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May 16, 2008 02:57 PM

REAL Spanish food market?

Does anyone share my pet peeve that Latin American markets here advertise that they sell "Spanish" food but don't have a clue what tomate frito, cola cao, or jamon serrano are? If so, can you tell me where to find these and other real Spanish foods in Boston?

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  1. The term "Spanish Food" does not actually mean from spain. It really means Latino food.

    You would be hard pressed to find a genuine Spanish from Spain market anywhere in the USA nevermind Boston. Keep in mind that Spanish (from Spain) influence, immigration, etc. has been minimal in the USA at least in the most recent 200 years. Other then the occasional Basque sheppard, there were very few Spanish immigrants to the US.

    The said the larger hispanic influence, if you include S. America and the Caribbean is huge.

    Finally, Jamon Serrano can be found at formaggio. For anything else:

    The fact that the only really comprehensive US based Spanish food web site is relatively young just further enforces the fact that there is not a very strong contemporary Spanish influence stateside.

    4 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      Russo's also sells jamon serrano and the palacios chorizo. If you drive all the way to Fall River, Chaves Market sells Portuguese products that are similar to Spanish ones, sometimes.

      Or convince Marty at Marty's liquors to carry what you want. Tomate frito sounds just up their alley. He's told me many of the food products he sells come from customer suggestions.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        I'll second - they have great Spanish paprika, and even carry my favorite brand of shaving creme when I lived there! (La Toja)

        1. re: StriperGuy

          A Spanish tienda (Las Ventas) is supposed to open soon in the South End.
          Meanwhile, formaggio has much more than just serrano. Sherry, Cava, wines, numerous cheeses, membrillo, bomba, calasparra and valencia rice, olive oil tortas, jamon Iberico, chorizo, boquerones, marcona almonds, fig almond cake, pimenton, espelette, piparras, piquillos....

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Thanks for all your suggestions. I have met a lot of Spaniards here in Boston (way more than when I lived in San Diego, and there was a fabulous Spanish market with strictly foods from Spain there) so I was really surprised that a big town like Boston didn't have one. I look forward to the market opening in the So. End and will hit up formaggio in the meantime.

          2. I share your frustration..... it seems to be a Boston thing, or maybe east coast? I know that in the midwest and california people understand the difference between speaking spanish and being spanish.

            Inman Sq, Union Sq and Lechmere form a portuguese triangle-- many restaurants and food stores in there. I haven't done the stores, so I don't know if there are spanish brands, but if you find cola cao PLEASE let us know!

            Also, I know a handful of people who are immigrants from the Canary Islands. I've had it in my head that they have a little community around here somewhere, but I don't have verification of that. Certainly nothing like the Cape Verdean community.... I've never been to the canaries, so I don't know if their store shelves look like the ones on mainland Spain or if they have their own brands.

            1. There are more than a few reasons behind signs like "Spanish Food": Bodegas in Latino neighborhoods weren't necessarily owned by latinos, Goya Foods started out with Spanish staples, but most of their business is now in Latin American foods. Its a "pet peeve" for many Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and (quite often) Brazilians to be called "Spanish."

              Specialty markets and online are your best sources. Wholesalers are offering a lot more Spanish products and better quality products, which are available to restaurants (which are using them), but not widely available in stores. Some of the best ones have been mentioned, Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville for olives and The Concord Cheese shop might also be worth a peek when you are nearby.

              That said, wholesalers offer a lot more Spanish products these days which are available to stores and restaurants.

              You don't need to go to Fall River to seek out Portuguese products if those interest you. Here are some local markets:

              If you do head there, you get the advantage of multiple kinds of locally cured Portuguese presunto (you can buy this whole locally, but usually not small amounts). And also Sid Wainer and Sons is nearby in New Bedford is worth a visit from just a gourmet foods perspective (more Italian and French imports than Spanish). For the things you mentioned, there are enough differences that I am not certain the Portuguese versions will be what you want, although for other items like tuna in olive oil there are excellent substitutes.

              Nestle products like Milo are more likely than Cola Cao. I have seen Spanish puree in regular super markets, but not tomate frito (not even Orlando brand distributed by Heinz).

              2 Replies
              1. re: itaunas

                Another advantage to Chaves Market is their wine section. They have a lot bigger Portuguese selection (and ginja!) than I've seen in Boston. There's also a liquor store next to Hartley's pork pies that carries the same Madeira they bring over the the big festival in August. Fall River & New Bedford are a worthy chow-trip from Boston. Search the NE board for more about that area.

                1. re: silver queen

                  Chaves is actually a wine importer, which is part of the reason for the stock. In the Boston Area you should check out 660 liquors for overall selection (and cape verdean, etc licores), Jerry's in Union Sq for slightly higher end (I haven't had quite as good luck recently), portuguese aguardente, and Martin Brothers for cheaper prices (cash only). They usually have a few different bottles of ginginha (Jerrys might be a bit better) and you can find a lot of wines not stocked elsewhere, but its still not the Southcoast (where it can still be a challenge to find Portuguese wines). FWIW, at the Madeira festival, they used to be able to serve directly from the barrel which was the only place outside of the Island that did that. However, there have been a number of changes in recent years, I think the barrels among them, due to issues of overconsumption.

              2. Actually, Striper Guy, there are at least 9 Spanish Groceries across the US in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, D.C., Berkeley, Mill Valley (CA), Menlo Park (CA), and Miami...I just did a quick search and found them without any trouble at all.

                2 Replies
                1. re: elisafj

                  Compared to the 100,000 or so Bodegas (I can think of at least 40 in Boston) many of whom proclaim they are "Spanish" that is a pretty small number.

                  1. re: elisafj

                    The ones in Berkeley and Mill Valley, as well as Santa Fe, are spanish table. I used to order from them for years before tienda.

                  2. How about asking the people at "Taberna de Haro" in Brookline? I bet they know where to find everything.