Whenever possible, we work with artisan producers and small family-run businesses in Spain, many of whom are continuing food-making traditions that go back generations. Their traditonal methods often use sustainable and ethical practices that protect the land, respect their animals, and help them stay connected to the land. We support them in effort to maintain the traditions of Spain, and hope that our enjoyment of the fruits of their labors inspires us all to a greater dedication to these practices in our own land. We invite you to meet some of these artisans...
At the top of a mountain in western Spain sits the magical medieval village of La Alberca, located in the heart of the Sierra de Francia National Park. It just so happens that this is the perfect place to dry and age jamón, and in 1956, Fermín Martín founded Jamones y Embutidos Fermín to produce artisan Ibérico hams and sausages.
Today Martín’s children, Santiago and Francisca, run the company following the same artisan, all natural methods as their father. With over 100 employees, Fermín is the lifeblood of this small village. In 2007, Fermín was the first Ibérico ham maker allowed in the U.S., and La Tienda was proud to sell their very first Jamón Ibérico in America.
See our Fermín meats ►
On the banks of the Ebro and Ega rivers, a few miles from La Rioja, you will find the finest farmland in Navarra. This is the ideal environment for growing some of Spain’s most iconic vegetables, like sweet piquillo peppers, meltingly tender white asparagus and delicate baby artichokes.
In 1960, José Salcedo Soria and Amalia Herce Herce began preparing these delicacies in the family home in San Adrián. Today their son, José Pedro Salcedo Herce, carries on the "obsession" for quality. We have worked with José and his nephew, Patxi Pastor Salcedo, for nearly twenty years, and we are always amazed by the exceptional quality of their products. What is their secret? They use only freshly harvested vegetables raised within a few miles of San Adrián, and everything is packed by hand with no preservatives. We have never tasted higher quality jarred vegetables in Spain, or anywhere else in the world!
See our El Navarrico vegetables ►
In the beautiful Basque fishing village of Ondarroa, the Ortiz family founded Conservas Ortiz in 1891 to produce exceptional canned seafood. Now in its fifth generation, this family owned cannery is famed for its line caught Bonito del Norte tuna. Each tuna is sustainably harvested with hook and pole, and each can is packed by hand, preserving the delicate, tender tuna for you to enjoy. Discover the finest canned tuna in the world.
See our Ortiz seafood ►
We drove into the driveway of Alfonso’s dairy which was guarded by a great old dog with the wisdom of the ages. Alfonso’s children were playing among the furrows of the farm, and in the background we could see the sheepfold full of ewes who produced the milk for the beautifully handcrafted cheese that Alfonso produces. Among the most interesting were cheeses which had been blended with red wine, others with rosemary. When we met his mother at her home, which served as a small cheese store, she proudly showed us a room full of trophies – it seemed that Alfonso was a champion long-distance runner!
See our artisan cheeses ►
We first got to know Fermín Rodríguez when he invited us to tour his family olive groves in Priego de Córdoba. He told us of how, as a child, he would hide in the hollows of the ancient olive trees at the foot of the rolling Vizcántar Hills. Clearly, this is his life and his passion. As a professional taster, and producer of Señorío de Vizcántar Extra Virgin Olive Oil, he introduced us to the complex world of true extra virgin olive oil. A few years ago he married a delightful Berber woman named Aixa and we enjoy visiting their little girl Sofía during our visits. Maybe she will join the olive oil business with her father some day!
See our artisan extra virgin olive oils ►
Master artisan Augustín partners with his daughter Belén to continue the ceramic tradition, which stretches back to the medieval days of Moorish Toledo. They chose to locate their studio in El Puente del Arzobispo, a small town with abundant top quality clay, and a very strong artistic temperament. We find it a joy to work with Belén, a bright woman, who is adapting ancient traditions to the modern world. She is now able to produce hand-painted plates to make them dishwasher proof (not a problem in Moorish times!)
See our artisan ceramics ►
One recent Easter week, we visited the Villajos family in the tiny village of Porzuna deep in the meseta of La Mancha, where Antonio creates one of Spain's finest Manchego cheeses. When we visited last, Antonio's son was just finishing high school, and his daughter was working at one of the desks in their modest office. He took us for a brief tour of his cheese making operation, and we learned that Antonio knows each of the local shepherds, so that the fresh sheep's milk often arrives at the dairy only 15 minutes after it is milked! It is hard to describe the warmth and hospitality extended by Antonio and his wife. We have never tasted a Manchego cheese that compares to the ones he and his cheese master Bernardo produce.
After driving through the bountiful Vera valley dotted with fruit trees and modest farms, Tim and i were greeted heartily by two millers, José María Hernández and his son, Alvaro. I always appreciate the "down to earth" quality of people whose livelihood is tied to the soil. Soon Alvaro proudly showed us group pictures of the three generations who pioneered the production of pimentón de la vera, the famous smoked paprika of Spain. He identified each member of their family, one by one!
Eva came down from Madrid especially to greet us. Speaking in flawless English she guided us through their warehouse, which was a virtual working museum of paprika mills dating back to the early twentieth century. The mills were engineering works of art and José María was particularly proud that La Dalia paprika was still produced using the original granite millstones. The unique properties of granite assure the amazing fineness of the rich red powder that came from the little smoked peppers the farmer brought from the field.
See our artisan smoked paprika ►
Our friend Pepe Ruíz provides our Calasparra paella rice, and we always enjoy visiting the tiny town of Calasparra to visit with him. The rice grown in fresh water, high in the mountains along the Mundo and Segura rivers. Why grow rice in the mountains? One story is that centuries ago malaria affected the low lands near Valencia, and as an accident of history, they blamed the disease on the location of the rice fields. When they moved the rice crop to the mountains of Calasparra, the mosquitoes were left behind. In the new climate the grains of rice took longer to mature, and so are able to absorb an amazing amount of rich broth – the secret of good paella! Calasparra rice is the only DOP protected rice growing region in Spain, and it is still artisan grown with no insecticides or herbicides.
See our artisan paella rice ►
We asked María Angeles to provide La Tienda’s saffron, because within gourmet circles her family has an impeccable reputation. Their saffron is certified as D.O.P. La Mancha, guaranteeing quality in an industry rife with counterfeit products. We visited her in their modest farmhouse on the plains of La Mancha. There her husband, Juan Antonio, explained how they carefully maintain the highest standards of this precious spice – as a matter of personal pride. Along with their children, David and Paloma, the family continues the tradition of planting, hand harvesting and toasting saffron with an inimitable artistry that comes from generations of experience. They only produce a few kilos of saffron per year. Our partnership with them has helped resurrect the saffron tradition within their village of Minaya, where they have recruited neighbors to help harvest this labor intensive crop.
See our artisan saffron ►
Our friends Bernát and his son of the same name work together in a modest workshop in a village on the island of Mallorca. They are a vanishing breed of craftsmen who create olive wood bowls, plates, mortars and pestles and other utilitarian objects from whole pieces of olive wood – nothing is laminated or glued together. The search for large pieces of fallen olives trees is a daunting task, but once the olive wood enters their workshop, father and son transform it to a thing of beauty. Standing next to them amidst the sawdust and the lathes is a magical event.
See our artisan olive wood ►
Woven esparto grass is an age old product whose use reaches back before the time of Moses (he might have had an esparto cradle!) Through the ages, esparto grass has been woven into saddlebags for burros; served for centuries as olive oil pressing discs prior to the time of the centrifuge; as mats on the floor, and shades over the windows. The reeds are very difficult to work with -- since they are so stiff they can cut into the hands of the artisan who is forming them. That is why I felt we were stepping back in time when my son, Jonathan, and I were in the unassuming workshop of José in the age old port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. He is one of the last masters of his craft to preserve the tradition against competition from artificial new materials. We are proud to be able support this tradition.
See our artisan esparto grass baskets ►
We enjoy walking along the waterfront of Puerto de Santa Maria and dropping in to visit our friends Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Colosía and his warm and delightful wife Carmen Pau who own a boutique sherry bodega located close to the pedestrian ferry to Cádiz. We always are greeted with extravagant warmth by the couple, and Carmen speaks flawless English. The winery is a work of love, a truly family enterprise.
Their lovely daughter Carmencita might show you around their intimate wine cellar should your visits coincide. In addition to a cellar full of singular sherries, they also have an amazing selection of rich and pungent sherry vinegars, such as you have never tasted before. Their vinegars are the only ones we use at home, both in cooking and our vinaigrette- laced greens.
Don’t miss a chance to meet them. The couple represents to us the very best of Spain. Just email our friend Carmen .
See our Colosia sherries ►
Our friend Jaime Borrás is an enthusiastic owner of Catunambú, a coffee roasting company in Sevilla. He is an energetic man whom we first met in the nearby Parador in Carmona, where he regaled us with an immense amount of information about his favorite topic: coffee. A few days later, we met Jaime among piles of cloth and burlap bags of coffee beans in the warehouse of Catunambú, a famous old firm from Sevilla, founded in 1897. It was an amazing experience to stroll around the warehouse with Jaime - the aroma was unbelievable. We saw bags from up to 20 different countries, all ingredients in a bold yet smooth blend that is the signature flavor of Catunambú - the coffee of Andalucía!
See our Spanish coffees ►