Originally written for Edible Santa Barbara
By Shannon Essa; photography by Tenley Fohl
|Shannon Essa splits her time between Santa Barbara and Europe, writing and leading culinary-based tours in Spain and Italy. We sent her to the Valley Vino Wine Bar to their Spanish-themed event, thinking it just might be up her alley. And we think it was…Dispatch from Spain By Way of Solvangby Shannon Essa; photography by Tenley FohlI love Spanish food (and wine) so I was thrilled to be able to attend an event that Valley Vino Wine Bar held this spring in collaboration with the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Club and Succulent Cafe. This event combined Spanish food with some of Santa Barbara’s excellent Spanish varietal wines. I also spend quite a bit of time in Spain, so the bar has been set high. They pulled off a truly Spanish fiesta of an event, one that had no problem standing up to an experience in Spain itself.The party started off with a paella demonstration on the patio. A huge paella pan was set up over a propane burner, and our co-host Miren Armenta discussed the history and tradition of paella as she showed us how to prepare the dish.
The demonstration was accompanied by glasses of Curran 2009 Grenache Rose, a plate of aged Manchego cheese and some Spanish chorizo, as well as solo guitarist Chris Fossek strumming the music of Spain. We were all offered tastes of the paella—which was extraordinarily delicious—at the end of the demonstration.
We then all moved into the wine bar which had been transformed into an atmospheric dining room complete with red candelabras and gorgeous red roses, where we were served another FOUR fabulous courses prepared by Succulent Café next door. Our first course was a bowl of “Ajo Blanco con Uvas” – a white gazpacho with green grapes and almonds, accompanied by a butterleaf salad dressed with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
The soup was a standout—a perfect starter for a very warm night—and the salad was light and perfectly dressed. This course was served with Bernat “Insight ‘10” Grenache Blanc—one of those varietals I am very happy to be able to buy here in Santa Barbara County. It is a great food wine that stands up to almost everything.
The second plated course—served family style—was a delicious filet of sole in an Albariño wine and mushroom sauce, along with spears of fried eggplant and braised Brussels sprouts and a pairing of Tre Anelli 2010 Albariño. Tre Anelli winemaker Brett Escalera was on hand to answer any questions about his wines. I had no questions, but complemented him on his Albariño, as it is a wine to be proud of.
Thankfully the evening lasted many hours, so we were ready—well almost—when the meat course came out. We were served (again, family-style) large platters of “Pollo en Pepitoria” (chicken in an egg, almond and sherry sauce) and “Conejo Salmantino” (rabbit confit) as well as a delectable Swiss chard and potato casserole (I could have eaten an entire pan of this if there weren’t all this other food) and green beans with jamon (Spanish ham.) All of this was served with not one but two wines—Longoria 2008 Tempranillo and Curtis 2009 Monastrell.
Dessert was a chocolate mousse with Sherry and an almond lace cookie. The paired wine was amazing—a 1927 Pedro Ximenez Sherry from Spain. It was the only wine produced in Spain of the evening, but what a special treat it was to be able to try it! Dense and amber-colored, it was hard to believe this dessert wine was over 80 years old. Sweet but not cloyingly so, and an education into what good Sherry can be.
Jon McDaniel, wine director at the Los Olivos Cafe, spoke about the various varietals before each course. After dinner, we were treated to a flamenco show performed by the flamenco troupe Cuatro Caminos Flamenco.
Flamenco music and dance should be passionate and intense, and the audience at Valley Vino was not disappointed. The show was as good as any I have seen in Spain.
Valley Vino plans to recreate this event next year, and over the summer they will be having the Paella demonstration and tasting several times. Keep an eye on our event calendar for dates, and whatever you do, do not miss Viva España when it returns!