3º Concurso, Arròs del Senyoret `Ciudad Betera´. A VÍ Vid report.

 

Arròs del Senyoret is one of the great seafood dishes in the canon of Valencian gastronomy, taking its name from the paella cooked for the gentry. The seafood is prepared by removing the shells so that those eating it did not have to soil their fingers whilst eating it.

Like all the great seafood dishes the stock is the key ingredient in providing the depth of flavour but this is of course added to by the quality and variety of seafood which it contains. This would normally include mussels, prawns, Dublin Bay prawns, hake or monkfish and  baby octopus. To this is added the rice, onion, garlic, tomato and ñoras, the whole sun-dried red peppers which add heat and piquancy and saffron.

Huge effort and not a little secrecy goes into the making of the stock and in this competition the chefs can use their own creation. As we were to see as we tasted the thirteen entries after the judges, each of those stocks had its own nuances and degree of richness and indeed colour, ranging from bright yellow to deep golden orange shades.

The seafood elements are fried off in olive oil individually and removed from the paella pan to be placed back later. Once this preparation is completed the sofrito of tomato, garlic and onion is made and the dish continues until it is completed.

Firstly the stock is added to the sofrito and then the smaller pieces of fish and the prawns and mussels are added back in. The  rice is added evenly to the stock and the cooking period of about 18 minutes commences, during which the larger prawns and the Dublin bay prawns are added back in perfect symmetry and the ñora is placed is the centre of the dish, (or four or five can be added in a ring in the centre). It is ready when the rice has absorbed all the stock and is soft.

The third edition of the competition to find the best chefs making Arròs del Senyoret was held last Monday in Evenser Restauración on the Mas Camarena complex in Betera.20170619_125605_resized The location is the main centre for the leisure of residents and visitors and enjoys a swimming pool, horse riding centre, enchanting surroundings with a big pond full of ducks and turtles, as of course the well established restaurant. It has an ample range of tapas and main courses including bbq´s during the Summer months and VÍ Vid has eaten here more than once before.

It is supported by a number of sponsors including Heineken and Caixa Popular as well as the local authority.

The 11 restaurants taking part in this edition of the competition were as follows;

  • Gambrinus, Siete Aguas,
  • Mar Sala, Cullera,
  • El Ráco de Meliana,
  • El Gordo y El Flaco, Betera
  • Avenida 2.0 ,Massamagrell,
  • Bocadabap, Betera
  • Casa Toni, Betera,
  • Miguel y Juani, l´Alcudia,
  • El Posit, Cullera
  • Picanterra, Cullera,
  • Goya Gallery, Valencia

Following the Competition and the judging there is an opportunity for the public to taste all the entries. This is where you really understand that the stock plays such an important part in the finished arròs. There is then a  gala lunch in the restaurant attended as is usual by the competitors and their families , press, judges, the sponsors and the local residents. This year the menu included;

  • Ensalada de la Abuela
  • Pastry filled with jamon and baby broad beans
  • Arròs del Senyoret
  • Copa de Turron,
  • Wines were provided by Murviedro.

Following the lunch the prizes were awarded as follows:

  • Third place, Gambrinus, Siete Aguas
  • Second Place Bocadabet, Betera
  • First Place Mar Sala, Cullera.

These concursos are growing, not just in number and in their variety of selected subjects but in their importance to the Valencian Community, its tourism and the part  which the rich gastronomic tradition plays in that. We look forward to reporting on further concursos in the next few months.

 

 

 

 

1st Singular Wines Fair, Jesus Pobre, a VÍ Vid Report.

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London has had its RAW wine fair for some time but this is the first wine fair dedicated to `Singular´wines, (Ecologic or Biodynamic, natural wines where respect for the environment, recovery of lost varieties of vines and special handling in the winery are the key considerations for the winemaker) to be held in Valencia.

These wines deserved to be presented in a special location and the RiuRau del Senyoret in the village of Jesus Pobre, close to Javea was chosen by the newly formed Association of Singular Wines and towns of the Marina Alta. I believe the organisers who had been hoping for about a dozen bodegas were surprised to end up hosting some 33 bodegas from New Zealand, Italy and France as well as other areas of Spain and three local bodegas from the Marina Alta.

They will have been equally surprised by the reaction of the public and the attendance which was much higher than expected giving these wines excellent exposure. The Sumilleres Association from Valencia ( ASVASU) organized a bus to transport its members and guests.

The organisers had thoughtfully arranged stalls selling excellent local food products so the scene was set on a warm Sunday evening for a fascinating tasting.

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VÍ Vid commenced at the stand of The Wine Place a project run by Mark O´Neill, an Irishman living in Valencia and running a wine import/export company and offering WSET courses. He was showing the International wines and we started with wines from the `Lafite of the Languedoc´.

Mas de Daumas Gassac was the brainchild of Aime Guibert, sadly no longer with us who discovered the incredible mineral soils around Aniane in the garrigue of the Languedoc of Southern France. The winery is now run by his son Basile.

Mark had chosen the wines with the Moulin de Gassac label. These are wines produced at the local co-op and Aime was a pioneer in dragging the cooperative movement up by its bootstraps by only buying grapes whose owners submitted to his exacting standards on yield and quality , a practice continued today. We commenced with the Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc blend 2016, a fresh dry white with a long dry finish. The Picpoul de Pinet, normally grown on the Languedoc´s coastal strip was screaming `gimme oysters´, golden in colour and complex on the nose, round in the mouth, quite full and with a mineral long dry finish.

Mark also had the Vargaglione Malvasia from Puglia in Italy. The winery is dedicated to making wines which express the soils from near Salento On the nose, honey and wet wool, in the mouth fresh, with a very pleasant long full finish.

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Finally from his selection we tried the Yealands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. This is a winery noted for extracting every last hint of flavour from the grapes. The classic gooseberry, cats pee nose with citrus and tropical notes (pineapple) aplenty did not fail. A very aromatic nose the fruit in the mouth was tropical and full. Not having  tasted a NZ Sauvignon Blanc for some time  this wine brought memories flooding back. The Pinot Noir from the same source was a typical light cherry red, with cherry fruit on the nose and round, mature fruit in the mouth. Again a very expressive and typical wine from this variety and location. The wines are available in Valencia,  from Mark at ( thewineplace.es )

We met Fabio Bartolomei at a bloggers tasting in Requena some six years ago and he was showing his Vinos Ambiz selection from Avila. We started here with an Airen, 2016, a pale rose white wine, the colour being due to a bit of oxidation. Fresh and quite distinct and very different to the second wine, a Chasselas Doré, a native variety of Switzerland and also grown in France and Germany. Fabio has 2 plots of these vines, practically unknown in Spain, which produces a fruity, grapey wine, cloudy because Fabio does not filter his wines.

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Vinos Ambiz

His white Albillo Real had wonderful expressive fruit and toasty notes on the nose although this is one of the wines he produces in terracotta tinajas. The 2015 Garnacha has had a short pass through barrica with several years of age. Nonetheless it still showed notes of the malolactic fermentation, creamy. Finally we tasted the 2010 Tempranillo, with lots of wild blackberry fruit, soft and round with a long fruity finish and still well alive. ( Vinos Ambiz, wines of small production.)

From the Marina Alta we again tasted the local wines of Joan de la Casa which we reported on in our post on a tasting of wines from Alicante. This confirmed our view that these unusual wines from Moscatel and Giró will be on our list for future tastings.

From DO Valencia we tried the wines of Terra D´Art, from the hamlet of Ahillas high above Chelva in the Serranos. Since we visited a couple of years ago Juanjo Martinez has been quietly developing his range and winning awards!

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Bodegas Terra D´Art

The Rosado is exceptional, a blend of 5 varieties ( Monastrell, Bruñal, Garnacha, Bobal and Tempranillo). It has a pale rose colour with a very expressive nose and a lovely acidity and long finish reflecting the poor soils of the area.

His whites are from Merseguera. The Flor de  Ahillas 2016 has two months crianza on its lees in stainless steel and is light, fresh  and expressive. The 2015 (La Madura) is a different affair. From old vines, it has four months in barrica and on the nose has that scent of `mandarine poudre´a citrus note of slightly going off tangerines. Very attractive and elegant.

The reds are also distinctive. The Ahillas Tinto is a blend of Bobal, Tempranillo, Mencia, Marselans, Graciano, Prieto Picudo and Garnacha!With 12 months in French and American oak, it is cherry red, with fruits of the forest on the nose and lots of terroir in the mouth. The El Maldito 2014 is Bobal and Tempranillo and is medium bodied, cherry red and expressive with plenty of Bobal characteristics on the nose. In the mouth strong fruit, vanilla round tannins and a long finish. http://www.bodegasterradart.com

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Joan Guia and Samuel Lloret, Finca Collado.

A brief visit to the stand of Finca Collado to congratulate them on recent awards of Cepas de España awards ( Gold for the 2015 Chardonnay/Moscatel and a Bronze for the Delit 2013) and to Jose Guillamon and Vicente Flors representing IGP Castellon and it was time to catch the bus back…..but although brief, this had a been a tasting rich in varieties of grape, styles of elaboration and a valuable opportunity to taste wines from overseas  with distinct varietal characteristics….all from producers who care about the environment, their vines and the quality and natural nature of their wines. It is what makes tasting so interesting  and varied!

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Vicente Flors and Fabio Bartolomei

 

 

A visit to La Viña,` Winecanting in Alicante´ and Fidueà de Gandia…A VÍ Vid report.

It was interesting to read a plea from the distributor of three of Valencia´s newest Vermuts for more coordination of events related to wine and food in the region. This week saw us invited to at least five events, June has always been a manic month for new product launches, new menu events, International food Competitions  and our normal work carries on!

La Viña.

We started the week with a visit to Bodega La Viña in Font de la Figuera in DO Valencia. We have had a relationship with the bodega for four years and our first public visit took place there. Since then we have followed a lengthy process of renovation of and improvements to the  facilities. Last time we were there a new tasting room and visitor facilities had just been completed and a new bottling line was being installed.

On Monday we caught up with the latest stage and saw the impressive new line at work and the new palette storage facility at work..the result of some 4m€ investment…and it looks to have been worth every centimo!2017-06-12 14.21.18_resized.jpg

Suitably dressed to avoid contaminating the super-clean plant we entered the new warehouse where it is fitted. Here the process starts with the new bottles being unpacked from the pallets they are delivered on and then placed onto the line before being washed and having the labels added.

The line passes to the point where the bottles are filled, the wine coming from tanks via filters and temperature controlled to ensure exactly the right volume is entered into each bottle. The screw tops were added next ( it has the option to insert corks as an alternative.) The filled bottles are then lifted pneumatically and inserted in their cases ( which have been opened from their flat pack delivery status) , six at a time, the bottle separators placed in the centre and then the cases shaken to ensure the separators settle properly.20170605_173339_resized.jpg

The cases are sealed and passed down the line where they are automatically palleted and wrapped then passed to the pallet warehouse. During the bottling process samples are regularly taken to ensure the wine is the right quality, temperature and the bottles are perfectly filled,  to the micromillemeter.

At the time we visited the line was completing the  process at 10,500 bottles an hour and during the time we were there the first bottles we saw being unloaded must have passed to the pallet we saw being packed! All of this is now highly mechanised and automated with just four staff responsible for monitoring the process apart from the laboratory staff checking the samples.

In the warehouse adjoining the pallets are packed onto a seven story and five deep automated rack with each lorry load being afforded its own space. The rack is filled from the back and unloaded from the front, the pallets automatically moving forward into the next available space. It effectively means the loading time is dramatically reduced.

Our thanks once again go to José Agustin Martinez, Managing Director for making his time available to show us this incredibly impressive facility.

Winecanting, DO Alicante

We drove on to Alicante. Monday night was the first of the Denomination of Origen’s exhibition nights where the new wines from the bodegas are shown to the public. The `Winecanting´event is held in the open in the grounds of MARQ, Alicante’s archeoligical20170605_195756_resized.jpg

museum and has proved to be very popular.  Initial editions wTere held with a session for professionals and the press before the public were admitted. However the DO had decided to hold two professional salons in Alicante and Denia earlier in May  so that this could be a purely public event. Unfortunately the MARQ had imposed a limit on the numbers entering and there were some queues and inevitably unlucky people who did not get in.

 

Those that did get in enjoyed an evening where some 20+ bodegas were showing new vintages of their wines and some local artisan food producers provided sustenance for them. Our report of the wines appears in our previous post.

43º Concurso International de Fiduea de Gandia

On the Tuesday we made our way to the port of Gandia where the 43rd International Concurso de Fiduea de Gandia was taking place. This is the first time in a couple of years that we have been since its change of location from the Bayren Hotel on the seafront.

The event is now much more available to the public on the dockside with free entry but for the purchase of tickets they could purchase wines and beers , fiduea and some impressive beef chuletons and ribs  cooked on the brassa as well as other exhibitors and sponsors stands. The concurso followed a weekend gastronomy fair in the same location.

The format is very much the same as beforehand however. There is a competition in the morning for students of the various CdT´s in the Marina Alta, Benidorm and Alicante. This was won by Ángel Nieto and Juan Carlos Martinez from Benidorm.MOLDIV2.jpg

The main Competition starts at 12.00pm and the participating restaurants start cooking in stages to ensure their finished fidueas are delivered to the judges in optimum condition. Amongst regular competitors were Chaparral from Serra and  Juani y Miguel from L ‘Alcudia

Fiduea is a seafood dish with elbow pasta (fiduea) cooked in a paella pan with Dublin Bay prawns, prawns and monkfish in a rich seafood stock including rockfish and saffron. It has long been associated with the town having been invented and eaten on local fishing boats and is now a major element of the towns tourism attractions.

The gala lunch that preceded the award of prizes has now been shelved so there is a bit of a wait before the last fiduea is delivered and the results are announced. Nonetheless there was still a very large crowd at around 16.00pm when the ceremony started.

The best international competitor was Chef Amadeo from Andorra. The parallel competition for best dessert  made with oranges went to Prado from Gandia

The three major prizes awarded by the judging panel which included Evarist Miralles and Juan Carlos Galbis were as follows;

  1. Casa Palacio de Córdoba,  Chef Roque Carmona, 2,500€ and the Collar of Santa Isabel.
  2. Casa Granero de Serra, Chef Victor Navarro, 100€, and
  3. Hotel San Luis de Gandia, Chef Joaquin Cerezo, 500€.

Once again the competition in its new format has proved a great success and with the public now able to observe more closely and eat the competing fidueas is set to continue  down this route into the future.

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A Tasting of Wines from DO Alicante, A VÍ Vid report.

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VÍ  Vid were very pleased to be able to attend the Salon Profesiónal in Denia this week and taste the new crop of wines from DO Alicante. The tasting was held in the Cdt of the Marina Alta. 18 Bodegas attended and this is a selection of the wines which impressed us.

David Carbonell has been making wines from Viognier (and other varieties) at Vins del Comtat  for as long as we have known the bodega and was a pioneer of producing the variety in the region. Like us he believes it has adapted very well to its new home. He produces two versions, a 12%ABV young 2016 white which is full of peach and spice on the nose and in the mouth has a spicy long dry finish. His alternative is fermented in barrel with a further two months crianza in oak. If the first is gutsy, this is elegant and refined, it has all the fruit but also a vanilla and cream touch in the mouth. (2016, (12.5% ABV).

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Viogniers from Vins del Comtat.

His young red, a 14.5%ABV Monastrell is vermillion in colour, from 2015 with 3 months in oak and is full of red and black fruit, very easy to drink with a nice touch of oak in the finish. The MO is Cabernet  Sauvignon with a little Monastrell,   a deep cherry colour with oak, vanilla and toast on the nose. In the mouth, deep, very smooth with a touch of tobacco in the finish.

Bocopa have just released the second edition of their flagship `Fuego Lento´,  from Monastrell, Syrah and Alicante Bouchet.  Deep garnet colour, lovely sweet fruit, like jam, sharp red and black fruit in the mouth, smooth tannins  and soft oak. Limited edition.

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Fuego Lento in Magnum and Bottle format.

The Cooperative at Mañan produces a very good selection of wines  but the new Rosado from Syrah excels, a strawberry pink, clean, fresh wine, with redcurrant fruit and a clean, long dry finish. A favourite.

Finca Collado   the `bodega de referencia ´ in Salinas showed all their new wines including the legendary white from Moscatel and Chardonnay with 12.5%ABV. Very clean and fresh on the nose with apricot fruit and hints of pineapple in the mouth the chardonnay gives good acidity and structure. A full bodied white with hints of citrus acidity. For us the 2016 is the best  vintage produced to date. The Rosado from Merlot with a bit of Monastrell is also pale strawberry in colour , very fresh on the nose, light red fruits but in the mouth it has depth, good acidity and a long dry finish with minerality.

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The Finca Collado Range.

Their 2016 Syrah is creamy, fresh and full, but an easy to drink young wine with potential to keep for 2-3 years.

Carabibas  produce blockbuster red wines also in Salinas. El Carpintero 2014 is Monastrell and Merlot. Black cherry with long legs ( 14.5%ABV) Mature black and red fruits on the nose, rich in the mouth with nicely balanced fruit and oak.

The VS 2014 has nine months in oak and is a deep black cherry with the legs colouring the glass. On the nose it is soft fruit, but in the mouth this 2014 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Merlot is big and chewy! They also make a reserve version with 21 months in oak from the same wine as the VS. This is not so youthful in the glass, is fruitier on the nose but you also note the effect of oak, and is smoother and rounder in the mouth. For serious meat dishes!

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Carabibas El Carpintero

The bodega of Joan de la Casa  in Benissa has been described as a `Friki´ but chatting to him I found his different approach to making wines quite sensible and worth his efforts! He makes his whites from Moscatel by picking the grapes later when the sugar content  and concentration is higher. The grapes are macerated on their skins, left in contact with their lees and in the case of Tossal enjoys oaking as well.

Nimi  2013 is 13.5% ABV, gold in colour, from 45 year old vines grown on white chalky soils. The nose is very complex, anise, orange flower, orange peel, and this is repeated in the mouth which is complex, concentrated and has a very long dry finish. The 2012 vintage of this wine has more structure, is deeper gold in colour, in fact every facet is deeper or more concentrated than the younger wine. Part of this will be evolution, the rest the difference in vintage but these are dry moscatels worthy of searching for (you can ring the bodega!)

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Nimi 2013

The Tossal 2012 is fermented in barrel and then spends a further  12 months in the bottle before release. Even deeper gold in colour, it has honey, notes of oak and spice. In the mouth vanilla and fruit, orange peel , very different!

There are two reds from Giró, a local variety with vines between 40-80 years of age. The 2012 has 12 months in American oak, is cherry red, with black fruit, and is medium bodied. Nice fruity finish. The other version has 18 months oak and is blended with Tempranillo.  blackberry fruit and a creamy complex flavour, round. Very nice.

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Joan de la Casa Giró 2012

No tasting of wines from Alicante is complete without visiting Pepe Mendoza whose Bodega is in Alfas de Pi. The range of wines illustrated are widely available in Carrefour and we enjoyed the fresh, buttery Chardonnay, with tropical notes of pineapple, with a well balanced long finish.

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Wines from Bodegas Mendoza.

Bodegas Sierra Norte were showing the Pasión de Monastrell, from 2014 vintage with six months in oak. A youthful deep black cherry colour, mature black fruit on the nose and just a touch of oak in the creamy long finish.

Finally we tried Essens Chardonnay from Vinessens in Villena, a bodega we found six years  ago and which exports to the UK. This fresh Mediterranean Chardonnay is fermented in oak barrels, has nice tropical notes and a light long dry finish.Very satisfying.

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Selection of Wines from Vinessens.

This was a rare opportunity for us to take in so many wines from the DO in one go and a valuable excercise in keeping in touch with some of Alicante´s best producers. Next week we hope to taste some more in the Winecanting festival!

2nd National Competition, Paella de Cullera, a VÍ Vid report.

1                                                                Cullera, a pretty seaside town is half an hour to the South of Valencia at the furthest edge of the Albufera Natural Park and its rice fields. It sits at the mouth of the River Jucar and is well-known for its many quality restaurants and fishing port.                 On May 23rd it held the II Concurso Nacional Paella de Cullera which within the two years of its creation has consolidated itself as a major gastronomic event in Valencia´s annual calendar.20170526_115126

This is not to be confused with the Concurso International de Paella held every year in nearby Sueca. This is very different in almost every aspect. Sueca is the competition for the Valencian Paella with chicken and rabbit. Its only common ingredient is rice from the Albufera! Firstly the whole idea was to create a paella within the KM0 made from entirely local ingredients available from the local market and rice fields. It is not a `traditional´ paella with a long history although it is based on a long tradition of seafood paellas for which Valencias Coast is famous. Paella de Cullera has a set recipe patented by the Town Hall and is available currently from around 40 of the towns restaurants. It has a touristic value but also a benefit that tourists will enjoy an authentic and  consistent recipe which guarantees they are eating local produce.

It consists of a seafood stock (made from the local rock fish), prawns, baby cuttlefish without the ink but with the melsa intact, `figatells´of scorpion fish  ( Rascasse), fillets of red mullet and rice from the DO Valencia ( variety JJ Sendra) fresh local tomatos for the sofrito, pimentón and saffron strands…..and of course the soul of the chef!  It was created for the town by chef Salvador Gascon of Restaurante Casa Salvador 2017-05-26 19.59.03a large and highly rated restaurant on the estuary with views over the river  to the mountains behind nearby Corbera. He is a founding father of Valencian gastronomy and winner of the National award for services to Tourism.   The competition is for Professional chefs from restaurants across Spain with three of the 18 places reserved for restaurants within Cullera itself. all the local restaurants can enter and then are judged in a semi-final to select the three going forward to the Competition. The judging panel consists of top-level individuals as well; Kiko  Moya (L´Escaleta, 3 Michelin stars) Alejandro Platero, (Macel.lum and finalist in Top Chef), the Director of the CdT, the Manager of DO Arroz de Valencia and Salvador Gascon.

The competition begins at around 10.30 after the ingredients have been handed to the chefs. They cook in groups of three at staggered times so that the judges receive the paellas still freshly cooked. As they all have the same ingredients the only differences to emerge are the way in which the paella is cooked.                                                                Nodus provided the oil for the cooking but after that is heated the chefs have to decide in which order to fry off the ingredients to release their juices in to the pan.

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Then the sofrito can be cooked , the longer the tomato is cooked the more concentrated the flavour becomes, how much pimentón and saffron to add? The rice can then be added or the stock first and reduced a little before the rice is added. But once the rice is in for the 18 minutes cooking time it is time to arrange the red mullet fillets, prawns cuttlefish and figatells on the top. Once the paella is ready it is handed to the judges and the rest is history as they say.   The majority of the competitors were from the Valencian Community , Valencia itself and Cullera ( The Tennis Club, Rincón  del Faro and El Blanco). Several are well-known to us from previous competitions , Isabel and Paco from Nazaret in Puçol, Victor Granero from Casa Granero in Serra, Teresa and Voro from Gambrinus in Siete Aguas, Amadeo from Gandia and Miguel and Juani from L´Alcudia.20170526_120254

The remaining restaurants were Vinotinto, Goya Gallery and Mosaico from Valencia city, La Taula (Lliria), La Granja (Sueca), Pilar (Artana) El Raco (Meliana), Casa Macario (Tavernes) and Avenida 2.0 (Massamagrell).                                                                           Following the judging the dignitaries from the Government arrive and the public are allowed to try the paellas in the Plaza del Constitución on the seafront.

The gala lunch is held in Casa Salvador after this and before the prize awards. Here the competitors, their families , the judges, the press and the public enjoyed a meal of Toasted bread and Tomato with Loin of Tuna, Jamon, and Wild asparagus with a Mousseline of Foie. The principal plate was Paella de Cullera cooked in the kitchen of its designer and was followed by a pudding of Lemon Posset with a Mandarine Sorbet. These were served with wines from Nodus who co-sponsored the event.

Then the suspense is over and the awards are announced.

  1. First prize, Goya Gallery Restaurant, Valencia 2500€ awarded by Ximó Puig, President Generalitat.
  2. Second Prize, Club de Tennis Cullera, 2000€ awarded by the Mayor, Jordi Mayor.
  3. Third Prize, VinoTinto Valencia, 1500€ awarded by Manuel Espinar (President FEHV)20170526_121537

This competition was well organised and had immense support from the Valencian Government as part of its plan for gastronomy, wine tourism and tourism in general complementing each other as a driving force behind the regional economy. Paella de Cullera is a very good seafood dish, individual in its contents but with a typicity and quality of the regions produce. A worthy addition to the cannon of Valencian gastronomy!2017-05-26 20.02.18

 

 

 

 

 

 

VÍ Vid Reviews Restaurante Nazaret, Puçol.

The coast to the North of Valencia is dotted with seaside annexes to the towns of the Horta Nord, Rafelbuñol, El Puig and finally before Sagunto the town of Puçol. Its bright blue-green clear sea,  and its clean sandy beaches are amongst some of the most popular and picturesque with that fabulous light that parts of the Mediterranean are famed for.

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It has many restaurants plying their trade with tapas, fresh fish, and traditional (and new) rice dishes. A combination of an uninterrupted  view of the sea, the gentle lapping of the water, and Valencian gastronomy is irresistible and Restaurante Nazaret provides it by the spadeful!

Nazaret is as near a traditional family restaurant as you can get. Fronted by Paco, wife Isabel is the chef. It underwent a major refurbishment to improve the experience for the customer and the bar is now at the back of the premises opening onto the road where there is ample parking ( Cami Grell 21.) As you enter you pass through the restaurant, past Isabels kitchen, the artwork on the walls  and out onto a covered then an open terrace on the seafront, the latter which they hope to extend this Summer. Throughout you have the view to the sea.

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We went on a quiet Thursday lunchtime with just a few clients on the bar terrace and some diners outside looking over the sands. It was two years ago that they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Paco brought us up to date on developments in the restaurant and explained their philosophy while we enjoyed a chilled beer.

The restaurant is not just a typical and traditional eatery, which produces classic Valencian paellas and rice dishes……….although they do this extremely well! They are regular entrants in the Valencian Concursos and the restaurants´ bar exhibits the certificates they have won in the past ( a first and second in the Campeonato de Putxero de L´Alcudia and several seconds in competitions for desserts for example). They also have an International Tourism award.

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Isabel is an innovative chef who learnt how to cook from her mother and likes to combine new flavours and ingredients with traditional ones but in a subtle way so that they add texture and do not detract from those of the main element.

We started with a Bonbon of Smoked Salmon. The salmon was wrapped around a ball of philadelphia cheese with anchovies, walnuts, ginger and basil on a plate decorated with cream and toasted sesame seeds. The main flavours were of course the salmon and the smooth cream cheese but the latter was subtly lifted by the hints of ginger and the texture given by the nuts and seeds.

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The second plate was Dublin Bay Prawns served with fried green garlic tops, toasted pine-nuts, dried grapes and lifted ever so gently by the heat of the tip of a guindilla  a    (dried red chilli). Once again the main element was the perfectly cooked seafood but the accompanying elements added variation and texture again. This was spectacular and is one of those dishes that fills a room with aromas as it is brought to the table!

A traditional salad of tomato and spring onion with tuna was replaced by Isabels take on a modern salad. Gourmet leaves with fresh cheese, prunes, pine-nuts and  croutons  had a very light dressing of PX sherry vinegar and came with Cherry tomatos, the slightly sweet dressing countering what can be a bland cheese……in this case each element added its own very subtle flavour which worked perfectly together.

The main plate was the star however…an Arroz Chupachups. Chupachups are a well know brand of lollipop in Spain so the speculation at the table was rife as to what we were about to receive! It is a rice dish with artichoke hearts, wild mushrooms, Lima beans and the quail legs, the cooking process shrinking the meat so that it forms a ball at the top of the bone (thus resembling a lollipop!) This was served caldoso, not all rice dishes are dry like paella, with plenty of the rich cooking stock. This was a powerful dish, each of the ingredients being full of its own flavour which came together perfectly…absolutely stunning and a rice dish  never tried before…..

The desserts came on a sharing plate; a 3 chocolate flan, a cheese flan with honey, gypsies arm with almonds and `Pastelón de Puçol de crema,´the local dish. All were homemade, demonstrating  both Isabels skills and the reason for the award certificates in competitions.

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All slipped down well with a glass of a refreshing light sparkling Moscatel.

Paco´s bodega contains a wide range of Valencian wines which are perfect accompaniments for this style of food. A Cremaet finished off the meal perfectly!

The restaurant is about 15 minutes by car from the centre of Valencia, it has a wide range of traditional tapas as well as classic paellas and the imaginative, innovative rice dishes that Isabel confects from the best Valencian ingredients. Eat here and you will not be disappointed, there is a 14€ menu with three starters, rice dish and dessert but be imaginative and order something exciting!

If you have the chance to talk to Paco and Isabel as well you will come away feeling that you have not only eaten in a family restaurant but that you too are a part of the family!

Reservation recommended at weekends.

Reservations 961420424, Facebook Rte-nazaret Ribelles Santamaria

Valencia to hold its own Craft Ale Fair? VÍ Vid Reports.

April is now behind us and the Mostra de Vins i Aliments de la Comunidad Valenciana has closed its doors once again. Valencia´s famous wine and food fair will be measured by its successes such as increased visitor numbers, the increased number of wines submitted for the Concurso de Vinos and a number of other factors.

This year saw a number of increased initiatives by Proava, the organising body, such as the concentration of the craft ale brewers into a single area in the fair. It is this we concentrate on in this report.collage-2017-04-30

That craft ales are popular in Valencia is not in doubt. It is four years since we first wrote a blog about the breweries in which we listed some 18 from the Valencian Community. Since then one or two have closed, some new ones have opened. For the last three years Las Provincias newspaper through its `Comer and Beber´column have held a craft ale competition each September and several of the breweries have opened bars in Valencia. They regularly attend the other gastronomy fairs closer to their home premises.

With help from Proava, this year 16 breweries came together, took a large covered area in the centre of the gardens in the fairs dry-riverbed location and showed…and sold… their beers! The breweries were Tyris, Abadia, Alegria, Antiga Artesana, Altura de Vuelo, Badum, Birra y Blues, Espiga, Galana, Genesis, Isanbeer, Ophidian, Socarrada, Tercer Tiempo,  Valentium and Zeta.

The beers, all made from barley, water, yeast and hops and with fermentation in the bottle are real ales. They come in a range of styles such as the German weissbier, Pale and Indian Pale ales, Red ales, Porters, Stouts and Tostadas with an incredible and original range of flavours. The beers also have their local ingredients such as orange and rice from Genesis, artichokes or pumpkin from Badum, apricot from Galana, chufa from Birra y Blues and seawater from Socarrada.

Neither is there any doubt that it was a success. Marketed as `Valencia Beer Week´the beer tent was rarely quiet, seeing peak attendance on the Saturday evening and Monday and has received its own press coverage. There was even a competition to send a pair of lucky winners to a weekend beer fest in Belgium!

We spoke to three of the organisers to judge their response to the event and plans for the future ( Gonzalo Diaz, Tyris; Rob Craig, Ophidian and Toni Galvez, Antiga Artesana.

The consensus from them and their discussions with their colleagues was that the help from Proava and the concentrated format in one area had been very successful. The beer drinkers had been able to locate the facility and focus on the one area. They all spoke of experienced beer drinkers and the un-initiated having enjoyed themselves.

Gonzalo told us whilst there had been one or two teething problems, all the breweries had covered the costs of their participation, and whilst there is still the lack of a formal association to organise the event and represent the brewers there was a general feeling that the concept needs to be taken forward. It was also the first time the brewers had come together in such an event.

Australian born Rob was very pleased with the sales of his Blue Serpent and Taipan ales, estimating his Naquera brewery would have sold 360 litres of draft Taipan and 1600 bottles over the  four and a half days of the fair. Multiply that by 16 and you have an idea of just how successful the `beer week´ had been.

Toni confirmed much the same satisfaction and a willingness to participate in future events.

Talking individually to Rob and Gonzalo it is not entirely clear how this will be taken forward, although there are several substantial ideas being floated for discussion and agreement amongst the brewers.collage-2017-04-30 (1)    First is to separate the event from the Mostra and concentrate on a beer related event. This would not aim to compete with the well established Barcelona Beer Fair with its exhibitions by manufacturers of brewing equipment, but would be more focused on the product. A new location would also need to be found  more suited to a beer festival and with space where live music might  also be played and where  substantial meals can be cooked, sold  and eaten.

The beer producers need to quickly sort out an Association to represent them , then identify a promoter to identify a location once the event has been defined and organise the event, catering, music etc. None of these are rocket science and we identified much more positivity amongst the brewers this year to make it happen.

There is undoubtedly scope for such an event to be part of Valencia´s tourism promotion. Craft ales are already being sold in top restaurants as they match well with some Valencian Gastronomy. This sort of  event could prove just as popular as the imported German `Oktoberfest´ held in the bull ring every year but with Valencian produce.   And there is scope to tie into it the Annual Craft Ale  competition as well!       20170424_122241_1493574135595_resized (2)We wish the organisers well and look forward to seeing a new Valencia Beer Week soon! Cheers!