Letter from Spain
Extra-long travel times, lost luggage and colds punctuated our recent journey to Spain, but we traveled widely, saw a lot, and ate and drank, on the whole, extremely well.
Would you like to know more?
Go there! It is one of the most civilized cities in the world - but it has a special magical touch all of its own. The Gaudi architecture certainly puts you in mind of a fairytale as it is SO Disney-esque. With Barcelona it is just everything: the sculpture, the art, the colour, the ancient buildings, the modern buildings, the alleyways, the light, the experiences, the uniqueness of La Boqueria, the amazing selection of originals by great artists: the Picasso Museum being only one landmark of several. It continues: the food, the wine, the ambience and of course - the people. There are any number of levels on which you can appreciate this city.
Some of the highlights of this trip were definitely to be found in Barcelona - and as we were leaving we were only too aware that we had just scratched the surface. It's the sort of pleasure you should repeat on a regular basis so you appreciate it even more! (Well that's my excuse to try and visit again in the not too distant future...)
Our Spanish Suppliers...
One of the most delightful aspects of dealing with Spain are the fabulous people we have encountered over the years.
A few of you have met Eduard Pons - or may have caught the interview with him in Cuisine. He is the family member we deal with mostly for our Pons, Mas Portell and Romulo extra virgin, infused and pure olive oil range. Eduard has visited us twice in New Zealand and is the hardest working man we know - travelling over 250 days per year when he, his father and his two brothers were getting the family business started. He loves motor racing and other high adrenalin sports as a hobby, and is tall, dark, handsome, elegant and genuinely charming. Those of you who have met him will know what I mean.
It is Eduard Pons we can all thank for going outside his own product line and giving us things like La Chinata smoked paprika (where would we be?) He has introduced us to some amazing Spanish food - you can rest assured your palates are in the best of Spanish hands! The Pons family has recently ventured into wine - taste their results with a bottle of the Clos Pons Alges. It is a small world as it is the brother of our Forvm vinegar man, Albert, who is the viticulturalist!
We met with Conservas Albo in Vigo, Galicia - our tinned sardine and squid supplier: superb quality products, people and town.
We visited Ines Rosales where we could not believe the speed at which these women shape those tortas we all love so much. Like watching a feat of magic! This experience was mirrored by an entirely different team who went on to pack them with as much skill and dexterity as their colleagues.
We went to the home of La Chinata paprika, where we were served a lunch which included chunks of bread fried in olive oil, and smoked paprika and chorizo or jamon shaped with some sort of egg binding (they do amazing things with eggs over there, truly masterful) and topped with a fried egg - surprisingly good. We saw the dried peppers, the grinding process, the farm, the smokehouse - and watched a bullfight with the locals on TV in a bar/café.
We travelled on to San Sebastian and dined at Arzak - a classic restaurant; visited 1880 the home of our Spanish turron in Alicante, and also Bombons Cudié - in Vilafranca del Penedes, home of the 'catanie' - those delicious Marcona almonds coated with praline and dusted with cocoa, or poured into a long bar. This is another family business, started in 1946 by 93 year old grandfather and now run by the 3 grandsons, one of whom is the chocolatier, one the general manager and one the logistics man - and the cute little cube boxes were designed by the granddaughter. This is also the home of the sport of Castellers...where they build a human tower of people. A Catalonian national passion apparently...
We ate in many tapas bars in Barcelona including the classic Cal Pep where we enjoyed a smoked paprika and jamon tortilla served with alioli - amongst other things: also chickpeas and tasty braised baby squid - absolutely delicious.
We also really enjoyed the food of Jordi Vila at 'Alikimia', There are really good wines to be had at very reasonable prices and really great food.
In Spain men cook, women cook - the whole place is passionate about food. Eating is an essential part of the Spanish lifestyle. Our kind of people! By the time you read this we will be on our next trip: Italy. We'll report back after that.