Jul 192012

As if it were not difficult enough to smoke cigars in Spain, or in fact to smoke anything, aficionados of Havana cigars have to be doubly careful. A friend recently told me he was as happy as if he were a big lottery prize-winner. He had managed to find a website selling genuine Havana cigars at big discounts. As a habitual cigar smoker this was an important moment, since everyone knows that to get hold […]

Jul 112012
Kosher wine

When I told a friend that I was planning to write about kosher wine, the reaction was predictable. “Not that sweet, syrupy stuff!” she said. This is a typical view of kosher wine, and although it was once justified, modern kosher wine is now as good as any other. The oldest kosher winery in America, Schapiro’s, had the motto ‘Wine so thick you can cut it with a knife’. Hardly a selling line, but in […]

Jun 192012
Spoilt for choice, eating out locally in Spain

If anyone tells you they don’t like Spanish food, they may have spent their holiday eating at those awful restaurants that have photographs of platos combinados displayed outside them, often illustrating the most amazing mixtures like fried calamares with Russian salad and sausages. When I see people actually eating this stuff I have to force myself to walk by without making a comment like, ‘Are you crazy? There is a superb restaurant just one street […]

May 182012
Cheese and Biscuits in Spain - and elsewhere!

“Cheese and biscuits? What sort of plate is that?” My friend Ramón, who runs a restaurant in Marbella’s Old Town, had been asked by a group of foreign residents to do a dinner party for them, and all had been negotiated to everyone’s satisfaction, even the wine, which had to be provided in unlimited quantities and included in the fixed price. Even though these worthy souls adored living in Spain and the rest of the […]

May 142012
El Gran ‘Don Donn’

It would be a pleasant surprise if the name Don Pohren meant anything to the readers of this gastronomic supplement, but I am not optimistic. Pohren (USA 1929) arrived in Spain when he was 24, and his only ambition was to hear – and if possible participate in – as much flamenco as possible. When his limited savings ran out he found a job at the American air base at Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla), […]

May 082012
Dedicated storage of wine – a fridge by any other name

‘Tell me how you store your wine and I will tell you what sort of a drinker you are’ – or something along these lines. This is the promotional slogan of a brand of wine storage cabinets that have come to be every wine aficionado’s essential accessory. They get called all sorts of things: wine storage units, cabinets, acclimatised mini-cellars – whatever. In my simple way such matters are uncomplicated: white wine in the fridge […]

Apr 202012

The ritual of drinking port is unknown in Spain. It is even likely that the Spaniards who enthusiastically drink a few copas of Málaga Virgen or other sweet local wine will never have considered port as a possible alternative. The export figures speak for themselves. France is the top consumer by volume (quality is not a requirement for the Gallic port drinker), with Britain at half the French level, but in this case all imports […]

Mar 282012
Sommelier rules, the role of a wine waiter!

There was no change of facial expression but the wine waiter’s voice went up an octave. “Sir, in my opinion this wine is in perfect condition”. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he realised his mistake. The customer is always right. It all started when the man, complete with gold Rolex and platinum blonde, asked for the wine list in a well-known Marbella restaurant, where your humble scribe happened to be […]

Mar 222012

The typical food-snob has a great time with caviar, such are the myths and pretentiousness associated with this gastronomic delight. Caviar must be eaten with an ivory spoon (never silver); forget blinis as they confuse the taste buds, as does sour cream; champagne is the correct accompaniment…… I could go on for pages but the only rule actually is that you should eat caviar when you want, with what you want and accompanied by whatever […]

Mar 192012
There’s French, and there’s French.....

A visit to French restaurant is often a first experience when it comes to haute cuisine – love it or hate it – but you have to admit the French are masters of gourmet sophistication and quality. The odd thing is that a country that was once considered No. 1 in wine and food has now been relegated by international consent to a lower rating than Spain. Perhaps it has something to do with certain […]

Mar 152012
Ojen is back on the wine map

This could make me enemies but the picturesque village of Ojén, nestling in the hills behind Marbella, does not really have a great deal to shout about, and is generally looked upon as a dormitory village supplying Marbella with unskilled labour. The wine museum, once housed in the old aguardiente distillery, is long since closed and the bars and restaurants are not worth a detour. Nevertheless for many visitors this is a picturesque white village, […]

Mar 102012
 A short history of sherry

While many of the world’s wine-producing regions are expanding in terms of sales (ignoring temporary economic downturns), there is one Spanish region that has got real problems – and answers there are few. The first English merchants established themselves in the Jerez region around the beginning of the 16th century, and from this moment the strong link between sherry and the English market was forged. Surprisingly, the on-going wars between the two countries, the highpoint […]