Three weeks to go and eating.

Three things the Spanish get right about food:

  1. Spanish omelette, so simple yet never disappoints
  2. Sharing is caring. Variety is the spice of life and I would much prefer to have a little of everything than a huge plate all to myself of only one flavour. With the exception of sweet potato fries.

  3. Nothing beats simple seasoned tomatoes and hard cheese when consumed as close as possible to their point of origin.

The thing that immediately struck me while consuming a cup of gazpacho by the pool in my hotel was how perfect the food was for the weather. A balmy 22degrees and all I wanted was a cold, mildly garlicky, refreshing tomato soup. However I’m the first to point out that in the more dismal weather conditions in England all I want is roast chicken and an apple crumble.

It’s stating the obvious to point out that seasonality and produce should really have a higher place in our food consumption than they currently do but in the age of grab and go it is sadly not the case. I am particularly guilty of making cheap and easy the criteria for dinner.

However I am slowly moving to realise that the meat from my butcher is infinitely tastier than that from Sainsbury’s, it’s a shame in England that the price doesn’t match. In Spain it couldn’t be more different. Choosing an octopus dish when octopuses are plentiful in the surrounding area is not only cheap but delicious. Other tapas I would recommend next time you are in Jerez are; squid ink croquettes, thinly sliced Jamon with quince, marinated anchovies and of course the aforementioned Spanish omelette.

The prize for the best meal I ate in Jerez was undoubtedly the sherry and food matching menu at La Carbona. With a Michelin star and a jazzed up bodegas style interior, you could be forgiving for assuming this restaurant is hype over delivery but as the only non-local in the restaurant I beg to differ. A full 6-course sherry and food matching menu at €45 seems remarkably cheap and they could easily have cut corners on the food or wine they selected. However each course was carefully thought through and painstakingly matched not only to the style of wine, but to the individual producer style as well.

Upon arrival I was greeted with a smooth and silky chicken liver parfait with a Pedro Ximenez syrup. The sweet and savoury notes reminiscent of a Sauternes and foie gras blend but with a richer flavour. Then I moved to the first pairing. A Fino from William-Hubert with beetroot marinated salmon and guacamole. When I say this was my least favourite pairing, it’s merely because the following courses were of a particularly high standard, the salmon was melt in the mouth and the guacamole, punchy with flavour. The acidity of the Fino cut through the oily salmon like a knife.

Next up was my second favourite dish. I mentioned the proximity of Jerez to the sea makes for exquisite seafood dishes and this squid, wild mushroom and Parmesan risotto was no exception. Each component of the dish had been carefully thought out to match the Amontillado sherry by Dios Baco it was paired with. The wine was dark, savoury and caramelised on the nose whilst the palate displayed hints of a salty sea breeze. The dish was aromatic with Unami flavours of wild mushroom and Parmesan you could smell a mile off, but the taste had a hidden layer of salty squid, all stirred through a perfect al dente risotto.

The third pairing was surprising. A Palo Cortado, the smooth, lighter Oloroso wine style, with an Asian inspired dish. A pan fried sea bream with satay cream and stir fried vegetables. This turned out to be the ultimate winning combination of the lunch. The notes of sesame and peanut matched perfectly to notes of these sweeter nuts in the wine that I had barely noticed before but now will be forever synonymous with the Palo Cortado style. An explosion of flavour in the mouth and surely paving the way for a fusion style of cuisine.

Then came the classic pairing. Roast duck with pears and Oloroso. A pairing that exploits duck’s natural affinity to be accompanied by a touch of sugar and Oloroso’s ability to cut through the fattiness and match the rich dark meat of the duck breast. The Oloroso in question was a beautiful wine from bodegas Rio Viejo but unfortunately I had just tried an incredible Oloroso earlier that day (Faustino Gonzales) so unfortunately it somewhat paled in comparison.

The final course was once again surprising but less for the wine-matching than the dish itself. The sommelier explained that she had chosen a boutique cream sherry with a blend of Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez which would’ve gone wonderfully with any sweet ice cream and the delicious perfumed Fino tuile that accompanied the dish. The sugar in the dish mellowed the sugar in the wine, minimising your perception of it but retaining a caramelised flavour. However the astounding part was the ice cream, a cheese ice cream, that was surprisingly tasty. It was like eating a vanilla ice cream with a final afterthought of Unami Parmesan, subtle but with a lingering aftertaste. The strawberry syrup was not necessary on the dish as the ice cream spoke for itself and the syrup slightly overwhelmed it, but I would gladly eat a bowl of the extraordinary confection again.

It seems a shame that recreating the food in England probably won’t taste quite as good or authentic, but come the highs of 22degrees that we’ll inevitable get in the great British summer, I’ll certainly try.

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