Looking for inspiration to open a restaurant, the New York chef Seamus Mullen visited Asturias a couple of years ago. He immersed himself in the local cuisine and was amazed around the cider and how to pour it, so he decided to try to move to Manhattan those manners. The result is ‘Tertulia’ on Sixth Avenue. Asturian apple crushed and squeezed for sale in the Big Apple. Pure globalization.
In the menu of ‘Tertulia’ the dishes names appear in Castilian, but are detailed in English. The menu is a sample of the years of experience that Seamus took in several of the most prestigious Spanish restaurants during the last decade: tapas, rice dishes, pans and various Asturian dishes. I have the chance to chat with him a year and a half after the inauguration of the restaurant. Time enough to evaluate the acceptance of his proposal.
It is surprising the possibility of eating fabada in New York.
It always sells well! It appears on our menu from time to time (especially when the weather turns cold…)
When you visited Asturias, what impressed you most?
The great tradition of artisans; the farmers, cidermakers and cheesemakers who are all committed to the methods passed on to them from generation to generation in order to ensure consistency, quality, and heritage.
It’s been a year since you opened ‘Tertulia’ and started serving Asturian cider… How has it been accepted?
We hear people say things like: “Mmm… interesting, different…” “funky…” “refreshing…” Very tart…” “Tastes like rotten apples…” We’ve definitely seen an increased interest and higher cider consumption. Our servers and bartenders are doing a terrific job introducing cider to people who are not familiar with it by offering tastes and suggesting it as beverage to pair with food. The cider most Americans are familiar with is much sweeter than the traditional Spanish cider we offer so, in that sense, this is a new product for them. They need to “forget” what they know as cider and be open to being reintroduced to this “new” style. We knew it would require some “convincing” on our part, a bit of education for the guests – after all, it does have an acquired taste and it takes time for people to get to know it, like it, and appreciate it.
What is the profile of the client requesting cider?
Many are Spanish, or perhaps had lived in Spain previously. Young foodies who like to explore new wine and food trends and anyone else we can persuade to try it!
And do you have costumers from Asturias?
Absolutely! We had a server who was from Asturias when we first opened; many of his friends still come to Tertulia. We also have a regular couple who lives nearby and are from Asturias originally. We also get tourists from time to time; recently, a group came in on the recommendation of a man in Asturias whose bed & breakfast we stayed at while we were there for our research trip!
So do you perceive the interests of New Yorkers for products in general and Asturian cider in particular?
There is definitely a new interest in recent years. Hudson Valley/ Upstate New York is the second largest apple growing state in the United States and cider-making was always part of our state culture going back to the days of the early settlers who brought apple seeds from the old continent. Nowadays we see a growing number of drier style ciders being made locally. Every October, New York celebrates this tradition during Cider Week, which helps bring it back to our dinner tables.
Are cider sales meeting your expectations?
Yes, we keep it up front by refreshing our selections periodically, tasting staff on it, using it in mixed cocktails and in cooking. All that helps in keeping the sales of cider in a good place.
In your menu, you offer other local products from Asturias. Are they doing well?
We use other Asturian products throughout our menu; the wonderful Asturian cheese selection such as Vare, Gamonéu and Cabrales; we use Fabes beans in Fabada Asturiana, etc.. Our chef has great respect for the quality of the artisanal products of Asturias.
Since you opened it your restaurant has received raving reviews and awards… You think offering cider and Asturian products played a part in that?
Certainly, cider is very much a part of our identity. We like to say that Tertulia is inspired by the spirit of the sidrerías of northern Spain. It’s been very well-received and understood well by reviewers and guests alike; it’s this spirit that is present at Tertulia on any given day.
Do you think people are going for manufactured goods rather than the avant-garde?
I think people go back to basics— good food, good wine/cider/beer, good people! We offer what in Spain is called “cocina de producto” – we source the best ingredients possible and try do as little as possible in order to let their natural flavors shine!
Finally, do you have plans for new restaurants with Spanish products?
We are not planning on opening another Tertulia. However, we are working on few other projects that will all have a Spanish DNA.
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