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Carnival in Europe – Five great Carnival Vacation ideas for wine lovers in 2014

Although most of us when mentioning the world carnival might instantly think of Sydney, Rio or New Orleans, Europe can still lay claim to the oldest and proudest Mardi Gras tradition. The historical importance of the religious celebrations preceding the start of Lent is marked by the diverse and colorful local festivals celebrated throughout European cities each year. From the famous masked balls in Venice, to the riotous and vibrant carnival in Tenerife, these occasions are a must see for wine lovers who enjoy glamor, excitement and the decadence of lavish celebrations.

veniceThe following five cities represent the best of Europe’s carnival tradition and welcome the spring season in impeccable style:

Venice Carnival 2014

Venice Carnival or Carnevale is the very epitome of extravagance, a masked ball that traditionally ended on Shrove Tuesday and began on December 26th, which is celebrated as St Stephen’s Day in Venice, as in Ireland. Today, however, the festivities continue into the middle of February, as visitors flock from far and wide to enjoy the most decadent fancy-dress party on earth. The carnival has a history that dates back many hundreds of years; Venetians have been celebrating Carnevale since the 15th century. The popularity of masked balls and carnivals rocketed during this period in Europe and became an integral part of any cultural event in Venice. The mask, as well as serving a decorative function could nicely conceal the identity of the wearer, which became highly popular in political circles, as well as for celebrations.

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Other European cities started to copy the Venice formula and order their own masks from the Venetian workshops. In Venice, private clubs would organize masked balls and street entertainment – the elite simply had to be seen at these events! Carnevale reached its heyday in the 18th century, as the Venetian Republic collapsed and social conventions and rules were relaxed. The event became increasingly hedonistic, with lavish displays of wealth, processions and festivals held in St Marks Square. Sadly, after Napoleon invaded in 1797 the carnival tradition fell into decline, the Italian ruler Mussolini subsequently banned the wearing of masks and so carnival was no more. That was until 1979, when the first event in several decades exploded into the Venetian scene and the city has not looked back since. Today, the undisputed highlight is the Gran Ballo delle Maschere or Doge’s Ball, which takes place in different locations across Venice, usually in a grand palace or residence.

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The costumes, masks and general extravagance on display is unrivaled. Prior the the Grand Masked Ball, the celebration begins with a masked procession through Piazza San Marco and around. The following weekend sees a multitude of wonderful musical and theatre performances in San Marco and other locations, with Sunday reserved for a stunning procession of gondolas carrying masked passengers down the Grand Canal. Of course, plenty of other events take place and are open to anyone who is prepared to pay. This year, visitors can enjoy the masked “Enchanted Palace” Ball, which takes place in an ancient palace on the Grand Canal. Expect cocktails, lavish costume, fine dining and partying aplenty. There is also the “Feast of the Gods Event”, which takes place in a sixteenth century palace under frescoes painted by Giovanni Bellini. Join in the celebrations as Bacchus, the god of wine and Mercury invite you to join their feasting, drinking and merry making. For more information on these and other events, go to www.venicecarnival-italy.com   Finally, don’t forget to secure your mask well in advance of the party! Book an appointment to have a mask made.

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Venice Wine Country- While in Venice, why not go exploring the Prosecco wine roads, the delicious sparkling wine made in the gentle hills around Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Great Prosecco houses include Bisol and Bortolomiol, two faves.

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Tenerife Carnaval 2014

Each year Tenerife holds one of Europe’s largest and most riotous carnivals, a three week extravaganza that attracts hundreds of thousand of visitors and culminates in a 24 hour party on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It has been celebrated on the island for centuries and visitors to Tenerife such as Lope Antonio de la Guerra Pena in the 18th century spoke of dancing and conga music in the capital Santa Cruz. However, when Franco came to power he banned the festivities, which got back into their full swing after his death in 1975 upon his death. The carnival was subsequently a vehicle with which to lambast the Catholic Church and its relationship with the Fascists – today people often dress up to lampoon religious figures, naughty nuns being a popular costume!

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Tenerife is now twinned with Rio de Janeiro, and shares some of the vigor and debauchery of that world famous carnival in Brazil. Next year it runs from 26th February to 9th March, carnival season is officially opened with a gala for the election of the Carnival Queen and ends with the ceremonial burning of the sardine festival, an event totally unique to the island of Tenerife.The ‘sardine’ is in fact a collection of rags and cloths, paraded around Santa Cruz de Tenerife followed by hysterical mourners! It is quite a sight to behold! But the main attraction is most definitely the gala parade, a spectacular affair with stunning examples of fancy dress on display, elaborate floats, fireworks and much drinking and parting centered around the beautiful Plaza de España in Santa Cruz.

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That said, the carnival involves far more than just one central parade and loads of stalls and events are set up in areas across the city. There are also competitions galore: murgas, rondallas, comparsas, all essentially dance competitions and a fancy dress competition for good measure. Make sure you don’t miss the grand gala for the election of 2014′s Carnival Queen, the day after there is a delightful musical concert in the Guimera theater. And don’t think that the fun ends on Ash Wednesday, as the weekend of La Piñata Chica follows shortly after with more partying in the Plaza de Principe. So head out on 9th of March for what will undoubtedly be the best street festival of your life. More info on Tenerife´s Carnival events this year.

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Tenerife for Wine Lovers- While on this beautiful island, don´t miss tasting spectacular local wines from the  Crater bodega. Enjoy stellar food and wine in one of the most beautiful settings on earth at Terrazas del Sauzal, and El Burgado is also unmissable.

Terrazas-del-Sauzal-Nice Carnival 2014

Capital of the Cote d’Azur, Nice holds a suitably glamorous and elaborate carnival celebration each year across its splendid squares, parks and the famous Promenade des Anglais. Its temperate winter climate and fantastic setting makes it the perfect location for a carnival to remember. The celebration starts on 14th February in 2014 and ends on 4th March, over two weeks of non-stop partying. Nice Carnival has had a long and distinguished reign: history records that the event was established in the 13th century, by Charles Anjou, the Count of Provence. In 1294, the Count made references to “the joyous days of carnival” suggesting that Nice Carnival is in fact the original and oldest carnival celebration in existence. Each year the carnival’s organizers choose a different theme for the celebrations, 2014 is the year of the “King of Gastronomy” so expect cuisine to dominate the parade and events that entertain revellers who flock to the Promenade de Anglais each year.

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However, Nice Carnival is most famous for the Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers) which takes place on various dates throughout the Carnival season (in 2014 the 15 19, 22, 26 February and 2 March) Members of the parade fiercely battle to outdo each other with spectacular floral displays on floats that line the Promende de Anglais. As the procession moves through Nice, flowers are thrown into the crowds, stalls selling delicious local delicacies fill the air with enticing smells and the city seems to literally buzz with excitement. The festivities officially start with the Carnival Procession, heralding the arrival of the Carnival King in the beautiful Place Massena. Local residents spend months designing over 20 elaborate floats, which will take the theme of the year.

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But perhaps the most eye-catching sight is the giant puppets marching through Nice, called Grosses Tetes, accompanied by hundreds of musicians, street artists and dancers that come from all over the world. The chosen King then takes the key to the city and declares a brief reign of excess! Highlights in 2014 include the unmissable Zuma party on February 16th and the awe-inspiring closing firework display over the Baie de Anges, officially ending the proceeding on 4 March. For more information on this unmissable carnival event, check out info on Nice Carnival here.

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Nice for wine lovers- Nice is the gateway to Provence. You are less than an hour away from dreamy hilltop villages where you can stay in gorgeous country properties tasting stellar rosé wines in situ. In Nice itself you have some fab little wine bars, we love La Part des Anges, La Cave de l’Origine and Cave de la Tour.

Cadiz Carnival 2014

Second only to Tenerife in the sheer scope and originality of its carnival tradition, Cadiz carnival is a riotous, ten day celebration that literally turn the city into one big party. It is the highlights of any self-respecting Gaditanos calender, indeed, preparations for the carnival begin almost as soon as one carnival finishes. Historically, Cadiz has laid on a boisterous carnival since the 16th century, when the city thrived as a major trading port for the Americas. Looking across to their Italian neighbors in Venice, the citizens of Cadiz decided to copy their tradition of marking the start of lent and started to organize what would become the liveliest and most elaborate carnival in mainland Spain. It was the one celebration that the Fascist dictator could not ban, due to the overwhelming protest and resistance for the local Gaditanos!

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Beginning on February 27 and ending on March 9 in 2014, Cadiz’s carnival is essentially one massive street party, with eleven days of elaborate costumes, theatre, processions, concerts and above all else, singing! The originality of Cadiz’s lent celebration is impressive, the driving force of the party is an emphasis on music and on the famously witty local inhabitants of Cadiz, whose love of comedy comes shining through in their imaginative displays of satire. These performers are known as Chirigotas: their music and satirical songs provide the central focus each year. In fact, the celebration really starts a month before the official opening day, as various musical groups compete in the “official contest” held at the beautiful Gran Teatro Falla. Over 200 groups will take part in this musical feast, with various categories of performers: Chirigotas, Choirs, Comparsas, Quarters and Romanceros. The Choirs will often also entertain people in the streets, as will the single act Romanceros. The Comparas tend to take the competition more seriously and sing classical songs with deep, romantic leanings. The competition is held 20 days before carnival and in four stages: preliminaries, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the grand final. Listening to the various performers is a big highlight of the festival, the songs tend to be aimed at ‘debunking’ the cult of celebrity, politicians and the church are also fair game!

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The finale is another main attraction of the carnival, held on the first Friday of the celebrations. Performers roam the streets singing their compositions and on the following Monday perform on a central stage for all the city to enjoy. The other key attraction during carnival time is the procession and street parties, as thousands upon thousand of people in elaborate costume party the night away in Cadiz’s old town. In addition, there are gastronomic stalls, various musical concerts and plenty of things to keep the little ones happy; including puppet shows, and the incredible closing fireworks display. Key dates for your Carnival calendar in 2014 are Friday 27, which is the Grand Finale of the singing contest, the main procession on the following Sunday (29) and the awe-inspiring fireworks display in La Caleta. Truly, this is a carnival you won’t want to miss.

Cadiz for wine lovers- you are in the Sherry heartland here and this is a supremely interesting spot for wine aficionados. Don´t miss the terrific bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera like Lustau, Fernando de Castilla, González Byass and Domecq. And Angle Leon´s Michelin starred seafood eatery Aponiente is a glamorous place to taste terrific local Sherries paired with unusual and magical fish pairings.

SHERRY pxSitges Carnival 2014

Spain’s delightfully avant-garde, unconventional seaside resort is merely a half-hour away from Barcelona by train, so there’s no excuse for not visiting the next time you set foot in the Catalan capital. Sitges has been a fashionable place for jet-setters and night-owls since the 1960s, and puts on one of Spain’s most outrageous carnivals. It’s a week long riot of the extrovert, the colorful and the exhibitionist, capped by a gay parade along the sea-front promenade. Sitges has been holding carnival celebrations for over a century, although the installation of Franco as Spain’s Fascist dictator in 1939 put a temporary stop to the fun. Today, it is regarded as Spain’s wildest party event and over 200,000 visitors, both Spanish and international, turn out for the carnival. A normally quiet village (in winter at least!) explodes into life with parades, endless parties, local gastronomy, numerous folk dances and outrageous displays – a feast for all the senses.

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The party starts on 27 February in 2014 and ends March 5. The inaugural event is the opening Jueves Lardero (Fat Thursday) celebrations, with stalls offering a massive selection of local dishes; Sitges’ citizens seriously pig-out into the evening. It heralds the arrival of King Carnestoltes – the King of the Carnival – who arrives in a great flurry of color and activity. Let the mayhem begin! Sunday 2nd March sees the famous Rua de la Disbauxa, or the Debauchery Parade, an anything goes display of debauchery and outrageous costume, over forty floats usually participate in the fun, carrying up to 2,000 people at a time. However, even this spectacular event is outdone by the Rua de l’Extermini, or Extermination Parade, on the following Tuesday night. This parade marks the end of the festivities, although there is nothing mournful about the celebrations with more riotous displays of dress and kitsch.

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Carnival truly ends with the Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday, the large effigy of a sardine buried in Sitges’s sandy beach. Around the same time as carnival, a more sedate but equally unmissable event is taking place – the Corpus Cristi celebrations. They are marked by the creation of floral ‘carpets’ in the streets of central Sites. These can be of incredible complexity and generally consist of geometric designs or religious depictions. They are simply stunningly beautiful so make sure to catch them before they are trampled over when the religious process passes through this delightful city.

Sitges for wine lovers- you are on the doorstep of the Mediterranean Penedes wine country. This is where Spain´s famed Cava, bubbly, is produced and great wines to seek out include Agusti Torello and Pares Balta. Don´t miss a meal at winemaker´s haunt Cal Xim where charming host Santi will take excellent care of you, and while in Sitges itself we love the easy going paella at beach front La Fragata.

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Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is one of our preferred wine estates in the gorgeous region of La Rioja, in Northern Spain.

We love this winery  for its stellar wines, the great hospitality and exuberance of the hosts. We had the chance to chat to winemaker  Pedro Peciña Gil, and thought you might enjoy reading the interview.

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Pedro Peciña Gil

Here goes>

CELLAR TOURS- When did you become passionate about wine?

PEDRO- I remember visiting the vineyards with my father when I was 5-6 years old right before  the harvest time. I was very young, but I felt something special at that moment, and from then I decided that in the future I would like to produce grapes myself.

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CELLAR TOURS-When did you join the family business and how long has your family been involved in wine?

PEDRO- Today I´m 35 years old, and in 1992,when I was 14, I started helping my father elaborating our first bottling. I remember it was difficult, because it was our first year to produce wine between my father and me… it was very funny!!!

CELLAR TOURS- Did you study winemaking in Rioja or elsewhere and have you worked in other regions/countries? If so, how did the experience shape you?

PEDRO-I studied  enology at the University of La Rioja in Logroño, but in my opinion  the best wine / enology university is the real practice in growing grapes and making wine with my father´s help since I was a child. I have experience in helping other wineries in Rioja too; also I did a harvest in Messina Hoff Winery, one of the most important wineries in Texas USA. It was a very funny experience, all was different, grapes, winery, work philosophy, the language, the people.. very interesting experience in which I learned a lot.

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CELLAR TOURS-How would you describe the winemaking philosophy at Bodegas Hermanos Peciña ? Are your wines traditional, modern, etc etc?

PEDRO-The first lesson that I learned from my father was ” to make a good wine you only need to follow 3 rules: TO BE CLEAN, TO BE CLEAN AND TO BE CLEAN”. Of course you also need  good grapes, choose the perfect moment of harvesting …Our wines are very classic, due to we follow making our wines as people did them 100 years ago, as very natural as possible, no using any artificial yeast, (only wild yeast from San Vicente de la Sonsierra) or any Enzymas, any tannins, any poliphenols.. we never add nothing, our wines are completely natural. 3

CELLAR TOURS-What distinguishes your estate to other wineries in the area?

PEDRO-The main difference is that our wines are like the wines of100 years ago, completely natural, and their unique flavour is wine… OUR WINES TASTE LIKE WINE!!! We never filter the wines, we never fine the wines, and we never do any cold stabilization of the wines; so, to get stabilized wines we keep them  a lot of time in barrel, and every 6 months we make rackings by means of the traditional technique from barrel to barrel by gravity, cleaning the wines in a natural way.

CELLAR TOURS- Have you seen many changes in winemaking and viticulture in La Rioja in recent years, in which way?

PEDRO-I think Rioja has changed a lot in the past 10 years, many wineries have lost the identity of Rioja, and they try to make wines with more color, more complex, more full-bodied… in a word,Parker style wines.. and this is not Rioja. They are using new barrels, French barrels, making very long macerations… all of that to get hard wines.

CELLAR TOURS-What are your most important established markets and which new markets are you trying to break into, China for example?

PEDRO-We are working very good in all North America ( Mexico, USA and Canada), because they like the authentic classic Rioja, and in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Poland…), countries that are discovering the traditional Rioja. We started selling in Chine a couple years ago, but only in high level markets, where high quality wines have recognition.

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CELLAR TOURS-Have you experienced any challenges with climate change and global warming?

PEDRO-Yes, in my experienced 20 years, I have noticed how the harvest start earlier; the maturation of the grapes is earlier than some years ago, ( although 2013 harvest has been a little bit later)… and it´s a fact that 30 years ago it snowed 4-5 times every winter, and that´s very unusual nowadays.

CELLAR TOURS-Are you experimenting with any new wines, and any exciting projects on the horizon?

PEDRO-We love the Tempranillo grape and for making white wines, we strongly believe in the potential of the Viura. I think it´s  not good for the Rioja the introduction of foreign white varieties.

CELLAR TOURS-Do you find the strict rules put in place by the Consejo Regulador to be helpful or a hindrance?

PEDRO-I think these rules even need to be more strict, because in Rioja you can find low quality wines that have the warranty of Rioja. And that´s not good for the image of the Rioja.

CELLAR TOURS- For guests coming to visit you in Rioja, do you have any favorite restaurants in the area, any secret gems?

PEDRO-My favourite luxury place is Restaurante Alameda in Fuenmayor, only using fresh products, with a magnificent grill.  Restaurante Jose Mari, in Rivas de Tereso and 4 km far from our bodega, is the perfect place to taste traditional dishes from Rioja: Patatas con Chorizo, chuletillas al sarmiento, bacalao a la riojana…, And with very reasonable prices!!!

CELLAR TOURS-Which wine should we lay down and save for a special occasion?

PEDRO-I think our most special wine is our Pciña Reserva Seleccion Harvest 2001: soft, harmonious, delicate wine…. You love it from the first moment, but it´s changing every minute at the glass, remembering nuances of chocolate, coffee…. wonderful!!!!!

Pedro Peciña Senior

Pedro Peciña Senior

For more information on this outstanding winery, contact Mikel Martínez at BODEGAS HERMANOS PECIÑA, Carretera Vitoria Km.47-26338 San Vicente de la Sonsierra (La Rioja)
Tel +34-941 334 366  -  Fax +34 941 334 180   [email protected]  https://es-es.facebook.com/BodegaPecina

Ten Best Spa Hotels in Spain

Posted by gen On January - 13 - 2014

Enjoy this selection of some of our favorite Spa Hotels in Spain, the perfect plan to beat the winter blues! Combine the spa trip with wine tasting and you have the perfect vacation!

Spain boasts a formidable selection of luxury spa hotels that can easily compete with Europe’s best. These hotels are an oasis of calm, relaxation not excitement is most definitely the number one aim for visitors. The top spa hotels in Spain now literally offer everything:  a dramatic setting, luxury accommodation, top notch facilities and gourmet cuisine on tap. In fact, discerning visitors are now spoiled for choice as Spain runs the whole spa gambit from historic buildings converted into salubrious hotels to modern beach front establishments where the emphasis is on chic!

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So whether you want an oasis of calm nestled in a vibrant urban environment or a dramatic cliff-top setting in the Mediterranean, the following luxury spa hotels will be perfect for you:

Hacienda Na Xamena, Urbanización Na Xamena, s/n, 07815 San Miguel, Ibiza

Set among some of Ibiza’s most spectacular scenery, the Hacienda Na Xamenda is situated high on a sea-facing cliff-top affording visitors the best views on the island. A luxury hotel in every sense of the word, rooms are lavishly decorated with Indian and Indonesian furniture throughout, a den of tranquility a mere 20 minutes away from Ibiza town. Both guests and visitors can enjoy the superb spa, an unmissable highlight is surely to have a relaxing message outdoors on the sea-facing Bamboo terrace. Several steams rooms and a sauna, infinity pools and jacuzzi all add to the enjoyment.

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Mandarin Oriental  Barcelona, Passeig de Gracia, 38-40 08007, Barcelona

Undoubtedly Barcelona’s finest hotel, the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona cocoons you in decadent luxury that seems a million miles away from the realities of the office desk. It is also perfectly situated for just about everything: the shopping of Passeig De Gracia is a few minutes’ walk away, as is the metro stations and place de Catalunya and beyond. And if that wasn’t enough, the hotel has a state of the art spa with all the expected bells and whistles: various steam and sauna rooms, a infinity pool and a seemingly endless selection of treatments – the perfect way to spend a Sunday in Barcelona.

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Hotel Palacio de Sober, Camino del Palacio S/N, 27460 Sober

A true retreat, this magical hotel occupies a very grand space in an historical palace, once belonging to the Counts of Lemos in Galicia. The Palacio de Sober is ideal if you’re looking for nothing but peace and tranquility and has the finest spa in northern Spain – Aqua Ardens. In the summer months guests can swim in an enormous pool and enjoy the views over the mountains of Leon, there are also indoor heated pools and thermal baths, with a number of specialist body and facial treatments. The restaurant is also one of the best in Spain, and serves haute Galician cuisine.

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Abama Golf and Spa Resort, Carretera General, TF-47, km 9, Guía de Isora, Tenerife

Spectacularly situated along Tenerife’s coastline with views over to the neighbouring island of La Gomera, the Abama hotel boasts one of Spain’s plushest and most modern spa facilities. Take your pick from seven outdoor pools or head indoors to the luxurious spa complex and choose from a range of treatments based on the hotel’s five principles of well being: rejuvenation, relaxation, revitalization, balance and beauty. There is also a wonderfully inviting heated hydrotherapy pool, a cool plunge pool, several sauna/steam rooms and a Turkish Bath to boot. You can also purchase many of the oils and other specialist products used in the treatments at a well-stocked Spa shop. And if you’re trip has a romantic leaning then couples can used the private treatment cabins for total seclusion and luxury relaxation – heaven!

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Marbella Club Thalasso Spa, Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, 29600 Marbella

A sophisticated cut above most hotels in Andalucia, the boutique Marbella Club has an effortless chic about it. Everything is just right at this hotel, from the professional, slick service to the beautiful pool area and superb restaurants. Not to mention one of Spain’s finest spas, a stones throw away from Marbella’s best beach. The facilities are astounding: indoor sea-water pool, jacuzzi, saunas, Turkish baths, relaxations rooms and 12 treatment rooms. The hotel prides itself on the range and quality of treatments available and offers Anti-Stress, weight loss and rejuvenation programmes and specialises in Shi-tao messages, and mineral infused facial treatments. Bliss.

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Balneario de Panticosa, Crta Balneario, KM 10, 22650, Panticosa, Huesca

It was hotels like Balneario that redefined the meaning of a country spa hotel, establishing a new breed of modern, contemporary, sophisticated rural accommodation with all the spa facilities you could want. Located near the city of Huesca in the spectacular Aragonese Pyrenees, the hotel is perfect for hikers in the summer and skiing families in the winter. The spa attached is enormously peaceful, with hydro-therapy being the central emphasis of the resort. It boasts: a central indoor pool, an outdoor heated pool, Turkish bath, and solarium with mountain views to name but a few amenities.  The ideal place to unwind this winter.

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La Residencia, Finca Son Canals, 07179, Deia, Mallorca

Two magnificently restored, 16th century manors on the outskirts of the absolutely gorgeous hamlet of Deia have been made into a elegant, luxury hotel with no equal in Mallorca. It is unashamedly traditional and welcoming with four poster beds and traditional Spanish furniture. The views across from the pool terrace toward the mountains are worth the price of admission alone. The spa complex, however, is thoroughly modern and equipped with open-air terraces allowing guest so enjoy treatments with views of the Tramuntana mountains. All this is complimented by top-notch indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms and all the facilities you’d expect at such a prestigious address. But we’d happily settle for the view alone!

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Hotel Marques de Riscal, Calle Torrea, 1, 01340, Elciego, Alava

Since the 1860s, Marques de Riscal has been one of Rioja’s leading wineries and now boasts a deluxe hotel and spa to compliment its range of superlative wines. In addition to luxury vineyard facing accommodation and a Michelin starred restaurant, the hotel offers guests the chance to unwind in the luxury spa. It has been showered with awards over the past seven years: Best Spa 2007 by Wallpaper magazine, and in 2009 Conde Nast Traveller voted it most popular overseas Spa. The treatments offered are totally unique to the winery, and make full use of the nearby vineyards. Enjoy a signature Cabernet scrub, before relaxing in the heated indoor pool, hydro-bath, steam room and fantastic jacuzzi.

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Villa de Laguardia, San Raimundo Hiribidea, 15, 01300 Laguardia, Álava

Another of the Rioja region’s top spa hotels, Villa de Laguardia is a fantastic choice for couples looking to relax in opulent style and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Situated in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa region in the dreamy medieval hamlet of Laguardia, the hotel offers great views of the Riojan landscape and a state of the art wine oil Spa, for all your relaxation needs. In addition to the prerequisite pools, Turkish Baths, saunas and stream rooms, the hotel specialises in treatments using local wine and oil from Rioja Alavesa. 15 Cabins allow guests to choose from a multitude of wellness treatments, with a emphasis on using natural, locally found products. spa laguarspa lagua 2

Burgo de Osma Thermal Hotel, Calle Universidad 5, 42300 El Burgo de Osma, Soria.

Situated at the heart of the Castilla y Leon province, the Burgo de Osma hotel and spa is one of Spain’s newest and brightest stars, having opened its doors as recently as 2010. It is housed in an incredible building, the Renaissance University of Santa Catalina founded in the 16th century by Bishop Pedro Alvarez de Acosta. Here, history and modernity collide as the luxurious spa caters for every need with its pools, thermal circuit and treatment cabins. Split into two parts, the thermal cloister consists of a thermal swimming pool, mineral-water spa tubs with various beds, a Turkish bath and a relaxation room. Then, move onto the treatment area and enjoy a massage, or perhaps some geothermal therapy, reflexology, or facial treatments – a blissful heaven of relaxation!

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Top Basque Gourmet Restaurants in Pais Vasco and Pays Basque

Cellar Tours recommend:

The Basque country – and in particular the glamorous resort of San-Sebastian – is now a must visit destination for lovers of fine gastronomy traveling in Spain. Its inhabitants, the fiercely proud Basque people, have always enjoyed spending money on food and drink, and lots of it! They are privileged to have access to an abundance of superb raw materials – fish, seafood, excellent game, vegetables, mushrooms, fine wines and other delicacies can all be sourced locally. Moreover, over the past thirty years Basque cuisine has been going through a phase of creative renewal, inspired by the French nouvelle cuisine cookery school. The result is that the region is now Spain’s uncontested gourmet stronghold and a paradise for visitors looking to immerse themselves in good food and wine.

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Unsurprisingly, there are more Michelin starred restaurants in the Basque country than any other part of Spain and with standards ever rising; the number is set to increase in the future. The city of San-Sebastian alone has 8 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famous Arzak, one of the pioneers of the new Basque cuisine school of gastronomy. Of course, plenty of superb restaurants can be found across the region without a Michelin star and not having a star does not mean that the restaurant does not work to the highest gastronomic standards. As a guide for discerning visitors keen to sample one or two of the finer points of Basque cuisine, we have selected our top Basque country restaurants below:

1. Akelarre, Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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With over 38 years experience of wowing diners, head chef Pedro Subijana rarely hits a wrong note with his incredibly refined, exquisite take on traditional Basque dishes and cuisine. This 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in San-Sebastian simply has it all: spectacular views of rolling hills which plunge into the sea, sublime food, a lengthy wine list and professional, but not overly formal service. To savor Subijana’s star dishes, you must try the seven course menu de degustacion. Every dish is a gastronomic treat, but particular highlights include the Sauteed Fresh Foie Gras with Salt Flakes and Grain Pepper and the utterly irresistible Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato “Bolao” and Iberian Emulsion. One for that special occasion! And a personal fave were our clients get extra special service here.

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2. Arzak, 273 Avenida Alcade Elosegui, 20015, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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Considered to be one of the word’s best restaurants in any gourmet guide worth its salt, and, judging by the consistently excellent standards at this icon of modern Basque cooking, we’d have to agree. Founded in 1897 as a house by the current owner’s grandparents, Arzak’s fame can be attributed to one man with a great vision – Juan Mari Arzak. After returning home from the army, Arzak trained in his mother’s kitchen and founded what would become Spain’s first restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars in 1989. Today, he works with his equally passionate daughter Elena to bring diners a taste of his incredible take on Basque dishes – Arzak literally is the godfather of new Basque cuisine. Signature dishes include his marvelous Rape Marea Baja, which is Monkfish with mussels and nori flavored shells and his sublime Pichon con Chia, a moreish concoction of roasted pigeon with a Mexican Chia seed cracker and chia spheres filled with broth. A venue everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

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3. Azurmendi, Corredor del Txorierri, Salids 25, Barrio Legina, Larrabetzu, 48195- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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If Azurmendi were up for sale then it would pull in a fortune for its location alone! A spectacular hilltop setting 10 minutes drive from Bilbao airport houses a modern glass and steel building that serves 3 Michelin-starred food of the highest quality. A relatively new kid on the block, Azurmendi was founded in 2005 by superstar chef Eneko Atxa who cut his teeth at such prestigious venues as Andra Mari and Mugaritz. Its fame quickly rose and in 2013, the venue was awarded a third Michelin star. The restaurant, in addition to being celebrated for its Nouvelle Basque cuisine, is noted for its exceptional and well stocked wine cellar, which is also excellent value. A bottle of the superb Alion from Vega Sicilia can be obtained for €60 for example, which is equivalent to the retail price. Atxa’s prize winning dishes include his roast lobster with a tapenade of lobster, mushrooms, black olives and spring onion emulsion and the already legendary Confit of pork on a breadcrumb base salted with pork bones and acorns, garnished with pork jus, herbs and pork crackling. Divine!

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4. Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria, 20160, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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A living legend in Basque gastronomy, Martin Berasategui currently holds more Michelin stars than any other Spanish chef. He opened one of the Basque country’s leading restaurants in 1993, in a charming converted farmhouse. He quickly earned a Michelin star and was awarded his third in 2001. This is a restaurant that strives for perfection and easily achieves it; the service is some of the best in Spain, each dish is meticulously crafted and most importantly, Berasategui will happily substitute any dish for something more to your liking. He will also design a menu to fit your budget, which is a rarity in Michelin-starred establishments. Add into the mix an extensive wine list and beautiful setting, and you have the recipe for gastronomic perfection. His signature dishes include a cold potato soup with smoked bacon and the award winning roasted Araiz pigeon, with fresh mushroom pasta, spring onions and light touches of truffle cream.

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5. Elkano, Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808, Getaria

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This restaurant is justly celebrated for being a seafood lover’s paradise. Located in the charming Basque village of Getaria, head chef Pedro Arregui, aided by grill master Luís Manterola are famous all over Spain, in fact Europe and beyond for their exquisite shellfish and grilled fish dishes, washed down with the local Basque wine, Txacoli. Their secret is simply only using the freshest, seasonal and locally caught produce which is clearly reflected in the menu. The undisputed highlight at Elkano is the turbot-rodaballo, whole turbot cooked on oak charcoal ashes very slowly, without touching the fire, the result being the finest turbot we have ever tasted. Visitors must also try the delightful kokotxas pil pil, which is grilled hake jowl served with a sauce prepared with its own gelatin, olive oil, parsley, and garlic. Finish with the delicious helado de queso de Idiazabal, ice cream made from a mascarpone-like local cheese served with fresh strawberry coulis.

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6. Etxebarri, Calle de San Juán, 1, 24549 Atxondo- ONE MICHELIN STAR

etxebarri 66Head chef and founder Victor Arguinzoniz is the master of Asador style cooking, which is a traditional Spanish method which cooks everything over a large charcoal grill, including dessert! Located in the beautiful Basque countryside, the restaurant offers new culinary creations based on classic techniques and Arguinzoniz is not afraid to grill baby eels, rice, clams, anchovies and black truffles in his quest for culinary perfection. At the heart of this gastronomic temple, however, is a love of freshness and flavor rather than aesthetics for aesthetics sake or overwrought creations.  The wine list is a similar delight, packed with diverse offerings from Spain’s finest regions. Start your feast with his signature grilled baby eels. Follow with baby sea-cucumbers and green beans and tartar of fresh lobster, then move onto the obligatory chuletón or gilled rib eye. This restaurant, although off the beaten track is an essential visit for lovers of great food and wine!

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7. La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais, 1 Avenue de l’ Imperatrice, 64200, Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

One of France’s greatest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie can be found in the stunningly beautiful Hotel du Palais in the glamours French resort of Biarritz. The hotel was founded in 1855 as a private villa (known as Villa Eugenie) for the Empress Eugenie. In 1880 the villa was sold and subsequently converted into a hotel casino and then the luxury hotel we see today. It is now a must visit destination of gourmets traveling in the Basque country and the favourite of many Parisians, who say it exceeds the finest restaurants in the French capital. Head Chef Jean-Marie Gautier is a culinary master, but unlike some of his contemporaries prefers to serve classical dishes and is not a slave to the inventiveness of the new Basque school of gastronomy. The ornate, opulent dining room is a sight to behold and one of the most romantic destinations in France. Diners come from far and wide to enjoy his wonderful creations, including the sangria poached duck foie gras and sautéed sucking lamb with artichoke. As expected, the wine list is extensive and a Bordeaux and Burgundy lovers delight.

La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais

8. L´Atelier, 8, rue de la Bergerie – Quartier St Charles, 64200 Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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Another fantastic example of fine gastronomy in the resort of Biarritz, L’Atelier is run by a husband and wife team who recently gained their first Michelin star. A deserving accolade for one of the region’s finest restaurants, presided over by head chef Alexandre Bousquet, while his wife runs the front of house. This small, intimate restaurant serves modern, refined cuisine which mixes the best elements of its French and Basque heritage. Some dishes that must be tried include the sea bream and mashed potato with a pistachio sauce, fried oysters with coconut foam and his divine veal sweetbreads. The wine list offers many gems from both France and Spain, including a great selection of vintage Champagnes. Magnifique!

9. Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, 20100 San Sebastian- TWO MICHELIN STARS

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Andoni Luis Aduriz, who founded Mugaritz in 1998 has a pedigree like no other in Spain. This incredibly talented chef worked at the legendary El Bulli in the 1990s and also trained under Martin Berasategui in 1996, another of the Basque country’ leading chefs. He is widely acknowledged to be at the forefront of the new Basque haute cuisine of the region, following the template set out by chefs like Arzak, who wished to investigate the science behind food preparation in their pursuit of perfect molecular gastronomy. Dining at Mugartiz – a mere 20 minutes drive by car from San-Sebastian – therefore, is an experience rather than just an evening of great food. Expect such creative delicacies as noodles of milk skin wrapped in lard served with a tomatoes and pumpkin emulsion, hake with cauliflower and marscarpone cheese and lamb with brain ragout! Service as you’d expect is flawless and attentive throughout and the wine list is a monument to every major Spanish wine producing region.

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10. Zoko Moko, 6 Rue Mazarin, 64500, St Jean de Luz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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This elegant and beautiful venue is now undoubtedly St Jean de Luz’s best restaurant. Presided over by head chef Remy Benedeyt since 2011, his cooking is a veritable showcase of sophisticated Basque cooking, and is well worth the visit to this delightful seaside resort on the French Basque coast. The emphasis is squarely on providing diners with a warm personal touch, service is friendly rather than overly formal and the restaurant is only too happy to accommodate your personal requests or preferences. Highlights include prawns on a bed of a julienne of avocado and courgette and the famous cannettes (female duck) which comprises of a pan fried breast and a confit leg. Desserts are also splendid, as is the carefully prepared wine list. Prices are reasonable considering the quality on offer and if this fantastic restaurant has a drawback, well then we can’t see it!

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11. Zortziko, Calle Alameda Mazarredo 17, El Ensanche, Bilbao, 48001- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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The legendary Zortziko remains today Bilbao’s finest Michelin-starred restaurant; founded by Daniel Garcia in 1989 it continues to wow visitors with Garcia’s superlative, contemporary haute cuisine. The destination is worth the price of admission alone, a gorgeous and elegant building which was actually declared a historic monument. Garcia keeps the menu seasonal, allowing diners to return and sample different innovative dishes, which are always sublime. Service is totally professional and the wine list impressive. Start your meal with the signature langostino con risotto de perretxikos (prawns with wild mushroom risotto), followed by the suprema de pintada asada a la salsa de trufas (guinea fowl in truffle sauce). Finish with strawberry soup and rhubarb ice cream for real gastronomic heaven.

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12. Zuberoa, Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz, 20180 Oiartzun- ONE MICHELIN STAR

Restaurante-Zuberoa

Another of Spain’s best restaurants, Zuberoa is set in an idyllic 600 year old farmhouse in the Basque countryside. Founded by the Arbelaitz brothers, the restaurant has maintained over the years a flawless consistency in its culinary artistry, head chef Hilario Arbelaitz is a devotee to the new Basque school of cookery, although he never forgets the traditional origins of Basque cooking which shines through in his creations. Service is perfect, complimenting his delicious, inventive cooking. Signature dishes include: foie gras with chickpea sauce, roasted Norway lobster, vichyssoise and vanilla ravioli, roast duck foie gras with a red fruit sauce and his legendary strawberry and tomato soaked gazpacho.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open on Sundays and Mondays

Posted by gen On November - 18 - 2013

Which restaurants open in Barcelona on Sundays and Mondays?

Sundays and Mondays are traditional closing days in Spain for restaurants and Barcelona is no exception. It is notoriously hard to find nice places to eat on these days and if you don´t plan it properly you can end up in terrifyingly bad tourist dives, very disappointed and in a city as famous for gastronomy as Barcelona, there is no excuse to eat badly!

As our clients are always asking us to recommend excellent restaurants on these days, we have put together a little list of places we enjoy and who are open on Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner, Monday lunch and/or Monday dinner, so you will never be without some foodie recs under your belt on your next trip to Barcelona! Always book in advance to avoid waiting in line or being turned away.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday lunch

Arola at Hotel Arts- mythical Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola has this wonderful, breezy  eatery at the Hotel Arts and on a balmy, Mediterranean afternoon there are few nicer settings in Barcelona for lunch! Enjoy easy going delicious tapas like fried calamari; Arola´s signature Patatas Bravas; Iberian pork with Basque Idiazabal cheese, pistachios and chili; succulent Girona beef marinated in soy, wasabi and ginger; ravioli cooked in red wine, oxtail and mushrooms; crab salad and garlicky shrimp, to name  a few goodies.

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Sauc at Hotel Ohla – this Michelin starred eatery at the trendy 5* Ohla hotel is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, unprecedented in Barcelona for a fine dining restaurant. The cuisine is traditional Catalan cooking reinvented with a twist.  You will find adventurous dishes like smoked eel tartare with green apple and herring roe, and more comforting dishes like suckling pig with sauteed potatoes and shallots, and roast turbot withe potato and pancetta terrine in a red wine sauce. Desserts are very tempting, although we usually opt for the cheese plate and Sauc do a great artisan cheese platter.Good choice for a cheffy meal when many of the Michelins close.

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Taller de Tapas- you cannot go wrong with the super high quality tapas at the Taller de Tapas chain in Barcelona (our favorites are the ones on Calle Argentaria and Rambla de las Flores). Prices are superb for the quality of food and wine you have on offer here. We always order about 10 dishes and royally pig out, and no visit to Barcelona is complete for us without a lunch or dinner at Taller de Tapas. We especially love their Jabugo ham croquettes (homemade), Esqueixada de bacallà (delicious salt cod salad with black olives), Pulpo a feira (Galician style octopus), Cazuela de almejas gallegas al alvarinho (Clams cooked in white wine, soooo good), Cecina de Astorga (cured beef thinly sliced similar to Brsaola from Italy), Pimientos de Padron (tiny roast green peppers, one in 10 is super picante), sautéed artichokes with wild mushrooms and the stunning Girona beef with caramelized onions…I personally love cava with tapas and Barcelona is of course at the gateway to the Penedès wine country where cava comes from and on menus including here you´ll always find some nice offerings. At Taller de Tapas they carry Juve i Camps and Gramona, both faves. Also sparklers from Alella, just half an hour north of Barcelona, like Parxet.

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Jaume de Provença- top quality Catalan cuisine and an extensive wine list with over 300 offerings. Very old school and not interested in being trendy, off the radar mostly with international foodies. Dishes we love include their Spinach Catalan Lasagna, Galician pulpo (octopus), Catalan fish soup, and their mythical broad bean, shrimp and mint salad. They also have classics like steak tartare, baked hake with mussels, duck a l´orange, or if you want to try a local delicacy- pig´s trotters! Many Spanish celebrities, professional athletes and high society dine here so you might spot someone famous :)

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Petit Comité – This attractive and always happening eatery is Michelin starred Fermi Puig´s casual offering, with nostalgic traditional Catalan cuisine served in a hip (but still cozy) setting. They currently have a fabulous 40 euro tasting menu including wine pairings, crazy good value for Barcelona, that includes Croquettes, Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce, Catalan saucisson and wild Garlic Omelette , Tuna with Samfaina and Crema Catalana (like Créme Brulée) with cava, an Emporda white and a Monsant red. Nice place to come with a group of friends.

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Paco Meralgo- this self described high end tavern serves brilliant tapas. We love the cuttlefish meatballs, grilled razor clams, periwinkles, roast artichokes, cod Buñuelos, croquettes, Andalusian eggplant… delish and so worth it, don´t miss the tapas here. They open 7 days a week (minus Christmas) for lunch and dinner and lunch is particularly lively.

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Chicoa- stellar traditional Catalan cuisine, in a handsome, cozy setting. Perfect if you are looking for home cooking and if you have been over indulging in haut cuisine and looking for something more quaint and rustic. The specialty here is Bacalao- cod- and some particularly special dishes include the Bacalao a la ampurdanesa (with plums, pine nuts and raisins), Bacalao gratinado al alioli con langostinos (au gratin with alioli sauce and langoustines) and Bacalao a la llauna (oven baked). There are also a ton of excellent local veg dishes like Spinach canelloni and artichoke fritters.

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Bravo 24 at the W- Carles Abellan (of Comerç 24) has this venture at the mega trendy beachfront W Hotel. Rice, seafood and excellent tapas feature heavily on the menu and this is a groovy place to have an upmarket yet casual lunch. Highlights include Zarzuela fish stew, razor clam salad, White asparagus from Gavà, and Wagyu beef. Chilled out and cool.

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L’Olivé- this elegant eatery is owned by the same group who run Paco Meralgo. Located on the shishi Calle  Balmes, the Olivé offers excellent Mediterranean cuisine in a cozy space, we quite like this one for lunch. Go with a group of friends so you can taste an array of dishes! Start with breaded Calçots (similar to leeks), marinated anchovies from Ondarroa, Fabulous Jamón de Bellota (hand cut when you order), and perhaps their beautiful Catalan spinach dish (with pine nuts, raisins and pancetta). The stuffed eggplant is also great as are the road red peppers stuffed with cod. For the main course you could taste their seafood paella or more traditional Fideos (noodles) with squid ink.

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Casa Delfin- Again, top notch tapas in a lovely location in the buzzy Born quarter, near the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar cathedral and a host of trendy shops and wine bars. We love sitting on the terrace at lunchtime and tearing into their mythical Catalan fish stew (Suquet) while guzzling Cava, this is one of life´s pleasures! They do very traditional offal and seafood fishes too and are one of the last breed of traditional, honest, high quality  (not designer and trendy) tapas eateries left in Barcelona, refreshing.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday dinner

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Arola at Hotel Arts (description above)

Bravo 24 at W Hotel (description above)

Petit Comitè (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday lunch

Alkimia- super fabulous Michelin starred creative cuisine in a minimalist, chic setting in the Eixample quarter. One of the few high end fine dining options on Monday nights. Run by the very pleasant Jordi Vilà. The dining room is bright and airy and the dishes are a revelation!  Try beautifully presented dishes like Pickled oyster with glazed pork, Crystal bread with anchovies, Ñora pepper rice with saffron and bright red langoustine and then seasonal offerings (they have white truffle from Piedmont now for instance). Classics like Roast chicken cannelloni and baby lamb shoulder are given photogenic, cheffy presentations.For dessert try masterpieces like Spiced pineapple with lemon and ginger sorbet or simple but utterly intoxicating Figs with soft cheese and black olives

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Manairó- Barcelona´s newish “Snout to tail” specialists, but don´t let this put you off! Dishes include Wild sea-bream with stewed cuttlefish, mousse of grilled sardines, croquettes of roast chicken, scallops in rice,and so much more. While the presentation is creative the dishes are actually appetizing and with flavor combos that actually work (not pretentious flavor combinations showing off the chef´s cleverness, there is a little bit of an epidemic of chefs using ingredients for the sake of novelty rather than flavor).

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Hisop- contemporary and stylish very small dining room, this is one of Barcelona´s best value Michelin starred restaurants with  accomplished creative cuisine. Signature dishes includes their “After Eight Foie Gras” and grilled milk and hazelnuts. The current autumn menu looks very tempting with appetizers of pumpkin, scallops and Comté cheese & Squid with trumpets (wild mushrooms), sausage and fennel; and main dishes of Monkfish with green “Romesco” and grilled duck with figs and endive. And the pistachio with kaffir lime also sounds delish, we need to go back to Hisop to taste their current menu as have not been since last season, yumm!

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Enoteca at Hotel Arts- This is the fine dining option at Hotel Arts (which also houses excellent Arola) and they have a fabulous al fresco terrace with views of the Port Olympic. They have one of the best wine cellars in Barcelona with over 500 wines, hence the name. Two Michelin starred chef Paco Perez offers inspired creations like gnocchi, red fruit and squid; grouper fish al pil pil with fresh herbs and caviar; gambas with Boletus, super premium cured ham Gran Reserva Joselito; for daring types, try the Sea cucumber with duck egg, and Iberian pork or the seabass with seaweed and calamari broth (nicer than it sounds). Do try the chef´s tasting menu. This is fine dining with a view on a Monday in Barcelona, no easy feet!

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Tapas 24- Michelin starred chef Carles Abellan´s casual tapas joint. They don´t accept reservations  and open from 9am to midnight so you can come at nearly anytime of the day, very handy to have a quality place like this in your agenda to avoid the ubiquitous greasy, touristy tapas places smattered around town. The tapas are all super traditional, just served with ultra fresh ingredients. You´ll find classics like “La bomba”, the curious Russian salad, Pork croquettes, anchovy fritters,  the Bikini sandwich, rabo de toro, stewed lentils, and then a few cute creative tapas like the McFoie burger. They serve Vermut here, THE trendiest drink in Barcelona at the moment.

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Topik - excellent chef Adelf Morales makes Asian inspired creative Mediterranean cuisine. He has trained with the best at Berasetegui, Arzak and also in Japan and Italy and his Catalan cuisine is heavily Asian influenced. Stand out dishes include Baby lasagna with tuna and samfaina, spider crab rice, hake cheeks al pil pil, Sald cod with a miso dressing, steak tartare, free range chicken with a romesco sauce.

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Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday dinner

Gelonch- creative cuisine and pretty hot right now with globetrotting gourmets. Chef Robert Gelonch who worked at El Bulli and Gaig, is a young, innovative chef whose menu features a fusion of modern and classic dishes, ranging from uber traditional dishes like pigs trotters and suckling pig to gambas al Pisco with hibiscus and Chinese cabbage. The best way to enjoy the food roller coaster here is to dedicate 3 hours to his 10 course tasting menu, what a journey!

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Cal Pep- this wonderful fish restaurant is a veritable institution in Barcelona. Specialties at Cal Pep include Xipirons amb cigrons (Baby squid with garbanzos), hake wrapped in Swiss chard, artichokes stuffed with olives, tuna tartare, fried calamari, clams with cured Spanish ham and so many more tantalizing dishes. They always have fresh fish of the day specials and you cannot go wrong with their recommendations.

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Alkimia-(description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Tapas 24- no reservations (open all day)

Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

Hisop (description above)

Enoteca at Hotel Arts-(description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Manairo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Jaume de Provença 2

Spanish Sidra/ Cider from Spain

Posted by gen On November - 14 - 2013

On the beautiful Atlantic coast in northern Spain, the production and consumption of cider has a history that stretches back to the first century B.C. Particularly in the region of Asturias (and to a lesser extent the Basque country) cider is considered far more than a simple drink.

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Cider is a central part of the local history and folklore – its enjoyment has been part of the Asturian culture for many centuries. In its most basic form, cider is simply fermented apple juice, however, many different forms of cider, known as “sidra”, are produced in northern Spain- from artisan, hand crafted still ciders to slightly sparkling generic varieties. Drunk on a warm evening, chilled with a selection of Basque tapas or pinxtos, it is one of Spain’s greatest gastronomic pleasures, just waiting to be enjoyed by discerning visitors.

The first mention of cider production comes from the Greek Geographer and visitor to Spain, Strabo, who noted during the 1st century B.C that “the Asturians have a drink they call Zythos, made from fermented apple juice.” Many centuries later, by the mid 1800s cider was an important part of the Asturian economy and there were over 250 apple presses across the region.  Today, Asturias produces more than 80% of the total production in Spain and consumption in the region runs at over 50 litres per person, each year.

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Traditionally, a distinction is made in Spain between sidra natural and sidra gasificada. Sidra natural is usually made in small-scale operations and is fermented without any additional additives. Only the finest, locally grown apples should be used as the Atlantic coast has over 30 different varieties of apples grown in market gardens. A skilled cider maker will blend the juice of different apples – sour crab apples and sweeter varieties for example – to attain the perfect balance of richness of fruit and acidity. A good Asturian cider should have a strong, sharp flavor and good acidity. It is best consumed young, the alcohol will usually range from  4–8% strength, making it the perfect drink to enjoy alone or with various tapas dishes. In addition, some producers are now making bottle fermented, Champagne style sparkling ciders, a wonderful alternative to cava.

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In contrast, Sidra gasificada is industrially manufactured cider, usually quite sweet as sugar is added during the production process. It is fermented in large scale stainless steel tanks and although pleasant as an aperitif, lacks the finesse and favour of a authentically made sidra natural. However, it is inexpensive and usually keep longer than its artisanal counterpart. Popular all over Spain, but less so in Asturias as locals tend to prefer the definite article!

The fermentation process for sidra natural is relatively straightforward. The ripe apples are washed and diced, softened in water and then pressed. This unfermented must is then typically fermented in chestnut barrels and not bottled before the spring of the following year, before which it must be filtered to remove any solid residue. It is sold across bars, restaurants and shops in the region, but its traditional home is the Sidreria or Chigres, bars specializing in cider and delicious tapas to wash down with a glass (or 6)

Now, you may think that the process of ordering a glass of delicious cider is easy, surely the bartender simply open a bottle and pours? I’m afraid not: the Asturians take their traditions quite seriously and there is an important ritual that must be observed when serving sidra. The bartender will raise the bottle above their head and the cider cascades from the bottle into the glass which he is holding below. Only one or two inches of cider are poured, which must be drunk immediately, before the glass can be refilled. This technique is known as escanciar un culin and it is said that it develops the flavor and aerates the drink, giving it a slight fizz and pleasant, effervescent texture. It can also be drunk straight from the barrel in some bars, served with such Asturian delicacies as bean stew, baked sardines or salt cod tortilla or omelette. Divine!

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In addition to its natural homeland in Asturias, sidra also has quite a popular following in the neighboring Basque country, particularly in the province of Gipuzkoa, around gorgeous San Sebastian! The Basques are very fond of drinking cider straight from chestnut barrels, which works fantastically well with their variety of pinxtos (basque tapas). Of course, many different brands compete for your attention so we have done the hard work and selected our top 5 cider drinks below.

Recommended Spanish Ciders:

Asturvisa – Ciders of Spain´s special inaugural release, Sidra Fanjul Sidra Natural Ribanora, Sidra Viuda – Sidra Brut Viuda de Angelón, Sidra Fanjul – Sidra Llagar Fozana, Guzman Riestra – Sidra Brut Nature, Sagardoa sidra natural

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Taste Cider in Northern Spain! Known as Green Spain the northern coast is absolutely gorgeous and you could enjoy a cider tasting tour starting near the French border in Getaria, heading west weaving your way through lovely Basque Country (San Sebastian is a must), Cantabria (elegant Santander, darling San Vicente de la Barquera) and Asturias (Villaviciosa is the epicenter of cider production and you can visit many sidrerias, also taste cider in the elegant town of Oviedo and lively Gijón, not to mention the adorable hamlets of Tazones and Lastres.

Here are some good resources for your cider tasting travels:

Excellent database of ciderhouses in Spain

Ciders of  Spain

Basque Cider Info Sagardoaren Lurraldea

The Cider Route in Asturias

Cantabria Tourism

Cider and the Sea in Euskadi (Basque Country)

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Top Ten Rioja Wines for Collectors

Posted by gen On October - 11 - 2013

Top La Rioja Wines for Collectors

Although the renowned Rioja region has increasingly had to fight off competition from the likes of Ribera Del Duero and Priorat, it is still justly considered Spain’s most important and finest producer of premium red wines. Over a decade of serious investment and a transformation of the established winemaking styles has left region with a bewildering array of options for the wine-lover – today, Rioja literally has it all! International fame, beautiful countryside full of hill topped medieval hamlets, rising prices and both traditional and new wave wine styles. Many winemakers have rejected the old mantra of long periods of ageing in American oak barrels and now use new French oak and concentrated, ripe fruit to great effect. Winemakers are also increasingly abandoning the classic Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva classification system and instead flout the appellation rules to make the wines they want to make!

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In recent years, a combination of high scores from Robert Parker and the minute volumes produced by these new wave ‘cult’ Rioja wineries has ensured that prices remain buoyant. Top Riojas now present a very attractive investment for wine collectors, particularly the less conservative collectors who can see beyond the bright lights of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The best wines are made to last, for decades in fact and whether you buy for pleasure or to make a good return, premium Rioja is definitely a safe bet.

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Here are our favorite top 10 Rioja wines to recommend for collectors:

Artadi: Viña el Pisón

The Cosecheros Alaveses winery, under the brand name Artadi is today producing outstanding, modern style Riojas: taut, powerful and built to last! Their top wine, the famous Viña el Pisón is made from just 2.4 hectares of unique vineyards cultivated bio-dynamically. It needs at least 10 years cellaring after release and owner Juan Carlos Lopez De Lacalle is confident that his top wines will last at least 30-40 years.  The winery was founded in 1985 as a cooperative, but de Lacalle turned it into a private business in 1992. After Robert Parker awarded the El Pisón 100 points in 2004, the wine’s asking price soared and is today highly sought after. Volumes are low so expect to pay, over $250 a bottle usually.

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Contador

Contador is a new kid on the block, having being released as recently as 1996. Owner Benjamin Romeo produced the now legendary 96 in a centuries-old cave beneath the castle of San Vicente de la Sonierra. He has since turned his parent’s garage into a tiny winery and his 2004 and 2005 vintages were awarded 100 points by Parker, sending the wine’s reputation (and price) into the stratosphere. However, perfectionist Romeo refused to produce a vintage in 2006, sighting indifferent fruit as the reason which superseded any commercial concerns. Truly, this is a man who cares about quality, which clearly shows in his powerful, expressive and totally exquisite Rioja. Expect to pay around $320.

contador benjamin romeo

Contino: Vina del Olivo

Respected wine maker Jesus Madrazo continues to take Contino to new heights, his single vineyard star wine, the Vina del Olivo, has won awards far and wide for its velvety, supple texture and intense length and depth of flavor. This forward thinking property is part owned by the wine giant CVNE, although Jesus is left to his own devices when it comes to the wines! The bodega (winery) has 45 ha of vineyards planted around a 17th century manor. The wine is typically dominated by Tempranillo and the winemaking methods are modern rather than traditional, French oak taking precedence over American. The resulting wine is stunning, balanced and complex, typically retailing for about $100.

contino 0livo

Finca Allende: Aurus

One of the very best producers in Rioja, mainly sourcing fruit from their own vineyards in La Rioja Alta. Owner Miguel-Angel de Gregorio is a passionate advocate of using New French oak and modern winemaking methods, the resulting wines are rich, concentrated but also structured and will last for decades after release. His top wine Aurus is sumptuous, produced from 60-year old vines the wine is unfiltered and vinified with whole bunches to the highest standard, with a lengthy maceration adding weight, depth and a supple texture. A complex, impressive wine that retails for about $180.

allende

La Rioja Alta: Gran Reserva 904

Bodegas La Rioja Alta are traditionalists in a sea of ever-increasing new wave wineries wishing to abandon Rioja’s historic wine style and winemaking methods. Their top Gran Reserva wine, the 904 is a monument to how sublime traditional Rioja can be: aged for six years in America oak and four in bottle, this fantastic wine is only produced in the best vintages. A blend of 85 percent Tempranillo, plus Mazuelo and Viura it has a complex, deep aroma and classically a bright, brick-red color. Although approachable on release, old vintages of this venerable wine are highly sought-after, making it a great value investment option for the savvy collector. As volumes are not low, a bottle can be obtained for as little as $54.

904

Marques de Murrieta: Castillo d’Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

One of Rioja’s oldest Bodegas, Marques de Murrieta was established in 1852 by the great pioneer Luciano de Murrieta who was the first person to export Spanish wine in barrels. They are still staunch traditionalists, ageing the wines for long periods and at one time, the wines were bottled immediately from the barrel before shipping. And despite their concession to modernity with the fruit-driven Dalmau, their star turn remains the incredible Castillo d’Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, only made in exceptional years. This expensive and sought after wine is made from 70% Tempranillo, 12 per cent Garnacha, 13 percent Mazuelo and 5 per cent Graciano. At its best, the wine is splendidly rich, complex and of a different order. A true Rioja icon, available for a mere $102.

murrieta ygay

Marques de Riscal: Baron de Chirel

Rioja’s oldest Bodega, Marques de Riscal was founded in 1860 by Don Camilo Hurtado de Amezaga and was the first to introduce the Bordeaux vinification system. But despite their long heritage of producing classical Riojan wines, Marques de Riscal were also one of the first wineries to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Rioja and blend it into their superstar wine – Baron de Chirel. Made with 50 percent Tempranillo and Cabernet, it is still today one of the region’s finest and long-lived wines: rich but structured and firm in its youth. It demands at least 5 to7 years’ bottle release to be enjoyed at its best. Prices, however, have remained reasonable considering the quality on offer, a bottle can be obtained for $80.

riscal chirel

Muga: Aro

This long established, classical name in Haro continues to produce Rioja’s most aromatic and balanced reds. Muga was founded in 1932 and in 1972 moved to a new bodega near the railway station in Haro. It is a small family run winery making some excellent, traditional Riojas, however, their approach is wisely multifaceted; a fiercely traditional bodega has also embraced modernity with its thoroughly modern-style Aro Rioja, a wine of great depth, elegance and power. A blend 60 year old Tempranillo and Graciano, the wine is aged for 18 months in new French oak. The result is an extremely impressive new wave Rioja, loaded with vibrant blackberry fruit and velvety tannin. If you have the patience, give this beauty at least 5 years bottle age. Available from $180, this should be on any collectors shopping list!

muga ar

Roda: Cirsion

An impressive, modern bodega near the railway station quarter in Haro has been producing serious Reserva reds from low yielding Tempranillo for over a decade now. The property was established in 1986 but much of the vineyard is over 40 years old. This shows in the pedigree of the Roda I Reserva: powerful and concentrated but with the characteristic freshness and supple texture of Tempranillo. However, it is the super-cuvee Cirision that causes the most excitement amongst collectors and connoisseurs. It is undoubtedly one of the very best new style Riojas – rich, structured and cedary, a wine of real finesse and breeding. Unsurprisingly, prices are high so expect to pay around $230 for a bottle.

roda cirs

 Remirez de Ganuza: Trasnocho

Top-quality Rioja bodega which was established by Fernando Remirez de Ganuza as recently as 1989. Today, they work with over 80 hectares of vines in the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, producing three excellent reds and one super-cuvee – Trasnocho – of real class and destination. It is the epitome of modern, supercharged Rioja: opulent, exotic, massively extracted but balanced too. Yours for the princely sum of $150 a bottle.

ganuza trasnocho

Best Wine Bars in Barcelona – Cellar Tours Shortlist

Posted by gen On September - 22 - 2013

Our selection of fave wine bars  in Barcelona….

Madrileños will strongly disagree, but there is no doubting that Barcelona‘s nightlife and bar scene is now one of the most vibrant in Europe. For while the citizens of Catalonia’s capital are all too happy to culturally distance themselves from their regional neighbors, they have in common with all Spaniards a love of social drinking that supports the highest number of bars per capita in the world. So banish those clichés of pitchers of Sangria on Las Ramblas and instead be prepared to party in a city that continues to sizzle with creativity: Barcelona’s wine bars and restaurants speak more of bold contemporary design than tradition!

barcelona cata 181 2

Today, Barcelona’s wine bars run the gamut from trendy, design led hotel bars to wood-paneled wine cellars and backstreet local haunts. An explosion of nightlife has occurred in recent years in the City’s waterfront area, which continues to attract large volumes of tourists in the summer. Cava and wine bars, some elegant and cool, some funky and style conscious are also reaching new heights of popularity, especially in the trendy Born district east of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. These bars vary enormously in clientele and vibe, but all are extraordinary atmospheric.

Just don’t expect things to get going before 10pm, especially at the weekend as people get into their night-time stride. Of course, not every venue in this captivating city is worth a visit, so we have done the hard work and listed Barcelona’s best wine bars below:

Salud!

The Bankers Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 38-40 Passeig de Gracia

Since opening in 2009, this world-class hotel has won pundits far and wide for its service and has emerged as one of Barcelona’s finest and most sought-after hotels. Housed in an old bank vault, the Mandarin’s classy and refined Banker’s Bar has become a popular choice for both locals and visitors wishing to sample a range of Spanish and international wines by the bottle or glass. There is a real sense of sophistication about the space – sleek, softly lift with a black bar counter and black leather chairs. The service is exemplary and a range of high-quality tapas compliments the extensive wine list.

barcelona-restaurant-bankers-bar-2

Monvinic – 249 Carrer de la Diputacio

Could Monvinic be the best wine bar in the world? It certainly comes close, as Monvinic has an incredible selection of both Spanish and imported wines by the glass or bottle. The emphasis here is on merging the traditional and cutting edge – visitors are handed an iPad like device instead of a wine list, however, a very large wine library is free for anyone to peruse at their leisure. The space is relaxed, elegant and refined, with soft cream colors and chairs replaced by loungers. There are over 60 selections by the glass and unusually for a Spanish destination; there is no bias to local wines. The bite-size accompaniments are also some of the best to be found in the Catalan capital – try the langoustines!

monvinic 2

Hotel Omm’s Lounge and Terrace bar – 265 Carrer Rossello

Hotel Omm led the way in re-defining Barcelona’s hotel and bar scene with its extremely smart, sophisticated urban accommodation for discerning travelers. It’s informal but chic lounge bar has become a firm favorite with Barcelona’s night crowd at the weekends, in addition to the hotel’s guests. Relax in the ridiculously comfortable sofas and peruse their extensive wine menu, which includes some brilliant cava options by the glass. An ultra-trendy club occupies the basement, whilst in the summer months the action takes place on Omm’s fantastic terrace, with views straight over to Gaudi’s masterpiece La Pedrera next door.

Omm

La Vinya del Senyor – 5 Placa Santa Maria

Still in a class of its own, La Vinya del Senyor occupies a space on the delightful Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar right in front of the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, gorgeous spot. Hoards of both tourists and natives come here to taste a wide variety of red and white vintages, accompanied by great value tapas. A good and varied selection of around 300 Spanish and imported wines, including some great cava and sherry, is served at the counter; or in the summer months on the fantastic outdoor terrace. There is no finer spot for people watching in Barcelona. Don´t miss it!

vinyadelsenyor3

La Vinoteca Torres – 78 Passeig de Gracia

Torres’ global wine empire now extends to serving excellent tapas and pretty much every Torres wine by the glass at this deservedly popular wine bar on the city’s famous Passeig de Gracia Boulevard. The place’s secret is its ability to be things to all men: purchase wine, stay for a glass, and sample a few tapas or a full-blown 5 course meal. The venue is sleek and stylish and the tapas are some of the finest and most inventive in the city -  Vinoteca offers a great opportunity to enjoy the top-end wines of Torres without having to commit to a bottle. Service is uniformly excellent too.

Cata 1.81 – 181 Carrer de Valencia

The clean, modern interior of this ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ underground venue in Barcelona’s Eixample district suggests that this is no ordinary tapas bar. It is in fact a haven for oenophiles and mini gastronomic surprises. Cata 1.81 serves more than 250 wines by the bottle, with a clear emphasis on wines from every major Spanish region, and a list of over 25 by the glass that changes every 15 days. The only drawback is that space at this wonderful wine bar is quite limited so get there early!

barcelona cata 181

El Xampanyet – 22 Carrer de Montcada

Barcelona’s best-known cava bar still packs them in with its inviting atmosphere and selection of tapas and cava by the glass. Discover the finer points of Spain’s bubbly by sampling the wares of different produces by the glass, accompanied by perhaps a selection of sardines or a Jamon platter. The colorful tiles, stacked casks hung with a variety of bottle-openers and well-worn interior bespeak the informal, fun atmosphere for which this family run operation is well-loved. There is nothing cutting-edge or trendy about the place, which only adds to its timeless appeal.

xampa

Top 5 Spanish Wines to say Adios to summer

Posted by gen On September - 4 - 2013

Great wines from Spain to bid farewell to the summer.

By Mary O’Connor, Planeta Vino

de Nit cava copa

The last days of summer are just behind us, and we need some nice wines to see us through the tricky transition into autumn.  It’s too early for big Spanish reds, but we are a little tired of drinking so many summery whites, so what Spanish wines will soothe us now?

Some of my favorite Spanish wines are great at this time of the year:  rosados and cavas.  These are very versatile wines; they go with lots of everyday food, and especially the lighter foods we still eat at this time of the year.  The beginning of fall is also a nice time for some lighter, mineral red varieties, maybe a nice Mencía?

So check out my five favorite Spanish wines to help you say adios to summer and ease your transition into fall.

5.  Let’s kick it off with a cava.  There should be a rule that we all have to drink sparkling wine at least once a week!  It just makes you happier!
Cava has developed an unfortunate reputation as a cheap and cheerful alternative to champagne.  It can be that, but it can also be so much more.  There are many beautiful wines that do the style proud.
Gramona is one of Cava’s top houses and makes cavas that can compete with top champagnes in blind tastings.  But it’s one of their entry-level cavas that I love to always have on hand for my bubbly fix.

Gramona Brut Imperial Gran Reserva Cava 2007:  This cava is elegant and very wine-like, with a creamy texture and great length.  It’s crisp acidity and fine, discrete bubbles balance all that richness out perfectly.
It’s great with fish dishes, many tapas and typical Spanish fried foods, and also a surprising number of cheeses.   It’s great value for a top-flight sparkling wine, at about 15 euros in Spain and 25 dollars in the US.

4.  Next up is a classic Navarra RosadoNavarra is most known for its rosé or rosado wines even though it also makes amazing whites and reds as well.  Also due to its relative obscurity in the shadow of superstar neighbor Rioja, you can find some amazing values.

Artazuri Preto

Atazuri Garnacha Rosado 2012:  Strawberry and red fruit aromas in the nose while the mouth feels fresh and crisp.  Good Spanish rosados are very fruity but dry, leaving a nice clean finish in your mouth.  They combine some of the best elements of a red wine and a white wine.  The Artazuri is a perfect, refreshing Navarra Rosado.
These wines are ideal with the grilled fish and seafood that are so much a part of summer life in Spain.  They are also the wines of choice to match with most paellas and rice dishes.  Amazing value at 5 euros in Spain and less than 10$ in the US.

3.  Now for our token red!  Mencía is a top-notch grape variety from northwestern Spain.  Styles can vary, but the grape variety can make some lighter, floral, mineral reds that are perfect for this time of year.   It also often has a smoky quality, which can make it a great wine for those last summer barbecues. I’ve chosen a simple, but stellar wine from superstar winemaker Alvaro Palacios, who makes some memorable Mencías in the Bierzo region.

Petalos del Bierzo 2010

Pétalos del Bierzo 2011:  This wine has been a consistent darling of the critics even though it is just the baby in an impressive portfolio of Mencía wines from Palacios.   It’s a very elegant wine and showcases the intense fruit and minerality of the Mencía grape.
This wine is super food-friendly and matches with every day food choices.  It goes well with egg dishes, roasted vegetables, and lighter meats and poultry.  It remains really good value at about 15 euros in Spain and between 15-20$ in the US.

2.  Another rosado, but this one is so dark, you could mistake it for a light red.  It is made by one of Spain’s most exciting winemakers, Gregory Perez, and is the most intriguing rosé wine I’ve had in a long time.  He makes many exciting wines so look for anything from him and if you live in the US, look for anything from his importer, José Pastor.
The wine is from the relatively obscure region of Tierras de León and it’s made from the Prieto Picudo grape variety.  This grape variety has lots of potential, but there are still many rustic wines out there.

Rosado Preto 2011:  This blew the competition away recently at a rosé tasting I attended.  So aromatic in the nose, with violets and black pepper notes, then so bold and fresh in the mouth.  Very complex for a wine in this category, and one of the few Spanish rosados that can age.   It has all the flavor intensity of a red wine with the crunchy acidity of a white wine…beautiful!
Super versatile food matcher…it can match with chicken and pork dishes, even grilled fish.  It has a smoky, savory element that will go well with most grilled foods.  About 10 euros in Spain and 15$ in the US. Love it!

1.  My top wine to stave off summer’s-end depression?  Both an attractive rosado and an elegant cava, this is a wine I could enjoy everyday!  It is happiness in a bottle…and at a great price!
Rosado cava is a trendy and fast improving category, but it’s still a bit of a minefield.  Raventós i Blanc is a top producer that recently decided to leave the cava appellation due to perceived quality and image issues.  You can always count on consistency from their bottles.

Raventós i Blanc de Nit Brut 2010 Cava:  I always look for excuses to break out a bottle of this wine.  It’s easy to polish off by itself, but it also matches with almost any meal!  It has all the elegance of a great white cava with some the added richness and complexity of red fruit aromas from its rosado side.
It goes with cheeses and lighter fare like any cava, but as a rosado cava it can also handle heartier fare such as rice dishes, grilled seafood, and salads.  Truly great value in sparkling wine at 13 euros in Spain and about 20$ in the US.  de Nit cava

 

Top 10 Godello and Albariño wines

Posted by gen On April - 26 - 2013

Fine White Wines from Galicia

It is hard to believe that until recently these two wonderful and increasingly popular white varieties – Godello and Albariño, grown in Galicia in north-west Spain – have languished in obscurity.  Of course, local growers and Spanish connoisseurs championed their virtues for decades, but it is only over the past 10 years or so that wine lovers across the globe have been able to enjoy these aromatic, delicious and refreshing wines. And with exports rising, it looks like a new generation of wine drinkers are going to fall in love with Spain’s answer to the Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc craze.

horreo

The origin of the Albariño and Godello grapes is still disputed, although German oenologists and supporters like Miguel Torres claim that Albariño was taken from the Rhine and Mosel vineyards by German Monks in the 12th century. This would seem to make sense, as the name Albariño means “The Rhine white.” Its home is the Rias Baixas region in western Galicia, which is divided into 5 sub-zones: Val do Salnes, O Rosal, Condado do Tea, Soutomaior and Ribera do Ulla. Godello is found to the west of the town of Ourense in the Ribeiro and Valdeorras regions. The best results arguably come from the Valdeorras D.O (appellation) which was re-planted with Godello in the 1970s.

Uva Gallega

The above comparisons between Albariño and Godello with that much-loved variety, Sauvignon Blanc, are reasonably accurate, for all three varieties can produce aromatic, charming wines with varying depths of fruitiness. Like Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, most of their class and fruitiness is developed while the wines are still young, although experiments are increasingly been undertaken with barrel and lees aging. But generally, an old Albariño will taste flat and monotone, although Godello can age successfully for several years.

However, the flavor profile of Albariño is perhaps closer to Riesling, while Godello usually has good acidity, soft fruit and a spicy bouquet. Its structure is not dissimilar to Chardonnay, meaning that the winemaker has some license to coax out what flavors or aromas he sees fit.  Both of these grapes deserve pairing with the finest seafood and light fish dishes – they are divine with scallops or sea bass!

As you might expect, quality does vary but the best producers can always be relied upon to craft excellent wines of real class and distinction.

The following are our favorite 10 Godellos and Albariños. ¡ Salud!

Godellos:

1. 2011 Louro do Bolo Godello

One of the undisputed Kings of Godello production, winemaker Rafael Palacios has crafted a Godello to rival the finest white wines of the world. Vinified and matured in oak foudre from Normandy, this example from the Valdeorras region shows great complexity, elegance and finesse. Expect tropical fruit, a smooth texture and a smoky finish!

louro do bolo

2. 2011 Valdesil Godello

A beautifully balanced and clean Godello from the Valdesil winery, showing lovely citrus and pineapple fruit, underpinned by that dependable Godello freshness and acidity. Light, elegant and moreish – what more could you ask from a white wine? Try it with squid or mussels.

valdesil

3. 2011 Peña das Donas, Almalarga Godello

This small, family owned estate is today producing some of the best Godello from the Ribeira Sacra region in Galicia. Owner/winemaker Antonio Lombardía takes meticulous care of his vineyards, crafting an un-oaked but weighty Godello that displays peach fruit and almond characteristics – Smooth, aromatic and delicious.

4. 2011 Bodegas Godeval Viña Godeval Blanco

An energetic, crisp, pungent Godello from the respected Godeval estate in Valdeorras. The 2011 vintage displays complex notes of citrus, grapefruit, lanolin and spicy herbal notes – a vibrant wine with a strong mineral finish. A brilliant accompaniment for salmon or Asian cuisine.

godeval

5. 2011 Telmo Rodriguez, Gaba do Xil Godello

Telmo Rodriguez is one of Spain’s superstars, making superlative wines in many of the country’s best wine regions. His recent foray into Godello production is already giving spectacular results: the 2011 is a serious, fleshy wine of real depth and complexity. Expect floral, pear, citrus and lemongrass notes.

gaba

Albariños:

6. 2011 Santiago Ruiz Albariño

Galicia’s long established Albariño pro – the so called father of Albariño -  Santiago Ruiz releases year after year excellent and great value Albariños from its superior vineyards in the Rias Baixas zone. The 2011 is another great example: floral aromas are complimented by wonderful citrus, apple and pear flavours on the palate – Delicious with Shellfish.

santiago

7. 2011 Adegas Galegas Veigadares Albariño

Undoubtedly one of the finest estate today in Galicia, Adegas Galegas was established relatively recently in 1995 and continues to produce top class wines. The 2011 is aromatically complex, balance and refined, with powerful green fruit and mineral flavors.

8. 2011 Bodegas Fillaboa Albariño

Fillabao was established in Galicia many decades ago, and is today a consistently impressive producer of pungent, crowd pleasing Albariño from their 70 hectares of vineyards. Even in weaker vintages these wines are a dependable buy, displaying classic pineapple, apple and citrus notes.

Fillaboa

9. 2011 Martin Codax Albariño

A widely awarded family business producing excellent quality wines at affordable prices. Much investment has been put into the bodega and it shows – the wines have been getting steadily more impressive over the last 10 years. Their 2011 Albariño is a bright, fresh, modern example from the region, offering intense aromas of grapefruit, citrus and rose petal. An all time classic.

martin

10. 2011 Zarate Tras da Viña Albariño

A family firm dating back to the 1920s, Zarate make a range of Albariños including the thoroughly modern and stylish Tras da Vina that is subject to over 25 months lees ageing, a practice which is becoming increasingly fashionable. An unusually rich and complex Albariño, with yeasty notes and a creamy texture that complements the classic citrus fruit.

Best Restaurant in Madrid- Caoba ticks all the right boxes

Posted by gen On September - 15 - 2012

Spain´s glamorous and bustling capitol of Madrid has literally thousands of restaurants, and Madrileños eat out more than even New Yorkers it would seem.There are eateries on literally every corner to fit every price point, ambiance and imaginable cuisine.

And there are dozens of restaurants that we love and recommend, some for great fish (yes, even though Madrid could not be farther from the sea it has some of the best seafood markets and restaurants in the country!), some for great old fashioned atmosphere, some for exquisite modern cuisine…. but it is quite the rare occasion to find a restaurant that has stunning food AND great atmosphere and buzz AND top class professional and friendly (as opposed to cold and formal) service. In fact it is generally impossible.

Caoba, located in the beautiful and less touristy Pintor Rosales neighborhood (where renowned filmmaker Pedro Almodovar lives) in arms reach of the lush Parque Oeste and mystical Templo Debod, is quite honestly the best and most recommendable eatery in Madrid in our view at present.

Main Dining Area

Private Dining Area

The restaurant has a supremely professional staff that are all at the top of their game, from Italian chef Vincenzo Marconi (who had stints with a number of mythical chefs including none other than Gualtiero Marchesi in Italy´s Franciacorta wine region) to maitre and sommelier Alvaro Barbas who worked for years at Michelin starred Santceloni and who has the restaurant biz in his blood.

Chef Vincenzo

 

The cuisine is fresh, Mediterranean, based on the finest raw ingredients and generally healthy (although the sinful desserts are pretty naughty!) and with a creative twist. On the last night we dined there we had a swordfish dish which was the most out of this world, succulent piece of fish we´d had in ages. Swordfish is indeed more commonly seen in Italy than in Spain, a nod to the chef. There are more than 400 wines from around the world (unique in Madrid, to have so many international wines) and the cheese chariot is  considered one of the best in Spain.

Moist Swordfish at Caoba

Caoba prepare special menus for coeliacs and vegetarians, and do custom designed tasting menus for our lucky clients.

As an example they designed this Grand Tasting Menu for our lucky guests this weekend:

Egg Yolk With  Tête de Moin Cream and Radish Sprouts

Chantarella Mini Quiche Accompanied with Saffron Sauce Foie in a Shot Glass with Turnip-root Mousse

Our Spring Roll of “Oyster Mushroom” and Ginger. Grilled Smoked Provola with the Crispy Ibérico Pork Cheek

Carpaccio of Slow Cooked Iberico Pork Shoulder On a Bed of Celery Root Salad, Parmigiano Cream and Foie

Ice cream Potato and Pumpkin Sphere Smoked Mozzarella Heart, Asparagus, Sage and Textured Seasonal Mushroom Broth Risotto with Foie and “Bitto Cheese”

Veal Fillet Mignon cover with the Brioches Pastry and Warm Mozarella Sauce

Our Cheese Table

“Chocolate que pasión” Liquid Chocolate Shot, Chocolate Ice cream, Thousand-Layer Chocolate and Coffee Cream Cake.

Mini Soufflé of Chocolate and “Sichuan” Peppercorn

Coffee and Petit Fours

Champagne Pascal Doquet

White Italy Tenuta Villanova – Traminer ’09 D.O.C.FRIULI ISONZO

Red Spain Melquior Reserva Familiar ’04 D.O.C. RIOJA

Dessert Cocktail Caoba’s Bellini with Le Bertole Brût Extradry. D.O.C.G.

 

Dessert at Caoba

And after a meal like this, there is nothing better than a delightful digestive 15 minute walk down to the Royal Palace of Madrid in the Plaza Oriente, a terrific and scenic way to “bajar la comida”.

If you will be touring Spain with us, we´d be happy to send you to Caoba for a special tasting menu and personalized attention!

The Gin Boom has exploded all over Europe’s cities, trendy clubs and bars in the last few years. Not since the roaring twenties has Gin been so “in”.

And in our view, the most delicious, sexiest, buzziest gin on the market is definitely “Ish”.  We chatted with the creator and founder of The Poshmakers“, Elli Baker, about how Ish came about.

Ellie who is based in Madrid, and owns the Bristol Bar (premier gin bar and restaurant) is indeed also from Bristol. She actually studied  Oenology & Viticulture at the University of Brighton and worked at a vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa (as well as the UK!) before moving to Madrid. She had intended to move to Chile and make wine, but fell in love with a Galician (her husband and business partner) and stayed. The past few years have been whirlwind for Ellie, as within a year of creating the now firmly established Bristol Bar, she had a baby and if not busy enough with that, she created her own Gin (Ish) and Rum (Virgin Gorda British Caribbean Rum), and a new Vodka is in the works for September of this year. How does she do it?!

CT- 1. What encouraged you to create your own Gin?

Ellie- As a gin lover I was disappointed that out of all of the new, premium gins that were coming onto the market nobody was producing a premium London Dry Gin. So by producing exactly that a super premium traditional style London Dry Gin, but with a modern twist I filled both a personal desire and a gap in the market.

CT-2.  Where did the name Ish come from?

Ellie- -ish comes from the suffix Brit-ish/Engl-ish and also stands for “Irresistible Scandalous Hallmark” The name really works well as it’s short, so easy to remember and helps to explain the gin’s personality.

CT-3. How is your gin made, and where?

Ellie- -ish is a London Dry Gin, which means that all of the botanicals are steeped for 24 hours before distillation in a pot-still, using 100% British  Natural Grain Spirit, a total of 5 distillations are involved providing a very pure, high quality gin concentrate. After distillation the concentrate is allowed to rest during two weeks before it is blended with more natural grain spirit and then reduced to the desired alcoholic strength of 41% with water. (London Dry Gins must include all of the botanicals in the distillation and cannot add any flavourings or colours).
-ish is distilled and bottled in Clapham, London.

CT-4. Gin is famed for its botanical ingredients, what botanicals make Ish so special?

Ellie- One of the important things about -ish is that we haven’t played around with any weird or wonderful botanicals, we have stuck to traditional London Dry Gin botanicals, but added a little twist “an extra shot of juniper”, basically double the amount of juniper you find in most London Dry Gins. We source the highest quality, Baltic juniper which is much more resinous and helps provide a desirable oily texture. So -ish is obviously a very Junipery Gin, but we have included another 10 botanicals, providing complexity and balance, these include lemon and orange peel, liquorice, nutmeg, corriander, orris root, angelica, almond and cassia. Apart from the quality and ratio of botanicals, another important factor in the quality of -ish is the high ratio of gin concentrate to alcohol and water, -ish includes almost 4 times the amount that you find in other London Dry Gins, this provides a fantastically smooth and full body.

CT-5. What are 3 of your favorite gin cocktails?

Ellie- Gin and Tonic, Breakfast Martini and White Lady

CT-6. Can gin be paired with food?

Ellie- Yes, it most definitely can. Especially at the moment with such a wide range of styles available. Some of my favourite pairings include; a Dry Martini with Steamed Mussels, -ish & tonic with Traditional Fish & Chips or with an Ostrich Burger

CT-7. Gin bars are all the rage these days, tell us about your own gin bar.

Ellie- Bristolbar is a British bar and Restaurant in the heart of Madrid. Within a few months of opening we launched Gintonize, our gin concept within bristolbar. Gin & Tonic being one of the most “British” long drinks we decided to focus on that and started with a list of 60 gins, many of which weren’t commonly found in Spain. We provided the opportunity for new/unknown brands to present their gins as “Gin of the Month” including a special event where brand representatives/owners could meet the customers. Over the years the list has doubled and we now have over 120 gins and numerous tonic waters. Although our  tonic water list has been recently modified, now focusing on the British tonic waters; Schweppes, the Schweppes Premium range, Fentiman’s, Britvic and Fever Tree. We also offer numerous gin based cocktails including a Martini list inspired by the 50th Anniversary on Bond. We organise tastings, Master Classes, Gin & Food Dinners…

CT-8. Where are great spots in London for gin lovers?

Ellie- The gin boom that took place in Spain two years ago is only just getting going in London, so everyday there is a new gin bar to be found. Some of my favourite spots for my favourite tipple include; Graphic Bar – Golden Square, Christopher’s – Covent Garden, Coq D’Argent and Royal Exchange – The City (Bank) Calloh Callay, Lab – Soho. And the next time I’m in London I’ll be visiting Gaucho; they have just taken ish on board, so after one of the best steaks in town I can now enjoy one of the best G&Ts!

CT-9. Any advice on making the perfect Gin Tonic?

Ellie- For me the perfect serve is; A large balloon glass or wide neck highball glass with plenty of good quality, large ice cubes (so that they don’t melt too quickly) a twist of fresh lime peel, 60ml of -ish gin and 200ml of Schweppes Original Premium Tonic Water. A gentle stir with a bar spoon or mixer and serve immediately. Drink within 15 minutes to enjoy optimum quality!

Contact>

The Poshmakers, Ltd.

Burwood House,  14-16 Caxton Street SW1H 0QY – London

U.K.:  +44 (0) 7503526419  |  Spain:  +34 (0) 654718925

[email protected]

 

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