Monday, 9 September 2013

Peña Garnacha 2013 – Day One

It was that time of year again when I had to get to Calatayud in Spain to join my Peña  (club) to celebrate the festival of San Roque! This year I drove down with Castillon wine maker Vincent Galineau and he would be in for quite a surprise. 

We made good time and after a six-hour drive we were with my friend and winemaker Norrel in perfect time for a Spanish lunch. We headed straight to the El Ciervo: a family-run restaurant in the tiny village of Cevada de Canada.  The restaurant is the Spanish equivalent of my beloved Voyageur restaurant in Castillon that burnt down last year so I was ready for a real treat of homemade cooking, no fuss, no menu, and no choice! 

As always, we were greeted in the downstairs bar by Antonio who runs the place. Antonio also runs around like a madman, taking orders and setting up the tables upstairs, pouring beers downstairs and serving the wonderful food that his wife, sister and mother are making in the kitchen. 

We started with a crisp green salad with tuna and local olives to share before I was given a very tasty revuelto morcilla y pimento roja: finely chopped black pudding mixed in with scrambled eggs and roasted red peppers. The main dish of conejo con amandres, rabbit with almond sauce, didn’t disappoint and neither did Norrel’s dish of beef cheeks in red wine. A simple, fruity and cold bottle of local Garnacha from the coop San Gregorio was the perfect wine match. Dessert was homemade pana cotta and a drizzle of local honey, all in for nine euros!

Festivities were waiting so we headed back to Norrel’s place in Calatayud to meet the rest of the gang and to get changed into our Peña Garnacha outfits … and so the next 48 hours of madness began.

We all trooped down to our Peña where the usual suspects were already in full fiesta mode. Primitivo was jumping around, our band was in full swing and Oscar was in usual fancy dress. This year Oscar came as the infamously badly restored church painting of Jesus from the nearby village of Borja. If you haven’t heard then you can read more here.
Suddenly all the members of our purple army were ready and we headed for battle to the main square to see the opening of the festival and to meet the other Peñas! On arrival the scene was mayhem; foam, flour, eggs, paint, ketchup you name it was flying in the air with each Peña’s band playing and singing as loud as possible.

The statue of San Roque was marched up to the balcony and the fireworks were let off opening the festival. The task now was for everyone to get back to their Peña for supper via the small streets now super jam packed; it was like a mass game of ludo! 

Some three hours later, after crawling along dancing the charanga, we finally arrived to the wonderful smell of paella and the bar in full swing.  It was a rather special one this year as Norrel had made a wine for the Peña, sold exclusively to Laithwaite’s.

You really have to get some of this Garnacha; it oozes the fiesta ambiance and everyone was delighted that we had our own wine!

As normal, the fiesta continued into the early hours … kids and grannies included! Tomorrow’s fancy dress theme is cowboys and Indians…………..

No comments: