Pairing wine with food is an epicurean treat. Pairing it with your favorite people gives the whole experience more meaning. I have this favorite little place in the Fort Bonifacio area to do both. It's far enough from the usually crowded area of Serendra and High Street, but no too far away for one to get lost while looking for it. This not-so-secret hideaway is called Barcino.
According to Sales and Marketing Manager Virginia Lopez, 'Barcino' is formerly the name of the second largest city in Spain, now called Barcelona. At Barcino's branch along Rizal Drive at Fort Bonifacio, the crowds are the posh and young, while their Ortigas branch frequently draw in the older, corporate crowds. They recently opened shop at Greenbelt 5, although it is more of a wine and deli. You can check out their selection of reasonably-priced Spanish and Italian wines, wine accessories and other imported deli products at this branch.
Barcino at Greenbelt 5
With Barcino, we can appreciate the wine and dine scene just the way it is in Spain: a casual atmosphere, very hole-in-the-wall and cozy, with a great ambiance to start off one's evening.
I fell in love with the place on my first time there, when we celebrated a good friend's birthday and despedida. There's something about Barcino that is so welcoming, with its low lighting, small space and tavern feel. It's a place where those dressed to the nines and those who just want to kick back in their casuals can coexist without that awkward air and pretension. It's what I look for, exactly, in an evening of wine and food.
Barcino at Fort Bonifacio
Not that I'm a big expert of wine, of course. I enjoy the sweeter, lighter wines but I admit I know little of the brands and vaguely can evaluate its aroma, and exact taste. That is why I was very excited to have an afternoon with Virginia to hear more about wine the Spanish way, and to try out pairing Barcino's different wine offerings with their food. "Wine is like water to us,", she explains, "and it really doesn't matter how expensive or old, it's all about your personal taste." And because wine to them is like water taken each and every meal, Barcino sells their wine at pretty good prices, doing away with the notion that wine is a hoity-toity, ultra-luxurious alcoholic beverage.
And so, we began our wine pairing, starting off with a bottle of white. Virginia introduced us to Claudia Vallformosa (P580/bottle), a 2007 Parellada-Muscat wine of Catalan origin. It is a bit on the acidic side, with hints of citrus that makes the drinking experience light and elegant.
Triangulos de Queso Frito
The Triangulos de Queso Frito (Fried Cheese Triangles, P275) really went well with white wine. A piquant appetizer with its cheddar flavor is complemented with the sour and spicy tomato salsa that has bits of zucchini and bell pepper.
Croquetas de Bacalao
You can observe the simple rule of white wine and fish with Barcino's Croquetas de Bacalao (P280). The cod fish had a very soft and fine texture, and comes with a garlic mayo dip.
A new favorite of mine to go with the Claudia Vallformosa is the Pimientos Es Calivados (Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Olives, P295).
Pimientos Es Calivados
Virginia teaches us how to spread it all on top of a piece of bread: place a roasted pepper of each color first, followed by a small piece of anchovy, then topped with an olive. A harmonious blend of the sweet peppers, and the salty in the black olives and anchovies was well-received by my palate. A bite into the bread followed by a sip of white wine was unforgettably enjoyable.
Champiniones con Jamon
Champiniones con Jamon (Ham and Mushrooms, P320) goes with both white and red wine, I am told. I chose to eat this dish with white, and I appreciate its comfort food simplicity that echoes in the light and fruity notes of my glass of wine.
Our next wine to pair is a red wine. A bottle of 2008 Altozano Tempranillo (P550) made its way to our little table, and our waiter poured it into bigger glasses of wine that made me appreciate the Altozano's aroma more. This Spanish wine is full-bodied, has distinct berry notes, and just a tease of bitterness to it.
We first enjoyed our glass of Altozano with a Cheese Platter (P560), to have ourselves some of that classic wine-and-cheese experience. There were crackers to go with the slices of Cabrales and Manchego. Both Spanish cheeses undoubtedly complemented our wine.
Another tapas classic is the Chorizo Platter (P510) a plate full of different Spanish pork sausages. One serving has Bilbao, Iberico, Pamplona and Picantes, giving us varying degrees of meaty, spicy and salty that kept up with the richness of red wine.
We also tried Beef Tripe (Tripa Guisada, P295) with the Altozano, and appreciated the comfort-food feel of the dish: soft, warm, rich and enveloped in olive oil.
After both red and white wines, we were ready for some dessert. Virginia surprised us with a bottle of dessert wine, as my companions and I have never tried eating sweets with wine. A small bottle of Muscat (P350), we disovered, was a thick and sweet dessert wine.
We had our glasses of Muscat with a plate of Crema Catalana (P190) and Pudding with Spanish Cream (P125). The bread pudding is sweet and light, dotted with raisins, and drizzled with a white Spanish cream. Crema Catalana on the other hand is a Spanish take on the crème brulee. It has a creamier, mushier texture that is infused with vanilla and cinnamon. The top layer is slightly burnt to create a crispy outer glaze, which was fun to crack with the back of a spoon.
Pudding with Spanish Cream
After practically an entire afternoon of wine pairing, we were all left more educated, and left with quite a happy buzz. At the end of the day, really, what goes with your wine is still a personal decision, as the best judges for whatever you eat are still, your tastebuds.
If you ask me, the most excellent thing that goes well with wine are people. The company you keep while enjoying a bottle or two really does make a difference. So come along with the best people in tow to Barcino, for that intimate wine and dine experience.