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