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Dinner Report: Al Trapo, 19 April 2014

We had dinner at Al Trapo last night (the Saturday before Easter), and to say that we had a stunning meal would be -- honestly -- a slight understatement. The evening was truly one of those memorable meals that will stay with us for years to come . . .

Al Trapo is located within the Hotel de las Letras, albeit with a separate entrance and street address. As visiting Americans, we had reservations early by Madrileño standards: 8:30 (20:30), but in retrospect that proved to be a very good thing. The staff was very attentive, and most spoke English -- that and a menu printed in English made for an easy meal, but what helped to make it truly special was the assistance we received from the hotel's Food and Beverage Director, Joao Guimarães. He explained the menu's concept, and when we told him there were so many dishes we wanted to try, he offered to make those dishes in a smaller size as a Tasting Menu, and discuss with the chef the order of service, to make it a perfect meal for us . . . and perfect it was, too.

The only "misstep," if one could call it that -- and to do so would honestly be unfair -- was the amuse bouche, a tomato salad with chorizo and more, in which the tomatoes could have been perhaps a bit riper but was bright, flavorful and delightful nonetheless. If that is the only "stumble," you can probably guess how great the rest of the meal was . . .

We began with Sautéed Artichokes -- a generous portion of baby artichokes, shaved down and served with slices of Iberian salt pork, chive mayonnaise, and tiny crusty breadcrumbs. The dish was delicious and tasty, and proved the perfect starter for what was to follow.

From there, we moved onto the deceptively titled Cockles in Green Sauce -- a sauté pan filled with fresh, plumb cockles in their scallop-like shells with a green sauce that combined (I think) mint and fava and who knows what else. Deceptively simple, this was a mind-blowing (palate-blowing?) dish that my wife and I were still raving about long into the night.

Next came Slices of Raw Sea Scallop -- the thinnest slices of raw scallops with green olive, pieces of orange sections, and fried garlic. Tender, flavorful, creamy and rich, yet the citrus brought it into balance by keeping it clean and fresh. Indeed, this point/counterpoint type of balance and harmony was the key to many of these dishes, with one component counter-balancing another to the increased complexity yet purity of the dish.

The Steak Tartare was different than any tartare I've ever had. Served with three quail eggs (nothing new there), mustard ice cream and a black-pepper sauce, this dish perfectly demonstrated the type of balance I referred to in the previous paragraph: the sharpness of the mustard was off-set by the bite of the black pepper, but the coolness of the ice cream and the fat of the quail egg, together with the exquisite richness of the quality beef -- every single component was evident, discernible, and flavorful; nothing overwhelmed or dominated the other components. It was like some giant sculpture balanced on a single, tiny, delicate point . . .

From there, we moved on to Pork Tenderloin -- served on a bed of chilled Iberian ham purée and tiny bok choy (individual stems, and tiny leaves folded into packets containing the purée). The slices of tenderloin (about the size of sliced shiitake mushrooms) were tender and oh-so-flavorful, while the bok choy was perfectly cooked yet still firm . . . again, rich in flavor, yet delicate and clean in the finish.

We concluded our meal with a cheese course consisting of Bodega from the Canary Islands, Mahón Curado from Menorca, and Picón Bejés-Tresvis from Cantabria, served with small quenelles of tomato jam, nut purée, and two more which escape me at the moment.

A perfect end to what was truly a perfect meal. We finished -- content, yet not stuffed or feeling "overly full." Our only problem was we were left with a near-overwhelming desire to return and order all of the dishes we didn't get to try on this visit!

about 17 hours ago
zin1953 in Spain/Portugal

Should tempranillo be bubbly?

Poison? No. But it's clearly a flawed bottle. Take it back.

about 18 hours ago
zin1953 in Wine
1

Sulfite free wines

>>> Well, I know that a winery needs to submit a lab test to be able to omit the "contains sulfites" wording . . . <<<

REALLY????? Have the regulations changed? Since when?

When I interviewed the then-head of the ATF/TTB lab in charge of analyzing wine samples, I asked him pointedly about the "No Sulfites" claim on wine labels (which was allowed if a wine contained less than 10 ppm). He said, "We've never tested a sample that was below 30 [ppm]." I then asked him what he (the ATF/TTB) did when a winery claimed that a wine contained <10 ppm. He replied, "Oh, we take their word for it . . . but we've never tested a sample that was below 30."

about 19 hours ago
zin1953 in Wine

Sulfite free wines

>>> . . . but I am looking for big-name labels that don't add [sulfites]. <<<

"Big name" labels are precisely the wineries that tend (broad generalization here) to add sulfites for the purpose of stability and shelf-life. Thus, jug wines (think low-priced California wines in 1.5L and 3.0L glass bottles with the proverbial finger-loop) will tend to have higher levels of sulfites than that small "boutique" California producer of high-end Cabernets, Pinots, and Syrahs.

about 19 hours ago
zin1953 in Wine
1

Comments/Thoughts on proposed London itinerary?

Thanks for ALL of your feedback -- even though I'm posting this as a reply to abby d, this is a general reply to all . . .

PSS is out; Social Eating House is in. Amesta is simple; it was selected because the last time we were in San Sebastian, we went to Mugaritz, and not Arzak. But it looks as though we'll wait to we return to San Sebastian, and *not* try it in the UK! ;^)

Perhaps Clove Club will replace that on our list.

We've also added Antidote (rather than Hedone).

I feel somewhat compelled to point out that Mr. Todiwalla's Kitchen *is* Indian food, and we quite enjoyed our meal there on our last layover -- surprisingly good, at least to what we get in the SF Bay Area (where that chaat is good, but not necessarily the [slightly] more formal "sit-down" dinners).

We'll probably do either Fetter or Marylebone for lunch while there -- or Terroirs -- depending upon where we are when we start feeling peckish.

Thanks again.

Apr 16, 2014
zin1953 in U.K./Ireland

Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower

I won't comment on the twits -- that's rather obvious; priceless, too -- but chicken [not duck] and waffles is a classic combination in Oakland, California and parts of the south . . .

Apr 15, 2014
zin1953 in U.K./Ireland

Must try dishes for first timers in NOLA

Glad you enjoyed yourself . . .

Apr 15, 2014
zin1953 in New Orleans

Comments/Thoughts on proposed London itinerary?

My wife and I are leaving soon for London, with one night spent at Heathrow (dinner at Mr. Todiwala's).

So far, we've plans to dine at Amesta, Harwood Arms, Pollen Street Social. Lunch at St. John's Bread & Wine, and at Dinner.

Anything we should drop? Any "must adds"?

We've heard good things about 28-50 -- thoughts? ideas as to one location being better than the other?

Other thoughts and comments cheerfully received. ;^)

Apr 15, 2014
zin1953 in U.K./Ireland

Comments on proposed Madrid itinerary?

Leaving soon for eight days in Madrid. So far, dinners @ Posada de la Villa, Al Trapo, Viridianna, and O'Pazo.

Couldn't get a reservation at DvierXO, but will be going to Street XO. Also on the agenda -- but no reservations as of now -- are Columbus, La Tasquita de Enfrente, Taberna Gastromaquia, Estado Puro and El Sanador . . . .

Anything I should drop? Anything a "must add"?

TIA for your thoughts and opinions . . .

Apr 15, 2014
zin1953 in Spain/Portugal

Spanish olive oil

If you can't find Spanish olive oil in New York City . . . .

I can find any number of types here in California, so I'm pretty sure you'd have no problem finding some in New York.

Apr 12, 2014
zin1953 in Spain/Portugal

Bernard Magrez buys vines in Spain's Jumilla region

Apr 10, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Vega Sicilia recalls 100,000 bottles

Apr 10, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

New Lafaurie-Peyraguey owner sets tone with 2013 release

Apr 10, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

'A lot needs to be fixed,' says new Treasury Wine Estates chief

Apr 09, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Mouton Rothschild owner presses Burgundy estate to change name

Apr 09, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Russia set to invest $1 Billion in Crimean wine

Apr 09, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Anyone familiar with Naked Wines?

Let me first say that I'm very glad you have liked the wines you've received so far.

That said, to be fair, I've *not* liked the (admittedly) few wines from them that I've tasted. This is not an "I'm right; you're wrong" scenario. It merely means the we each have our own tastes, and what is "love" to some people's palates may be -- well, less so -- to others.

Apr 07, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Bordeaux 2013: Chateaux forced to chaptalise in toughest vintage for years

Apr 07, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Bordeaux 2013: Pichon Baron releases 2013 down 17%

Apr 07, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Jack Daniel's is not Bourbon.

Jack? It would help to know where you live . . . .

Apr 06, 2014
zin1953 in Spirits

Feedback Please - Zagat Wine Club

Yours is an all-too-typical experience.

Thank heavens you found a real, live RETAILER to deal with!

Apr 06, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Jack Daniel's is not Bourbon.

You do realize you're responding to a comment made seven years ago, don't you?

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Spirits

What is plonk, really?

She bagged Gustav and Walter and Franz...

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine
1

Best inexpensive wine?

Q: "[What is the b]est inexpensive wine?"

A: There isn't one.

Rather, there are dozens, and what appeals to your palate may not be what appeals to mine, and vice-versa.

Don't limit yourself to California. For red table wines, I would actually look first to Portugal, Spain, and the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France; for whites, Italy, New Zealand, Australia. And then there is Chile and Argentina . . .

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

What is plonk, really?

Plonk is a bit like pornography: No one agrees with exactly what it is, but -- as the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), "I know it when I see it." Or, in this case, taste it.

Plonk is NOT a defective wine. That would, rather, be a defective wine. Or, perhaps, "$#|+."

Plonk is simply an inexpensive, thin, insipid, uninteresting, why-are-we-wasting-our-time-and-money-on-this-boring-stuff wine . . .

It is NOT the same as a disappointing wine -- think high-end wine that doesn't impress (or satisfy). That would be "dreck." Indeed, "disappointing dreck."

There is no doubt that, as has previously been written, life is too short for bad wine. But plonk is something else, and to that, I would say life is too short to drink BORING wines . . .

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

What is plonk, really?

Actually, I've ALWAYS had great success with "un pichet de vin rouge" in French bistros, and never found them mediocre at all . . . IF one is actually in a wine producing region.

In Paris, it's strictly bottled stuff for me . . .

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

How long do Pinot Noirs last?

Just as an aside, the relative plantings are perhaps not all that dissimilar.

According to NASS/CASS, as of 2012, there were 39,610 acres of Pinot Noir planted in California. (That's 16,029.6 hectares.)

According to www.bourgogne-wines.com, "Between Auxerre and the Mâcon region, [there are] just 28,715 hectares," but that includes ALL grape varieties, not just Pinot Noir . . . .

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Calls for Price Cuts in 2013 Bordeaux

Apr 04, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Sub $5.00 wines, 750ml

I never thought that was up for debate.

Apr 01, 2014
zin1953 in Wine

Sub $5.00 wines, 750ml

Let's just say he hasn't changed all that much . . .

Apr 01, 2014
zin1953 in Wine