For those of you who haven’t been keeping up on our sappy stories from the European Wine Blogger’s Conference that took place in La Rioja last weekend, allow me to catch you up. For three days, Robert McIntosh, Ryan and I gathered together several wine bloggers from around the world to meet and chat about…yup, wine blogging.
However, what you, nor anyone else, has known up until today was that we didn’t have a location set for the keynote tasting / dinner until a few weeks before the event – I kid you not. Don’t get me wrong, we were looking! But try as we might, from June to August, getting anything planned and confirmed in Spain is impossible. So with literally days remaining, we used one of Robert’s many Rioja connections – also known as the golden enchufe – to get us a reservation at La Chata.
Now mind you, none of us had ever been there, but the restaurant came on good authority as a wonderful place that would actually seat all 40 bloggers. But get this, they wouldn’t only make room our entire crew, but they even had a separate area where we could host our wine tasting consisting of cases upon cases of wine! This, my friends, was a miracle, and a reservation based on complete faith, because for all we knew, it could have been a mess!
So what made La Chata such an incredible find?
The Perfect Feeling
The historic restaurant is nestled inside the old part of Logrono on a tiny Gothic style street called, Calle Carnicería, just a stones throw away from the Plaza del Mercado and the Catedral de La Redonda. Stepping through the door, you enter a small room holding a set of wooden stairs, a long hallway to the right of the stairs that lead to a white tiled kitchen, and a narrow wooden bar that sits about 6ft in front of an enormous stone oven. Built in 1821, this monster of an oven has seen more carcasses than I hope any of us will have seen in a lifetime, and was the first of its kind in Spain. Two stone ovens were later constructed in the Plaza del Mercado in the early 19th century, primarily for bread, but La Chata had already gained a reputation for creating the first of its kind.
Walking up the stairs, you enter a long cozy room with wooden floors, thick wooden tables and chairs, and cozy atmosphere that feels more appropriate for a large Sunday brunch with a Riojan family than a restaurant filled with foreigners. But strangely enough, that is exactly how they try to make you feel, like part of the family.
La Chata is owned and managed by the Belber family, a patient and loving group of people who were eagerly willing to not only endure my 1001 questions on cooking a suckling pig, but also handling a loud and passionate group of international wine bloggers who were ridiculously excited to experience a traditional Rioja meal. With grace and professionalism, they handled the most inquisitive and cautious among us with a humor, entertainment and kindness.Ã‚Â For me, it was a feeling of complete acceptance regardless of whether or not I enjoyed the food. As stated by the chef and owner’s wife, Estela, “How cool that you all came from around the world to appreciate our food and culture. I appreciate that!”. So do we Estela, so do we!
And as if the service and atmosphere wasn’t cozy and heart-warming enough, the food was quite good. Granted, the caveat being that the conversation and gales of laughter may have influenced my perception, making every dish seem incredible, but hey, take my impressions for what they’re worth. From what I remember, between Juan mistaking Ryan as my brother and Emidio training his child how to differentiate aromas from various wines, in the end, it all tasted good to me 🙂
Ensalada Templada de Perdiz Escabechada con Endibias (Partridge Endive Salad)
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (Traditional Cured Ham)
Espárragos Especiales de la Ribera (White Asparagus served with Sliced Tomatoes and Mayonnaise)
Revuelto de Boetus Edulis con su Cebolleta Fresca (Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Onion and Edulis Mushrooms)
Of these four, I’d like to call attention to the Revuelto de Boetus Edulis con su Pebolleta Fresca. Having only had Huevos Rotos (scrambled eggs with chorizo and a touch of vanilla) in Rioja, I was extrememly happy to have tried another version. The eggs held a perfect delicate, yet firm texture, while the mushrooms added that earthy flavor that paired beautifully with the 2007 Pazos de Lusco from Rias Baixas. I’m still dreaming about this dish today!
Once the plates were cleared, a large heaping pile of Cochinillo (suckling pig less than 6 months old) was placed on the table with a crisp skin to contrast its tender and juicy meat. This was paired with Escarola de la Tierra con su Aliño de Ajitos, a stiff and curly leafy green lettuce (similar to frise) in a light garlic dressing. The crisp green texture and spicy garlic flavor added that perfect touch to the slightly sweet meat.
In short, this restaurant is a must visit, a place I would highly suggest you go if you wish to experience a traditional Rioja meal in a cozy and quaint family run restaurant, where good service and a big smile are a normal part of the experience. Sigh, only a few months to go before we’re back again. I can’t wait!
Restauranta Asador La Chata
26001 Logroño, Spain
+34 9941 251 296