Sunday, February 27, 2011

Navarra Gastronomic Week: A Taste of Navarra

The beautiful land of Navarra, Spain - you always hear about Barcelona and Madrid, but Navarra?  Where is that?  Navarra is a region in the northern part of Spain, bordering France, with the capital being Pamplona – this is where the famous running of the bulls occurs every July.  The picturesque Pyrenees mountains and lush green plains are a focal point…but what really entices me is their spectacular offerings of food and wine.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Navarra

Photo courtesy of the Government of Navarra

I knew nothing about Navarra until this past week, when I found out I had won a trip to visit the region myself!  This was amazing news, considering my husband and I were thinking of doing a “staycation” this year.  This past week was Navarra Gastronomic Week in New York City, and various restaurants showcased special dishes highlighting the region’s cuisine, and there were also numerous wine tasting events.  My husband and I had the opportunity to meet with the coordinator of our trip to discuss logistics since he was in town for the festival.  He also graciously invited us to join him for a special dinner that was to be held at the W Hotel. 

My husband and I didn’t quite know what we were getting into – we didn’t want to intrude on the dinner as it seemed like it was especially for the representatives of the various vineyards visiting from Spain, as well as the organizers of the week’s events; however, our coordinator insisted that we stay for dinner.  How could we refuse? 

Our company at dinner was very welcoming and kind and further enhanced an already incredible experience.  The emcee, a wine aficionado, was humorous and playful and encouraged everyone to get out of their seats and help themselves to tasting one of the 50 or so bottles of wine sitting on the front table.  Never have I had four different wine glasses in front of me at dinner and actually used them all.

I was thoroughly amazed, though not surprised, at the intricacy and depth of flavors throughout the four-course meal.  My husband and I know nothing about wine except how to empty a glass filled with it, but I am convinced we tried the most amazing wines we have ever tasted that night.  I’m kicking myself for not having my camera with me, but try to use your imagination to picture this marvelous meal.

If this is any indication of how our trip to Navarra will be, then I am absolutely ecstatic and can’t wait for the trip to come!

First Course: Foie Torchon

To make the Foie Torchon, the foie gras is wrapped in a towel, or nowadays, cheesecloth, and poached in broth.  The result made me speechless.  This dish had all of the elements you would ever want in an appetizer – sweet from the apple and pomegranate, savory and creamy from the foie, and crunchy from the cracker. 

Second Course: Poached Hake

This was a very light dish with subtle flavors from all of the components.  The poached hake was quite good – flaky and tender; but what really stole the show for me was the porcini dashi broth that surrounded the fish.  Along with that, the butter spuma, or foam, on top of the fish added a delicate sweetness.

Third Course: Pine Scented Venison

This is the first time I tried venison, and I must say, I was sold on first bite.  The medallions of venison were cooked perfectly.  It was so very tender, and the blackberry gastric and crunchy cocoa nib chestnut migas were a perfect complement to the venison.  I found myself rationing my gastric and migas so that each and every bite would be complete.

Fourth Course: Hazelnut Mousse

Honestly, I feel like the chef must have been thinking of me when he created this dessert.  I love anything with hazelnuts – the flavors reminded me of nutella, stripped down to its pure hazelnut essence.  The mousse came out in a bar shape, with a crispy “crust” on the bottom along with a canelle of coffee ice cream, a smear of what seemed to be nutella, and chocolate shortbread crumbles.  The dessert even had a touch of molecular gastronomy, with the tiny cherry pearls that provided that burst of cherry flavor.  Perfection.

Navarra Gastronomic Week:

Navarra Tourism Office:


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