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A Foreigner’s Guide to Spanish Cheese: Mixed / Mixto (Part 5 of 5)

Our journey has taken us through mountainous terrain and spacious pastures; it has introduced us to the sprightly goat, the demure cow, and the helplesssheep. We have also eaten some of the most amazing cheeses produced in the world today. Our final gaze turns to those cheeses produced from a combination of two or three of these animals. (flickr photo by paul goyette) Greater than 50% of the cheese produced and consumed in Spain is made from a mixture of cow’s, goat’s, and/or sheep’s milk. The largest quantity of the milk comes from cows with the other two being blended in to shape the outcome of the finished product. Typically, the greater the amount of the cow’s milk the more simple and […]

A Foreigner’s Guide to Spanish Cheese: Sheep / Oveja (Part 4 of 5)

Our gallivants through the pastures of the Iberian countryside now turn our gaze from the quiet and inert cow (vaca), and the rambunctious goat (cabra) to the timid and vulnerable sheep (oveja). I might even say that I am thankful for the animal’s reputation of stupidity – follow the shepherd and eat and drink to your heart’s content for the world is craving the product of your delicious milk. Sheep’s milk cheese is fashioned virtually all over mainland Spain but production is particularly heavy in the mesetas of Central Spain. The Northern and Southern Plateaus also turn out a number of cheeses with Extremadura, Navarra, Asturias, and Pais Vasco producing their own unique cheeses. The Meseta (Central Spain) exists in […]

A Foreigner’s Guide to Spanish Cheese: Cow / Vaca (Part 3 of 5)

Traversing the craggy mountaintops and mountainsides of the Iberian terrain, we descend to the lush, green pastures of the mountains and valleys of (predominantly) Northern Spain. Our gaze turns from the agile and energetic goat (cabra) to the more docile and passive cow (vaca). They graze primarily on the stretch of land that extends from the Cantabrian Mountains (Galicia to Pais Vasco) to the Pyrenees (Navarra, Aragon, and Cataluña). The continental climate ensures copious amounts of rainfall and cool temperatures. Green year-round the pastures are a constant source of nourishment for the cows (and sheep) that graze there. The region of Galicia (in northwestern Spain) produces four varieties of cow’s milk cheese. Tetilla Gallega, Ulloa and Arzúa are produced primarily […]

A Foreigner’s Guide to Spanish Cheese: Goat/Cabra (Part 2 of 5)

Growing up in Florida during the 1970’s and 1980’s I rarely, if ever, saw a cheese from an animal other than a cow. Our refrigerator was full of Cheddar, Swiss, and Jack cheeses but nary a cheese from any other animal. I suspect that most people living in the U.S. during that time were experiencing a similar dilemma but, like myself, were either ignorant or oblivious to what others were savoring across the Atlantic. It was not until I moved to San Diego in the early 1990’s that my eyes (and tastes) began to open. During my time in Spain my tastes broadened even further. Are you telling me they make cheese from something other than a bovine? Well, bring […]

A Foreigner’s Guide to Spanish Cheese: An Introduction (Part 1 of 5)

Most American’s familiarity with Spanish cheese lies somewhere in the realm of understanding of Spanish wines a decade ago. Ask anyone then to name a Spanish wine and the response was invariably, “Rioja.” The undisputed Queen of Spanish cheese, Manchego, would likely be the response to the same question today regarding cheese. Are you a true turophile? How many quesos de España have you tried or can you even name? Spanish cheese (Spanish “queso” or Catalan “formatge”) is considerably more available today than in years past yet many fear that with which they are unfamiliar (likely because Spain is not a world leader in cheese production). Read on, nonetheless, and allow those fears to subside; but first things first. Before […]

NYC Restaurants Review: Casa Mono & Socarrat Paella Bar

Whenever I am planning to travel my first order of business is the Google search “Spanish restaurants in (destination city)”. My recent trip to New York City provided an unparalleled opportunity to visit a metropolis with more Spanish restaurants than any other city in the US. Previous trips produced impressive results (check out my NYC Tapas Crawl); this time would prove to one-up any other trip. Casa Mono After a day of wine seminars, tastings, and pouring, I was invited by my friends from Drink Ribera (Helen, Gabriella, April, and Roger) and Señor Eduardo Cano Uribe (Communication and Promotions Director for D.O. Ribera del Duero) to join them for dinner at Casa Mono. Let me first say that I was […]

Tradition Meets Modernity: New Ideas for Old Tapas (Part III: Pan con Tomate)

Our journey through the world of traditional tapas began with the mighty tomato and led us to the robust potato. We now find ourselves returning once again to Spain’s favorite bread-topping condiment – the almighty tomato. Pan con Tomate (aka Pa amb Tomàquet or Pan a la Catalana) is one of the most popular and widely eaten dishes in Cataluña. This rustic and basic food is as much (or more) a part of the Catalan identity as the region’s newfound reputation as the gastronomic epicenter of the culinary world. Once you try it you will understand why. It is uncertain as to the true origins of Pan con Tomate. The tomato found its way to European soil in the 16th […]

Tradition Meets Modernity: New Ideas for Old Tapas (Part II: Tortilla Española)

In Part I (Gazpacho), we began our journey in the heat of the south of Spain but now head to one of the country’s northern-most regions, Bilbao (as rumor/tradition has it) to modify another of Spain’s great signature dishes – tortilla española. Known by a few names – tortilla española, tortilla a la española, and tortilla de patatas – make no mistake this dish is one of Spain’s most popular and, actually, easiest to prepare. One note here: you can alter this dish in any way number of ways, but it can only be called “tortilla española” when it is cooked in the traditional method with eggs, potatoes, and onions. Anything else is just “tortilla de patatas” –not that this […]

Tradition Meets Modernity: New Ideas for Old Tapas (Part I: Gazpacho)

Ask anyone, “What does Spain mean to you?” And they will quickly respond, “bullfighting, flamenco and tapas”. Spain’s overcoat is woven in tradition, and it is proud of that heritage – as it should be. Since the sunset of the Franco era, Spain has catapulted into the present-day without losing sight of centuries of tradition. Today it is almost impossible to find someone who is unfamiliar with El Bulli or Ferran Adrià, our Master of Gastronomic Modernity. Fortunately, one does not need to create a liquid olive or culinary foam to create a modern spin on the tapas of Spain’s past and present. My humble attempt to do just this caused me to focus on three of my all-time favorite […]

Spanish Food and Wine Pairing Dinner in San Diego

I recently enrolled in an advanced food and wine pairing course at a local university. The one-day course consisted of a full day of pairing food and wines – many of which you would never expect (our first pair was Cava and potato chips – don’t knock it till you try it!). Throughout the day we stressed over our final exam – to create a six-course menu with paired food and wines. We were to present in front of the class and explain our rationale behind our choices. Almost immediately, my mind drifted towards creating an incredible Spanish menu. Six hours later, Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) was a reality. If faced with the challenge of creating a Spanish […]