A beautiful Friday evening last week saw Tinhorn Creek Vineyards' amphitheatre seemingly magically transform into the sun-drenched Iberian Peninsula for the annual Primavera Dinner.
The event is held each year ahead of the Half Corked Marathon and this year carbo-loading gave way to protein-loading thanks to a long-table, Spanish-themed dinner prepared by Chef Javier Blanc.
Blanc is the mastermind behind the widely popular Vancouver-based Paella Guys & Co. who famously whip up giant batches of authentic to-die-for paella in huge oversized paella pans that serve around 50 people each.
Blanc and his team wowed the nearly 130 guests at the al fresco event with his selection of pork cuts from the jamon Ibérico pata negra, or black hoofed Iberian pig.
"This meat known as Iberian pork comes from Spain and the characteristic is that they are fed with acorns," he says, noting this has been a traditional practice for thousands of years, all the way back to the Neolithic era when animal domestication first began.
Iberian pork is generally considered to be among the most high-quality ham produced anywhere in the world.
Plated sets of four different cuts of pork were the main course at the dinner including blade shoulder, sirloin, chorizo, and ham.
The sumptuous pork was accompanied by a confit of peppers and eggplant alongside patatas con salsa which was a mojo picon sauce originating from Spain's Canary Islands. Dessert featured the ever-popular sinfully chocolate mousse by Sugar Quail Bakeshop.
The dinner kicked off with traditional Spanish tapas and was paired with a selection of Tin Horn Vineyards wine. Speaking of the tapas Blanc said: "This is something in the middle, you come in and you just start sharing what's on the plate, we're about sharing our meals in Spain."
He adds that this is "part of the thing to help start conversation at the tables." Given the glorious sunny evening, lovely Tinhorn Creek wines, and delicious tapas, conversations were well on the way from the very start.
On first look the dinner, served at ambient temperature, looked almost too plain - rustic perhaps - for the event. The four different cuts of pork were simply laid bare on the plate in their natural glory, unadorned by any kind of sauce. But the simplicity was purely illusory as each cut was far more complex than it appeared making it seem as if there were four different kinds of meat on the plate, rather than all coming from the same animal.
"In Spain our grandmothers didn't have money but they had time and so they had to treat whatever they had in a special way and take the time to cook it," he said. He adds that "now we have money but no time!".
"This is the third year that we've done the Primavera dinner an we said, 'let's do something different and we'll bring in some Iberian pork'." With rave reviews from the assembled gourmands that decision was clearly a stellar one.
Blanc notes that aside from the paella that his team is so well-known for, they also specialize in tapas, Spanish barbecue, and of course sangria. All of their meat is imported directly from Spain because no other pork in the world has the texture and flavour of this speciality de España.