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Iberia Festval...WOW!

HowardL | Feb 21, 200408:15 AM

We had dinner last night at the Roger Smith Hotel, Lex and about 47th. They are currently runnng an Iberia Festival -- each week, Monday-Friday, they have a set-menu, prix fixe ($50) meal prepared by a different chef from one of four regions of Spain. We missed Andalucia, which was a week ago; we had Segovia-Castilla-Leon (which ended Friday). Next week is Elgoibar, Gipuzcoa (if I can read my handwriting), followed by Llafranch, Costa Brava.

Anyway, we had a 6:00 reservation and were taken to the upstairs dining room. (On the main floor is Lily's, which looks like a typically cramped B&B dining room). Upstairs in a moderate sized room were a handful of tables for two, and one table for eight. It was the first restaurant in New York I've eaten in in a long time with about twelve feet or so between tables -- I think they put out just enough tables for the reservations. Oddly enough, all the tables for two were filled by 6:15 (In Spain they wouldn't have opened the restaurant till 8); everyone there except us was European, judging from the scraps of conversation I overheard, and the way they handled the cutlery.

But on to the food.

We ordered our usual martinis, and ten minutes after they came, the first course arrived. Aha, I thought, the first glitch -- I like a little more time over my drink until the food comes.

I knew it was a pre-set menu, but I didn't know what to expect, so every course was an adventure.

First course: hohadre de esparraos trigueros -- a sandwich of puff pastry with a filling of sauteed mushrooms (regular, shiitaki and porcini), with a noble quantity of skinny asparagus, in a ham-based sauce. YUM.

Next, ensalada de hamon serrano -- mixed field greens, toasted pine nuts, and slivers of cheese, in a circlet of Serrano ham, lightly dressed. The cutlery is replaced, then...

judiones de la granja, a soup of elephantine white beans (like monster limas), slices of chorizo and some other mysterious but tasty ingredients.

More cutlery, then cochinillo asado al estilo segoviano -- roasted suckling pig. Wonderful crunchy skin, moist and succulent interior. (Nary a vegetable or starch but, hey, who needs it?) YUM YUM

Penultimately, tarta al poncho, a scoop of vanilla ice cream (and boy, THAT we needed to cut the cake!) next to a slab of a white cake wet with, I guess, punch...tasted like orgeat syrup blend to me. Sweet enough to make your cavities scream in pain, but delicious.

Finally, hipocras, which seemed on first glance to be a shot glass filled with warm creme de menthe (a revolting thought). Actually, I found out from our waitress, it was a mixture of gin, creme de menthe, cinnamon, anise and (as if one needed it) sugar. Novel and tasty, but I don't see it as part of my regular diet. Ah, the famous Spanish sweet tooth.

Finally, coffee. And it turned out that the short time allowed for cocktails wasn't a glitch after all; if they'd allowed us any more time we'd have missed our curtain.

(And, if I'd have opened the paper napkin holder, and looked inside, I'd have seen what the menu was, which is the reason I know the above Spanish names. But, tell the truth, it was more fun being surprised)

We're away for the next couple of weeks, otherwise I'd try one of the other regions. But since this Iberian Festival is apparently an annual event at the hotel, I'll hit several next year, (God willin' and the creek don't rise).

Definitely hound-worthy chow. If anyone tries one of the other regions, please post your reaction.


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