'Bodega Nights' at Ibérica, Leeds
The last time The Wine Gang hosted a ‘Bodega Nights’ dinner on the eve of our Leeds festival had been two years ago. One of the guests that evening, Bally Jassai-Jones, asked us if we would be interested in hosting a similar event this year only this time exclusively for her group, the West Yorkshire Branch of the International Wine & Food Society (let’s call it the WYBIWFS).
Once the committee had given Bally the green light, we started planning the food and wine pairing together with Ibérica from June. Unfortunately, María José Sevilla, who had co-hosted with us on the previous two occasions, was not available, so instead we turned to Nacho Linares (pictured rigth), sous chef for Ibérica restaurants north. Although María José Sevilla’s unrivalled knowledge of Spanish gastronomy and warmth were missed, Nacho turned out to be the star of the show, producing tapa after tapa of great invention and flavours.
Ibérica was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and since it was focusing on a rolling programme highlighting different Spanish regions throughout the year, we decided to put together a menu showcasing ‘the best of the best’ from each region with local wines served alongside a typical dish. This would give WYBIWFS members the opportunity to try food and wines from both popular and less well-known regions. Over the next three months, Bally, Josie and Aura from Ibérica and yours truly batted food and drink ideas back and forth in an attempt to ensure that the evening would be as mouthwatering an event the previous one. As it turned out, it’s fair to say that the food and wine combinations exceeded expectations.
The evening kicked off on a positive note with a glass of Raventos i Blanc’s refreshingly refined sparkling wine, which we can no longer call Cava, because the company left the DO in 2012 in protest against Cava’s downbeat image and lack of aspiration. It was a perfect foil for wafer-thin slices of melt-in-the-mouth Juan Pedro Domeque Jamón with a slice of toasted ‘pan con tomate’. The octopus in the second tapa, pulpo a fiera, was beautifully tender and its gentle spiciness was offset by a crisply refreshing and mouthwateringly saline 2018 Mar de Frades Albariño from Rías Baixas. A bigger surprise to just about all of us was a 2014 La Mar Caíño blanco, a second wine from Rias Baixas that had the body, flavour and acidity to match Nacho’s superb Bonito del Norte, cured white tuna from the Cantabrian Sea, served with Andalusian ajo blanco & avocado.
The first of three reds, a 2018 Finca La Estacada Reserva, was an intriguing blend of local and international varieties (Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot & Tempranillo), whose youthful vigour integrated perfectly with the eye-catching and satisfying toast of Asparagus, Manchego, onion confit & truffle oil. The fifth tapa, an accomplished Pitu chicken rice, free-range cockerel with piquillo pepper & saffron chimed perfectly with a full-bodied, yet elegant Spanish Garnacha, the 2017 G2. The final red, the stylish 2012 Allende Tempranillo Rioja from brilliant winemaker Miguel Ángel de Gregorio, paired exceptionally well with yet another melt-in-the-mouth dish, twice-cooked lamb with marinated cherry tomatoes & red peppers, a signature dish from Nacho Manzano’s two-Michelin starred Casa Marcial in Castilla y León. And what better way to finish than with the sumptuously rich Gonzalez Byass Matusalem complementing the tastily savoury Savel and Olavidia cheeses.
Ibérica Leeds’ manager, Gregory Welburn, had done us proud with excellent service to match the food and wine pairings, and while we had been a little daunted at the prospect of satisfying an august a group as the WYBIWFS, we needn’t have worried. They had come to enjoy and savour the experience in good company and that’s precisely what they did. ‘What a fab evening! ‘ said one member. ‘Friday was just great. I honestly believe that the food and wine pairing lifted us to a new level. Putting them together on an equal footing meant a lot more planning I’m sure but it just felt very professional’. Another enthused: ‘Just a perfect event, amazing foods, wines & venue. It was so so chilled, the right balance of foods, with the wines & with the wonderful descriptions from the chef too’.
With the evening satisfactorily concluded, it was gratifying to see Ibérica back on duty serving their delicious products at our festival at Aspire the following day. We think that IWFS founder, André Simon, were he alive today, would have approved.
— posted by Anthony Rose