Writers and honored guests (including the Consul General of Spain) were invited to Bar Pintxo (Joe Miller’s tapas bar) to celebrate the cuisine and wines of Castilla y Leon, a region of Spain. Dona Juana from La Española Meats, the famed Harbor City importer of Spanish foodstuff, hosted the event, with son Alex serving as M.C. and daughter Bianca on hand to answer questions. Almost every bite I took was impressive, but this night will undoubtedly be remembered for my first taste of jamón iberico de bellota, the remarkable ham made from acorn-fed, black-hoofed hogs.
On the bottom left, you can see Jimenez’s knives. He owns separate knives for removing pig skin, deboning the hipbone and slicing ham to serve.
Jimenez explained why jamón iberico de bellota is so special. He held up the leg to demonstrate, saying Iberico has a long leg and narrow ankle. Otherwise it’s not a pure Iberico. Hooves are rounded since they’re free range.
Jimenez locked the leg in a vice and shaved off the outer layer of fat. Hams hang for 24 months or more, so the outer layer becomes rancid. Take the fat off only for as much as you’ll use. Otherwise, the fat protects the meat. Don’t remove too much fat, or you’ll remove flavor. Slices should not be more than 4-6 centimeters in length. Otherwise, it’s too hard to chew.
Miller said that ever since jamón Iberico was allowed into the country six months ago, he’s sold two-ounce portions for $18. They sell one leg a week. To be an authentic tapas bar, he thinks it’s imperative to start serving jamón Iberico de bellota. He predicted two ounces will cost $25. It may seem like a lot of money, but given the remarkable nature of the ham, it’s well worth a try.
Antonio Martinez from Antalva Imports paired the food with some of his imported Spanish wines: a 2006 Tempranillo (Pago de los Capellanes Joven Roble) made by Paco Casas, an outstanding 2005 Bierzo (Pago de Valdoneje) made by Raul Perez using Mencía grapes, and a 2004 Rioja (Deobriga Seleccion Familiar) produced by Ramon de Ayala.
There was a fourth wine that I didn’t try, a 2005 Ribeira Sacra (Algueira), also produced by Raul Perez, not that we missed out on anything.