A Taste of Spain Florian Potra June 9, 2014 FOOD & DRINK, LIFESTYLE Within the heart of any starry-eyed Torontonian burns an old desire, an ancient wish, a yearning and an image, an endless voyage. Changed roads and marbled statues. The ruins of the past. The benefit of the present. You reason and tug away at it, but the sensation remains. The burning has built inside your heart and mind a reoccurring sketch so vivid and pure that to ever realize it would mean the instant cure to all of your ceaseless and troublesome worries. But the image moves. The site changes. You are in the middle of an emerald field, a lake, an ocean, the peak of a frozen mountain. You are in the channels of Venice, Amsterdam, Budapest; you are in London, Paris; you are a stranger in Tokyo. The current changes again. You long to taste the altered air of every new and distant sky, sometimes you long for all the skies in the world at once. You are in Spain. But reality has risen, it looms, threatens to change and extinguish your sentimental light into veiled blackness. For what if this old and painful longing can never be realized? What, then, is a person to do but bring the distant voyage to his own doorstep? You are on King Street, Yonge, University. The iYellow Wine Club. A wine tasting. It stares you in the eyes, but so too does a written sign; it directs you towards another path, an alley, a catwalk, through a narrow corridor. 243 Queen Street. You step along a street that reminds you of one of your mental treks through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. There is a graffiti-smeared entrance. You are in Toronto, but this mural could be anywhere in Catalonia. It swings open, you enter a cave. A strumming sanguine guitar vibrates out into the alleyway, trails along the cavern stairs, invites you down. Dive down, it says. You descend, smell the changed atmosphere, taste the foreign air. The host smiles and welcomes you. A glass is filled. You are told to watch, swirl, smell, sip, savour the unknown beverage. With every taste the bubbling rises, settles, warms in your heart. The wine has a name. Cavas Hill, it sings. A fine name for a Catalan. The music takes hold of you, and so too does the wonderful red liquid. You gaze towards the entrance, back to your new surroundings. You are in Toronto. You are in Spain. You are at a wine tasting. Those on the same voyage as you have gathered inside–bartenders, businessmen, wine enthusiasts–savouring the straw-yellow taste of the sparkling wine, the constant bubbles, the persistent notes of its bottle-aged cava. You venture forth. The wine has stirred your hunger. Further on lay tables strewn with tempting assortments of Spanish tapas. A locally cured jamon catches your gaze. The caterer notices you lick your lips. She smiles, extends her palm, as if in embrace, offers you a temporary ailment: a mouth-watering slice of pan con tomate. The olive-oil rubbed bread and garlic satisfies you, but you yearn for more. The jamon stirs again. You devour a taste, float along the base of the cave, mingle, meet fellow travellers, sample delicacies, nip at the papas bravas, the smeared tangy aioli, touch the croquettes, the Spanish fritters, the ham and cheese chipotle. All of it melts upon the base of your tongue with the same satisfaction a wanderer may experience upon his first taste of still water following a trek through the desert. You see the club logo again: iYellow Wine Club. A man approaches and re-fills your empty glass. He is responsible for funding your voyage, for funding everyone’s voyage. He is well-dressed, more well-travelled than you. He smiles, thanks you for your presence, invites you to his next event, June 13th, he says. German lager will substitute Catalan cava. You have come for a wine tasting, but the wonderful show is over. A sabre is drawn. The head of a wine bottle is sheared off and applause rips around the walls of the cave. Hours have passed, but in your mind only blinks have come and went, minutes and seconds. You wave to the caterers, thank the guitarist, embrace the host. You notice a cabinet in the far-off corner. It is loaded with bottles of imported wines, and flags of nations scatter the shelves and walls and give labels to these bottles. French wines, English wines, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Australian wines – all of them remind you of your many mental voyages and unfulfilled dreams of wander. You gaze towards the entrance. You are in Toronto, and a sadness passes over you… but it vanishes as you remember something. Soon it will be June 13th. Soon you will return to the cave. 243 Queen Street. You smile again. The taste of German lager has suddenly emerged on the brim of your tongue.