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by Andrew Chalk

Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, and a thriving historic city with a cathedral dating back to the 15th century. As well as being a great place to stay in its own right it is also on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Which prompts an obvious question? What did the pilgrims eat after a day’s climbing mountains and fjording streams? Most of the town was shut in the evening as residents celebrated the Sabbath with family. There were a few hotel restaurants open, but who wants to eat with awful tourists after a day seeking absolution?

umm is modern in appearance, casual in atmosphere, and traditional in cuisine.

The solution, at least nowadays, is umm, a blowout tapas and pinchos bas founded by local chef Alex Garcia, and his second effort to accompany his first in nearby San Juan, which serves full-size helpings.

You go to umm for a quick snack or for a full meal built out of tapas and sandwiches. You will find it in the heart of old town, right next to our hotel, the Hotel Marqués de Vallejo, which sports a restaurant, Gastro 1911, respected in its own right. The tapas bar comes with a Michelin recommendation, light airy modern design, and Miguel, a partner who brings enough personality and grasp of English to put tourists at ease (and persuade knackered pilgrims that absolution can wait).

Sample of the showcase

Start by choosing a couple of tapas each and then continue until you cannot. Ask Miquel about wines (he tipped me off about about Bodegas Muga oak-aged Viura, and a crianza Garnacha that seriously weighed on examples from the southern Rhône). He also has a sense of what pairs with his tapas.

So far as the food goes, that is best told in pictures...

Brandada de Bacalao Con Salmorejo: What swims together, grins together. When was the last time that you had bacalao with seaweed?

Tataki de Atun con Salsa Acida: Tuna filets sit atop sweet sautéed onions.

The Miguel and Only

Ventresca Con Piperrada: A basque take on tuna belly.

Tigre Enlatado: How do you fit a tiger into a can? Turn it into a mussel!

Manzanas Asadas Con Foie: Foie Gras, this time with apple.

Bacon roll heated under the grill and layered with croutons.

Carrillera Con Crema de Coliflor. Calf’s cheeks with not mashed potato, but creamed cauliflower.

Different kind of cheek. Prints on the bathroom doors.

The full list for the day. Two full people, with five glasses of wines, tax and tip $31.50.


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About Me

Andrew Chalk is a Dallas-based author who writes about wine, spirits, beer, food, restaurants, wineries and destinations all over the world.

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