This week, our very own Joe Manekin of Redwood City graced us with his presence in Los Angeles. In honor of his visit we decided to drink sherry! For a small corkage fee we were allowed to bring our sherry to Kobawoo, a Korean joint specializing in Bossam. I was lucky enough to sit with not only Joe, but also Keith Mabry of the Hollywood store, Amy Atwood of Amy Atwood Selections and Alex Russan, importer of Alexander Jules sherry. The five of us set out to continue the sherry pairing experiment. Korean food and sherry don’t seem like an obvious pairing, but we took on the challenge with a resounding, “Well, not sure if this is going to work but let’s see what happens.”
It worked. Reeeally well. Surprisingly well. We found another amazing pairing, Sherry and Banchan. Here’s the idea behind it:
Sherry is often drank alongside charcuterie plates which have items such as chorizo, jamón Serrano, green olives, and marinated peppers; all items created out of necessity of preservation. Thanks to Mr. Mabry, the original idea was to try sherry with Banchan, the side dishes that are served at the beginning of the meal. This includes things like kimchi, originally created as a method to preserve vegetables, and various other items that are pickled, fermented, or cured. The idea was genius. While Spanish charcuterie and Korean banchan couldn’t be more different, the basic idea of preserving food with these methods manages to create a perfect pairing for dry sherry. Banchan also creates a similar atmosphere important to sherry and Spanish culture. It is a few small plates to be shared, Korean tapas you could say.
Rey Fernando de Castilla Fino En Rama Jerez (375ml $21.99) Rey Fernando de Castilla is an exceptional, small independent sherry house owned by a Norwegian who focuses on bottling high quality sherries. His bottling of En Rama Fino is no exception. En rama sherry is sherry that has been bottled straight from the barrel, unfined and unfiltered. It’s often advised to drink en rama as quickly as possible to enjoy all of its fresh qualities. But we decided to drink this en rama which was bottled last October, and is almost a year old at this point. The incredible thing is it was still fresh and vibrant, but started to lose some of its pungency and was beginning to build some richness. I think this en rama could evolve quite nicely with age, and develop some interesting flavors.
In addition to the Rey Fernando en rama fino sherry, we also drank a very special bottle of Alex’s favorite barrel of fino from the solera at Bodega Sánchez Romate, hand bottled (himself) en rama. But it doesn’t stop there, Alex was gracious enough to bring a pretty rare bottle of manzanilla from Bodega Argüeso, needless to say, we had a lot of phenomenal sherry. They all went went seamlessly with our Korean food. There was no thought or effort, no grasping at strings to make the paring work somehow, someway; it just worked. And not only with the Banchan, but also with our Jangban Guksoo, a dish made of acorn noodles and some red chili salad, Haemul Pajun, a seafood pancake which is sort of like the Korean version of a Spanish Tortilla but with seafood and a bit of pancake batter, and our Bossam which came with thinly sliced boiled pork, lettuce, daikon radish and a fermented fish paste. The umami flavors in each of these Korean dishes complement sherry perfectly. Spiciness is mellowed by the sherry, items that are fermented, cured, or pickled ( which existed in every dish ) provided a great component for the finos to mingle with. Maybe there’s a scientific reason all these flavors went so well with our sherry or maybe it’s simply because I was surrounded by good company and lovers of sherry. Try it out for yourself and decide. Regardless, sherry at the Kobawoo House was an unforgettable experience for me.