A Spanish Lunch

May 05, 2014 | Art, Food, France, Spain, Wine
You may have heard that lunches (and dinners) in Spain are long, lingering affairs. You heard correctly. After our 2½ hour tour of the López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Winery, where we discovered the long, laborious process required to make perhaps the finest wines in the region of La Rioja, we moved on to a second bodega (winery) — the Marqués de Arviza — for a much shorter tour but a long, lovely lunch.

Naturally it started with a little post-tour wine tasting. To help cleanse the palate, we nibbled on a selection of cold cuts. Then we moved on to large slices of very tasty tomatoes, a treat for us winter-weary North Americans. Next were Spanish croquetas, made with a béchamel sauce enriched with ham and deep-fried to perfection.

Of course, it takes a little while for the staff to clean up one course and prepare and serve the next, so to aid our conversation during these gaps (not that we really needed help in that regard), we sipped on one of their best wines — a Marqués de Arviza Crianza (2010), a very smooth and tasty red. Sadly, we quickly finished the bottle, but then happily found, on our table, another full one in its place…and then another…and another….

Where was I? Oh yes, course #4: a thick potato soup with sausage. This was followed by melt-in-your-mouth slices of beef cheek (yes, the name describes where it comes from). I apologize for using yet another cliché, but it’s true — the meat was incredibly tender and absolutely delicious. Finally, dessert — a poached pear in raspberry sauce…with excellent Spanish coffee as the denouement.

And so, some three hours after we began, our six-course lunch concluded. We were full to overflowing and didn’t know how we’d ever manage to eat again in another four hours. But Cesar, our local guide, assured us that dinner would be a “light” meal.

He was only partially correct. Dinner was at the Tondeluna (in Logrono), a sharing-table restaurant. This meant that everyone at the table shared portions of most of the dishes that comprised the meal, with only two dishes served individually. That was fine, but what Cesar neglected to mention was that it was a rich, eight-course dinner, including two desserts. As we “waddled” back to our hotel some two hours after we started, the thought crossed my mind that it was a good thing the airlines don’t charge by passenger weight, or we’d all be in trouble trying to get home at the end of this trip.

Written by: Paul Deans – TQ Editor

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