I was recently in Spain, where I hunted for truffles with a dog named Tito and discovered one of the country’s great hidden wine regions, Somontano, in the country’s northwest corner. The majority of the wineries there are operated by Gonzalez Byass, one of Spain’s leading sherry bodegas, who invested heavily in the region in 2008. One such investment was in a cookbook library at Blecua, the company’s high-end bottling located near the town of Barbastro. The purpose of the collection is to share culinary wisdom with the local community, who are free to browse the over 1,100 titles that have been amassed since 2000.
It’s an incredible sight, 1,000 cookbooks, with titles from all over the world. There’s a grand section dedicated to the scholarship produced about El Bulli’s 60 year run. All ten (maybe more?) Thomas Keller titles are there, as is a comprehensive section devoted to the cuisine of Japan.
Well-regarded Spanish journalist and book editor José-María Pisa Villarroya is in charge of the collection. “We look for something new, that has editorial rigor and most importantly, quality above fashion,” he says through a translator. “We always keeping in mind that it is the library of a very qualitative winery and geared towards high gastronomy since it’s creation.”
Some of the books we spotted:
- The Lever House Cookbook by Dan Silverman
- Patina Cookbook by Joachim Splichal
- Lumiere by Rob Feenie
- The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming
- In the Hands of A Chef: Cooking of Rialto Restaurant by Jody Adams
- Mas que tapas / More Than Tapas: Andalusia World Cooking Tour by Ferran Adria
- La Grande Vie d’Alexandre Dumas by Gonzague Saint-Bris and Alain Ducasse
- Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry by Ben Shewry
- Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi
- Terroir Parisien by Yannick Alléno
- Gastronomo En USA by Xavier Roig
Villarroya recently released a book on the history of paella. “Paella should not be mistreated, picked at, worn down, deteriorated and marred by the passing of time — nor by it’s interpretation, nor should we contribute to its falling from grace,” he passionately writes in Spanish. It’s Spain’s great misunderstood dish, he concludes. It’s also a recent edition to the Blecua library.