Feria de Andalucia in Valencia - Food & Rebujito!
26 April 2016
Published at 10:58 Comments (1)
Phew! Time to rest! Fiestas and fairs would have overwhelmed anyone who has been in Valencia over the past month or so; Fallas, Easter, Valencian Food and Wine fair and last but not least the “Feria de Abril” (The April Fair) or the "Andalucia Fair" , well strictly speaking it hasn't finished yet, but I've had my fair share. The next festival is in July with the “Feria de Julio” so plenty of time to recover and charge the batteries! Glad there aren’t too many “monthly” Ferias!
Although we are not in Andalucia, the Andalucian emigrants that live in Valencia celebrate every year the famed festivities of the “Feria de Abril” in Valencia’s riverbed. They left Andalucia but took their traditions with them and share them with everyone who wishes to participate. Even though it is on a much much smaller scale than in Seville or other areas of Andalucia, the celebrations in Valencia are still a wonderful taster of Andalucian hospitality, entertainment and culinary delights. Yes, if I hadn’t already had enough with my previous “walk” around the Food and Wine fair a few weeks back, this past Saturday presented a similar but different panorama. So, as it is only once a year, we hitched up with the family and headed down to the “Feria”.
The kids were dressed up in traditional flamenco dresses and spent the whole afternoon dancing “Sevillanas” non-stop. We have family from Cadiz so we are well used to the Andalucian “party spirit”, which is relentless and sometimes more than that displayed by Valencians during Fallas.
When we arrived we set up in the “caseta” (marquis) which our friends belonged to, but unlike in Seville, where they are all private, these are open to the public so you don’t actually need to know anyone to get in, you just find a table and start ordering and enjoying the ambience!
The first on the agenda was to find a table in the shade and get something to quench our thirst, the sun was blazing down and in the riverbed their isn’t much of a breeze as it is well protected from the wind. Naturally being in an Andalucian fair, an Andalucian drink was a must, when in Rome…. So we ordered a jug of “Rebujito” to get things going. If you don’t know what Rebujito is, it is a typical drink drunk in the spring/summer in Andalucia and the main drink consumed in the Feria de Abril. It is a Manzanilla Sherry wine mixed with 7up or Sprite! (Mixed in the proportion 70/30…sprite being 30 of course!) You might say 7up? Sprite? That’s not very Andalucian. And you are right. But the Andalucians aren’t stupid either and would rather be drinking non-stop all-day and partying for longer than having to retire home early because you are too drunk! So basically Rebujito is a watered down version of Manzanilla Jerez, which means you can drink more for longer and that’s exactly what happened!
During the afternoon we went through 3 jugs of it and to be honest we were fine by the time we left, pleasantly “content” might be the best way to describe it. We could have continued into the early hours of the morning but routine called and Monday is a working day and the kids had school so by 7 we had already set off home.
Nonetheless we still had plenty of time to enjoy some great Salmorejo, Jamon, Cheese, Calamari and grilled meats. Some of us even plucked up the courage to dance a few Sevillanas running the risk of making a complete fool of ourselves amongst the expert and more experienced dancers. It was great fun and the kids just had the most amazing afternoon. The atmosphere at this Feria is unique unlike any other Spanish “fiesta” it is everything a foreigner thinks of when they think of Spain: Hospitality, Flamenco, dancing, music, guitars, horses, polka dot dresses, castañuelos, wine, sherry, jamón and so on and so on. It is the authentic “South”, everything Spain is famous for brought together in one occasion.
So I highly recommend it for anyone who may be in Valencia this week. It continues all week until this coming Sunday night, 1st of May. It is well worth a visit.
My Wine Recommendation Nº3 - for under €10
15 April 2016
Published at 15:55 Comments (7)
Many years ago I came across this wonderful red. I actually discovered it at a local wine fair in Valencia, where a friend introduced me to the representatives of the vinyards and I have to say I have always really enjoyed it. However I almost totally forgpt about it as it wasn't available in my local supermarket until recently when I cam a cross it in the Corte Inglés. Although it was slightly more expensive than I had remembered, at €9.98, I picked up a bottle. It was fantastic. The wine is called TRILOGIA and is made by Bodegas Los Frailes.
Since 1771, Bodegas Los Frailes has belonged to the family Velazquez without any interruption. The winery was formerly a property of the Jesuits friars, hence the name 'Los Frailes', who were expelled from Spain in 1767 by King Carlos III. Four years later a written manuscript reveals that their ancestors acquired in public auction the house, lands and cellar known as “Casa Los Frailes”- Friar house. The estate is located near Valencia, 80 Km from the Mediterranean Sea and at 700 meters above sea level where the vineyards enjoy a unique climate.
Bodegas Los Frailes Estate occupies over 130 hectares of terrain located in the valley ‘Els Alforins’. The main grape variety is the Monastrell, a variety traditionally planted in ‘Els Alforins’ region, which was partially lost during the last century as a consequence of the growth of more popular varieties (e.g Cabernet Sauvignon). Their main goal is the reintroduction of the Monastrell grape combined with the incorporation of new varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Maselan, Shiraz, Garnacha) to raise the unique personality of their wines.
60% of the estate is planted with Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and the other 20% is a mixture of Tempranillo, Marselan, Shiraz, Garnacha. They have a wide variety of soils spread out on hillsides, ranging in altitude from a maximum of 800 meters down to the bottom of the valley.
Trilogia : Organic Red wine
Grape Varieties: Monastrell 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and Tempranillo 10%
Ageing: 12 months in Hungarian oak barrels
Trilogía comes from a careful selection of the best grapes of all the plots on the estate. Monastrell’s roundness, Tempranillo’s richness, Cabernet Sauvignon’s aromatic elegance, make it a renowned wine. This is the wine that best reflects the uniqueness of their terroir.
Winemaker’s Notes: Intensive dark black cherry color. Powerful and elegant on nose with aromas of black and red fruits, dark chocolate enriched by toasty and spicy notes. Full, powerful attack,refined tannins. In the mouth, fresh herbs and ripen fruits, coffee and well-structured with refined notes of liquorice and spicy flavours. Very persistent.
Food matching: This complex wine matches very well with any red meat dish, dried cheese, young lamb, game hunting dish.
Drinking temperature: 18 °C/ 62 °F
Guia Penin Trilogia 05 Score: 90/100
Gold Medal Biofach 2008. Germany .Trilogia 2005
Gold Medal Concurs Mondial de Bruxelles. Belgium. Trilogia 05
Bronze Medal Cofradia Vino Monastrel-Murcia. Trilogia 05.
Best wine from Cata Els Bodeguers 2006. Valencia Trilogia 05
Ecoracimos de Plata, 86,20 puntos. Cordoba Trilogia 05
Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) Trilogia 03 Score: 87/100
Available online here: http://www.alforins.com/vinos/art.php?ref=FRAT01
The Best Cheese in The World
08 April 2016
Published at 14:14 Comments (3)
Over 12000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East the first herds of Aurochs (ancestor to the cow) started to roam the plains. Leather bags were filled with the milk from these extinct bovines and placed over heated stones. Occasionally, the milk became a paste that separated from the liquid residue and was found to be edible. Slowly but surely, this accidental 'discovery' was mastered in order to produce the paste in a controlled manner, improving its quality . The most important archaeological discovery in "dairy history" may be the Sumerian Frieze (about 5000 years old) in Baghdad’s National Museum, which represents the phases of animal milking and milk curing. However in 2003 it was announced that a chemical analysis of 6000-year-old pottery shards showed ancient Britons also had a taste for cow's milk and goat's cheese, becoming the oldest proof yet of cheese consumption.
Cheese became later became popular in Greece and Rome and cheese production expanded throughout Europe and by the Middle Ages its consumption was widespread, mostly in monasteries, where the production of some of the best known cheeses of today began.
Of the 100 different cheeses produced in Spain, 12 are protected by the a Denomination of Origin (D.O.P.) label. Manchego cheese is the most important and well-known sheep’s milk cheese in Spain. The shape and aspect of this cheese is very characteristic thanks to the traditional use of 'esparto' grass molds which imprints a zigzag pattern around the cheese. The small wooden boards used for pressing the cheese also imprints the typical 'wheat ear' pattern on the top and bottom.
These rustic molds are used outside of La Mancha as well. Thus, there are other Spanish sheep's milk cheese with similar shape and markings, known commonly as "Manchego style" cheese. However, the true Manchego cheese, is made only from whole milk produced by the "Manchega" sheep raised in the "La Mancha" region. This region is a vast high plateau, more than 600 meters above sea level, which extends from east to west and north to south, adjoining the provinces of Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real and Albacete. Manchego cheese has a long historic and literary tradition, as it was mentioned by Cervantes in the legendary "Don Quixote of La Mancha". Today, there are two types of Manchego cheese: the farmhouse type, made with unpasteurized sheep's milk and the industrial type, made with pasteurized milk. In both cases, however, milk from Manchega sheep is the only type used. The climate is extreme continental with cold winters and very hot dry summers.
La Mancha is a region with a long live-stock breeding tradition. Wool and animal bones have been found in some archeological sites, as well as different utensils used to produce cheese as early as II century BC.
In the late XIX and beginning of XX centuries the first studies on Manchego Cheese were published. During this century the increased specialization of the farms has made La Mancha the base of a powerful cheese industry. Manchego Cheese producers have artisanal techniques while still managing to have intense production. Manchego Cheese has been protected by the Denomination of Origin since 1984. The D.O. stipulates the exclusive use of milk from manchega sheep, as well as an aging period of a minimum of 60 days.
Manchego is an aged cheese, from semi-cured to cured, unpasteurized or pasteurized. It is produced through an enzymatic coagulation. The paste is pressed and uncooked. The base milk has to have a minimum of 6% fat. The milk coagulates at 28 to 32 º C (82 a 89 ºF) after adding animal curd. Occasionally lactic ferments and calcium salts are also added. This results in a compact curdle within 45 to 60 minutes. The curdle must then be cut to obtain lumps of 5 to 10 mm. The resulting lumpy paste is then slowly reheated to about 40ºC (104ºF). The liquid is removed and the dried paste put into molds where it is pressed for several hours. The salting is external, and it is achieved either by rubbing with dry salt, by immersing the cheese in highly salted water, or by a combination of both methods. The percentage of the salt in the weight of the cheese can not be higher than 2.3% after two months of aging. The aging process must be done in fresh areas, with a humidity level of 75 to 85%, for at least 60 days.
The wax rind is closed,with a yellow to a brownish beige color. The interior is firm and compact, with only a few small air pockets unevenly spread out. The color should be ivory to pale yellow. The taste is very characteristic, well developed, but not too strong, buttery and slightly piquant, with a sheep milk aftertaste.
The intense taste and crumbly texture make it perfect to eat as it is, with just a slice of bread. A technique which is very popular in the Mancha is to cut the cheese up into thick slices and then place them in a glass jar, you then fill up the jar with extra virgin olive oil, picual is fantastic for this, and this not only preserves the cheese even longer but intensifies the flavour over time and increases the piquant of the cheese. Quite a delicacy.
It is also great as the focal point of a starter, Manchego can be served with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, serrano ham, crusty bread and a robust red wine or a dry sherry. It is also unbeatable with a bit of Branston's!
It is equally enjoyable as a snack or dessert with fruit, fruit tarts or jams. The aromatic intensity of a Manzanilla wine makes it an excellent choice for this cheese.
If you are looking to try a great Manchego Cheese, one of my favorites, which is also available in large supermarkets is Dehesa de Los LLanos, one of the best Manchegos around and voted best cheese in the world in 2012. It is a Manchego Viejo as it is cured for a minimum of 9 months, so it is a strong cheese but it is absolutely phenomenal.
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