Saturday, February 1, 2014

Spanish Wine Experience at East End Market (Orlando, FL)

It has been raining heavily in Orlando for the past few days but these heavenly blessings did not dampen the enthusiasm of the 180 (or so) attendees at last night's Spanish Wine Experience presented by the Spanish River Grill Group (SRGG; my nomenclature) at the East End Market. The event, held in association with, was aimed at building name recognition for the soon-to-be-opened Txokos Basque Kitchen as well as to familiarize potential patrons with the types of wines that they are likely to encounter at the establishment (scheduled to open in the next few weeks).

Txokos Basque Kitchen is the new restaurant offering of Chef Henry and Michelle Salgado of Spanish River Grill (New Smyrna, FL) fame, which will bring Basque cuisine -- the current rage on the world food scene -- to Central Florida. Txokos will be utilizing La Bretxa, the third member of SRGG, for fresh local seafood and Spanish provisions and the Market Garden as a source of fresh vegetables and herbs. Both La Bretxa and the Market Garden (farmed by East End owner John Rife) are also located at the East End Market.

The event was held on the second floor of the market. Guests were welcomed by Erin Allport, Head of Marketing and Operations for SRGG, given wine glasses, and then ushered into the tasting area.

The tasting was distributed over two rooms with seven of the eleven distributors pouring wine in the larger of the two and the remaining four in the second. The distributors pouring wine at the event were as follows:
  • Vinecraft
  • Republic National
  • Stacole
  • Winebow
  • Premier
  • Noble
  • Classical
  • Fine Wine Importers
  • Askari
  • Opici

The larger room had its southern aspect taken up by an open kitchen, with a high counter separating the kitchen staff from the patrons. A variety of pintxos (classic Basque bites, with or without bread and with or without skewers) were placed on flat trays on the counter to allow patrons to taste at their leisure. The wine tasting stations were arrayed against the remaining wall space. Centrally placed tables and ottomans rounded out the furnishings in that room. Soothing semi-classical guitar music -- ably dispensed by Brian Hayes -- wafted in and around the wine-laced conversation of the attendees.

This one went fast

The smaller of the two rooms had a ham-carving station in addition to the pouring tables and central seating.

The pintxos were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate and paired well with the wide array of available wines. I was pretty partial to the Tuna and Piquillo which, unlike most of the other things on offer, required multiple bites to dispatch. It was almost hypnosis-inducing watching the carver at work with the Jamon Serrano, the dried-cured Spanish ham. The paper thin slices, when paired with the accompanying dried figs, Marcaona almonds, bread, and tomato aioli, were just heavenly.

This was definitely the largest collection of Spanish wines that I have seen in one place in Orlando. Vinecraft poured a Carballo Listan Blanc from the Canary Islands which was "gone too soon." I look forward to encountering it again sometime in the future. When I was in Basque country late last year it seemed that every bartender wanted to serve me Txakoli with my pintxos; and there is a reason. They go well together. There were two pretty decent Txakolis on offer last night from Premier and Noble (Berroja Berroia) and Opici (K5). I liked the 2006 RODA I Reserva and 1994 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva; but I am very partial to Riojas (especially aged) at this point in my life.

The event was well organized, implemented, and received. The staff did an extremely good job of rapidly clearing away the remnants of meals and the kitchen staff labored furiously to replace pintxos platters as fast as they were devoured. The patrons appeared to have had a great time. They were buzzing from room to room and station to station. This was definitely not a "critical" tasting; this was a party. If this event is representative of what Txokos Basque Kitchen will bring to Orlando -- a spicy mix of food, wine, and people -- then sign me up.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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