Ricardo's Blog

Paella Valencia....The Real Deal! A day with the Plataforma Información Gastronomica at El Rek.



Paella Valencià, the Queen of paellas  has often  been a source of controversy as well as the most hotly debated here in Spain as to what should, or should not, be in it.

Last year the Valencian Government, at the behest of a group of restauranters who had created the Platform for the Defence of Valencian Paella, declared a Denominación d´Origen to protect its identity as well as protecting some tourists from some of the worst atrocities masquerading as Paella. I posted about this in my blog (Ricardo´s Valencian Blog, see archives October 2011) detailing the permitted ingredients and the way in which it should be made.

The debate has not closed. As I highlighted then every family in Valencia has its own recipe and there are genuine regional variations reflecting the use of local ingredients.

 There are also some permitted alternatives. All of this goes in the end towards Paella Valencià being something created by or reflecting the soul of the cook as eminent journalist Paco Alonso  put it.

Has it worked?  Well , sadly not. This week Paco has dedicated his blog and his columns in National newspapers to highlighting what he calls ` arrocidades ´ or atrocities. Those of us who follow the debate have seen photographs of Valencian Paella (sic) from Cuba with fruit , fish and sausages included ( all outside the DO permitted list) and this week Tesco, a UK supermarket chain, has launched a Paella Sandwich only to be followed by a well known  chain, Pizza Hut, creating a paella pizza and launching it in Poland with a poster campaign including a bullfighter.

At least in Spain and Valencia in particular there are no problems now? You may think so but you would be wrong. Carmencita, sells an instant paella  mix…..just add water and cook ( you know the sort! ) Even on the streets of Valencia commercial paellas are sold masquerading as the real thing whilst being made up of a variety of non-permitted ingredients.

To give Paco his due he has founded a group of gastronauts using Facebook as its base and yesterday, 21 April, the Platform for Gastronomic Information (PIG) descended by appointment on `El Rek´ in El Palmar for a workshop on paella and a meal to be followed by a boat trip on the Albufera lagoon.

Let me explain for those who do not know Valencia. El Palmar is an old fishing village in the Albufera National Park. Today it consists of almost entirely restaurants and on Sundays in particular half of Valencia descends on the town to eat its favourite meal. It also receives coach loads of tourists almost every day so you might expect there to be plenty of opportunity for sharp practice!

I think not! The paella police are very active here and any straying from the norm would be pounced upon. Perhaps the only sharp practice is that restaurants can charge a bit more here because of their popularity!

El Rek is a one of the larger restaurants with space for 411 diners inside. Lola Bru Benaches  runs this establishment and yes, even yesterday when 23 PIGs attended the master class given by champion cocinera  Amparo , coachloads of Austrian tourists and families celebrating weddings or new born babies filled the restaurant to groaning point!

You might think restaurants would quiver with fear when faced with such a motley crew of experts, journalists, bloggers, a lawyer, business owners and food-writers who have Valencian gastronomy firmly inscribed on their collective psyche! No…Lola was confident enough to leave her champion chef outside in the car-park with us to slowly cook a Valencian Paella and describe what she was doing as she went along. As the San Miguels flowed and the cameras clicked no special secrets were divulged but to all of us it was clear that quality ingredients were the key, slow cooking so that the meat was tender and so that all the flavours, including saffron, were fully integrated into and absorbed by the rice ( bomba) .

Once the rice had been added we moved to our allocated table and enjoyed some classic tapas whist waiting for the `tour de force´. For the record Esgarret, ( salt cod and peppers ) with smoked tuna slices was followed by Alli Pebre, eel and potato stew ( Amparo is a champion cook of this local speciality too!) soon disappeared to be followed by the paella…..a wonderful  example of the real thing to which snails had been added!

The rice had fully absorbed the flavor of the three vegetables, the chicken and rabbit and was separating nicely. This was one of the best paellas I had enjoyed.

No meal is complete without a dessert! Plates of sliced Valencian oranges with cointreau were followed by Coca ( or bizcocho) , a lemon flavoured cake and rollitos ( biscuits) with anis and the inevitable mistela…..a sweet muscatel wine  fortified with  alcohol, and finally coffee.

It is not difficult to see why this restaurant is so popular! It should be on everyones  itinerary for a traditional Valencian lunch including paella!

Finally the gastro tour and paella inspection over, the assembled PIGs embarked, bravely given the wind, on a trip in a long boat through the canals, the reed beds and out onto the lake with its views of Valencia and inevitable wildlife such as herons and ducks.

I fail to see why it is necessary to create new versions of Valencian Paella! The real thing cooked well is one of the gastronomic wonders of the world!






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Beaujolais Cru Chénas 1985.....Still Drinking Well!


In 1986 , around a bank holiday weekend we set off with friends from London in my Opel Manta to stay in Burgundy, on a chicken farm in Bresse,  but with the aim of visiting several different wine-growing areas to buy for the cellar at home. I remember we called into Ambonnay in Champagne to buy the wines from the house of Billiot, both sparkling and still red, before visiting the Jura, Beaune, Cotes de Nuits ( Fixin), the Maconnais, Challonaise  and the Beaujolais all of which were day trips.

Of the wines we bought there are but three left, a Fixin 1983, a Beaujolais Cru, Chenas  Dom de Brureaux 1983 and the 1985 of the latter property.

The two 1983´s are for another day but the 1985 caught my eye the other day, still a good level in the neck of the bottle and I thought it might be time to see how good it still was. Now, I have to say there was no doubt in my mind it would still be good.   Leer más

Valencian Wines Support the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project.

Valencia  is playing a part in a charity in Africa, namely the Bisila Bokoko project, a charity aimed at ending illiteracy amongst youngsters and giving young Africans a better start and chance in Life.

How is Valencia playing it´s part? Well, grapes from across the DO and from Utiel-Requena are being made into wines specifically to be sold to raise money towards the project.

Bisila Bokoko is the daughter of an African immigrant to Valencia whose family came from Equatorial Guinea, her father going on to become the first African to qualify here as a lawyer. The family still live here, her brother working in a bank in Valencia whilst Bisila herself is Executive Director of the Spain-USA Chamber of Commerce, based in New York. Previously she was working for IVEX NYC the agency dedicated to promoting Valencian business in the USA.

In order to repay some of the advantages and benefits they received here in Spain, they have created the Foundation as a not for profit, non-partisan project with a mission to share the gift of literacy with Africa by providing new Libraries, well stocked with targeted books and periodicals which will provide centres for learning and support in creating employment, cultural and technical exchanges in the areas where the libraries are based.

How did the project begin? Well on Bisila´s first visit to Ghana she met a local chief of the Kokofu tribe in the Kumasi Region. To cut a long story short he offered her the title of Queen Development Mother and gave her a plot of land for the first Library! This library was opened in February last year and work now progresses on the next project.

These projects are targeted in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and will roll out as funds permit. 5 Million US Dollars is the target to raise by 2015.

However the project does not stop with building libraries…these have to be stocked with books, librarians paid a salary and the projects generally supported and monitored.

This funding is raised in a number of ways. For example last year visitors staying in a particular hotel could leave the book they took to read and receive a discount. More information  and the traditional ways such as cash donations and internet transfers are also available and can be found on the projects web-site http://bbalp.org.

Perhaps the best way locally in Valencia to support the project is through the range of wines being made specifically for it by Torre Oria, the bodega situated just outside Requena in Derramador. Here support for the project commenced initially with a range of just three wines a couple of years ago but with the sale of the bodega a new start was made with the new owners and a range of thirteen wines has now been available for around six months.  The wine.maker for the project is Raquel Armero Simarro, a graduate of the University Polytechnic of Valencia and the Requena Wine-School. Raquel also worked with Dani Esposito at Dominio de la Vega before moving to Torre Oria last year.

The wines are all DO Valencia because it is felt that the association with Valencia is important. They sell for between 5-10 Euros a bottle and consist of four mono-varietals, ( Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosado made from pure Bobal. )

There is also a range consisting of a Crianza with twelve months oak ageing ( French and American) a Shiraz/Tempranillo blend and a pure Chardonnay. Three Cavas , a Brut, a Brut Nature and a Rosé complete the range available here, whilst a Reserva with 18 months ageing and a Gran Reserva with 26 months are aimed at the export market.

All are sold under the Bisila label and are available from SGI Drinks, Pza Barranquet, Valencia. Around ten thousand bottles have been sold so far and the aim is that 10% of the selling price will go to the project.

Of this range I can testify to the quality of the Shiraz/Tempranillo , a bright, youthful purple wine, with fresh and mature red fruit on the nose and a long fruity mouthful, easy to drink on its own or good with barbecues and the Cava Brut Nature, straw yellow with golden hints, very fine persistent bubbles, patisserie on the nose and good acidity with a long dry finish.

I am hoping to taste more wines from the range on a visit to the bodega in March once the building works are complete and have a bottle of the Cava Rosé recommended to drink with a seafood rice dish shortly!




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Of corks, sustainability, ecology, the environment and why plastic and screw top bottles for wine are bad and cork is al

Last May saw an opportunity to get some education under my belt, not motivated by wine for its own sake nor the location, Vera de Estenas, but rather more because I have always instinctively felt corks are best for wine bottles.....here was an opportunity to learn more about the subject. As it turned out out a very small group met up on a thundery day, to meet with Adolfo Miravet Segarro. Adolfo is a fully qualified forestry operative who just happens to be responsible for Espadan Corks,  a company producing corks in the Sierra d´Espadan, in Castellon Province and which very shortly will become a DO Corchos de Valencia in its own right. I was a bit wary , will this be too technical and scientific ( not my best subject at school ) ? However the presentation by Adolfo, despite being his Doctoral Thesis turned out to be absolutely fascinating and educational! When I say I have instinctively felt cork is best for wine bottles it was based simply on the premise that conservatively I have pulled several thousand over the last 35 years, have only ever had two corked bottles in the house and over the same period can probably count on the fingers of two hands when I have complained a wine was corked! ( Yes I may have been lucky!) Yes old corks crumble but old wines need decanting anyway! Muslin solves that problem! I do not like plastic corks, tolerating them in wines expected to be drunk within the year, and hate screw top bottles. I have always understood that cork allowed wine to breathe, could be replaced after a few years for expensive , long aged wines including Claret and Champagne, and from an environmental  point of view the cork forests of Portugal were the summer residence of the robin.If cork production ceased and the trees were replaced by a new agriculture then there would be no more robins on spades in British  gardens looking over newly  turned ground and Xmas cards would become more obscure! On the other hand, plastic does not  allow wine to breathe, it is the ultimate stopper! Plastic also sits inside the metal screw-top  and even with my limited knowledge of chemistry alcohol dissolves plastic allowing horrible things into the wine. I was not quite prepared for the complete justifacation of cork which was about to emerge! As always when you visit Vera De Estenas it commences with a visit to the vineyards, this year  more than ever plagued  by rabbits, not the local variety but  one  which particularly likes the new green shoots!  This year had seen the vines bud early, the warmth and rain producing early leaves and pre-flowering bunches....and of course early thunderstorms with hail which has burnt this growth! Fortunately there was subsequent growth and to me this looked the most like the 2008 vintage, but with a long way to go. Back to the bodega and Adolfo commenced his presentation. The company are entirely dedicated to ecological and environmental aspects. The cork oak grows areas in very specific and not just Portugal. I was surprised to learn from the map of the Mediterrean that this includes Southern Spain, Extramadura as well as the Portuguese equivalent, Morroco, Cataluña, Southern France, parts of Italy, Sicily and Corsica.....and then Castellon! In the Sierra Espada, close to Segorbe and Almedijar the cork forests are quite extensive. They sit in a National Park and sustain all sorts of agriculture not least of which is corks, but also the acorns are fed to pigs, if the wild boar don´t get them first! Cattle also live here, but predominantly pigs are the principle beneficiarys of trees planted at a ratio of about 600 to the hectare. The trees need to be almost 100 years old to produce viable corks from the bark. At about 60 years old they are first stripped, then around 12 years later a second harvest is removed. But it is not for roughly another 12 years that the bark produces it´s third harvest with sufficient quality to be used in wine bottles and then there is another 12 year wait for the next harvest! Cork is cut by horizantal and vertical cuts to remove huge peices ( see photographs) from which corks can be later extracted.   Leer más

An interesting bottle came my way...awatea hawkes bay 1992 cabernet sauvignon/merlot.

[caption id="attachment_1418" align="alignright" width="44" caption="Awatea, So Good I took Two Pictures!"] [/caption] Pre-Xmas, sat at home, Arroz al Horno de Xativa ( home-cooked) for lunch and I felt I needed to try something different to drink! So a hunt through the older bottles in the cellar offered up a New Zealand wine with a bit of age and promise and well....you can only open it once! From memory Hawkes Bay and most of New Zealand  shares the equivalent of a Northern European climate. It is for this reason their Sauvignon Blancs like Cloudy Bay have a European feel if being a bit more grassy on the nose. So, Awatea ( which means `Eye of the Dawn´ in Maori) is a  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot with a touch of Cabernet Franc and with almost 20 years of age it raised my interest ....would it be past it? Would it still be alive and with promise or even better still? Where did the bottle come from? Well, from memory I think my youngest  brother gave it to me some years ago but whatever, it has been well cellared and today was the day to open it! The neck level appeared to be normal, no loss there so no expectation of unwanted oxidation. The cork appeared perfect but proved to be shorter than expected... don´t these New Zealanders expect us Brits to keep bottles longer than they might? And, the cork broke in half, despite its lack of length! Disappointed so far....? Not me, I could smell what the bottle had to offer.....immediately  fruit of the forest.....it fairly flowed from the neck! And when I poured the first glass I could barely believe the colour......no hints of terracotta on the edge despite nearly 20 years, this was a bottle with a deep, dark, black cherry colour with almost a ruby edge! Long legs slowly crept down the glass and that fruit continued to dominate, now the whole room could smell it,  I think! [caption id="attachment_1422" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Arroz al Horno."] [/caption] On the nose I was amazed! Here we have a wine picked between 21-30 April 1992 ( Southern Hemisphere of course!) The grapes were macerated for 10-15 days and following the malolactic fermentation it was transferred  into French oak ( 70% of it new) for 18 months. We are dealing here with a wine that is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but we might have been dealing with a very good Chinon or Bourgeuil  because on closer attention to me it was the Cabernet Franc that dominated the nose....that lovely raspberry  fruit I remember so well from Druet or Lamé-Delille-Boucard  wines I drank many bottles of in the 80´s on visits to the area or with friends in London. Also on the nose was a clear hint of clove. In the mouth there was no disappointment. What a fine wine! That raspberry fruit had a gravel, mineral undertone, still mature fruit and still very lively....two and a half hours later I am still enjoying the second glass which is full, round, long-lived and extremely well balanced.....oh how I wish my brother had brought me a half-dozen bottles! [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="43" caption="Worth Another Look!"] [/caption] What a pleasure, it stood up very, very well to the fat in the pork ribs, the sweetness of the roasted garlic, saffron and morcilla de cebolla. This may have been a self-indulgent lunch on a cold, very windy, Valencian Autumn day but one I shall remember for a very long time to come!   Leer más

Ricardo´s ten most enjoyed valencian wines of 2011.

[caption id="attachment_1406" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Tasting in Villena."] [/caption] Well 2011 has been a spectacular year for tastings with first visits to regions outside Valencia, some hot tastings in Valencia, some wonderful evenings at Las Añadas, Vino-Valencia, Pedralba and Vilamarxant Wine Clubs, some great fairs in Valencia, Requena, Alicante and Castellon and a host of Bodega visits! Now, of course any list is entirely subjective, it doesn´t matter whether you are Peñin, Parker, Miller, Els Bodeguers or an avid supporter of Verema. We all have aspects about wine which excite us more and in the final analysis even if you know a particular wine is spectacular it will not make it to a final list if something else in another wine tips the balance, be it fruit, a preference for French or American oak,  concentration or just plain quirkiness or a preference for a particular variety or disdain of the same! And please remember these are the wines I most enjoyed, not necessarily the best [caption id="attachment_1407" align="alignright" width="102" caption="Poster for 3rd Cava Fair."] [/caption] All I know is that going back over the years tasting notes there were wines each time which got exclamation marks and `loved it´in the margin! No boring gradation from 1.1 to 9.9 in my notes! ( Well there are  and it was surprising how many made it into the 8.2 to 9.2 range!) And on that note any bodega which feels their wine should be included in my list....I am sorry.....all wines not included are 0.1 point below the succesful ones! Let us start with cava....and what a list there was to choose from including some which don´t count as cava because they are made outside the DO or from grape varieties that are not permitted. Amongst these are the `Metodo Propio´ of Carlos Carcel whose just disgorged bottle we enjoyed at the bodega or brother Ernesto´s 9 D'Octubre....both pure Macabeos. Amongst the strong contenders....and still in the running for Xmas Selection ( which comes later) along with these two are three more from Requena, `Sybarus ´from Torroja, Chozas Carrascal and Vera de Estenas. Top contenders for me were however ArteMayor from Dominio de la Vega together with their Pinot Noir rosado, Hispano Suiza´s Tantum Ergo and their rosado also from Pinot Noir, or Pago de Tharsy´s Unico....a `blanc de noir´ from pure Bobal. There is also a 6-year-old cava lurking in the cellars of bodegas Cueva where Mariano Taberner has been conducting one of his experiments! Well Hispano Suiza did rather well with the critics who probably know much better than me naming the rosado best Cava........but for me `Unico´ just wins, a distinct quality wine which for me is better value than commercial champagne such as Veuve Cliquot, Lanson, etc. [caption id="attachment_1408" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="With carlos Carcel."] [/caption] In fresh whites the choice was immense from varieties such as Macabeo, Merseguera, Verdil, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tardana, Viognier, Riesling, Moscatel, Malvasia  and more. Of the Tardanas the outstanding wine is of course Sybarus from Torroja. ( A Spanish friend thinks he knows of a small parcel which still remains in Pedralba- where it will be called Plantafina and which could possibly be recuperated.) Of the Verdil´s the best for me is Belda´s 2011, much cleaner and fresher than the 2010. I still like a co-operative white from Merseguera, Balcon de Valencia from Alcublas and loved some of the dry moscatels from Alicante, but in the end Macabeo produced some of the best wines in this category, full of ripe melon and green apple, satisfying with lovely acidity it does grow well in Valencia. Torre Oria, Marmiton, Enterizo from Coviñas in Requena, Vera de Estenas, the list is immense but the wine which stood out was the Marmiton, accompanying morteruelo and ajoarriero in La Sarten in La Portera.... a truly unforgettable couple of bottles with a wonderful meal! [caption id="attachment_1409" align="alignright" width="112" caption="Finca Collado at the Valencia Mostra."] [/caption] No messing about with the cask aged whites. There were chardonnays from Vinessens, a new bodega in Villena, Viña Lidon from Vera de Estenas, Sauvignon Blanc from Hispano Suizas....(who can forget that vertical tasting of five vintages?)  Ernesto Carcels Macabeo crianza from American oak and of course Chardonnay from Alvarez Nölting and Finca Collado´s blend of Chardonnay and Moscatel from Salinas in Alicante. Magnanimvs blanco, Clemente´s Florante , Angosto Blanco and Frailes Blanco also performed memorably in this category. Els Bodeguers placed the Alvarez Nölting first and gave the silver to Finca Collado ( ahead of Daniel Belda) which  also went on to win a Bachus later in the year. Of the pure Chardonnays Viña Lidon is hands down winner for me with its  banana fruit and acidity in 2010 but overall I just prefer the Finca Collado 2010, DO Alicante,  blended with Moscatel which now has wonderful citrus ( grapefruit) flavours. In the rosados Beldas 2010 Merlot, Finca Collado´s Merlot, Pedro Moreno´s Bobal, Parreño from Latorre, Vera de Estenas  Bobal, Torre Oria´s and some others were refreshing, easy drinkers. Amongst the biggest prizewinners were the rosados from Bobal from Coviñas who consistently provide outstanding wines in the category. Of the range from Enterizo, Al Vent or Aula the Al Vent was the winner in this catgory, lovely colour, fresh fruit and cream nose but with a hint of minerality and better acidity in the finish. In the light red category there were some interesting wines from  2010, generally considered difficult in Utiel-Requena, better in Valencia  Castellon and Alicante although there was a lot of oidium and a lot of treatment as a result. Of the  reds with a touch of cask ageing Vicente Flors `Flor de Clotas´ from Tempranillo, Bobal from Dominio de la Vega, Cero from La Encina a new ecological bodega in Villena, the 2009 Merlot from Finca Collado, the Martinez Bermell Merlot from Vera de Estenas , La Peña from Alejandro Perez  a small family bodega in Mañan and the green label Viñas de Calles from Vegamar have all excited at tastings. For me the Finca Collado and Vera de Estenas, the Bobal from Dominio de la Vega are serious wines whilst the La Peña and Viña de Calles are more everyday drinkers. Judging by the number of bottles which came through the house or those of friends the La Peña wins the former light red category and the Martinez Bermell the slightly more serious category. There were no basic tintos which excited me at all! In the `proper´cask-aged reds category there are some very heavyweight contenders. Wines from Muro (Almoroig) , Torrevellisca, Belda, Enguera, Mendoza, Carabibas,  six of the seven members of the  Asociación Primum Bobal, Olivastro, Mustiguillo, Emilio Clemente, and from Castellon `Clotas´ from Vicente Flors, a Tempranillo that I will forever remember standing up to artichokes, Gabriel Mayo Garcia´s Platinum series, a whole host of wines with depth, concentration and flavour. [caption id="attachment_1412" align="alignright" width="129" caption="Serious Contenders from Muro D´Alcoy."] [/caption] Bobal is such a distinct grape and with such potential that `best bobal´ is a category in its own right. The only rule was that it had to be a pure 100% monovarietal.  Contenders were Olivastro from Viñedos y Bodegas Carres, Pago de Molinos from Dani Esposito, `Casa Don Angel´ from Vera de Estenas, all three quite distinct wines. I have enjoyed the Pago at Asociación tastings, the Vera de Estenas at special tastings and lunch at the bodega and the Olivastro at home as well as the bodega. For me there is very little to separate them but for me the 2008 Olivastro just edges the other two for its explosive fruit. All three develop after opening and are outstanding wines from the variety that demonstrate the ageing potential, depth, concentration and flavours possible. For me the other winner in this category is the Carabibas, Sierra de Cabreras from Salinas ( DO Alicante) a wine of huge concentration but pushed hard by the Almoroig,  Mendoza´s Petit Verdot, Terrerazo from Mustiguillo,  Ca Belda, with a lot more coming up on the rails! In sweet wines where to go? Moscatels abound in Valencia and are concentrated but not exclusive to the Marina Alta in DO Alicante and the area around Turis in DO Valencia ( Valentino). But there are some produced in Utiel-requena from Bobal (Sybarus or Dagon ) and from other varieties at Dominio de la Vega and Chozas Carrascal amongst others. In Castellon La Palera produced around Vilafames is a sweet sticky syrup of figs from Tempranillo and we should not forget the Bonachon from Pedralba ( Garnacha) or the dulce from Comeche in Villar d´Arzobispo or the sweet reds from Alicante from Monastrell, not to mention the Fondillons from around Monovar. Some of the Moscatels are produced as light espumosos such as those from Bocopa and Reymos from Cheste. There are also wines produced for the mass from Malvasia in Turis and this year was a delight even if the Sweet wine fair in Valencia and the Alicante LomejordeGastronomia had rather less to taste this year than last. [caption id="attachment_1413" align="alignleft" width="99" caption="Miquelius from Bodegas Dagon."] [/caption] Two straight winners....... in sticky reds it has to be the unforgettable Dagon and in the lighter espumos0s Reymos for it´s consistency and light easy drinking!

So there you go, my favourite 10 wines of this year. Bet they will all be different at the end of 2012!   Leer más

Vilafamés, gastronomy days 2011.

[caption id="attachment_1391" align="alignleft" width="106" caption="Poster for the Vilafamés Fair."] [/caption] Just once in a while, despite thinking you know somewhere well, something jumps out and gives you a huge surprise! The Jornadas Gastronòmiques de Vilafamés was one of these. Normally these `Jornadas´ are held in local restaurants in a town and are a showcase for local cooking at reasonable prices and this was no exception with all the bars and restaurants displaying tables laid up for excited diners in the know. Unusually I think this is accompanied by a local fair in the market place in Vilafamés, a very pretty town about an hour North of Valencia with a ruined castle and set in a steep valley between mountain ranges. I think I have been to Vilafamés five or six times this year, it is the home to Bodegas Mayo Garcia and Señorio de Vilafames, as well as having a local Co-op bodega as well. It also is home to the olive oil Co-op named after the local mountain peak of Penyagolosa. From the town there are astounding views over the Plà de Vilafames and the vineyards it contains, in the narrow streets with their tall  houses, some built into the stone of the mountainsides there is colour and a vibrancy which may well be due to the light. [caption id="attachment_1395" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Discussing Sausages at Casa Marta."] [/caption] It was this colour which first surpised me on arrival at the fair. Our usual parking space in the towns main square was not available due to the marquee in which local bakers, butchers, sausage-makers, the olive oil co-op and Bodegas Mayo Garcia were showing their range of wines called Magnanimvs. Here also, local restaurants were displaying their menus and taking bookings for lunch or dinner. Outside it was a very bright and warm December day, we have been enjoying an Autumn with daytime temperatures still around 18 degrees and so far without frosts. Inside the marquee, often drab and uninviting, the colours abounded on the various stalls. We were to be tempted by Bunuelos and figs from the local housewives association served with a sweet rich Moscatel Vino de Licor. In a corner one of the local butchers, Casa Marta, which also provides a take-away service, were displaying a huge range of sausages, white, black and red, blanquettes, longanizas, chorizos, botifarras, sobrasadas and morcillas, perro and artesan cheeses with rosemary, olives and in the traditional servilleta and tronchon shapes. From here we selected a sheeps cheese, `El Poble Benessal´semi-curado and from an artesan cheesemaker, a member of the Valencian Cheese Makers Association. [caption id="attachment_1396" align="alignleft" width="112" caption="Selection of Breads and Cocas."] [/caption] From the next door bakers stall Forn de Pa Natural , we selected a  bread weighing about a pound, crisp and fresh, to add to our emerging lunch. To this we added a generous portion of coca, like a pizza base but dressed with sardine, anchovy, red pepper, and aubergine slices. At the nearby butchers stall of Maria Dolores (MD from the next village of St Joan del Moro) we admired another selection of sausages. Amongst the longanizas frescas was a range which to all intents and purposes could have been English. Thicker in style and with herbs and spices we could have had pork with wine, sobrasada, pork with roquefort, with garlic or other varieties! We selected pork with ajos-tiernos , young green garlic and a botifarra montaña with spices. Next we called at the stall of Gabriel Mayo Garcia, a very good winemaker and selected some white Magnanimvs as well as the red `Gold top´-as well as sampling the Rosado and `Platinum Top´! These wines have all been reviewed following previous visits to the Bodega earlier in the year ( see archives). Wines should also have been available from both the Co-op, Bodegas Vilafamés, and Señorio de Vilafamés whose cavas and reds I particularly like, but despite advertising their presence neither were there. [caption id="attachment_1397" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Moscatel, Vino de Licor at the Housewives Stall."] [/caption] Moving on we tried a sobrasada, quite mild, from Estela and some savoury tarts from Entrepans Paima, before stealing outside for a refreshing beer. Here the other bakery in the village, Rafael Galindo, was doing a roaring trade with his chocolate covered fruits. This bakery is renowned for its sweets and sweet tarts and we have visited it before to try almond based pastries! Up the hill towards the Church and Castle, local shops were selling ceramic and other products. One of these shops is a local delicatessen `La Palera´. Every visit to the town has culminated here so far to buy a few bottles of the Vi dolç, a dark sweet syrup of figs pudding wine from long aged Tempranillo with pasification.  Paco and Mari-Carmen sell quality wines from Castellon, dispense samples of their sweet wine and otherwise have good quality olive oil, honey, marmalades and tourist oriented goods! This time they were dispensing samples of a new white and rosado from their own grapes which they are now commercializing. The white is dry, from Malvasia, Merseguera and Moscatel and was light, fresh, dry, well-balanced with floral notes and apricots and a good finish. The rosado is onion skin in colour with nice viscocity. On the nose quite closed, it may have been a little over chilled but in the mouth was full of fruit, with an initial sweetness balanced by fresh acidity and lovely raspberry and strawberry flavours, quite full with a creamy long finish. From Tempranillo and , unusual in Castellon, Bobal. [caption id="attachment_1398" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Outside La Palera."] [/caption] We strolled  down the hill, had a coffee, this time avoiding the Carajillo de Ron, ( a lethal rum based coffee) for which the town is infamous and made our way back to the car. From here an hours drive home saw us cooking the sausages and laying out our impromptu lunch. I can only say these were amongst my favourite sausages from Valencia, the Botifarra spicy and peppery and the longaniza with its garlic....well, garlicky but not overso! Both had a wonderful texture and displayed no fat in the cooking......the coca of sardine was excellent with the bread base easy to eat and neither too oily nor dry. The bread was fresh, easy to carve and well....our next visit to Vilafamés will now have other motives than just visiting the bodegas!   Leer más

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