Sunday, June 08, 2014

Best and besterer

I have a penchant for declaring things the best ever. Occasionally I actually mean it.

In Spain we experienced a couple of bests or at least ones that tied for first.  Both involved food, surprise of surprises. In the interest of fairness gained from a lifelong culinary adventure I will name herein the contenders for First Prize in the categories of Orange Juice and Steak.

Zumo de naranja not jugo as used in Latin America is near and dear to my heart and palate. Rich, sweet, viscous orange juice is a top tenner among all foods to me and we had the honor of drinking the best orange juice in recent memory at Casa Antonia in Gaucin.  When we didn’t eat breakfast at home we repaired to the little bar on the plaza for desayuno of Café con Leche, Zumo de Naranja Natural (fresh squeezed) and Pan Tostada. On more than one occasion we ordered a second round of the profound juice from the oranges from Enrique’s trees outside Gaucin. I know this because I asked Enrique where he got his oranges, the very same question I asked the proprietor of an obscure shack between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach more than thirty years ago. These august juices contend for the best ever to pass my lips.  I am unable to show you the rich, viscous nectar from Casa Antonia for reasons well established in these pages.  The best I can do is show the outdoor café at which we partook of the juice. In the event the erstwhile files are retrieved I will post pics of Collins glasses filled to the brim with the stuff of legends.
Ever the thorough researcher, my study did not stop with where the oranges came from but also uncovered the variety of orange yielding this elixir. And here I had a tiny surprise.  In California the regal Valencia is the king of juice oranges while the humble but larger Navel is the one for eating because it’s so easy to peel. Imagine my surprise to learn than Enrique’s oranges were not the vaunted Valencia but the rude Navalina.
And then in a discovery at the opposite end of fooddom came the steak of a lifetime at El Churrasco in Cordoba. The epic steak described as Lomo de Buey and that we would call Sirloin was simply the juiciest, most tender, most flavorful steak ever or at least since devouring The Lindey’s Special Sirloin at Lindey’s Steakhouse in Arden Hills just north of Saint Paul, Minnesota more than forty years ago. Lindey’s is still going strong after 56 years which informs us about doing something simple really well. I recall a visit a mid-winter visit to Lindey’s with our good friend Harold Bissner when the thermoter dipped to 56 below.  Mind you this was in our new, yellow BW Beetle.  In ordinary climes one would have expected a empty restaurant but this was rugged Minnesota. There was a wait.
El Churrasco
And at El Churrasco as at Casa Antonia, the provenance of their magnificent steaks was paramount. The duly proud manager said that the restaurant bought its beef about fifty kilometers north of Cordoba and done so for decades.  The obvious follow up was how long they aged their beef. The steak had some serious age on it. The answer was three weeks off premise and another one to two weeks in-house.  That’s a boatload of aging and it yielded mythic results. The ample fat was as buttery as marrow.  I defy you to have that steak and not sneak a bite of that fat.
Me high on steak
This whole episode had us talking about El Churrasco for the rest of the trip and doing research on how to dry age our own beef.
Thanks to the resourceful and talented Peggy Immel for the supporting images. I got nothing.
Thanks for asking.  The hard drive is in the loving hands of Drive Savers where they are surgically extracting the files, a process that will take four or five business days and at a price on the north end of their estimate.  I am, as they say, cautiously optimistic and still not smiling.  Failing that I will be on the redeye to Spain to retrace my steps and recapture the shots lost due to operator error. I’m only kinda joking.



Daryl A. Black said...

Kudos, Steve, for your exemplary writing, taste testing, and descriptors, and to Peggy for the supporting images. Really fresh orange juice is indeed one of the elixirs of the gods. I have had some recently, and can almost conjure the taste now!

The first bite of that steak must have been heavenly.

Next week, you will be smiling with a resurrected hard drive, more images, and memories!

Jim Rogers Photography said...

Talk about a mouth-watering post on a blog. Written so well (and without pictures of the food/drink to seal the deal), I'm preparing to go tackle a steak at my nearest beef emporium, although it will come no where near what you've described. Please ease of for awhile on culinary delights. Neither my waistline nor pocketbook will afford me the opportunity to read further;