Sunday, January 23, 2011

spanish connections

CBGB were our hosts for an evening of Spanish wine tasting and fabulous food at their Vintner's Club last Thursday night. 

the menu began with two exceptional starters, which were accompanied with a very nice Cava.  they served walk around hors d'oeuvres of seared jumbo scallops with orange and lime zest.  these were perfectly cooked - not overdone - and very tasty.  but the other starter was even more fabulous- a shredded pork and sweet pea crostini with spiced onions and ricotta.  they were so amazing I would have been happy to have just eaten a dozen of those and called it an evening. 

but it got better.

the appetizer course was a fennel and peppercorn seared tuna over crispy polenta and drizzled sriracha cream.  the wine for that course was a Albarino which was lovely. 

next - a pasta course of putanesca smothered angel hair with a basil pesto which was paired with a Rioja which was too heavily oaked for my taste. but the pasta was wonderful.

the main course, served with a Abadia Retuerta Rivola, Sardon del Duero, was a wonderful paella with giant - and I mean giant - spicy roasted shrimp and lobter chunks as well as chorizo on the classic saffron rice. 

so as not to let us down for the dessert course, we were served a wonderful dark chocolate bomb cake with nutmeg and balsamic caramel sauce and a side of grapes rolled in sugar on clove scented cream.  it was absolutely fabulous and the wine pairing suited it to a "T" - a Roda I from the Rioja.  the meal was excellent!

but wait, there was more to the evening - upon returning to CBGB's lovely home we all made ourselves cozy in their new outdoor living room, relaxing around the fireplace.  it was a really wonderful evening as we recounted good times while gazing into the hypnotic crackling fire. 

the next day after we left CBGB's place, we headed over to St Pete to visit our friends Lew and Ellie.  I say friends but it is kind of a strange relationship because we are always hosted by them - it isn't for the want of inviting them.  they just always have plans with other Board member friends when they come to Chicago so only once have we been able to host them both, although occassionally we have been able to have Lew over for some committee related function.

we really like them both but haven't ever been able to break through some unseen barrier - maybe once Lew and I no longer work together it could change- only time will tell.

anyway - we had never seen their home in St. Pete and found it just perfect- everything was exactly to my taste.  it was so warm and welcoming and cozy.  it is an older spanish style home in the historic part of the city.  after catching up a bit, we went to visit the waterfront in St. Pete and had gelato at a place there.  it was the best gelato we have ever had in the US- bar none!  I tried three flavors but LOVED the salted caramel the best.

we all went to the Chihuly collection and were astounded by the beauty of his works and the skill required to create the installations - or even to envision them.  a very enjoyable afternoon. 

we headed back to their home and were joined by Laurie (their daughter, who lives nearby.)   then we enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Chef Lew.  starters of superb italian salami on cucumber slices and shrimp cocktail.  then dinner was steak perfectly timed with a blue cheese sauce, potatoes roasted with olive oil and broccoli with - and yes, he saved the best for last as well- a fabulous poached pear for dessert with a sauce of butter and brown sugar.  it doesn't get any better than that. 

we headed home after dinner - the drive was pretty quick - about forty minutes or so and found the girls waiting up for us LOL.

so I don't have photos of any of the food or the beautiful homes of our friends - but I do have some photos from Spain that I can show you- and that is a theme from both the visits as Lew and Ellie's home has the Spanish influence common in the homes built in the 1920s in Florida.

the trip to Spain that my mother and I took in 1999 was her last trip in good health.  we had a wonderful three weeks exploring Madrid and the south (Andalusia) - Toledo - Granada - Cordoba - Seville - Ronda - Ubeda - and a number of other stops along the way.  we stayed for two nights IN the Alhambra at a converted convent.  I fell in love with the moorish architecture and that was why our trip for the following year was going to be to Morocco. 

here are some of my favorite photos (all predigital so fogive the resolution)

all of the above were from the Alhambra in Granda

above - Ubeda at night, from our room  
and  below - in the Mesquite in Cordoba

above the view from the bridge in Ronda
and below- the view of Toledo, from our balcony

the bull ring in Ronda

wares for sale in Seville- fans and dresses for the little ones

above the main square in Madrid

of course I have lots more photos but I tried to choose a few that showed some of the great things we saw.

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