A Taste of Spain

Fusion, Latin, Spain, Tapas — By on April 8, 2010 3:22 pm

I arrive at Rioja with Nancy ready to have a great lunch with my old friend and former co-worker, Nacho, who is the co-owner of Rioja.

Nacho and I

As soon as we walk in, wine is served for Nancy and me. Mind you, it’s 11:30 am, but hey it’s 5:00pm somewhere in the world right?

After a while of laughing remembering about some shared memories- like the time I took Nacho to a Colombian restaurant and he could not believe the volume of food I ate (he tells that story to everyone he introduces me to), or the story of us recruiting workers for a poultry factory. Nacho and I worked together years ago, and I didn’t know then, that he was a chef. I did know he loved food, so Rioja is a dream come true for him. But enough of that, let’s get to the food!

Nacho tells me about the lunch special tapas Rioja offers and I’m so excited: they are only $5.00 and there are a lot of choices! I am also glad to hear that Rioja, a Spanish restaurant, has it’s own wine made in Spain: ‘Condado de Eguren’. But what interests me the most is that Rioja has become a wine distributor. This allows patrons to buy their favorite wine by the crate, bottle or by the glass at a much better price. In these days, who wouldn’t be excited about a better price for their favorite wine?

After indulging in some wine, my friend Nancy and I start our tasty experience with two yummy things: Blue Florida Crab Salad and Paamb Tomaquet. Nancy prefers the salad, which is just fine with me because I came here to eat Spanish food!

My dish, the Paam Tomaquet is as their menu says: Toasted baguette topped with Serrano ham and a garlic, tomato, and olive oil spread. I loved the contrast of the tomato spread and the crunchiness of the baguette. It is a dish that I could eat all day.I had barely finished my first tapa when the Piquililo Peppers were served. Stuffed with a cod Bchamel, they looked so pretty, and were very creamy. Simply delicious.

As we continued with he food the wine kept flowing and at this point, Nacho felt free to tell Nancy some more funny stories about our working history. Again the I had no idea Maya could eat so much story surfaced, but somehow it’s actually funny every time.

Nacho is one of those people whose loud laugher lets you know he has arrived, and as funny details of our past work experience kept coming what really resonated was Nacho’s laughter.

The next thing we tried were the beef empanadas, salmon pinchos and the lamb and mashed potatoes. Everything was very good, but I have to give special kudos to the salmon.

Salmon is very popular but it’s not so popular with me. In my defense, I have to say I grew up in a country where salmon was hard to find and very expensive. I never tried it until I moved to the States and did not like it until now.

I find salmon to have a very strong flavor, but the way it was prepared it was milder and I really enjoyed it this way. In fact I ate it all!

We started our visit with a ros wine, but my favorite was La Mano- Prieto Picudo . I don’t normally drink red wine, but I could not say no to this one. This wine had a sweet after taste. I’m not a wine expert by any means, but I really liked ‘La Mano’.

Nancy and I explored the different areas of the restaurant, excited to hear what foods were prepared in the patio. Paella and cochinillo (lechon to some of us). Rioja has a lot of choices on their menu. For example cazuela, home-made chorizo and morcilla, bocatas (sandwiches), vegetable tapas, callos a la madrilena (tripe stew), and much more. I could go on and on about all the menu options, but I rather let you look at the menu on-line to see for yourself.

After a two-hour lunch, I leave with a smile on my face and looking forward to coming back to laugh some more with my friends. Honestly, I have to go back to try more of their menu options, there are simply too many for just one visit.

Is now about siesta time in Spain, and after so much wine, wonderful food and laughter, I understand why there is time for a siesta.

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