HOST A MAGICAL EVENING OF TAPAS, WINE, AND OLD WORLD AMBIENCE.
Among all the beautiful destinations that I have been fortunate enough to travel to in my life, one of my very favorites was the one my older brother Riis and I took while attending NMSU. We went to a small town in southeastern Spain to study the Spanish language. As a couple of young men who had never left country (except for a sandwich and a few slammers at Fred’s Rainbow Bar in Juarez), we certainly learned lessons far beyond our language studies.
Written by Daniel Gonzales | Photography by Dennis Muncrief
I found that something as small as an afternoon nap, changes the entire cultural landscape in a town like Vejer de la Frontera. Siesta is a common practice in Spain. This afternoon break in the day has all business and transit shutting down, to resume during the cooler evening hours. The result of this practice is a much later dinner time than we’re accustomed to in the States.
At night, the entire community of our small Spanish town seemed to come out and enjoy tapas and entrees served family-style on the tables and chairs outside the restaurants, bars, and storefronts that had been shut down in the middle of the day.
My wine knowledge and experience, at that age, did not stray far from Bartles & Jaymes, but those few weeks in Vejer, I was educated on vino tinto, sangria, and cava—not to mention the significance of enjoying a glass of wine or two with friends and family over a good meal.
Inspired by my memories of Spain, I paired up with Eric Owens, regional food and beverage director for Heritage Hotels and Resorts, to host a special wine dinner at Hotel Encanto. Eric and his team put together an experience that transported guests to another place and time. You can recreate the magic at home, by drawing inspiration from this menu of enticing flavors and robust wines.
Welcome to Old World Spain!
Roasted Corn and
Sweet Red Pepper Soup
Balance out a fresh and crisp gazpacho with the creaminess of an avocado. Eric’s version reminded me of my favorite local bar in Vejer. They only served gazpacho on Wednesdays, and once it was gone, it was gone until the next week.
For something a little cozier, a warm and hearty corn soup, goes nicely with a touch of sweetness from red peppers.
Pair With:VARA Garnacha Rosa
This delicate rose wine from the Rioja wine region of Spain, has both strawberry and raspberry notes that play off the gazpacho’s tomatoes, while also cutting through the texture of the soup. Serve chilled.
- Roasted Marcona Almonds with Smoked Paprika
- Tortilla Espanola
- Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce
- Porcini Mushroom and Ham
- Croquettes with a Béchamel Sauce
- Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Shooters
- Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
- Mojo Picón Pork Skewers
Tapas are light snacks or appetizers. They’re served at most bars and restaurants Spain. Every establishment has their own style and method of serving tapas, which makes every experience interesting and gratifying.
Pair With: VARA Tempranillo
This well-rounded wine goes well with a variety of flavors making it ideal for tapas style eating. Also leave the Garnacha Rosa from the soup course on the table. Continue offering the wines already introduced as you progress through the courses of the meal. Everyone has different taste palates and preferences; these Spanish wines will complement all the flavors and dishes on the menu.
Find this recipe at
Mojo Picón Pork Skewers
1 large dried pepper (Spanish ñora or a dried red chile)
3 slices of white bread
3 tbsp. olive oil
Dried cayenne peppers (2-5 depending on how spicy you like things)
¼ cup vinegar (either sherry vinegar or red wine)
¼ tsp. cumin
Salt to taste
Clove of garlic
Pork fillet, trimmed and sliced
1. Rinse the dried pepper under hot water and then leave it sitting in hot water for about an hour so that it reconstitutes.
2. Fry the slices of bread in 2 tbsp. olive oil and let them drain on paper towels.
3. Break up the fried bread and add it to your food processor along with the reconstituted pepper, vinegar, cumin, salt and garlic. Blend until smooth, adding the last 1 tbsp. of olive oil towards the end. (Instead of a food processor you can also use a stick blender or even a mortar.) Adjust salt to taste.
4. Reserve some sauce for dipping and put the rest in a bowl with sliced pork to marinate in refrigerator for 4 to 12 hours. Add a little bit of water if marinade is too thick.
5. Thread pork onto skewers and grill for about 5 minutes turning on each side occasionally to just cooked through.
6. Brush pork skewers with more Mojo Picón sauce and serve with a side of sauce.
Dorada a la Sal
The salt crusting on this red snapper seals in the juices for an incredibly moist fish. It’s actually simpler than it looks to make, and there’s no question this is the star of the dinner show. The scent of aromatic herbs and sea salt fill the air when it’s laid on the table, and guests watch with anticipation as the chef cracks open the casing, revealing the perfectly seasoned delicacy inside.
Pair With: VARA Viura
The Spanish viura grape has a floral bouquet and subtle hints of peach and tropical flavors. It is a light crisp wine that pairs well with many of the seafoods found in Spanish cuisine, and it is the most widely grown white grape in Spain.
1 whole snapper, 2-3 lbs.
4.5 lbs. Kosher Salt
2 tbsp. water
Chef’s Tips: Whisk 2 egg whites until it has peaks and mix into salt. This creates a better seal around the fish to lock in all of the delicious flavors and aroma. And, if possible, have the fish drawn through the gills to leave it whole. (The fishmonger will usually do this on request.)
1. Cover the base of an oven dish with rock salt, adding a little bit of water to moisten, and place the fish on top.
2. Cover the fish with more salt until completely buried.
3. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes per pound of fish, in this case about 30 minutes.
4. Break the salt crust and serve the fish hot without bones or skin and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or aioli.
OUR GUEST LIST
Lee and Emily Silverman originally hail from Los Angeles and Kent, Washington respectively. In their free time, find them bike riding, swimming, running, and spending time with their son, Jack. Emily also enjoys spending time with her “Little” Cassandra from the Big Brother Big Sisters organization. They are both associate brokers with Steinborn & Associates Real Estate. See their current listings and meet the rest of their team at FAMGroupLC.com.
Julian and Beatriz Nunez recently moved from Las Cruces to Albuquerque where Julian is a web and graphic designer for the Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS (gaar.com) and Beatriz is a bodily insurance adjuster for Farmer’s Insurance (farmers.com). When they get the chance to make it back down south, they enjoy rafting the Rio, hiking the Organs, and sampling local breweries.
Gricel and Justin Chavez are the owners of Southwestern Abstract & Title Co. Gricel, was born in Jimenez, Chihuahua, Mexico and moved here when she was four years old. She enjoys baking and event planning in her spare time. Native Las Crucen Justin is an outdoorsman and enjoys mountain biking, hunting, and fishing. They have one son with a second on the way.
Southwest Abstract & Title Company
Serving all of Dona Ana County
1125 S. Main St. | 3880 Foothills Rd.
You may know this velvety traditional dessert by its French name, Crème Brule. The rich flavors of cinnamon, orange, and cream come together for a dreamy conclusion to the dinner.
Pair With: Segura Viudas Cava
This sweet and dense custard just begs to be paired with something light and bubbly. Cava is a sparkling wine, produced similarly to Champagne, albeit in Spain and with different grape varietals. In fact, Cava tastes more like authentic Champagne than the Italian version, Prosecco.
Need to know info
Eric Owens and the dedicated staff at Heritage Hotels & Resorts can help make your next event or wine dinner unforgettable. Contact him at 575-522-4300 or visit hotelencanto.com.
Learn more about the New Mexico based company
VARA Wines at varawines.com.
Purchase the Segura Viudas Cava locally at:
1701 E. University Ave.