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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


Spain Chronicles: My Estimated 115th Round Trip to Spain (from the U. S.) Day One Madrid - My 17th (of 17) Year Attending The Madrid Fusión Gastronomic Conference

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(Note:  I figure that this trip, for The Madrid Fusión Gastronomic Conference and a jaunt through Andalucía, may have been #115 (round trips from the U. S.) and I was glad to be away from DumbFlandia!)

Gerry Dawes and Harold Heckle at the corner table under the bust of King Juan Carlos I, who used to frequent Casa Lucio.

Sunday, Jan. 27 Arrive Madrid

The flight from JFK - NYC arrived a little early.  There was a major taxi strike in Madrid.  I caught the Airport Express bus for 5 Euros to La Plaza de Cibeles, then caught the #1 city bus to the bus stop just by the Argüelles Metro Station and Madrid Hotel Courtyard by Marriott, Calle Princesa 40 was right there inside the big El Corte Ingles shopping center.   

The central Madrid traffic circle, La Plaza de Cibeles, one of the Madrid Airport Express Bus Stops.

I was given a room at the Marriott around 11 a.m. with no wait, got in to Room 1005 with the large Goya Family of Carlos IV painting hanging above the head of the bed, unpacked and took a nap.  I  almost asked to have my room changed, because I was uncomfortable under the hulking Goya portrait of the despicable corrupt royal family who sold Spain down the river to Napoleon, especially since it reminded me of our current situation in America.

"This portrait of the family of King Carlos IV (1748-1819)was painted in Aranjuez and Madrid in the spring and summer of 1800, shortly after Goya was named First Chamber Painter. It clearly show´s the artist´s mastery at individualizing characters. The forerunners to this complex composition are Louis-Michel van Loo´s Portrait of Felipe V and his Family (P02283) and Velázquez´s Las Meninas (P01174), both of which are in the Prado Museum Collection. The scene is presided over by Queen María Luisa de Parma (1751-1818) and King Carlos IV, at the center. Beside them are their children, the infante Francisco de Paula (1794-1865) and the infanta María Isabel (1789-1848). On the left are the Prince of Asturias and future Fernando VII (1784-1833), wearing blue; the infante Carlos María de Isidro (1788-1855), who was second in succession to the throne; the infanta María Josefa (1744-1801), who was the King´s sister; and an unidentified young woman. On the right are the infante Antonio Pascual (1755-1817), the King´s brother; a rendering in profile of Carlota Joaquina (1775-1830), Queen of Portugal and eldest daughter of the Monarchs and the Prince and Princess of Parma: infanta María Luisa (1782-1824) holding her son Carlos Luis (1799-1883); and her husband, Luis de Bourbon, the future King of Etruria. 

Of special interest here is the careful rendering of the clothing, which was the latest fashion at that time, and of the jewels, which may have been created by the Court Jeweler, Chopinot; as well as the honors, such as the sashs of the Order of Carlos III and of the recently-created Order of María Luisa, the Golden Fleece, and the crosses of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Genaro. The harmonious and clear yet complex composition reveals the artist´s mastery. The subtle definition of characters bears witness to the painter´s ability to analyze human beings. This work is listed in Madrid´s Royal Palace in 1814 and in the Prado Museum collection in 1824."

My friend, British journalist Harold Heckle came to my hotel, then we went down to the Arguelles subway station.  Harold generously purchased a 12.2 Euro refill on my Metro card, which still had 2 rides left from last year.  We took the Metro to la Puerta del Sol and walked through the Plaza Mayor and down Cava Baja to Casa Lucio.  It was a good walk on a beautiful day in Madrid, probably in the 60s, around low 40s, high 30s at night.

Journalist Harold Heckle, who lives and works in Madrid, at Casa Lucio with a glass of La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi and a plate of grilled mushrooms.

At Lucio, after I had greeted all the barmen, Lucio’s son Javier told us that Lucio does not come to the restaurant at night anymore and took us to a prime corner table under the bust of King Juan Carlos.  We had an ensalada, without the cebollas, just good lettuce and good small tomatoes in vinegar and oil. La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi 2012 and Cune Reserva 2014.  Alberdi was surprisingly good.We also had setas a la plancha (plancha grilled mushrooms) with two raw egg yolks (which I request, does not ordinarily come with the dish), huevos estrellados con patatas (fried eggs “broken” over fried potatoes) and alubias con faisan (beans with shredded pheasant and a couple of white whole onions) and for dessert, arroz con leche, rice pudding with Alicante style with a crème brulee caramelized crust.  
Grilled mushrooms with two raw egg yolks, which I order separately, to put on the hot mushrooms as a sauce, at Casa Lucio, Madrid, Jan. 27, 2019.

Alubias con faisán (beans with shredded pheasant and a couple of white whole onions) at Casa Lucio.  Photo by Harold Heckle.

Harold and I stayed talking until about 12:30 then we walked back through the Plaza Mayor, which was nearly deserted, to sparsely populated streets with few people around, probably because of the taxi strike and the hour, then to Metro Puerta del Sol, where we split up and I caught the #3 line to Argüelles, which was four stops, Callao, Plaza de España, Ventura Rodriguez, Argüelles, arrived at 1 a.m., talked to Kay on WhatsApp, worked on some e-mails and Facebook.  

 Not many people on the Madrid Metro on a Sunday night at 1 a.m.
I was way tired and went to bed.  Windows do not open in this hotel to let fresh air in.  Woke up twice feeling very dry, needed the humidifier we use at home, but I was very happy to be back in Madrid after a year's absence.  
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About Gerry Dawes

"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

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.  Gerry Dawes & Friends can be heard live on Mondays from 7-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 2-3 p.m. at

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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