/ The DC Traveler
Washington DC — By Jon Rochetti on January 22, 2010 at 8:26 am

Celebrate Spanish Gastronomic Week in Washington DC

For nine day in February, a dozen Washington, DC area restaurants will celebrate the cuisine and wine of the northern Spanish province of Navarra.  With special menus that feature the traditional food and local wines of the region, Washingtonians can sample a unique and rich flavors of this historical region of Spain. 

The Navarra region produces all types of vegetables, fruits and livestock, due to the wide ranges of soils and climates, from the hot and sunny fertile valleys to the cooler mountainous upland areas. 

Classic Navarradishes include menestre, a vegetable stew using the region’s abundant produce, and pimientos de piquillo rellenos, red peppers stuffed with just about anything – balcaloa (salt cod,) crab, eggs, mushrooms, or spinach and cheese. 

Pochasis another legendary dish made from beans mixed with spicy chorizo sausage and quail. 

The hearty cuisine is influenced by it’s northern neighbor, France, as well as other Spanish regions, so it’s not uncommon to find duck pate, suckling pig, and pheasant.  

The Navarra region is also famous for rainbow trout caught in the cold-water rivers originating in the Pyrenees Mountains, as well as more recently, local fish farms.  Beef, lamb and wild game is also raised locally and often highlighted on restaurant menus.  

Cheese is another product of the area, and the most famous are Roncal, a hard, nutty flavored creamy sheep milk cheese similar to Manchego and the similar Idiazabal, a more smoky sheep’s milk cheese produced in just six towns in Spain.  

Quesos cheses of SpainTapas, or little plates, are also popular for pre-dinner snacks with a  glass of wine.  A serving of sweet fire-roasted Piquillos peppers stuffed with goat cheese is an excellent accompaniment with a glass of local wine.  

For dessert, the traditional dish is cuajada, a flan-like dish that is half way between cheesecake and yogurt. It’s basic ingredients include sheep’s or cow’s milk and sugar, which is cooked using a red-hot poker or spoon to give it a slightly burnt taste.  It’s typically served in small clay pots topped with honey and walnuts. 

To go along with your dessert, many restaurants will offer a serving of Spanish brandy, and in some of the smaller towns, will leave the bottle on the table. 

The 2,000+ wineries of the area produce the world famous La Rioja wine.  Ernest Hemingway loved the region’s wine so much that while in Spain writing his last book, “The Dangerous Summer,” a story of rivalry between two bull fighters, it’s said that he never traveled without a supply of La Rioja on hand. 

The wines, mostly reds, come in four styles, ranging from Alavesa, a fruity, higher-alcohol younger wine typically made from the tempranillo grape, to richer, fuller-bodied barrel-aged wines.   

The reservas and gran reservaswines are more expensive and worth the extra cost.  White and rosé wines are also produced yet represent only 5% of the region’s 270 million liter annual wine output. 

LaOliva_Girasoles, Spain

The wine industry owes part of it’s success to the devastating wine blight of the 1860s which decimated French wine making areas and helped the Spanish wines of the region fill the void and become popular throughout Europe. 

The ancient Romans were such large consumers of the region’s wine that during the first century, records show that millions of 26 liter storage vessels (called amphoras) were exported from Navarra to other areas of the empire.  

The Navarra region is rich with history dating back to Roman times who dominate much of Spain for 5 centuries.  The inhabitants of the region include ancestors of the present-day Basques.  Throughout the region, towns dating back 2,000 years to Roman times are still vibrant.  Ancient Roman arches and aqueducts as well as archaeological remains can be visited across the region.  

In the 8th century, the Moors invaded and took over part of the region, but by the 9th century, chieftain Iñigo Arista established the kingdom of Pamplona, which expanded to become the Kingdom of Navarre.  

Running of the Bulls - PamplonaWithin 200 years, the kingdom’s territory included present-day Basque country, Aragon and La Rioja, as well as the city made famous with the annual running of the bulls – Pamplona, all equaling about 2% of the Spain’s total land.  

In some areas, old city walls date back to Medieval times as do many churches and cathedrals. 

The region was  also the birthplace of King Ferdinand, who with his wife Queen Isabella, led the re-conquest of Spain and united the country under their monarchy.   

They also assembled a mighty army and navy that established Spain as the first world power.  The king and queen also sent Christopher Columbus on his voyage of discovery to the new world

Today, Navarra is one of Spain’s autonomous communities with its own decentralized government and parliament, and celebrates a rich and diverse culture. 

The DC cuisine festival overlaps the 10th Annual DC Flamenco Festival that runs February 9th though the 23rd. 

Navarra Gastronomic Week
Participating restaurants in Washington, DC 

  • BLT Steak – 1625 I St. NW, Washington, DC (map it)
  • Cafe Atlantico – 405 8th St. NW, Washington, DC (map it)
  • Jaleo – Downtown DC, Crystal City and Bethesda
  • La Bodega – 3116 M St. NW, Washington, DC
  • La Tasca –7th St. in Washington, DC, Alexandria, Arlington, Rockville and Baltimore
  • Taberna Del Alabardero - 1776 I St. NW, Washington, DC (map it)

Dates - February 6–14, 2010.

Images – Courtesy of the Kingdom of Navarra

3 places are mentioned in this post!
  1. "A long time hidden gem of the popular Penn Quarter, this playful &
  2. Taberna del Alabardero offers the world-class cuisine of Spain presented
Click on the place name to learn more


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