Sherry Week in Portland

recapInternational Sherry Week could not have come at a better time to Portland. The week was so emotional leading up to the presidential election, and after with days of protest demonstrations. Without getting too political, I will say Tuesday and Wednesday were difficult days for me. I’ve never mourned for my country before now. Never before have I woken up feeling fearful of what lies ahead or how government decisions will impact the lives of my loved ones. If anything Tuesday’s results will not allow me to be complacent. In the midst of all this, my community paused to open its doors for healing conversations, good food and great sherry!

I know that my sherry journey has only been since 2013, but I really feel Portland is growing in its sherry interest, especially the cocktail scene. I kicked off my Sherry Week as a guest at the Super Sexy Sherry Party. John House of Ole Imports and Ovum Wines, bartender Angel Teta, and many industry friends piled into the Wine Cave on Monday, November 7 for old school vinyl, even older sherry, and karaoke. The Wine Cave was in an undisclosed location in northeast Portland, and certainly the coolest space for a private party. It was a balance of modern masculinity of wood and concrete with the softening touch of candles, lowly lit Edison bulbs and a cozy nook for those who want to sit and talk away from the crowd. The bar was stocked with amazing tapas. John and Chris Dorman, from Elk Cove, poured the drinks starting with glasses of Cava, then two Manzanillas, Sacristía AB and Orleans, followed by a flight of Osborne’s Amontillado 51-1ª, Sibarita Oloroso and Capuchino Palo Cortado. I truly enjoyed meeting more people in the food and wine scene in Portland. The best part was finishing the night with “Sherry-oke.” Who knew these new friends had amazing voices?! I even belted a little Adele before heading home.

Thursday was a great day to recharge. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Jordan Felix and Kyle Sanders at the Green Room. The two of them have created an amazing space for those waiting to go upstairs to the Multnomah Whiskey Library. Downstairs, their classic prohibition style sherry cocktails prepare the palate for the full menu upstairs, including the 1600 bottles of whiskey. Jordan prepared me Louis Eppinger’s famous Bamboo cocktail while I chatted with Kyle about their sherry interests. Predominantly they’ve chosen sherry from Gonzalez Byass, not only because their staff was so well educated by Christopher Canale-Parola, but also because they’ve found that Tío Pepe Fino encapsulates everything they need; salinity, dryness, floral + green apple notes. They do carry Hidalgo La Gitana Mananilla, and are expanding their library of Lustau sherry. Overall, the cocktails are a mix of classic inspirations as well as house originals. They also enjoy pairing whiskey and sherry side-by-side like Highland Park 12 year Scotch and Oloroso. Another fun tasting I hope to try when I return is the Tomatin Cuatro Series – single malt scotch with sherry inspiration from Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX butts.

Shortly after my visit at the Green Room, I finally got to check out the newly opened Bar Casa Vale for their sherry pairing dinner. It was an intimate setting with one-on-one sherry education with Front of House Manager Bryon Adams-Harford. Each dish prepared by chef Louis Martinez was perfectly matched to a sherry. First course was tapas of anchovy stuffed Manzanilla soaked olives, Halloumi cheese montadito on a crustini with delicious pear jam, and Moorish spiced pork belly that melted in my mouth. This was all paired with Fernando de Castilla’s Fino Antique. The second course almost was reminiscent of an Italian dish of fried bay shrimp, calamari and fennel along side a brightly dressed octopus salad with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. Valdespino’s Manzanilla Deliciosa was a great choice for wine.

Third Course was by far my favorite of the night! I barely saved room for it all. I completely devoured the locally sourced braised rabbit, chanterelles and cipollini onions. The Amontillado Antique from Fernando de Castilla was the perfect choice. The other two components also paired well, but for me it was the rabbit that soared above the charred brussels covered in romesco + manchego or the New York Strip with chimichurri. Finally the evening ended with the Crema Catalana. Essentially a lovely crème brûlée paired with Hidalgo’s Faraon Oloroso. This pairing surprised me. The contrasting flavors actually worked well together despite the sweetness of the dessert and the dryness of the sherry. I really cannot wait to go back and try some of the sherry cocktails Daniel Parker-Guidry has created. The Trident, which combines Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado with Krogstad Aquavit, Punt e Mes and bitters, just might be my new Negroni.

Saturday I had the privilege to partner with one of my favorite wine shops Pairings Portland. Jeffrey invited me to share my passion for sherry with his patrons. It was a steady flow of about twenty or so people. Nearly all of them were brand new to sherry and so willing to taste and learn. We selected a great line up with simple pairings to really make the sherry pop! Guests started with Fino en Rama from Equipo Navazos and Marcona almonds, followed by Manzanilla La Cigarerra with olives. I loved how the olives brought out the Manzanilla’s fruity notes with a a bit of a smoky finish. Of course I chose to showcase my favorite Amontillado La Garrocha from Bodegas Grant. Jeffrey sautéed up some yellow trumpet mushrooms to go with the wine. I feel both enhanced the other! The favorite for most customers was El Maestro Sierra’s Oloroso. This was classically paired with slices of manchego cheese. Jumping from dry to sweet, we paired Cesar Florido’s Moscatel Pasas with dried black fig and El Maestro Sierra’s Pedro Ximénez with blue cheese. It really was a fun night and hope to do it again soon!

If I hadn’t had my tasting scheduled at the same time, I wanted to participate in the Sherry Obstacle Course at Bar Vivant! Judging from the Instagram pictures, it was a huge success! Cheryl Wakerhauser said it was really steady without chaos, just how she likes it! Tables were set up around the restaurant with different stages for sherry learning. Even a venencia challenge was set up outside on the patio! The real challenge of course was choosing the perfect pairing from the buffet in the kitchen. Guests had fun AND learned about sherry, so mission accomplished!

What better way to end sherry week than with the people who started it off with me! I joined my friends at Ataula for a paired brunch with Gonzalez Byass sherry. It was no surprise that the place was packed! It’s always a pleasure to learn about sherry from Christopher Canale-Parola when he is in Portland. Once again, Chef José Chesa created amazing dishes to go alongside these delicious wines.

We were greeted with Angel Teta’s Welcome Punch (Gonzalez Byass Amontillado AB, Pampero Anniversario anejo, Grapefruit cordial, lime and Angostura). Since we were mostly seated in a family style, it was a nice way to end an emotional week eating and drinking with people from the community. First course was a lovely Sunday Salad of organic greens with a glass of Tío Pepe. Next was Spanish Tortilla with chorizo and a very large pour of Leonor Palo Cortado. The final dish was the fan favorite Sunday Brunch Paella of rice, chicken, jamon de bellota, bacon, and eggs on top. This was paired with Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso. To my shock, I was given seconds of that sherry without even asking. I happily accepted. Like all good brunches, we ended with something sweet with a little coffee. I love Chesa’s Xuixo de Crema. They’re so light and flaky and the cream isn’t heavy or too rich. Angel made a delicious Coffee Action using Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX, sous vide infused with cocoa nibs and espresso beans, strong brew coffee, Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Bitter Cube Corazon bitters, Banana brown sugar 2:1 and Matusalem 30 year Oloroso whip. I wish I could have that to start every day!

I am proud of my city and community. I love seeing it rally together. I love that Portland embraces culture and the sherry revolution! I wasn’t able to make it to every event listed for my city during International Sherry Week, but I’m making note of where to visit next!

ataula-natalia

Tapeando with Angel Teta

bar seating

As I learn more about sherry, I’ve been eager to discover who in Portland has sherry on the menu or is including it in cocktails. Angel Teta is noted not only for her love of sherry and vermut, but also for her award winning sherry cocktails. I thought I was sitting down to an interview. Instead, the evening turned into something quite reminiscent of visiting a local tabanco in southern Spain.

Tuesday nights at 4:30pm are the best time to come into Ataula for a “neighborhood watering hole” experience. It’s like stepping out of Portland and into Spain. The kitchen staff is busy finishing last minute prep for the evening. But if you sit at the bar and engage with staff, they’ll include you in their conversations. They love to suggest their favorite bites and drinks, and will tell their stories of how they came to be at Ataula.

I’ve been following Angel’s Instagram feed for a while, and finally made an intentional visit to meet in person. As we chatted, she surprised me with the Gracias Señor Simo, a blend of rum, Hidalgo’s Napoleon Amontillado, apricot liqueur, bitters and citrus. It was so refreshing and well balanced. The sherry really comes through rather than become lost and muddled by other components.

Shaylee is brand new to Ataula, coming from a Portland’s coffee scene. Her favorite starter to pair with my cocktail is the Ataula Montadito – house cured salmon, mascarpone yogurt, on a coca bread cracker that’s drizzled with truffle honey that’s to die for! It’s a bit messy to eat as finger food, so don’t feel bad asking for a fork. I could not believe how the food enhanced the drink and vice versa. The flavors of Amontillado, apricot, truffle and honey really pop!

Lauren is from Puerto Rico and spent the entire conversation with me in Spanish. She raved about the Cojonudo – two bruschetta toasts topped with a fried quail egg, chorizo and piquillo pepper. Angel paired that with her favorite Oloroso style from Cesar Florido. Cesar Florido is the king of Moscatel production in Chipiona. His other sherry styles are refreshing and not too heavy on the palate. This Oloroso was perfect for cutting the richness of the egg and chorizo.

 

Chef is always moving, always thinking, always creating. Even he paused to come and chat at the counter. ¡Canta! I actually thought he wanted me to burst out in song. Thank goodness, this is just his way of saying, “what’s up?” As we talked about the sherry dinner event, he had me try a little dessert before heading home. Huevos Fritos – a fun play on fried eggs in a cold skillet using egg yolk sorbet with coconut foam and finished with Jacobsen’s flake salt.

huevos

The same Oloroso goes great with this as well. The aromas trick your mind to think you’ll be drinking something sweet, but it’s bone dry. The nutty nuances really sing with the dessert, both creating a satisfying savory sweetness.

For someone who has never tried sherry, but are open to it, here’s what Angel suggests:

I always pair something with what they’re eating. What they order gives me a glimpse into their palate preferences, which helps me put something in front of them that they will actually enjoy. For example, if they get the Bellota Jamon, I always pair it with the Valdespino Inocente, as they both enhance each other. If they seem a bit less adventurous, I’ll start with an Amontillado. If they seem like sherry is really not their gig at all, I’ll try the East India to finish with a Xuixo.

The team at Ataula really enjoys sharing the sherry love. Next time you’re in the mood for tapas, come early, sit at the bar and give sherry a try. You’ll be in excellent hands!

chef + Angel

 

 

CHESA

CHESA doorLately, I’ve had the desire to learn more about who’s doing sherry cocktails around Portland. What better way to start than by visiting the newly opened CHESA. Chef JosĂ© Chesa has truly made his mark on Portland with the Spanish cuisine of Ataula in the northwest. Not only am I excited to have CHESA on my side of the river, but also excited to try dishes near and dear to his heart ~ home cooking inspired by his father and grandmother.

solera drawingThe layout is clean and modern with iconic images of Spain around the room. Whether it was a coincidence or not, I was happy to see my table sat under a large print of a man refreshing the solera. If you hope to catch Chef Chesa, be sure to come right when they open before he dashes back over the river to Ataula. My goal was to meet with beverage manager, Emily Metevier and bar manager, Tony Gurdian to discuss their sherry selection and cocktails.

Emily went to culinary school with Chesa’s wife, and has partnered with them since the beginning. Her choices of sherry are simply from tasting through several and selecting which pair the best. One of the newest additions is La Guita Manzanilla En Rama bottled in October 2015. I was amazed by its dark golden color and complexity for only having slight filtration. I made sure to have my friends at Great Wine Buys order me a couple for my shelves.

Tony moved to Portland four years ago from Tennessee. He was the bar manager at Imperial before CHESA, and brings a lot of creativity to the table. Working with sherry is relatively new for him, but he does have a soft spot for Spanish vermut. The design of the current cocktail menu includes several tried and true classics that showcase both sherry and vermut. His intention is to have time to create a rotating seasonal menu.

The cocktails listed under THERE are classic cocktails with a Spanish twist. I learned that Spaniards are crazy for Gin & Tonic, and this one will make them proud. If you’re in the mood for a Negroni, try the Preparando. The THEN list is full of classic tried and true sherry cocktails. The NOW list are CHESA creations Tony and his team have put together. My favorite was the signature CHESA – an incredible balance of Spanish flavor – sweet citrus notes with a savory pimentón finish. If you want a palette cleanser, but not feeling like a glass of Mazanilla, definitely go for the Montoya Hotel Special. It’s like a mimosa on steroids. If you really want to go bold, there’s always the Ponche en Porrón. Don’t know what a porrón is? Just look up at the light fixtures along the bar.

For my meal, I chose a couple THEN classic sherry cocktails. The Flamenco was a little too sweet for me, but the star was the La Garrocha Amontillado from Bodegas Grant. It really comes through in the finish. When La Garrocha isn’t available, Tony will use Amontillado Viña AB from Gonzalez Byass. Like any wine, as with all sherry styles, each has their own character based on the winery, so the cocktail will also vary slightly. After the Flamenco, I tried the Artist’s Special. The El Maestro Sierra Oloroso didn’t shine through like the Amontillado in my last drink, but its delicacy softened the masculinity of the scotch.

When it comes to food, their servers are full of suggestions. I’ve learned it’s best to bring someone along who will order for me and keep me on task. Whether from nervous excitement or low blood sugar starvation, I couldn’t make up my mind. If you choose to order paella at CHESA, which you certainly should, put in the ticket right away. They are cooked to order and can take awhile. The size and richness can easily serve two. We discovered the pacing of the tapas is really quick, so order about three or four while you wait.

The Croquetas came out + piping hot, but lord, they were delicious! Be sure to dip them in the aioli! The Bravas are nicely fried potatoes topped with a rich, smokey sauce. Chef was sweet to treat us to their Corteza house-made pork rinds topped with mussels. I loved the contrast of textures. A must-have on the list is the Costilla! To have Iberico pork ribs is quite rare in the States. Confit style and rubbed with cumin, thyme, moja verde and white wine vinegar; these are by far the most tender and flavorful ribs I’ve ever had! By the time our paella arrived, I decided to go with a glass of the Wellington Palo Cortado. The CHESA house paella was so rich with the sherry marinated rabbit and jamon iberico. The acidity of this Palo Cortado cut through perfectly.

We managed to save room for dessert. These portion sizes are clearly meant for sharing. The Xocolata was drier than I prefer, but the cassis sorbet was the star on the plate. My Torta de Aceite was not a cake as I imagined, but more like a fried crepe with marmalade and cream and ice cream. It was difficult to eat with a fork, so I picked it up like dessert nachos. I do like coffee to end a meal, but they didn’t have decaf, so I chose to have the Palabra de Sabio hot chocolate drink. It is delicious and rich if you like hot boozy drinking chocolate. But I wouldn’t recommend it on a full stomach.

I do love how JosĂ© Chesa has given Portland a little taste of Spain when I miss it most. CHESA is not trying to copy the molecular gastronomy wow factor of Ataula. That’s not the intention. In every detail at CHESA from food, to cocktail, to dĂ©cor, you will find a taste of HOME.

chef 2

Reconsidering Sherry Cocktails

15 Romolo bar

I’ll admit, it’s taken me some time to warm to the idea of mixing sherry in cocktails. On its own, the wine is so well aged and perfect for any food combination. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would add it to other ingredients. In my mind it would be like taking a beautiful Bordeaux and blending it into sangria. However, if I want others to be open to trying sherry, I too should be open to trying sherry cocktails.

 

Photo Credit: vinetur.comRecently, I met up with Ian J. Adams from 15 Romolo in San Francisco, California. Since winning the Copa Jerez, I’ve been cyber-stalking his Instagram feeds for inspiration. Not only is he a fellow sherry nerd, but also a real creative when it comes to sherry inspired cocktails.

I sat down with him to learn how he maintains the fine balance in his restaurant between serving sherry on its own as well as mixed in a cocktail.

Ian has been bar tending and managing bars and restaurants for a little over a decade. When he moved back to San Francisco, he had the opportunity to work with some really great wine folks who turned him onto the category of fortified wines and their practical applications in cocktails. He explained that when you get into dry, still wine with so much age and complexity, there’s really just nothing like it.

double fistingAs we discussed sherry cocktails, he admited that working with sherry is a current trend in cocktail culture. He would go so far to say that the vast majority of sherry cocktails merely include sherry for the sake of including sherry. Most of the time, one can’t even taste the sherry, because it’s blended with a bunch of other stuff with a complete lack of balance. It’s just being included for the sake of being included, rather than being included because of the nuance that it provides. Sherry has an astounding amount of potential as a cocktail ingredient when it’s utilized to its potential. For that reason, cocktails can be a great gateway to introduce others to sherry who otherwise wouldn’t give it a second glance.

He explained that’s not specific to sherry, but to anything that becomes fashionable in cocktail culture to have on a menu; anything that people aren’t terribly familiar with, but now have to work with or want to work with because it’s trending.

It is an additional challenge, which I think is fun! The cocktails that are coming out everywhere are getting better and better. People are actually starting to make a note of the style of sherry that they’re using on the menu, instead of just writing sherry, making everyone assume it’s probably a cream sherry. It’s still trending upwards and the quality is getting better and better.

flightsIan’s also seen a big surge in the amount of people ordering 15 Romolo’s sherry flights, both the standard Tour de Jerez and the Old + Rare flights. They’re created for two different demographics: the former is for those who have never had sherry before and want to sample the spectrum, and the latter for people who know sherry really well and can’t / don’t want to decide on just one. (That’s exactly what I did when I first visited last year.)

For everyone in between, they’ve also seen a big spike in people who order sherry by the glass. It helps that the menu at 15 Romolo lists their suggested sherry pairings for each dish. Also, as Ian pointed out, it’s nice that half bottles are only 500 ml, which is very easy for a couple to split at the bar with a shared appetizer.

The cocktails at 15 Romolo will always be king. The team has a lot of fun coming up with ideas to keep sherry cocktails on the menu year-round. A comment Ian made has stayed with me as a reminder to remain open to the potential sherry brings to the glass, whether on its own or in a cocktail:

I love sherry and always have a few bottles in my fridge, if not dozens, but it’s also not the only thing I drink. One thing that you have to impress on people new to sherry is that it’s very different; it takes some time getting used to, but it also doesn’t have to be your ONLY thing.