So here I am, having a birthday that has been hailed as the new 30. I’m single and childless and gainfully employed. So far, I’m not convinced.
Luckily, I had a new beau who just happened to be a wonderful baker — and believe me, a woman’s heart definitely can be won over with beautifully baked levain bread. We decided the best way to celebrate this birthday was an eating/drinking tour in Europe…specifically Rioja, Spain, Basque country and Bordeaux. France & Spain here we come!
My first nibble/birthday treat on foreign soil from the Baker was to be classic French macarons at the Paris airport between flights. A perfect start. Then arriving in Madrid, driving to our inn in Rioja: an old royal palace, Hospedería Señorío de Briñas…amazing. And a sparkling Spanish cava toast in the room on arrival? Lovely touch!
Now to find dinner. Most places in our little town of Briñas were already closed, so we were recommended Asador Tinto in Haro: close by, loved by locals, quiet. We headed there immediately.
Turns out it was a favorite of all kinds of city workers on break this time of night. Ambulances, police cars and empty buses were parked outside, and their drivers were inside, feasting on pata negra and Rioja wine, the Spanish version of donuts and coffee. We took a table in the modern warehouse-esque interior.
First – birthday wine! A Crianza: ruby-colored, smooth with hints of cherry and fennel. This is why you come to Rioja.
Second — birthday pork! Jamón ibérico, or pata negra, or the finest ham in the world: the first of many plates of pata on this trip.