Monthly Archives: October 2011

Paella Valencia, Queen of Paellas Now Has its D.O.- But Not Entirely Popularly!


Paella Valencia - The Real Thing!

In September 2009 my second post was about the creation of the Platform for the Defence Of Valencian Paella by a group of 10 top restaurant owners  in the Valencia area. They were shocked at what was being passed off as Paella and were seeking Denominación Original status which would define the ingredients that were permitted. Anything else would simply be a paella or an arroz ( rice dish) and could not be described as `Paella Valencia´.

Remarkably quickly for Spanish bureaucracy and entirely to its credit, this week the Government in Valencia has decreed that Paella Valencia does indeed have its own DO. Moreover it has decreed the ten essential ingredients and one or two seasonal variations that go into the authentic dish.

Quickly on its heels the DO for Valencian Rice has thrown its support behind the initiative and will provide a sticker for restaurant windows which will identify it as an establishment where the authentic Paella Valencia is served, thus ensuring that tourists are not hoodwinked into trying something passing itself off as the real deal!

Chicken, Rabbit, Beans, The Base Ingredients.

And you would think everyone would be very happy with this wouldn´t you? Oh no, voices are raised in objection already!

The problem is all Spanish families have their own personal variation ( or variations) of `authentic´local dishes! Many will not be happy at being told that the Valencian Paella they have cooked for their entire lives and probably in competitions in their local towns is not the real thing! Moreover Valencia is a province ( one of three including Castellon and Alicante) which make up the Valencian Community. In my experience the gastronomy here changes every thirty to forty miles and dishes cooked in the Horta Norte are very different from those in the Comarca of Utiel-Requena or the Plana Alta. Paella is one dish cooked in every area of the Valencian Community but there are huge regional differences depending on the variety of local produce. Paellas can include seafood or even be vegetarian ( trust me-I do not lie) and one of the most famous here in my locality of the Camp de Turia is Paella de Bledes, ( chard ). Paella Valencia it is not! So, what is?

Historically the dish was created in the Albufera district South of Valencia and was a working mans meal where they could carry their ingredients with them when they went to work. Originally eels, wild duck and rice which were plentiful in the area were included. Gradually the area became more populated and the locals started to build houses and create gardens. With them came the inevitable small livestock ( chickens and rabbits) and it is this which now makes up the basis of Valencian Paella.

Bringing the Water to the Boil!

Officially the ten ingredients are as follows:- Chicken, rabbit, tomato, white and green beans, saffron, oil, salt, water and rice.

The paella is traditionally cooked over a fire of orange wood in a `paella´ which is a flat metal pan.

The oil is heated until smoking, salt added and then the chicken and rabbit pieces are browned before adding the grated tomato and beans. These are cooked before the water is added with the saffron, the salt is adjusted and then the rice incorporated. Once the rice is cooked the dish stands for a few minutes and is then eaten communally from the pan, each diner using their own spoon and all fighting for the `soccorrat´which is the most highly prized part, the slightly crispy base of the dish. Sounds simple doesn´t it? It is not.

Moreover I live just 25 km from the Albufera as the crow flies. Here in the Camp de Turia paprika is added to the dish when the chicken is cooked, and small local snails, gathered from the tops of wild  fennel stalks after rain are very popular as well. When the water is boiling and just before the rice is added a small bunch of fresh wild rosemary is incorporated as well.

In other parts e.g. Castellon pork rib is included and elsewhere strips of cooked red pepper are added.

These recipes and their local variations are sold in restaurants from North to South so I suspect the arguments will continue for some time to come and the DO for Valencian Rice may find it difficult to give its stickers away. Like all Protected Foodstuffs and Wines the idea is to protect the identity and no-one can dispute Paella Valencia is the most Nationally ( and Internationally) paella…….and sadly there are some atrocious variations which bear no relationship to the original dish. If tourists in the Valencia area are protected from some of this abuse then  the initiative will have been worthwhile.

But changing the habits and lifelong recipes of every Valencian family? I think that is one aim which  is doomed to failure. I have no doubt `Valencian Paella´ will continue to be cooked and  enjoyed  with its  whole host of variations!

And a Good Bottle of Wine to go with it!

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L´Alcúdia, Gastronomy Fair 2011. (Feria de Gastronomia.)


Bright Poster For This Years Fair!

Well, the Gods are almost smiling on L´Alcúdia this year. Certainly the sun is shining on this 5 day long fair of food and wine even if the organisers have chosen to ignore the one piece of advice given last year. You really cannot call it a Gastronomy Fair and expect people to try serious wines  from a squat water-glass! They are pants!

I would like to think that as a punishment for this, Valencia day fell on the  Sunday so the expected Bank Holiday Monday crowd  did not materialise  making it  a working day and the turnout was thus very low for the morning session.

All the better for the rest of us!

This fair always attracts some interesting Bodegas showing wines and top quality cheese producers, ( this year Quesos de Cati, Romero  and Granya Rinya) olives, proper bread cooked in a wood fired oven, bacalao ( salt cod sides ) with some of the thickest pieces I have ever seen, fruit, especially kakis which are grown in the zone and the housewives associations with their typical local produce which makes this a serious contender for the best of the `gastronomy fairs´ challenging Utiel´s which is held at the end of the month.

For the first session we concentrated on some of the bodegas and started with Celler La Muntanya from Muro, the only bodega in the Valencian Community entirely surrounded by mountains, made up of a number of parcels of recovered vineyard and with very small parcels belonging to 30 different growers. The vineyard is a microviña that is to say it has to meet four strict criteria and all the wines are Vino de autor rather than within DO rules. Amongst these criteria are making wine from regional grape varieties in an entirely ecological way and promoting them locally.

Juan Vicent of Celler La Muntanya.

Alicantino Gustavo Pascual was a mini-fundista, fully behind this small scale production and is perhaps better known for writing `Paquito el Chocolatero´the pasadoble played at every festive occasion in Spain……look it up on Youtube, my favourite version is the South American regaeton take on the tune by King Africa!

Which neatly brings us to the first wine tasted, Paquito el Chocolatero, Muro Negre 2009 14.5% ABV and `low in alcohol´as Juan Vicent, Director of the group would have had us believe! A medium density brilliant, cherry red wine , with long legs…..well they would have been in a proper glass….on the nose a little restrained, but in the mouth full of red fruit, good body, dry but with a long fruity finish and well-integrated.

From Monastrell, Garnacha Pais and Garnacha tintorera, the wine has had separate vinification with the Garnacha pais having six months crianza in a 40 hl cube of french oak, the Monastrell six months on its lees in stainless steel and the Garnacha Tintorera six months in French oak barrels of second and third use.

Second wine was the Celler la Muntanya, 14% ABV and a blend of Monastrell, the two Garnachas, Bobal and Bonicaire with the Bobal and Monastrell being picked later in November.

Also a brilliant cherry red, of medium density this was quite light on the nose with cherry, red and black fruits of the forest and blackberries whilst in the mouth morello cherry predominated with a final hint of citrus, ( grapefruit ) and a hint of minerality. Long satisfying finish.

Finally we tasted the Almaroig which means pasture in old Arabic. 14.5%ABV and a blend of 70% Monastrell with Garnacha this has had about 13 months in crianza and allegedly can be left open for up to a fortnight quietly improving as it aerates. This was a much deeper black cherry with a floral nose, particularly of violets  which in the mouth convert to full on black fruits, a lovely wine with great depth and power and length.

The bodega also produces two whites and sweet wine which were not available to taste….a visit is on the cards.

Suitably impressed we crossed the boulevard to the stall of Che Que Foie the Navarres Foie Gras producer `sin pareil´ which I have written about before and where we tasted the foie with red wine, foie with figs and the straight foie. I know what will be on the menu on Xmas day!

Belda´s 2011 Verdil and Rosat!

Now, one of the reasons for visiting this fair is that Bodega Daniel Belda regularly attends and launches both the new vintages of Verdil, a grape which he is credited with saving from extinction and their Rosat. This year once again Helena Velasco,  comercial at the bodega was present to enjoy a tasting with us having just returned from  a sales trip to Canada!

Last year the 2010 Verdil had only just been bottled and still had that hint of electricity that wine sometimes has after bottling from stainless steel. It also had a slightly sulphury nose which disappeared with a swirl or two of the glass. No problem as this wine is completely sold out! The 2011 on the other hand is clean, brilliant, pale yellow with good legs. On the nose the flowers and fruit are  much more pronounced and ripe with gooseberry, elderflower and amongst the tropicals ripe passion fruit. In the mouth crisp, dry with a good minerality. Lovely, already better than the 2010 this is going straight on to  the buying list.

The Rosat 2011 was a surprise. Firstly it was not Merlot, but rather Pinot Noir and secondly there are only around 1200 bottles so get in quick! A pale strawberry colour, with raspberry on the nose this has a strawberry flavour in the mouth but is drier and less full than last years Merlot, crisp minerally and very satisfying!

We also tasted new vintages of Pinot Noir 2010, Shiraz 2007 and the Migjoorn 2007 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha Tintorera before the top wine, the Ca Belda, which is Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell, 14% ABV and very full, round, deep with good body. A truly great flagship wine from this excellent bodega in Fontanars.

In need of some food we went to try the cheeses from Granya Rinya who are based in Valencia and who have been operating since 1991 but with a history of activity going back more than 100 years. They produce traditional Valencian cheeses and are part of the Valencian Cheese Producers Association. These cheeses may be from cows milk, goats milk or sheep’s milk and all are made in the artesanal style , some using the traditional molds which give the cheeses their distinctive shapes! Soft fresh cheeses and Requeson, in Barra style, semi-cured cheeses with a mix of milk and pure sheeps milk aged cheeses, fresh and rolled goats cheeses, and pure cured goats milk cheeses such as curado or servilletta. And the company also make puddings such as `burnt tart´, cheesecakes, chocolate tarts, bio-yoghurts and much more. Soon there will be an on-line shop to make life easier!

Wines From Torrevellisca.

I first came across the wines of Torrevellisca at the fair in Ontinyent some two years ago but have not seen them around since. The bodega which is also in Fontanars was created in its modern format in 1993 to bring together the 28 members who make up the Co-op although the history going back to 1880 sounds much more interesting. A visit is imminent so some of this history will wait for that post.

Since my last encounter the bodega has undergone a change of management and style. I remember competent pleasant wines. This time I found some real pleasures, worthy of inclusion in serious tastings! Rafael Penadès showed us the wines.

First up was the white, Palacio de Torrevellisca, a blend of Verdil, Macabeo and Verdejo. 2010, a blanco joven this was yellow, with golden flashes, clean and bright. On the nose apple and banana and in the mouth fresh, balanced, fresh fruit , easy to drink with a long satisfying finish.

There are three new reds, worthy of full comment and new to the scene with the new management and style. These are Brundisium, Argentum and Aurum.

Brundisium is a 2008, Crianza with a blend of 50% Tempranillo, and 25% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The crianza was 20 months in a mix of French and American oak. The wine is purple, intense and deep with long legs…….the bodega thoughtfully produced more sensible tasting glasses! On the nose powerful, mature fruit, a little hint of the crianza and balsamics. In the mouth well-balanced and well structured with a long oaky finish.

Argentum, 2009 and a crianza of 15 months in French and American oak is 50% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. An intense and deep black cherry colour the crianza hits you straight away with soft coffee-cream aromas, vanilla, red fruits and spices ( clove and nutmeg). In the mouth smooth, smooth tannins, nice soft fruit and a long satisfying oaky finish. Strong contender for Xmas lunch with the turkey!

The Aurum 2009, also a crianza of just 12 months is 50% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This wine is a bright ruby-red colour, deep intensity and with long glycerinous legs. On the nose black cherries vie with  violets and orange peel. In the mouth the wine has a complexity, good length, is very full, unctuous, with smooth and pleasant tannins. Well integrated.

One of the great pleasures of fairs like this is to find a brand new bodega….and La Encina met this criteria! Describing themselves as new Artesans of wine this entirely ecological vineyard has vineyards in Almansa and Caudete in La Mancha, and Villena en Alicante and sits around that border we covered in the last post.

Bodegas La Encina.

The wines are called Cero, ( nothing to do with a lack of alcohol), Albalat and Rojoydulce for the sweet wine.

I had the pleasure of tasting five wines just before the session closed.

The Rosado ( there is no white although they do have some Forcallet which can make a white!)) is a pure Monastrell, with good colour and cherry  and raspberry nose which in the mouth displayed lovely fruit, balanced acidity and is worth another go!

The Cero, with 10 months in both barrel and then bottle, is a blend of Merlot, Monastrell, Garnacha and Forcallet and from 2008. this had good legs, and was a medium density cherry red, on the nose cherry fruit and in the mouth the cherry was morello, with good depth, nicely balanced. ç

The Albalat green label Tinto Roble is 80% Monastrell and 20% Merlot and 13% ABV. Again bright young cherry red in colour, this has had three months in barrica and three in bottle. On the nose quite light cherry then freshness. In the mouth a very enjoyable fresh young wine with lots of fruit!

By contrast the Albalat crianza has had eight months in barrica and eight months in bottle. Also 13%ABV this is 90% Monastrell. The wine presented almost turbio with deposit as it has had the minimum filtration and therefore needs decanting. On the nose red and black fruits, smoke, and in the mouth black fruits with nicely balancing acidity but a little bit more  tannin, though smooth.

The sweet wine, Rojoydulce, is like a ratafia from champagne or a vino amable. With 13.5% ABV the fermentation has been stopped by the addition of pure alcohol to preserve the natural sugars. It too has a cloudiness reminiscent of ratafia. Perfect with Pates and Foie Gras this wine is sweet and grapey.

Olives, Antonio Moreno.

Preserved olives for aperitifs are a huge favourite here in Valencia and you can also buy onions, capers and artichokes preserved in brine or vinegar to decorate salads or add to dishes as well. It was at the stall of Olives, Antonio Moreno from San Antonio where we bought our thick sides of salted cod, which will be used for ajoarriero ( the fabulous cod and potato dish with garlic and boiled eggs ) served on chunks of bread and one of the great dishes of Utiel-Requena and la Mancha, or bacalao vizcaina, ( Basque cod) served desalted then cooked with fresh tomatos and parsley and to my preference with star anis, ( or fennel or Ricard) to liven it up a bit!

Bodegas Josep Tortosa from Fontanars is a small scale production with a white, three reds, Portella, Barrica de Autor  and Claus de Celler and a new project Uvula, which also produces a red ( Plattum).

I have not tasted these wines, probably for a couple of years so it was a pleasure to have an opportunity to try them again. We started with Portella, a Cabernet Sauvignon /Tempranillo blend DO Valencia with 13% ABV. The wine has had 3-4 months in barrica and is a deep dark red with good legs. On the nose lots of cabernet characteristics, particularly red and black fruit, blackberry and blackcurrant. In the mouth very fruity with blackberry predominating, smooth tannins, and spices, clove. A long satisfying finish and a wine I liked very much.

Claus de Celler from Josep Tortosa.

Claus de Celler is a blend of 40% each of Syrah and Merlot and 20% Tempranillo with 13% ABV. Medium density, with good legs, the nose is initially coffee and cream, with black fruits and spices, complex. In the mouth nutmeg, wood, smooth tannins, again with a long finish.

Uvula Plattum is a wine for drinking now. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and  Syrah. Medium density with deep garnet colour, and mature fruit on the nose the wine tasted full, with well integrated alcohol and tannins, balanced. Good with game and at 14% ABV quite powerful.

I shall be looking for these wines again for winter drinking.

Finally Xmas is a coming and dates are in season. Tomás Boix Pomares from Alzira was displaying and selling three or four different types of dates which we tried before buying some very juicy sweet big examples to go with the cheeses from Granya Rinya and the sweet wine from La Encina.

A very enjoyable fair again. Lots to try and do and some bodega visits to organise for later this month and next!

Selection of Dates.

XVI Feria del Campo de Villena, 2011.


Last year I visited this fair for the first time and was very much pleased to discover two new and emerging bodegas, Vinessens and Carabibas as well as some good friends in Finca Collado and some Bodegas from Alicante and la Mancha I had not encountered before. The fair is a traditional agricultural event with lots of very expensive farming hardware, local commerce, car dealers as well as wine, cheese and other food producers which often pleasantly surprise with their quality and artesan approach to production.

 

Vinessens at Last Years Fair.

This year was no exception, the fair strung out in a long line down the Calle San Juan Bosco with parking fortunately relatively easy in a nearby street. Immobility is no fun and being unable to walk far at the moment is a real pain…..literally!

Entry to this years fair was a mere 5€ which gives you the obligatory tasting tickets and souvenir glass, this year very much to the same high quality as last years and bigger with the towns crest etched into it.

There were 50 exhibitors and apart from the cars and combine harvesters, bakers, pizzas, insurance firms, swimming pools and construction companies there were also several serving and selling local sausages, artesan cheeses, sweets, hamburgers, churros but sadly most of these were right up the far end of the fair from the wine stalls with only one local baker and Quesos de Cati amongst the latter. No chance for much of a comparison between the local wines and food therefore and maybe the organisers could reconsider putting them altogether next year!

This year Carabibas and Vinessens were not present but interestingly wines from Yecla, Bodegas Sierra Salinas, Bocopa, the local Co-op Señorio  de la Virtudes, Francisco Gomez,  DO Alicante were together with the excellent Finca Collado and Julio Salinas,( former footballer with the National Side, Barcelona and Atletico Bilbao and now selling Cavas from Catalunya.)

Hoya Hermosa, Chardonnay.

I started with a look at the wines of Santa Margarita from the nearby village of Caudete which is just over the border into La Mancha. Salinas sits right on the edge of Alicante where it meets and borders with both Murcia and La Mancha provinces. I had been quite impressed by this company last year and was interested to see whether there was consistency between vintages.

The 2010 Chardonnay,Hoya Hermosa,  which also has a little Moscatel in the blend, is 12% ABV and sells for around 3.5€ a bottle. A nice yellow colour, with long legs, restrained fruit on the nose, a little apple, a little wet wool, in the mouth quite dry, nice acidity, balanced fruit and a dry mineral finish.

The 2009 Crianza with its Vino Casa Vital label for the restaurant for which it is bottled is a Merlot, 14% ABV and is also sold in Norway as `Tellnes´, hence it´s odd back-label! Cherry red in colour, vibrant, and colouring the glass with its long legs has a wonderfully jammy youthful fruit nose, black fruit, and in the mouth that fruit was spiky, fruity, and with good length. A joven style which is easy to drink.

 

Tasting at Santa Margarita Bodegas.

The third wine was the Petit Verdot which had excited me last year. 2006, 14%ABV and with 27 days of maceration before 11 months in French oak barrels. A crianza it is sold for around 18€ the bottle. It is also unfiltered and does have a deposit. Ruby red, almost plum, it has good legs. On the nose cherry, raspberry, liquorice and menthol and balsamics before evolving in the mouth, touches of wood, fresh acidity powerful and with a good finish. A deep wine which needs food, this wine has won awards.

Close-by was the stand of Quesos de Cati, a World Cheese Awards Winner in the past and artisan cheesemaker from Catí in Castellon. With a huge range of traditional cheeses from ecological production and from sheep and/or goats milk. They produce around 16 different cheeses from fresh soft cheeses to crumble into salads, Pell, Tronchon, Servilleta, Castell and Requeson from the traditional moulds used in this part of Spain. These are favourite cheeses here especially the Cati Al Romero, wrapped in Rosemary.

They now are in a partnership with Mons, another of the natural beer producers, who coordinate their purchases of  hops, yeast and  malts with cerveza Tyris ( See archives for a report of a visit to the brewery). They are producing three beers, fermented in bottle, including an Imperial Stout from a brewery in Massalavés  and I will try these when the diet allows!

 

Monastrell Rosado from Castaño, DO Yecla.

Second wine tasting was at the stall of DO Yecla,  a small DO based within the boundaries of the town and with just 11 bodegas, this is not an area whose wines I had tried before.

The three that I tried were all from Bodegas Castaño, a large organisation who also have interests in Alicante with Sierra Salinas, of which more later. A family concern, the bodega has a number of ranges, Dominio Espinal, Castaño and Pozuelo together with Hecula and Casa Cisca at the top of the range. They have a passion for the local variety Monastrell ( Mourvedre in France).

I first tried the Dominio Espinal Blanco 2010, at 12.5% ABV which is from Macabeo but had a distinct hint of Moscatel fruityness on the nose! Pale yellow, clean, bright and with good legs, it was fresh on the nose with hints of bananas, citrus and peach. In the mouth good fruit, fresh acidity and a good long dry finish. Easy drinking white.

The Rosado from Monastrell was 13%ABV. Pale strawberry in colour, almost onion skin. Very fresh strawberry and raspberry nose, lots of red fruits, and in the mouth quite dry initially, fresh, good acidity, with a long finish and a layer of red currant fruit. Quite elegant and different.

The tinto Crianza Pozuelo 2008 from Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tintorera was served chilled. This was a bright purple cherry with a violet edge and long legs. On the nose spiky red cherry fruit, and in the mouth cherry, raspberry and blackberry, good acidity a hint of the wood ageing and good depth.

Following this we visited the stand of Sierra Salinas, part of the same Castaño group but DO Alicante. The bodega is within the town of Salinas with 52 Hectares of vines within 92 hectares including olives and almonds. The vineyard has no white varieties and has old Monastrell planted `en vaso´and newer plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha and Petit Verdot `en espalda´.

I started with the Mo Rosado, a Monastrell with other varieties of 13.5%ABV. Strawberry, onion skin, clean and bright with long legs. On the nose fresh, a little fruit, and in the mouth fresh red fruits, quite full and long dry finish. Satisfying.

Second wine was the Mo 2009 Monastrell Tinto, with 14% ABV which also has Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and has had four months in French oak. This was a deep cherry red with very long legs, served chilled the nose was a bit restrained with only red fruits emerging. In the mouth fruity, green pepper, touch of wood, long finish with red fruits including strawberry. Well balanced, liked this!

The Bodega also produces a higher range of marques, Puerto, Mira and 1237. I tried the Mira, 2007, and 15% ABV from old Monastrell vines with 70 years minimum of age. This wine also includes a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha Tintorera. Very deep black cherry with long legs which colour the glass, on the nose wood, liquorice and mature fruit. In the mouth red and black fruits, quite jammy, oak, balsamics, minerals and terroir. Long satisfying quite powerful finish with spices. ( Clove). This sells for around 20€ in shops. The company export to the UK, Germany and Holland.

 

Mari Carmen of Finca Collado with Julio Salinas.

No visit to this fair should miss a tasting of Finca Collado´s wines which were available on the Ayuntamiento de Salinas stand  once Mari-Carmen got back from taking a visit to the Bodega. The 2010 white which is 50% each of Chardonnay and Moscatel is fresh, fruity with a lovely acidity. I can´t wait for the 2011 which by all accounts has seen the chardonnay finish fermentation and move to barrica. Also available was the wonderful pure Merlot with its jam, depth, power and which is my favourite Merlot. These wines are right at the top of the pile in DO Alicante. A view shared with Julio Salinas.

And so time ran out, but again this years fair  provided an opportunity to taste some new wines and talk to some new producers. Well worth the visit again!

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronoma, Valencia 2011.La Gran Cita de Gastronomia Valenciana.


A Quiet Space at Gastronoma.

Gastronoma, or the fair for the restaurant and hotel trades, food, and  specialist commerce has just been held in the Feria in Valencia. This fair is open for three days, the first to the public and the second and third to professionals in the trade, which, thankfully, now includes bloggers. Entry to the public is charged but nominal and  to professionals by invitation.

Even for a time of crisis there was a good attendance, the tourist trade is not doing so badly in Valencia and there is still a healthy market for all the goods associated with the sector, from fancy kitchen goods, ovens, bain maries etc, outside shades and gazebos ( one of which had local Vilamarxant entrepreneur Rafa Arago drooling!)  table goods such as cloths, glasses and cutlery, floral decorations. However chief amongst the attractions are always the foodstuffs and wines, cooking demonstrations and specialist tastings, of which there were several. There were also several well attended discussion sessions on topics such as the smoking ban and gastronomy and social networks, such as Facebook.

Tres Campañas, Rueda.

It would be impossible to cover all the goods and events over the two days I attended. However several stood out and are worthy of further coverage.

I am very fond of game, it is generally a very healthy meat, full of iron, vitamins, and very low in fat and bad cholesterol. It is also easier to digest, more tender and has better flavour ( and because it is richer you can eat less of it). The move to farm several varieties of exotic and game animals has generally been successful so it was with high anticipation that we approached the stand for Avestruces Del Rincon, the Requena based ostrich farm with much, much more. By co-incidence I had only been talking about this company the day before with a couple who have a private restaurant in the huerta in Picassent. Ostrich is a well-known and popular meat in the UK. I had only seen it once or twice here, notably in El Corte Ingles, from where I had purchased the occasional packet of burgers.

The farm is on the slopes of the Picos del Tejo, near to Requena and here they have Ostrich, horses, deer and game birds, from which a number of cuts of meat are marketed through their Valencia offices to Pollo Planes, El Corte Ingles and directly to private clients.

Queue at the Popular Avestruces del Rincon Stand.

During the fair these cuts were not on sale, however you could buy tapas of cooked ostrich burgers, on the Monday they were also cooking horse fillets and on the Tuesday, venison. The quality and tenderness of the meat was easy to taste and the simplicity of cooking on the plancha let the flavour speak for itself. Game may be a bit more expensive but healthy food is better all round. This company´s products will be regulars in this house from now on! The company currently has a website under construction.

DO Rueda was one of the providers of wines at the Feria with a selection of whites from bodegas producing Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc. Long time favourites as an occasional alternative to the whites of Valencia or Utiel-Requena these wines are full of different flavours. The Sauvignon Blancs in particular show good varietal character with tropical fruit flavours, crisp dry minerally finishes and a range of scents on the nose through white flowers ( Elder), gooseberry, cats pee, banana and occasionally baby sick and are much more in the Northern French style than the sunny warm and less acidic Sauvignons from here in Valencia. The verdejos by contrast show more complexity, depth of fruit and flavour, often with a bit of apple, wild fennel and are fuller in the mouth.

Cuatro Rayas, Verdejo 2010

It would be impossible to cover all the wines that were on offer but several favourites are worth noting. In Sauvignon Blanc the Yllera night harvest and  Vila Narcisa and in Verdejo  the Cuatro Rayas, Tres Campañas, Ma Jesus de la Hoz, Pariente,  Bodegas Goticos and my favourite Oro de Castillo stood out.

Around the corner on a nearby stand Vicente Gandia offered a number of their wines including Bo, their joven style wine from Bobal. Deep cherry red with long legs, and cherry, liquorice and eucalyptus on the nose, the wine is still quite tannic but with a good fruit balance and a long fruity finish. I am warming to this.

And on the same stand was the Jamon from Salvador Olmedo Alberola, whose cutting skills were admired as his jamon was. www.ibericosolmedo.es is the website and products from this company are available from an online shop www.ibericosolmedo.com by courier. Jamons from ibericos pigs start at about 18€ a kilo for a Cebo reserva ( fed on commercial feed, and with 30-36 months curing.) Soberbio is the trademark for the bellota fed Iberian pig, produced with  perfect harmony between the pig, the forests and man. With 36-48 months curing, this jamon sells at about 43€ a kilo for a 7-9.5 kilo jamon.

Fellow Bloggers Cova ( Comoju) and Ana ( CocinaconPoco.)

The company also produce jamons from the european pig, Jamon Bodega, with 24 months curing which sell for 10€ a kilo for a 7-9 kilo jamon. They also sell cured cheese from sheeps milk, including one with rosemary and the torta de queso de Extremeña and other iberico products such as lomo, salcichon, sobrasada and chorizo. The companies Valencia outlet is based in L´Olleria and Salvador is available to demonstrate the art of cutting jamon at events.

Sardinas Ahumados.

Absolute favourite food product were the ahumados, smoked fish, from Sietemares and specifically tender sides of sardine, smoked and preserved in vegetable oil. These very tender fillets were served on slices of bread and proved very popular with all who tried them. At home I have subsequently chopped peices into salad, served them over `pan con tomate´, with olives and with piquillo peppers, the range of sweet, savoury and salty smoky flavours all matching perfectly. And the box which contains around 25 fillets can be easily re-sealed and if necessary topped up with more oil as you get through them. An opened box will last around three months in the fridge although this would be unlikely in mine as the fillets would be eaten long before this!

I am really impressed by the real difference in quality between `canned´ and `boxed´  fish products here in Spain and those in the UK.

These fairs are never complete without the odd gadget for the kitchen and one equally useful to professional chefs and domestic kitchens is the `Thermomix´. Described as a tool for liberating the chef from routine tasks this `super´food processor simplifies work and reduces time in preparation. The tool has been around in Spain since 1978 and awarded prizes.

We enjoyed a sorbet of lemon and cava, the machine producing it´s result from lemon slices and ice ( as well as cava) within a minute….a fresh and very welcome palate cleanser. Immediately it springs to mind that it would be good for making Gazpacho Andaluz although I wonder if Mari-Carmen, who makes the best I have ever tasted by hand, would ever consider using a machine!

The machine will grate, grind and reduce to powder, blend, chop, beat cream, or make hollandaise and act as a bain marie. It will also make sauces and emulsions to different textures.

www.thermomix.es is the website to look at and the company offers a full after sales service.

Finally cocktails are very much in fashion in Valencia.While  I am not a great cocktail drinker, I am a fan of Gin and Tonic and have enjoyed the odd ` bees kiss´ ( brandy, cream and honey). Sunday´s public session saw the biggest ever gin-tonic being made in Barmans Corner, the site where  feet could be rested and for 4€ a very large gin and tonic, ( or daquiri etc) could be enjoyed, sat on a comfy sofa although a little alarmingly lit up from inside! Presumably this is to ensure you do not spill it.

Master´s Gin.

Valencia is currently full of different brands of gin, many of the highest quality and I have counted up to 40 marques in some of the better shops in the City. I tried a traditional gin-tonic with Master´s gin, laced with juniper berries crushed and served with grated lemon peel and Schweppes ( is there an alternative?) Sorry, Gordons, this was excellent! Alternatives were available with orange rind and spices for example and the dacquiri was a glorious fluffy pink affair! Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Finally a big thank you to DO Utiel-Requena who organised an excellent tasting of cheeses from the Valencian Community and wines from the DO. This deserves a separate write up in due course when I have time to look at Valencian Cheese and Wines in greater detail!

Gin Tonic and Something Pink and Fluffy!

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