De Gustibus Carnival of Wine & Food event with Chef Andy Nusser and Gonzalo Lainez

by Linda Sarris

This De Gustibus event featured Spanish food from the Chefs of CASA MONO and BAR JAMÓN in New York City along with wines from Bodegas RODA in Spain. There was a full wine tasting from the classic wine-producing region of Rioja. Gonzalo Lainez is RODA’s oenologist and exporter. He explained that wines from Rioja tend to be very smooth so when RODA was creating their namesake wine, they wanted to produce a smooth wine but still have a very fruity and modern taste. They use a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache grapes from 30-100 year old vines by producing 17 single vineyard wines before creating their blends. Gonzalo paired the RODA wines with five courses of food prepared by Chef Andy Nusser and Chef Anthony Sasso. The vertical red wine tasting started with wines from 1999 and moved forward to 2003.

Chef Nusser started with a few small tapas made with Manchego cheese, mebrillo (quince paste), marcona almonds, quail egg, jamón Ibérico, and black truffles. These three bites were paired with a glass of cava; a sparkling Spanish wine made in the same style as French Champagnes.

For the first course, Chef Andy demonstrated how to confit pork shoulder and turn it into a beautifully unctuous “meat butter” as he liked to call it. It was made with Spanish Pimentón, a traditional dried pepper spice that gives it the bright red color. The Sobrasada with Manteca Toast and Tomato Raisins was served along side a frisée salad with cubes of a housemade pork terrine and shaved black truffles. Gonzalo paired this course with two wines; RODA Reserva 1999 and the RODA Reserva 2000. He started with the oldest wines and worked back in vintage to the newest. The RODA Reserva 1999 was by far my favorite of the whole tasting. Gonzalo perfectly described this wine by saying “this one has a lot to say, but does not yell.”

The next course was a whole Quail with Pardina Lentils, Morcilla, and Chanterelles. It was served drizzled with a red wine reduction and some high quality Arbequina olive oil. The morcilla is a type of blood sausage; something I am always reluctant to try but ended up enjoying very much. This dish was paired with the RODA Reserva 2001 and RODA Reserva 2002.

Casa Mono’s Chef de Cuisine, Chef Anthony Sasso, finished up the demonstration by creating the last two dishes. The demonstration for the Oxtail with Piquillos was easy to follow even though this seems like a difficult dish to make. He explained how it all starts with the preparation of the garlic, onion and tomatoes cooked in olive oil to make the sofrito. The Chef said this would be a great dish for a dinner party and you could cook a day ahead of time. This course was paired with the RODA Reserva 2003 and the RODA One Reserva 2003 wines. The first wine they created at RODA was simply named RODA. When they came up with a second wine, it was called RODA One. It was confusing to keep them straight but just remember that RODA is the original.

The dessert course was a simple Flan with Arrope Syrup. Arrope is a Spanish sweet grape must syrup with pumpkin that cooks down into a licorice-scented caramel. The custard was made with heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, and lots of egg yolks. It could be used as an ice cream base or prepared in metal flan cups like this dish. The dessert was a great end to this fantastic Spanish Carnival of Food & Wine. Chef Andy and Chef Anthony created amazing dishes that worked so well with the Rioja wines from Bodegas RODA.

Q&A with Chef Andy Nusser of Casa Mono and Tarry Lodge:

What is one of your first memories of cooking?
Fried bologna

What made you decide to leave your career at General Motors to pursue cooking and attend the CIA?

Which Chefs have been your mentors?

Is there a type cuisine that you love to eat, but do not cook on your own?

Can you explain the Green Initiative at Casa Mono & Tarry Lodge?
Be Green Certified

What are your favorite dishes on the menu at Casa Mono & Bar Jamon?
Sweet Breads at Mono, Tortilla Catalana at Bar Jamon

Where do you like to go for Spanish food in NYC?

Where do you shop for Spanish ingredients and specialty imports in NYC?
Despana and Kalustyan’s

What advice do you have for aspiring young cooks who want to go into the cooking business? 
“Just keep swimming” – from Finding Nemo