I searched through my over 1000 postings on my blog (www.phyllistines.blogspot) where there is (by the way) a great search engine for those of you looking for dining spots (just type in the city or country name!), and found I had not posted on Taberna Del Alabardero (www.alabardero.com) in a decade. I know for a fact that Will & I visited there some 3 or 4 years ago and had an unmemorable paella, so we hesitated to return for some time. We had purchased two tasting dinners for two people at various auctions, so it was time to redeem them last night with some friends. When making the reservations last month, I realized that the manager, PR person, chef and virtually the entire team there had been replaced in the last year, which gave me some worry as we knew not a soul on arrival.
I had to explain that we had two certificates for two each but ultimately they figured it out and we ordered a superb bottle of Vina Otano Barrel Fermented 2014 white blend of Viura & Tempranillo Blanco that was a bit too cold on arrival and needed some caressing in the glass to bring up to a non-super-chilled temp. The flavors came out when our first course of Gazpacho Andaluz arrived in a martini glass. It was creamy and rich and full of flavors, but perhaps I would have preferred something warmer on what was easily one of the coldest nights so far this season. Next came an superb (FB foto) Shrimp Carpaccio with Avocado & Black Pepper Dressing, which was superb, but needed a lot more fresh black pepper on it which did arrive to satisfy our taste buds. The shrimp was cut thin in a large square and the a scoop of avocado crema was at the center; excellent once the pepper came.
We switched to red quickly and chose an amazing bottle of 2005 La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, a blend of Tempranillo & Graciano, with the aid of super-sommelier Jorge, who declared it one of his favorites on the list. It drank beautifully on its own, smooth and silky and full of flavors, but not overpowering, and paired deliciously with the Grilled Red Snapper with grapefruit Veloute and Pickled Vegetables. Some thought the pickled string beans an odd accompaniment, but I loved the flavor burst and crunch.
Our final wine was an even bigger red suggested by Jorge and he hit the jackpot with a 2002 Paixar made of the Mencia varietal from the Bierzo region to the northwest of the country's center. The table had various taste notes including prunes, treacle and raisins, and its hugeness required some food. Alas the main course of Cochinillo or Roast Suckling Pig cooked for 12 hours and served confit with Sweet Potato Puree was a huge disappointment in that it was not only fatty, but some parts were truly inedible. It tasted like a crunchy pork wrapped in a fatty lardon, so it had some good parts, but overall we skipped the fatty parts. The staff noticed we were unhappy and offered to bring something else, but we had eaten enough and settled for dessert. Originally they said we would all get Rice Pudding, but I suggested we each be allowed to choose, due to the previous course; no problem. Will stayed with the rice pudding and it was unexciting. Crema Catalana was a rich creme brulee with intense rich custard and the crunchiest of brulees. Cheesecake was a revelation made with a blue intense goat cheese and manchego that brought cheesecake to a new level.
Delicious cookies arrived(FB foto) of a crunchy chocolate rice crispy on shortbread and were thoroughly enjoyed along with glasses of complimentary NOE Vinum Optimum Rare Signature Pedro Ximenez 30 years aged sweet sherry that was very welcome after the cochinilla incident.
We left full, but hoping that the one bad course had not happened. It was an enjoyable evening for sure and save for the one bad course, totally delicious as well.