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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)


4/06/2019

Sephardic Spain: Update on My Search for Jewish Historical Sites in Spain Part II of III The Call, Barcelona's Former Jewish Quarter with Barcelona Expert George Semler


* * * * * 
Barcelona: The Call, Former Jewish Quarter


George Semler in front of the Synagoga Mayor in the Call, the old Jewish Quarter, of Barcelona. 

 The ancient Synagoga Mayor in El Call de Barcelona is open everyday, but Saturday, the day we were there.

At the end of the first ten days of the trip, I said adios to my traveling companions, Gil Avital and David Spell of Elevation Wine Partners, when we finished our wine mission in Montsant.  Then my long-time friend Catalan wine maestro Agustí Torelló, producer (with his son Agustí Torelló Roca) of AT Roca wines, drove me to the Barrio de Sarrià, in northern Barcelona, where I spent two delightful days and nights with my very old excelentisima friends, writer George Semler and his wife, Lucie Hayes Semler, both of whom I have know for some fifty years.  

 George Semler with a bottle of AT Roca Rosat Reserva Brut sparkling wine from my long-time friend Catalan wine maestro Agustí Torelló Sibil, producer (with his son Agustí Torelló Roca) of AT Roca.


 
My long-time friend Catalan wine maestro Agustí Torelló Sibil, producer (with his son Agustí Torelló Roca) of AT Roca tasting red wines in Montsant, Cornudella de Montsant.


I first met the hiking, hunting and fishing enthusiast George in Pamplona during the Fiestas de San Fermín on the outdoor terrace of the famous Bar Txoko on the Plaza del Castillo.   George, who had been fishing for trout  in the cold streams of the Pyrenees above Pamplona, the streams Ernest Hemingway fished and wrote about in The Sun Also Rises, had caught some trout and was cooking them for breakfast under a table on the Bar Txoko terrace.  This is no fish story, I have a photo of George cooking the trout.  I just have to find it and the negatives, which are buried in fifty years of personal detritus somewhere in the depths of our basement in Putnam County, New York. 

 Trout fishing in the Pyrenees in Navarra, Spain.

Now, George Semler is a bonafide expert on a lot of stuff.  He a graduate of Yale and a Vietnam veteran, who has lived with Lucie  in Spain for more than fifty years.  Lucie taught school in Barcelona and George coached hockey, then made his way as a writer.   He has written several books on Spain (and contributed to multiple guidebooks) that I know of, Madridwalks and Barcelonawalks (HENRY HOLT WALKS SERIES) and has published articles in Saveur, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times and many others.  
 

Barcelonawalks by George Semler.

When I say that George knows Madrid and Barcelona, stone-by-stone, I am not exaggerating.  Walking through Barcelona with him is like being with a walking encyclopedia.  He knows EVERYTHING and in-depth.   Which, brings us to George giving me (and Lucie) a marvelous tour of Barcelona’s relatively small Call, or former Jewish quarter.  He even pointed out a stone door frame with a niche where a mezzuzah might have been placed (except the niche was vertical, not slanted with the top inclined towards the interior).   (George also took me inside a jewelry shop that a glass interior panes covering a stretch of the old walls of the city.)  

 George Semler showing his wife Lucie and me el Call, the old Jewish Quarter of Barcelona.


 George even pointed out a stone door frame with a niche where a mezzuzah might have been placed (except the niche was vertical, not slanted with the top inclined towards the interior).

We tried to visit the Synagoga Mayor, thought to be the oldest synagogue in Europe and found that Saturday is the only day that it is closed.  But, we were able to visit part of MUHBA El Call (the Museum of the History of Barcelona - Jewish Quarter), which via glass floors allows visitors to see the foundations of the 13th-14th Century Jewish home belonging to veil weaver Jucef Bonhiac and has displays with other Jewish memorabilia found in the old quarter.  Compared to other Jewish quarters that I have known in Spain, this one in Barcelona is relatively small, but nonetheless it was important, up until 1391, when the Jews in the Call were either massacred or forced to convert to Christianity, a century before Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand issued the expulsion order. 

 George Semler pointing out something on the map of Barcelona's Jewish Call to his wife Lucie Hayes Semler at MUHBA El Call (the Museum of the History of Barcelona - Jewish Quarter) in Barcelona.

Hebrew inscription of Proverbs 11.25 at MUHBA El Call (the Museum of the History of Barcelona - Jewish Quarter) in Barcelona.

 English translation (enlarged).

Painting of Jews in the Middle Ages at MUHBA El Call (the Museum of the History of Barcelona - Jewish Quarter) in Barcelona.
 
I have been to Barcelona dozens of times, but this is the first time that I visited the Call with any purpose, but with George Semler as my guide, I made some discoveries to add to my knowledge of Jewish Spain. 

More on Sephardic Spain:
  
4/01/2019 Sephardic Spain: Update on My Search for Jewish Historical Sites in Spain Part I of III Return to Ribadavia (Galicia) & La Tafona de Herminia's Sephardic Recipe Pastries 
 
  
  
  
 
  

 * * * * *
  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
 
Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington,
in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.
 _______________________________________________________________________________________
 Gastronomy Blogs

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 Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

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

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