A few scenes from José Pizarro’s book launch party at the Cinco Jotas restaurant in Madrid. It was great to see José again, and also his mother who I’d met at the Spanish Embassy event in London last May. My friends Jeannie and Sam were there, and I also got to meet a few other people, so it was a fun night. Also excited to see – and taste – a special sherry Rare Solera PΔP VORS from Osborne which has been created especially for José, the first time in the brand’s history that they have done this. Good times.
Our final Enbhiga day began with a traditional breakfast at O Souto das Candeas, one of the two restaurants in Verín run by chef Begonia Vásquez(who I’d met the previous evening). Then Begoña joined us on a visit to the Wine Museum and also for a tasting at Bodega Terra do Gargalo (owned by Spanish fashion designer Roberto Verino).
Finally we were taken to Ánades Galicia, the only producer of fois gras in the region, where we were treated to a lunch of all things ducky (“jamon”, foie, breast) and wines from Vega de Lucía. Then it was back to Madrid.
This was an amazing experience. Not only did I get to visit the two D.O. regions I had missed during my last visit to Galicia in July, I also got to see (and taste) the best of Ourense province and meet some lovely people, as well as see some old friends.
This was definitely my favourite of all our days. We started with a trip to the hot spring baths of Outariz, just outside Ourense. These are open year round and are free to the public. This was followed by a trip to the Cooperativa do Ribeiro, including a trip to the vineyards and spectacular views before taking a tour of the Viña Costeira bodega and sampling the wines.
Then it was off to the A Boa Migalla bakery where the chefs got a lesson in Galician bread making while the rest of us tucked into a traditional lunch of octopus, empanadas and bbq pork. Later we had a tour of the Aceites Abril olive oil refinery before heading to the Castillo de Monterrei.
The castle is now a Parador Hotel and we took a tour of the grounds before visiting the chapel and castle, climbing the tower to take in the spectacular views.
Last stop of the day was Verín, a small village near the Portuguese border, where a very special event awaited us at the old lonja (fish market). Apparently the building had been repainted for us, and a new floor was also installed. Outside a huge BBQ had been set up and the chefs once again went to work. Inside we were treated to regional cured meats, cheeses and other snacks, along with a “wine tunnel” featuring DO Monterrei wines.
I met some lovely people here. First of all I was intrigued by what looked like a vat of boiling animal skin and started chatting to the woman in charge of stirring the rather vile looking brew. Turns out it was pretty much pig skin, and other offaly bits, boiling away in the fat that came off the bits when they were heated up. Carmen explained that you had to use just a little water and salt, but soon the fat took over and covered the meat. Carmen was with her friend Marisol who (I think) works with the town council. They assured me that the rixon (Galician chicharrones) would end up nicely browned and crispy… and of course they were right. At first I thought there was no way I was going to eat that stuff, but I gave it a try and it was actually delicious.
I also met a lovely couple there from Vigo, Lola and Paul, and they introduced me to their sister-in-law Begoña Vásquez, who happened to be a local chef (owner of restaurants Regueiro da Covaand and O Souto das Candeas) and one of the people hosting the event. I also got talking to the man responsible for the organic Galician beef that was out on the BBQ, José Luis Vaz.
We were then treated to something very special that I will never forget. First a short presentation by a traditional choral group and then… Cigarrones! I have seen the cigarrón masks before (mostly on wine labels from Monterrei) but suddenly there they were, three of them dressed to the hilt and running through the long expanse of the building. This was also a special event for us because the cigarrones are a feature of carnival, which takes place in February, but the local council arranged for us to experience a bit of carnival in October. Fabulous.
Then it was BBQ time and heaps of meat and sausage were brought inside for us to feast upon. Which we did. A wonderful day.
For the chefs attending Enbhiga this was their big day, and they set off early to start prepping for the presentation of national and international dishes at the Mercado do Barrio da Ponte, just over the river. The rest of us got to take things easy in the morning and take a short tour of Ourense and a visit to the central market after checking into our hotel.
At 2 pm we all met at the Mercado da Ponte and began sampling the various dishes, along with DO Ribeiro wines. At 4 pm the venue was opened to the public and the cooking demos began. By this time I was starting to flag (after the previous late night) to I decided to just head out on my own and walk around Ourense. The rest of the group met up again in the evening for a guided visit of the old centre, followed by a tapas tour and late drinks, but after a couple of early tapitas at Casa do Pulpo I was back at my hotel and tucked up in bed by 10.30.
During our five-day itinerary jam-packed with activities, this was our most jam-packed day. We started off with an early coffee (and bica!) break at the beautiful Castillo de Castro Caldelas. The clouds broke up long enough for us to enjoy a stunning view from the top of the castle. Then it was off to visit the San Pedro de Rocas monastery, with a quick stop on the way at the Río Sil mirador. At the monastery we were greeted by the Real Banda de Gaitas (Galician champions) for a short concert before taking a tour of the monastery.
Then it was off to Vilamarín cooking school for several food demonstrations and speeches, followed by a cocktail-style lunch provided by the school and served by the students. Then a quick stop to check into our hotel and we were off again to the village of Ribadavia. This was the only time (other than our last day) that we actually got rained on, but Ribadavia charmed everyone, as did 80-year-old Herminia, who runs a small bakery in the centre of the village where she has spent her life making Jewish pastries from age-old recipes. We also took a short tour of the Castillo de los Sarmiento and were treated to a tasting of DO Ribeiro wines at the Iglesia de A Magdalena.
This was followed by a reception and dinner at Restaurante Miguel González, located inside Hotel Rústico San Jamie just outside Ourense. Chef González had prepared a traditional pork-based meal (quite different from his usual more avant-guarde cooking) which was perfect for a cool rainy evening. Finally we arrived back at our hotel sometime after 1 am. A long but enjoyable day.