Updated Wednesday,19July2023-21:32

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In his summer reunion with the readers of EL MUNDO, this gastronomad proposes a more spaced and more detailed tour than previous ones: six Spanish restaurants will star in it, from modest rural taverns to large tables held internationally, which are today places of worship for addicts to great tasty and authentic cuisine from here and everywhere.

For the forgetful or new readers, a reminder: "gastronomad" is a word invented more than a century ago by Curnonsky, the great French gastronomic writer, to describe a new category of citizens, born of two fundamental facts, the generalization of the automobile and the first major roads, in particular that N-7 that linked Paris and the Côte d'Azur. It was no longer only traveled by train, with fixed routes, but one could take to the road and choose -helped by the first Michelin guides- their stages according to the good inns of the road. And since then all drivers who love good food are gastronomads.

It must be recognized that the world's attention to Spanish cuisine did not really begin until Ferran Adrià began to deconstruct and reinvent the dishes, and the New York Times Magazine published that cover about The new nouvelle cuisine, which was made in Spain. But, since then, all types of cuisine, all Spanish products have become famous, and none more unexpected than the grilled beef, little done, which had been an exclusive of Great Britain, the United States and Argentina. And that is why the most unexpected of our cult tables is the one that opens the series today: El Capricho, the temple of long-matured and millimetrically roasted beef created by José Gordón, son of a modest winegrower and innkeeper from the Jamuz Valley, in León.

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The Caprice.

What to eat in the temple of meats (beyond its well-known chop)


What to eat in the temple of meats (beyond its well-known chop)

Once again, the global kick-off was given to us – when the fame of El Capricho was already growing within our borders – by a great American publication, Time magazine, which revealed the greatness of what Gordón was doing in Jiménez de Jamuz, through a report by its reporter Lydia Itoi published 16 years ago and that caused astonishment. The journalist wrote:

"There is nothing unusual about it being so difficult to find a good steak: it is in danger of extinction as are the old cattle from which it comes. For years I have been chasing the secret of the supreme steak, and I had reason to believe that it was somewhere in northern Spain. So the Madrid food journalist Pedro Espinosa stayed with me in the Basque mountains around San Sebastián, from where we would eat in several places until we reached El Capricho, a restaurant next to the tiny town of Jiménez de Jamuz in the northwestern province of León. We knew that José Gordón Ferrero, the owner of the restaurant, obsessed with the ox, had been gathering old oxen raised in freedom, fattening them for up to four years, and then dry maturing the meat for up to three months. When I heard that he planned to slaughter five of these few animals to make a direct comparison of the effects of long maturation on red meat, I realized that for as little as $68 a kilo I could give a definitive answer to the question of the best ox of all."

The magazine 'Time' surrendered: that red meat, almost raw, tender and tasty at the same time, was the best in the world

After recalling his many previous trips, and his excellent journey from San Sebastian to Jiménez de Jamuz, Itoi explained the importance of age and natural feeding of cattle, and of maturation at 0º C for weeks -from 40 to 100 days- that Gordon practiced. And he surrendered: that red meat, almost raw, tender and tasty at the same time, was the best in the world.

As we highlighted years ago in these same pages, in El Capricho José Gordón not only acquires -even in the Azores, where he discovered that livestock activity survived and there were animals over 10 years old- the most imposing oxen that can be imagined, and in passing he has perfected the art of curing jerky like nobody else, but it is the great defender of the extreme ripening, months and months, of the flesh. In the Basque Country, the grillers viewed this with suspicion because with more than 30 days the putrefaction usually begins. But you have to see Gordón's impressive chambers, very cold and intensely ventilated, to understand that he does.

The experience, in the old cellar converted into a dining room, is unforgettable. And all this completes an astonishing story, that of a boy who began serving jugs of wine in the picnic area of his family, which today is El Capricho, who began to learn to handle the grill and who one day discovered in neighboring Galicia the nobility of some old oxen grazing and bought the first. From there to his obsession, to his way of prolonging the breeding in the field of the animals he seeks in remote places and to mature their meat as no one had done, there is the story of this innkeeper whose house enthusiasts come from Osaka or from Vancouver. By the way: José has returned to the vineyard of his ancestors, and dreams of soon making the wine that accompanies his chops.

Like the other cult restaurants that we are going to review this summer, El Capricho exalts natural products, not the "molecular" techniques, liquid nitrogen and others, which were so fashionable. And, as when the gastronomad began his chronicles here, we must insist that what is imposed today is a desire to taste again great products whose flavor and texture are not transformed, but enhanced.

Winery El Capricho. Arrobierzo Street, 28. Jiménez de Jamuz (León). Tel. 987 664 227. https://bodegaelcapricho.com/es.

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