San Sebastian/Madrid/Seville - What food to buy and WHERE?
I'm visiting Spain for the first time and am completely in love with the food, and want to take some things back for my chef/food lover friends - specifically paprika, olive oil, saffron and perhaps wine (or cider from San Sebastian?), BUT, since it's my first visit here, I'm completely in the dark as to which city is the best for specific items, and where to buy them, i.e. specific stores/markets. Any suggestions? Specific addresses? All help would be so appreciated!
In San Sebastian...The drink of choice there is Txacoli....(cha-ko-lee) which is a great dry white wine. You must eat jamon iberico...which is an all acorn fed prosciutto style cured pork which is hands down the best cured meat in existence. The taste of the acorn actually come thru in the meat and its so well marbled that its resembles a piece of kobe beef. There are small stores that sell only Basque specific foods that can be put in a suitcase like the jamon can be vacuum sealed and left unrefrigerated. Also if you are feeling adventurous you should stop by Saint Jean de Luz. Its a town about 15km north of san sebastian (techincally France but no real borders). This town market offers all of the local basque specialties and also there is a restaurant that is attached to the market that has some of the best meals ive eaten in all france/spain.
Probably the best and most unique foods that you can bring home to the US are canned seafoods and San Sebastian and the northern coast of Spain is one of the centers of that industry,. You'll have plenty of chances to try things and figure out which ones you like - try some berberechos/cockles. Spain makes the best anchovies, oil packed tuna and sardines in the word (by far, no matter what the Italians say). Cured meats, even vacuum sealed, are illegal to bring back - I've never been caught but I stopped doing it after a close call a few years ago.
Serious cooks should appreciate Spain's beans as well - they're the best you can buy anywhere in the world. For a special gift the alubias negras, black beans, from Tolosa are the most expensive beans in the world (about 20 euros a kilo).
Bomba/calaspara rice also makes a good Spanish food gift.
For pimenton (aka paprika), just look for "pimenton de la vera" and you'll know you're getting the real stuff.
Piquillo peppers are another special Spanish food (make sure you're getting Spanish ones though, most regular grocery stores sell mainly Peruvian piquillos)
Also nyoras (or ñoras), the dried chili that's essential for true romesco, are unique and hard to find outside of Spain and make a good gift for a cook.
Basque cider (sidra natural) is a personal favorite but it's really a casual, homey thing and not to everyone's tastes. It's flat ans a little musty tasting (and it needs to be poured properly, which is special skill in itself). Txakoli, on the other hand, is hard to find in the US and is delicious - I'd get that instead.
Spain has some great chocolate makers as well.
In San Sebastian, we had a great experience shopping in the Mercado de la Bretxa (accessible via Alameda del Boulevard 3 (lower level) or by way of the alley behind) right on the main boulevard of the Parte Vieja). In addition to jamon & cheese to enjoy during our trip, we picked up dried beans, rice, paprika and best of all, a jar of Espelette powder. When I asked for Espelette at a store nearby on the street level, the shopkeeper didn't have it, but I saw several kiosks at the subterranean Bretxa market that did have it.
If you're in Barcelona, you should go to Casa Gispert (C/ Sombrerers, 23) in El Born. They roast nuts in their original 1850's wood roaster, which gives the nuts a slight smokey flavor. They're amazing. They'll have great saffron (in the back of the store), oils and vinegars as well - well, everything there is good.
Gispert is worth a visit; also go around the corner to La Ribera on c/Comerc. Colmado Quilez on the corner of Arago and Rambla de Catalunya in the Eixample has the biggest selection of canned seafood, oil, vinegar, dried good etc. Prices are good. The Boqueria is fun and everything is enticing but there are better selection and price elsewhere. Below is a link to recent thread that might be helpful:
It is difficult to buy too much, then having to lug it around the duration of a long trip. Saffron wouldn't be too heavy. If Madrid is your final point, unless you find something special like the beautiful packaging at Gispert, might wait until then to buy . That city has everything.
If your friends are casual cooks, saffron, smoked paprika are good gifts. If they are more serious, I would buy canned seafood such as tuna, mussels, clams. Make sure to buy some for yourself.
Here is a very helpful post from a thread last year; and remember, if all else fails, the Corte Ingles department stores tend to have excellent food departments in the lower level.
For oil in Madrid, please, please go to-
the terrific Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero on Mejía Lequerica 1, at the corner of Calle Hortaleza (metro: Alonso Martínez).
It has a truly great selection. Not only does it sell 80 varieties, it sells the wonderful oils from Navarra, such as Alfar La Maja, Abbae de Queiles, Artajona, that I really like and are hard to find outside Navarra and the Rioja. It also sells Los Carrizos from the Sierra Norte de Sevilla. Great place.
And while you're in the area, stop by the terrific cheese store, Poncelet, at Argensola 27
)I just made some major purchases there. It offers dozens and dozens of artisan cheeses from all the cheese producing regions (Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia, Andalucía, Catalunya, etc). It also sells wines and oils in the back. The sales people are very helpful to me and let me taste, of course, before I purchase.
And if you want some of the city's best croissants (1.50 euros each) or pain au chocolat, head to the new Pomme Sucre on Calle Barquillo 49. They're really delicious. (www.pommesucre.com).
This is Madrid's new branch of Pomme Sucre, which started in Gijón (Asturias).
For wines I go to Lavinia on Ortega & Gasset, but if you want to check out some wines in the trendy Almirante area, you can see what they have at Reserva y Cata at Conde de Xiquena, 13 (www.reservaycata.com
)For Iberian ham, outside of the Salamanca or Retiro districts, you can make good purchases at the corner of Atocha and Santa Isabel streets at La Leonesa, Santa Isabel, 1. (La Latina), which is part of the Mercado San Martín, where real people with moderate budgets shop.
or closer to the Teatro Real, there's Gondíaz on Plaza de la Marina Española, 7 (metro: Santo Domingo). It also sells some wines and cavas.
near Callao, there's López Pascual at Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 13, for ham, wines and canned goods (conservas)
and near the Prado, in the Barrio de las Letras, there's D.O.C.C. on Calle Prado, 28
Artesanía Ibérica Jamón 10 at the corner of Calle Cervantes and Calle León at León 10.
Also the new ham store, Alma de Ibérico, at Cava Baja, 41 in La Latina. Don't know about the prices because I've never purchased there. Because they've placed it on a rather "touristy" street, the prices may not be as good as the ones mentioned above.
I don't shop at the newly remodeled Mercado de San Miguel-for me, it's just for looking and maybe having a snack at one of the bars.
Hope this helps and have a great trip!
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By Maribel on Nov 19, 2010 09:39AM
More on Tolosa beans here: