Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis and the producers/importers of Spanish wine and food products
Spain’s Great Match 2021
As a food writer I have been invited in the past to numerous food & wine press trips to Catalonia, Extremadura, Andalusia, Madrid and other Spanish regions. I'm very interested in high-end restaurants and their chefs (especially Michelin-starred ones) and I've personally known a number of these chefs as, in the past, I've been invited for a number of years to Gastronomika, the Spanish food conference in San Sebastian which all famous Spanish chefs attend; in 2017 and 2918 I was one of only two journalists from the US to be invited, the other writer was Tony Bourdain.
Because of COVID, of course, Gastronomika was not conducted in person for the last couple years. However, another interesting event took place recently in New York City, open for in-person attendance, and I was there for one more time. Called The Spanish Great Match, it offers the opportunity to explore the best wines, cheeses and meat products from Spanish producers imported into the US market, as well as, this year, the opportunity to experience the New York City outpost of the José Andrés restaurant empire, a joint venture with the Adrià brothers called “Mercado Little Spain” at the Hudson Yards complex on Manhattan’s West Side.
José holds two Michelin stars for his avant-garde tasting counter “Minibar by José Andrés” in Washington, D.C., as well as four Bib Gourmands for some of his other venues around the country. The Adriá brothers had the three Michelin-starred elBulli, run by chef Ferran Adrià and motivated by the culinary dreams of Albert Adrià; it was considered the best and most innovative restaurant in the world for many years and I still miss it, even though I have eaten many times at other three-starred restaurants in Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque region. (see current articles Azurmendi, Chef Dani García and Chef Jordi Batallier).
There are 28 restaurants that make up the José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup, span cuisines, cultures, price points and service styles.
The New York City establishment is a very large, multi-level setting. The street level is divided into kiosks i.e. stations, each offering Spanish specialties such as paella, jamón Iberico de bellota and dry sausages from some of the best producers, a large variety of cheeses etc. There are also 3 bars and a wine station.
One can find there the absolute classics like Tortilla Española, Patatas Bravas, Catalan pan-con-tomate and numerous other regional specialties including one of my favorite Madrileño treats, churros with thick chocolate sauce! The food is very authentic most of the time and prepared from good Spanish recipes.
Foods and wines from Spain and Alimentos de España hosted the 27th Annual Spain’s Great Match, an event in which American importers and distributors of Spanish foods and wines present the latest vintages of the Spanish wines in their portfolio to industry professionals and consumers. The event featured importer/winery portfolio stations, regional tours and seminars, and food and wine pairings.
This year there were more participants than ever before, including some of the best Cava producers from Penedés such as the Agustí Torelló Mata winery, one of Spain’s finest cava producers, a true innovator, that produces my favorite high-end Cava “Kripta Brut Nature Gran Reserva” that I consider better than many of the better French Champagnes. There were also some exceptional still red wine producers such as Bodegas Ordoñez from Rueda and Málaga, the Torres Group from Catalonia and Sherries from the best Jerez producers. All the best wine regions were represented. La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rías Baixas, Castillia y León, Galicia, Aragon, Navarra; all were there with their best producers.
Another new exhibitor this year was Conservas Portomar, a seafood canner from Galicia. Their tinned octopus in olive oil, mussels in Escabeche, razor clams in brine and stuffed squid in spiced sauce have always a place of honor in my pantry. I use them in seafood salads and rice and seafood dishes, as well as with just a squeeze of lemon, for tapas at home when I entertain.
A jamón exhibitor that we have seen in the past but is always welcome was Cinco Jotas. Acorn-fed 100% Ibérico Ham from Pata Negra pigs. This tasty treat is ubiquitous at Mercado Little Spain. They have their own booth and slices are dispenced at the customer’s request.
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