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A Chat with Gerry Dawes

America’s Foremost Spanish Food and Wine Expert

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#151 darkstar965

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:51 PM

This topic is a freakin' treasure trove of great content for anyone traveling to Spain.

The headline for this thread describes Gerry as "America's Leading Spanish Food and Wine Expert." I'm guessing that may be a bit too narrow.

What do you know about the Spanish coffee scene, Mr. Dawes? My sense is that it's quite robust and thus very underrepresented here in the US. I wasn't particularly into coffee when I lived in Barcelona though do remember the culture at coffee counters being one I really enjoyed. Deep within a post I just made about a new local coffee shop is a mention of an old Barcelona based coffee equipment company without anywhere near the brand recognition of Italy's Marzocco. Next time I'm in Catalunya, I want to visit Compak along with all the great vineyards, restaurants and areas I have yet to experience.

#152 SeanMike

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 03:18 PM

More on the controversy with Ms. Maclean:

 

http://www.thestar.c...1Usy20M.twitter

 

 


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#153 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 10:43 AM

Hi, Folks, very sorry that I have been AWOL.  Lots of post holidays stuff, some travails and prepping for a ten-day trip to Spain, where I will present Chef George Mendes at Madrid Fusion, the go on a week long trip to Galicia (Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras), Bierzo, La Rioja, Navarra, Ribera del Duero and back to Madrid.  I will be reporting with photos as time allows from Madrid Fusion and from the road trip.  More to come.


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#154 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:52 PM

I will have the privilege of introducing George Mendes on Wednesday, January 23 for his presentation at Madrid Fusión 2013.  (See below for my profile of Georges Mendes for Madrid Fusión 2013.

 

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Three-star Basque Chef Martín Berasategui and George Mendes, Madrid.

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

 

Chef George Mendes, Aldea Restaurant, New York City
by Gerry Dawes©2013


    Chef Georges Mendes, Chef-partner at Aldea restaurant, a highly regarded temple of modernized Portuguese and Portuguese colonial influenced food, fondly remembers being raised by his Portuguese parents who immigrated to the United States and settled in Danbury, Connecticut.  Good food was always a key element in the culture of his family.


    “Before I went on what would become a momentous high school field trip to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (50 miles west of Danbury), I already had an afición for cooking.  At home, I had a lot of exposure to good food from my mom and my dad.   Our holidays always revolved around big feasts of Portuguese dishes for up to 30 of our family members.   During my youth, I was always surrounded by a lot of good cooking.


    During that trip to The Culinary Institute, I thought “Wow!, this is a profession,  something I might like doing.  The atmosphere of with all the kitchens, the kitchen heat, the bustling movement and being under pressure attracted me.”  


    Shortly after high school, he enrolled at The Culinary Institute.  After graduating in 1992,  Mendes’s first job was at the classical French cuisine Stonehenge restaurant (Ridgefield, CT), then he trained with a top New York chef, Ed Brown at Tropica.


    “At Stonehenge, we were being taught the very heavy, butter-and-cream laden dishes of classic French cuisine, which are important, but with Ed Brown, I learned about pristine, really fresh seafood.”


    One Sunday, Mendes attended a cooking class conducted by star New York chef David Bouley and Roger Jaloux, chef at Paul Bocuse restaurant in Lyon.    
    “At that class, I saw the really hard-core professionalism of a kitchen brigade.  I was impressed with how beautiful and masterfully prepared the food was.  So, after a year at Tropica, I did a Saturday night stage at Bouley restaurant and was offered the a job at the amuse bouche station, where I worked from 1994 to 1996. 

 

     During that time, I was sent to Paris to do a two-month stage with Chef Alain Bassard at Arpege.  Having classic experience in my pocket already, then going to Paris and staging at a three-star Michelin restaurant was incredible.  Just being in Paris, I discovered the culture of refined French cooking.  Alain Bassard was just taking off with the vegetable movement and really intense game dishes. L’Arpege had a huge impact on me.   I learned the importance of vegetables and the quality of ingredients, which was something I had not really seen in the U.S. ”  


    Mendes later staged at Le Moulin de Mougins under Roger Vergé, but it was a stage with Spanish Basque chef Martín Berasategui that would have a profound impact on him.
“Martín ran a very hard and rigorous kitchen, but I was impressed with the quality of his cocina de vanguardia, his interpretations of dishes and his understanding of flavor.  He came from his family’s Bodegón Alejandro in San Sebastián’s old quarter, where his mother had a big influence on his cooking sensibilities.  I started thinking about the similarities we had in growing up in families immersed in food culture.  


    My experience with Berasategui helped me reflect on what kind of chef I wanted to be.  I only staged with Martín for a month, but it was really intense.  I doesn’t take very long to absorb lessons when immersed in that kind of atmosphere, working 12-15 hours a day with a maestro like Martín.   My stage at his restaurant was my introduction to not only cocina de vanguardia, but flavorful, honest cooking with a backbone.  That’s why I love Martín’s cooking.  Lunch at Martín Berasategui on my last day with the dishes that I had only seen in the kitchen was one of the most memorable meals of my life.


    Later, in 2006, I did a stage with Ferran Adrià at elBulli and that was a continuation of cocina de vanguardia, but at a whole different level.  With Ferran, it was a ‘no rules’ philosophy:  Have an open mind, be inspired by global flavors and don’t be afraid to take risks. Ferran took cooking to another level.  


    I came back to New York in 2006 and knew I wanted my own place where I could cultivate my style, but I did not yet have the backing, so I took a sous chef’s job at Toqueville, which turned into almost three years of executing someone else’s ideas.  But, it gave me time to reflect on where I came from and what I wanted to do.  My time at Toqueville also cultivated the seed of understanding the restaurant business, customers’ needs and how to run a restaurant.”  


    Then, George Mendes says he met Adam Haber, who wanted to back his dream, which became Aldea restaurant in New York City.  At Aldea, Mendes decided to do his own signature cuisine.


    “I decided to use some Spanish cocina de vanguardia techniques, but with the most emphasis on Portuguese culinary roots and ideas, including those of Portuguese colonies around the world.  That is where Ferran Adrià comes into the picture.  ElBulli was in Catalunya, but you might be served several Japanese-influenced dishes, several with Mediterranean-influences and a broad range of globally derived dishes.  When I opened Aldea, it was labeled a so-called “Iberian” restaurant, but although there is a major focus on Portugal, ideas were drawn from a very broad map.  I also go back to fact that the Portuguese were seafarers who discovered many sea routes.  We brought the exotic spices from India to Europe.


    Like the Portuguese Age of Discovery, I think my career from my teenage years, going to culinary school, working in a wide range of restaurants, traveling and being able to discover different styles of cooking, is a reflection of my Portuguese ancestry and inspires a culinary style that resonates with me.”
 


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#155 DonRocks

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 03:52 PM

I will have the privilege of introducing George Mendes on Wednesday, January 23 for his presentation at Madrid Fusión 2013.  (See below for my profile of Georges Mendes for Madrid Fusión 2013.

 

Good luck with your presentation, Gerry. Let us know what's going on in Spain so we can live vicariously through you. :)


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#156 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 08:48 PM

My Profile of George Mendes for the Madrid Fusión 2013 Book with Photos

 

Update with photos of Georges Mendes at Madrid Fusión 2013

 

Right now it is past 02:30 a.m. (for the fifth night in a row!).  I am trying to catch up after a hectic three days and four nights at Madrid Fusión 2013.  More adventures to come with Geoges Mendes, Juan Mari Arzak, John Sconzo, a plethora of star chefs and food personalities, eating carabineros, adventures at Casa Lucio, La Castela, Casa Botin, flamenco at Cafe de Chinitas and much more,  Right now I am in Galicia and need to go to sleep. 

 

Getting too fucking old for rock and roll, but repeat after me: "Yea, Lord, I know every night is a Saturday night and every day is Sunday.  I know I have been wrong, but I want to try it just one more time!" -- Brother Dave Gardner, southern comedian, who inspired people like Robin Williams and Don Imus.


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#157 DonRocks

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 08:53 PM

My Profile of George Mendes for the Madrid Fusión 2013 Book with Photos

 

Update with photos of Georges Mendes at Madrid Fusión 2013

 

Right now it is past 02:30 a.m. (for the fifth night in a row!).  I am trying to catch up after a hectic three days and four nights at Madrid Fusión 2013.  More adventures to come with Geoges Mendes, Juan Mari Arzak, John Sconzo, a plethora of star chefs and food personalities, eating carabineros, adventures at Casa Lucio, La Castela, Casa Botin, flamenco at Cafe de Chinitas and much more,  Right now I am in Galicia and need to go to sleep. 

 

Getting too fucking old for rock and roll, but repeat after me: "Yea, Lord, I know every night is a Saturday night and every day is Sunday.  I know I have been wrong, but I want to try it just one more time!" -- Brother Dave Gardner, southern comedian, who inspired people like Robin Williams and Don Imus.

 

You are awesome, sir.

 

Gerry Dawes, you are the single greatest Spanish food and wine expert in the world. Okay, I'll grant that there may be someone inside of Spain who knows more about the two subjects, but quite honestly, I doubt it.

 

Saludo, amigo, and get some sleep.

Donaldo


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#158 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 04:20 AM


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#159 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 05:53 AM

"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank I enough for opening up Spain to me."--Michael Chiarello on Twitter this week. Chef Chiarello toured northern Spain with me in October 2011 and was just in Barcelona again.  He is preparing to open his new Spanish inspired restaurant, Coqueta, at San Francisco's Pier 5 in April.

 


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#160 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 06:32 AM

Slideshow from Madrid.
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#161 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 05:15 PM

One of my favorite wine road warrior hotelitos in northern Spain: Hostal La Puerta del Perdon, Plaza de Prim, 4, 24500 Villafranca del Bierzo

 

Tonight, I am staying in one of my favorite wine road warrior hotelitos in northern Spain, Micro-Hostal La Puerta del Perdon, Plaza de Prim, 4, 24500 Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain.  987 540 614

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Damian Canepa with wines from Bierzo at La Puerta del Perdon Hostal-Restaurante in Vilafranca del Bierzo.

Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.

 

"I highly recommend this wonderful Hostal, which has an excellent restaurant, much frequented by the best winemakers and wine people in the Bierzo region. I have stayed here on several occasions, once with my fiancee, another time with California chef Michael Chiarello. If you don't want to heft your luggage up the stairs, owner Herminio will do it for you. The food is really good here and you can sample the best wines of Bierzo. The Wi-Fi is free and works. I would have no trouble spending a week here. The hostal is right on the Camino de Santiago, so you will see a multitude of pilgrims walking by."  - - Gerry Dawes
 

 


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#162 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 03:50 AM

Madrid: Dinner at Casa Lucio

 

Casa Lucio is one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid. It is one of Madrid's best known restaurants and reservations are hard to come by, but Lucio Blásquez, Mari (his daughter) and Javier (one of his sons) treat me like a long-lost family member when I show up and somehow manage to find me a table.

 

Last Monday night at Casa Lucio in Madrid with Aldea NYC's Georges Mendes, Peruvian-Italian chef Rafa Rodriguez, Colombian chef Jorge Rausch & Ximena Hernandez, who works for the Colombian Ministry of Commerce. We had a blast and ended the evening after our first day at Madrid Fusión 2013 drinking a whole bottle of Casa Lucio's house pacharán.

 

As usual, going to Casa Lucio was like coming home and after three months away from Madrid, it was a welcome return.

 

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Casa Lucio Jan. 21, 2013. George Mendes, Aldea NYC, Anne McBride (Culinary Institute of America) y amigos.
Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.

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#163 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:39 AM

"Some men are born out of their due place." The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham

 
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Manzanilla at sunset on Bajo de Guía beach at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, my spiritual home.
 

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#164 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:47 AM

IMG_2475.jpg

 

John Sconzo of Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life, Francisco 'Paco' Castro (l), venenciador for the DO Montilla-Moriles, and my great friend, Clemente Gómez ®, ham cutter for Pedroches hams, George Mendes, chef-owner of Aldea Restaurant NYC and Aldea sous chef Mitchell Barr at the Pedroches (Córdoba) stand at Madrid Fusión 2013.

 

Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.


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#165 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 09:49 AM

Hi, Folks, I have just returned from ten days in Spain and have many more things to post, including visits to wineries, some wonderful luncheons and dinners, more adventures at Madrid Fusión 2013 with Aldea NYC's George Mendes; John Sconzo and his movie star look-a-like son, L.J. (Docsconz: Musings on Food and Life (http://docsconz.com); Colman Andrews, Editorial Director of The Daily Meal (www.thedailymeal.com); George Semler (WSJ and Saveur); Caroline Hatchett, Features Editor of Starchefs.com and more.

 

Soon I, will also be offering the opportunity for any interested donrockwell.com readers to tour Spain with me in October on an exclusive food, wine and cultural trip to Madrid, La Mancha and Andalucía.

 

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Prelude to another great luncheon at one of my favorite restaurants in Spain,
at El Crucero Restaurante, Corella (Navarra):  Report to follow on the January 28, 2013 luncheon.

 

 

image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg

 


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#166 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 02:35 PM

Café de Chinitas, One of Madrid's Best Classic Tablaos Flamencos

Click on link to see photographs and a slide show of Chinitas.

 

 

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Victoria Duende, one of the stars at Madrid's Café de Chinitas, also danced at Corral de la Morería in Madrid. Victoria Duende was born in el barrio de la Macarena in Sevilla and began to study dance at age 3 under the great Matilde Coral, a splendid dancer who used to perform at Sevilla's legendary La Cuadra with her husband Rafael El Negro and the great dancer El Farruco.  In the late 1960s and 1970s, I used to watch that incredible trio dance at La Cuadra.  Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.


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#167 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 05:02 PM

 

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Aliaga Lágrima de Garnacha Rosado 2012 at El Crucero Restaurante, Corella (Navarra). 
Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.


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#168 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 06:56 PM

I am just back from one Hell of a trip to Spain, at Madrid Fusión 2013 introducing on stage Chef George Mendes of New York's Portuguese and Spanish influenced Aldea Restaurant; sharing abrazos to some of Spain's top chefs such as Quique Dacosta, Albert Adrià, Martín Berasategui, David Muñoz (Restaurant DiverXo, Madrid), Dani García, Paco Torreblanca, Sergi Arola, María José San Román, Paco Torreblanca; sitting by my old friend the legendary Godfather of modern Spanish cuisine, Juan Mari Arzak, at dinner at Esmeralda Capel (a director of Madrid Fusión); hanging out with Colman Andrews, George Semler, John Sconzo and his son El Jay.  Had a blast with George Mendes and one of his chefs, Mitch Barr, dragging them to all my old favorite down home places such as Casa Lucio, La Castela and Casa Botín, having carabineros at El Mercado de San Miguel and Canary Islands papas arrugadas con mojo verde y mojo rojo (classic Canary Islands "wrinkled" potatos cooked in salt water and served with a green cilantro-olive oil-and garlic based sauce and a spicy red mojo sauce) at El Escaldón, taking in Flamenco at Café de Chinitas and late night gintonics with George Mendes, George Semler, writer Lisa Abend, CIA's Anne McBride and Starchefs.com Caroline Hatchett.   Turning on George Mendes, Doc Sconzo, a passle of Colombian foodies and others to the wonderful jamones Ibéricos from my buddy, Clemente Gómez, the expert ham cutter for the Pedroches (Córdoba) D.O. and having Paco Castro, the official venenciador pour glasses of the wonderful Montilla-Moriles D.O. fino from a height for my friends.  That was just the first four days, then the road trip began (more to come). 

 

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Francisco 'Paco' Castro (l), venenciador for the DO Montilla-Moriles,
and my great friend, Clemente Gómez (right), ham cutter for Pedroches hams,
at the Pedroches (Córdoba) stand at Madrid Fusión 2013. Photo by Gerry
Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.

 

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Papas arrugadas con mojo verde y mojo rojo, El Escaldón, Cava Baja, Madrid. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes copyright 2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com / Facebook / Twitter.


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#169 DonRocks

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:01 PM

I wanted to say thank you to Gerry for this amazing novella - this Epic Chat will soon be informally "retired," but will of course take its place aside the greatest threads ever on donrockwell.com

 

To say "thank you" isn't enough, so when Gerry's wines become available in the DC market, I'll briefly revive this so that people can refresh their memories about Gerry's amazing wine aesthetic.


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#170 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:36 AM

Chinchón II: Lunch at Mesón de la Virreina, A Memory From a February Lunch Long Ago

 
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My first trip to Chinchón was way back in February of 1971 with my old friend, Edwin J. Mullens III from Clarksdale, Mississippi.  It was a very cold day, so lunch at Mesón de la Virreina  in the upstairs dining room next to the fireplace at a table by the windows that overlooked La Plaza Mayor was especially welcome, cozy and memorable.   I still recall that I had alubias con chorizo (beans with chorizo), chuletillas de cordero (baby lamb chops) and the local red wine (now from the D.O. Vinos de Madrid).  

 
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With dessert, flan and leche frita, I ordered café con leche and brandy snifters of anís (anís liqueur) de Chinchón, which we sipped as we lingered by the fire in some other time, other place reverie.  Even though I have returned to Chinchón many times, that day is still a cherished memory.

 


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Leche frita flambeed with anis de Chinchón, El Mesón de la Virreina, Chinchón.

 


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#171 DonRocks

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 10:56 PM

Gerry, thank you so very much for giving us one of the most engaging chats this community has ever seen. You have gone way, *way* above anything ever done before, and it has been both incredibly informative, educational, and just a good, fun, read. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, my friend, and I'd like people to also keep in mind that Gerry organizes private tours for groups interested in learning about the food and wine of Spain - nobody does them better. After one week, you'll come back in love with a brand new county and will be hooked for life.

 

Cheers, Geraldo, and thank you again!

 

All my best,

Don


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#172 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 12:55 PM

Dear Don,

 

Many, many thanks for giving me a forum on DonRockwell.com.  I greatly enjoyed the interaction with your followers and for the opportunity to share some of my Spain with them.  I will continue to post items now and then and I will let you know when my wines from The Spanish Artisan Wine Group are available in Washington, D.C.

 

Un abrazo fuerte, Gerry


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#173 Gerry Dawes

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:45 AM

BTW, Don, Coincidentally, I just saw the banner advert on this site for eBags. I highly recommend these eBags packing cubes.
Since Kay gave me a couple of sets of these bags, my like on the road has gotten much easier. Component packing keeps me better organized on my frequent trips to Spain (and elsewhere) and makes getaway days so much easier. (I have no commercial connection to this company whatsoever.)


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