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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


Estatuas Humanas (Living Statues) - The lovely Karen from Argentina, Winged Victory on Les Rambles, Barcelona

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For the past several years, I have been photographing the Estatuas Humanas, the living statue performers that I encounter in Spain.  I have captured the large majority of them in Barcelona on Les Rambles, the city's raffish pedestrian mall cum communal outdoor parlor.  Each time I go, I encounter new statues, but many endure for several years, like Karen, from Argentina, who performs as a golden Winged Victory and is one of my favorites.  I usually talk to her every time I go the Ramblas and, on a couple of occasions, I have managed to capture her lovely image out of costume--sort of!

The lovely Karen (Argentina), Winged Victory. Les Rambles, Barcelona. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes ©2008.

Photographs featuring Karen as Winged Victory on Les Rambles.
(Double click to see enlarged view, click F11 for full screen.)

Pimientos de piquillo (piquillo peppers)

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Pimientos de piquillo, small "pico," or beak-shaped [literally like a bird beak],
red triangular-shaped piquillo peppers.

Pimientos de piquillo rellenos de mariscos (piquillo peppers with a shellfish filling),
Restaurante Ducay, Olite (Navarra).

Pimiento de piquillo rellenos de bacalao (piquillo peppers with a salt cod filling)
and a red pepper sauce. Restaurante San Ignacio, Pamplona (Navarra).

Pimientos de piquillo stuffed with bonito tuna.
Conservas Camporel, Cintruenigo, Navarra.

Slide show of pimientos de piquillo rellenos 
at Conservas Camporel in Cintruenigo, Navarra. 
(Double click on image to see enlarged version.)


Rusos de Álfaro: An exquisite, ethereal dessert from southeastern La Rioja that is little known outside its home region, but is one of the great desserts of Spain.

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(A Work in Progress by Gerry Dawes. Text & Photographs©2010.)

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First served to me at El Crucero restaurant, Corella (Navarra), rusos de Álfaro (literally, Russians from Álfaro) is an exquisite dessert that originated at Pastelería Malumbres in the late 19th Century in Álfaro, the main town of the La Rioja Baja winemaking district.   

Rusos de Álfaro, made with meringue, butter and sugar, sometimes flavored with almond or coffee cream, are world-class, ethereal, melt-in-your-mouth pastries that are delightful way to end a meal in southern Rioja or La Ribera de Navarra.  A dozen of these "rusos" weigh only 200 grams or about 7 ounces.

Marcos Malumbres of the founding family of Pastelería Malumbres showed Martín Orlando, the current owner since 1998 of what is now known as Confitería Marcos, how to make rusos de Álfaro and other desserts.   

Orlando told, "In three generations, the way of making these pastries has not changed, but they had to change their ideas about how to achieve the ethereal texture (of the Rusos de Álfaro) using modern means (i. e., kitchen equipment and ovens)."
Rusos de Álfaro was voted the most preferred dessert of la Rioja at La 
Rusos de Álfaro.

Rusos de Álfaro

La Receta (Recipe)

Recipe as published in Spanish on and attributed to Martín Orlando of Confitería Marcos.

Ingredientes. Tal como aparecen en el etiquetado del producto, en orden decreciente:
Ingredients.  As they appear on the label of the product, en descending order.

Azúcar (Sugar)
Huevo (Egg)
Mantequilla (Butter)

Elaboración (How to make rusos):

Se prepara el merengue con clara de huevo y azúcar.
Make a meringue with egg whites and sugar.

Se escudilla para darle la presentación que deseamos.
(Se utilizan planchas cuadradas para los rusos y redondas para las tartas).
Use a baking pan for the prestentation desired, square tins for the Rusos, round ones for tarts.

Se hornea.              
Bake the meringue.

Por otro lado, se prepara la crema de mantequilla con huevo, azúcar y mantequilla.
While the meringue is baking, make a butter cream with eggs, sugar and butter.

Cuando se tiene todo preparado y atemperado se procede al montaje.
When the meringue has been baked and the butter cream is ready, you can put the whole thing together.

Se van montando las sucesivas capas de merengue y crema de mantequilla.
Alternate succesive layers of merengue and butter cream.

Los rusos de Confitería Marcos se realizan con tres capas de merengue y dos de mantequilla.
At Confitería Marcos three layers of merengue and two of butter cream are used.

Después se corta en la presentación que se desee.
Cut the pastries into the sizes and shapes desired.  They are also lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Opciones para postres caseros:
  Options for Rusos de Álfaro made at home.

En Confitería Marcos se comercializan migas de pastel de ruso, las cuáles se pueden combinar de diferentes formas para hacer postres.
  At Confitería Marcos, they sell “migas de pastel de ruso” (crumbs or smaller pieces), which can be combined in different ways to make desserts.

Martín Orlando sugiere mezclarlas con productos ácidos como los frutos del bosque o ponerles una cobertura de chocolate por encima.
Martín Orlando suggests mixing the migas with berries or putting chocolate over them.

Otros productos que tienen como base el pastel ruso: 
Other preparations that have “ruso” pastry as their base:

Tarta de ruso suprema (en la que se enriquece la crema de mantequilla con praliné de almendra).

Ruso supreme tart (in which the butter cream is enriched with almond praline).

Tarta de café: Enriquecida con pasas al ron y fideos de chocolate
Coffee tart: Enriched with rum-soaked raisins and strands of chocolate.

Cuadradito de chocolate: Inspirado en un bombón italiano, se trata de una mantequilla de chocolate enriquecida con un licor de cacao.

Little chocolate ruso squares: Inspired by an Italian “bombon”, they are made with a chocolate butter cream laced with chocolate liquer. 

To make this pastry “more than the percentage of ingredients, the most important thing is the way of making it.  You have to achieve a perfect baking temperature and time and an optimum assembly of the tart (the proportion of filling to meringue,” Martín Orlando told, without revealing the proportions that he with the help of Señor Malumbre managed to perfect.

Like the article says, a maestro taught him how to do it, so they may not turn out exactly like those marvelous, ethereal rusos I had in Corella.


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. 

". . .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.


Pamplona--Matt Carney & Joe Distler at Las Fiestas de San Fermín, Talking About the Bulls and Running the Bulls

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Matt Carney & Joe Distler running the bulls in el encierro de Pamplona. 
Painting by Matador John Fulton.


José Andrés's Opening Party at Crystal City Jaleo in June for the Annual Jaleo Paella Festival with Guest Chef María José San Román of Monastrell and Taberna del Gourmet in Alicante.

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María José San Román serving her arroz a banda 'Taberna'
(paella with shrimp and fresh squid from La Taberna del Gourmet in Alicante)
at Jaleo's Paella Festival opening party.
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact for publication rights.

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ThinkFoodGroup CEO Rob Wilder, Guest Chef María José San Román, Spanish Chef José Pizarro and José Andrés at Jaleo's annual Paella Festival inaugural party, Crystal City.
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact for publication rights.

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(Double click on image, go to Picasa web albums, click on slideshow and the F11 for full screen view.)


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