Most people don’t like change—at least that’s the conventional wisdom. I am so pleased to say that I am not one of those people. Not that I love chaos, but I do like a little jog in the road now and then. And not that life isn’t sometimes challenging in very real (and sometimes incredibly uncomfortable) ways. But there are so many places I haven’t been and things I don’t know, and I like to think that change pushes me toward new opportunities. It requires me to try new things and meet new people. Like Sherry, for example.
On a week in early February, I was required to taste sherry for my wine class homework, so I decided to make some dishes I’ve never tried before to go with a wine style I wasn’t sure I’d like. What better excuse to leave the familiar behind! Sherry is from Spain, and it just so happens that Diana of A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa has lots of great recipes that are perfect for a tapas party. The whole evening was full of flavors in combinations we’d never tried before, but it was all fun and delightful. We tasted several Sherries, mostly on the dry side, but the final flourish was when my husband opened a bottle of Argueso Pedro Ximenez cream sherry that he bought while in graduate school—25 years ago!
We started out with a Sherry ‘cocktail’, which was simply some Harvey’s Bristol Cream on ice with a lemon twist. I didn’t think I would like it so much, but I really did. (Thanks, Dawn!) Then we sipped Williams and Humbert Dry Sack before taking a little detour into a crisp white wine from Spain—Albarino—with our tapas. I thought the best dishes were the Spanish tortilla and the Seville-style cabbage rolls inspired from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, and a spicy pumpkin soup that I spiked with extra smoked paprika and a little cayenne. There were olives, Manchego cheese, warm bread, and a few more goodies, then the meal ended with a perfect creamy yellow flan made with fresh eggs from Windy Pines Farm.
I know that it was a big step for my husband to open his bottle of Pedro Ximenez. He’s a ‘saver’, and the dusty brown bottle with the funny little padlock and key was one of those things that he enjoyed just for the pleasure of having it around. When the moment arrived to serve the individual flans, he put the tiny key in the lock and carefully unlocked it, then slowly pulled the cork on the bottle. The sherry inside was brown—as dark as molasses. We poured it in stubby little shot glasses and sniffed it carefully—after all, when is the last time you consumed anything that was several decades old? Smooth. Smooth. Smooth. So smooth, it seemed you could just breathe it down instead of drink it. Nutty, plummy, caramelly but not too sweet–it was complex and rich, and certainly meant for savoring slowly.
To see my tasting notes and get details on the wines we tried at this meal, click here. For leads on local producers that can provide ingredients, such as the ground beef, cabbage, and potatoes I used in this meal, visit the Iowa Food Co-op site.