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Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

Date of visit: Friday, April 28, 2017

(Image credit: National Geographic)

Galicia’s Costa da Morte (Coast of Death), stretches all along the northwestern coast of Galicia from the village of Muros (the “x” at the bottom of the photo to the left) all the way up to the village of Malpica (the “4” at the top of the photo). While the name is a bit unfortunate for marketing purposes, visitors to the Costa da Morte need not be afraid. It’s named for the numerous shipwrecks that used to take place back in ye olde seafaring days. The miles and miles of coastline is a nature lover’s paradise with unspoiled rocky shores and gorgeous views aplenty. The map to the left is borrowed from this National Geographic article that goes into more specifics about the many sights to see on this part of Galicia’s coastline.

We enjoyed a lovely full day exploring the Costa da Morte, including a visit to the lighthouse at the End of the World (in Fisterra), fabulous lunch at O’Fragon Restaurante (read more about that here) and stops at the Ézaro waterfall (near Cee), and Muxía.  As evening approached we made our way to As Garzas Restaurant near Malpica, and enjoyed watching a perfect sunset right from our table against the windows of the front dining room.

This Michelin starred restaurant is situated in the main floor of a bungalow style house just meters from the rocky shore. As soon as we entered, María José Sánchez, wife of Chef Fernando Agrasar, made us feel right at home. She runs the front of the house and speaks English wonderfully. After our warm welcome, she very helpfully explained various menu items. As was the case earlier in the day, we opted to order a la carte rather than taking advantage of either of Chef Agrasar’s extremely appetizing tasting menus featuring their contemporary Galician fare.

 

As Garzas menu above. A la carte in the center and tasting menus on the right.

 

Getting things started was an aperitif of empanada casera de xouba (homemade mackerel empanada) served on these darling fish shaped wooden plates. This was the lightest, crunchiest empanada pastry I’ve had.

 

The Galician bread on the left side of the serving tray, described as “pan de toda la vida” (good old Galician bread), had a really satisfyingly crispy crust and wonderful flavor. The bread on the right side of the serving tray was another excellent house made bread with frutos rojos y pasas (nuts and raisins). Beautifully presented sweet cream Prestes butter with sal negra (black salt) paired perfectly with these honest artisan breads. There was a symphony of crunching coming from our table with the crispy empanada and these two excellent breads. Hands down, this ended up being the best bread of the trip. Given the overall excellent quality of Galician bread in general, this is high praise, indeed.

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Cheers to a wonderful day on the Costa da Morte and a beautiful evening at As Garzas.

Serious and elegant white blend from the subzone of Gomariz in the Ribeiro D.O, the 2013 Salvaxe is made from old vines (between 60 and 80 years old) of Lado, Silveiriña, Albariño, Godello, and Treixadura grapes. This small production wine paired perfectly with the seafood options that made up our meal.

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Croquetas caseras de bacalao al Pil-Pil (Salt cod aioli croquettes).  These croquetas satisfied with a creamy, mild flavored cod.

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Zamburinas, verduritas tostadas, aguacate y espuma de puerros (Variegated scallops, roasted vegetables, avocado and leek foam)

The whole menu is brimming with fresh seafood, the specialty of the house. Mr. Vacation proclaimed “This is why you come to Galicia!” when this stunning plate of local sweet grilled scallops and cold grilled vegetables accented by a sweet leek sauce, avocado purée, fresh peas, and tomato jam hit the table. A stunning dish.

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Cigalas y alcachofas estofadas (Langoustine and stuffed artichokes)

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Vieira con parmentier de champiñón (Scallop with mushroom bisque). This was so incredibly flavorful. Pass more of that bread to sopetear (sop up), por favor!

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Raya y asado de sus espinas (Skate fish and broth of the bones). The fish here and in the dish below were both perfectly done, a su punto.  The skate accompanied by intensely flavored spinach.

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Merluza, puerros asados, su caldo y perlas de trufa (Hake, roasted leek, its broth and truffle pearls)

All of the homemade desserts were tempting, but in the end we selected two of our favorite desserts of this trip: torrija and chocolate soufflé.

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Torrija de pan de frutas con helado de flan de huevo (Fruited bread torrija with egg flan ice cream)

Torrija has been discussed many times in this blog (like here and here) – it’s my favorite Galician dessert. As Garzas’ version is similar in style to the one we had at Bido in A Coruña, cool and creamy on the inside with a crunchy darkly caramelized sugar top.

Soufflé Coulant de chocolate con natillas caseras (Chocolate soufflé with homemade custard). This trip to Galicia was book-ended by visits to Paris, so soufflé was one of the themes of our trip. This excellent version of decadent rich chocolate soufflé with a vanilla sauce was on par with those we had in France.

More tasty treats with coffee service was the perfect end to the evening’s luxurious meal.

We felt so at home here at As Garzas. That is, if our home featured beautiful embroidered linen napkins, gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean, impressive tableware, and the highest quality wine and seafood! It was so difficult to leave. As it turns out, one actually doesn’t have to leave after a wonderful evening – As Garzas is also a bed and breakfast with 4 guest rooms just upstairs from the dining room! The thought of that bread for breakfast in the morning is so tempting. Next time we will have to stay overnight to fully enjoy this beautiful home and the warm hospitality offered within.


As Garzas
Porto Barizo, 40, 15113 Barizo – Malpica, A Coruña (map)
+34 981 721 765

Website: www.asgarzas.com
Website B&B: www.asgarzas.com/es/alojamiento/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/As-Garzas
Instagram: www.instagram.com/asgarzas

English spoken: YES

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Date of visit: Friday, April 28, 2017

img_8356Fisterra, Galicia (Finisterre in Spanish) is known as “the end of the world” by pilgrims who carry on with their pilgrimage to the sea after arriving at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Whichever name you call it by, it’s a beautiful place where the rocky coast of Galicia meets the Atlantic Ocean to complete this legendary, epic journey. Perched high above the end of the world on a hillside in the aldea (village) of San Martiño de Arriba, sits Ó’Fragón Restaurante.

It’s an uphill drive to get there (the restaurant’s website offers a YouTube video of the trip to help guide you there!), then  a zigzagging walk down a concrete path to get to the minimalist modern building that houses Ó’Fragón.  The contemporary building is starkly beautiful with light wood and bare concrete interior, perfect in that it doesn’t draw any attention away from the spectacular sea views through the floor-to-ceiling windows nor the equally spectacular food that will be served.

Photos from the parking area. Restaurant entrance is down the zigzag path.

 

Clean and minimal, nothing distracts from that incredible view!

The menu is not extensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Fresh, top quality Galician products make up the menu items. They are listed, quite proudly, first in Gallego, then in Spanish and English. If you have the time, the tasting menu at €35 per person with optional wine pairings only €15 more is a tremendous deal, given the quality of the fare and exceptional list of carefully curated Galician wines Ó’Fragón offers. We ended up ordering a la carte as we had a dinner reservation later that night to consider (at As Garzas in Malpica, Galicia), but next time I will take advantage of the tasting menu without hesitation.

The regular menu (left), that gorgeous view (middle), and the tasting menu (right)

 

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Fran expertly opens the bottle of sparkling Galician wine with nary a whisper.

Our host for the afternoon was Fran Insua Fernández. Fran has been a restaurateur in Fisterra since 2003. He is not only the owner but also runs the front of house and speaks excellent English. The original location of Ó’Fragón was down in the middle of the town of Fisterra, relocating up the hill to San Martiño de Arriba in December 2015.

I was very interested in tasting a sparkling Galician wine. Fran recommended this clean and fruity Eidosela Albariño (100%) Extra Brut from the Rías Baixas region, made in the Champagne method. Another dining companion enjoyed this 2015 Pazo de Seoane Rosal (an Albariño, Caíño, Treixadura, Loureiro blend also from the Rías Baixas). Mr. Vacation had a taste for a “mezclado”, red and white vermouth over ice. Of course, Galician Nordesía gin made the mezclado even better, and is made by the same folks that I visited in the fall at Vía Romana.

Albariño sparkling wine, Pazo de Seoane Rosal, and a mezclado.

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Tomates Ecoloxicos, Xeado de Queixo Azul “Prestes” – Organic Tomatoes, Prestes Blue Cheese Ice Cream

This first dish so perfectly defined what this restaurant is all about: light and refreshing. Organic tomatoes with Prestes blue cheese ice cream was a uniquely delicious combination with the cheese flavor shining through the creamy cool ice cream atop perfectly ripe juicy tomatoes. The melting ice cream and tomato broth made the best sauce on the plate, perfect for dipping with the hearty Galician white and flax-seed bread.

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Croques ó Vapor – Steamed Cockles

Simply steamed berberechos (the Spanish word for cockles) dressed tableside with good quality local Galician olive oil. That’s it. That’s all you need, or want, when dealing with such high quality product.

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Longueiróns á Tixola – Pan Cooked Razor Clams

These magnificent mollusks are local razor clams. So local, in fact, that you can even see the beach from which they were harvested in the photo below. Similar to a navaja (traditional razor clam), the longueirón has a straighter shell and a lighter sandy color. If the croques above are Galicia on a plate, these longueirones are Fisterra on a plate.

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This beach here, as seen from the restaurant’s patio, is where the longueiróns are harvested.  It doesn’t get much more local!

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Arroz Carnaroli, Croques, Queixo – Carnaroli Rice, Cockels, Cheese

Toasted rice cooked just al dente risotto style in a light, not soupy, sauce. Absolutely delicious with a generous amount of those same tender, sweet cockles we enjoyed as an appetizer.

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Solombo de Tenreira “Costa da Morte” (POUCO FEITO) – Veal Sirloin from “Costa da Morte” (SERVED RARE)

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Estrela Mencía red wine.

This veal was a real treat for the meat lover at the table. The menu made it very clear that it would be served rare. Rare it was – and it was absolutely perfect served that way. This gorgeous hunk of meat sat atop scalloped potatoes with thyme and roasted red and orange peppers on the side. The icing on the cake was the pink sea salt. It was made pink in-house by soaking the sea salt flakes for 24 hours in red wine from the Ribeira Sacra region.

Speaking of red wine, Mr. Vacation selected this Estrela wine from the Amandi subzone of the Ribeira Sacra wine region. This medium bodied red Mencía paired nicely with the veal dish.

 

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Guiso de Polbo con Patacas Novas – Octopus Stew with New Potatoes

More Galician favorites here: humble octopus and potatoes are brought together into a flavorful, richly satisfying stew. With a sprinkle of good paprika and that wonderful Galician bread at the ready to take advantage of that juice on the plate!

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Ameixas Babosas na nosa “Mariñeira” – Babosa Clams in our own “Marinera” sauce

Ó’Fragón presents their own unique take on the classic dish Clams Marinera by omitting the tomatoes that usually make a sauce for fresh babosa clams (a Galician variety).  The just-barely-there sauce was a fragrant mix of caramelized onions, black pepper, white wine, and clam broth. So lightly dressed, the clams remained at center stage on the plate.

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Dessert and Cheese menu

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Xeado Cremoso de Limón – Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

This was anything but a traditional lemon ice cream. As much as we loved the flavor we found the texture was perhaps the most interesting aspect of this dessert; creamy like a lemon sherbet, but with a marshmallow-like consistency.

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Biscoito de Laranxa Amarga-Mandarina – Bitter Orange Cake-Tangerine

Fran advised that this wasn’t an ordinary cake. This would be a lightened up cake. A cake that’s been turned inside out, so that the ‘cake’ (more like a crumbled cookie) is the base but the cream and the orange would be the stars: one scoop of orange sorbet and two quenelles of bitter orange heavy whipped cream each decorated with a caramelized mandarin orange slice. Very unique and, true to Fran’s word, very light.

Fran at work (left) and taking a moment for a photo op (right).

With the clean, streamlined preparations of first class Galician products accompanied by fine Galician wines, Fran has truly created a unique and relaxing space for memorable destination dining. Way back in a 2010 interview with La Voz de Galicia newspaper, he stated that he had the idea to create a kind of gastronomic temple in his hometown of Fisterra (“facer en Fisterra unha especie de templo gastronómico”). That is precisely what he has done here on this hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the world.


Ó’Fragón Restaurante
Lugar San Martiño de Arriba, 22, 15154 Fisterra (map)
+34 981 740 429

Website: www.ofragon.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ofragon/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/ofragon_restaurante

English spoken: YES

Our reservation was made 3 weeks in advance via email for our springtime visit. If you plan to visit in summer, I would recommend booking at least that much in advance.

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Date of visit: Thursday, April 27, 2017

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Bido Restaurante exterior – located on the ground floor of the stately La Casa Barrié building in A Coruña.

Se come muy bien en Galicia” is a common refrain that you will hear over and over again when you spend any amount of time in Spain. It means “one eats very well in Galicia”.  This could not be a truer statement; with the high quality of local products (shellfish, fish, beef, etc.) and the passion with which local chefs prepare them, one does indeed eat very well in Galicia. And within Galicia, one eats extremely well in the city of A Coruña.

Coruña has a dynamic dining scene and one of the highest profile restaurant openings of late was the opening of Bido Restaurant last September. If you remember back to my blog post from last fall, I was able to stop by Bido a couple of days before the actual opening, but had to wait 7 months before returning to experience an entire meal. I’m happy to report that it was totally worth the wait!

The restaurant’s impressive bar is the first thing one notices upon entering the restaurant as it dominates one wall of the dining room. Along with the striking chandelier, one also notices a list of wines by the glass prominently displayed on the wall next to the bar. They proudly offer quality, higher end wines by the glass, a somewhat uncommon occurrence in Galicia. A quote at the bottom of the wine list assures us that “All you need is a glass of wine – by Bido”.

While Bido’s current menu contains subtle references to Chef Crujeiras’ former restaurant venture, A Estación, in the artwork and in many of the menu items, the physical menu itself is uniquely “Bido” – the pages actually roll up into a sumptuous custom leather sleeve, a nod to the many other touches of tawny leather around the restaurant.  Seasonal main courses at Bido are served as raciónes cortas (smaller portions) so that guests may try multiple items. Some appetizers may be up-sized to be a main course, offering plenty of flexibility in creating a unique dining experience.

 

We enjoyed the view from our table near the window as the parade of bread and snacks arrived. The bread in Galicia is hearty and amazing. The breadbasket here at Bido is no exception. The traditional white bread was lovely but the brown bread really stole the show as a wonderful example of the resurgence of a formerly unsung local hero: the chestnut. This bread came from a new shop that has opened in A Coruña called Castañam (a play on the Spanish words (chestnut) castaña and (yummy) ñam). It specializes in products made with Galician chestnuts, including this bread made from chestnut flour that is served at Bido and other nice restaurants in Coruña. The bread was accompanied by good quality Galician butter, an assortment of olives (big green Galician olives, black olives from Aragón) with confit garlic, and slightly addictive bacalao (salt cod) cream with cracker sticks. Then came refreshing bowls of salmorejo, a Spanish chilled soup made of pureed tomato, bread and potato that Saveur magazine calls “gazpacho’s richer, deeper cousin”.

 

For starters the croquetas de temporada (seasonal croquettes – seafood on this day) were a must. Fresh, hot, creamy, and bursting with seafood flavor, these stellar croquetas were slightly spicy and extremely satisfying. Also very satisfying was the empanada casera del día, made in-house with xouba (small Galician sardines) over caramelized onions in a crust of thin dough. Galician empanadas are traditionally meant to be eaten with your hands, but the crust on this version was delicate enough that we picked up our knives and forks.

A behind the scenes look into Bido’s kitchen! Eva cheerfully prepares that delicious xouba empanada. (Photo by Crujeiras – used with permission)

With such a nice list of wines by the glass, we ordered three different Galician whites to kick off our meal. Above left: Cíes, a lovely limited production old vines Albariño from Meaño in the Rías Baixas region. Above right: Avancia, another old vines white, a Godello grown in Valdeorras, made by Jorge Ordoñez who was the first person to bring Godello wine to the United States in the 1990s.

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The third white was the KomoKabras Albariño from the Entre os Rios winery.  I was excited to see this still on Bido’s wine by the glass menu since a few days later we would be staying at the Casa Rural (B&B) where the winery is located. We had a wonderful stay and really enjoyed visiting the winery … that will be another blog post!

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Smoked marinated salmon over fresh spinach leaves with drops of green apple vinagrette and burrata de requeixo da A Capela.  (Requeixo is a soft raw milk creamy Galician cheese similar to mascarpone made in A Capela, not far from A Coruña)

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Ravioli Bogavante (lobster ravioli)

Huge chunks of lobster wrapped in extremely delicate thin pasta over ratatouille bathed in a seafood sauce. We used the good Galician bread to sopetear (sop up) all of that flavorful sauce!

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When we weren’t familiar with the seasonal fish salmonete (red mullet), they brought a fresh one out to show us.

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Bido’s international cheese cart. This day it featured cheeses from France, England, Spain, and Galicia.

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The classic yet modern interior decór at Bido is enhanced by the vintage hexagon tile floor. It went very nicely with my newly acquired Eferro wooden sandals (purchased at their new storefront in A Coruña – more info from my visit to the original location in Merza here).  #ihavethisthingwithfloors

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Pescado del Día, arroz negro y emulsion de “allada” – fish of the day (salmonete = red mullet)

The plated version of the fish of the day (salmonete = red mullet) was served over black rice with an aioli-like garlic emulsion.  The fish was perfectly prepared and thoroughly enjoyed.

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To accompany Mr. Vacation’s solomillo (sirloin steak), he selected this Almirez Toro (Tempranillo) from Teso la Monja (located in the province of Zamora, Spain).

Chef Crujeiras does it all! Here he is delivering solomillo to the table which was topped with foie gras and shavings of last-of-the-season truffles(!), served with roasted potatoes and brocollini. So rich and delicious!

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Canelón de galo Celta, pesto de queso San Simón da Costa, setas de temporada y salsa de asado – Celta chicken cannelloni, San Simón cheese pesto, seasonal mushrooms and pan reduction sauce.

Listed on the menu as an appetizer, I requested the cannelloni as a main course. The kitchen was happy to up-size the portion and I am so glad they did – this dish ended up being my favorite plate of the day. So deliciously rich, this savory chicken (Galo Celta, a Galician heritage breed chicken), smokey San Simón da Costa cheese, mushrooms, pan reduction sauce, and a nice shaving of Parmesan cheese on top packed an umami punch. There may have even been truffle oil and foie gras inside (recipes I found online call for both). It was truly a fantastic dish.

Chef Crujeiras generously brought over a round of Tostado de Costeira, a lovely dessert wine from the Ribeiro wine region (located in the central part of southern Galicia, just to the east of the Rías Baixas). It’s a naturally sweet wine made from Treixadura grapes, served cold, with flavors of honey and raisin that paired perfectly with the parade of desserts that followed.

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Milhojas de Vainilla – Napoleon (or millefeuille, in French)

A classic dessert of vanilla cream between two layers of puff pastry served over a spiced chocolate sauce with Guanaja chocolate ice cream on the side.

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Limón – Lemon dessert

Lemon curd between two rows of toasted meringue and topped with lemon sorbet, sprinkled with lime zest. Creamy, tart and extremely refreshing.

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Torrija de Brioche Caramelizada – Caramelized Galician French Toast

All of Bido’s desserts are made in-house. Each was delicious, but this brioche torrija was my favorite. The torrija was custardy and creamy on the inside, with a crunchy sugar brûléed top (and bottom!), and served over a pecan cream sauce with fresh apple ice cream on the side. The ice cream tasted like fresh applesauce, making for a super refreshing contrast to the richness of the torrija.

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Beautiful dessert sampler.

Just when we thought our incredible meal had come to a close, this beautiful dessert sampler on a Portuguese painted tile arrived along with the elegant coffee service. Piña colada marinated pineapple chunks; Nata (thick whipped cream) with licór café (coffee flavored liquor) in the shot glasses; and bizcocho praliné (dried praline cake) with crema de nuez (walnut cream).

We had such an enjoyable afternoon! Bido is comfortable, yet refined. The service is warm and welcoming, yet professional as led by Manual Otero, the charming maître d’ who came to Bido from A Estación. The food is approachable, yet elevated. Even a humble chicken dish skyrocketed to the top of the list when prepared by Chef Crujeiras’ skilled kitchen. Se come muy bien en Bido! 

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 Chef Crujeiras takes a moment to say hello.  Thanks to the entire team at Bido for a wonderful afternoon!

Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you wish to dine during the prime hours (2:30 – 4pm and after 9pm in the evening).  Contact the restaurant at least a couple of weeks in advance for a mid-week reservations, and perhaps even a month or two for a weekend reservation.

 


Bido Restaurante
Marcial  de Adalid 2, A Coruña, Spain (
map)
+34 881 92 28 47

Website: www.bidorestaurante.es
Facebook:
www.facebook.com/bido-restaurante
Bido Instagram:
www.instagram.com/bidorestaurante

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Date of Visit:  Friday, September 14, 2016

There are many routes to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago. In 2015 the Camino de Invierno was named an official camino route. The name means “Winter Route”, named as such because it is the route that Pilgrims of yore would take to avoid the snow in O Cebreiro, located on the French Route. The Camino de Invierno passes through the Ribeira Sacra wine region, including the town of Chantada. A mere 3 kilometers before arriving into Chantada pilgrims will pass right by the front door of Vía Romana Adegas e Viñedos (Ví­a Romana Winery and Vineyards), that I visited with José of Turismo Verde de Galicia last September.

Map on the left showing Chantada in the geographical center of Galicia. Map on the right showing the path of the Camino de Invierno. Vía Romana is being pointed to.

img_2914-1Before a pilgrim can pass by this charming winery, he or she must first make the climb up from the village of Belesar after having crossed the Río Miño (as seen in this photo), then make the ascent of 131 meters (430 feet) to the winery. The rest of us might find it easier to arrive by car zipping up the zig-zagging road to the winery.

Galicia is home to several distinct wine regions, one of them being the Ribeira Sacra in the province of Lugo. There approximately 2,900 hectares of vineyards in the Ribera Sacra wine region, which is comprised of five sub-regions: Amandi, Chantada, Quiroga-Bibei, Riberas do Miño and Riberas do Sil. Ví­a Romana is situated in the sub-region of Chantada, on the west side of the gorge created by the Rí­o Miño. It enjoy spectacular views of the river and the terraced wineries all along both sides.

 

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Galicia’s wine regions. The Ribeira Sacra in blue.

 

Stunning views from the Vía Romana winery of the Río Miño and the steep land terraced with vineyards in the Ribeira Sacra wine region.

img_2898-1The location is absolutely beautiful, but it does present some difficulties (I mean, look at the photos just above and to the left that show just how steep those hills are!).  Over the centuries that grapes have been cultivated here, strategies (such as terracing) have been implemented to allow the wineries to thrive and grow. The steep terrain and slate soil guarantee good drainage for the vines, but also necessitates that the grapes are harvested by hand. Each fall during the vendimia (grape harvesting time), grapes are cut by hand and carried by workers up the steep hillsides to the winery. Because of the difficulties in these areas, they use a phrase locally to describe it: viticultura heroica (heroic viniculture).

Vía Romana is most well known for their red wine, made from the mencía grape, which results in an intensely colored, velvety aromatic wine. Vía Romana produces Galicia’s first certified vegan wine, their Mencí­a Añada 2015. We toured around the entire facility and learned about all stages of the winemaking process, from where the grapes are crushed, stored (in stainless steel and in barrels), bottled, aged, and boxed for shipping:

Next we enjoyed a tasting of several different wines (as well as posing with a giant bottle of wine!).  We were also introduced to the line of Nordesía vermouth and María Castaña, a sweet chestnut wine, both produced by affiliated companies.

The Nordesía vermouths are quite popular in Galicia. The red is made with mencía grapes and the white made from albariño grapes. A mix of the red and white over ice (called a “mezclado”) makes for quite a refreshing aperitivo or afternoon drink. The sweet dessert wine made with toasted chestnuts, María Castaña, is another delightful sipper.

I look forward to visiting the Ribeira Sacra wine region again, to discover even more wonderful small production wineries in this enchanting location.


Via Romana Adegas e Viñedos
A Ermida – Belesar s/n, Chantada, Galicia
+34 982 454 069 – call to arrange a visit
Visits offered: Monday – Friday from 10am – 1pm and 4pm – 7pm
Saturday from 11am – 2pm and 5pm – 8pm

Website: www.viaromana.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ViaRomana
Instagram: www.instagram.com/ViaRomana_es
Email: viaromana@viaromana.es

More information on the Ribeira Sacra wine region at www.riberiasacra.org

More information on the Camino de Invierno at:
https://www.gronze.com/camino-invierno
https://www.csj.org.uk/planning-your-pilgrimage/routes-to-santiago/routes-in-spain/camino-de-invierno/

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Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just to the east of Galicia lies the province of Asturias with the charming port city of Gijón on its northern coast. In May 2016 a family cruise included a stop in Gijón. I was very interested in this cruise stop since the Northern Route of the Camino de Santiago passes through Gijón, right along picturesque white sand San Lorenzo beach. The old fishing village (now the recreational marine port) is a short walk away through the charming old quarter where you can find shops and even a few cider bars (siderias – an experience you should seek out when in Asturias!).

But our real mission during our too-short stay in Gijón was to visit the Asturian temple of the fabada – Casa Gerardo.  Fabada is a classic Spanish dish made of large white beans (alubias), pork shoulder or ham, morcilla (blood sausage), and chorizo. Since its founding in 1882 as a roadside tavern, Casa Gerardo has been making this classic fabada at this same location. Located along a busy road in the village of Prendes, about 7 miles from the old town of Gijón, it is operated by the Morán family, father Pedro and son Marcos. They are the fourth and fifth generations, respectively, to operate the restaurant which earned a Michelin star in 1987.

Casa Gerardo’s signature fabada is firmly rooted in a historic past, but the menu veers off into modernity with deliciously executed contemporary dishes. On the printed menu, one side of the menu is labeled “dishes that remain on the menu and are now house classics”, while the other side is labeled “contemporary dishes”.  The amuse bouche that kicked off our meal certainly showed off this modern bent in fine fashion.

The first amuse was this surprising and refreshing “Margarita de Manzana”. Think of a welcome cocktail, just not in a glass. Chunks of apple soaked in tequila (!), sprinkled with salt and with a hint of citrus. The perfect palate cleanser to begin the meal.

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Amuse #1: Margarita de Manzana – our welcome “cocktail”.

Another great example of a modern take on a classic Spanish dish, this surprising savory potato “tortilla” ice cream on crispy rice was intriguing. It perfectly captured the essence of the quintessential Spanish tortilla in a completely unique and enjoyable fashion.

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Amuse #2: Tortilla (potato flavored) savory ice cream!

Consommé made of potato skins served warm and absolutely bursting with potato flavor. The bread service was exceptional. White, wheat and cornbread were offered several times throughout the meal and served with smoked butter.

Amuse #3: Potato Consommé  – Bread service

Our meal started in earnest with some of the most luxurious and flavorful jamón ibérico in all the land: jamón ibérico de bellota reserva Joselito. No need to say more, just look at it! Ok, I’ll say a bit more; Joselito is a brand name, and it is considered to be one of the very best in Spain.

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Jamón ibérico de bellota reserva Joselito – Joselito reserve acorn fed Iberian ham cured for at least 36 months.

The bocadillo crujiente de quesos, a well known staple at Casa Gerardo, are small tents of two pieces of crispy puff pastry held together with a thick line of creamy Austrian cheeses (reported to be a mixture of La Peral, Los Beyos, and cream cheese). Crunchy, creamy, salty and a little sweet – this appetizer hit all the notes and left me wanting another round.

Compango is meat with which the beans of the fabada are stewed. These croquetas contain rich little morsels of the compango in beautifully prepared croquetas.

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Croquetas del compango de la fabada (croquettes made with the meat of the fabada)

And finally, the main event! The fabada we came all this way for. Beautifully cooked alubias (large, creamy white beans – see the bottom of this post for more information on what makes these beans so special!) in a delicate yet richly flavored broth. Served with the compango on the side. While listed on the traditional side of the menu, this dish is absolutely a gourmet fabada – a Michelin star fabada – and one that will surely serve as a point of reference upon which future versions of this dish will be compared.

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Fabada de Prendes (white beans with ham, smoked morcilla (blood sausage), and chorizo)

Another traditional dish with the same creamy alubias, this time stewed with clams and garnished with parsley. We enjoyed the delicate and rich broth, which was less intense than the fabada de Prendes, given the lighter seafood flavor.

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Fabes con almejas (white beans with clams and parsley)

Lobster and monkfish salad with vinaigrette and garnished with mayonnaise sauces made of mustard, plankton (seaweed), and red pepper. Seaweed is actually a pretty common ingredient used in Spain’s northern coast. A wonderful fresh, light dish featuring seafood of the highest quality.

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Salpicón de bugre y pixín con vinagreta y mayonesas de mostaza, plancon y pimiento morrón (lobster and monkfish salad with vinaigrette and garnished with mayonnaise sauces made of mustard, plankton (seaweed), and red pepper

From the “contemporary” side of the menu, Mr. Vacation selected this beef tenderloin with quinoa, foie gras, and micro vegetables. A lovely plate with flavorful beef with a touch of decadent fois gras.

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Corte de solomillo con guiso de quinoa, foie y micro vegetales (beef tenderloin with quinoa, foie gras, and micro vegetables)

Even in Asturias we couldn’t help but select an albariño from Galicia. Pazo Baión (left) makes an elegant, slightly citrusy, albariño from 40 year old vines that we thoroughly enjoyed. Mr. Vacation opted for a glass of Beronia Reserva Edición Limitada (right) from La Rioja to accompany his steak. This classic tempranillo is a limited edition wine with less than 35,000 bottles produced.

When one thinks of the legendary dishes as Casa Gerardo, the crema de arroz con leche requeimada de Prendes comes in a close second to the fabada. Comfort food taken to a whole other level. We all absolutely loved this creamy rice pudding with a brûléed sugar top.

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Crema de arroz con leche requeimada de Prendes (rice pudding with brûléed sugar top)

Another dessert came to the table, a gift from the kitchen: Chocolate & frutos secos (chocolate and nuts). A lovely ensemble of creamy chocolate, hazelnut ice cream, chocolate cake crumbles with pistachos and marzipan. A delicious mix of flavors and textures.

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Chocolate y frutos secos (chocolate and nuts)

During the meal father Pedro Morán came by to greet the table and make sure everything was delicious. During dessert son Marcos Morán came by to say hello and chat for a bit.  I’d love to know what I was bending his ear about (left)! He was just as charming as his father and invited us back to see the kitchen (right).

Books make some of the best souvenirs. Last year Casa Gerardo published this tome, Casa Gerardo, 50 Pasos de la Cocina Contemporánea. It won a “best in the world” award for the ‘Chef’ category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This beautiful book is big and heavy with gorgeous glossy photos throughout. Way too big to carry around for the rest of our journey, so I sadly left it on the display shelf in the lobby.

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Now for more about those big beautiful white beans. Alubias are not only found in Asturias. During a subsequent trip to Galicia, I ran across a big beautiful bowl of white beans (the ones pictured to the left, in the colander) for sale in Lugo at the weekly farmer’s market. I recognized them as being very similar to the Asturian fabada beans (these were Galician fabas de Lourenzá) and inquired as to how much for ½ kilo (about a pound). The lovely woman selling them could hear my accent and first asked when I would be preparing them. Since I had 10 more days in Galicia then a flight home to the United States she kindly declined to sell them to me, explaining that these were fresh beans and they just wouldn’t last that long.

Even though I wasn’t able to bring their gorgeous cookbook (nor any fresh beans) home, I was thrilled to see that the recipes for both of their signature dishes, the fabada and the arroz con leche, are listed on the restaurant’s website.

A few months after our visit to Casa Gerardo the restaurant and family were featured in Season 1 of the new Amazon series “Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse” that debuted in September 2016. In the show Marcos reveals some of the secrets of the fabada including this: the white beans they use are fresh beans that they freeze until it’s time to use them, not dried beans that have been soaked. He mentioned another important tip: you don’t stir the beans while they are cooking – no spoon! Just shake the pot a bit. The elder Morán went on to explain the proper way to eat the fabada, but you will have to watch it to find out for yourself. It’s a really entertaining segment on the third episode, featuring chef José Andrés, who also hails from Asturias. Definitely worth watching!


Restaurante Casa Gerardo
Carretera AS-19, km9, Prendes,  Asturias, Spain
+34 985 88 77 97

Website: www.restaurantecasagerardo.es
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cateringcg
Facebook: www.facebook.com/marcos.moran.casagerardo
Twitter: www.twitter.com/cateringcg

English spoken: Yes

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Date of visit: Thursday, September 15, 2016

With an afternoon free in O Grove, I jumped at the chance to make a reservation at Restaurante Culler de Pau on a beautiful day in mid-September this year. From my table right against the wall to wall windows in a stark white building perched upon a hilltop, I enjoyed an expansive view of bateas (large wooden rafts that float in the waters of Galician inlets where shellfish are cultivated) on the Ría de Arousa.

In addition to possessing one of Galicia’s 13 Michelin stars in 2016, Javier Olleros is known for being one of the most admired chefs in Galicia. Chef Olleros is also part of GrupoNove. As mentioned in earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante, A Estación, Casa Solla, and Alborada, Grupo Nove published a book in 2015, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally. In the book, Chef Olleros is pictured amongst the boulders of picturesque Con Negro beach located on the westernmost edge of the O Grove peninsula (with stunning sunsets as it faces the Atlantic Ocean – map) [the landscape] holding a bouquet of fresh herbs [the product] representing the organic wild and cultivated herbs and a Galician variety of tender corn that are cultivated and foraged for by two local nearby farms [the producers] specifically for Culler de Pau.

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Expansive views of the bateas in the Ría de Arousa from the dining room of Culler de Pau.

Of the two tasting menus offered, I opted for the shorter 6 course menu, mostly based upon time … it would take about 1.5 hours for the shorter menu as opposed to the 13 course menu that would take approximately 2.5 hours. An optional pairing of 4 wines was offered as well. Upon making my selection, the aperativos (appetizers) began to arrive. First, olives were placed on the table then a small cup of gazpacho (chilled soup) made with the broth of mussels and a variety of small cherry tomatoes. It was fresh, light, and tasted of summer.

Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009

The first wine of the afternoon was this Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009, a dry sparkling cava from the Alt Penedès wine region (near Barcelona).

Bonito de Burela, encurditos, vinagrete de tomate (tuna from the northern coast of Galicia, pickles, tomato vinaigrette)

The first course was a beautiful and absolutely delicious plate of bonito de Burela (tuna from a town called Burela, located on the northern coast of Galicia) with tiny pickled vegetables and a tomato jam accenting two creamy sauces.

The next wine was this Finca Meixeman Guímaro, a Mencia from the Ribeira Sacra wine region.  It was paired with the following two courses.


Huevo, queso San Simón y migas de pan (egg, San Simón cheese, bread crumbs)

Pictured above, a fresh farm sous vide to 63° egg at the bottom of a pool of smoky San Simón cheese ‘bisque’ topped with crunchy seasoned bread crumbs. This was my favorite dish of the day. When I spoke with Chef Olleros at the end of my meal we talked about this dish and how, despite the fact that I’d obviously never had it (or anything quite like it) before, it seemed familiar – like my favorite comfort food. I would not hesitate to make a return trip to Culler de Pau just to have this again. Not a drop went to waste as I utilized the organic white & wheat local bread to sopetear (sop up) every bit!

Merluza, salsa ‘meunière’ y quinoa (hake fish, meunière sauce and quinoa)

Perfectly cooked merluza (hake fish) over a meunière sauce with a dollop of pil pil (an emulsion made from olive oil, garlic and fish broth, in this case most likely the same merluza) and a bit of quinoa on the side was straightforward, perfectly prepared, and absolutely lovely.

Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva – what a unique pairing for roast beef!

Rather than a red wine to accompany roast beef, the next wine pairing broke with usual tradition. A white wine from La Rioja was selected. It was quite a surprise, but this 2003 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva totally worked as a pairing with this next savory dish.

Solomillo de vaca (como roast beef), zanahoria y guiso de champinon (beef sirloin (like roast beef), carrot and stewed mushrooms)

They referred to this beef sirloin as “like roast beef”, and it was – but imagine the most tender, flavorful roast beef you’ve ever had over an intensely beefy pan sauce. Really delicious. The sides, while small, were exceedingly flavorful. A stripe of carrot and grapefruit cream along one side, stewed mushrooms wrapped in Swiss chard, and (my favorite little taste) pasta in salsa de vaina de grelo (turnip green sauce) accompanied the beef.

As we moved into the dessert courses, I noticed that the playlist was including quite a bit of Frank Sinatra. “My Way” started, as if on cue, when the dessert wine pairing was presented, a 2009 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos from Hungary.

Fresas con limón albahaca (strawberries with lemon and basil)

Strawberries macerated with lemon and basil topped with fresh blackberries and basil ice cream with an accent of coconut citrus foam. Perfectly refreshing and so lovely to enjoy in the last gasp of summer.

Torrija caramelizada, café, cacao y leche cruda (caramelized torrija, coffee, cocoa and raw milk)

Torrija is a classic Galician dessert, and one I had not yet tasted. What a way to be introduced! It’s basically an extremely custardy french toast (this one stuck me as more of a bread pudding) made of sweet brioche. This version (I had a couple of others after this) had an extremely soft, creamy custard interior (other versions had more obvious bread cubes), and a delicious burnt sugar crust. Served in a puddle of coffee flavored cream with some crunchy chocolate bits and a quenelle of raw milk ice cream, this was an exceptional dessert.

It was truly a pleasure to spend a few minutes chatting with Javi Olleros after this wonderful meal. In a relatively short time we covered a wide range of topics; the importance of teamwork in his restaurant (the team is everything at Culler de Pau; on social media the first hashtag they use is #equipocullerdepau (teamcullerdepau) and on the restaurant’s website, “team” is listed above “chef”), the theme of utilizing the best seasonal products from the region, how food can trigger memories, and the idea of maintaining Galicia’s unique identity while it develops as a culinary and touristic destination. Chef Olleros is extremely passionate about all of these topics, and it’s easy to see after meeting him why it is that he is so deeply respected by his peers in the Galician culinary scene.

MyLifeOnVacation and Javi Olleros


Restaurante Culler de Pau
Calle Reboredo 73, O Grove, Spain (map)
+34 986 732 275

Website: www.cullerdepau.com/en/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/restaurantecullerdepau
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cullerdepau
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/RestCullerdepau

I also spoke with Chef Olleros about his appearance on a recent episode of the Galician gastronomic television program Gastrópodos, hosted by Chef Beatriz Sotelo of Restaurante A Estación. They explored a bit of O Grove (which hosts an annual seafood festival) and shared much information about local centola (centolla -crab). We even got to see Berto from D’Berto Restaurante as a judge during the cooking competition of the show!

View the O Grove – A Centola episode of Gastrópodos here: http://www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos/

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Date of visit: Tuesday, September 21, 2016

Chef and owner Adrián Felipez opened Restaurante Miga on Praza de España, right in the middle of A Coruña, in April of 2016. By the time I visited in September, Miga had earned a reputation as a foodie destination in A Coruña serving innovative farm to table fare in comfortable yet elegant surroundings. Miga sources its produce from within a 35 kilometer radius (approximately), and even has an arrangement with a local farmer in the village of Baldaio to purchase all the eggs produced by a Galician breed of hen, that are only fed a diet of turnip greens and red millet, for use in the restaurant. Another unique aspect is that Miga is the only restaurant in Coruña, and Galicia for that matter, with a kamado, an egg shaped ceramic Japanese wood or charcoal burning oven (Miga uses wood) that imparts a light smoky flavor to the items cooked within.

Everything on the menu (pictured below) sounded wonderful. I opted for the tasting menu option called the “Paseo por Miga” (Stroll around Miga), 5 salado (savory) and 2 dulce (sweet) dishes. Add in a wine pairing option, and a lovely afternoon was set into motion.

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A nice glass of cava (Llopart Integral, a Spanish sparkling brut nature wine from the Penedès wine region near Barcelona), along with a basket of bread featuring well-known delicious Galician breads pan de Carballo and pan de Carral (the darker of the 2) arrived at the table first. Bonito (tuna) was in season at the time of my visit so it was featured in several courses beginning with the first course, an ahilda de bonito curado en agua de mar (skewer of tuna cured in sea water) with pipara basque (spicy basque peppers). The fish was lovely and the peppers a surprise in their level of spiciness!

Miga has several seating options to accommodate a variety of dining experiences. Two adjoining dining rooms in the back of the restaurant with a few larger tables for more intimate dining (or for a group), outdoor patio seating on the Plaza de España for those wanting to enjoy a casual experience with the ambiance of the city, and the front of the restaurant where casual two and four person high tops enjoy an excellent view of the kitchen. I opted for the view of the kitchen and enjoyed watching Chef Felipez and his staff at work creating these beautiful dishes.

Chef Adirán Felipez carefully crafting in Miga’s open kitchen.

The second course was another take on bonito (tuna) this time asado (roasted – in the kamado oven) with ponzu sauce, tomato, chives, cilantro, green onion, and dried corn. I nearly considered cancelling the next 3 courses to just repeat this one, it was so beautifully flavored.

Roasted bonito looked and tasted amazing!

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Chef Felipez working with the kamado, a Japanese wood burning oven that imparts a subtle smoky flavor to whatever is cooked within.

The third course of pimiento rojo a la brasa (roasted red peppers) with caviar, potato chips, and local Baldaio chicken egg yolk, also came out of the kamado. This was an interesting dish where the subtly smoky red pepper was cut into thin strips and played like pasta with the yolk making a creamy sauce when twirled all together with the caviar. The waiter advised me to get ready to “mojar mucho pan” (dip a lot of bread) into this dish to sop up all of the goodness. This lovely Madai Godello Sobre Lías from Bierzo paired very nicely with this course and the next.


This beautiful merluza de pincho (line caught hake fish) over a pil pil suave (garlic mayonnaise) with judias tiernas (green beans) was another favorite of the day. The fish was perfectly prepared and so delicious with the green beans fresh from Chef Felipez’ garden.

The final savory course was also from the kamado. Award winning Viña Peón by Adega O Canceliño, a Mencia Garnacha from the Ribeira Sacra wine region, was a beautiful red wine to accompany the pork ribs. I feel very fortunate to have sampled this wine again when I visited Eclectic Restaurant a few days later.

Costillas de cerdo confitadas y a la brasa (Grilled confit pork ribs – above right) were so perfectly cooked they slid right off the bone. Topped with an extremely tasty combination of pisto de cebolla y tomate (onion and tomato ratatouille), smoked toasted cornbread crumbs, and fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, basil, chives and scallions), this dish was delightfully fresh and full of flavor.

One more wine to accompany dessert? Sure, why not! Sitta Dulce Nana is a sweet 100% Albariño wine from Attis Bodega in the Rias Baixas wine region.

The first dessert of piña a la brasa (grilled pineapple, also from the kamado) with helado de coco (coconut ice cream) was an absolute revelation. The combination of the acidic pineapple, smoky from the kamado, smooth ice cream studded with chunks of chewy coconut, accented by a fresh hit of yerbabuena (spearmint) chiffonade was just perfect together.

The second dessert was the accurately named tarta fea de zanahoria (ugly carrot cake) with helado de yogurth (with yogurt ice cream). It’s not very pretty, but this deconstructed take on carrot cake was deeply satisfying with sweet creamy carrots and crunchy cookie crumble, and a little bit surprising too with tangy bits of candied ginger.

The word miga refers to the crumb of the bread. When something has mucha miga it means that there is a lot below the surface. There is a nice double meaning here with the restaurant’s name, as there certainly is a lot going on at Miga: the sourcing of excellent local ingredients, careful preparation of said ingredients, a unique Japanese oven, and friendly, welcoming service. 
Miga
Praza de España 7, A Coruña, Galicia (map)
+34 881 92 48 82

Website: www.migacoruna.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/migacoruna
Instagram: www.instagram.com/migacoruna

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