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A gastronomic excursion

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Offline Dave

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« on: February 21, 2011, 13:29 PM »
Hi All
It has been a while since I posted anything interesting, but here we go again
I have been very lucky here in León, you hear stories of people, who when they retire, move away from family and friends and find it very difficult to settle and make new friends, thankfully moving here was great we already had family here although making new friends was a bit difficult, but thanks to Marias brother,  Avelino, who took me under his wing and integrated me into his large circle of friends and acquaintances, many of whom I now count among my circle of friends.
One group of varying numbers call themselves ´the Vikings´, and they organise various meals throughout the year at different  restaurants, the only criteria being good food, good wine and good company. Most of these meals take place at a restaurant in León called the Cocina de Cesár (Cesárs kitchen, the food is of the highest quality, traditional with a modern touch. One of the group. Enrique, had been trying to persuade us for some time to travel over to Burgos, around 2 hours from León, so he could entertain us on his home turf, and so Avelino arranged for us to make an excursion to La Rioja, the famous wine region, to visit a couple of Bodegas and finish with a meal in Burgos, so that everyone could enjoy themselves, he arranged a minibus to take us and so at 8:00 am we all met at Guzman square to catch the minibus. The minibus was a nineteen seater, brand new, and on its first trip. Just before we set up the boss of the coach company turned up with his brand new luxury coach, to show our driver, we all had a good look around before boarding the minibus to take us to Burgos to pick up Enrique, and another gentleman from Valladolid. We arrived about an hour late (that is on time in Spain) at a hotel called the Landa palace (an actual converted palace) after coffee we set for Haro, capital of the La Rioja wine region ( as opposed to Logroño, capital of La Rioja community). It is a lovely drive from Burgos to Haro, through vast wheat and cereal fields, which at this time of year are very green. The impressive backdrop of the Pyrenees loomed ahead covered in a white blanket of snow. The plains of cereal soon gave way to vast vineyards, interspersed with hills and wide rivers, it is a breathtaking area, quite different from other parts of Spain that I have visited, scattered around were small well kept stone villages, most with their own wine cellars (bodegas), nearly all open to the public. The only other wine regions I know are Burgundy in France and El Bierzo, in León, but this was on a different scale. We reached Haro, to start the established wine route. Haro itself is a small town full of bodegas, many with well known names Serres, Paternino and La Rioja Alta, amongst many smaller bodegas, most of whose products are sold to tourist directly at the bodega. Our first bodega was, Valdelana, at Elceigo, in La Rioja Alavesa. We had been told this was the best place to buy wine as the Cosechera ( the newest wine) was cheap and of good quality, and at 3.30 Euros a bottle it proved just that. After making our purchases we loaded the minibus with a dozen or more cases of wine, and set of for the second bodega, where we would be given a tour and a taste. We were actually running about an hour late, but Enrique rang ahead to the bodega, to advise them, and when we we finally arrived we were welcomed warmly and shown around. Afterwards, we were treated to a tasting of various wines along with cold meat and bread. The wines were excellent and ranging in price from 2,70 Euros up to 18 Euros (a white called Licorosa, very sweet an more like a liquor than a wine. After a few more purchases we set of back to Burgos and our meal. It was at this point I began to lose the plot, as I assumed we were eating in a Restaurant, but it soon became clear that this was not the case, as I was to find out later.
The journey back to Burgos was made more interesting, thanks to an almost constant dialogue from Enrique, explaining much of the history of the region, along with a lots of anecdotes, all of which added so much to the trip, as he is very knowledgeable about most things involved in agriculture, viticulture and general history.
I have a real fascination with ancient history an especially Archaeology, and this area is is one of the best in Europe thanks to the discovery’s at Atapuerca.
These are not my words
The Sierra de Atapuerca sites have been known since the end of the 19th century. In the 1950's, the Burgos-based Eidelweiss Caving Group (GEE) started to catalogue and map Cueva Mayor (Main Cave). In 1962, GEE members reported to the authorities that bones had been found in the Railway Cutting. Ten years later, the GEE discovered Galería del Sílex (Flint Gallery) and in 1976, they located pieces of hominid skulls in Sima de los Huesos (Bones Pit). The story of the Atapuerca Project only began in 1976, however, when mining engineer Trinidad Torres was in Sima de los Huesos searching for bear bones. He certainly did not expect to discover human remains as well. He was so astonished that he quickly reported the find to palaeontologist Emiliano Aguirre. Emiliano Aguirre immediately decided to study and research the Sierra de Atapuerca sites. In 1978, he presented a research project that shaped the first digs at the sites in these hills. Emiliano Aguirre was at the helm until his retirement in 1991, when he handed over the Atapuerca Research Project directorship to Juan Luis Arsuaga, José María Bermúdez de Castro and Eudald Carbonell. Together these three co-directors set up a multidisciplinary digging team which was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize for Scientific and Technological Research in 1997. After 30 years of continuous labour and research, the Atapuerca Research Team is still working on this terribly important project, striving to understand a little more about what we used to be and who we are. More than 150 experts in a wide range of fields at many universities and research centres come together in Atapuerca every digging season.
Although I was unable to visit the dig, I have it planned for the future, we passed by the railway cutting, which is now unused, and could see how close to the road the actual site is although all the remains are in the nearby village an the museum in Burgos.
Anyway back to the journey and the final solving of the mystery of where we were eating. Just outside Burgos we pulled into a Panaderia (Bakery) situated on a trading estate. Apparently the meal wasn´t ready for another half hour, and so we went off to fill up the minibus, before returning to the bakery where 3 whole roast lambs along with some bread, were loaded into the boot, apparently they had been cooked in the bread oven on a wood fire, and we were now going to take them to a private club to eat them, arriving a  the club, everything was unloaded and taken into the dining room, where everything was put in the kitchen, while we sat down to eat. First the starters, cooked by the club, Morcilla de burgos (black pudding and rice sausage), Chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage) roast peppers, and a salad of fresh leaves ( lettuce, lambs lettuce, beetroot leaves) all with a balsamic vinegar dressing. After this we had the Lamb, thanks to the wood fired oven this was wonderfully tender with a crisp outside. Finally orejones ( puff pastry cakes) all washed down with a nice wine followed by a champagne cocktail and coffee. After this we had to get rapidly on the minibus us as the driver was running out of hours and we needed to be in León by 9:30 pm. The journey back was uneventful and we arrived in León with minutes to spare. I helped Avelino with the case of wine and finally arrived home at 10:15 pm. After an excursion of over 14 hours I felt quite tired, but what a day.

Offline potes

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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2011, 10:28 AM »
Hello Dave,

What a fantastic day!!!!. I'm truly envious, that's just the way to see any country, with friends, good food and great wine, absolutely brilliant.

I love morcilla de Burgos, and apart from my neighbours home made morcilla and borono then I think morcilla de Burgos is the best, oh! I almost forgot, there's a shop in Ciudad Rodrigo that would dispute those accolades.

Wonderful stuff Dave, a memory to enjoy forever.

Regards

Phil 

Offline Val

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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2011, 20:07 PM »
Thanks for that----a thoroughly good read.What a super outing.Lucky,lucky lad!  Val

Simon

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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 07:49 AM »
What more can I say Dave, another wonderful post - you should start a blog, but don't forget to tell us all here!

You've inspired me to include La Rioja in my Grand Tour later this year. Last year I went on a business trip to Logroño, Calahorra and Arnedo and thought "Is this it?" about the La Rioja scenery. Apart from Haro is there anywhere specific you'd recommend staying? I'll be camping unless I treated myself to a B&B for the night!

Glad to know we all approve of morcilla de Burgos, love it! But has anyone else tried morcilla de Martos*, it's smooth like morcilla de Granada but really hot - and that's not just me (infamously sensitive to pimentón!) - even my friends serve it with mashed pumpkin (I'd love to try it with mashed turnips, like haggis!), which have just the right palliative properties - right through the digestive tract if I may discuss the nether regions!

Cheers

Simon
* curious, morcilla de Martos isn't feature it the town's web page!

Offline lisa

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2011, 20:21 PM »
I'm pleased to hear our resident tappler (= tapas expert) made it through such a gruelling trial of a day. Well done Dave  :dancing:
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2011, 09:15 AM »
Thanks all
Fully recovered now, next trip Andalucia  :)
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2011, 16:44 PM »
Greetings Tappler* Dave and All,

Thanks for that - great stuff! Morcilla de Burgos, Haro, vino de Rioja Alta (the only Riojas this unbearable wine snob bothers with now) and wood-fired cordero asado. Heaven! And sounds like Avelino and Enrique is most definitely the guys to know.

Pity about Atapuerca - mind you, it's been there for quite some time, so it'll still be there when you next head off in that direction.

Envidia-sana-(En.-anyone?) regs.,
Technopat

PS: Didn't know 'bout the morcilla de Martos. Thanks, Simon, will check it out.

*Nice one, Lisa. :clapping:
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266