Breaking news from the world of Sport: Spain has just defeated Russia with a score of 3-0 in the semi-final match of the European Cup (soccer) and will now face Germany in the final game on Sunday. Unconfirmed reports have USA-based fans of team España flocking to local Spanish specialty stores to stock up on supplies of traditional food and beverages for the upcoming championship match. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Monthly Archives: June 2008
It happens every time I travel in Western Europe. Soon after arriving (sometimes even during the flight over) I discover that whatever plans I have made for a certain day will require significant alteration because of one of several varieties of huelga de trabajo (labor strike). Sometimes it’s the bus drivers or garbage collectors and other times it’s the museum ticket takers or other less than crucial service providers, but still it always comes as a surprise to me the visiting foreigner and has a way of messing up my plans. Of course it could also be a Saint’s birthday, bank holiday or other state mandated day off that brings everything to a full stop, leaving us hapless tourists to wander aimlessly in search of amusement, which helps explain why the local residents never seem too put out by the break from routine. They are used to it.
At present, truck drivers in several EU countries are staging protests over the cost of fuel. Unlike the ‘vacation surprises’ that don’t make much news over here, these current strikes are being felt far and wide. The effects are particularly noticeable in the world of imported wine. Suppliers here are running out of certain products and have no estimate on when they will receive new shipments.
So what are wine drinkers to do in this moment of uncertainty? Fear not, I say, for we have plenty of options and choices still available. While the flood of new products is experiencing a temporary lull, we still have hundreds of wines in stock from all across Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too). If your favorite brand is momentarily missing from the shelf, take this opportunity to try a neighboring wine with similar characteristics. It is just like being on a trip to Spain and realizing that you have to change you plans because the trains are not running or your favorite restaurant has abruptly closed for a month long vacation (a month? what must that be like?) leading you to try some alternate place that can often turn into a wonderful new experience.
Speaking of new experiences, this Sunday, June 29th, Berkeley will host the 3rd annual International Food Festival. The Spanish Table will be cooking up a big paella and handing out samples right here in the store starting at 1 pm. This has been one of the big hits of the festival in previous years and will be a tasty introduction to any of you that have yet to experience the fun and excitement of paella first hand.
I will be demonstrating a simple and delicious tapa recipe at 3:30 pm on the Kitchen On Fire cooking stage in the bank parking lot down the street from The Spanish Table. Here is the recipe I will be doing. Come see me on Sunday and get a taste of this quick and easy appetizer, and then take this recipe home and make this for yourself.
I’ll see you at the fiesta!
Olivada and Piquillo Montadito (makes about 35-40)
1 lb. pitted olives (green or black)
1 sml can of anchovies (55gr./2 oz. net weight)
1 clove garlic
1 sml. Jar piquillo peppers (185 gr./6.5 oz. net weight)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 ‘baguette’ style French bread
Pit olives if necessary. Slice peppers into thin strips. Slice bread into 1/2 inch rounds. Finely mince garlic and combine with olives, anchovies and olive oil in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Add a bit more oil if it seems too chunky (it should be spreadable). Spread one teaspoon of olivada on each slice of bread, edge to edge. Garnish with one strip of pepper. Serve.
While we await new products, here are some ‘greatest hits’ from recent newsletters:
Luis Pato Espumante Bruto This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99
Bereziartua Apple Cider At last, it has arrived! Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99
Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99
Nuevomundo Cabernet/Carmenere Reserve 2005 This Chilean blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley is dark and spicy with underlying complexity from 14 months of oak barrel ageing. The more firmly structured Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 60% of the blend and finds counterpoint in the spicy Carmenere which accounts for the other 40%. $11.99
Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 The Cigales region in northern Spain is, along with Navarra, the traditional home of many excellent rosado wines. This particular wine (the first 2007 rosado to arrive from Spain) is produced mostly from Tempranillo with, interestingly, 10% white Verdejo added to the blend. Vivid rose pink color and strawberry aroma blends well with watermelon fruit character and a racy jolt of acidity (from the Verdejo) that maintains the bright, refreshing quality of this wine. $12.99
Tio Pepe The best known Fino on the planet is back with a new distributor after a brief hiatus. Gonzalez-Byass makes Tio Pepe from the Palomino Fino grape in the Jerez region of Southern Spain. This dry, nutty wine is ubiquitous in Andalucia and is a perfect accompaniment to toasted almond, olives, cured meats, cheeses and other salty foods. The price has gone down too (how often do you hear that these days), so try some for yourself and see what the fuss is all about. $16.99
After receiving much encouragement to take the weekly Spanish Table Berkeley wine newsletter to a wider audience I will now post the same information here as well. Please bear with me as I come up to speed with the technology. No doubt this will get better as time goes by. I will be posting archived material here as well as new stuff. Meanwhile, add this link to your favorites and check back weekly to read about all the new wines and food coming to The Spanish Table.
One of the big differences between this newsletter and a blog(note: this was written before transferring everything to this format) is that you the readers do not get to comment on what I write and have it posted alongside my weekly ramblings. Occasionally a reader responds to something I’ve written, adding context or perspective that I had not considered, leading me to share their insights with the rest of you. This was the case last week when Jim Kaatz commented on my ‘Portonic’ cocktail recipe. He asked, “Have you ever heard the Mother’s of Invention (Frank Zappa) song WPLJ (white port and lemon juice)? I always thought they were kidding! I guess not!”
Ah yes, Frank Zappa. His name, like a pebble tossed into the cloudy pool of my personal memory, creates concentric waves of nostalgia. Growing up in Atlanta Georgia in the 1970s, high school would have been less educational and much duller without Frank Zappa’s articulate rebelliousness and mind-blowing electric guitar solos (an irresistible combination for just about every teenaged male born in the last fifty years). I had forgotten that MPLJ was the first track off of his 1970 album Burnt Weenie Sandwich. But ‘FZ’ (fanboys called him that even before we ourselves were called ‘fanboys’), genius composer that he was, did not actually write MPLJ.
A quick search of the internets (ain’t modern life grand?) reveals that MPLJ does indeed stand for White Port and Lemon Juice, the favorite drink of the original composer, ‘Lord’ Luther McDaniels who originally recorded the song back in 1956 (here in Berkeley, no less) with his short-lived doo-wop group called The Four Deuces. Before Zappa covered the song in 1970 the original version was used as the jingle for Italian Swiss Colony wines (another cue for nostalgia) to sell their, you guessed it, white port.
After the Zappa version came out in 1970, the New York radio station WABC changed their name to WPLJ and featured the kind of music, ‘album oriented rock’, or AOR in radio lingo, that I loved during that time (Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra and so on), but I didn’t grow up in New York so that is perhaps more of a topic for someone else.
Type WPLJ into youtube (we didn’t have that back in the 70s, let me tell you) and you can listen to both versions of this classic song (the links, for the search-impaired are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNA-jRm-nvQ for the original, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFjkEpwGfE&feature=related for the Zappa cover).
Many thanks to Jim Kaatz for starting me down this path of internet fueled remembrance. Also, though Frank Zappa is no longer with us, ‘Lord Luther’ is supposedly (if the internet, source of all wisdom, can be trusted) still making music and living in Salinas, just as he did fifty years ago as a younger man singing with The Four Deuces.
But I digress. What is new in the wine world at The Spanish Table? Plenty, but this week only some of it is actually wine. I am very excited to (finally) report that we have secured a supply of Basque apple cider at an excellent price. We also have Spanish and Portuguese beer, new Manzanilla Sherry and a sparkling white wine from Portugal that is growing in popularity with each passing week. And, yes, we have plenty of white Port and more new wines for summertime sipping too, so whatever your personal preferences are beverage-wise, come visit and see what’s happening here in the heart of Berkeley, home of great things to eat, drink and sing about.
“Well I feel so good, I feel so fine
I got plenty lovin’, I got plenty wine
White Port & Lemon Juice,
White Port & Lemon Juice,
I said White Port & Lemon Juice,
Ooh what it do to you!”
Bereziartua Apple Cider Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99
Estrella Galicia Beer When visiting wineries in Spain I often get the same bizarre sounding question. “Would you like a beer before we taste the wines?” Traveling in Spain can be hot, thirsty work, so this is actually a reasonable way to proceed. While Spain has many excellent beers, this excellent lagar from Galicia is currently the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blonde color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day to reawaken the appetite. $10.99 (6 pack)
Sagres Beer In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lagar style brew is crisp and light with clean hoppy flavor. It makes a perfect accompaniment to a classic Portuguese sardine sandwich. $7.99 (6 pack)
Luis Pato Espumante Bruto I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago. We ran out for a brief period, but it is now in stock once again. This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99
San León Manzanilla Clásica Previously unavailable in the USA, San León is a new addition to our selection of Jerez wines. Herederos de Argüeso has been making wine in Jerez since 1822. They produce a full range of Sherry but they specialize in the production of Manzanilla. This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)
Summertime makes certain demands on wine lovers. Those who favor dark, concentrated reds are often disappointed right now when their favorite wines taste different, overpowering a meal and failing to refresh the palate. If you are just such a wine drinker, let me reassure you that your wine has not spoiled in the summer heat. It will taste just fine once we move back into cooler weather. Meanwhile, now is the time to cultivate a taste for white and rosado wines that will cool you down, awaken your appetite and pair well with the full bounty of summer foods.
This is also the perfect time of year to mix up pitchers full of delicious wine cocktails that, in addition to being mighty tasty, are also very friendly on the pocketbook. In place of the usual food recipe, this week I offer you a drink recipe that is quick and easy to make, is infinitely variable, and will give you and your guests a new way to enjoy some of Iberia’s more obscure wines. As with many of my recipes, this is not a fixed set of ingredients and proportions but rather it is a basic concept that you can play around with to get the final product to taste just as you wish.
The ‘Portonic’ cocktail originated in Portugal, up in the Douro Valley where the Port grapes grow, during the blindingly hot summer days. Similar drinks also come from Spain where ‘Vino de Verano’ is a long standing summer tradition. Try the following recipe in its basic form and then let your imagination take you where it will.
Portonic- 3 variations on a theme
Serves 8 (ish)
1 bottle White Port, Rainwater Madeira or Amontillado Sherry
1 bottle Tonic water, sparkling mineral water, ‘Casera’ or other lemon/lime soda
2 lemons cut in wedges
1 bag of ice
Fill a glass pitcher or carafe with ice. Add the contents of one bottle of White Port/Rainwater Madeira/Amontillado Sherry. Add an equal amount of sparkling water/tonic water/lemon soda. Stir to mix and pour into wide highball glass along with a few of the ice cubes. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve.
Cune Rosado 2007 When I walk into a little bar in Rioja I always expect to find wines from the popular bodega called Companía Vinicola del Norte D’España displayed prominently and proudly (everybody shortens the name to ‘CUNE’, changing the V to a U, and pronouncing it ‘coo-nay’). We just received the new vintage of Cune Rosado and it is just what the season demands. Starting in 2006 Cune switched from using Garnacha, as is the general rule, to Tempranillo, and this is still true for the 2007. The swap in grape varieties has lightened up the wine flavor-wise (the color is still watermelon pink), creating a less fruity, more balanced wine with smooth red berry fruit and bright acidity. $10.99
Masia de Bielsa Rosado 2007 This newly arrived Campo de Borja region rosado, composed of 100% Garnacha, displays fresh berry and watermelon fruit character, gentle acidity and a quick, quiet finish that invites continued sipping. This is a classic back porch rosado for hot weather. Pair it with simple meals like grilled chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and the full range of American picnic food. Regular price $11.99
Floresta Rosado 2007 This local favorite, from the Empordá-Costa Brava region in Northeastern Spain, just arrived in the new vintage. This blend of Garnacha, Merlot and Tempranillo can be found at numerous Bay Area bars and restaurants. Pale pink color, tangy citrus and strawberry fruit character along with refreshing acidity all combine to make a tasty and well priced wine suitable for a wide range of foods and occasions. $11.99
Dom Martinho Rosado 2007 I bought this wine knowing fully well that many of you have a negative perception of Portuguese rosado based on generations of crummy pink wine from a few producers I won’t name here. Please set these preconceptions aside and try this new product from Quinta do Carmo, a winery in Alentejo that is partly owned by the Rothschild-Lafite group in France. Composed of Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Syrah, this berry scented pink wine has ripe fruit character balancing tart acidity. Fuller than some of the other wines on this week’s list, Dom Martinho will pair well with spicy food (try it with Thai food…a great pairing!) as well as traditional Portuguese favorites such as grilled sardines. $12.99
Con Class Rueda 2006 Back in March The New York Times waxed poetic about this young white wine, awarding it 3 stars and describing it as “vivacious with enticing lemon, floral and mineral flavors and a touch of honey”. At just that moment our local distributor changed warehouses and this wine got lost in the shuffle for a while. Happily, the wine has resurfaced and is now in good supply. This is indeed a tasty Rueda region blend of 80% Verdejo, 10% Viura and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. At a recent trade tasting I compared this wine with the higher priced single varietal Con Class Verdejo. The blended wine showed more balance and a fuller range of fresh citrusy flavors and is indeed a great value. $11.99
Luis Alegre Tinto Joven 2006 This young Rioja region Tempranillo is made using the maceración carbonica method. Whole bunches of grapes are loaded in tanks and allowed to start fermenting before the grapes are crushed. This ancient method of producing wine has the advantage of retaining color and fruit character while also producing finished wine in a relatively short period of time. The end result is a dark garnet colored wine with lively fresh berry fruit character, racy acidity and mild grape skin tannins. Typically this is a summertime wine. Serve it lightly chilled as they do in Spain and accompany it with sliced cheese, jamón serrano and dry cured chorizo. $12.99