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

"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


Super Star Chefs Show Their Stuff at Alimentaria’s BCNVanguardia ‘06

Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes ©2006

BCNVanguardia ‘06 took place in Alimentaria’s 2006 Restaurama section, a pavilion alongside the two very large Intervin buildings that housed hundreds of Spanish wine producers. Directed by Roser Torras, the BCNVanguardia cooking demonstrations were brilliantly focused. Each day featured star Spanish and international chefs doing friendly mano a mano riffs with designated themes within a main theme such as La Tierra (dishes from the earth, i. e., vegetables, beans, potatoes, pasta, rice, salads; El Mar, fish and shellfish; and Las Viandas, meat, game, and birds (with truffles). Each entire day was devoted to these themes in order and pairs of chefs gave their unique interpretations of how to handle their assigned ingredients.

On the first day, Raúl Aleixandre, of Ca Sento in Valencia, a maestro of rice (and shellfish) dishes was paired with Hiroyuki Kanda of Kanda restaurant in Tokyo. It was refreshing to see both chefs doing traditional rice dishes, using traditional ingredients, Aleixandre with his typical, delicious arroz meloso marinero with squid and shrimp flavored with Spanish pimentón (paprika) and Kanda with a traditional Japanese rice dish with vegetables and mushroom.

Ricardo Gil of Restaurante 33 in Tudela (Navarra) did a preparation with regional ingredients–cardoons, borage and white asparagus–from the vegetable rich region of la Ribera de Navarra (from where many of Spain’s superb jarred and tinned vegetables such as pimientos de piquillo come) and the legendary Bitor Arguinzoniz from Restaurante Etexebarri in the Basque Country showed how he has become one of the world masters of grilling, using with laser-made, micro-mesh skillets to grill vegetables over an open fire.

Charlie Trotter did a deconstruction interpretation of the ubiquitous American Caesar Salad, and Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz, near San Sebastián, produced a beautiful salad of roasted and raw vegetables, sprouts and even edible flowers with a cheese "dressing."

Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz (near San Sebastián)

Rounding out the day, to a standing room only crowd, Ferran Adrià presented a master class, A Scientific-Gastronomic Lexicon: A Synthesis of the Philosophy of El Bullí.

Posted by Picasa Ferran Adrià, El Bullì

Day Two at BCNVanguardia ‘06 was a day from heaven for fish and shellfish lovers. Sergi Arola of La Broche in Madrid (and the new Arola in Barcelona) paired with Elena Arzak of San Sebastián’s three-star Restaurante Arzak, one of the most famous restaurants in Europe, to do their takes on sardines and anchovies. Arola did a modernized dish of smoked sardines with trompeta de la muerte mushrooms and Elena Arzak did a futuristic, artistic dish called Ámbar de anchoas, using anchovies, pimientos de piquillo and Spanish extra virgin olive oil.

Turbot, known as rodaballo in Spain, may reach the apogee of its greatness–as perhaps the world’s finest fish–in several restaurants in Getaria (west of San Sebastián), a remarkable fishing village that is the hometown of Juan Sebastián Elkano, the first man to circumnavigate the globe; the designer Balenciaga; and opera singer Plácido Domingo’s mother. The most notable of these restaurants, owned by members of the same family, are Kaia and Elkano. At BCNVanguardia ‘06, the chef-owners of Elkano, Pedro and Aitor Arregui, demonstrated how to grill a whole turbot over wood charcoal, simple, but with magical results. French chef Gérard Allemandou of Restaurante la Cagouille in Paris fileted his turbot and prepared a more French haute cuisine version.

Pedro and Aitor Arregui

Aitor Aregui of Elkano fileting a grilled turbot.

In the Moluscos y Crustáceos segment, two top chefs, Quique Dacosta of El Poblet in Dènia (Alicante) and Josè Andrès of Jaleo in Washington, D.C. prepared several dishes each. Dacosta did a cherry gazpacho with shrimp and an elaborate avant-garde, Frank Gehry’s Guggeneheim Bilbao Museum-inspired dish called Guggenheim 2006 (oysters with platinum and silver, served at room temperature), a dish that actually included fine silver flakes. Josè Andrès brought over on the plane from United States a selection of American molluscs and shellfish, including softshell crabs and demonstrated a modernized version of New England Clam Chowder that featured clam foam and clam gelatin.

José Andrés

The third day featured some of the greatest chefs in Spain, sometimes alternating with French chefs, intrepreting Las Viandas (meat, game and bird dishes [with truffles]. Carles Gaig of Gaig, one of the star restaurants of Barcelona, paired with the great Manchegan chef, Manuel de la Osa (whom this correspondent had the pleasure the next day of introducing to breakfast at Quim de la Boquería in the fabulous Boquería market). Gaig and de la Osa presented dishes made from veal and from suckling goat. Michelin two-star chef Joan Roca of Can Roca in Girona paired with Cánido López of Segovia’s Mesón Cándido. Each did distinct versions of suckling pig, Roca with a terrine that included garlic and membrillo, López with Cándido’s famous traditional signature dish, cochinillo asada, roast suckling pig so tender that he cuts it with the edge of a plate.

Don Juli Soler, Founder-Partner, El Bullì

Three-star chef Martín Berasategui, whose eponymously named restaurant in Lasarte outside San Sebastián is one of the world’s greatest, did a terrine of veal tongue with foie gras and truffles, while his counterpart, Jean Louis Nomicos of Restaurant Lasserre in Paris, made suckling veal sweetbreads and prawns with grated orange and lemon.

Three-star chef Martín Berasategui
Jean Louis Nomicos of Restaurant Lasserre in Paris

Two-star chef Hilario Arbelaitz of Zuberoa (near San Sebastián) paired with Marco Antonio García of Restaurante Mannix in Campospero (Castilla y León), each doing a lamb dish. Arbelaitz made a confit of lamb with cumin and García demonstrating the classic roast suckling lamb of Castilla y León with crispy skin and succulent, juicy, tender meat. Finishing out this spectacular day were Fermí Puig, Executive Chef of Restaurante Drolma in Barcelona’s Hotel Majestic, and Gérard Besson of Restaurante Gérard Besson in Paris doing creative dishes featuring game birds and truffles.

I have been to few gastronomic conferences more rewarding than BCNVanguardia ‘06, which was especially attractive to me because it featured traditional preparations that highlighted the great food products of Spain, as well as the more trendy avant-guardia and alta cocina dishes. This international, but Mediterranean-focused, gastronomic conference was so good, in fact, that one hopes that BCNVanguardia will become an annual event. I am ready to go back!!


Vinoble: "Noble" Dessert & Fortified Wines Fair in Jerez de la Frontera, the Sherry Capital

 * * * * *

Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucía, Spain
Capital of Sherry Country
May 28-31, 2006.

All photographs by GerryDawes ©2006.

The Vinoble International Noble Wines Exhibition, held every two years at the end of May in Jerez de la Frontera, is the only wine fair dedicated exclusively to fortified, dessert, and naturally produced sweet wines.

Jardines (gardens) of the Alcazar de Jerez.

The setting for Vinoble is Jerez’s beautifully renovated 12th-century Arabic Alcazar fortress, which dates from the Almohade epoch during the Moorish occupation of Spain. The site is spectacular with wine tasting stands occupying the gardens of the Alcazar, wines tastings such as a Château D'Yquem retrospective and a palo cortado Sherries presentation were held in the complex's former mezquita (mosque) and tasting pavilions in the Renaissance Palace of Villavicencio, which was built within the walls of the fortress in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Wine tasting stands occupying the gardens of the Alcazar during Vinoble.

 Tasting wines in a formerly Muslim fortress and mosque is not as ironic and iconoclastic as it seems, since the Arabs introduced al-quol (alcohol), during many periods wine growing in Moorish Al-Andaluz was tolerated and Andalucian Moorish poets wrote verse celebrating the virtues of wine.

Tasting Wines in the Mezquita (Mosque)

More than 100 noble wine producing areas for from fortified and sweet wines from around the world show their best labels at Vinoble. Represented were late harvest, botrytisized, natural sweet wines, muscatels, and so on from Argentina, noble rot wines from Australia, Austrian "fine" rot sweet wines from Kremstal, Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Canadian ice wines from Ontario, Chilean muscatels and late vintage semillon-sauvignons and riesling-gewürztraminers and a plethora of French wines from Sauternes, Barsac, Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Mombazillac, Pacherenc, Gaillac, Jurançon, Sainte Croix du Mont, Loupiac and Bergerac.

Germany was represented by late harvest sweet wines--Ausleses, Beerenausleses, Trockenbeerenausleses and Eisweins from the Rhine and Mosel. Greece showed wines from Samos, Santorini, Patras, Macedonia and Crete; Hungary, their legendary Tokays; Italy by vin santo, passito and moscato; and Portugal by Ports, muscatels from Setúbal and wines from Madeira.

Even Japan with noble rot, sweet and fortified wines and sake; New Zealand with late harvests Rieslings and Gewürztraminers; and Slovenia with sweet wines made from Riesling, Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Moscato were represented along with South African muscatels, late harvest and botrytisized wines; Swiss late harvest wines from Valais; Urugayan late harvest Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and dessert wines from California.

Tasting Sherries with Javier Hidalgo at the Bodegas Hidalgo stand at Vinoble.

But, as might be expected it was the host country, Spain, which showed the most extensive variety of high quality sweet and fortified wines. Local Sherry bodegas showed a broad range of high quality fortified wines--finos, manzanillas, olorosos, amontillados, creams, pale creams, moscatels and Pedro Ximénez sweet wines, as did bodegas from nearby Andalucian wine regions such as Montilla-Moriles (Cordoba)with a range of finos, amontillados, olorosos and Pedro Ximénez; the Condado de Huelva with fortified Sherry-like wines, including delicious orange essence-flavored ones; and Málaga, which showed some exceptional moscatels.

Javier Hidalgo, Bodegas Hidalgo, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, directing a tasting of Manzanilla Sherries.

Cataluña was represented by sweet wines from Penedès and Priorat; Valencia by sweet mistela moscatels; Navarra by late harvest moscatels and vinos rancios; Alicante by moscatels and fondillones; Jumilla by late harvest Monastrell-based wines; and Rueda, Rías Baixas and Yecla by late harvest entries.

Felipe Gútierrez de la Vega, owner of Casta Diva (Alicante), producer of fine moscatels and fondillóns.

Only in Jerez at Vinoble can wine professionals and aficionados alike find such a broad range of high quality "Noble" wines. Even one day at Vinoble is an education into this relatively little-known, magical world of late harvest, fortified, botrytisized, dessert and dry wines such as manzanilla, fino and amontillado Sherries. Touring the Spanish stands, I was able to taste an amazing array of wines that underscored the importance of this emerging genre of exceptional wines from all around Spain.

John Salvi, Master of Wine, tasting palo cortado at Palacio de Domecq.

Julian Jeffs, author of "Sherry," tasting palo cortado at Palacio de Domecq.

Also see:

Sherry’s Image Gets a Makeover


TopWineSpain Huelva May 2006 - A Photo Gallery

El Rocío, the famous Andalucian pilgrimage site was the
backdrop for a tasting of many of the top red wines of Spain.

Sara Pérez and husband René Barbier of Priorat.

Florentino Martinez & Miguel Angel de Gregorio
watch a veneciadora from Condado de Huelva.

Condado de Huelva Venenciadora

Benjamín Romeo, producer of Contador & Carlos Delgado, author & wine journalist

Pepe Mendoza, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza

Isaac Muga, Bodegas Muga

Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza

Carlos Falcó, Marqués de Griñon

Gerry Dawes & Alejandro Fernández,
Owner of Pesquera, Condado de Haza and other bodegas.

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