Everything on the table was prepared under the direction of Juana Gimeno Faraone, the founder of La Española, the market and meat processor in Harbor City that has provided Spanish ingredients since 1982.
You can get sandwiches and coffee at La Española any day and paella on Saturdays, but this display had a special purpose--to promote the foods of Andalucía in southern Spain. Faraone (above) is from Valencia.
Five representatives of Andalucían products talked about their olive oil, olives, vinegar, ham and canned tuna--not ordinary canned tuna but melva de Andalucía (frigate mackerel). This is a protected species that yields delicious firm, mild meat.
The brand above is packed in sunflower oil. Filippo Orlando of Pesca y Salazones del Suroeste in Ayamonte, Spain, brought it to the tasting.
Intense Pedro Ximénez vinegar (second from right) comes from a super sweet dessert wine made from sun-dried Pedro Ximénez grapes.
Dark, raisiny Arrope, a dessert vinegar (at left), is produced from cooked Palomino and Moscatel grape must and would be heavenly sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. You can get Arrope for as little as $12.99, said Eric Davis, who poured the samples. That's a far-cry from expensive balsamic vinegars.
Carmen López (above) represented Jaencoop, the second largest producer of olive oil in the world. There are 12 million olive trees in the south of Spain, she said, yielding 67 million kilos of oil each season. Her company deals with 20,000 farmers, has 16 production centers and a lab to monitor quality.
Prólogo was entered in the international division of the northern hemisphere judging. It is made from the picual variety of olive.
You have to have big bucks to buy jamon (ham) ibérico. The price is high because it takes up to five years to process this delectable ham, which comes from black pigs called pata negra because their hooves are black. They're fed on acorns in autumn and winter, said Oscar Lerena of Consorcio de Jabugo, a consortium of six ham companies.
The fat of the ham is a different color from that of other hams, he said, and melts at room temperature. Like olive oil, it is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. And so Lerena describes a pig that yields jamon ibérico as "an olive tree on legs."
Miriam Vidal Barcenilla of Campomar Nature, a company that specializes in organic products, presented fat green olives for tasting. These are soaked with water and salt for a year, she said. Campomar also produces organic olive oil, almonds, vinegar and wine.
This wasn't a trade show but an informal gathering for a handful food writers. We sat outside in a tented area, enjoying the tapas and plenty of red wine--Miguel Torres Altos Ibéricos Crianza 2012, a Tempranillo from La Rioja (above).
This is what we ate:
Black paella with squid, mussels and clams. The paella was made with bomba rice, a short grain rice that absorbs liquid and cooks dry and so is suited to paella but not to risotto. Arborio is best for that soupy dish.
Afterwards came a shopping spree. I loaded up on Spanish sweets, a half case of the wine we drank and a bottle of olive oil. I couldn't resist crisp almond-shaped wafers filled with almond cream and cakes of apricot and fig paste with almonds (above).
The sweets have just been put out for holiday shopping. The market (above) is crammed with gift possibilities, including cookbooks, wines, a large stock of olive oils, cheeses, Spanish paprika, jars of Spanish fried tomatoes and Spanish style sausages that are made there.
Or how about a Marinesca paella kit (at right in the photo), which includes bomba rice, canned paella ingredients and broth? All you have to do is add liquid. Then pick out a shiny paella pan to go with it.
Thanks to Linda Vesco Burum who coordinated the writers; to Alex Motamedi, La Española's general manager, for helping me choose my purchases; to Jordi Boada of Extenda, the trade promotion agency of Andalucía, and to Doña Juana Faraone for her delicious food.
Photos by Barbara Hansen except for Prólogo
La Española Meats, 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City, Calif. 90710. Tel: (310) 539-0455.