Last year I posted the wrong date on biteclub.com for the Spanish Wine Cellar And Pantry-resulting in a disaster turned success day for Sonny and Hank Da Tank. I promised Sonny in 2009 I would post the right date and we would have a Cava toast (paired with Spanish honey, olive oil, almonds and Iberico jamon) and celebrate a successful biteclub year!
BUT-guess who didn’t show up for Cava! Sonny, you missed out and this time it’s not my fault-but maybe my write up below will get you to go next year!
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Back in the 80’s picking Valencia oranges, eating almond stuffed olives, having Paella for lunch (which is the only time Paella should be eaten, not for dinner!) and snacking on manchego with quince was just a regular day in the life of an American high school student living in Barcelona, Spain. Back in those days, I was more excited about the two for one Burger King whopper deal on the back of my Metro ticket than I was about casually ordering a Jamon Serrano sandwich at the local tapas joint near my house.
Flash forward-25 years later, I can’t wait to get my foot in the door of the Bently Reserve Building of San Francisco to partake in the “all you can eat until you get dirty looks from the jamon slicer” Iberico ham-now available in the U.S. for only $50 dollars a lb, and $100 / lb for the Bellota pigs (who are fed an intense acorn diet and then cured for two years) . This fabulous (and free I might add..) event is called The Spanish Wine Cellar & Pantry Trade Show, the goal being to introduce new Spanish brands to the U.S. market. They have a five hour show in New York and another one in San Francisco.
Last year the turnout was low, this year the San Francisco event brought in over 400 people. There were wine bloggers, award winning cookbook writers, R&D industrial consultants (yes, there were at least 3 there!), importers, exporters, buyers, chefs and sommeliers. All of them had the chance to interact with the Spanish company reps, who were busy pouring Riojas, slicing jamon and smearing artichoke puree on crackers. These culinary ambassadors were so incredibly nice and friendly –and GENEROUS with both food and wine, I was inspired to again share the word on the greatness of Spanish food and wine and remind everyone in the food industry who might be reading this that Spanish wine is not that expensive and with the right education and promotional literature, everyone in the U.S. will be asking you why you won’t put more of that amazing Gran Reserva Rioja on the wine list.

My show highlights included:


Iberico Jamon
-aged for two years, this intensely flavored fat streaked ham comes from the famous black footed (pata negra) pigs that live in the mountains of western Spain. Regular Iberico pigs eat corn and grains from the trough. These plebian corn eating pigs only are worth a mere $50 dollars a lb. However, there is another pig, a more elite pig..the Iberico De Bellota, who spent their last three months of life eating acorns. This higher end product goes for a whopping $100 dollars a lb! Embutidos Fermin is the only Jamon Iberico producer that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to export here at this time! Anyone can order either Iberio or Iberico De Bellota at www.latienda.com.

Baby tinned eels-Spain has all kinds of exciting tinned food beyond the standard sardines. They have baby eels (angulas), Galician squid (cefalopodos) and mussels too! I tried the baby eels on toast, salty, briny and fishy, they would make a great sharable appetizer at any casual dining restaurant chain!

Spanish Almonds-they have them blanched, fried and roasted, with and without skin. Spanish almonds are bigger and flatter than the American kind with their own unique almond flavor-quite different from the American kind!

I tried lots of Spanish wines, but because it’s been so HOT out in San Francisco the past few days, I was drawn towards the cold crispy white wines like Vinicola de tomelloso, wine made with 100% Macabeo grapes and the unique Pago Casa Gran from Valencia –a blend of 50% Moscatel and 50% Gewurztraminer-stainless steel tank aging. I was disappointed that there was not a drop of Sherry in the house –I have recently become fan of the ultra dry Fino types-but I did get to try some very old Riojas, circa 2001, they were complicated and earthy –the acidity smoothed out with age. A contrast to the younger simple fruity riojas that are acidic and “food friendly”. I won’t even try to go all “wine speak” –I hardly speak the wine language, let alone the Spanish wine language. Speaking of which, the Spanish have two different words for Spicy. When it comes to describing wine, it’s called “Espiciado”, but for food (as in Spicy olive oil) it’s referred to as “picante”.

My final message to everyone who has made it to the end of this post-While I am totally for embracing locavorian ways , diversity is important and if you have any extra money available, its always a good idea to stimulate the economy and help out our Spanish brothers and sisters. So go to the supermarket, buy some tempranillo wine and marcona almonds and celebrate culinary diversity by hosting a Spanish tapas party.

About rachel zemser