When the media publishes statistics, La Rioja is usually at the bottom of the chart because we’re the third smallest province in Spain, just ahead of Spain’s two North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
We recently got a big boost to the top with the announcement of Logroño-La Rioja’s appointment as Spain’s gastronomic capital in 2012.
What usually happens in cases like this is for the local and regional government tourist bodies to organize a series of events. The private sector here usually waits for the government to open its pocketbook rather than take the initiative. This time, however, local business has taken the lead.
Somos Capital (an expression with the double meaning of ‘We’re the Capital’ or ‘We’re Important’), created by the restaurant Tondeluna, owned by the Paniego family in Ezcaray, one of La Rioja’s two 1-Michelin-starred restaurants and the Marqués de Vallejo hotel has organized a program of appearances by some of Spain’s best chefs and food writers to celebrate this honor throughout the year..
Among the chefs who have accepted an invitation so far are:
- Juan Mari and Elena Arzak
- Andoni Luis Adúriz
- Quique Dacosta
- Paco Morales
- Lorenzo Cañas
- Marisa Sánchez
- Ignacio Echapresto
- Juan Ángel Rodrigálvarez
The last four chefs are from La Rioja, adding to the excitement.
Francis Paniego of Tondeluna hopes that Ferrán Adriá will accept, too (“He hasn’t said ‘no’ yet”).
The timetable for each event is:
6:30 pm a press conference with the week’s guest
7:30 pm a short talk by the guest
9:00 pm dinner and wine pairing featuring some of the best Rioja wines, with the guest chef-inspired menu prepared by the staff of Tondeluna.
Five per cent of the total take for the evening will be donated to ARSIDO (the Down’s Syndrome Association of La Rioja).
Each dinner and tasting costs 50 euros per person and is open to 50 guests.
I was pleasantly surprised to read about this and hope I can attend at least one of the dinners. It’s going to be tough, however. The price is right, the chefs are the best in Spain and it’s for a worthy cause.
How can the local government top that?