sensational second breakfast.  Mas’s shop manager and hamcutter Jordi Ausro gave us a seminar and a dazzling tasting of several kinds of jamón Ibérico and charcutería, pa amb tomaquet (Catalan tomato bread), morcilla (black pudding), smoked salmon, and foie gras tapas accompanied Cava Rimarts Rosat Ahumado sparkling wine, a slightly smoky method champenoise rosé made to accompany smoked salmon.

 
 
 Jordi Ausro, manager and hamcutter at Mas Gourmets, L'Illa Diagonal shop, Barcelona, explaining their gourmet products to the Club Chefs of Connecticut (and New York) Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24mm f/2.8 (from http://lensrentals.com).


 
Slide show, Mas Gourmets de L'Embotits, L'Illa Diagonal shop, Barcelona.
(Double click for larger view of photographs.) 

Our next stop was  a visit to the bakery and  workshop of super star pastry artist and culinary events maestro Christian Escribà at Escribà, where Christian Escribà’s (he was in Portugal) Projects Director Xavier Marcos, showed us a video of some of the dazzling projects in the works at this incredible world-class pastry shop.

 
 Pastry, Desserts & Events Maestro Christian Escribà. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

The chocolatero-pastelero-special events maestro Christian Escribà and wife-creative partner Patricia Schmidt with Gerry Dawes at San Sebastián Gastronomika. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

 
New York contingent posing with Christian Escribà's sensational pastry-and-chocolate creation of New York, New York at San Sebastián Gastronomika 2010. Daniel Boulud, Drew Nieporent, Wylie Dufresne, Colman Andrews, David Chang, Thomas Keller & Tony Bourdain. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

 
At Escribà, where Christian Escribà’s (he was in Portugal) Projects Director Xavier Marcos, showed us a video of some of the dazzling projects in the works at this incredible world-class Barcelona pastry shop. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.


We followed the Escribà pastries visit with a tour of Mercat de la Boquería, one of the world’s greatest markets, where you can buy the freshest of seafood (we were introduced to the shellfish purveyor at her Palmira i Neus - Gemma stand, the lovely Gemma Bosch Roca, always stylishly dressed, like many women in La Boquería, wearing an elegantly embroidered bodice and looking gorgeous, all the while bagging mariscos (exquisite crustaceans and mollusks), cutting up fish, wrapping slices and filets, passing them to customers and taking payment. 

 
 The lovely Gemma Bosch Roca at her Palmira i Neus - Gemma seafood stand.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.
 
In la Boquería, you can also find the freshest produce, mushrooms, meats, chickens, hams and charcutería, spices, candies, nuts, etc.    Our tour guides were Gerry, the market stand owners’ association President Salvador Capdevila, La Boquería President Oscar Uribe and Jorge Mas, owner of Mas Gourmets, which has seven outposts in La Boquería.  

 
 L’Associació de Comerciants de la Boqueria (La Boquería market stand owners’ association) President Salvador Capdevila, at his Avinova stand, which specializes in game, poultry, foie gras, etc.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.
 
We also met another of Gerry’s friends, Llorenç Petras, the now-retired Maestro of Mushrooms, who just happened to be at his Petras stand that day (the stand is now run by his sons) and he showed us a tray with a pile of large prime of trufas negras (black truffles) and a large basket of colmenillas (morels mushrooms). 

The legendary mushroom-and-truffle guru, Llorenç Petràs, now-retired, but who just happened to be at his Bolets Petràs Fruits del Bosc stand in Barcelona’s Mercat de La Boquería that day (the stand is now run by his sons Isaac and Xavier) and showed the chefs a pile of prime black truffles. Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

 
 The legendary mushroom-and-truffle guru, Llorenç Petràs, now-retired, but who just happened to be at his Bolets Petràs Fruits del Bosc stand in Barcelona’s Mercat de La Boquería that day (the stand is now run by his sons) and showed the chefs a pile of prime black truffles. (l to r) Carey Favreau, Glen Arbor Club, Bedford Hills NY; Llorenç Petràs; James Rosenbauer, Country Club of Farmington, Farmington, CT; Austin Simard , Brownson Country Club, Huntington, CT; and Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY. Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

 
A basket of colmenillas (morels; múrgola, rabassola o morilla in Catalan; colmenilla or morilla in Spanish) mushrooms at the Petràs stand in Barcelona’s Mercat de La Boquería. The legendary mushroom-and-truffle guru, Llorenç Petràs, now-retired, but who just happened to be at his Bolets Petràs Fruits del Bosc stand a that day (the stand is now run by his sons), and showed the Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour group a pile of prime black truffles. Jan. 14, 2014. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

Before ending our tour of la Boquería, we stopped to have a couple of  tapas--thinly sliced fried alcachofas (artichokes) and some patatas bravas with picante bravas sauce and ailoli with some more rosat Cava--at Quim de la Boquería, one of the best market bars in Spain, where we were greeted by chef-owner Quim Marquez and his son Yuri. This year, Quim de la Boqueria is celebrating their 25th Anniversary.

 Quim Màrquez, Quim de la Boquería, La Boquería Market, Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

 
 Club Chefs of Connecticut (and New York) Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes:  Joan Mora González pouring rosat Cava (Catalan rosé sparkling wine), Quím de la Boquería, a Boquería market, Barcelona,  Jan. 14, 2014.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.
 
After we had the tapas and Cava to fortify us, we strolled down Les Rambles, Barcelona’s world-famous pedestrian thoroughfare that leads to the port, stopping for photographs with the Karen, an attractive woman from Argentina who performs as Winged Victory, one of the few human statues left on this street that was once filled with dozens of these performance artists.We continued on to our lunch destination in the Port Vell, Suquet de l’Alimirall, where chef Quim Marquès (no relation to Quim from la Boqueria; his last name ends in ‘s,’, not ‘z,’ cooked a typical Catalan lunch for us in his own personalized style. 

Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes.  Victor Honrath, Executive Chef of Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY, schmoozes with Caren, Winged Victory, one of the few human statues left on Les Rambles in Barcelona, Jan. 14, 2014.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

Quim, who went to culinary school with José Andrés, has developed his own unique twists on many Catalan classics. Chef Quim opened with plates of jamón Ibérico de bellota, followed by anxoas con poma (cured anchovies encircling an apple compote with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), then pa coca con sardinas ahumados, cebolla caramelizada, tomate cherry, jamón Ibérico & queso Brie (Catalan pizza-like crust with smoked sardines, caramelized onions, a cherry tomato, a slice of cured Ibérico ham and a piece of Brie cheese), buñuelos de espinacas y buñuelos de bacalao con ailoli con miel (spinach fritters and bacalao fritters with honey ailoli), sardinas a la brasa rellenas (stuffed, grilled sardines topped with a slice of Ibérico ham), pa amb tomaquet (Catalan tomato bread), sepia a la plancha con su tinta (grilled sepia with its ink) and alcachofa y huevo (fried artichokes served with a fried egg).  
 
 Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014, Luncheon at Suquet de L'Almirall,, La Barceloneta, Barcelona. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

 Then Quim Marquès himself came out with two paellas catalanas con mariscos, mar y muntanya (Catalan "sea and mountain" paellas), with cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns), mejillones (mussels), pollo (chicken) and ciruelas pasas (prunes) and plated each portion for our group. 
 
 
Chef-owner Quim Marquès shows his paella Catalana con mariscos, mar y muntanya (Catalan "sea and mountain" paella) with cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns), mejillones (mussels), pollo (chicken) and ciruelas pasas (prunes), Suquet de L'Almirall, La Barceloneta, Barcelona. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

After a walk on La Barceloneta beach, we caught a municipal bus whose route took us from the port to the front door of the Hotel Cram.   We had the rest of the afternoon free until dinner to explore Barcelona.

For our second dinner in Barcelona, Gerry set up a reservation at the Michelin 2-star restaurant, ABaC, where the star chef is Jordi Cruz, the youngest chef ever to receive a Michelin star in Spain and probably headed soon for Barcelona’s first three-star restaurant rating. 

 
Jordi Cruz in his open kitchen at ABaC Restaurante, Hotel ABaC, Barcelona. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

Jordi is one of the most brilliant cocina de vanguardia, avant-garde cuisine, chefs in the world. The value of the reservation was underscored when, as Gerry was lining up to take a photograph of our chefs group in front of ABaC before dinner, a taxi arrived and he was standing face to face with a friend of his, Roser Torras (Directora of grup gsr - produccions de gastronomia, one of most brilliant culinary event producers in the world), who was arriving for dinner as well. We were invited into ABaC's open kitchen, then we were seated at an elegantly appointed table and Jordi Cruz and his kitchen staff began to dazzle us with opening dishes such as a Nitro passion fruit “mojito,” shellfish (razor clams and cockles) bloody Mary snow and Mexican foie gras (foie with mole ice cream, corn powder and Vera Cruz salt), followed by creations such as sea urchin curry with Kafir, an anguila (sea eel) “sandwich,” Parmesan gnocchi with raw mushrooms, nuts, truffle oil and a mushroom infusion with lemongrass. A bone-dry Balma Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava from Mas Bertran was served with the appetizers and was followed by an excellent white La Conreria d'Scala Dei Priorat Les Brugueres 2010 Garnacha Blanca.  

 
 We were seated at an elegantly appointed table at ABaC and Jordi Cruz and his kitchen staff began to dazzle us with opening dishes such as a Nitro passion fruit “mojito.” Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest. Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24mm f/2.8 (from lensrentals.com).

In all, there were sixteen dishes on Cruz’s menu, which finished with cocina de vanguardia versions of Casarecce pasta cooked in a squid broth, with sea cucumbers (espardenyes), Comté cheese and lemon basil with white truffles; red mullet with tomato bread, “concentrated” onions and lemongrass alioli; and hare royale with fermented “potato” (bread fermented with shallots, shaped to resemble a potato,) foie gras and Japanese mustard, accompanied by a red from the indigenous Catalan grape Trepat, Succés Vinícola del Viver El Mentider Trepat 2011. 

In just two days in Barcelona, our group of chefs managed to meet a slew of Gerry Dawes's culinary star friends, including Barcelona chefs Carles Abellàn (Comerç 24, Tapas 24 and several other restaurants), ABaC’s Jordi Cruz, Juanito Bayen (owner of the legendary market bar Pinotxo), Quím Marquéz (Quím de la Boquería), Quím Marqués (Suquet de L’Almirall), Roser Torras, Mas Gourmets owner Jorge Mas, market stand owners’ association President Salvador Capdevila, La Boquería President Oscar Uribe, Llorenç Petras, the Maestro of Mushrooms and Sergi Ferrer, the owner of Monvinic Wine Bar and Ferrer Bobet winery in Priorat.
 
Looking out on the intersection of Carrer Aragó and Carrer Aribau from my room in Hotel Cram (with New York locked in the ravages of a Polar vortex winter), where I stayed with our group of chefs.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 43-86mm f3.3 – f6.4.

Next up:  Day Three, Jan. 15, San Sadurni D'Anoia (cava country) and authentic paella in Valencia.
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About Gerry Dawes
 

Writing, Photography, & Specialized Tours of Spain & Tour Advice

For custom-designed tours of Spain, organized and lead by Gerry Dawes, and custom-planned Spanish wine, food, cultural and photographic itineraries, send inquiries to gerrydawes@aol.com.  


I have planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez and led on shorter excursions and have given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities such as Drew Nieporent, Norman Van Aken, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Christopher Gross, Rick Moonen, James Campbell Caruso and many others.

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“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . . the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” Michael Paterniti, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. 

"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
contributing authority Gerry Dawes, a noted expert on Spanish food and wine.  Coqueta's (Chiarello's new restaurant at Pier Five, San Francisco) chef de cuisine, Ryan McIlwraith, later joined Dawes for his own two week excursion, as well. Sampling both old and new, they visited wineries and marketplaces, as well as some of Spain's most revered dining establishments, including the Michelin three-star Arzak, Etxebarri, the temple to live fire-grilling; Tickets, the playful Barcelona tapas bar run by Ferran Adrià and his brother, Albert; and ABaC, where Catalan cooking goes avant-garde." - - Carolyn Jung, Food Arts, May 2013.


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"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections
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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.
 
Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com

1/17/2017

Jewish Spain: The Incredblie Remnants of Jewish Culture in the Old Jewish Quarters of Spain (Segovia, Toledo, Cordoba, Sevilla, Ribadavia (Galicia), Tudela (Navarra), Girona (Catalunya), Hervás (Cáceres)


* * * * * 
  Bronze symbol in the shape of a map of Spain with Hebrew lettering embedded in a street of the old Jewish quarter of Ribadavia (Ourense), Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012; gerrydawes@aol.com 


 
Santa María, the loveliest synagogue that I have seen in Spain. Moorish Mudejar architecture under Jewish influence. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2008. gerrydawes@aol.com


 

A Slide Show
All Photographs by Gerry Dawes©2016 
Absolutely no photographs may be used without prior written permission and credit.
______________________________________________________________________________________________  
About Gerry Dawes

Dawes is Presidente-Jefe & Chairman of the Board, The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

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.
 

1/16/2017

Club Chefs of Connecticut & New York Taste of Spain Tour 2014 with Gerry Dawes, Day 4 Jan. 16 Culinary Adventures in Alicante


* * * * *
On Friday morning, Jan. 17, we visited Valencia’s colorful Mercat Central, located near our hotel, perusing the fish, meat, fruit-and-vegetable, cheese and spice stands, then stopping just outside the Mercat’s entrance to see the often photographed stand selling paella pans and cooking paraphernalia. And at the adjacent market bar, we sampled typical rich, thick, Spanish hot chocolate with churros.



 
 Paella pan and kitchen utensil stand just outside the main entrance to the Mercat Central, Valencia, Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon EOS 6D / Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

By noon, we were on our way to the interior of the province of Alicante, south of Valencia, where Rafael Poveda, Director of Bodegas Salvador Poveda, was waiting for us at his Alicante D.O. (denominación de origen) winery outside the town of Monóver.  We were offered tastes of his Fondillón from the 1947 solera, a rare, sherry-like, aged red wine of a type mentioned by Alexandre Dumas pere in The Count of Monte Cristo.   


 
 The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Rafael Poveda pouring Fondillón at Bodegas Salvador Poveda, Monóvar (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

We got to write our names in chalk on the huge 1986 vintage barrel  as did many other visitors over the course of the last 100 years of vintages on the many casks available in this cellar.  In America a bodega refers to a Hispanic convenience store but in Spain a bodega is a winery. 


The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Chef Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY signs a Fondillón barrel at Bodegas Salvador Poveda, Monóvar (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

Rafael Poveda and one of his friends-partners in the winery, Pedro Cáceres (who, because of that chance meeting has become one of my partners in The Spanish Artisan Wine Group),
came with us to lunch at Casa Elias, a wonderful family-owned restaurant in the nearby village of Xinorlet (Chinorlet) and brought some of his wines for us to drink.  


 
 The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Gerry Dawes with Pedro Caceres (c) and Rafael Poveda (r) at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

At Casa Elias, a long table was set for us with little bowls of almonds, sweet, slow-cooked tomato compote, and aioli, which laid the groundwork for the dishes to come:  superb local charcutería (sliced cured sausages), snails grilled with rosemary and the star of the afternoon, paella con conejo y caracoles, rice with wild rabbit and snails cooked in a paella pan over grapevine cuttings.


The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Lunch at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

 
The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Lunch appetizers:  Pan-roasted almonds, aioli and tomato compote at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24-105mm f/4.

The Connecticut & New York Club Chefs Taste of Spain with Gerry Dawes Tour 2014.  Lunch cooking, paella con conejo y caracoles (paella with rabbit and snails) cooked over grape vine cuttings, and arroz caldoso (soupy rice), cooked over wood, at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante), Jan. 15, 2014.  Photo courtesy Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24-105mm f/4.

 
 Arros con conejo y caracoles (paella with rabbit and snails) that was cooked over grape vine cuttings at Casa Elías, Xinorlet (Alicante).   
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest.  Canon 50D / Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.

After our idyllic lunch, we drove on to beach and port city of Alicante, where we checked in the Hotel Amerigo, whose restaurant is the Michelin one-star Monastrel, owned by Gerry Dawes’s great friend, María José San Román, one of the top women chefs in Spain. 

In the next installment, I will chronicle our adventures in Alicante city and the following day in Alicante province again, on the way to Madrid, where we had our last adventure of the trip with a typical Castilian dinner, excellent flamenco and other highlights.

Chefs participating on this tour were Chefs Brian Limitone, Meadow Ridge Senior Living, Redding, CT;  Gerard Resnick, Century Country Club, Purchase, NY; Robert Rainone, Larchmont Yacht Club, Larchmont, NY; Carey Favreau, Glen Arbor Club, Bedford Hills NY; Wayne Kregling, Brownson Country Club, Huntington, CT; Wayne Klingman, Garden City Country Club, Garden City, NY; Victor Honrath, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, NY;  Dan Neuroth, Bronxville Field Club, Bronxville, NY;  Austin Simard , Brownson Country Club, Huntington, CT; and James Rosenbauer, Country Club of Farmington, Farmington, CT.
______________________________________________________________________

About Gerry Dawes

Writing, Photography, & Specialized Tours of Spain & Tour Advice

 For custom-designed tours of Spain, organized and lead by Gerry Dawes, and custom-planned Spanish wine, food, cultural and photographic itineraries, send inquiries to gerrydawes@aol.com.  


I have planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez and led on shorter excursions and have given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities such as Drew Nieporent, Norman Van Aken, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Christopher Gross, Rick Moonen, James Campbell Caruso and many others.

 * * * * * 
“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . . the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” Michael Paterniti, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

* * * * *

"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. 

"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
contributing authority Gerry Dawes, a noted expert on Spanish food and wine.  Coqueta's (Chiarello's new restaurant at Pier Five, San Francisco) chef de cuisine, Ryan McIlwraith, later joined Dawes for his own two week excursion, as well. Sampling both old and new, they visited wineries and marketplaces, as well as some of Spain's most revered dining establishments, including the Michelin three-star Arzak, Etxebarri, the temple to live fire-grilling; Tickets, the playful Barcelona tapas bar run by Ferran Adrià and his brother, Albert; and ABaC, where Catalan cooking goes avant-garde." - - Carolyn Jung, Food Arts, May 2013.


* * * * *

"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections
 * * * * *
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.

". . .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. 
 
". . .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. 

Pilot for a reality television series with Gerry Dawes  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Customized Culinary, Wine & Cultural Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com

1/15/2017

Goya's La Maja Desnuda (The Naked Maja) at Los Gatos Tapas Bar, One of the Campiest Joints in Old Madrid



* * * * *

La Maja Desnuda, now with a padlock over a sensitive portion of her anatomy, 
Los Gatos tapas bar, Madrid. Curro Romero is the bullfighter. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com.



The Naked Maja & Bullfighter Curro Romero and the Not So Naked Maja at Los Gatos Tapas Bar, one of old Madrid's campiest bars.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
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. 

". . .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. 
 


video
  Trailer for a proposed reality television series on 
wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

1/14/2017

The Padre's Tavern


* * * * *
The Story of Luís de Lezama, a Basque Priest, 
Who Became One of Spain’s Most Celebrated Restaurateurs
Revised article (first published in Food Arts)


 Material from a book-in-progress
 
by Gerry Dawes ©2016


Former New York Times Restaurant Critic Bryan Miller, Padre Luís de Lezama, D. Ramón del Hoyo López (Bishop of Jaén)and Gerry Dawes, Il Circo, NYC.

One night in the early 1970s, Luís de Lezama, a Basque priest who would subsequently (and improbably) become one of Spain’s top restaurateurs, was invited to go to the gypsy caves on Sacromonte hill in Granada by a group of students with whom he had spent three days encouraging them to join the religious orders.  It had been a long day, but it was his last with this group of young people, so he joined them as they made their rounds of Granada’s tapas bars and the touristy, but colorful zambra flamenco performances. 

Along the way, Padre Lezama was approached by a gitana, a gypsy woman.  She showed him an old intricate piece of wrought-iron, which could have been a trivet, except that it had no legs; it was an ancient hierro, the facing for an cattle brand. The gypsy implored him, “Padrecito, buy this hierro from me, it will change your life.”

Padre Lezama declined, but as the group continued their tapas prowl, the gitana continued to appear, nagging him to buy her hierro. Each time Lezama refused her offer. Finally some of the students intervened and the gypsy woman left Lezama alone. At the end of the evening, some of the students accompanied the priest back to the religious residence where he was staying and said their adioses. When Lezama entered his room he found the hierro on his night table with a thank you note for his service signed by all the students.  It said, “Don Luís, here is the hierro de la gitana that will change your life.” 


Luís de Lezama.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes
 
Lezama’s personal stories—triumphs, misadventures and sometimes tragedies—as recounted in this autobiographical book, are at once intimate and at the same time mirror the history of the rise of modern Spain and its democracy.  

Lezama’s life as a young boy in the Basque Country, first in the village of Amurrio, where he was born and predominately in Bilbao, was marked by the fact that his family was branded as “rojos,” reds on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War.  This meant that his father was perpetually unemployable and the family often lived hand-to-mouth.  In his later teen years, to deflect the advances of young woman pursuing him, to dissuade her Lezama proclaims that he is going to enter the priesthood, an idea that sticks in his head—he had an ongoing internal battle  throughout his youth concerning his beliefs about God.  In his insightful, moving, often humorous book, Hablemos de Díos, Lezama insightfully chronicles his often quite surprising thoughts on God, the Catholic church and society.
After studying with the Jesuits in the Basque Country (Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuits was a Basque), Lezama attended a seminary in Madrid, was ordained as a priest in 1962 and became coadjutor of Chinchón, a 16th-century storybook town an hour southeast of Madrid with excellent typical Castilian restaurants and a remarkably picturesque town square that is converted into a bullring for summer bullfights.  

While co-adjutor in Chinchón, one day Lezama discovered sleeping under the portal of his church three young maletillas—impoverished bull bums, down-and-out young men who roamed the roads of Spain in the Franco era following the bullfight fiestas in the almost always vain hope of getting a chance to become a bullfighter (the famous so-called Beatle Bullfighter El Cordobés was a maletilla).   Padre Lezama decided to help them and soon befriended other maletillas to come.   

Lezama opened up his home in Chinchón to the maletillas as a place where they could get a bed and a meal.  Lezama worked with the maletillas and other poor young men, helping them to find employment and change their lives.    Soon he became known as El Cura de las Maletillas, "the priest of the bull bums."

“The maletillas took possession of my living quarters and of my life,” Lezama wrote in his book, La Taberna del Albardero

Once in Chinchón, during one of the bullfights in the Plaza Mayor that town is famous for, one of his protégés, El Bormujano, bravely challenged a big bull and impressed the crowd, but he was gored and carried bleeding out of the ring on a stretcher.  Lezama comforted El Bormujano as the doctor’s worked on his horn wound.  El Bormujano recovered—and eventually became an important part of Lezama’s restaurant team at La Taberna del Alabardero in Madrid and a life-long friend who is still with the Grupo Lezama—but that day that he was gored made a profound impression on Lezama.
Lezama gave numerous aspirant bullfighters food, shelter and encouragement and even drove them to bullfights.  Once he and El Bormujano rode the padre’s Vespa 14 hours to Sevilla and slept the first night on park benches in the Parque de María Luísa in a successful  attempt to get his torero his first formal appearance in a bullring, in Álcala de Guadaira, a town just outside Sevilla.  But realizing that the odds against achieving success as a bullfighter are enourmous, Lezama decided that he must find other work for his young wayward and usually homeless charges.  

The mayor of Chinchón*, who was displeased that Lezama was attracting so many down-and-out maletillas to his village, basically invited the priest to leave and take his bullfighters with him, so Lezama moved his scruffy band to one of the poorest barrios of Madrid, Vallecas, where he organized them into a group of paper, scrap metal, bottle and glass collectors for recycling and earned enough money for subsistence support of the young men from1965-1968. 

In 1968, in Vallecas, Padre Lezama founded the Albergue de la Juventud, a safe haven where he worked with young people until size limitations caused him to begin looking for another solution.  Lezama thought that a restaurant would provide jobs for the troubled young Vallecas albergue men, many of whom, besides the would-be bullfighters, were also homeless castoffs and delinquents.  Lezama hoped to channel their energies into gainful pursuits that would allow them to lead useful lives.  Teaching his charges how to earn a living by working as a restaurant professional seemed to mesh perfectly with Lezama’s philosophy of “don’t  give the poor fish, teach them to fish.”   
 
The albergue was the pre-cursor to the opening of La Taberna del Alabardero in Madrid.  In October 1974, Lezama indeed began to undergo a major life change.  For Lezama, a native of Almurrio and Bilbao in the food-loving Basque Country of northern Spain, opening a restaurant seemed a logical, if unorthodox way of achieving further his work in ministering to his flock of downtrodden young people.  He went from passing out communion hosts at mass to hosting a restaurant.  He obtained a bank loan, co-signed by a wealthy friend, and with no prior practical restaurant experience except for a one-year stint at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, he opened his first restaurant, La Taberna del Alabardero (Tavern of the Halberdier, or Palace Guard) in Madrid, just off the Plaza de Oriente, which faces the huge 18th-century baroque Palacio Real (the Royal Palace). 


Padre Luís de Lezama and Gerry Dawes at La Taberna del Alabardero, Madrid, 2006.

In yet another counterpoint for priest-restaurateur-maletilla patron Lezama, La Taberna del Alabardero is ensconced in a house purported to have been the home of a palace guard, whose wife was the lover of Spain’s King Alfonso XII in the late 19th century.  The opening of La Taberna was the year before Generalissimo Franco died.  Lezama foresaw the coming modernization of Spain and the advent of democracy as creating a business environment that called for new forward-looking ventures.  A comfortable, upscale restaurant with good, reasonably-priced, Basque-influenced food should be a natural gathering place for the busy area around the Palacio Real and the nearby Spanish Senado (Senate). 
 
“In the beginning, it was not easy,” Lezama said of the opening of La Taberna del Alabardero, “I started with 16 employees, most of the young men from the Albergue who had never held a job.  Many of them were marginal kids with a lot of problems, kids without a future, which was why I was working to help them.  Finally, I enlisted Francisco Pena, a restaurant professional and now the General Manager of La Taberna del Alabardero in Washington, D. C., to train them.  And I was on the phone regularly with two of the Basque Country’s greatest chefs, Juan Mari Arzak of Arzak in San Sebastián and Genarro Pildaín (the legendary bacalao maestro of Bilbao’s Guria restaurant).  They gave me a lot of good advice and were kind enough to take in some of my young people to train them at a time when the idea of stages were not so widely accepted as they are now.”    





Former New York Times restaurant critic Bryan Miller, Padre Luís de Lezama 
and Paco Pena, Director of La Taberna del Alabardero, Washington, DC 
at a James Beard Foundation dinner hosted by La Taberna in 2005.
 
Despite that problematic beginning, it is this diamond-in-the-rough “human capital,” as Lezama refers to the young people who work for him, that is responsible for the success of his  restaurant and hotel empire that now employs 700 people.   “From the beginning, my most important mission was to see that these unschooled young people got formal restaurant training.  I sent them to get experience in many of the best restaurants of Spain and France.  It has paid off and this human capital is the most important resource the Lezama Group has.”  



Camarero, La Taberna del Alabardero, Madrid.

Grupo Lezama now includes nearly 20 businesses, including the original La Taberna del Alabardero
(still going strong after 35 years) in Madrid; its nearby sibling, the highly regarded Café de Oriente with its modern cuisine restaurant-within-a-restaurant, El Aljibe in the centuries-old, brick-lined cellars of the Café; and the new seafood-and-arroces (rice dishes, paella) restaurant also on the Plaza del Oriente, La Mar del Alabardero.  Grupo Lezama also operates  El Obrador de Oriente (a specialty food store) alongside Madrid’s Teatro Real (royal theater), around the corner from the original Taberna del Alabardero.  

At either the original Taberna or the Café de Oriente in Madrid you are apt to see long-time patrons such as Spain’s former President Felipe González (who went under his clandestine name, Isidoro, when he was an habitué of La Taberna under the Franco regime, well before he was elected to run Spain), current Spanish cabinet ministers, Spanish senators, authors, artists and bullfighters.


The Lezama group also owns hotel and restaurant schools in Madrid and Sevilla.  El Club de La Playa Taberna Alabardero in Marbella (opened in 1975) and the Alabardero resort in Benahavis near Marbella, where he also has a restaurant in Puerto Banus and another hotel-and-restaurant school.     

La Taberna del Alabardero in Sevilla is in a 19th-century mansion that also houses the hotel and restaurant school and a ten-room hotel.   The La Taberna del Albardero restaurant is now rated by Spain’s Gourmetour Guide as one of Sevilla's top restaurants, only scant points behind the über-chef Ferran Adrià-coached restaurant, La Alquería, at the Hacienda Benazuza (in nearby Sanlúcar la Mayor).  

Lezama’s first American venture La Taberna del Alabardero, on 18th Street in Washington, D. C., which he says he opened because the capital needed a great upscale Spanish restaurant, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and has received numerous accolades from Washington publications.  Lezama says one of his great joys was seeing Alan Greenspan order calamares en su tinta (squid in ink sauce).   Last year, the Lezama Group branched out to open another American Taberna del Alabardero outpost in Seattle.


Also among Grupo Lezama myriad of enterprises are Hotel Miranda Suizo en San Lorenzo de Escorial (Madrid); Caserio Iruaritz (three oaks), a country hotel in a renovated, large, stone Basque family homestead in Lezama (Álava);  Arroz María, a new restaurant in Lisbon’s pleasure boat port and Mesa Real, which runs the dining rooms in the Royal Palace and the Spanish Senate.   Lezama, with his brother chef Patxi de Lezama, also ran La Carmencita, a popular stand-alone Madrid restaurant near in the back streets off the Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s most important thoroughfares.

And, for a number of years in the 1970s, Lezama had an award-winning religious radio program and he has also authored a number of books–his “Hablemos de Dios" (Let's Speak of God) is in its third printing. For more than thirty years, the indefatigable Lezama, was more apt to be found in a straight-laced business suit rather than wearing his collar, which he often donned to preside over mass in Chinchón many Sundays, to perform wedding ceremonies (he recently married Julio Iglesias and his long-time companion, the mother of five of his children in Marbella), to preside at christenings and funerals, and to bless the openings of new buildings and business ventures, some of them undoubtedly restaurants.




*A mural in the entryway of the atmospheric Café de la Iberia in Chinchón features Lezama, in his formal priestly robes (center), along with other habitués of the Café, town notables and historical figures.   Chinchón, famous for its production of anís licor and garlic, awarded Lezama the “Ajo de Oro” (Golden Garlic Award) and named him an adopted son of the pueblo.
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010.

For most of the past three decades, the indefatigable Lezama was more apt to be found in a straight-laced business suit rather than wearing his priestly collar, although he was known to carry his priest’s collar stashed in a suit pocket and continued to don the cloth and perform the duties of a priest.  


Padre Luís de Lezama at the Madrid Fusión International Gastronomic Summit.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

“Many would like to have seen more of me in church, a place where others never come to visit me,” Lezama wrote in his book Taberna del Alabardero: Historias y Recetas de mi Taberna (Histories and Recipes from my Tavern / PPC, Madrid 1995).

Still, all during his career as a restaurateur, Lezama could often be found saying Mass in Chinchón and other churches, presiding over christenings and funerals, performing wedding ceremonies—including the recent wedding in Marbella of Julio Iglesias and Miranda Rijnsburger, his long-time companion and the mother of five of his children--and blessing the openings of new buildings and business ventures, some of them undoubtedly restaurants.

  
After being a restaurateur and part-time priest for more than 30 years, a few years ago Lezama set up a board of directors to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Grupo Lezama and went into semi-retirement.  We say “semi-retirement” since Lezama went back to being a full-time priest at the Montecarmelo parish in Northwest Madrid and has already been responsible for building a new Catholic school associated with the parish for 1,500 students.  

Nevertheless, he can still be found most days having lunch or dinner in one of his Madrid restaurants, the original Taberna del Alabardero or Café de Oriente, when he is not traveling to Sevilla, Marbella, the Basque Country or Washington, D.C. to check up on his establishments there. And one is apt to see him dining with the friends such as Julio Iglesias, Plàcido Domingo or former President Felipe Gonzàlez.  Lezama says one of his greatest joys at La Taberna del Alabardero in Washington, D.C. was seeing Alan Greenspan order calamares en su tinta (squid in ink sauce).

Luís de Lezama in a light-hearted, off-duty moment in New York.

Padre Lezama has written seven books the colorful anecdote-and recipe-filled Taberna del Alabardero: Historias y Recetas de mi Taberna (Histories and Recipes from my Tavern / PPC, Madrid 1995) and Hablemos de Díos, which is in its third printing. He has also written several novels, including La Rosa de David, in which one of the characters is based on former New York Times restaurant critic Bryan Miller, who once was a student in Salamanca.

 

 
The gyspy hierro cattle brand that became the logo for the Grupo Lezama.


The gyspy hierro cattle brand that the students in Granada gave him is one of the most treasured momentos of Lezama’s life.  It so affected him that he used it as the logo for Grupo Lezama, his ever-growing string of restaurants, hotels and hotel-and-restaurant schools.   Staffers, cooks, waiters and maitre’ds who complete ten years in Lezama’s restaurant, hotel and hotel-and-restaurant school group receive a pin whose design is taken from that gypsy brand that not only changed the priest life, it has changed the lives of the hundreds of young people who have been transformed by working in the Padre's tabernas.


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