Although today is officially the first day of spring, it is raining this morning – again! Well, I shouldn’t complain since we actually got two days in a row without rain. In fact, it was warm both days, which was really nice last night when Sweet Shark and I made our way down to Trinity Groves for a night of sherry tasting and tapas at Casa Rubia as part of the four-day food celebration Savor Dallas. It’s been awhile since we participated in any of the events during this food festival and we were eager especially for this one. First, we had not been to Trinity Groves, the restaurant “village” just over the Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge on the south side of the Trinity, since we attended the grand opening of Sharon Van Meter’s entertainment venue 3015 Trinity a few years ago. We were amazed at the growth of the area; there must be a dozen restaurants, many with covered outdoor seating. Second, we had wanted to try Casa Rubia, picked as one of the Top 10 Best Restaurants by food critic Leslie Brenner. Third, we love tapas, especially after our trip to Barcelona last fall. And finally, we wanted to learn more about about sherry. In 2005, we visited and fell in love with Cadiz and La Coruna in southern Spain, the center of all things sherry. We were not disappointed. Casa Rubia has a rustic decor with a large rectangular bar, some communal tables and an open kitchen that is warm and inviting. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the delicious aroma. Some awesome cooking was definitely going on here. We were graciously led to the communal tables to join other attendees. We sat across from Katherine and Karl, a delightful couple who we quickly discovered were as devoted to food, restaurants, and travel as we are. Our hostess brought the 3-course menu for the evening and poured our first glass of sherry – Manzanilla, Lustau Almacenista. We thought it was a white wine until we tasted it; then the unmistakable taste of sherry came through. Our hostess explained that this sherry is from a very small-batch winery near Cadiz that produces only 80 barrels a year. We learned that in Spanish chamomile tea is called manzanilla, thus the slight taste of tea. Then our first course came: Esparragos, described as First of the Season Asparagus, Iberico Lardo, Quail Egg, Crispy Ham-Dill Vinaigrette. Such a pretty dish and once again, fabulous aroma. The asparagus had been lightly grilled or roasted ( My two favorite ways to prepare asparagus.) to a a tender crisp texture, the Iberico lardo (Iberico is the ham only raised in Spain and lardo is pork fat) lent a slightly salty, barely smokey taste to the vinaigrette. I swear the egg was so fresh, the quail must be laying eggs behind the restaurant.
Our next sherry, Palo Cortado de Jerez, Lustau Ammacentista, had an amber color to it. From the same vineyard as the first sherry, this one had a richer flavor. Only 50 barrels are produced a year – you won’t find these sherries at Total Wine. It was paired with Rabo de toro: Oxtail (obviously braised to a silky texture and rich flavor), Creamy Farro, Spring Vegetables (tiny diced carrots and a bit of spinach on top), Smoked Onion Jus. Again, the aromas and flavors make your mouth water. The blend of tastes and the sherry worked beautifully together.
Our third sherry selection was sweeter and thicker in texture, just the type of sherry to finish the evening and pair with dessert, Pedro Ximenez, Bodegas Toro Albala Gran Reserva 1983. This 25-year-old sherry is meant to be sipped slowly (well, aren’t all sherries meant to be sipped slowly?) and savored. Presented in glass jars, our dessert was rich and filling with hints of vanilla, ginger and caramel: Vanilla Bean Flan, Apple-Almond Bread Pudding, Ginger Ice Cream, Sea Salt Caramel. Our hostess ceremoniously spooned the caramel sauce on each dessert.
After reluctantly finishing the last sips of our sherry and the last spoonfuls of flan and caramel sauce, we bid adios to our table partners and headed outside. The twinkling lights in the surrounding trees and the warm (what a delight after cold weather) evening air enticed us to walk down what I can only describe as a boardwalk connecting all the restaurants. Every outdoor eating area was packed and several of the restaurants were full inside as well. The atmosphere was lively, joyous, and I hate to say this, but didn’t feel like Dallas. When we first heard about Trinity Groves, we were skeptical: would people really come here to eat? Well, the answer is a resounding yes. Which proves that people will drive to get great, creative food in a great atmosphere with outdoor seating. We will definitely be back to Casa Rubia for a full dinner experience and hopefully try some of the other venues. Until then, Salud!