Saturday, September 05, 2015

Tapas Tuesday, Part 1 – Cava, Curious Math, and Biutiful Bubbles

Since joining our CSA, the Sweet Partner in Crime and I have challenged ourselves to power our way through every last vegetable in that wonderful box before the next one arrives. This has required some creative cooking on our parts from time to time – and we’ve ended up with lots of little leftovers, stray peppers, the occasional bag of ground cherries, and the like. How to clear out the tupperware, you ask?

Tapas Tuesday!

We decided, once a week, that we’d go through the fridge and see what we could easily combine into a small plate meal. Now, much of what we end up with wouldn’t be considered traditional Spanish tapas, but early returns on this little project seem pretty positive just the same.

Along came an offer I couldn’t refuse. One of my favorite memories of our European trip several years back was a meal in Barcelona at El Xampanyet, a tapas place near the Picasso Museum. After we sat down, the waiter brought us a bottle of the house bubbly – which, of course, was Cava. Few things in the world go better with tapas than Cava. The day after we decided on our Tapas Tuesday project, Tiffany at Colangelo offered to send us a couple of Cava samples. I almost sprained my finger hitting “reply.”

Cava, if by some odd chance you’re unfamiliar, is a Spanish sparkling wine. It’s usually a white wine, although it can be made as a rosé (which we’ll get to in a moment). The name “Cava” means “cave” and refers to the caves traditionally used to store and age the wine. 95% of all Cava is made in Catalonia, the region of Northeast Spain where Barcelona lies.

Cava is made in the methode champenoise style used in the production of Champagne and many other high-quality sparkling wines. Most Cava bottlings, however, are consistently lower in price than other sparklers of similar quality. Cava has long been my go-to bubbly when I’m snagging a bottle for immediate, unfocused consumption.

Tiffany sent us two bottles, one white and one rose, for our perusal:

1+1=3 Cava Brut – Make sure you chill this one thoroughly before you crack it open. One Tuesday, I came home from work and popped the bottle in the fridge, thinking that a couple of hours would probably be sufficient to get the bottle to a serviceable temperature. After I took off the wire cage, I found the cork to be super-tight, which probably should have been a warning to me. Driven by testosterone and a craving for little bubbles, I applied somewhat more force than I likely needed. The cork finally came loose. For my futbol-loving readers -- let’s just say that if Barça is looking for a great-spraying victory bubbly, I’ve done Messi’s beta testing. I got a bit drenched, but hey – small price to pay for science, right? As for the wine itself, it turned out to be very crisp and acidic with sharp bubbles that would cut through just about any flavor you throw at it. Some yeasty flavors, green apples, and a friendly fruity finish were the major flavor features. A very solid sparkler, especially at ~$13. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my note as to the array of plates we had with it, so you’ll just have to trust me in its ability to be flexible.

Biutiful Cava Brut Rose – “Biutiful,” one of the few rosé Cava I’ve tried -- was much kinder to me than to my spellcheck! Most Cava are made from white grapes like Viura and Xarel-lo, but this rosé version is made from 100% Grenache, which I thought gave it a very interesting construction. It possessed the tight, powerful carbonation common to Cava. The initial flavor is very dry and, once again, crisply acidic. However, after a sip or two, notes of strawberry and pear start to emerge, but these flavors aren’t sugar-backed in the slightest. I guess you’d call it “fruity, but bone dry” – which certainly is not a problem around here. On this particular Tapas Tuesday, we had this bottle as a very nice accompaniment to slices of prosciutto wrapped around marcona almonds, paprika-ed potatoes, and pork tenderloin sliders topped with curried sauerkraut from a local place called Fab Ferments. Trust me on the slider pairing – it was delicious. The little extra fruit carried the flavors with the pork/sauerkraut mix nicely. If you’re looking for a sparkler with a little extra fruitiness, or you’ve got some food where you’ll have a little “fat in your mouth,” you could find a winner here. You can find this for $16-17, which is still a good value.

With Labor Day Weekend picnics abounding, consider snagging a couple of bottles of cava to pour. There’s no need to break out the good crystal. Cava tastes just as good out of a Solo cup, if you ask me. Enjoy!

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