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Tapas, Wine, and Opportunity in Barcelona

If you missed the first blog post last week, you can read about the purpose and intention of the montevino blog below: The purpose is simple, I have a few passions in life, three of which are wine, cooking, and traveling (can read about the purpose in more detail here). I decided to write about these passions and share my thoughts and experiences around these topics. I will be writing and sharing through two mediums, 1) this blog (every Wednesday) and 2) the montevinoblog Instagram (3 times a week). The blog and Instagram posts will range quite a bit, but in general you can expect stories about my travels, tons of wine topics (some of which may make you a smarter shopper and drinker), anything food related, and maybe even all three combined. One thing that you can guarantee is that each post will strive to educate, engage, and entertain regardless of the medium and topic. Feel free to interact and engage with me through the blog or IG! In the meantime, I appreciate your time and your willingness to come along for the ride.


 

When looking back at the last several years of my life I realized that 2019 was really good to me. I was a year into owning my home, just finishing up one of the hardest work projects I had ever been on, and I was fortunate to get to travel to Europe and speak at an international conference (twice!). I switched companies in March of 2018 with the intention of growing and building on the skill set I already had but also adding brand new skills and experiences. One of those skills and experiences that I wanted to pursue was public speaking at a work-related conference.


One year later, in March of 2019, I got to present at my first conference ever in Las Vegas and the range of emotions were quite wide. I was inherently excited to be able to tackle a goal that I had set for myself but visibly anxious about tackling the conference stage as an expert in the topic I was speaking on. I got in one last bathroom run before the presentation and remember thinking to myself that this emotional intersection of excitement and anxiety was no different than the feeling I had when walking across a daunting suspension bridge in Vancouver, Canada or riding the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. In life you are going to find yourself in moments of discomfort, and as I mentioned in last weeks blog, don’t hesitate to dive head first into these moments because at the end of the day the only way to grow is by pushing the boundaries of what you think is possible.




Long story short, I went up on stage and gave the presentation everything I had. Eight months later (November of 2019) I was in Barcelona, Spain giving the same exact presentation (plus 3 more) on the main stage! That one decision I made to speak at a conference in Las Vegas led to me getting to explore a whole new country and over the next several years it resulted in me presenting at many more international (Amsterdam and Germany) conferences. As much as I would love to take credit this was all a prime example of hard work meeting opportunity, and I will never take my experience in Barcelona for granted because it opened my eyes to a whole new world of travel, cooking, and wine.




I know this blog isn’t a medium for my career, but I appreciate you indulging me because I think that the context of how I ended up in Barcelona is just as important as the experience that came out of it! I had such an amazing time in Barcelona that I could probably make 3 or 4 blogs out of it. The culture, food, and drinks alone were unbelievable. Throw in the mind bending architecture (some may even say art) of Antoni Gaudi, rising political sentiments in “Catalonia”, country side monasteries and vineyards, and you walk away feeling equally overwhelmed and fascinated. Maybe I will write more Barcelona based blogs in the future but for now you will have to settle for some of my favorite pictures.








Antoni Gaudi provided some of the most stunning architecture I have every seen in my entire life and therefore he gets his own set of pictures. In order below is the world renown Sagrada Famila (first two pictures) and then the mind-bending Casa Batllo (last 5 pictures).








I was so inspired by the cuisine in Spain. The food was packed with flavor and balance, yet the ingredients and execution were straightforward. Most people might associate Spanish cuisine with the famous “Paella” dish, which is typically a rice-based dish cooked down with aromatics and seafood. I took a cooking class while I was there in which we made our own Paella and that is where I learned how to clean squid, devein shrimp, and steam mussels. Most importantly, I learned that what truly makes “Paella” is that it must be cooked in a Paella pan.




Outside of Paella, I think Spanish cuisine is most known for its Tapas, which are small savory (typically) dishes meant to be shared and paired with drinks. Often seen as a more social type of dining experience, Tapas allows the diner to snack and try multiple dishes in bite sized snacks.


Three of my favorite Tapas that I had were also the simplest: Grilled Padrón Peppers with Sea Salt – Similar to the Japanese Shishito Peppers, Padrón Peppers are small mild green peppers with the occasional pepper truly being spicy.


Patatas Bravas – Cubed potatoes deep fried in oil and traditionally served with aioli, spicy sauce, and toothpicks (as your utensil).


Pan con Tomate – Grilled bread with garlic and ripe tomatoes rubbed on top to create a subtle and fresh tomato sauce on top of the bread


 

As if my cooking class wasn’t enough of an indicator that I like food I also did a food tour in downtown Barcelona. The last stop on our food tour was at a nice local tapas restaurant in which we had Octopus, Padrón Peppers, Patatas Bravas, and Pan Con Tomate. It was during this dinner that I learned about a wine known as “Cava”, which is simply just Spanish sparkling wine. Next time you make your way through the sparkling wine section of your local liquor/wine store you will notice different options like Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Lambrusco, and several others. When I first started learning and reading about wine, I always struggled to understand what the difference was, so here is my attempt to simply it for you.


Simple Sparkling Wine Facts:

· Sparkling wine is made “sparkling” and develops its fizz through what is known as a secondary fermentation

· Secondary fermentation can occur via the Traditional Method or Tank Method

· Traditional Method – secondary fermentation occurs in bottle and results in a bit more body and creaminess within the wine

· Tank Method – secondary fermentation occurs in tanks and results in a lighter bodied wine (relative to Champagne and Cava), a bit more sweetness, and bigger/looser bubbles


Cava: Country - Spain

Method – Traditional (secondary fermentation in bottle)

Grapes – Macabeu, Parellda, Xarello, and sometimes Chardonnay or Pinot Grapes

Price vs Quality - $15-20

Tasting Notes – light, high acidity, citrus, melon, pear, almond

Recommendation – Serve ice cold (40 – 45F) and pair with tapas and paella


Prosecco: Country - Italy

Method – Tank (secondary fermentation in tanks)

Grape – Glera

Price vs Quality - $13-18

Tasting Notes – light, medium acidity, hint of sweetness, green apple, pear, and melon

Recommendation – Serve ice cold (40 – 45F) and pair cured meats, olives, cheeses, and toasted almonds


Champagne: Country - France

Method – Traditional (Secondary fermentation in bottle)

Grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier

Price vs Quality – $25-30

Tasting Notes – light, high acidity, citrus, yellow apple, almond, and toast

Recommendation – Serve ice cold (40 – 45F) and pair with french fries, salt and vinegar chips, or anything light, fried, and salty



 

My take on Pan Con Tomate:


Ingredients:

· 1 Baguette (or your favorite kind of bread)

· 1 pack of Tomatoes on the vine (or 4-6 if not in pack)

· 2-3 cloves of garlic

· Olive Oil

· Sea Salt

· Fresh ground black pepper

· Serrano ham (could also use prosciutto or no meat at all)

· Shaved parmesan cheese


Steps:

· Heat grill, pan, or cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat

· While pan is heating, slice baguette in half long ways and season with a generous amount of olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper

· Lightly smash and peel cloves of garlic keeping them as whole as possible

· Take the smashed and peeled garlic and rub it across the slices of bread allowing it to mix in with the olive oil and salt

· Grill the sliced baguette on both sides until it is crispy and a light golden-brown

· Let the baguettes cool for 1-2 minutes while you cut your tomatoes in half.

· Lay the baguettes flat with the inside portion of the bread facing up and start to rub and squeeze the tomatoes across the surface of the bread. This should start to create a thin layer of tomato sauce coating the bread

· Continue this process until the bread has a light-red layer of tomato sauce and then top with serrano ham and shaved parmesan cheese

· Cut the bread into squares and serve warm






































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4 Comments


Memoria James
Memoria James
Feb 16, 2022

The pan con tomate looks good. I've been to Barcelona before, but I didn't try that. Maybe if there's a next time. 😀 Great blog you have here. I found you on LinkedIn. Keep it up!

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Matthew A Montes
Matthew A Montes
Feb 16, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Memoria! You should give the pan con tomate a shot on your own and let me know how it comes out! Recipe is in the blog and it's pretty easy to do. Appreciate you giving the blog a read.

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Ryan Gerrity
Ryan Gerrity
Feb 10, 2022

Hey Montes, awesome blog! That castle is crazy I didn’t even know that existed! It’s like a snapshot into a fantasy world.

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Matthew A Montes
Matthew A Montes
Feb 10, 2022
Replying to

Yeah, both the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo are unbelievable. Architected by Antoni Gaudi, he literally was ahead of his time and pushed the boundaries of design and was inspired by nature, ceramics, and stained glass. Easily one of the cooler buildings I've seen.

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