Designers of the TRYP Hotel‘s first U.S. location took their inspiration from Spain, where the hotels originated, and it shows. Everything from the curved sofas inspired by Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona to the wine list at the Gastro Bar recalls the allure of Spanish culture. I immediately felt the Spanish influence walking in, as if the designers had dreamed up an amalgam of the best that Spain has to offer and dropped it down in midtown.
Forget about the Hemingway-era stereotypes of macho bullfighters and Flamenco dancers. This is a different Spain–a modern Spain. The Gastro Bar shows both a deep respect for tradition and a commitment to progress. For the tapas tastings, Executive Chef John Walsh has teamed up with Chef Ignacio Echapresto, who seems to be the personification of the forward-thinking, cosmopolitan Spain of today. Without ever training under the big-name Basque chefs, Chef Echapresto is influencing Riojan cuisine. Coming from thirteen generations of grain farmers and grape growers, he prizes the local products of Rioja and changes his menu seasonally in order to serve only the freshest food. Daroca de Rioja, where his restaurant Venta Moncalvillo is located, is the world’s smallest town to have a Michelin-star rated restaurant (population 24).
At Spring Sips Rioja, the Gastro Bar’s first wine tasting of the season, Chef Echapresto offered up a selection of his finest tapas to pair with the best wines from the Rioja region in the northeast of Spain. Traditional flavors, such as Manchego cheese and tuna tartar, got a modern update in their presentation. Fresh bread, olives and Marcona almonds shined in their simplicity. The award-winning organic extra Virgin olive oil from the Bea Family Estate was some of the purest olive oil I’ve ever tasted. At the same table, a server carved up thin slices of JamÃ³n IbÃ©rico. I learned from Caroline Helper, one of the event organizers, that the reason the ham has a subtle woody flavor is because the pigs are fed entirely on acorns. In addition to all this, waiters brought out trays of Manchego croquetas, roasted peppers on puff pastry with tomato veil and cheese slivers, marinated salmon tartare with pickled onions and soy and other traditional tapas with a modern twist.
Several different vineyards were represented at tables scattered throughout the space. There were delicate rosados (the Spanish term for rosÃ©), citrusy whites, and full-bodied reds. The woman representing Bodegas Riojanas explained that her family’s vineyard has vintages from the ’60s and ’70s. I tasted three of their more recent Reserva wines, and each one had more body than the one before it. Some of them were tawny, like Port, but not as sweet. Their ViÃƒ ±a Albina Semi Dulce Blanco–a very sweet white wine–had notes of pineapple and banana. Between the reds, whites and rosados, there’s definitely enough variety to satisfy every palate.