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Robert M. Parker Jr.

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Glass Half Empty, Glass Half Full

Back when I was first starting to appreciate the wonderful offering of the world of wine, I bought myself some real, big wine glasses.  These giant transparent bowls resting gracefully on lengthy, slender stems welcomed me into the inner circle of wine appreciation.  I was there.  I was one of the few.  I knew what I was talking about. In actuality, I knew almost nothing about wine and was seldom able to temper my enthusiasm with enough wisdom to keep those enormous goblets filled to a reasonable level.  I remember so vividly my friend B. Saying ‘wow that is one big glass of wine’ as I handed him one of those new symbols of my evolution as a wine aficionado.  […]

Mostra de Vino: Sampling Valencia’s Wines in the Riverbed

Wine events and young children aren’t a natural mix most of the time, but there are exceptions.  The recent XXI Mostra de vins, caves i licors i XVIII d’aliments tradicionals de la Comunitat Valenciana certainly was.  (Nice short title for it, don’t you think?)  This hefty name in the Valencian dialect of Catalan simply means: The twenty-first sampling of wines, sparkling wines and liqueurs, and the eighteenth sampling of traditional foods of the greater Community of Valencia.  The good thing is that the drinks and food being sampled were easier to swallow than the event’s name. The setting for this event was the area commonly referred to here as el río – the river.  For those of you who haven’t […]

Planning Your Ultimate Roadtrip in Spain: Where Automatic Cars are the Exception, and Not the Rule

When it comes to driving, I was a late bloomer.  Even though I grew up in a suburban town (with little to no transportation options) I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 20.  The only reason I got it then was that I was about to leave Canada to see Europe and I thought it might be a useful thing to have.  As it turned out, I didn’t drive again until I was back in Toronto a few years later.  My trip across Europe had turned into nearly three years in Madrid and I just never had any call to use that license. I’m still not a fan of having a car in the city – especially as […]

Patatas Bravas: My Dirty Spanish Secret

There is a romance to Spain that is all its own.  From Bizet‘s Carmen to Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, the world has a vision of Spain steeped in exoticism that draws many of us towards this fascinating country; myself included.  But one of my most cherished elements of Spain has little to no romance to offer: patatas bravas. Although I’m certain that this dish is a constant accompaniment to all of the more romantic events that happen in Spain – bullfights, flamenco concerts, festivals of all kinds – they don’t amount to much more than fried potatoes.  Some of the best fries around, sure, but fried potatoes can’t be said to inspire the same kind of mystique that […]

Las Fallas: The Loudest and Longest Festival in Spain

Las Fallas – Valencia’s festival that you can’t miss First, I have to be very clear about the timing of this article.  It’s just after 4 PM on March 15th when I sit down to write this and Valencia’s biggest and loudest festival is underway, but nowhere near its height of frenzy.  This is my first Fallas and I still don’t really know what to expect.  Nonetheless, it’s time to say something about one of Spain‘s great celebrations. Let’s start with the basic questions: Where Valencia exists as three separate, but connected, physical areas.  The city that once presided over the Kingdom of Valencia still bears that name, but it goes further.  The Autonomous Community of Valencia shares that name, […]

Spanish Ingredients: Cooking and Shopping in Spain

There’s no question in my mind that Spain is a country with a unique gastronomic heritage. Most Spaniards that have entered into any kind of discussion on the subject with me have expressed a real passion for the food from their home country and even their home region. For me, as a Canadian of British parents, that’s something quite novel. The closest thing that we have in Canada would be a fondness for certain seasonal dishes. Many families have turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving or some other meal that fills them with warm memories of home. But a unique Canadian cuisine? Not really. Canada’s multi-cultural make-up exposes Canadians to an amazingly diverse range of foods and I would say that […]

Spanish Wine Tasting, Part 2: A Welcoming, Friendly Affair in Valencia

Recently, I told you about the first Spanish wine tasting that I attended here in Valencia.  It was a great chance to try out my Spanish wine vocabulary and sink my teeth into the mildly daunting experience of the learning curve of tasting terminology in my second language.  I count that event as a tremendously enjoyable success. And once you get a taste, can you stop?  I can’t. The second tasting This one was held at a local wine store come wine distributor here in Valencia, called Las Añadas de España, also selling fine cheeses and cured meats. Katie and I had been tipped off about the tasting by a friend and decided to leave Oscar (nearly three) at school […]

Spanish Wine Tasting: Grasping Our Understanding of Spanish Wine Vocabulary

A Taste of Spanish Wine Tasting A love of wine and a love of the Spanish language don’t make the thought of going to a Spanish wine tasting any less daunting. During the ten years that I spent in Canada before returning to Spain last year, I barely used my Spanish at all. These were the years in which I developed a real passion for wine and the accompanying vocabulary. I began feeling comfortable describing a beverage with terms like leather, flint and cigar box; herbaceous, balanced and round. It’s not that these are difficult words, but it requires a mental adjustment to apply them to the context of wine when you’re first getting started.  (There’s a beginner’s list of […]

El Almuerzo: The Spanish Version of Paddington Bear’s Elevenses

When I was a child, I was enthralled with the persona of Paddington Bear.  My sister had the books on tape (remember cassettes?) and I would borrow them over and over, keeping them on as quietly as I could long past my bedtime to hear about the adventures of this little Peruvian bear. Looking back now, I can see why he was so appealing to me: he was free. I mean, that bear did just about whatever he wanted – he didn’t go to school, for example, which to my young self was a shining beacon of liberty that kept my eyes alight in the dark. Why bring this up?  Well, it’s just that life in Spain keeps bringing Paddington […]

From Churros to Cocas, and from Chocolate to Moscatels, Life in Spain can be Ever so Sweet

“Wow, Spain…” That was the typical reaction that we got from fellow Canadians when we told them of our plans to relocate here.  It’s difficult to express on paper just how much was communicated with those two little words.  Curiosity, mystery, romance, confusion – it was all there, every time. At this point, I can’t really imagine what it is that sprang to people’s minds when we mentioned Spain: bullfights and flamenco?  Sangría and castles crumbling in the sunshine?  These are probably the first thoughts that I had when I thought of Spain all those years ago before I started my love affair with Spanish culture and history.  In my experience, the real Spain is no less charming than that […]