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Waiting It Out

Waiting out the rest of the year, the last week of December feels something like the end of a great night. The pressures of bringing together family and friends are over and you have a few extra days before the New Year to make plans, go to stores or avoid them, see friends, see movies, or just drift a little. After hosting my first complete Noche Buena this year, I was ready to drift. There was little food left but tons of chocolate – in the drawers, in the cabinets, on my mind. I decided to do something.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to a dinner at Romera hosted by Manu Muga of Bodegas Muga, a family-owned vineyard. Bodegas Muga has been cultivating varieties of grapes – Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graziano for reds and Viura and Malvasia for whites – on over 620 acres nestled in the Rioja Alta region of Spain for more than 70 years. Though widely distributed, they’re committed to small scale, artisanal production – heavy oak barrels are used throughout the entire process, egg whites are still used for clarification and the egg yolks still go to nearby convents to be turned into sweets.

The tasting menu by Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera was memorable by design – each course meant to illicit a neurosensory response – a cuisine he developed as a practicing neurologist in Barcelona. It may have been the synapses but the wine, thoughtfully paired with each of the 11 courses, kept things buzzing along nicely. When the infused waters, dried herb mosaics, and chalices laden with Kobe beef had been had, the best pairing came at very end the end when it was just red wine and chocolate – in this case Muga Aro 2006 and house-made bonbons and tablets. A vivid red against the soothing chocolate, if the rest of the meal was a dream, this was the perfect way to be woken up.

Wanting to capture that same feeling, I decided to make truffles to take to a friends house for tapas and picoteo. It had been awhile since I’d attempted them and I’d forgotten how much fun it could be – temperamental but fun. Not stopping there, I also made these chocolate cookies. Resolutions would kick in soon enough but until then there’s a little more wine, a lot of more chocolate, and time to enjoy both.

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