Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 6: A Night in La Rioja

 When people think of Spanish wine regions, the first one that usually comes to mind is La Rioja, and for good reason, with its’ long history and tradition of great wines –  red, rosado and white. To a great extent, in recent decades, it had succumbed to the lure of Parkerization – the global wine fad of big, fruity, wood and alcohol laced red wines that could come from anywhere in the world and did. Fortunately, while that fad had become as entrenched in La Rioja as it had elsewhere in the world, it hadn’t totally taken over production and more traditionally styled Rioja wines continued to be made, even as they had come to be relatively neglected by the market. Like Cinderella, though, their time has returned and their true beauty is shining again. Our destination after a long drive into cold, wind and snow, was one of the very best of the traditional La Rioja wineries – Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio, a small wine making town not too far from the major Riojan center of Logroño, where we would spend the night and the next morning. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 5: Loving and Leaving Galicia

Old vine Godello in fog and frost at O Barreiro

Old vine Godello in fog and frost at O Barreiro

Just when it seemed that our vinous experiences could not be enhanced any further, they were. The morning – cold, foggy and breathvisibly beautiful – proved perfect for a visit to the small, hilly bodega of retired engineer turned vintner extraordinaire, Pepe Rodríguez. His atmospheric vineyards and winery, O Barreiro, in the small village of Seadur in Valdeorras, produces some of the most delicious and special Godellos anywhere, which means some of the most delicious white wines that I’ve ever had, equal or better in their mineral rich complexity to much of the best of what Burgundy and the Loire have to offer. Strong words, I know, but these wines possess everything I want in a wine – delicious, complex, mineral-rich flavor, low alcohol, romance and identity that pairs well with a wide variety of foods, especially shellfish and seafood. These un-wooded wines are not masked by anything, but are instead allow for the full expression of the grape and the land. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 4 – Rapturous Ribeira Sacra

BU4A8967Vineyards are inherently beautiful and I am never less than enthralled with a visit to one, but despite visits to gorgeous vineyards in France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Chile, South Africa and elsewhere in Spain, I was unprepared for the unparalleled gorgeousness of Galicia’s mountainous Ribeira Sacra region. Continue reading


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The Cruelty of April

T.S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month.” I’m sure that he had a number of reasons for that pronouncement. One of them may or may not have been, that the month starts with April 1st, aka “April fools Day.” If that wasn’t one of Eliot’s reasons, it very well should have been, as the twenty-four hour period is filled with pranks and jests on unsuspecting people as well as those more attuned to the rhythms of that particular day. I, yes me, am guilty of perpetuating just such a jest, luring in the unsuspecting with an announcement, that as it turns out, rather sadly for me and my family, really was nothing more than another April Fool’s joke.

For an April Fool’s joke to be good, it has to be fairly preposterous, yet have elements of believability. For anyone who knows me and my family and anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, it should be fairly obvious the esteem that we hold for the beautiful and delicious city of Barcelona. I truly, would love to live there and my son would truly love to play for the best soccer development program in the world. That we would want to do what I had written was certainly believable, but actually getting to do it? I am honored and humbled that anyone, let alone people who I like and respect so much, might have considered yesterday’s announcement to have been the least bit plausible. To me, as much as I would love that it were true, every aspect of it, it was simply preposterous and meant to be self-deprecating. If I offended anyone, I apologize, but I also want to thank all who actually believed it possible and also those who laughed at the joke and understood it as such. Of course, most of the “likes” were probably from people happy to see us go!

For better or worse, I have posted an April Fools post for the past few years. I may or may not do so again in the future, but if I do post on that date in the future, it will likely be another.


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We’re Moving to Barcelona!

Juanito Bayen of Bar Pinotxo

It’s official, at the end of this school year, my wife, our son and myself will be moving to Barcelona, the city of our dreams. This move has been predicated on our son’ acceptance into the FC Barcelona Training Academy at La Masia, which finally became official today. In addition, I have taken a position with the elBulli Foundation to study the effects of Creativity on Health and the effects of Health on Creativity. It has been a whirlwind that I am relieved to be able to announce to the world on this First day of April, 2015!


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Shellfish and Albariño – Galician Greatness at d’Berto

BU4A8795There are few, if any, foods that I enjoy eating more than top quality shellfish. Cracking open a just-from-the-sea lobster in Maine, slurping down a lightly dressed Gillardeau oyster in Paris, Barcelona or Lyon, devouring a grilled carabinero in Madrid, and diving into my my mother’s bucatini with blue crab sauce, amongst other great shellfish dishes, all bring deep smiles of pleasure at the memories and induce intense salivation as I recall them. With few exceptions the most memorable bites of shellfish have been those that have been treated modestly with the inherent flavors and textures allowed to shine forth. I have enjoyed great shellfish dishes in many places, including my own kitchen, but it is not so easy to find a restaurant that is brilliant through a wide range of the creatures. Perhaps the finest shellfish meal I have ever had, rivaled in memory only by Lisbon’s Restaurante Ramiro, was the one I had recently in the small Galician coastal town of O Grove. The restaurant was d’Berto, which is already well known to connoisseurs of shellfish and fish, but perhaps not so much to others. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 3 – North By Northwest

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Not every city or town in Europe is beautiful or charming, but fortunately, there are still plenty that are and Tordesillas, northwest of Madrid, in Valladolid, on the way to Galicia, is one of those small, charming and beautiful cities. From a vantage point situated in the lovely Hotel Doña Carmen overlooking the Rio Duero and the center of the city, it was beautiful lit up at night and even more so, the following morning. Unfortunately, it was to be a very busy day and we had no time to linger. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 2 – Ribera del Duero & Rueda

The vineyards of Los Hermanos Merino in Corcos del Valle

The very old vineyards of los hermanos Merino in Corcos del Valle

With a four day stop in Madrid for Madrid Fusión 2015 now history, it was time to begin the next leg of the trip. Bill Sciambi, a seasoned wine veteran and CEO of Gerry’s company arrived from NYC to join us. We rented another car and headed northwest. Galicia was the part of Spain that I hadn’t yet been to that I most wanted to visit. It would be the main focal point of the trip as we squeezed a ton of tasting both food and wine into a very abbreviated time frame. It would not be our first stop, however. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 1- Valencia and Alicante

20150131untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A6267482I have said this before and I’ll say it again, nobody knows Spain like Gerry Dawes. I sincerely doubt that there is another American, and very few, if any, Spaniards can approach, let alone surpass his knowledge of the people, food, wine and culture of Spain. He has been frequenting the depths, breadths and heights of the country as a second home for nearly fifty years, leaving no stone, and especially no wine, unturned during that time. I have come to know him as a good friend over the ten years or so and have now had the pleasure to travel around Spain with him on a number of occasions, including last year, when he led my son and I on La Ruta del Ibérico, a tour of the major Jamón Ibérico de Bellota regions of Spain, which is to say the finest pork producing regions of the world. This year, Gerry and I did something a little different and no less unforgettable – we visited the finest wine regions of Spain, wining and dining like kings along the way. Continue reading


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Enjoying Disfrutar

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The legendary elBulli has passed into history. It is almost four years since the last meal was served there. With elBulli gone, its Vanguardist style of cooking has become largely overshadowed by the New Naturalism movement led by Rene Redzepi and others. A big reason for the eclipse is that the elBulli style of Vanguardism is very, very difficult to do well. It incorporates a special blend of technical wizardry, skill, culinary insight, creativity and perhaps most importantly, whimsy. A number of chefs who have developed their own Vanguardist styles still follow the path, but when it comes to the elBulli style, the field is very narrow when it comes to who does it and even narrower for who does it well. It should come as no surprise that Albert Adriá’s restaurants in Barcelona, especially Tickets and 41º do a great job of evoking the culinary spirit of elBulli and they make great substitutes for that experience. It should also not be a surprise that the new Barcelona restaurant owned and run by Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas, called Disfrutar (to enjoy), does it just as well. This is no surprise because this trio, along with Albert Raurich were, for years, the main men in the kitchen of elBulli along with the Adriá brothers. This trio of Casañas, Castro and Xatruch have done an outstanding job of not just keeping the past of elBulli alive, but in creating a whole new canon of dishes and techniques to extend the future of the movement and have done so with great style. Continue reading


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