Saturday, June 30, 2012

Little Plates and Big Wines.

 by contributor Donna Shor

Gustavo Iniesta loves having fun with wine―and he’s happy to see others do the same.

Luckily for Gustavo, who is the sommelier at Taberna del Alabardero, the chef there, Javier Romero, has exactly the same attitude toward food Gustavo has toward his bottles.

Taberna diners are luckiest of all because the two, with imagination and teamwork, create some exciting meals.

Their recent Interactive Tapas and Wine Pairing Dinner was a perfect example of fun with innovative dishes and interesting wines; the evening was an interactive game.

Each of the seven courses brought two different tapas, plus two wines. The interest was in deciding which wines went best with which food.

There was no “right” or “wrong,” just a question of which pairing you enjoyed best and which of the two wines you felt went best with each of the two tapas. 

Photo credit: Grupo Lezama

Gustavo “commented” each pair of wines that arrived with the small plates. As it was an intimate gathering of about thirty, it was possible for guests to speak out on their impressions if they wished,  leading to interesting discussions in general, and with one’s table neighbors. (This writer’s included a realtor, a banker and a molecular biologist.) 

Things started off with a puzzling “Cristal de Gazpacho,” which looked like a glass of shimmering, crystal-clear soft gelatin. Jelled water? Hardly―the first tentative spoonful carried with it the very essence of tomato; tomato raised to the tenth power.

Javier Romero achieved this small miracle through patient, successive strainings and sievings of ultra-ripe tomatoes, achieving a kind of “distillation.” The second tapa was a mixed seafood salad. Then the whole panoply appeared, two by two, with pairs of wines to be discussed. Dishes included pheasant-stuffed peppers, baby squids in their ink, a glorified veal loin, wild mushrooms, scallops and more, all enhanced by bottles from fine wine-growing districts of Spain.

There was a sublime dessert, a blend of peaches pureed in a touch of light coffee syrup, cookie ice cream, topped by smooth Catalan crème. Strawberries and whipped cream arrived as the companion tapa.  

At coffee-time, Chef Romero appeared, gathering rounds of applause for his creations, and Gustavo Iniesta was enthusiastically applauded for the wines he had chosen, and his interesting presentation of a fun evening.