This series, Spain…On The Road Again is a lighthearted but "sometimes food, wine, and scenery intensive" show that brings you the best Spain has to offer in all three categories. And when you’ve got hosts such as famed actress Gwyneth Paltrow; the Iron Chef, Mario Batali; Spanish actress and linguist Claudia Bassols; and New York Times writer Mark Bittman, combined with the sometimes breathtaking beauty, the wonderful food and the robust wines of Spain [not to mention the famed Spanish sun], you’ve got a can’t-miss show that bathes you in gustatory opulence.
You can find good food and wine anywhere, but in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, the food and wine seduce you, beg you to partake of their sustenance. The reds are redder, the greens greener, the spices spicier. Another millimeter and it would all be over the top, but the Med does it to perfection. [Even though Basque country borders on the Atlantic.]
This week’s episode takes you to Basque country, the northern coast of Spain. The country was cobbled together from several distinctly separate and different areas, some of which have their own language, and Basque country is no different. The average American sees, hears, and consequently has basically two perceptions of the Basque: jai alai and bombings. As you’ll quickly see in this episode, it has so much more to offer. But this series concentrates on food, and this episode showcases Basque cuisine.
This show begins with breakfast at the opulent and luxurious Frank Gehry-designed Marqués de Riscal Hotel, quickly moves on to a nearby vintner with a fast vineyard tour and of course a wine tasting. But this is no ordinary wine tasting; we’re getting treated to a bottle of 1958 Rioja. A neat little gimmick, should you ever happen to own a 1958 Rioja, or any other varietal of that vintage, shows us how to cleanly open a bottle that old without making a mess of it. A pair of tongs is heated to a high degree and clamped down gently around the neck of the bottle. After a short time they’re removed, and a line of cool water is brushed around the neck where the tongs were, and we hear a faint ‘snap!’ The top can now be broken off cleanly.
We’re next treated to locally grown produce grilled over an open fire of grapevines: asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, peppers, and more. Following this, we’re treated to a short view of the Calatrava-designed Bodega Ysios. Some readers and viewers may recognize the name "Calatrava," as he is also the designer of the highly acclaimed Milwaukee Art Museum. Next stop is San Sebastian, a coastal city with a distinctly Parisian appearance, where we meet master chef Juan Marí Arzak (ar-thok), which begins what looks like hours of nonstop eating around San Sebastian.
The bars and bodegas of Spain are famous for their tapas, or bar snacks. “Snacks” is a loose term here, since many of the tapas look more like three-course meals served on a toothpick. And a warning here: When you sample the tapas in Spain, be sure not to lose any toothpicks, since that’s how your bill is tallied. Lose the toothpicks and you may lose your wallet, too.