Tag Archives: cava

Living the Dream (Spanish wine and cheese edition)

During the past week, I have attended two very important events related to the products of Spain. Sure, it was a whirlwind of shaking hands, networking, learning about wines that have recently been imported to the US, and receiving the 3000+ year history of Spanish cheese production in a 2 hour class.  Despite all of the work, I am happy to report that both events were ridiculously fun.

 

 

On October 6, I attended Great Match, an event that brings Spanish winery representatives, importers, retailers, and consumers together for a day that begins with workshops and ends with tastings.  This event is unique in that it highlights ALL wine-producing regions of Spain, rather than simply continuing to market already-famous varietals and bodegas.

Blanca gave a wonderful explanation of the history of Spanish cheese production, how Sephardic culture influenced Spanish cheese production, and reasons why many Spanish cheeses are not eligible for import to the US.  Spanish cheese must be an interesting and exciting market to enter; in 1998, there were only 11 DOPs (cheese-producing regions protected by the Spanish government) and now there are 26.

 

Naturally, I asked Blanca where one can purchase Spanish cheeses in Chicago.  My next project: to chat with the owners of these stores and maybe even observe purchasing patterns.  I’d love to sell lesser-known cheeses (such as arzua ulloa from Galicia and gamonedo from Asturias) , but Blanca explained that many people here confuse Mexican manchego and Spanish manchego…it looks there’s some teaching to be done as well!

Restaurant Review: Bar Basque (NYC)

It is no surprise that the interior of Bar Basque was designed by Syd Meade.  The restaurant is completely Tron-ified – from the blue glowing lights along the wall, to the use of different textures and shapes along the walls.  

 

To me, the overabundance of red made the place seem more like a strip club and less like a tapas joint.  Go figure that a whole bunch of marketing gurus take something that is very rustic and communal in Spain and turn it into a trendy place for cougars to show off their Helmut Lang and Jimmy Choo.

 

In Spain, people enjoy taking their sweet time.  I am not sure if Bar Basque was going for authenticity in this respect, but it took a long time to check-in with the maitre’d and then leave my items at the coat check.  Same goes for the wait time on the Tempranillo and Albarino that my sister and I ordered from the bar.  For a tapas bar, I was disappointed with the wine selection.  The restaurant caters to those who drink $18 cocktails, rather than a glass of Rioja.

 

I did appreciate that the maitre’d allowed us to select the table and seating area we wanted.  The sofas seemed like an awkward way to eat dinner, and I didn’t plan on cuddling up with anyone after dinner, so high-top table it was.  Because it was snowing that evening, the floor-to ceiling windows made it seem like I was dining inside of a snowglobe.

 

Jen was running a little late and as I was waiting for her and my glass of wine at our table, one of the waiters put jamon iberico on the table.  I would have hoped that the food would not start coming until Jen arrived – I explained this to the waitress and she was very apologetic.

 

My sister and I participated in one of the deals through Gilt, so we were offered a set menu which came with a bottle of cava and an array of tapas for us to share.

Jamon_iberico

Jamon Iberico de Bellota.  The reason why I could never be a complete vegetarian.

Jamon iberico de bellota – Excellent.  They definitely didn’t skimp and give us the cheap stuff.  The cuts were perfect, with the right amount of fat.

Tapas_selection

Time for some tapas!

Gildas – A gilda is an anchovy, an olive, and a guindilla pepper on a stick.  (“Gilda” literally translates to lollipop.)  Three simple ingredients, yet the flavor is so complex due to the acidity of the anchovy and the pickled (and slightly hot) pepper.

 

Truffled Idiazabal Pops – These came in little crispy cones – really cute presentation.  Idiazabal is one of my favorite Basque cheeses.  It is smooth and smoky, but also a little sharp.

 

Croquetas – These were filled with both bacalao and ham, in addition to mushrooms.  A lot of flavors were happening here, but oddly enough, I thought that the mushroom was the most pronounced.  The consistency of both the exterior and inside of the croquetas were perfect though.

 

Tortilla – A classic (and one of my favorite tapas) that had plenty of sliced potatoes and just enough onion.  Instead of aioli, the tortilla was topped with piquillo red peppers, giving this dish both savory and sweet qualities.  this was great!

 

Peekytoe crab gratin and house smoked trout – Both of these tapas were served as pintxos.  The trout was my favorite of the two due to its simplicity.  Even Jen F., who detests fish, liked these.

 

Boquerones – Nothing like a healthy dose of white anchovies.  Also very simple, but paired very well with the cava.

 

I wish that dessert could have been up to par with the rest of the meal.  Once again, the mini crispy cones were broken out, but this time, for ice cream.  Jen and I shared pear and apple ice creams – the fruit flavor was too subtle and faint.  There was also a honey flan, which was just okay (flan isn’t typically something I would order, as it is pretty simple to make).  The best was a rich chocolate ganache cake that had crispy chocolate wafer layers.  Jen described it as an “extremely rich, dark chocolate Kit Kat.”

 

Although I did enjoy the food overall, the slightly inconsistent service (this shouldn’t happen at a restaurant that charges these prices!), and slightly odd decor take Bar Basque dilute my opinion.  I will be back to see if this was just a “one-off” event and to get a better idea of other tapas on the menu.