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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel gerrydawesspain.com

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019

8/01/2021

A Taste of Madrid, Western Spain (Castilla y León and Extremadura), Andalucía & La Mancha Tour With Acclaimed Spain Expert Gerry Dawes October 6 – October 17, 2021


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Note: I just returned from a 3,500 kms. trip in June around Spain, half of which was in areas we will be visiting.  I have added some very attractive features to this itinerary.  
 
(Note on COVID: My prediction is that the COVID spike currently in Spain will pass right after September 1, when all the millions of tourists go home.  Spain's population usually doubles in summertime.  Once the beach time and partying stop, levels with return to what I found in June.   Except for tapas bars, at which standing elbow to elbow was prohibited, little was radically different.  We are all used to wearing masks if we have to, but in most case we are outdoors or will be in our own group or dining.  No one will be able to get into Spain without vaccination proof or a negative COVID test.  July 28, 2021)


 Chef-owner Fernando Hermoso with langostinos de Sanlúcar at Bar Bigote in  Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
 
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Join a Spanish Adventure Designed, Organized and Guided by Acclaimed Spanish Gastronomy, Wine & Culture Expert Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronómía (Spanish National Gastronomy Prize)
 
 
 
"Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life.  He has connected with all manner of people working at every level and in every corner of Spain.  I’m always amazed at this reach.  You can step into a restaurant in the smallest town in Spain, and it turns out they know Gerry somehow.” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Chef-partner, Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York.
 
 With  Santa Fe Chef James Campbell Caruso, 
Chef-owner of  La Boca Tapas Restaurant, Santa Fe, NM 
 


Click on the title above to see the full itinerary.

7/24/2021

La Regenta and the Old Quarter of Oviedo, Marino González, Tierra Astur y el Bulevar de la Sidra Plus Carbayones at Camilo de Blas. Sunset in a Glass: Adventures of a Food and Wine Road Warrior in Spain & The Pre-Post COVID 3500 Kms. Road Warrior Adventure in June 2021.

 
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La Regenta.

Oviedo, the capital of the principado de Asturias, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cities in northern Spain.  The old quarter is charming, easily walkable and full of historical references, not the least of which is an impressive cathedral.  This old quarter--Oviedo was called "Vetusta" (antiquated or ancient)--was the prowling grounds of the fictional (?) La Regenta, Ana Ozores, the very attractive and obviously sexually frustrated wife of an aging retired magistrate, or regent.    La Regenta is Spain's equivalent of Gustave Flaubert's Emma Bovary and one of Spain's greatest novels, all 700 pages of it.  
 
When I go to Oviedo, I usually stay at the Gran Hotel Regente (the cost is not grand), which is just across the street from the old pedestrian-only Parte Vieja (old quarter)  and I always visit the bronze statue of La Regenta, whom I refer to as "mi novia," my girlfriend.
 
 
The most dominate building in the old quarter is the Cathedral, whose beginning dates to the late 8th-Century, but in its current several times restored and added to countenance dates from the late 14th to the 16th century, when the tower was added.  Within the old quarter are many historical buildings, including a block of business and dwellings with colorful painted façades, a fine market, restaurants, bars, shops and statuary. plenty to keep you busy for a morning or an afternoon.  
 
Cathedral of Oviedo.

A good place to begin your exploration of Oviedo is to have breakfast at Camilo de Blas, a marvelous century-old pastry shop with lots of choices, including their signature carbayones, an Asturian puff pastry confection made with almonds, brandy, egg yolks, butter and egg whites.   You can select your patries and take them next door to the coffee shop.  
 

Carbayones, an Asturian puff pastry confection made with almonds, brandy, egg yolks, butter and egg whites.  

For lunch, you should return to the edge of Oviedo´s Old Quarter to the Bulevar de la Sidra and eat at one of Marino González´s Tierra Astur sidrerías, or cider houses, the one at the top of the street or at the other end of this cider house-filled street, Tierra Astur Parrilla, which specializes not only in cider, Asturian cheeses, artisanal and tapas, but grilled meats and grilled fish as well.   (I will have a report on the Tierra Astur restaurants, four of the six of them, shortly.)
 
Oviedo, calle Gascona, el Bulevar de la Sidra, Cider Boulevard, with Tierra Astur at the left foreground. 
 
Marino González, the padrino of Asturian cheeses and artisanal producets, at his Tierra Astur sidrería, cider house, on calle Gascona, el Bulevar de la Sidra.
 
This charming young Morrocan woman Mina Samy somehow found her way
to Asturias in northern Spain and pours Asturian Trabanco sidra (hard apple cider) like the pro that she is at Marino Gonzalez’s Terra Astur Restaurant on calle Gascona, el Bulevar de la Sidra, Cider Boulevard, in Oviedo, Asturias.
 

 
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Constructive comments are welcome and encouraged.
 
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.
 
Text and photographs copyright by Gerry Dawes©2021.  Using photographs without crediting Gerry Dawes©2021 on Facebook.  Publication without my written permission is not authorized.
 
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  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
 
Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington,
in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.
 _________________________________________________________________________
 Gastronomy Blogs

In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel


 
About Gerry Dawes

My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019


Gerry Dawes was the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

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

7/15/2021

Spanish Artisan Cheeses & Spanish Wines That Complement Them


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 All Photographs copyright by Gerry Dawes 2020.


Spanish Artisan Cheeses & Spanish Wines That Complement Them
Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes©2015


Spain has become the culinary star of Europe in the past decade, the destination of choice for an ever growing army of chefs, restaurateurs and foodies, who have become increasingly enamored of the country’s top modern restaurants and in the process have the discovered the greatness of Spanish regional cuisine and wines. Less well known, but growing exponentially in popularity are Spanish artisanal cheeses, of which there is a broad array ranging from the spectacular vegetable rennet tortas del Casar and de la Serena (sheeps’ milk) from Extremadura to sublime Monte Enebro (goat’s milk), made by a single producer in Ávila, to Valdeón, one of the world’s great blue cheeses (cow’s and mixed milk). 

Torta de la Serena

Also growing at a rapid pace in America are the sales of Spanish wines that make the best pairings with these cheeses. However, even though it is easier than ever to find great Spanish cheeses in the United States, making the perfect Spanish wine and cheese pairings is not as simple as it might seem since Spain’s best wine regions and great cheese regions do not often coincide. (Following the descriptions of each cheese in this article are suggested wine pairings.)

Experts such as maître fromager Max McCalman, author of The Cheese Table and Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best (Clarkson Potter; August, 2005) and Steve Jenkins, author of The Cheese Primer and cheese maven at New York’s Fairway Market, consider Spanish artisanal quesos some of the finest in the world. In The Cheese Table, McCalman explains that Spanish cheeses display "all the markers of superior cheesemaking: rustic local production; cheeses named after their places of origin; and ancient tradtions upheld by many succeeding generations of farmers, herders, and cheesemakers."



Max McCalman with the Cheese Cart during his days at Picholine, NYC

Some thirty or more Spanish quesos are being imported into the United States. Excellent examples of Spanish artisan cheeses made from vaca (cows’), oveja (sheeps’) and/or cabra (goats’) milk can be found at the cheese counters of Whole Foods stores and at such shops at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco’s Ferry Market Building, Central Market in Austin, Texas, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York City. 

Picholine restaurant in New York City began serving a wide variety of cheeses several years ago from a cheese cart. The program, run by Max McCalman, who is a fan of Spanish cheeses, was so successful that it spawned Artisanal Restaurant and Fromagerie, which features a retail cheese shop, and Artisanal Cheese Center in New York, which has four different micro-climate cheese lockers for continuing the affinage (elevation or proper aging) of cheeses under ideal conditions. Artisanal also offers master classes and cheese classes with wine pairings, including classes on Spanish artisanal cheeses and wines, which have been well attended, attesting to the growing interest in Spanish food and wine in the United States.

Over the past couple of years I have conducted some dozen classes on Spanish cheeses and the wines that go with them in New York and at conference seminars. Following conventional wisdom, pairing Spanish wines and cheeses seems simple, so in my first few classes I tried to make the wine and cheese pairings as regional as possible. However, over the course selecting the wines that might best go with each cheese, I found that few great artisanal cheeses are made in the greatest wine regions of Spain and, conversely, few great cheese areas also produce great wines.

In La Rioja, Spain’s greatest red wine region, only Cameros, a mountainous area in southern Rioja outside the winegrowing areas makes a cheese of note and it does not rank among Spain’s best. In neighboring Navarra, which produces excellent garnacha-based rosados (rosés), some surprising chardonnay-based whites, well-balanced red wines made from tempranillo, garnacha, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and some stellar moscatel-based dessert wines, there is a good cheese, Roncal, but it comes from high mountain villages in the Pyrenees, where no wine is made.

Around the wine regions of Toro, Castilla-La Mancha and Jumilla, there are Zamorano (sheeps’ milk), La Mancha (sheeps’ milk) and Murcia al Vino (goats’ milk cheese whose rind is washed in monastrell-based Jumilla wine), but few really exceptional wines come from those regions and there are no other cheeses of note made there either. On the other side of the coin, Asturias (Spain’s "Parque Nacional de Quesos" [National Cheese Park]), whose villages in the Picos de Europa mountains and along the green, rainy Atlantic coastlands make some fifty cheeses, including some of the best in Spain, there is very little wine made; the drink is cider.



Pouring cider in Asturias, Spain’s "Parque Nacional de Quesos" (National Park of Cheeses)


Given the fact that there are relatively few natural regional wine and cheese affinities, I began experimenting with other wine factors such as age, acidity, alcohol levels, dryness, sweetness, etc. in choosing the wines to go with each cheese. 

First off, the prevailing practice in the past that the best red wines available should be paired with cheeses turns out to be the last thing that should be done with great red wines, since the complexity for which those wines are usually appreciated loses out to the often forceful flavors of many great cheeses. In fact, most people who regularly pair wines with cheeses now realize that many white wines are a better choice with cheeses due to their acidity, fruit and freshness–the palate-refreshing qualities that make them perfect with cheese: the heavenly classic French combination of Sancerre and crottin de Chavignol goat cheese comes to mind. 

The assertive flavors of many Spanish cheeses, especially those made from goats’ and sheeps’ milk, need the lively qualities of white wines; rosados, of which Spain has some particularly good examples (especially from Navarra, La Rioja and Cigales); and young, fresh, red wines without predominant oak to refresh the palate between bites of cheese.

White Wines from Galicia--Ribeiro, Rias Baixas, Monterrei and Godellos Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras--are far better with cheeses than most red wines. 

I also found in teaching classes at Artisanal Cheese Center in New York pairing Spanish wines with Spanish cheeses that such fortified wines as sherry, Montilla and Málaga often made excellent marriages to such geographically far-flung cheeses as the Mediterranean Mahón cows’ milk cheeses from Minorca to the assertive, wonderful Monte Enebro (goats’ milk) from Avila’s high-altitude continental climate to the stunningly good Valdeón (cows’ milk) blue from the Atlantic climate of the mountainous Picos de Europa in León province. 

Spain’s emerging dessert wine category, which includes many fortified wines, late harvest styles (moscatels from Navarra and Alicante, malvasias from the Canary Islands), the unique sweet moscatel mistelas (fresh grape must whose fermentation is cut short by the addition of alcohol from Valencia and Alicante, and vinos rancios (wines made purposely in oxidative environment) such as the rare Alicante Fondillon proved to be an exceptional match with a wide variety of cheeses.





                  Aliaga Vendimia Tardia Moscatel Petit Grain is great match for cheeses 
(and artichokes and asparagus). 

The cheeses described below are available in the United States and can be purchased in stores or ordered through Internet sites (see box). The wines they are paired with proved successful in a number of tastings over a period of two years.


Quesos de Cabra (Goats’ Milk Cheeses)



Monte Enebro, Ávila province, Castilla y León


A log-shaped, new-artisan cheese made in the Valle del Tiétar* in the mountainous province of Avila, west of Madrid. by only one producer, Rafael Baez with his daughter, Paloma, from pasteurized high-quality goat's milk obtained from goats that graze in the Sierra de Gredos. Sprinkled with penicillin mold spores and then aged in humid conditions, Monte Enebro develops an benign mold that resembles the ash coating of some other goat cheeses. Has a goaty, forest mushroom and raw nut aroma that somewhat resembles that of a blue cheese. A smooth, almost spreadable pasta that is creamy, sharp, acidic, and salty at once with a slightly picante finish. A distinctive and delicious cheese of great character. (*Not to be confused with queso del Tiétar, another goats’ cheese from this area that is made in a distinctly different style.)


The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Wine Matches: Albariños such as Cabaleiro do Val, Rozas, Avó Roxo, Lagar de Broullón, OForrollo and Lagar de Candes; Txacolis de Getaria such as Agerre; Treixadura-based Ribeiro whites, Manuel Formigo Finca Teira and Teira X;  José Pariente Rueda Verdejo, At Roca Brut Reserva and Brut Rosat Clássic Penedés Metodo Traditional sparkling wines;  Viña Catajarros Rosado from Cigales, young, very lightly oaked Victor Balbás Ribera del Duero vino tinto; Juan Piñero Maruja Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Sherry.

Ibores, Cáceres province (near Trujillo), Extremadura

Designated as a "Denominación de Origen Protegida" (D.O.P.), a protected designation similar to that of a wine region, Ibores cheese is made from the raw (unpasteurized) milk of registered serrana, verata and retinta goats from the environs of historic Trujillo, hometown of the conquistadores, Francisco Pizarro (conqueror of Peru) and Francisco Orellana (discover of the Amazon). When young (semi-curado) it can be semi-soft, creamy, mild, and delicate with a long nutty finish reminiscent of amontillado sherry. Aged (curado) Ibores con be semi-hard, intensely flavored, lightly acidic, salty and even picante with a long, nutty finish. Rinds can be natural, moldy, oiled or rubbed with pimentón de la Vera (paprika from La Vera, is one of the best paprika-producing regions in the world.) Ibores has medium intensity aromas of goat’s milk, aromatic wild plants, and spices (in the pimenton-rubbed types).


Ibores cheese is made in and around the historic hill-top town of Trujillo, hometown of Pizarro (Peru) & Orellana (explorer of the Amazon River).

Wine matches: Many of the same Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Wines, Albariños such as Cabaleiro do Val, Rozas, Avó Roxo, Lagar de Broullón, OForrollo and Lagar de Candes; Txacolis de Getaria such as Agerre; Treixadura-based Ribeiro whites, Manuel Formigo Finca Teira and Teira X;  José Pariente Rueda Verdejo, At Roca Brut Reserva and Brut Rosat Clássic Penedés Metodo Traditional sparkling wines;  Viña Catajarros Rosado from Cigales, young, very lightly oaked Victor Balbás Ribera del Duero vino tinto; Juan Piñero Maruja Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Sherry, as well as brut nature cava, rosados and if you are up for such wines, stout Extremaduran country wines from Tierra de Barros, young Toro wines, some bigger alta expresion wines from Toro and Ribera del Duero.


Murcia al Vino, Murcia

The region of Murcia in southeastern Spain is the birthplace of the Murciano-Granadina cabra, the best milk producing goat breed in the country. Labeled "Denominación de Origen Protegida" (D.O.P.), a protected designation similar to that of a wine region, Murcia al Vino is a cylindrical 2-4 pound cheese with a smooth reddish purple rind that comes from bathing the rind in red wine, often monastrell-based wine from the Jumilla region in Murcia province. Similar to a Manchego cheese (sheeps’ milk) in size and texture, like most goats’ cheeses it has a white paste, a mild aroma with pleasant acidity, saltiness and firm texture.


Wine Matches: Jumilla monastrell-based red wines, Alicante and Valencia syrah-based and bobal-based wines and dry-fermented white moscatels from Alicante and sweet moscatels such as Aliaga Vendimia Tardía (Late Harvest) Moscatel Dulce from Navarra.
 

Garrotxa, Cataluña


A Catalan goat's milk cheese only recently revived from extinction by weekend cheesmakers in Garrotxa (Gerona province), it is now made in many other areas of Cataluña, which makes it a style of cheese, not one from a strictly defined geographical area. Garrotxa’s tomme shape and velvety blue-gray mold make it distinctive. The semi-soft to hard inside is mild and elegant, with a hint of nuttiness and a clean, smooth finish.


Wine Matches: At Roca Brut Reserva and Brut Rosat Clássic Penedés Metodo Traditional sparkling wines; cava (Spanish champagne), Codorníu’s Pinot Noir Rosado Brut NV cava, Alella Pansa Blanca white, amontillado sherry and young Catalan cabernet sauvignons and merlots.

Quesos de Oveja (Sheeps’ Milk Cheeses)



Manchego, (Castilla-La Mancha)


Manchego is a firm-to-hard textured sheep's milk cheese from La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, is the most famous cheese in Spain. The classic taste of manchego is tangy, sharp and richly flavored. Manchego pairs perfectly with membrillo (quince paste) or a variety of young red wines and sherries. Much of Manchego is industrially produced, so choose carefully, specifying artisan Manchego cheeses of which there are a number of very good producers, especially from Cuenca province.





            

Wine Matches: Finos from Jerez such as Tío Pepe, Juan Piñero VORS dry Amontillado or dry Oloroso sherries and Montillas, José Pariente Rueda Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc white wines, young red wines from La Mancha and big red wines (but not complex, long aging styles) from all around Spain. With membrillo, dessert wines such as the moscatels from Alicante, Valencia and Navarra (Aliaga) and the sweet wines of Malaga complement this ubiquitious cheese.


Zamorano, Zamora province, Castilla y León


Zamorano is a firm, flaky texture, assertive, Parmesan-esque, Manchego-like cheese made from the milk of sheep that were until recently raised by semi-nomadic shepherds. All the milk come from registered flocks. The Zamorano and chorizo fondue at Artisanal restaurant has been a hit since the opening. A good Zamorano as the same regal bearing as Beaufort or Parmesan. Pressed, uncooked, and aged a minimum of 100 days. Comes from the province of Zamora, where Toro wines are made and just west of Rueda and Cigales in Valladolid province.



Wine Matches: José Pariente Rueda Verdejo, Viña Catajarros Cigales rosado, the powerful red wines of Toro. Some of the better regional wine-and-cheese matchups.

Roncal, Navarra


Roncal's nutty and piquant flavors come from the rich sheeps' milk of the legendary lacha and Aragonesa breed of oveja (sheep) that, depending on the season, graze in the high Pyrenees (summer) or the dessert-like Bardena area (winter) of Navarra, the province that was the setting for Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.  Roncal, made in one of seven villages in the Valle de Roncal, has a firm, chewy texture. Roncal is similar to a the Pecorino Toscano and also to Manchego, but has its own unique, mouth-watering character. It is a versatile cheese that pairs well with many types of wine.



               


Wine Matches: Aliaga Navarra Rosados, Aliaga DosCarlos Sauvignon Blanc, Aliaga´s young red Tempranillo-based  wines and Aliaga late harvest moscatel, all from Navarra. 

Aliaga Lágrima de Garnacha Rosado from old vines Garnacha grapes, one of the greatest rosados in Spain.

Idiazábal, Basque Country & Navarra

From a village south of San Sebastián, Idiazábal is the Basque Country’s most ubiquitous cheese. It is so revered in the Basque Country that few other cheeses are made and all the great Michelin-starred chefs of region take off one day a year to judge the best of them in the market village of Ordizia. Once formed, Idiazábal is often lightly smoked over apple wood for 10 days, which gives it a smokiness than enhances its rich, nutty flavor. The texture of Idiazábal is similar to zamorano, roncal and manchego.




Wine Matches: Agerre and Agree San Martín Txacoli de Getaria, Aliaga Lágrima de Garnacha and Lágrima de Luna (night-harvested) rosados from Navarra, young red cosechero wines from Bodegas Lecea in southern Rioja Alta, Sherries from Juan Piñero.

Torta del Casar, Cáceres province, Extremadura

A raw sheep's milk cheese from villages near the provincial capital of Cáceres in the Extremadura region of west central Spain. Rustic, delicious, creamy, buttery, hints of dill and thyme, with an assertive, but pleasant finish. Very rich, fairly intense and flavorful cheese that is delightfully creamy and spreadable in the springtime versions. Very similar in style the French vacherin Mont d'Or, except that it not made with cows' milk, Torta del Casar (so named because it is torta-shaped like a Spanish potato omelette, or tortilla) has a somewhat smoky flavor, although it is not smoked cheese. Torta del Casar can be semi-soft and sliced or ripened to the point at which a large round lid-like hole can be cut in the top, so that delicious cheese can be scooped out with a spoon or piece of crusty country bread. Made in areas not far from the Portuguese border, Torta del Casar and its cousin cheese, Torta de la Serena, use only wild milk thistle rennet to coagulate the milk, which is an ancient Moorish and Jewish dietary custom. Max McCalman calls it "a mind-bogglingly delicious cheese, certainly one of Spain's greatest alimentary artifacts and among the best cheeses in the world."




Wine Matches: (See Torta de la Serena, below)

Torta de la Serena, Badajoz province, Extremadura

With much the same characteristics as Torta del Cásar, this exceptional, expensive cheese is often preferred over its better known cousin. In springtime and early summer versions, de la Serena is creamy, buttery, and spreadable like Brie, but with infinitely more intriguing, haunting, rustic flavors. One of the best cheeses in the world.




Wine Matches: For both these two stellar cheeses, Torta de la Serena and Torta del Casar, good palate-refreshing white from Galicia such as Albariño, DBerna or Hacienda Ucediños Godello whites from Valdeorras or from Triay in Monterrei.  Also Ribeiro white wines are good counterpoints and so are rosados from Cigales, La Rioja and Navarra. But these cheeses are also complemented by chilled fino and manzanilla sherries and cellar-temperature dry amontillados and olorosos, as well as a Salvador Poveda Fondillón from Alicante.


Queso de Vaca (Cows’ & Mixed Milk Cheeses)




Tetilla, Galicia

The word "tetilla" (meaning nipple) comes from the traditional shape of this cheese, which is shaped like a woman’s breast with a small nipple on the top. The most characteristic cheese of Galicia (but also produced in the Asturias), Tetilla is easily recognized by its shape and smooth, yellow-ivory colored rind. The paste is soft, thick and smooth with few air pockets. The flavor is clean and buttery and the texture is smooth and very creamy.




Wine Matches: This lovely cheeses marries well with just about any wine you might want to put with it, maybe the perfect foil among Spanish cheeses. If you like cheese with your best red wines, this is the one to try them with: great Rioja gran reservas, Vega Sicilia and the best wines of the Ribera del Duero, Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. Also excellent with Galician white wines--Albariño, Ribiero, Godello from Valdeorras–and the mencia-based reds of Ribiera Sacra and Bierzo.


Mahón (Minorca, Islas Baleares)


Mahón is the capital and port of Minorca, the most northerly of the Mediterranean Balearic Islands. This rocky island has a mild climate with plenty of rainfall. The high humidity from sea breezes, which help irrigate the pastures, aids in giving the milk good acidity and imparts hints of saltiness to the cheese. Mahón, the origin of the word mayonnaise, one of the world’s great sauces, also gives its name to cow's milk cheeses produced on the island. Originally made from the milk of cow’s exported from England during the British occupation of Minorca, there are many varieties of this cheese, ranging from semi-cured to well aged (Mahón cheeses were made to withstand long-term storage and transportation by sea). The rind is either rubbed with oil or paprika and the cheese pasta is compact and crumbly. Aged versions can be reminiscent of cheddar. Mahón is Spain’s second most popular cheese after Manchego.

                

Wine Matches: Big new-wave Mallorca red wines, Priorat and Montsant wines from the Catalan mainland. Also good with a wide variety of sherries, other fortified wines and dessert wines.


Afuega'l Pitu, Asturias (Spain's National Park of Cheeses)


Called 'fire in the throat' in Asturian dialect, this creamy, but sometimes granular cheese, is not necessarily fiery, but it is a gamey, rustic cheese, whose piquancy comes from Spanish pimentón, the best paprika in the world. Afuega'l Pitu is not yet well-known, but it has a small, but loyal following among cheese aficionados, who can't have enough of it. The texture is similar to that of a young goats' milk cheese.



Wine matches: Because of its lightly picante finish, this cheese needs refreshing white wines such as Txacoli, Ribeiro, Albariño, Alella, cava or rosados from La Rioja and Navarra. A young unoaked Bierzo red works well, too. Asturian or Basque cider is also a great match.

Beyos (cows', goats’, mixed milk), Asturias


This dense, compact, "peasant" style artisan cows' milk cheese from the Picos de Europa mountains has a unique flinty texture and flavor. The cows here graze on grass that grows in the chalk-laced soil of the Sella river valley. The texture of this cheese, which breaks away in shards, is reminiscent of white chocolate. The firmness at first bite melts into a buttery, creamy, chalky paste with a long balanced tangy finish. It is a cider or wine cheese par excellence. Made by just a few producers, versions of Beyos are also made with goats’ milk and mixed cows’ and goats’ milk.



Wine Matches: Spanish cider, Txacoli from Vizcaya, Galician white wines, young mencia-based red wines from Bierzo, Rioja and Ribera del Duero Reservas with good acid.

Quesos Azules (Blue Cheeses), Asturias & León

(Wine matches are generally the same for these blue cheeses, see below for all three.)


Cabrales (Asturias)

Cabrales is a semi-soft blue cheese with a strong, spicy, pronounced flavor. Traditionally, it is made with a mixture of cows’, sheeps’ and goats’ milk, but now it is most often made with raw cows' milk. The three-milk version is a truly exceptional cheese, made smoother by the sheeps' milk component and more piquant by the goats' milk.




Gamonedo (Asturias)


Made from raw cows' milk with some with goats' or sheeps' mixed, Gamonedo is one of the few remaining naturally bluing blues, but its most memorable characteristic is the flavor that comes from being gently smoked over apple wood for 10 - 12 days. It has a creamy, but powerfully pungent flavor.

An Artisan Gamonedo producer

Valdeón (León)


From northeastern León province in the valley of Valdeón in the Picos de Europa mountains, this wonderful cheese is one of the great blues of Europe. Made principally with very fine cows' milk that is sometimes laced with a bit of sheeps' and/or goats' milk, Valdeón is a wonderfully smooth and creamy cheese that has all the character of a blue without its more aggressive traits.


Wine matches: These three cheeses offer the perfect opportunity to show off great sherries, including some of the sweet olorosos and creams, Montilla Pedro Ximénez, Navarra, Málaga and Alicante moscatels, Canary Islands malvasias, Fondillóns and late harvest garnachas from Cataluña. Young, fresh whites, cava and rosados also offer a good counterpoint to the richness and pungency of these cheeses.

Sherry, Montilla and Malvasia (from the Canary Islands).


Sources of Spanish Cheeses:



Despaña Brands, Jackson Heights, NY (http://www.despanabrandfoods.com)/)
Di Bruno Bros., Philadelphia (http://www.dibruno.com)/)
Fairway Market, New York (http://www.fairwaymarket.com)/)
Forever Cheese, Whitestone, New York (http://www.forevercheese.com)/)
Murray’s Cheese, New York City (http://www.murrayscheese.com)/)
The Spanish Table, Seattle, Santa Fe, Berkeley, Marin County (http://www.spanishtable.com)/) La Latienda, Williamsburg, VA (http://www.latienda.com)/)
Whole Foods (More than 150 stores in the US & UK), (http://www.wholefoods.com)/)
Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan (http://www.zingermans.com)/)


* * * * *
  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
 
Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington,in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.
 ____________________________________________________________________________________
 Gastronomy Blogs

In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel


 
About Gerry Dawes

My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019


Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

Dawes writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. In addition to being awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía(National Gastronomy Award), 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, Basque Country, Spain) 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. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 
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