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"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 of José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019

"Trust me everyone, I have traveled with this man, if Gerry Dawes tells you to eat somewhere it's like Bourdain, believe it!!" - - Chef Mark Kiffin, The Compound Restaurant, Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Spain wouldn’t be as known to Americans without the stories Gerry tells and writes.” - - Superstar Catalan Chef Ferran Adrià, elBulli

"But, for Gerry, Spain is more than just the Adriàs and (Juan Mari and Elena) Arzaks. He has connected with all manner of people working at every level and in every corner of Spain. I’m always amazed at this reach. You can step into a restaurant in the smallest town in Spain, and it turns out they know Gerry somehow. I remember one rainy night in Madrid during the 2003 Madrid Fusión congress. I wanted to go to my favorite place for patatas bravas, the ultimate tapa. But Gerry had another place in mind, and I didn’t know about it. But Gerry is always right. The potatoes at his place were amazing.” - - 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


Food Arts Silver Spoon Award to Gerry Dawes


 Premio Nacional de Gastronomía - - James Beard Foundation Nomination (Best Wine Writing)
Premio Periodistíco Cava

Gerry Dawes's Article Medieval Riches of El Cid's City (About Burgos, Spain)
Front Page, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section

 About Blog Author Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award)


10/25/2018

The Olive Harvest in Jaén & Córdoba, Spain

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Olives, Córdoba.

The next phase of my olive oil education produced this slide show on the tail-end of the olive harvest (la recogida) and Bailén de Oro olive oil mill (almazara) near Bailén in the Andalucian Jaén province with Anuncia Carpio and José Gálvez as my guides and luncheon hosts at the Resturante del Hotel Bailén (a former Parador de Turismo). Those of you who have ever driven through Jaén know that it is one huge olive orchard. 

Anuncia Carpio is emphatic in pointing out that "these photos are the last of the harvest, when the olives are too ripe (overripeness is something that doesn't stop many winemakers these days!) and most of them have fallen to the ground. The highest quality olive oils are extracted when the olives are green (during the first two weeks of November) and all of the fruit is taken directly from the trees."


Still, if you have never seen the olive harvest, even the end of la recogida is fascinating as I think you can see in the photographs in the following two slide shows.

(Double click on the image above for a large screen view
of my slide show on the fascinating harvest & milling process.)



After Jaén, I went on to take in another version of la recogida, this time with my old friend, Javier Hidalgo, owner of La Gitana Manzanilla (see COPA Jerez report and article on Manzanilla). We visited the Beloyana olive oil producing estate of Soledad Serrano near Espejo, a half hour southeast of Córdoba.




(Double click on the image above for a large screen view
of my slide show on the fascinating harvest & milling process.)


We spent the night at the Beloyana estate and my companion, Kay and I got a chance to go into Córdoba and arrived at the gates of La Mezquita just as the 5:30 bells were tolling. La Mezquita closes at six, but the security guards refused to let us in even for a quick look at it and closed the door in our faces, even after we told them that we had come to Córdoba especially for that. They were quite antipático in the bargain. These people live off tourism, but they seem to really dislike tourists, or what they think are tourists.

We strolled around the old quarter until it was time for the taberna/mesón of my old friend, Juan Peña, to open. Juan was not due until 10 p.m., but I had an employee call him and he soon appeared as did a selection of his incredible dishes, including the best salmorejo and berenjenas fritas (fried eggplant sticks) I have ever tasted. Juan wife, Mari Carmen, makes a number of salmorejos--his spectacularly good tomato-based one is the benchmark for this wonderful thick gazpacho-like dish that can be used like a sauce with his supernal fried eggplant. He also makes a green-and-white asparagus salmorejo and garnishes both with chopped Pedroches jamón Ibérico (a little-known, but now widely served ham from a mountain valley on the north side of the Sierra Morena mountains).

(Double click on the image above for a large screen viewof my slide show on the fascinating harvest & milling process.)

About the author

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.

Pilot for a Bourdainesque 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 gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

Pulpo a la Gallega (Gal: Polbo a la Galega), Octopus Galician Style is Close to Being the National Dish of Galicia, is Enjoyed All Over Spain and is a Great Match for Ribeiro Wines


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Polbo (pulpo, or octopus) is so highly estemed in Galicia that monuments such as this public water source 
in the village at Vilanova de Arosa (Pontevedra) is dedicated to Galician women cooking octopus. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Perhaps with the exception of lacón con grelos (a dish made with grelos, turnip or parsnip greens, pork shoulder, chorizo, potatoes and Spanish pimentón) and caldo gallego (a stew of pork, beef and or chicken with chorizo and/or bacon; turnip greens, collard greens or green cabbage; white beans and potatoes), pulpo a la gallega (polbo a la galega in Galcian) is the most ubiquitous dish in Galicia.  Although it is a dish now served in many parts of Spain, the Gallegos never seem to get enough of it. 

Steamed polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Gallician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, though now prohibited in some restaurants by the health authorities (Duh! The restaurants wash the plates in hot water like everything else), is best served on a wooden plate, which absorbs excess water.  At Bar Pintos, Cambados (Pontevedra), Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Octopus is usually frozen to tenderize it--sometimes it is pounded--then boiled until tender in a stock pot or, in Galician fiestas, in large metal kettles. The steamed octopus is then cut with kitchen shears with bit-sized pieces, placed on a plate (best on the now forbidden [in restaurants, at least] round wooden plates, as served at fiestas; the wooden plates absorb some of the water, instead of allowing it to pool up below the octopus as on a normal plate. After the octopus is plated, it is dressed with Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, speared with toothpicks and served with good Galician bread. Sometimes steamed potatoes, another adored Galician staple are served with the pulpo.


Galician woman outside a restaurant in Ribadavia (Ourense), Galicia, preparing steamed
 polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Galician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

It is claimed that the best octopus cooks are women from the inland towns of Carballiño and Ribadavia in the province of Ourense.  Since the best polbo a la galega supposedly comes from frozen octopus, this is not as unreasonable as it sounds, even though these towns are at least an hour from the nearest seacoast.  One Sunday morning in the center of Ribadavia, which has an exceptional old Jewish quarter (14th-16th centuries), I encountered a woman in front of a bar preparing polbo a la galega (see photos in slide show).


Pulpo that has been steamed, at a restaurant in Ribadavia in the Ribeiro wine district. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Another day, I was invited by my friend Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, who makes an exceptional Ribeiro wine in nearby Beade, to a special polbo a la galega day at a restaurant in Ribadavia.  The was a wait to get into the restaurant even though this dish can be found in almost any tapas bar or traditional restaurant in Galicia on any given day. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.


Slide show, Octopus.  
(Double click on images to enlarge.)


A modern rendition of pulpo a la gallega, this poached octopus in a pure of potatoes with Spanish pimentón (paprika) and olive oil, at Ibiza Tapas, 93 Mill Plain Rd, Danbury, CT (203) 616-5731, October 23, 2015. Ibiza owner and native Gallego Ignacio Blanco is a veteran restaurateur from Galicia, who achieved three stars from the New York Times for his NYC restaurant Meigas, which closed after 9/11. Ignacio and his two chefs have developed a series of dishes that amount to some of the greatest Spanish tapas I have ever eaten in the United States. For young local chefs who want to learn about modernized traditional Spanish cuisine done by a real professional, if you can't get to Spain right now, get thyself to Danbury, Connecticut to this unassuming, but attractively decorated restaurant in an unprepossessing little shopping center on the Western edge of Danbury, just off Exit Two (Mill Plain Road/ Route 2012). Photo by Gerry Dawes©2015 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Pinterest. Samsung Galaxy S5 Phone Camera 16MB.
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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. 

 
Trailer for a proposed reality television series  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

10/08/2018

Spanish Brandies to Warm Your Soul


* * * * *
Text & Photos
by Gerry Dawes
©2018

(*See postscript about Los Artesanos 1902* in Madrid.)
 
Pouring Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez in warmed snifters at , like it used to be done at the Gran Café in Granada.

There used to be a wonderful classic bar called the Gran Café Granada, located in the center of that great old Moorish city in Southern Spain.  The Gran Café, known to generations of granadinos as "El Suizo," was near an equally wonderful old hotel, the Victoria, where I used to stay when I lived in Spain and would go periodically to Granada to visit the magical Alhambra and the gardens of the Generalife; the Cathedral's Royal Chapel to see the tombs of Isabel and Ferdinand and their daughter and son-in-law, Juana la Loca and Phillip the Fair; and the Sacristy, just off the Royal Chapel, where I was smitten with the exquisite beauty of Queen Isabela's superb, once-lost collection of Flemish masterpieces by Van der Weyden, Memling, and Bouts.

 The Alhambra, Granada.

 A XV Century Hans Memling, one of the great paintings in the Flemish collection of La Capilla Real in Granada.

 Tomb of Queen Isabel and King Fernando in La Capilla Real in Granada.

The Hotel Victoria is now a hotel in the NHCollection group and I do not know if the kept the naughty Victorian cartoons on the walls of its bar (I will find out soon), but El Suizo hung on until the 1990s when it was demolished for a department store, an apartment building, or God knows what.  El Suizo was one of those big, bright places with lots of big mirrors, columns holding up the tall ceilings, and marble-topped, wrought-iron tables; it was like those clean, well-lighted places that Hemingway wrote about.

El Suizo had journeyman waiters with white jackets who would warm your brandy glasses for you on cold nights in February, when even the palm trees and olive groves up on the the fabled Alhambra hill would be dusted with new snow blown down from the Sierra Nevadas that tower majestically over the landscape south of town.  Nothing much could ever warm your feet in Andalucia in the winter in those days; the Andalucians just simply refused to acknowledge that cold was a factor in these Southern climes, so public places (and most private ones, too), lacked central heating.  But, you could heat your insides with a good shot of Spanish brandy, especially when it was warmed for you like it was by the waiters at the El Suizo.

 A white-jacketed waiter at Churrería-Chocolatería Los Artesanos 1902 in Madrid, bringing brandy snifters with hot water to warm them like it used to be done at the Gran Café in Granada.

On this occasion, a well-heeled friend from America was inviting us to the best, so we each chose a different top-of-the-line Jerez brandy to compare.  We ordered the smooth, well-balanced Carlos I (Primero) from Domecq, the paler, elegant Lepanto from Gonzalez-Byass, and the dark velvety Gran Duque de Alba.

Our waiter at the El Suizo came to our table bearing a tray with steaming demi-tasse cups of strong, black Spanish café, and three brandy snifters filled with piping hot water, each topped with a cloth napkin. 

 At Churrería-Chocolatería Los Artesanos 1902 in Madrid, brandy snifters with hot water to warm them like it used to be done at the Gran Café in Granada.
 
The waiter took the snifters one at a time, removed its napkin, poured off the hot water into metal pitcher, and carefully dried each glass.  Then he poured a generous ration of the brandy, re-covered each snifter with a napkin, and placed them in front of us to allow the warming aromas to build to a crescendo.

 Pouring Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez in warmed snifters at Los Artesanos 1902 in Madrid, like it used to be done at the Gran Café in Granada.

I had chosen Gran Duque de Alba.  As I removed the napkin from the heated glass, the exotic, caramel-laced vapors rushed out with a promise of warmth that one sip of the lush brandy soon delivered.  And, although those latter-day saints, the perfectionists who continually dissect the fine art of drinking, will tell you that you are not supposed to do this to fine spirits, I will tell you that none but a Philistine could resist the ritual warming of the brandy at El Suizo on a winter's night in Granada.

The Brandy de Jerez denominación de origen was created to protect the sales domain of the big Sherry producers who make this fine stuff, and also to find a good excuse to promote the brandies, since the sale of spirits is vitally important to many Sherry bodegas.  The denominación específica (DE), or specific denomination, Brandy de Jerez refers as much to the method of elaboration as it does to region since most of the wine distilled for use in Jerez brandies comes from La Mancha and Extremadura, although, obviously, the brandy must be aged in Jerez to qualify for this new denominación.  And it should be remembered that Brandy de Jerez does not include any of the superb Charentais-method brandies of Catalunya, nor any of the other brandies of Spain.

In Spain practically every hotel, restaurant, and bar carries a broad selection of Spanish brandies ranging from inexpensive styles made by the continuous distillation process to expensive brands produced by long solera aging and/or the French Charentais (pot-still) process.  Although brandy is produced all across Spain, it is the big sherry producers of Jerez who account for the majority of Spanish brandies, and it is their brands that you are most likely to encounter both in Spain and abroad.  The unique qualities of Jerez brandies come from being aged in the solera system like sherry, which not only guarantees a continuity of quality and style, it allows the young brandy to assume the characteristics of the older, more mature, stocks.

The best Jerez brandies, ranked by many experts alongside French cognac and armagnac as among the top brandies in the world, are now called Solera Gran Reserva, after the method of production that requires a minimum of three years of barrel aging.  Most of these fine, smooth old Gran Reserva brandies, however, spend 10 to 15 years in a solera that originally may have been established up to a hundred years ago.  They are sweeter, smoother, softer, and not as fiery as cognac or armagnac.

Several top brands of Solera Gran Reserva Brandies de Jerez are available in the United States.  Most of these fine Solera Gran Reserva brandies are put up in attractive stoppered glass decanters or unusually shaped bottles packed in red felt boxes, satin-lined boxes, and even cork boxes that make distinctive, prestigious gifts for the holidays.  Besides the luxury brandies, Gran Duque de Alba, Lepanto, and Domecq's Carlos I, that we drank at El Suizo, there are there are several other stellar brands to consider: the superb Sánchez Romate Hermanos Cardenal Mendoza, an exceptional brandy in a cork box; Domecq's top-of-the-line Carlos I Imperial, in a crystal decanter; Osborne's Conde de Osborne in an odd-shaped bottle originally designed by Salvador Dali; and Garvey's Renacimiento (Renaissance), a very fine, smooth old brandy from the bodega that makes San Patricio fino sherry.

- - The End - -

*Postcript:   My experiences with this classic Brandy warming technique was in the early 1970s.  I would see it repeated on a few other occasions, usually in Sevilla and usually when I specifically requested it, but I had none seen this done for decades until I took Chefs Ryan McIlwraith and Joel Ehrlich (Bellota and Barcina, San Francisco) on an exploratory gastronomic and wine trip around Spain in 2014 prior to the opening of Bellota.  One of my old haunts in Madrid, the classic Chocolatería San Ginés had changed hands and no longer served good Brandies de Jerez, with which I used to spike the chocolate that I dipped my churros in.  With a little research, I discovered Churrería-Chocolatería Los Artesanos 1902, which is just a couple of blocks from  Chocolatería San Ginés, is less mobbed and has a full bar, plus the chocolate and churros are just as good and the Brandy service is terrific.


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 Gastronomy Blogs
 About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on WPWL 103.7 FM Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York.



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. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 
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