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pedro

Aldaba

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I had dinner yestarday in Aldaba, one of the restaurants in Madrid that now occupies a high place in my list of favourites.

The dining room it's quite comfortable, with a decent amount of space between tables, and a kind of old fashioned decor, or should I use the word classic?.

Yesterday dinner consisted of:

- Amuse bouche:

A fried Gernika pepper with Maldon salt, and a delicious piece of chistorra, a kind of chorizo (red sausage) originally from Navarra, which can be fried or grilled. Ours was grilled.

- Starters:

One of the good things about Aldaba is that you can order half portions, so can create your own tasting menu formed by a couple of starters and a couple of entrées.

For starters we had menestra, also a Navarra's dish, which is done cooking separately seasonal vegetables (very important to allow the exact and just the exact point of right tenderness to each type of vegetable). Our menestra was delicious, each vegetable retaining its own characteristics of flavour and taste, yet the whole having a new and complete taste itself.

Veal meatballs in spanish sauce with white rice, a very traditional dish, very well assembled and executed. One of the dishes that you know exactly what to expect from and rarely dissapoints you.

- Main courses:

Mar chose a dish that was offered several times to us since the mushroom season started, and quite frankly, I was very sceptical about the actual result. This dish is also what decided me to write about Aldaba. kokotxas de bacalao al pil-pil (pil-pil sauce cod fish cheeks) with Boletus Edulis. I wasn't sure about how well the taste of the kokotxas and the mushroom will result. It was simply amazing!. The textures were a perfect match, none of the flavours over-ruled the others (I was concerned about the pil-pil and the mushroom), and the whole set was delicious. As an afterthought, one of the simplest and best ways to cook boletus is just sauting them with some oil and garlic, which happen to be the main ingredients of pil-pil.

I chose a much more classic dish, steak tartar with poached egg and caviar over mashed potato. Nothing wrong with it, in fact, it's very good, but at this point I was trading with Mar to share his dish. Luckily, she wasn't very hungry so I could get a fair amount of her dish.

- Desserts:

Aldaba has a good cheese table, that we skipped this time, and I chose a tatin tarte made to perfection with some creme fraiche, and Mar a cheese cake that has little to do with the traditional american cheese cake you're used to. This was made of Manchego cheese, which made it less sweet and more punchy.

The wine service in Aldaba is superb, with one of the most knowledgeable sumillers in town, Luis. An incredible wine list, with wines from all over the world, explaining the characteristics of each zone and grape, some hundred pages on it.

We let decision of what to drink to Luis, and he suggested one of the newcomers wines in the market, Plazuela 01, a wine from La Mancha made from Cencibel (aka Tempranillo) and some Grenache. Very good, with notes of red fruit and perhaps too present the new oak used.

Excellent restaurant, indeed.

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Another great dish I just had in Aldaba. Bacalao al pil-pil sobre morro y pata en vizcaína, cod fish in pil-pil sauce over trotters and snout with red pepper, chili and tomato sauce.

Odd combination, which actually works very well. Talking with José Luis Pereira, owner, maître and offal's lover, he said that we use to take offal on itself, a dish of tripes, a dish of sweetbreads. But he also stated that he believes that this ingredient works perfectly to enhance other dishes, even fish, because of its soft flavor and texture. After tasting the dish I mentioned, I only could nod in agreement.

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The ability to order half orders seems to be not uncommon in Spain. We're never quite sure where it's acceptable or not, except when it's stated on the menu, but we often ask and get a positive answer. Our other tactic is to share a course thus making a more interesting progression of tastes for a dinner. This works for us in traditional restaurants in the provinces as well as in the avant garde ones. It's especially good when ordering unfamiliar dishes.

Menestra has always sounded like a somewhat boring dish, but on our last trip to Spain, I made a mental note to try it as I thought it's the kind of dish that would bring clues to traditional tastes. Thanks for mentioning it. I have not yet had the chance to order it.

There seem to be a lot of Manchuela newcomers on the market. We were unexpectedly called down to Puerto Rico for a funeral recently. At one restaurant, where unfortunately the food and service were disappointing, the wine list was also full of holes. After our first two choices were out of stock, the manager came over and recommended an inexpensive wine from La Mancha that was, if not a great wine, the highlight of our meal. I don't recall the name offhand, but it was also a new label and apparently the product of a Rioja house branching out. It was a young easy drinking wine.

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Bux, La Mancha and Manchuela are different D.O. (Denominación de Origen). To make things more complicated, there's the equivalent of one of your States named Castilla La Mancha (abb. La Mancha) where both D.O. La Mancha and Manchuela are located.

Some winemakers are beginning to fulfill the potential that these zones have, moving from producing non-quality wine at large (a granel) to quality wines. I suppose that prices of vineyards in Rioja and Ribera del Duero have to do with winemakers moving elsewhere in the country.

The wine you had could have been La Antigua, from Martínez Bujanda.


Edited by pedro (log)

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My Spanish geography, as you have discovered, is very weak. I need to get on the road more and drink more Spanish wine (not quite at the same time). That's how I learned French geography, appellation by appellation. :biggrin:

Certain areas in Spain seem a lot like the Languedoc in France in this aspect. They have traditionally made cheap wine and the land is not as expensive as in the more famous wine areas. Furthermore, with no tradition in making fine wine, there is a greater freedom of style. In the Languedoc at least, there is almost a new world attitude towards wine making. There is less attention to terroir, or at least an different kind of attention. There is little of no association between the land and the grape. As inferior grapes are torn out, or as land is converted to vineyards, there is little agreement on which grape(s) to plant. Does that also describe some areas in Spain?

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The wine we had in Puerto Rico is indeed Finca Antigua of Martinez Bujanda because I kept the cork and it has the website on it and I jotted it down on my palm. The electronic one, not my hand :cool:

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Lots of sommeliers in the US will give you the cork and many of those new to wine or fine dining have asked what they are supposed to do with it. My wife is the only one I know who with a stright face, will tell you to look and see if there's a web site stamped on the cork. :biggrin:

I don't think I've even seen a URL on the front label of a bottle of wine, but many wineries stamp the cork with their URL.

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Let me bring back this thread, though kindly pushed by Pedro, to relate one of the best meals that I have had lately.

Last monday our wine tasting group went to Aldaba to celebrate the last tasting of the season, which it's always dedicated to white wines aported by each meber of the group, some of the highlights were Bollinger RD 90, Clos de la Coulée de Serrant 87, Huet Clos de Bourg Vouvray 92...

But the great part of the dinner, apart from the company and the wines, was the enchanting atention bringed by Luis, the awarded somelier, and specially the simple but excellent dishes made with pristine products and milimetric cooking points by the anonymous Aldaba chefs ( I gess that is a woman)

We had a kind of tasting menu sugested by Pereira, the maitre, acording to the white wines that we were going to taste (we taste and drink while we eat, nothing too brainy).

So we started with a dish of string beans simply boiled and fried with natural tomato and iberico ham chunks acompained by flambed tiger prowns and a roasted red peppers and black olives vinagrette. This is the best vegetables dish I ever had, the quality of the beans and the cooking point is something that I will hardly forget.

Then we had a tuna tartare simply acompained by shallots, white crushed pepper and a vizcaina souce (this is hardest to explain as it is done with rehidrated dry red peppers choriceros typicals from the Vasque Country).

Following was the meat balls with lamb kidneys and spanish sauce, one of Aldaba´s signature dishes. Excellent comfort food with the meat balls with an almost raw inside.

The main course was a stuffed beef toungue with poached egg, potato puree and (again) spanish sauce. Simply irresistible to take the bread and dip and dip and dip...

Last course was a Torta de Córdoba, a cheese in the style of the Extremadura's tortas a bit more salty, recomended by Luis due to the lack of quality that the extremeñian ones are suffering because of the high demand that pushes the producers to accelerate the maturing proces.

The dessert was a simple but delicious black tea icecream acopained by a fig.

If you have reached this point it may seem that this was a good but simple dinner, but belive me if I tell you that the quality and the respect for the products and the treatment of them is something that I haven't seen in a long time.

Please don't envy me too much, it's a hard life :wink:

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I have a question I should have originally asked Pedro. Gastronomic names often lose in translation. How does one refer to "Spanish Sauce" in Castellano and how is it made? Is this the same as the French sauce espagnole?

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Bux, we call it Salsa Española and it is done with poached carrots, onions, leeks and tomatoes in pig's fat and then beef and beef stoke...and used in meat dishes.

I'm not sure if is the same as Sauce Spagnole


Edited by Rogelio (log)

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Indeed salsa española is sauce espagnole. In an English-language text it's best to put it in French, not just as recognition of France's culinary dictatorship, but actually for a good reason: this sauce was first codified by the great Antonin Carême 170 years ago, and while of a general Spanish inspiration it's almost surely a Carême creation.

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Let me bring back this thread, though kindly pushed by Pedro, to relate one of the best meals that I have had lately.

Rogelio, thanks for volunteering to report our last dinner at Aldaba :wink: . Indeed a terrific one.

it is done with rehidrated dry red peppers choriceros typicals from the Vasque Country

Also known as ñoras. I was fooled by the red pepper / olives vinaigrette of the first dish, thinking that it was a sauce based on ñoras. But from how the vinaigrette worked with the prawns, I'd say that it wouldn't be a bad combination to have seafood like shrimps and prawns with a ñoras based sauce. Any of you know of any dish where ñoras and crutaceans are used?

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Pedro, I think that there is a difference between Pimiento choricero and Ñora, the former, typical from Vasque is longer and more bitter while the latter, typical from the Mediterraneum, is smaller and sweeter.

I use the Choriceros in Marmitakos and Vizcainas and the Ñoras in suquets and seafood calderetas.

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I have always believed that ñora is a dry choricero red pepper. Are you sure about it?

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"We let decision of what to drink to Luis, and he suggested one of the newcomers wines in the market, Plazuela 01, a wine from La Mancha made from Cencibel (aka Tempranillo) and some Grenache. Very good, with notes of red fruit and perhaps too present the new oak used."

Plazuela is an excellent new wine from Los Barrios in La Mancha, made by Margarita Madrigal and Alexandra Schmedes, but the oak does not overwhelm it as in many new wines on the market from the La Mancha. Also the grapes are Tempranillo (few people are using the name Cencibel anymore because of marketing reasons, but the other grape is Garnacha (Grenache is French for this native Spanish grape and it should be referred to by its Spanish name).

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