In Search of Paella in Spain – Part 2

Moving from the small, seaside city of Castellon, I was entertained by the Old World charm of Valencia, and the youthful vibrancy of Barcelona. But with one thing still on my mind: Paella!  The locals say that the best paella is always found at restaurants along the beach.  So while in Valencia, I headed to the beach, with it’s beautiful silky, sand, and sun tanned bodied, and found the restaurant of my quest; “Restaurante La Pepica“.  This restaurant is an establishement to say the least, being located there for more than 100 years, and being visited by such celebrities such as Ernest Hemmingway!  They must know what they are doing with paella, and I was right.

Although Paella Valenciana, made with chicken and rabbit, is the namesake for Valencia, I was on the beach, and needed to try seafood, so I ordered Paella Mariscos.  The paella came, with the rice forming a thin layer in the pan.  I could see that the edges of the pan had bits of “burnt” rice, which is crunchy and one of my favourite parts of a rice dish.  The paella was made simply, topped with prawns, then mixed in the rice were fish, shrimp and squid.  The rice was al dente, but I think that this is normal, as I’ve tried 7 paellas to date and all but 1 were al dente.

Paella mariscos and a glass of rosado wine

Paella mariscos and a glass of rosado wine

Squeezing lemon on the dish allowed the citrus flavours to brighten the earthiness from the spices in the rice, and make the seafood come alive.  This was the perfect paella while I have been in Spain.  To enjoy with this paella, I of course had a bottle of wine; a local rosado from the Valencia region.  It was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quite surprising, but it was very tasty with sour cherries and strawberry flavours and a very smooth round mouthfeel.  A perfect pairing.  If you ever go to Valencia, Spain, visit Restaurante La Pepica, and raise a toast to Ernest Hemmingway!

La Pepica Ensalada Valenciana

Variations on Ensalada Valenciana

Classic dishes, as I have found out, may have many variations.  For example, Paella and Ensalada Valenciana (Valencian Salad). Both dishes originate from Valencia, Spain, but all are made in different ways by different restaurants.  So it was an adventure each time I ordered one of these dishes.

For this article, I would like to show you two versions of Ensalada Valenciana, and also to give you a recipe I found on a Spanish recipe website.  Both salads were an appetizer before the main course.  The first salad was from a small cafe on the side street to my hotel.  The salad came with:

  • lettuce
  • sliced onions
  • sliced tomatoes
  • green olives
  • olive oil to taste
  • salt to taste
First Ensalada Valenciana with olive oil and salt in the background

First Ensalada Valenciana with olive oil and salt in the background

A simple salad, similar to what I could get in Vancouver.  The only “Valencian” or Mediterranean specific ingredient to me would be the green olives.

The second salad was from La Pepica, an institution on the Valencia Beach, having been in business for more than 100 years.  Their salad contained:

  • lettuce
  • sliced tomatoes
  • julienned carrots
  • black and green olives
  • sliced hard boiled egg
  • flaked tuna
  • pickled unripe figs ( I think )
  • olive oil to taste
  • salt to taste

This was a very tasty salad. In particular I liked the pickled unripe figs.  At first glance they look like small green olives with a stem, but on closer look, you see patterning on the skin, and when you bite in, it is filled with hundreds of tiny seeds; no single large seed.  The pickled figs are quite addictive, sour, similar to a green pickle, but has some other vegetal flavour I cannot place.  All I can do is recommend to try them when you are in Spain, or pick up a bottle from a Mediterranean grocery store.  Each bite of the salad has different flavours and textures, from the tuna to the tomatoes, eggs, and more.  Recommended.

La Pepica Ensalada Valenciana

La Pepica Ensalada Valenciana

And to round out this article, I tried to see which of the two above dishes served to me was the more authentic version.  I searched many recipe websites, trying to concentrate on Spanish websites, as I felt that these websites would be have their recipes uploaded from cooks in Spain.  Again, I found many variations, but I think the La Pepica one would be the better variation.

A close recipe I found had the following ingredients for 2 people:

  • lettuce
  • a tomato salad
  • a boiled egg
  • a can of tuna
  • olives
  • asparagus
  • onion
  • anchovies in oil
  • virgin olive oil
  • salt

(http://www.gandiaturistica.com/ensalada-valenciana.htm)

Whatever variation you prefer, please try to make an Ensalada Valenciana this summer as a nice start to a summer dinner (and pair it with a Rosado wine), or try it at a restaurant in Spain if you are lucky enough to travel there.  Enjoy!

3 Interesting Observations about Spanish Food & Wine

Living in one country or city for most of your life you come to expect certain things when you go to a restaurant to eat.  Visiting another country, especially one that is significantly different in language and culture, I have found can suprise you about food and meals.  Here are 4 of my current observations from my visit in Valencia, Spain.

1. Condiments at the table

When sitting at a table and enjoying your meal, in North America you would expect salt and pepper.  In Spain I have observed that black pepper is not provided at all.  Salt is always at the table, and if it is not, the server will bring you salt when they serve you your dish.  People really like to salt their food in Spain.  I would love to sprinkle some pepper on my dishes, but am adjusting.

Many of the marinated fish dishes that I had, were heavily salted.  Maybe not using much salt back in Vancouver has sensitized me to sodium.  But a warning if you do order some marinated fish at a tapas bar, be prepared that it could be quite salty.

2. Patatas Bravas – tapas

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Back in North America, one of the tapas dishes I really like is Patatas Bravas; cooked potates, cut in cubes and then coated with a spicy tomato/paprika sauce, and sometimes with a poached egg.  Here in Spain, when I ordered the Patatas Bravas, I get a bit of the tomato/paprika sauce, but it is mostly mayonnaise that coats the potatoes.  It is quite filling and rich.  Sometimes dishes that are made in North America, do not match the dish in it’s country of origin.

3. Sangria

Similar to food dishes, drinks can also differ from country to country.  When I enjoy Sangria in Canada, I get a pitcher full of chopped fruits, and is not too sweet.  In my latest Sangria experience in Spain, my pitcher contained only 2 slices of lemon, wine, and a sweet fruit juice.  Not quite what I expected.  Again you need to be flexible and go with the flow.

Related to my Sangria observation, is the love of sugar here in Spain.  Desserts like turrone are quite sweet.  Non-alcoholic drinks, in particular, horchata, which is popular here, is quite sweet.  Along with the horchata, they love to have a sweet pastry, in particular a Farton, a long thin sweet bread topped with icing or icing sugar.

4. Salad Dressing

Salad with olive oil and salt in the background

Salad with olive oil and salt in the background

A typical salad dressing in Canada is oil and vinegar based, blended with various spices.  I have found in Spain that when I receive the salad, I am also given a bottle of olive oil and of course salt.  I miss the acidity of vinegar for my salad, but embracing the Spanish way of doing things.

I’m sure I will come across more observations on food and wine before my time in Spain is over.  Stay tuned on my blog and on Twitter.  Cheers.

Paella - finished cooking

In Search of Paella in Spain – Part 1

You probably knew that paella was invented in Spain, but did you know that it originates from the city of Valencia?  Also did you know that sausage, chorizo, is not an ingredient in traditional paella?  Did you know that there are many different styles of paella; with some using seafood, rabbit, rice or noodles?

Come along and read about my experience with paella freshly made today for me, and others, at a conference I am attending in Castellon de la Plana, just a short train ride from Valencia.

Two paellas were made today; one vegetarian, and the other a mixture of two types of meat.  The meat one I was told is traditionally / commonly made with chicken and rabbit.  A very large paella pan was heated over a wood fire.  Vegetables and the meat were cooked in the pan, and spices added.  After a while rice was added followed by broth, then the whole dish simmered until the liquid was absorbed by the rice.  I did not get to see all the spices that were added, but saffron is always one of the ingredients to the best of my knowledge.  Before this trip I had never eaten rabbit, but now I will have had rabbit in two different dishes.  It does taste like chicken, but has a finer texture than chicken.

I sat with a lady from Valencia who told me that this paella was quite good.  I am not too sure I agree.  I think it needed a bit more flavour for me, so in Part 2, I will hunt for the ultimate paella when I am in Valencia.  In the meantime, check out the pictures of the cooking process for this paella, and think about relaxing in Spain with a glass of Tempranillo from Rioja.  Enjoy.

Paella - cooking the rabbit and chicken

Paella – cooking the rabbit and chicken

Paella - the veggie version getting stirred

Paella – the veggie version getting stirred

 

Paella - ready to add the rice and broth

Paella – ready to add the rice and broth

Paella - finished cooking

Paella – finished cooking

Paella - enroute to my stomach

Paella – enroute to my stomach

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Wines from Spain Spill into Consumer Glasses April 4th and 5th

Wines from SpainDo you love Spanish wine, or want to learn about Spanish wine?  There is of course Tempranillo, but there is also other grapes like Mencia you may not have heard of, or what about Spanish sparkling wine?  There is a chance for you on April 4 and 5 through BC Liquor Stores to try and learn a bit about Spanish wines.  The details are below.

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Vancouver, BC – Two FREE consumer tasting events kick off a province-wide Signature Store promotion at BC Liquor Stores Cambie Kitchen this month:

Dates: Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5, 2014
Time: Drop-in any time between 3 and 6pm
Location: Cambie and 39th Signature Store
5555 Cambie Street, Vancouver

The event will feature live Flamenco music by Canadian fusion guitarist Dave Martone with mouthwatering visuals of Spanish wines, their regions and their cultures. Accredited wine professionals will pour samples for visiting shoppers with descriptions of the wines and the foods that go with them. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper wine event without delectable foods to accompany the wines so Vancouver caterer Christine Moulson of Little House will be on hand with the finest in Spanish flavours to nibble on in between sips for all who come out for the fun. As an added bonus, all who arrive to taste wines will take with them a little something. (No purchase necessary.)

Seven wines take part in the promotion, winding consumers through a virtual tour of Spain’s booming wine regions and their various styles:
Cava PARES BALTA – BRUT ORGANIC $19.99 <Karl: a must try>
Jumilla LAS HERMANAS ORGANIC MONASTRELL $15.95
Ribera del Duero TORRES CELESTE $24.99
Toro ELIAS MORA $19.99
Monsant MALONDRO BESLLUM $19.99
Bierzo LOSADA MENCIA $24.99 <Karl: Mencia is a red grape you may not have heard or tried.>
Rioja MARQUES DE MURRIETA FINCA YGAY RESERVA $29.99

My Quick Winery Picks for Vancouver International Wine Fest

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2013When you step foot inside the Festival Tasting room, time is ticking. There are 1850 wines to taste. Let me give you some suggestions for the theme region, California, and for the rest of the world.  No time in this article to give you any details, but these are wineries I have tried in the past, or I am interested in tasting.  I will visit each of these tables, among other tables.  To find these wineries, when you arrive, your Festival Tasting Room program, p.23, has a map showing the layout of the tables.

California Wineries to Visit

  • Blackbird Vineyards
  • Chateau St. Jean
  • Clos du Val
  • Duckhorn Wine Company
  • Gloria Ferrer
  • Girard Winery
  • Heitz Cellar
  • Joseph Phelps Winery
  • Louis M Martini
  • MacRostie Vineyards
  • Marimar Estate
  • Ridge Vineyards
  • Schug Carneros Estate Winery
  • Silver Oak Cellars
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

The Rest of the World Wineries to Visit

  • Bodega Catena Zapata Winery, Argentina
  • Las Perdices, Argentina
  • Chapel Hill, Australia
  • Josef Chromy, Australia
  • Tyrrell’s Wines, Australia
  • Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, BC
  • Fort Berens Estate Winery, BC
  • Meyer Family Vineyards, BC
  • Nk’Mip Cellars, BC
  • Painted Rock Estate Winery, BC
  • Poplar Grove Winery, BC
  • Sandhill, BC
  • Stoneboat Vineyards, BC
  • Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, BC
  • Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery, BC
  • Concha y Toro, Chile
  • Vina Koyle Family Vineyards, Chile
  • Vina Undurraga, Chile
  • Baron Philippe de Rotschild, France
  • Brumont Vineyards, France
  • Dourthe & Thienot, France
  • Chateau de la Gardine, France
  • Georges Duboeuf, France
  • Famille Perrin, France
  • Champagne Pol Roger, France
  • Estates of Antinori, Italy
  • Barone Ricasoli, Italy
  • Fontodi, Italy
  • Akarua, New Zealand
  • Giesen Wines, New Zealand
  • Whitehaven Winery, New Zealand
  • Jose Maria da Fonseca, Portugal
  • Ramos Pinto, Portugal
  • Taylor Fladgate/Fonseca/Croft Port, Portugal
  • Boekenhoustskloof Winery, South Africa
  • Glen Carlou, South Africa
  • IberWine, Spain
  • Miguel Torres, Spain
  • Nathalie Bonhomme, Spain
  • King Estate, Oregon
  • Long Shadows, Washington

I know, its a long list, but worthwhile if you have the time.  Enjoy the Festival!

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest – Wineries to Try

It is 1 week till the International Festival Tasting Room opens at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and we will get to try wines from all over the world. But which wineries? Here are a few wineries that I think you should try.

Chile

  • De Martino
  • Miguel Torres (also Spain)
  • Viña Montes
  • MontGras
  • Viña Santa Rita
  • Seña / Viña Arboleda
  • Concha y Toro

The Rest of the World

  • Bodega Catena Zapata (Argentina)
  • Decero (Argentina)
  • Las Perdices (Argentina)
  • Katnook (Australia)
  • Penfolds (Australia)
  • Yalumba (Australia)
  • Le Vieux Pin / La Stella (Canada)
  • Mission Hill Family Estate (Canada)
  • Osoyoos Larose  (Canada)
  • Painted Rock Estate Winery (Canada)
  • Thornhaven Estate (Canada)
  • M. Chapoutier (France)
  • Maison Louis Latour (France)
  • Pfaffenheim (France)
  • Estates of Antinori (Italy)
  • Bisol Desiderio & Figli (Italy)
  • Astrolabe (New Zealand)
  • Wither Hills (New Zealand)
  • Quinta do Crasto (Portugal)
  • Symington Family Estates (Portugal)
  • Taylor Fladgate / Fonseca / Croft Port (Portugal)
  • Lammershoek Winery (South Africa)
  • Bodegas Muga (Spain)
  • Bodegas Olivares (Spain)
  • Caymus Winery (USA)
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (USA)
  • Rodney Strong Vineyards (USA)
  • King Estate (USA)
  • Bergevin Lane (USA)
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle (USA)

There are of course many other wineries to try at the Wine Festival, so if you see something that interests you TRY IT.  Some of the wines at the Festival are brought in ONLY for the Festival, so if you like it, buy it in the wine shop at the back of the tasting room before it sells out.  The complete list of wineries at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival is here.

Dine Out at Home in Vancouver – A Delicious Dinner

Spaghetti sauce with yellow and green bell peppers

Today’s Dine Out experience is at home, Chez Karl’s place. On today’s menu is:

  • Cow and Goat’s Milk Melange cheese
  • Spaghetti sauce with green and yellow bell peppers
  • Clementine oranges

The appetizer, the Melange cheese, comes from Trader Joe’s in Washington state.  If you have never heard of Trader Joe’s, it is an organic grocery store chain.  The one I went to was in Bellingham, WA.  This is a hard cheese, white, with no rind.  It has a bit of the sharpness that you can get from goat’s milk, but is still very mild. Low amount of salt.

To pair with this cheese and the main course, I opened a bottle of Portia Prima, Ribera del Duero, DOC, 2007, Spain.  I picked up this bottle at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival last year.  It is made from the Tempranillo grape. Opening it and pouring it it in my glass with great anticipation.  It was opaque garnet.  Dark cherry, plum, leather, vanilla and some leafy aromas.  Full body with soft mouthfeel and low tannins.  Tobacco, cherries, plum, cassis and some vanilla, oak and leafiness.  There was some chocolate in the mid palate.  Long length with a peppery finish.  A very nice wine that has a good balance between fruit, tannins and acidity.  The Melange cheese just melted together with this wine.  It was an excellent appetizer pair.

Portia Prima DOC, Spain 2007

The spaghetti sauce was served on top of Trader Joe’s mixed cheese multi-coloured tortellini. The spaghetti sauce was full flavoured, but not spicy.  Made with ground beef, tomatoes, green and yellow bell peppers, long thin strips of onion, garlic and chopped celery and seasoned with marjoram and a bit of the Portia Prima wine. Marjoram  is related to oregano, but has a bit of a sweetness to it.  The richness of the spaghetti sauce tasted nice with the richness of the Portia Prima.

After a heavy main course, it is nice to finish it off with some fruit.  The clementines are from California. About the size of a golf ball but very sweet and without any seeds.  I’m satiated.  I hope you have a great dinner today too, whether it is at a Dine Out Vancouver restaurant or at home.  Cheers.

My Top 5 Wine Blog Posts for 2011

Chinese New Year Golden Rabbit

Wow, a whole year has just zipped by.  I was really busy tasting lots of wines at all the fantastic venues here in Vancouver, as well as across the border at the Taste of Tulalip (which you should sign up to attend next year.  It’s excellent).  Thanks to WordPress for compiling my stats and letting me, and you, know these were my top 5 blog posts.  Which do you think?  The answers are below!

I knew my Chinese New Year post was super popular as I watched my stats leading up to Chinese New Year hit the roof. Stay tuned for my wine selection for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

My #2 post really caught me off guard.  But I’m pleasantly surprised.  Spicebox is an easy to drink whiskey, on the ice, or mixed in a drink.  Check out the post.

Lulu Island Riesling Chardonnay Ice Wine

For #3, I was happy to see Lulu Island Winery, a local winery, located in Richmond, BC.  They produce both grape-based and other fruit-based wines.  They also produce a selection of ice wine, so drop by one weekend to Lulu Island Winery if you live in the Vancouver Lower Mainland. 

#4 should be hot right now too, seeing that it is New Years Eve.  I hope I helped many people figure out which caviar and Champagne they would like to nibble and toast with the family and friends.  Wine is a social drink.

And last, but not least #5, about the Rioja region of Spain.  This article came out before the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Spain was the Theme Country this year, and I think the Vancouver readership had a thirst for knowledge about this region and what to expect at the Festival.  Stay tuned for my articles on Chile, as they are the next Theme Country for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival next year.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Hart House Spanish Garden Party – Get Your Tickets

On Wednesday, August 31 2011, Hart House will salute Spanish culinary tradition with an evening featuring a wine tasting and al fresco three-course dinner accompanied by live music for $52.

The evening opens with a casual tasting of top-quality Spanish wines on Hart House’s elegant estate grounds overlooking Deer Lake. Guests may choose to purchase a bottle or two from the night’s specially-selected wine list to pair with their dinner. The menu for the event will include local seafood, paellas and other Spanish-style cuisine with its savoury combinations and exciting spice blends. Guests will enjoy dining in the open air on our estate grounds, and the overall sensory experience will be heightened by live Spanish music.

Reservations by phone only at 604-298-4278.

Wednesday, August 31 2011 at 6:00 pm

$52 per person plus taxes and gratuity