photos by Jackee Donalson
One of the more interesting aspects of Central Market is their cooking school. They have a kitchen set up in a room where chefs and staff can come in and do demos for customers. This is the area where Chef Arolo set up as part of his Passport Spain dinner last evening in Southlake.
Chef Arolo and his two Michelin stars may look intimidating but he was gracious with his time and has a great sense of humor. He started by saying how his “English may not be very good but it is easy to speak in the language of taste, of gastronomy.” Arolo described his cuisine as traditional, local cuisine with a focus on what is seasonally ready to eat. Sure he can dabble in the molecular but the focus is on tradition. He demonstrated this with a traditional fried potato dish served with a spicy red sauce and aioli called patatas bravas.
Chef Arolo commented that the potatoes were “obviously not from Spain. We got them from Ohio.” A quick reply from his sous chef brought a corrected “Idaho”. Without missing a beat, Chef said “Ohio, Idaho, they sound the same. Oh, is anyone here from Ohio?” The whole room got a big laugh and it became a running theme for Juan Muga, the man behind Muga Wines who was pouring one of his wines for each course. Juan’s description of the barrels used to age the wine would be “American oak from Kentucky and Ohio, not Idaho.”
His Patatas Bravas were amazing. Fried just to the point of crispy but keeping some of the potato flavor and flesh, they were a perfect reminder of visiting Spain (though his patatas were better). It was paired with the 2010 Muga Rosada, a garnacha-viura based rose blend that was strawberry, red apple and blossoms in a glass, with a good mineral finish.
Next came the 2007 Muga Reserva with the carpaccio de porcini. The wine had a lot of dark fruit (plum, cherry and blackberry) with a sturdy backbone of tobacco, vanilla, earth and mushroom. This paired well with the shaved, frozen porcini, topped with an olive oil and pine nut paste sauce, pine nuts, chive, “a pasta that end in -ini”, and jamon. The mushrooms were rich and earthy, with a soft texture that was accented by the pine nuts and the al dente pasta. The key to the dish was the jamon, which had enough salt, fat and texture to carry the flavors across the palate.
Best dish of the night in my mind was the Suquet of Gambas, a seafood stew that used peaches and nori mixed with maltodextrin to give weight and substance to the seaweed. The shrimp were just cooked, leaving behind a sweetness in the shrimp. This came off well with the flavors of what I can only describe as “the ocean” coming from the stew itself. This was served with the Muga 2010 Viura, whose soft fruit and good minerality played nicely with the stew.
The last savory course was a cracker, topped with interlocking pieces of foie gras, charred green and red bell pepper, balsamic reduction, olive oil and homemade “ketchup”. If that wasn’t enough, he topped the whole thing with sugar and bruleed the top to form a sugar crust. It was rich, slightly fatty and melted in your mouth. This was served with the 2005 Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial. This wine was dark, almost purple with strong black fruit, tobacco, earth and vanilla providing enough balance with the rich food.
By this time, everyone cannot get enough of Chef Arolo and Juan Muga. Chef Arolo has hopped onto the counter and is telling stories and answering questions. It was now that he admitted he was never a big fan of desserts. “Give me a t-bone” was his preference to dessert but he made a simple yet fresh mint and lime granita with an meringue dome in the center of the bowl. The meringue has a gelatin coating to keep its shape. This was served with the big boy from Muga, the 2006 Torre Muga. Using only the oldest vines, it tastes similar to the Seleccion Especial, just richer and bolder, in a more international style.