I’ve been doing sherry tastings at various venues over the past few years, but recently I found a great place – and a great “biz partner” – that allows me to start offering them on a regular basis. But why stop there? To wit, I am now offering late afternoon sherry tastings and also regional wine tastings, perfectly paired with tasty tapas. Check em out…
During the last Vinoble (in May 2016) one of my best “souvenirs” was buying one of these very cool pins that had been designed by Carmen from Bodeguas Gutiérrez Colosía, but shortly after I posted this photo, it went missing and I was heart broken. Then when I knew I’d be visiting El Puerto de Santa María again this week I asked Carmen if she had any left. And she did. ONE. Which she left for me at her fabulous tapas and sherry bar Bespoke. 🙂
And of course while we were there we had to try a couple of sherry cocktails…
While I was making my plans to go to Copa Jerez I thought – hey! – why not do another quick overnight getaway to El Puerto de Santa María too? I was last there briefly a year ago for an afternoon sherry event, and before that I had spent a November morning visiting bodegas with Julie & Steve – that was in 2014 (!). But I hadn’t spent more than a few hours in town since an overnight stay in November 2013, and there were a couple of new restaurants I wanted to check out, so I booked a room at quirky and charming Casa de Huéspedes, where I had stayed before. Then it turned out that Tomoko wanted to join us, so another room was booked, and we arrived early evening, after having spent the day at Copa Jerez.
Casa de Huespedes was just as charming as I remembered, and so were our lovely hosts Carlos and Myriam. After settling in and having a bit of rest we went out for dinner at La Bodeguilla del Bar Jamón, a place I’d been dreaming about since my first visit there in 2013 (and which had also been the venue for the sherry event last summer). We sat outside on the terrace with a welcome breeze and ate very well. Afterwards we popped over to Bespoke to pick up my It’s Sherry Time pin and also have a couple of sherry cocktails. By the time we got back to Casa Huéspedes, Tomoko and I had clocked over 16,000 fitbit steps and were more than ready for our (comfy) beds.
La Bodeguilla del Bar Jamón:
• signature jamón tosta with garlicky olive oil and tomato
• salt cod and pepper scrambled eggs
• breaded prawns, peppers and onions with jamón
• presa Ibérica with jamón and chips
Next morning, after a light brekkie at Casa Huéspedes, we made plans for the day. Unfortunately it was already too late to make it for the bodega tour at Gutiérrez Colosía, and the owner of Bodegas Grant was out of town, so we decided to just go out and see what happened. We had booked El Faro for lunch, but there were still a couple of hours until then, so we walked over to the market, and then to Bodegas Obregon, finally stopping at Ángel León’s new Taberna del Chef del Mar, housed in the site of his original michelin star Poniente (which is now located in larger digs across town). We’d all heard mixed things about the Taberna but decided to find out for ourselves, with a couple of pre-lunch dishes. Verdict? Very tasty, excellent execution, great service… but?… just not worth the prices. We’ve had better ceviche in Sevilla for half the price (that small bowl was 15€) and 2€ per croqueta? Seriously? It’s a shame because the place is very pleasant and the rest of the menu looked good too.
La Taberna del Chef del Mar:
• cuttlefish croquetas
Tomoko getting a shot of THAT tempura urta.
Then we got a taxi over to El Faro for our “main course”. We were happy to discover that there is now a tapas menu other than at the bar – one of the formerly unused patios has been transformed into a bright and cheerful tapas area. All I knew was that I wanted to try THAT tempura fish we’d seen prepared during the Tempura vs Fritura competition the day before at Copa Jerez. We started off ordering a few dishes to share, but it turned out that the tempura fish version offered on the tapas menu didn’t include the wonderful “whole fish” presentation you see here. But then it turned out that we could also order restaurant menu items in the tapas area! So we quickly revised our order to include only the Almadraba tuna tartare and then THAT fish. In this case it was urta and it was perfect. Weirdly served with salmorejo as a “dipping sauce”… we chose to drink the soup and just have the tempura urta on its own. The tuna tartare looked like rubies and was served with wasabi, ginger and horseradish. Heaven.
• tuna almadraba tartare
• tempura urta with salmorejo
Peter, Fernando and Tomoko, in the El Faro bodega
By then we were stuffed! But we didn’t want to leave without thanking chef Fernando Córdoba, and when he found out that Tomoko and I are sherry educators he took us to see his bodega. A very generous and caring person – we felt honoured that he spent so much time with us.
There was a bit of a Death March back to the centre of town after that, in the blazing late afternoon HEAT, but we managed to take a look inside Toro Tapas, the new bar inside Bodegas Osborne, before collecting our bags at the Casa Huéspedes and heading to the train station.
Foolishly or otherwise, we decided to stop for a last quick COLD ONE at Bar Apolo on the way, thinking we had plenty of time. And we may have had it not been 40º and we hadn’t had luggage… we arrived at the station with about two minutes to spare and then found out the escalators were out of service (!!). One final sprint up the stairs got us onto the train and literally 30 seconds later it pulled out of the station. Phew!
I was a bit “last minute” getting things organized to attend this year’s Copa Jerez. Actually, what happened was that both my friend Tomoko @fu_yan and I had made the same mistake while registering online, so it turned out that we weren’t registered at all! Thankfully the good people at the Consejo Regulador said we could get passes for the second day of the two-day event (the first day was fully booked), and would be able to attend the forums and showroom. I got to Jerez on the first day (to save having to take a 7am train on Tuesday) and I’m so glad I did.
What happened was this! Another Jerez friend Pilar @enosherry was working as a guide/translator with the Copa Jerez international competitors and was told she’d be leaving them at the Claustros de Santo Domingo for a sold-out concert & cata, and then would pick them up afterwards to take them to the dinner venue at the end of the first day’s activities. We arranged to meet up at La Moderna across from the Claustros while the concert was on, and Tomoko and I decided to go a bit earlier to have a snack. Then while we were waiting for Pilar she sent us a message saying that there were a few empty seats at the concert and we should come over.
The “concert & cata” format has been kicking around the sherry triangle for awhile, with different sherries paired with different flamenco styles, but this night it was extra special. Josep Roca was our host along with Diego del Morao on guitar. But not just any guitar – this one was the last guitar Paco de Lucía had commissioned, but sadly never got to play as he tragically died before it was completed. I have to say it was a very moving and beautiful (and delicious!) experience. Also perfectly coordinated with a small army of waiters bringing the next sherry to us just as the next musical piece began. Well done, Consejo!
I first met fellow sherry educator (and professional venenciadora) Fabiola Bonke @spanjetotaal a couple of years ago at a casual sherry tasting held at Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez @cruzviejajerez in Jerez, which had been organized by my friend Tomoko @tomokotours. Fabiola is Dutch, but her parents are both Spanish, and she has become the most important sherry expert in Holland. Awhile back she got in touch saying she was going to be in Jerez for the Copa Jerez finals and would be staying overnight in Sevilla on the way.
So I recommended a couple of nice reasonably priced hotels and she chose one that is literally a stone’s throw from my house. And so just after she arrived and got settled in I picked Fabiola up for a sherry-based Tapeo Extremo. Our first stop was Las Teresas, my favourite place for both ambiance and jamón Ibérico de Bellota. They also have some excellent sherries.
After that we carried on to two more bars – Bodeguita Romero and La Cata Ciega, sampling amazing sherries and tasting delicious tapas. And all the while talking talking talking… what a lovely evening. And the good news is that we will be meeting up again in Jerez because I am also going to be at Copa Jerez. Yay!
Juan, me & William
It’s been quite a week for meeting up with people, either for the first time or after a long time. William @madguide1 fits into the second category. We first knew each other via social media as he is a Spain expert for the very famous Rick Steves global tours. Then one fine day we had time to meet up while he was in Sevilla… that was a few years ago. Then I saw on Instagram that William was back in town this week with a tour group, he promised me that FOR SURE when he was back in September that he’d make time to meet up.
Later that same day I was having lunch with my dear friend Juan Tarquini @jmtalexeew, at his fabulous Vineria San Telmo, when a guy sits down at the table next to us. Suddenly I hear… SHAWN??? Heh, it was William. He was there to meet two other mutual friends, María and José who, along with their partner Victor, run the excellent Taller Andaluz de Cocina cooking school. I mean, what are the odds? I love when stuff like this happens. 🙂
William, José & María
As everyone knows, Tío Pepe is the flagship brand of Bodegas González Byass, probably the biggest of the Jerez sherry houses. The annual Tío Pepe Challenge is a competition for bartenders to mix and present sherry based cocktails, and this year’s Grand Final, featuring eight bartenders from the Americas and Europe, was held on May 17th at GB’s bodega in Jerez.
The setting, in one of the cathedral-like bodegas that has been converted for events and functions, was suitably magnificent, and many of the great and the good from the world of sherry were in attendance as the eight competitors (who all seemed remarkably young) were put through their paces in front of the esteemed panel of judges. The competition started with a blind tasting test of 4 sherries, followed by a test/demonstration of their skills with the venencia, before the main event – the mixing of the sherry cocktails.
Each contestant in turn had seven minutes to mix two cocktails – an Adonis (a mix of fino, vermouth and orange bitters invented in the 1880s in honour of the first Broadway musical to pass 500 performances), and a signature cocktail of their own, during which they demonstrated that cocktail mixing is, among other things, a form of theatre. This meant lots of tasting for the judges (with some samples of various other cocktails for the audience too), but they finally arrived at their verdict.
And the winner… Joao Vicente of the Alto Bar in Berlin for his Jerez Sin Fronteras (black tea infused Tío Pepe, Nectar PX, Nomad Whisky).
I got a call from my friend Juan from Vineria San Telmo the other day asking me if I’d be interested in giving a sherry tasting to a group of 15 people from Australia and New Zealand and so of course I said YES. Though I was also a bit nervous as it would be the first time I’d be doing this with a larger group, and also as a “presentation” rather than as part of a tapas tour. My Sherry & Tapas Tours are just as much about the food pairings as they are about sherry, so this would be something quite different.
As you can see, it was very nicely set up by Juan and we also included snacks (olives, cheese, almonds, chocolate) and some printed material for the guests to take home. And they were a great group. Not total “sherry virgins” and clearly quite knowledgeable about wines, so they asked a lot of good questions.
We tried 5 different sherries, talking about each one along with the history of the region and the sherry making process. I soon forgot about being nervous and the time flew by. Hoping to do it again now!
So this was it! The day I’d been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Also it was the main reason for being in London for this particular London Getaway, to be one of the judges at the first World Sherry Awards. I say “dreading” because I had never judged anything at this level before, and wasn’t sure what would be expected. Happily my friend Owen @sherrymonster44 (another sherry educator and co-owner of four fabulous tapas bars in southern Wales) had also been invited as a judge, so I knew there would be at least one friendly face. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The people running the event were super friendly and I immediately felt right at home. Or as “at home” as possible at the elegant Caledonian Club, where the tasting was being held. You will have to wait until May to find out which wine was chosen as the winner, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
After the tasting Owen had to get back to Wales and I met up again with Peter, who had spent the afternoon visiting a couple of museums. As we were near Harrod’s – and as I had never been to Harrod’s – we went to Harrod’s! In fact, we decided to do a three-posh-store circuit and after Harrod’s we also stopped off at Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. I think a few years ago I would have found these places more interesting, especially the food courts. Anyhow, we stopped for a drink in the upstairs lounge at Harvey Nicks, as we still had a couple of hours to go before meeting up with John again. Then we found out John was going to be delayed, so we went off in search of a pre-pub snack in nearby Soho.
My first choice, Boca di Lupo, was already packed at 6.30 pm and we were told to come back in an hour or so to see if there was any space then. Uh… no. Then I remembered Zelman’s. This turned out to be an excellent choice. We were immediately shown to a comfy spot in front of the glass-walled “open” kitchen and our server couldn’t have been nicer. So different from the “fake-friendly” treatment elsewhere the previous day. Our snack was a massive smoked beef short rib, which we shared with a side of triple-fried chips. We honestly wished we were hungrier so we could try more dishes – Zelman is already at the top of the list for my next London visit.
By the time we met up with John I was pretty tired, so we just had a couple of drinks and a nice chat before I called an Uber to take us home.
Owen finds a secret passage behind fake bookshelf door at the Caledonian Club
cool Tudor style buildings just off Regent Street
the Egyptian escalator in Harrod’s
chillin’ and rechargin’ at Harvey Nicks
fall-off-the-bone smoked beef short rib at Zelman Meats
triple-fried chips with Holy Fuck mayo (their name, not mine)
pubbing with John and Peter