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Galicia: Home to the Family-Run Brewery, Estrella

Galicia: Home to the Family-Run Brewery, Estrella
Natasha Blair: Will a visit to the home of the family-run Estrella brewery convert a devotee of fine wine to a pint of the local brew.
 
On a flying visit, Natasha Blair samples the cooking of the Michelin starred restaurant Pepe Vieira, owned by Michelin star chef Xosé Torres Cannas.
 
The restaurant has four different menus plus one adapted to seasonal produce. My companions and I were lucky enough to eat in the kitchen at the staff table, which needs to be reserved in advance. Our nine course, tasting menu was matched with alcoholic beverages including a local gin and vodka produced by Xosé’s brother. On one side of the table chefs were busy creating culinary masterpieces while on the other, a floor to ceiling window provided views of the garden. Rather than using the oven, many of the dishes such as the monkfish were cooked with a flaming torch.
 
Each dish was small, and beautifully presented, with an explosion of different flavours. Raw slithers of Galician beef mixed with capers had an egg yolk in the middle; a warm sponge tart made with olive oil and a soft almond interior was served in what looked like a Sushi box which, when opened, exuded wonderful aromas.
 
The restaurant, a one storey modern building designed to integrate into the landscape, is built on a hill overlooking the Rias Baixas which flows out to the Atlantic, with Ons Island across the bay.  After lunch, Xosé gave us a tour of his property, pointing out where the mussels he uses are cultivated in the water in front of his property and where there are also oyster beds. In his well-stocked vegetable garden we saw rows of enormous tomatoes still on their storks, orange courgette flowers, and an abundance of herbs some of which we were able to identify and some not. Amongst all this were violets and begonias, edible flowers used to
Galicia: Home to the Family-Run Brewery, Estrella
decorate the food. The region is renowned for its rain so everywhere was very green and colourful.
 
On our drive back to A Coruna where we were staying we stopped at Santiago de Compostela to visit the cathedral. Pilgrims come here to embrace the tomb of St. James, one of the twelve Apostles. Apparently, to receive a certificate of pilgrimage those doing so need to have covered the required distance by foot, bike or horse stopping at specified spots along the route to have their documentation stamped. In the cathedral, mass had just started in the lavishly ornate main chapel with the sounds of a lady singing filling the church. While the cathedral occupied one side of Obradoiro Square, adjacent to it is another imposing building, the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, promoted as the world’s oldest hotel. Originally a royal hospital dating back to 1499 it is now part of the group of Paradores of Spain, historic buildings that have been turned into hotels.
 
A Coruna as well as having an airport is also home to Estrella Galicia, one of the few remaining family-run breweries. The original brewery in the town centre has been transformed into a sports bar and restaurant La Cerveceria. On the ground floor, beer is the only beverage visitors can drink while socialising or watching the current football game on enormous television screens. The original copper vats now form part of the décor. Their unpasteurised beer is sold on draft and although not available in the UK their premium bottled beer can be bought at M&S. Generally wine is more my tipple but something I and my fellow colleagues who were more experienced learned was that lager and ale are two types of beer, with Estrella Galicia being a lager. A bonus too is their non-alcoholic version, which although not having an alcoholic kick looks exactly the same.
 
On the first floor the restaurant serves traditional local tapas dishes, which in Spain usually comes on small dishes. Of particular note is the tortilla, a cake made from organic eggs, which varies in ingredients from region to region. In Galicia it is made with kennebec potatoes which gives it a moist and creamy taste. Items such as marinated octopus cut into mouth size pieces and emapanada, filo pastry filled with a very thin layer of tuna mixed with red peppers are also local specialities.
 
A Coruna is on a peninsular, surrounded by sea with a harbour and port. The town is small and easy to walk around. In the shopping area, which is pedestrianised, there is an indoor food market. Fish is the food of choice with hake, cray and monkfish caught locally. The main square has a statue of Maria Pita who saved the town from being invaded by Sir Francis Drake in the sixteenth century. At night this area is floodlit.
 
On a hill the Tower of Hercules, the oldest working lighthouse in the world is a symbol of the city. Behind it the Bay of Orzan has stretches of sandy beaches but because it is on the Atlantic coast the sea isn’t warm. The best way, however, to visit the pretty villages along the Galician coast, weather permitting, is by boat.
 
Camino de Serpe s/n 36992 Poio,
Pontevedra, Spain   T. +34 986741378
Estrella Galicia Cerveceria
Concepcion Arenal, no 10, 15006 A Coruna
T. +34 981291819
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6 October 2015
By: Natasha Blair
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