ZiryBlog: Culinary Inspirations
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of…
Ziryab has entered the fabulous new realm of wines that are made in a more organic, healthy and respectful way, and we have a bunch of these new wines on our menu for you to try at totally affordable prices.
First off, “what is a natural wine”, you may ask?
It’s not easy to find one common description for natural wines. This may be in part also because it is a field that is still developing, at least as far as the commercial wine sector is concerned. But in fact, natural wines have been produced for thousands of years, and are really not a new thing.
In fact France is the leading naturalist worldwide, with many producers only making their wines in a natural style. Although the term is becoming increasingly talked about, these producers refuse to “label” and market their wines as natural wines, claiming this should be the only form of wine-making, and is the way they have always made wines.
A natural wine is a wine produced in a way that is closest to nature as possible, with the least form of intervention manageable. The idea is to preserve, within that bottle of wine, the natural biodiversity where the actual plant (the vine) has grown, without adding on extra methods of wine-making (e.g. carbonic maceration, malo-lactic fermentation, fermentation on lees, etc) or types of ageing (e.g. in oak barrels) that – although highly popular and common in modern wine-making, can alter the taste of a wine and take that wine very far away from the actual terroir: the soil and climate of the original grape.
This means that natural wines generally are not aged, but rather are made to be drunk young and fresh, and also they are unlikely to survive for a long time in your wine cellar in case you were remotely thinking of hoarding them…
Another factor very common to modern wines is the use of certain effects carried out towards the end of the wine-making process, to ensure a longer shelf-life and that – once opened – the wine is still relatively tasty to drink for some days before becoming totally oxidised. These are:
- Stabilisation of a wine – this often involves adding sulphur dioxide (SO2) to allow wines to be preserved longer without oxidising
- Filtration of a wine – this gets rid of any bits and bobs left over after the fermentation of the wine – bits of grape skins or stems, bits of yeast left over from the fermentation process…
These common processes make for a “clean” and easy drinking wine, and are used in most of the wines we find stocked on supermarket shelves. These wines maybe reflect something of the grape variety and the personal taste of the wine-maker, but they often lack a strong personality. In contrast, natural wines do not carry out these processes and, as a consequence, are often quite cloudy in their appearance and have strange countryside rustic aromas (often due to the presence of natural yeasts that would otherwise be filtered out before the wine is bottled). This type of wine may seem bizarre to us who have drunk commercial wines all our lives. But natural wines are true to themselves and to the land they come from and, when you get used to them, are full of charm, character and seduction…
The best natural wines are made with no (or very little) SO2, no filtration or stabilisation, and use indigenous yeasts (from the grape’s own skin, rather than yeast that has been manufactured in a laboratory). In this way, they transport you to the region in which the grapes were grown. They bring you a wine that is truer and more honest in its identity, a healthier wine more organic in its makeup, and a wine that brings us back to the essence of wine-making, just the way the Romans did it.
The wines we now have on our menu @ Ziryab are:
Petite Fleure 2015 (from Alsace, the grape is Muscat; fresh, flora & fabulous!)
Occhipinti 2015 (red wine from Sicily, indigenous grape “Frappato” which is often used to make their sweet wine Marsala; charming and intensely Meditteranean!)
Les Planetes Nin 2016 (from Catalonia, the grape is Garnatxa fermented in clay “anforas”; intriguing and magnificent!)
Vino Costa 2014 (a rosé from Granada in Andalusia, the grape is Listan negro; a brilliant discovery!)
If you are interested in learning more, there are different annual natural wine festivals you can attend, every February, to try different wines:
“La Dive Bouteille” in the Loire Valley in France (http://www.dive-bouteille.fr)
“Vins Nus” in Barcelona (https://www.facebook.com/barcelonavinsnaturals/)
“Vella Terra” in Barcelona (http://vellaterra.com)
For those intrigued by the Middle East conflict but have never been there, Ziryab offers a perfect way to taste a bit of Palestine without going so far. Taybeh is a beer brewed by a family in the west bank, in the beautiful village of Taybeh. It’s a village in the countryside, surrounded by rolling hills where the sun shines most days of the year – not too different from Barcelona.
The difficulties are paramount – the political situation in the region prevents goods from easily being exported from the territories, as they have to undergo rigorous checks and face many delays, to bring products through checkpoints and through Israel to be brought to the rest of the world. But this pioneering family persevered and learned how to make a fantastic brew, despite the obstacles they faced. The Khoury family decided – after the Oslo accords of the 90s, when peace seemed near yet unfortunately remained so far – to set up the first microbrewery in the Middle East and show the world what Palestine could produce. Learning methods from traditional German beer-brewing, they used the German “purity law” to ensure no preservatives or additives would be added to the beer, maintaining the pure essence of a good brew and bringing in fantastic tastes.
Despite the difficulties, Ziryab brings in Taybeh via its distributor based in Copenhagen, and offers several different flavours on the menu: Taybeh Golden, White beer, Amber and Dark. They are all fantastic, flavoursome, and super healthy 🙂 They pair great with the tastes we have in our fusion tapas or a great shisha at our Shisha Lounge.
Come and taste the flavour of Taybeh, of the rolling hills of Palestine, and support Palestinian producers! The village of Taybeh also has an Oktoberfest every year in October, and if you manage to make it over there it’s a wonderful occasion to enjoy Taybeh straight from the brewer, as well as try some of the gastronomical delights of the region – Palestinians make some of the best food of the Middle East!
Autumn has fallen hard, fervent, magnanimous and grey over the city of Barcelona. The warm summer wind has lost it’s strength, falling amongst the cobblestones in cool puddles of rain. The dogs bark differently this time of year.
The warm light of the restaurant becomes a part of this autumn landscape. A golden light like warmest bread. The red of the wine deepens with passion as it fills the glass. The very wood in the walls competes with the timeless history of the room itself.
Suddenly a bang. The light from the “correfocs” washes over the streets. “Are those fireworks?” The people run outside to see. The stairwell is deserted, and from the empty loft of the restaurant, life feels like a celebration. Do you really think it matters that no one else seems to be listening?
The rockets fade away, leaving behind a trail of smoke that slowly lifts as time begins again, revealing smiling faces. It’s time to eat. Some have a bite, others have more than a bite. Everything is fresh, the aromas sit nicely alongside the candles. Take a look inside. Take your time. Everyone seems content. A cold wind rattles against the door, and no one notices. Silence.
What happened here one hundred years ago? This place would make a fabulous apartment. Why do I like it here so much?
The charm. There’s no other way to explain it. Maybe that’s why they call it that in the first place, because a magical charm has been placed upon us, and all those who lived inside these walls, and wandered through the autumn nights, and heard the silent lute of Ziryab.
Come and see.
(poem based on the musician Ziryab, who legend has it – among other things – invented the 5th string of the lute)
Barcelona, for all its culture and history, is also best known for its fairly active nightlife scene. Numerous bars litter the city, providing both locals and tourists alike with good drinks and even better company. Indeed, there are even tourists who specifically come to Barcelona to seek out the many bars and sample as much drink as possible from each.
The Mirror news website published a helpful online travel guide to Barcelona last June 3, 2014 which did not fail to mention the city’s bars. The guide goes through the usual enumerations of famous landmarks, but is quick to note that almost every side road conceals a bar ready to entertain even the most clueless of tourists. The guide recommends that tourists should try the local beer, or a half beer, half fizzy lemon “clara.”
Tapas is the catch-all term for the variety of appetizers and snacks that feature prominently in Spanish cuisine. What was once modest meals served in between glasses of wine is now a major food trend that is sweeping across the globe. Establishments that serve tapas encourage patrons to order different small plates to form one large and varied meal. While there are a good number of tapas restaurants around the world, purists would argue that Spain is still the best place to enjoy them.
Learning to explore the art of fine dining requires exploring as well which types of food go well with which wine variety. This probe doubles up when you’re talking about Catalan wines, of which Cava has become the name to look for when you’re looking for any tipple from Catalunya. An article in the Catalan News Agency says the region’s Greco-Roman heritage makes it a viable place to explore wine varieties – which you can kick off at a place that serves the best tapas in Barcelona like Ziryab.
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If you happily greeted the New Year in Spain, you will certainly seek out a place to have a special dinner with friends to wish good fortune for the year ahead. A tapas place may be one of the best spots for that avenue, even if the occasion has to be around the feast of the Epiphany. Irene Palmer, in her piece for Eye on Spain, writes that tapas speaks at the very essence of Spanish cuisine.
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Ziryab offers on its menu the wonderful Arak Touma made by the winery Château St Thomas in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, and reputedly using the finest aniseed from the al Heeneh area of Mount Hermon.
Arak is a 50% pure-grape alcohol made primarily in the Levant (Near East). It can be found in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel and Iran, and each country and producer add their special touch so it can vary quite a lot from one place to another. It is a clear, odourless, unsweetened anise-flavoured drink… with a potency that will have your mouth tingling…! Arak is a blend of French distillation methods matched with Lebanese tradition, and our Arak Touma is so smooth, after distillation four times, that it is completely methanol-free.
The delicate scent of the quality aniseed is a pure delight and a gem to drink if you are an anise-lover. Ziryab recommends drinking Aram Touma alone as an aperitivo, with ice and water (1/3 Arak to 2/3 water). Diluting the water (which is usually put into a traditional Levantine vessel called a “Bariq”) with the Arak causes it’s colour to change to a milky white substance. This interesting phenomenon happens because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water.
If not drinking it alone, you could also have it as an accompaniment one of our tapas-mezze! Many like to accompany it with barbecued meats or garlic flavours. Yalla try it!
From friends or bloggers who have been to Barcelona, you might have heard of the famous city’s delectable tapas. Indeed, tapas is only one of many influential things that have been associated with Barcelona—and in a much larger context, Spain. But did you know that this dish was literally fit for a king? Richard Odale of The Daily Meal travelled to Spain to find out why tapas are so important in their country:
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So you’ve booked your Barcelona trip, and are ready to go shortly. All your bags are packed, and your documents settled, and the hotel room reservation’s stamped in—however, you feel a nagging concern in the back of your mind. About.com resident Spain travel expert Damian Corrigan sums that up with these words: Read More »