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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


Alicante: Monastrell & La Taberna del Gourmet

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Monastrell, calle San Fernando 10, 03002 Alicante. 96 520 03 63. Chef María José San Román, who worked under Catalan three-star chef Joan Roca has made Monastrell (named for the local red grape, the French mouvedre) the top modern cuisine choice in the capital.

And María José is an azafrán (saffron) expert (see this recent article in The New York Times; she is working on a book on saffron.

She uses Spanish azafrán, often almost imperceptibly, in many of her dishes, including desserts. Opt for her tasting menu and be surprised by her ideas, combinations and the quality of the ingredients she uses.

La Taberna del Gourmet (Taberna, Delicatessen & Wine Bar), San Fernando 10, Alicante. 965-204-233. María José San Román's superb, quality product-driven, taberna and wine bar, next door to Monastrell and one of the best traditional cuisine restaurants in La Comunitat Valenciana. Somehow you must work María José's restaurants (she also owns Los Mejillones [The Mussels], a block away on the Esplanada de España) into your stay in Alicante, even if it is just some tapas at the bar at La Taberna del Gourmet, which is run by Geni Perramón, daughter of María José and El Portero "Pitu" Perramón.

My recommendation at La Taberna, which is also "Pitu"'s (legendary former goalkeeper for the Spanish national handball team) pride and joy, is to put yourself in the hands of Geni and ask her (drop my name) to do a tasting luncheon of stellar modernized traditional offerings.

Depending on the season, a "little" sampling luncheon may include such dishes as little Navarrese txistorra chorizos; a shared portion of arrós con magro y verduras (paella-like rice with pork and vegetables), maybe the best patatas bravas (saffron-infused) in Spain; splendid, supernal gambas rojas (legendary prawns from the Alicante coast); and unbeatable grilled sepionets (small cuttle fish).

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, go on with white esparragos de Navarra with a vinagreta de solera de requena (aged vinegar); an ensalada méditerraneo (arugula , goat cheese cubes, tomatoes and siurana olive oil),;spectacularly good croquetas de chorizo Ibérico; equally spectacular alcachofa a vinagreta (artichokes); pan con tomate y anchoas (bread rubbed with tomate and topped with house-cured anchovies; a little escalivada montadito con foie (grilled vegetables on a toast round with foie gras); riñoncitos de lechazo (milk-fed lamb kidneys) and finish up with a bit of arrós caldoso con cigala y sepia en dados (a delicious soupy marinera rice with chunks of Dublin Bay prawns and sepia cuttle fish).

The wine: A Godello from Valdeorras.

Of course, a little dessert won't hurt, so try María José's bizcocho de tocino de cielo, borracho de lima, freson and helado de gengibre, a take off on the classic, normally sinfully rich, lighter in this version tocino de cielo (read eggs and sugar), with lime, strawberries and a ginger ice cream.

Or course, you don't have to do this whole-nine-yards-menu, which I am very honored to say is now called "El Menu de Gerry Dawes," you can tell Geni when to stop anytime.


  1. Well I see you got quite a good description of the offerings at Taberna, I actually worked at Monastrell for a few months in the fall and took my daily family meals at Taberna. I had been at each a few times before on my own dollar, and about 6 months after moving to alicante I decided to get back into the culinary scene and met with them. I'm working at another place...but still do recommend Taberna for a great tapas meal. I'd hold off on the Monastrell recommendation, though, from the other side of that little peek a boo window its quite a different story that what you may be led to believe.

  2. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Thanks for your comments, on three of my posts no less, but regardless of whether you worked at Monastrell or not, I have eaten there, Maria Jose is a very good friend of mine and I have not been led to believe anything by anyone. Maria Jose is a great chef and Monastrell is a very good modern cuisine restaurant. I do prefer La Taberna del Gourmet, because I generally prefer good traditional cuisine, better than ever now, since many are using better ingredients and techniques. Despite what some would have people believe, Spain's traditional cuisine is at its best moment in history. The quality is exceptional.

  3. They are both great places, aren't they? My wife and I are happy to have some satisfying places to dine in our city. I'm just getting started looking through your blog, but thanks in advance for all the fantastic info.


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