Elena F. Guiral
Teruel has a millenary agri-food culture developed in an arid, cold and hard land with the particular characteristics of the High Desert: heights estimated between 2,000 and 4,000 ft (600 and 1,300 meters) with short and very hot summers and summers cold and sunny but with presence of snowfall. This climate gives its cuisine a very particular personality reflecting those its inhabitants and their extraordinary ability to adapt to the territory.
In recent decades, farmers and producers in the province, mostly small farmes, are struggling day by day to preserve this millenary tradition. This is also the best way to fix population in a desertified territory, with 9 inhabitants per square kilometer, and to protect and care for the environment against the threat of climate change.
On the occasion of the XXV Teruel Cured Ham Fair, the Chamber of Commerce of the city organized a conference and a press visit last week to publicize the most representative food products of this area of Spain in which I was fortunate to participate .
Here a review of its star products to interest your palate.
Eclipsed outside Spain by the famous Iberian ham, Teruel ham also has much to offer the most exquisite palates. Teruel ham is produced from the Duroc pig variety, native to the province, at 800 meters of altitude and after a curing and drying process that always exceeds 14 months. All the pieces keep the hoof of the pig, a numbered label and the Mudejar star engraved on fire as a guarantee of quality and distinction.
The first museum in the world of Ham of Teruel, Aire Sano Experience in Puebla de Valverde, has been recently open to inform the general public about the process of making such a special product. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy an interactive experience around this product thanks to the latest technologies, learn to cut ham virtually and finish your tour in the Museum store and restaurant that stands out for its careful preparation of local products such as cured ham, trout, peach and saffron.
Bajo Aragon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Centennial olive groves spread out through the province of Teruel, especially in the area of Bajo Aragón, Bajo Martín and Matarraña regions accustomed to the hard and generous winters in their production of local Empeltre, Arbequina and Royal olive varieties. More than 8,000 families are dedicated to grow it since it is a Denomination of Origin: its production has to meet a series of criteria established by the European Union. In fact, their producers are small and are grouped in cooperatives.
Juan Baseda, its technical director defines this Extra Virgin Olive oil as “soft, sweet, bit bitter and quite fruity, so it fits with everything.” Curiously, although in Aragon its consumption is very common, the denomination of origin finds it difficult to compete with the rest of olive oils in Spain since its price is higher and the consumer is accustomed to a more intense oil such as the picual, apart from the fact that its production is modest, between 5% and 10% throughout Spain. It is currently exported to the US and Asia, and is especially appreciated in Japan for its more subtle organoleptic qualities that harmonize perfectly with the delicacy of japanese cuisine.
Yellow, large, soft and at the same time full of flavor for growing in dry land of hard and cold winters. This is a late summer crop due to the cold climate of the area.
They are really unique because of their large size, never less than 73 millimetres. Each box is composed of 20 pieces. This is achieved with a technique in which 70% of the tree’s production is eliminated when the fruits are the size of a tennis ball. In addition to this, the fruits that remain in the tree are pocketed in bags one by one to protect them from pests and maintain all the aroma and flavor that makes them an extraordinary product. In fact, only 10% to 15% of the production is certified as Calanda peach.
The ternasco of Aragon, a kind of lamb meat, was the first fresh meat recognized with a specific denomination in 1989 in Spain.
Lamb has a vital historical tradition in Aragon, where its consumption doubles that of the rest of Spain, since it is very important to fix the population in the rural environment as well as sustainable since sheperds labor helps fight wildfires.
The ternasco weighs between 8 and 12.5 kilos and has been exclusively fed with cereals and breast milk, so its meat is soft but tasty and also very healthy since it has a high protein content in vitamins of B3, B6 and B12 and is a source of zinc and phosphorus.
You could also say that it is a product that has become fashionable due to its versatility and the modernity of its new cuts and presentations.
Bajo Aragon wines
The climate and the cold and hard land also characterize the wines of Bajo Aragon area, many of them made from centuries-old vines and are already part of the history and landscape of the area.
This is a small group of only 20 wineries that have decided to bet on quality to be able to compete with other production areas in Aragon as powerful as Borja, Cariñena, Calatayud and Somontano, recognized throughout the world.
Teruel black truffle
The black truffle is the best kept secret of Teruel, one of the world’s leading producers and is one of the best survival guarantees for the province, being a highly prized crop that grows precisely in the poorest soils in mountainous areas very limited for extensive crops such as cereals.
Truffles arise from the symbiosis with native trees such as holm oak, oak or hazelnut. Until a few decades ago they grew wild underground and were collected thanks to the help of truffle dogs. Nowadays it is possible to grow them in a controlled way.
In Teruel, the black truffle stands out in winter and the summer truffle, less intense in aroma and flavor but also very appreciated in the kitchen and that is increasingly causing more interest since its collection takes place in summer and is a good reason to attract tourism to the area during vacation time.
The Truffle Growers Association of Teruel (Atruter) was created in 1996 to advise and help the pioneer producers of this crop, although at present it focuses a good part of its activities on the promotion of this crop still relatively unknown to the gastronomy of Spain. In fact, they have prepared the world’s first tasting tab, which serves to distinguish Teruel Trufer melanosporum black truffle from the Trufer indicum that is imported from China and has a much simpler and less intense aroma and composition but is used sometimes instead of the black truffle because of its lower price.
That is why education and training is such an important task. That is why Sarrión, a town in Teruel known as the world capital of black truffles, organizes each year an Annual Fair and numerous activities to discover one of the wonders of the Spanish High Desert.
And here we are! Facing again a big food and wine event! The difference is that Taste Washington is not big is totally massive! So massive that is the biggest of his kind in the US. 225 wineries, 65 restaurants. 700 wines, 5,000 glasses, 200,000 wine pours. And these are only the estimated facts of the Grand Tasting weekend. Much more happened last week because this event who began humble but steady 19 years ago reinvents itself every year.
2016 edition novelties were 2 fun evening parties: Red & White Party and The New Vintage and 3 lunch excursions really rooted in the sustainable farm to table movement that is shaking the State and pretty much the way we are beginning to approach food in the whole country.
Schedule issues only allowed me to attend Saturday´s Grand Tasting for the first time ever. This means a fresh new approach but some amateur mistakes driven by me and my impossible goal to envision the real size of the event. Because who is able to taste 700 wines without ending emotionally, intellectually and physically intoxicated? It´s simply impossible to do it although a fun winemaker from Walla Walla told me: “Some people try… and fail” giving me a metaphorical wink. “I prefer focusing on trying all the food”.
So you should have checked the impressive list in advance but you didn´t and you don´t have so much time now. And every booth is a magnet calling your attention… And then, between bite and bite You see Pomum Cellars! No problem in admitting that I find pretty awesome the idea of making Washington wines with Spanish varietals. I visited the winery last year and the wines didn’t disappoint me at all so first wine tasting of the day.
I was lucky enough to meet the owner and winemaker, Javier Alfonso, who came to WA to get his degree in Engineering and never went back. But he hasn´t forgotten his love for Ribera del Duero one of my favorite wine areas in Spain where the climate and terrain is pretty similar to Eastern Washington with cold winters, dry summers and a huge difference in temperature from day to night which gives this bold balance between sugar and acidity to the wine. Really good red wines at this winery particularly the Tempranillo, made with our unofficial official grapes. And don´t forget Idilico Albariño to pair with oysters and crab.
April Redout from the relatively new Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser was so nice to give another clue about some new interesting things happening. She invited me to visit this center in Prosser (bucket list) and pointed me towards Intrinsic Wine Co. a new adventure from Saint Michelle wine group leaded by Juan Muñoz-Oca his head winemaker.
Not easy to talk with this expert, one of the real celebrities of the day but he was so nice to take a few minutes to explain why this wine is so different: “the grapes remain on the skins for 9 months and 10% of the wine is fermented in a concrete tank”.
It´s to interesting and innovative that in a back to the farmland era as previously cited Muñoz-Oca has taken a complete different direction creating an urban modern wine. Even the amazing bottle design “Fun, it looks like a flamenco dancer” I thought, it was created from graffiti art. Another really interesting wine really rich, I usually find Cabernet a bit plain and soft, for my list perfect to impress guests and hosts.
Really fun the marketing campaign of Red Mountain AVA alliance with pins reading “Ask me why Red Mountain is so special” and other pins with the answers scattered through the association wineries. Sometimes you don´t need a lot of budget to make an impact.
Because when you are competing with other 224 wineries you have to use to imagination to stand out. Charles & Charles winery only needed to be the only ones… as far as I know to serve rosé wine. It´s fun this trendy trend of you not being a wine connoisseur because you drink rosé. I love rosé because it reminds me two things: summer and paella. You can find an occasion for every kind of wine. Other interesting classics with no failure rate… Betz Winery, Gorman Winery and again Alexandria Nicole Jet Black Syrah 2014. (link Seattle wine and food experience).
Let´s talk about food now. Nope I didn´t hit the 65 restaurants either but I tried to be pretty eclectic as I had to give my cork-vote to my favorite one. It looks like I missed the favorite, the Swiftwater Kobe short rib… Maybe because I am more into the seafood/fish world. Anyway I always will have room for torchon and foie, really good. Good to know there is a reliable French style place so close to home in Kirkland Le Grand Bistro Americain. The nice people from another Capitol Hill classic, Gnocchi Bar, showed me how to cook them to perfection.
And even better to know that there are some guys curing ham Spaniard style in Leavenworth. Yes, they call themselves Cured. Leavenworth is the perfect place for that, cold and drier in winter. I bet they wouldn´t be so successful in the Puget Sound area. Really good products, a touch salty for my palate, but they point an extra good reason to visit the Bavarian village soon.
Of course I had to follow the legendary line to get some Aqua oysters. Simply amazing. In fact, I was about to give them my vote, nothing is more perfect than oysters with squeezed lemon to me. But I wanted to reward some creativity too so I finally picked Kalaloch lodge´s chef, Ashley Miller, salmon mousse. OK, salmon mousse is not so innovative but the truth is that I love simple beautiful, classic flavors, not 12 ingredients packed in a bite.
Fun because I had the opportunity to taste his food again 2 days ago during my first epic loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Superb ingredients treated with simplicity and respect, just the way I love it. And with this also epic sunset as background. Lucky me.
The best world chefs have gathered these days in Madrid at the International Gastronomy Summit Madrid Fusion. The Yummy Bull did not want to miss this opportunity to see firsthand what is “being cooked” in the kitchen of the best international chefs. A unique and essential experience.
Under the slogan The Language of Post Vanguardia the attendants enjoyed the knowledge of chefs as relevant Grant Achatz, Joan Roca, Jose Andres, Sergi Arola, Elena Arzak, Oriol Balaguer, Martin Berasategui, Dani Garcia, Chele González, Sacha Hormaechea, Daniel Humm, Tatsuo Nishizawa, Paco Roncero, Pepe Solla, Dabiz Muñoz and some others.
This post-avant-garde moment, as defined by José Carlos Capel, president of Madrid Fusion, relocates his eye on tradition, on the product and even in culinary techniques inherited from our ancestors. Chefs like Paco Morales have chosen Andalusian cuisine to adapt it to contemporary cuisine. Other Ibero-American chefs have done the same with ancient techniques of pre-Hispanic indigenous tribes. “That which is called vanguard and tradition,” said Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca, Best restaurant in the world), is that “we have moved to committed to a healthy, sustainable and humane cuisine “.
The sea, resource
In this commitment to the product, our seas have much to say as by proved Angel Leon (Aponiente, Two Stars Michelin). His cuisine brings together the plankton, outbreaks of vegetables grown in salt water, the first vegetable oil obtained from the sea, the sugars obtained from freeze-dried algae and, of course, all kinds of fish, with a firm commitment to the so-called fish discard. “We live in an untenable situation in which fish 90,000 tonnes of fish, 40,000 are discarded. We have to change the mentality of those who just want to eat normal commercial species. The sea has much more to offer, “he said. Its Aponiente has moved to a lumber mill where they have a surface of 2,700f2 exclusively to clean fish. 42 people work in the kitchen with these fish discards to create amazing dishes like sea sausages.
Taste of Spain
One of the highlights in this edition of Madrid Fusion has been Taste Spain, starring a space of eleven domestic destinations: Ruta de la Tapa, a tour of the Spanish cuisine in “small bites” as Segovia lamb stew, stuffed shrimp and sea urchin Cambrils red shrimp, lentils DOP Lanzarote, Canarian black pig cooked and boiled shrimp in sea water or oysters from la Rapita, all accompanied by the best national wines, as Malaparte, Segovia cellar of the same name.
Enofusión made a come back to have their role in the great event of gastronomy
In Enofusión space where we could attend a wide variety of prestigious tastings, technical conferences and tasting spaces, besides knowing all the news of the great wineries and brands from Spain. This year, for the first time we could find speedtasting, an original way to taste the wines based on the speed dating system, where the winemakers showcase in a few minutes wines to journalists and bloggers.
On the 24th, 25th and 26th of October, the eighth edition of the touring Contest “Tempranillos al Mundo” was held in Toledo (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain), which is famed for the First International Wine Summit. The competition has again returned to Spain after passing through Stockholm and New York. This edition had a record participation of entries, with 500 samples from seven countries. The jury was composed of leading international experts from twelve nations
The wine Cruz de Alba (2011) –geographical location: Ribera de Duero– has been the winner of the contest, while four other wines have won the award Great Gold Tempranillo: Finca Sobreño Selección (2008), from Toro; Sideral (2010), from Rioja; Dinastía Vivanco Reserva (2007), from Rioja; and, in Garnacha variety, Atteca Armas (2011), from Calatayud.
It also granted 88 prizes Gold Tempranillo and 56 Silver Tempranillo.
Bodegas y Viñedos Lleiroso, located in the town of Valbuena de Duero (Valladolid), also included within the Certification of Origin “Ribera del Duero”, won four awards in this year’s competition:
• Gold Tempranillo: Luzmillar Crianza (2011) .
• Gold Tempranillo: Lleiroso (2009) .
• Silver Tempranillo: Luzmillar Roble (2012).
• Silver Tempranillo: Lleiroso (2007) .
The Tempranillo black grape variety is the most important grapevine in Spain. From it, comes many of the most notable spanish red wines. It has other names, such as Tinta del País, in Ribera del Duero; Tinta de Toro, in Zamora; or Cencibel, in Castilla-La Mancha. The Tempranillo grape variety needs lots of sunshine to ensure optimum quality. The wines that are made from this grape are fresh and dry in mouth.