New Season Asparagus
At last the asparagus season is here. If you were having lunch in the Rheingau this time of the year, you would order a pound of white asparagus, new potatoes and a herb omelette with a bottle of Riesling. Even though you could happily drink Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc with English asparagus, because of its stronger flavour, a better bet is Manzanilla or Fino. Dress the asparagus with a little extra virgin olive oil and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, add boiled Jersey Royals and a poached free range egg, pour Fino or Manzanilla in to a copita (better still, get half a bottle of well chilled Barbadillo Solear), sit in the sun if present, and feel closer to heaven!
Pinchito Tapas on Featherstone Street in East London is just the place for a relaxed aperitif before you hit the main venue for dinner. The owner Tobias is from the Balearic Islands but knows his sherry. He poured Hidalgo’s almost perfect Manzanilla La Gitana in to a copita and placed it ion the counter n front of me with a bowl of olives and some marinated anchovies. We talked about Jerez and San Lucar and soon the half bottle of La Gitana in the ice bucket was gone. He said I should try La Goya, for me, an unfamiliar fino. I nodded and he placed a half bottle in the ice bucket and said it was on the house. It was rather more intense than the Manzanilla, as it should be and the oxidative features were more pronounced. Still, there was no difficulty in finishing the bottle.
It was a warm evening and it was pleasant to walk from Pinchito Tapas to Moro on pedestrianised Exmouth Market. Cooking here is Spanish with a strong Moorish twist. I have had their cookbook for years but never had the chance to visit the restaurant. The place was packed that Monday evening but I had a table reserved. A long bar occupies one side of the restaurant and the kitchen at the end was open and you could see the chefs slaving away over hot stoves.
There was crusty bread and good olive oil on the table and these kept me going till the broad beans with buitifarra and mint arrived. The sausage comes from Catalonia where they serve it with white beans. I sipped 2006 Rivola, a Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Abadia Retuerta in Castilla y Leon, made in the new world style. The charcoal grilled lamb with muhummra, fried aubergines, chili and mint that followed was absolutely perfect and the sweet ripeness of the wine complemented the spicy meat. (Muhummra or Mhammara is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo in Syria, the principal ingredients of which are fresh or dried peppers, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. It may also contain garlic, salt, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, and spices such as cumin).
Then, throwing caution to the wind, I had tasting portions of yoghurt cake with pistachios and pomegranates (ignoring the glass of Moscatel De la Marina that was recommended) Caramel and Seville orange marmalade ice cream and Malaga raisin ice cream!
Outside, on the sidewalk, there was not a table free. It was still warm and the night air was heady with spice. I hailed a cab and headed home.
I’ll be back!