https://alaplancha.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/17-magic-feeling.m4a%5D“It has been over eight years since I have left my company on a weekday, suddenly I find myself alone in Madrid with very little Spanish wondering what I am going to find in Spain over the next ten days. The answer became more than I can put into words. What struck me most is the diversity of a country the size of Texas and how each region relates to the food, people, and culture. I cannot stress enough the importance of experiencing Spain for myself to truly comprehend the unique foods we are promoting here at JDY”
Dave Yourd – Owner and Principal at JDY Meat, Inc.
Solex Partners’ mission is to build a solid bridge between its two markets: Spain and the US. We firmly believe these field trips when possible increase our customers and partners’ knowledge, passion and loyalty to Solex authentic foods and solutions by meeting Solex selected producers and experiencing Spain’s regions, unique characteristics and interesting stories. Solex customers, distributors and partners are the ones that really represent and act as Ambassadors for Solex high quality foods from Spain in their own markets. “While driving around the country, I was kind of traveling with all our customers. I kept thinking about how we could share our experiences with all of them” – Jose Sarrate, Solex Principal mentioned few days after their trip together.
Dave Yourd, the owner and Principal at JDY Meat based in Chicago, Illinois, has allowed us to share his first hand experience with all of you. Dave, we sincerely hope you had the time of your life. Thanks for allowing Solex to share your personal feelings and thoughts with every single customer!
On Sept 19th, Dave and Jose landed in MADRID for a short weekend before heading down to Andalucia.
“This is the first time I have been in an old European City. You can get lost in the back alleys zig-zagging every direction all filled with small tapas bars, “cervecerias”, and bakeries. Of course the first trek of mine was finding the few tapas bars I had heard of and hunting down there specialties. I traveled through several areas: Plaza Mayor, Plaza Santa Ana, Real Madrid, and my favorite street “La Cava Baja”. Madrid seemed to be very casual, working class, with people who love to talk. Small tapas bars were everywhere. I was first very intimidated not knowing the formalities of tapas much less the language. I finally learned to push myself to the bar as if I were still in college, point to what I wanted and hope I got it right”
From Madrid we took the high speed train into the colorful city of SEVILLA in the heart of Andalucia. We were generously invited by the Government of Andalucia to one of the most exclusive tradeshows of the industry and ready to enjoy ANDALUCIA SABOR FOOD SHOW.
“ Overall Andalucia – the land of “the golden juice” the OLIVE OIL – is rich and intense. We visited Sevilla, GRANADA and JAEN. Olive trees grow like corn in this part of Spain. Most gourmet olive oils are made of varieties such as Picual, Arbequina, and Hojiblanca. There is a range of flavors of the olive oils, the higher regarded ones in Spain tend to have strong, grassy, distinct flavors and aromas. Interesting! The key seemed to learn how to use these different styles for different applications. The impact extra-virgin olive oil can have on a dish is enormous.”
Still in the south Dave and Jose visited Solex olives’ producer: Vegatoro Gourmet. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that Vegatoro is another small family company venture like Solex and JDY”. Juan Luis showed us some new awards he won in Belgium for his olives, and then the new line of products he was working on. Caramelized olives anyone?
“Jamon now means something completely different to me. There are a lot more Iberico pigs than I originally thought. You must understand how the Iberico ham market actually works in Spain. To me, it seemed that there are two main competing regions raising their hogs, Jabugo in the south and Salamanca in the north. Each claim their dehesa has more oak trees and their pigs are purer. There is a difference between the climate, the breed of the pig and the production methods of each region but overall it becomes obvious to me why the Jamon Iberico de Bellota is considered to be like caviar or truffle across the world. We walked through their underground “bodegas” with 1 million jamones aging. It was a massive “hall of jamon”. Beautiful!. The Iberico ham world is full of history and tradition and Fermin donates a pig to the town every year which walks around the village square asking for food and saying hello to outdoor diners. Funny how the Iberico pig has been involved in the community for centuries”
From Andalucia to SALAMANCA in Castilla Leon. From the most remote mountains in Salamanca to the sophisticated and cosmopolitan city of BARCELONA in the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula. We arrived in the middle of the Merce festival, where each square had bands set up and parades just appeared with a display of fireworks. We hit the major sites, Gaudi’s Parc Guelle, Segrada Familia, La Rambla, and La Boqueria. We also stepped up our food consumption opting for the more avant-garde rather than the traditional tapas we have already experienced.
“We could not missed La Boqueria for lunch. Although Jose seemed to know where to head up for, I had my own cheat sheet with recommendations from my friend Chef Ryan Poli. In the famous spot Pintxo we enjoyed grilled calamares. In Quim, it took a long time to jockey for a seat but the reward was a raciones of sautéed local mushrooms, poached egg, seared foie, with a balsamic vinegar reduction, not bad for a 15 foot food stall in the middles of a food market. We had lunch at Sergi Arola’s restaurant in the Arts hotel. Ryan’s friend Ishmeal is chef de cuisine and treated us great. Thanks Ryan! The simple things stick out to me and I hope someone steals this, for the bread appetizer they had a do it yourself tomato bread. A tray came out with bread, tomato, garlic, salt and a bottle of Arbequina olive oil. The guest cuts the garlic in half then rubs it on the bread, cuts tomato in half then rubs on bread, sprinkle salt and and add olive oil. It was ingenious, someone use this for tomato season next year please!”
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Inopia, Albert Adria’s tapas bar. The food was surprisingly, traditional, simple, and fantastic. Highlights were the fried eggplant with a cane sugar reduction, the conservas of clams with the house sauce which is simply sherry vinegar and authentic paprika. Of course you know you are in the right spot when the uber-trendy Madeline Albreicht walks in behind you for dinner! Wow!
We were absorbed in Spain’s gastronomy and food culture, enjoying every little corner of each region, city and town while learning not only about the culinary traditions but also the upcoming trends. Jose was prouder and prouder of his country. Dave was fascinated about the treasures he was discovering and he kept thinking about a passionate way to translate everything he tasted to JDY customers, chefs and friends of their culinary network. We arrived to SAN SEBASTIAN in the Basque region.
“It felt like we entered yet another part of the world when we entered San Sebastion, the climate is cooler and landscape very green. San Sebastion itself is probably the classiest destination you could imagine. Set on the Cantabrian Sea bordering France, it is a classic beachfront city without the excessive lights and noise that ruins most others”.
Conservas Ortiz, Solex producer for high quality specialty fished such as bonito del norte, boquerones or marinated brown anchovies, was the perfect cicerone. Muchas gracias Familia Ortiz! Our experience with Ortiz could not have been better.
“They have seven plants and we got to see the full process in which they carefully produce and can their Bonito del Norte or white tuna Tuna and the white and brown Anchovies. Everything is packed by hand, from the layers of salted anchovies to the hand cut tuna loins packed in glass jars with olive oil. We also got to try the different types of Tuna they offer from Yellow fin, to the famed Bonito, and the Ventresca (belly) of the Bonito. Now I can see why Ortiz is differentiated from the different Tuna’s that are being offered. It is a completely different flavor and quality”
We cannot leave San Sebastian without talking about the well known Pintxos. Simply a Pintxo is a one or two bite piece usually on bread with a toothpick through the top, kind of like a large canapé. “After visiting Conservas Ortiz, I expected a bite of white tuna, a boqueron or a brown anchovy in every pintxo:
It is hard for us to translate the importance of this culture and food to our customers in Chicago, as we are now in a great transition in American cooking to an artisanal, local movement. The thing is the producers and people of Spain never lost this concept. It has been instilled in them and evolved from the very beginning. The regions and D.O.’s that are so important to them translate into product that is not duplicated anywhere in the world. So as we further promote this product and culture we must realize the people behind it are the most artisanal and traditional that you can find, by necessity.
“I want to thank the people that made this trip possible for me. First, my wife Karrie for being able to handle the operations of the company and letting me escape and enjoy this amazing opportunity. My full staff at JDY, for stepping up to the plate and putting the extra hours in to make this happen. Extenda the Government of Andalucia for the invitation to a wonderful tradeshow and of course our producers: Conservas Ortiz, Embutidos Fermin and Vegatoro Gourmet for their kindness, knowledge and hospitality on this trip. Very much to Solex Partners but especially to my friend and partner Jose Sarrate who allowed this to happen sharing with me, and therefore my team and my customers, Solex’ knowledge, passion and projects regarding foods from Spain”
This trip allowed me to deeply connect to Spain and consolidate JDY’s role as Ambassador for the foods of this country within his Illinois market. Gracias Solex!