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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


Asturian Journal: March 19, A Visit to Monje, Producer of an Exceptional Cabrales-like Blue Cheese in Panes, Peñamellera Baja (Another excerpt from my article in the summer issue of culture: the word on cheese.)

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Monje “Blue,” Manuel Monje Torre, Panes, Peñamellera Baja (pasteurized cows’milk) 

 Monje "Blue," a first-rate Cabrales-type cheese from Peñamellera Baja.

On March 19, a very eventful day, after our visit to Peñamellera Alta (La Cueva Llonín and La Aula de la Miel), in the afternoon Nacho Molina took me to visit Manuel Monje Torre's quesería in Panes in Peñamellera Baja. 

Manuel Monje explains aspects of his cheese-making operations to Nacho Molino of COASA.

When the Denomination of Origin control board for Cabrales drew the demarcation lines, the village of Panes was left out.  Manuel Monje, who has made his pasteurized naturally bluing Monje cheese for more than sixty years, told me “Our cheeses are in the style of Cabrales, but each producer has his own style and methods of producing cheese, so our comes out somewhat different.  Some Cabrales cheeses come out too dark, some too white.  We strive for consistency of color and flavor.  We go for less weight volume–which he says is based on humidity–which means higher quality.  We used to age our cheeses in caves that had prehistoric paintings, about which I kept quiet.  When we moved our cheese curing operations to Panes, the Asturian government took over the caves.”  

Manuel Monje with his Monje "Blue," Queso Artesanal.

Monje is creamy, easy to eat and does not have as sharp a favor as some aged Cabrales.  When young, it does not appear to be as blue, but with air the color darkens.

Monje, a natural blue cheese.

After our visit to Monje, Nacho Molina and I had lunch (and a very revealing personal conversation--great guys' talk) at the Hotel-Restaurant Covadonga in the town of Panes.  After lunch Manuel Monje re-joined us for coffee at the bar, where I took these photographs of domino players and habitues of the bar. 

Check out the Summer issue of culture: the word on cheese, where I had an eight-page article with photographs on the Asturias, Beyond Cabrales, with profiles of Cabrales and six other wonderful Asturian cheeses, plus hotel and restaurant recommendations.   Only the title page and a few photos are excerpted here, but you can find out how to get a copy on the culture - the word on cheese website and read the rest of the article, plus articles by Max McCalman, Susan Herman Loomis, Janet Fletcher and an interview with Steve Jenkins.

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.

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. 

Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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