These venues are worth exploring for their epicurism filled with distinctive textures, rainbow colors, intriguing flavors, authenticity and stunner ambiances. Cuisines driven by passion, straight from the heart of the lands and the people that have inspired them.
Come and join me on my memoirs of the senses …
Interview with Chef Kiko Zeballos
Margaux: Where did you study the culinary arts ?
Kiko: I studied from 1999 – 2001, at the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Lima, Peru.
Margaux: What motivated you to relocate to Madrid ?
Kiko: To professionally become part of the XXI Gastronomic Movement empowered by The El Bulli Foundation and Ferrán Adriá. The key goal, to open my own restaurant.
Margaux: Tell us about your culinary philosophy.
Kiko: Firstly, to respect the product. My cuisine is Influence Cuisine of Viru, not traditional Peruvian. The aesthetics of total ingredient equilibrium and subtlety, and this is what influences my gastronomy.
THE K’ATA CARTE
TO KICK OFF THE MEAL: Lime Pisco Sours and Maracuyá ( passion fruit ) Pisco Sours
CEVICHE DE MARISCOS: The balance between acid and salt amongst the fresh Corvina, Mussels, Baby Octopus, Baby Squid, and Shrimp carefully added to fresh lime juice, and red onion arcs, with touches of Ají. View: Paradise for the palate, exquisite.
QUINOA WITH CRISP SHRIMP: The tabouli of organic Quinoa, prepared with dried apricots, walnuts, in a Wok, also employing crisp shrimp and alfalfa sprouts . . . Magnificent.
BRAISED OCTOPUS: The fresh delicate and aromatic baby octopus are braised on a grill with Ají, and spices served with tartar, and garlic fragrant yuca foam. View: Melt in your mouth divine.
BUTTER FISH: The aromas of the Mediterranean and the Sea are brought to perform here with the delicate white Vietnamese butter fish and a costar, crisp of spices served on a bed of potato emulsify, with fresh basil, sweet and sour salsa, and transparent crisps. View: Beautifully executed.
AJI GUINEA FOWL: The finess of guinea fowl, and the yellow ají are bathed in a sublime sauce with a side of delicate white long grain rice. View: Splendid; delightfully fragrant.
SWEET TOOTH PLEASURE: Peruvian black chocolate served at minus 18 °C in a foam. Phenomenal.
Chef Kiko Zeballos deserves a Michelin Star.
As the renowned Ismail Merchant once said, “All true adventures begin with images and emotions, and are given shape by the sounds of the bells in the distance, by compelling aromas of the traditionally prepared foods, and the serving of them, in a magical venue.”
Restaurateur, Chef Javier Rodriguez, disciple of Maestro Salvador Gallego and the late Maestro Santi Santamaria, uses local Ávila and Castilla y León´s fresh seasonal ingredients, merging classic techniques with modern touches, to create a dazzling array of flavorful roasts and classics. The Asador specializes in Roast Suckling Piglet, Roast Kid, and Roast Milk Fed Baby Lamb. My trilingual friend, and retired Sommelier & Maîtré of the Playboy Club in London, Manuel Herrero Arenillas, and I ventured over to Arévalo, Ávila, one Friday mid-morning.
Setting: Belle Epoque, Art Nouveau, yet rustic concept, surrounded by fine antiques, and fascinating artifacts that transport one to another era.
THE LUNCH CARTE
The exceptional 2005 red wine from the designation of origin, Toro, Zamora
Boletus and black truffles
Anchovy and tomato salad
The Guijuelo, Salamanca Designation of Origin, Acorn Fed Ham and below temperature scalded egg
The prized treasure of the house: Roast Suckling Piglet
Dessert: Siboney chocolate concoction
Interview with Florencio Sanchidrián
Margaux: Where are you from and what motivated you to study the art of carving Iberian acorn fed hams ?
Florencio: I was born and raised in Ávila. While working as a waiter in Barcelona I found myself constantly slicing hams.
Margaux: Could you tell us your point of view on the 5 Designation of Origin Hams ?
Florencio: Firstly, the acorn fed ham that I am about to serve here at La Tahona, is from El Fuente La Virgin, Córdoba, from El Valle de Las Pedroches, which is one of the main appellations. The other four are: Dehuesa, Extremadura; Guijuelo, Salamanca; Jabugo, Huelva; and Teruel, Aragón. Each acorn fed air dried ham possesses its own aromas, textures, tasting profile, just like wines do, or Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Margaux: Which knives do you recommend for carving acorn fed Ham?
Florencio: My knives are Swiss, from the Knife Manufacturer, Victor I. Knox.
The lovely owner of Asador La Tahona, Susana served Cava Ventura Reserva with our expertly carved acorn fed ham.
MANOLA 2011 – 60% Treixadura and 40% Torrontes
Manola is produced from two White indigenious grape varieties from the Rivadabia, Ourense, Galicia designation of origin called Ribeiro. It is a greenish blonde aromatic wine, with a bouquet of apricot, peach and apple notes. It is extraordinarily well balanced, refreshing to the palate and complex with a good acid balance. There is light fragrance of brioche, and it possesses a long finish with spicy notes.
MARIA 2011 – 100 % Godello Mono Varietal
This fragrant exotic aromatic white mono varietal, grown in the Ribeiro designation of origin, is subtle and lightly fruity. This memorable aromatic bouquet possesses light citric notes, aromas of green fruit and soft tannins. With a lovely integration of oak, and a long refreshing fruity finish. It is well balanced with a silky mouth feel and an ever so light acid which makes it simply splendid.
EVA 2011 – 100 % Albariño Mono Varietal
Eva is a 100% Albariño Mono Varietal from the Cambados, designation of origin, and this lovely white possesses a light hint of glittering gold hues, a straw blonde color with a pale greenish hue. The bouquet is lightly fruity and floral, with notes of apple and peach. It is quite captivating and complex with a well constructed balance of acid and a very subtle mineral definition, and long persistent finish.
Chef Pedro, took over the helm of his family´s business after his father passed away. In 1992, moreover, he had begun preparing Spanish wine paired dinners, gaining prestige and acclaim for them.
In 1997, EL MESON won the Houston Chronicle Palate Award for the best hospitality Service and later on in the XXI century, The Houston Press Award for the best Appetizer, a fusion Tex Mexican and Cuban Nacho Platter.
Interview with Chef Pedro Angel García
Margaux: Is there a specific international award that you would like to tell us about ?
Chef Pedro: The Wine Enthusiast Magazine, an award for excellence, and The Wine Spectator Magazine award in 2012. Just a couple of years ago, in 2010, El Meson was one of the finalists for the Cartavi International wine list award.
Margaux: Let us take a trip back in time, and discuss what motivated you to become a Chef in Houston.
Chef Pedro: Firstly, I hold a Bachelor´s in Drama and Philosophy from the University of Houston. To move on, I am also an International Sommelier, licensed by the International Sommelier´s Guild. As an actor, I had starred in roles at the Alley Theatre, and Stages Repertory. I’ve published a novel called ARAME AND THE GOLDEN APPLE which is available on Amazon.
My parents, Spanish father and Cuban mother, had gone to Cuba, and in 1959 our family fled the island and went to Manhattan. When my father passed on in 1992 I decided to sell his restaurant and move to Houston, for a better quality life. Thus, here we are.
Margaux: Tell us about your Spanish wines.
Chef Pedro: The International and Regional North American wine programme, at El Meson, is quite extensive. We are always renovating. We also offer, wines by the glass, that are chosen to pair perfectly with our Spanish tapas.
Margaux: Could you tell us about the Spanish part of your menu ?
Chef Pedro: To begin with, our most popular dish are our paellas, at the price of $25.00 USD for two people, and they are prepared with imported Bomba de Calasparra Designation of Origin short grain rice from Murcia. There are 3 to choose from, all with saffron infused rice.
PAELLA DEL MESON: prawns, shrimp, squid, mussels, chicken and Spanish Chorizo.
PAELLA MARINERA: red snapper, shrimp, prawns and mussels.
PAELLA DE LA TIERRA: lamb, pork tenderloin, chicken and Spanish Chorizo.
Margaux: Any Basque specialties on your carte ?
Chef Pedro: Yes, we have a wonderful Bacalao en Salsa Verde, Cod in Green Sauce, prepared with northeastern Atlantic Cod, Alaskan King Crab, fresh parsley and white wine.
Margaux: Now, for my last question, Culinary Philosophy.
Chef Pedro: The seasonal product selection, and the best Spanish products obtainable via our direct distributors.
Margaux: I shall surely recommend EL MESON to the American Club, the American Ladies Club and The British Ladies Club members here in Madrid. It is quite possible that they have family members and / or dear friends living in Houston.
Many thanks to Karen Steele for all her professionalism and assistance.
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