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Stemless Espana and Ham on a Harness

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the October 2nd, 2006

El alimento. El vino. El ambience. Lo amo! That is how I feel about this new wine bar here in the East Village. Bar Carrera. My wife and I were headed back to our neck of the woods after coming down from a busy Sunday of running around, fulfilling a list of errands. As we approached our hood, she voiced her need for a nibble, nothing too crazy just something to munch on before we headed back to the apartment. I suddenly felt the same way and nothing sounded better than some wine and a cheese plate, with some assorted meats to bring the weekend to a close. Oh yeah.
We decided to hit up Bar Veloce on Second Ave. and do the Italian thing. We actually haven�t been there yet even though it is literally right across the street. As we walked up Second Ave. we passed Veselka and ran into our friend Elizabeth. I mentioned our destination and she said,  Have you been to bar Carrera yet? Then it hit me. Oh yeah, I had heard of this place. The owner of Bar Veloce opened a Spanish wine bar right next door to his Italian wine bar. So much for Italian. Thanking Elizabeth for the insight, we headed up to check this place out.
The place is about as small as it’s next-door neighbor and I must say just as sexy, if not more. The interior is streamlined, with soft lighting, chill music and a total of about a dozen or so barstools at the beautifully constructed bar. Opposite the bar and against the wall is a long counter with stools. Most of the wines by the glass are presented in a nice display case on the bar so you can stare at the label while enjoying the glass. Speaking of glasses, as we sat down I looked down at the other people eating and drinking and noticed their glasses were stemless. This a recent Reidel innovation that has caught the boutique bug here in New York City. For me it swings both ways as far as preference is concerned. On the one hand they are beautiful to look at and fun because they are different. On the other hand I like the stem because you are not forced to hold the bowl of the glass, all the while warming up the wine as you sip (I know that is the geek in me talking). But man they look nice in a soft comfy setting. And after we ordered the wine, I see how they can get away with it.
The menu consisted of tapas, tapas, tapas. The descriptions made everything sound absolutely enticing. On another trip we will dive into those beauties but this was a night for wine and cheese with some meat to top it off. They have a cheese plate, a meat plate, and a “plata combinando” as they put it, a cheese and meat combination plate. Ya know what we went for. What is really cool is, behind the bar they have a leg of Serrano ham under a lamp on this neat harness and get this your portion is hand sliced to order. Pretty cool.
The wine list is very exciting. If you have read any of my previous posts you’ll know that I am on a major Spanish/South American kick right now. And it hasn’t stopped. I have been seduced by malbec, tempranillo, albarino and company and the love affair continues. There was everything here, from indigenous varietals to blends, to ports, sherries and interesting sangria-like concoctions. Oh, if we only had the time to go through them all. My wife tends to lean towards the white wines and I tend to lean towards the red side (this is a very broad statement. I am a wine geek after all and no wine shall be denied). What is cool about this is we get to taste each other’s choices.
My eyes landed on a varietal not yet in my vocabulary: godello. How intriguing. A white grape indigenous to Spain that, according to the bartender (there has to be a better name for a bartender in a wine bar. If anyone knows of one or has any ideas let me know) if you like sauvignon blanc, you will like this. The description on the menu mentioned something like, wet rocks. Well that sounds interesting and right up our alley. A glass of godello please. As for the reds, I was in heaven. I could not decide. Do I go for the obvious like a rioja or do I go for the Tres Picos 100 percent granacha that I know so well? Or do I branch out and sip and swirl an eye-catching blend. Oh let’s go for the blend. Yes, let’s branch out. I ordered a blend of granacha and tempranillo. This is where it got really exciting. My red wine was served at sixty to sixty-five degrees, the perfect temp for enjoying red wine. They actually keep their red wine by-the-glass bottles at the right temperature and for me that was a first. Well, there is one other place I have been to, but that was an expensive inert gas system with elaborate displays and such. This place just had a temperature controlled hand cellar behind the bar. How cool is that? And then it all came together for me about the stemless glasses. If you’re going to have stemless glasses, then it would make sense to serve the wine at a cooler temperature. That way your wine won’t warm up too much. Sweet.
My wine was very well balanced with the fruit and the acidity. As it warmed up a bit the fullness of the blend became more apparent and I was able to enjoy the deep spice and jammy-ness of Spain. Great glass wine. My wife’s godello, sure enough, had wet rocks on the nose and on the palate. It is an aroma I enjoy in a wine. It’s this kind of minerally smell that is comforting when balanced with a good fruit and this godello had some nice fruit. Good stuff.
The “plata combinando” arrived and it was absolutely perfect with the wine. There were two types of cheeses and some quince along with cut-to-order Serrano and some awesome, smoky chorizo. One cheese was definitely manchego and the other was some kind of goat cheese but I can’t remember the name. My wife and I just sat back, chilled to some hip Latino pop electronica and enjoyed the atmosphere while nibbling on some amazing nibbles from the Iberian peninsula.
This place is real chill. I hope it catches on in a way that keeps it enjoyable to visit. I hope the staff stays cool and doesn’t get too jaded when this place starts rollin. I would like to check it out in a couple weeks on a weekend night to see how they are doing. And my wife and I will definitely be back for some of the tapas and those interesting indigenous drinks. Hasta la vez pr’xima mis amigos.

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