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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


Lampreia: Eating Lamprey Eel Along the Miño River in Southern Galicia - The Season Has Begun!

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It is lampreia (eel) season in Galicia Spain.  Be still my heart!

Galician Chef Pepe Solla of Casa Solla, Poio (Pontevedra), Galicia demonstrated lampreia eel cooking at a demonstration at Asisa Madrid Fusión 2017, Jan 25, 2017.  There is a cult-like devotion among some groups, mostly men, who make piligrimages to spot on the Miño River, the border between Spain and Portugal, when the eel are available around this time of year.

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Lamprey on the Spanish/Portuguese Border from Zachary Minot on Vimeo.

A few years ago, I took my friend, John Gottfried of on a trip to Galicia in northwestern Spain.  He hadn’t come to Galicia to try lampreia, eels coooked in a sauce of their own blood and wine. He'd come hoping to find bulots, one of his 100 Dishes You Have To Try Before You Die.  "Bulot is a species of large sea snail that combines the taste of abalone, with a mid-body tasting like snail and a tail like foie gras. . . ," which according to Gottfried, at $5 a bowl, is one of the unsung, unknown bargains of a trip to the French Atlantic Coast.

But, bulot don’t seem to thrive in the waters off Galicia so I tempted Gottfried with tales of centolla spider crabs, cigalas–Dublin Bay prawns--and lamprey eels cooked in a sauce of their own blood.

Now any sensible person would not seek out lampreia, a blood-and-flesh sucking eel-like creature that hitches parasitic rides on salmon and other fish as they come up-river to spawn. We are soon going to eat one of these frightening creatures!

The Minho River is the Spanish-Portuguese border. It is considered international waters and is the only part of Europe where it is allowed to net-harvest lampreia.

Elsewhere you have hook them, which bleeds them so there is no blood to make the sauce.

Gerry in Santiago de Compostela

For our exploration of Galicia, I was the guide for Gottfried and Zachary Minot, our video- grapher.  I am one of those people about whom Somerset Maugham wrote, “some men are born out of their due place.” I was born in Southern Illinois but an average of four trips to Spain a year for more than 40 years have made me more Spanish than many Spaniards.

With the Irmandade do Vinhos Galegos (Brotherhood of Galician Wines)
  The result is that I know where most of the good stuff is. We slept in monasteries and paradores, ate in fish canneries and in country restaurants, had shellfish-eating orgies and drank delicious Galician wines in the cellars with winemakers.
Mosteiro de San Clodio former monastery-hotel in the Ribeiro wine district, Ourense, Galicia.

One afternoon, we ended up in a bar-eatery in Salvaterra do Minho, a river town in the Condado do Tea wine district of Rias Baixas, where our Gallego friends, José Manuel Fernández "Anguiano;" Antonio Lago, owner of Señorío de Sobral Albariño winery; Pedro Seara, owner of Kefas Tayko (warm water Japanese spas in Ourense, where the Romans established baths from the hot springs there), and Emilio Cores Arenaz, who is co-jefe of the Cámara de Comercio (Chamber of Commerce) de Vilagarcía de Arousa promised to introduce us to this dubious delicacy, lampreia eel, the house speciality. 

There are signs for places serving lampriea in villages all along the Minho River.

These joints are country affairs which hold to the thousand year old tradition of cooking the lampreia in earthen stove-top cazeulas, or casseroles.

They make a sauce with onions, garlic, olive oil, red & white wine, the lampreia’s own blood and, sometimes the roe and in some places even a little chocolate.

There is something tribal and somewhat barbaric about eating lampreia. Faced with lampreia in blood sauce you should earn a medal just for trying it. This ominous-looking dish is not dissimilar to a rattlesnake cooked in squid ink. It has the texture of monkfish and the livery funk of grilled shad roe.

But once you get into it, the lampreia’s dark, primordial flavors are delicious. Well, at least once in a lifetime delicious.

You’ll need a couple of pitchers of Antonio Lago’s Señorío de Sobral Albariño white wine or a young, spritzy, local, Lambrusco-like red to make the recently slithering Lampreia, now reduced to sections in a wine-and-blood darkened sauce, go down a little easier.

Drinking Señorío de Sobral Albariño with Antonio Lago & Anguiano.

I don’t know if I’d travel the world to have lampreia again, but if I had some impressionable teenagers to gross out, I there is no doubt I’d come back.


About Gerry Dawes  (Click here on yellow link for)

Dawes Bio, Awards, Quotes from Famous Chefs and Culinarians, etc.  & Custom Tours of Spain

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 the December 2009, Dawes was he recipient of the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award. 

". . .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.

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

Gerry Dawes can be reached at; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected):

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