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The holidays are a time we typically spend with our families and friends. It’s also a time of year when our Solex team members from Spain start reminiscing about their families and friends back in Spain. During our Solex holiday dinner we had a long conversation about our favorite holiday foods and Spanish traditions over a few glasses of wine. We had so much to talk about that we decided to share some of it with you via a la Plancha.

The Point of View from Ray’s Catalonian Stomach

We’ll start with Ray, our numbers guy, who is from Barcelona. Now, if you know much about Spain, you know that Barcelona is in a region called Catalonia where they have their own unique language, customs and foods. Here’s what Ray had to say about his favorite holiday foods and memories.

Escudella I Carn d’Olla

For me, the highlight of the holiday season is spending time with family and friends, and eating great food.  Unlike the rest of Spain, we don’t have our big family meal on Christmas Eve. For us, the focal point is Christmas day when we eat a traditional dish called Escudella I Carn d’Olla. In Barcelona,where I am from, Paella may be more famous and pa amb tomaquet more ubiquitous but Escudella I Carn d’Olla is truly the national dish.  It is a slow-cooked, one pot stew with meat and vegetables that is served year round in Catalonia, but on Christmas we pull out all the stops. Our Christmas version adds chicken (for Saint Peter), Pork (for Saint Anthony), beef (for Saint Luke), lamb (for Saint John) and a giant football shaped meatball called a Pilota. And don’t forget the Galets, giant shell-shaped pasta typical of Catalonia.  

Though Escudella i carn d’olla is the star of our traditional Catalan Christmas dinner, we also serve grilled prawns, jamon Iberico and cheese like Senorio de Montelarreina which is my favorite. My grandmother’s recipe for Escudella I Carn d’Olla is a closely guarded family secreted. The three wise men would give up their Frankincense and Myrrh for the recipe. But someone’s grandmother was nice enough to share hers in this video.

For me, the celebration of the St. Stephen’s day (known also as Boxing Day) on December 26th also makes Catalonia unique. The food of the day is Canelones de San Estaban, stuffed with the filling that remains from the Christmas Escudella, turkey, or capon. Step aside Italy, Catalonia’s Canelones are coming through!

Ignacio and the Twelve Grapes

New Year's Eve Grapes Courtesy of diarioinformacion.com

Another of our team members, Ignacio, is from Madrid. Here’s what he had to say about his favorite traditions of the season.

My family’s big dinner on December 24th is always the best, an opportunity to catch up with relatives I haven’t seen for a while over a great meal. Any Spaniard will tell you that the Jamon Iberico is the center of attention during any celebration, but at Christmastime, it gets a little competition from seafood, lamb, fish, and my all time favorite, capon.

New Years Eve, is also one of my favorite days of the year. In Spain, if you’re superstitious, your luck for the entire next year is determined at the stroke of midnight. How? When the clock starts to strike midnight, you must eat one grape for each strike of the clock. If you can manage to eat 12 grapes during this short period of time, you are guaranteed to have a good year. With or without the guarantee of a good year, our next stop is usually the local Churreria where we buy hot and crispy Churros or fried dough and dip them in gooey chocolate.   Haven’t planned your New Year’s Eve menu yet? Make your own Churros and chocolate using this recipe.

Jose’s Basket of Goodies

Christmas Basket

When we started to talk about holiday memories, Jose, one of our founding team members, was reminded of his childhood when negotiating about food began for him at an early age. Here is Jose’s story.

In Spain, it is customary for companies to send their employees home with Christmas baskets (which for the lucky are more like chests) filled with traditional Spanish foods each year. These holiday baskets are stuffed with typical Spanish goodies like crunchy Marcona almonds, salty white anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, juicy olives from Granada, sweet and chewy Turron from Alicante, and of course Iberico ham which needs no introduction.  My father was no exception. Each year he would come home with what as a child seemed like a Christmas basket as big as my youngest sister.

As the oldest sibling, I took charge each year. First my three siblings and I gathered together to plot out our strategy.  With excitement reflected in our bright young eyes, we reviewed what had come in last year’s basket and what our father might bring home in this year’s. The next and most important part was negotiating to get dibs on each of our favorite items from the basket. By the time our father brought the basket home, we had claimed every last item except for the Cava, his favorite.  To this day, the sight of a holiday gift basket brings me back to the holidays of my childhood.

This is just a glimpse of what the holiday season means to us here at Solex. What are your favorite holiday traditions and memories?

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Four months ago, I started working for Solex and received an extensive training portfolio of Spanish products. Some of them were well known and others more new for me, but all of them had a wonderful story behind them of a historical origin, exclusive breeds from Spain or funny stories about its applications in the variety of clients across the United States.

The family of products that caught my attention the most was the blue cheeses. The Covadonga, Cabrales, Valdeon and La Peral are cheeses that are made from the more artisanal and historical processes in the world of cheese. At the same time, this is a family whose success in the U.S. has grown tremendously. For instance, our Covadonga has grown year after year and this has led us to call it our “Best Rookie ever” . Other strong flavor cheeses, such as Valdeon and  Cabrales,  are present in most of the tasting menus of our customers.
Slowly, I continued learning … to become an addict.

Because of  it tastes: traveling through several states I have enjoyed many different applications created by our partners  & customers: a perfect point of Covadonga melted on grilled meats or barbecues (Texas), La Peral in fig & cherry mustard (Chicago) or Cantaloupe, Iberico Ham and Cabrales Salad (Ohio).


Because of its history: I had the opportunity to meet the producers in Spain, most of them in northern Spain along one of the most famous mountains in Spain, the Picos de Europa. The secret of his curing process is the several months that each piece cures in natural caves in the mountains of the area. Although, this is the reality of the process, the oldest story tells that a shepherd was milking in the valleys, and when seeing one of his latest conquests, left the milk in a nearby cave and ran after her. When the winter came and the shortage of milk followed, he remembered that he had left one vessel in the cave and went to that cave; he found the curds and the original cheese. It is probably  just a story, but in the area, the oldest people say that the shepherds’ name was Gervasio …

Because of its versatility: our blue cheeses have something in common with each other; their strong personality but show a variety of aromas and flavors. You can decide which one best fits in each situation. Let me tell you my use: I buy mostly Covadonga, I use it mainly in combination with meat, and because it is the softer, I use for tapas with friends or assortments with other cheeses. I use Cabrales combined with other more mature: Montelarreina, Idiazabal or Roncal, sometimes combined with a fruity EVO – Picual or Hojiblanca olive variety. And finally, the Valdeon or La Peral, for me the strongest the pick from the refrigerator when my level of addiction comes to a peak… I find very few French blue cheeses, Belgian or English … that offer me so many possibilities.

I hope that you also like them and I will love to hear your opinions…

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Here is an excerpt of an email from a fan of the Tapas Omelette that made us very very happy!

P1060216“I don’t just like it – I’m obsessed with it!  My daughter loves it too.  I bought it from Costco.  They had a taste demo.   I didn’t try it because of the possibility of contamination from other people but the demonstrater said it was gluten free – but I decided I really should check with the company directly because I like it so much – and just in case she was mistaken.  I’ve been telling everyone about it so Costco will continue to carry it.” Cindy, OH

Yes indeed, the Tapas Omelette is gluten free. The ingredients are only potato, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. The omelettes are baked in pans just like you would cook your American breakfast omelette.

Visit our consumer website www.solextapas.com

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For Solex, there was never a more exciting time to bring Spain’s artisan foods to the American table than it is now!

Not too long ago our biggest challenge at Solex was to convey the special stories about our ingredients and each producer’s commitment to maintain a certain culture and responsibility in the production of it for over hundreds of years. Today these principles are called “sustainable” and the growing curiousity of chefs, retailers and consumers in ‘real and sustainable food’ allows us to reach more open ears. The attention of certain media is tremendously helpful – like today’s fantastic NRP report about the choice of sustainable sea food consumption.

right biteThanks to the Shedd Aquarium that has promoted the program ‘Right Bite’ to educate consumers on sustainable and endangared sea foods, Chicago’s chefs and consumers have access to the information that is needed if one decides to look not only for the joys of good foods, but also to know about choice in sustainability of sea foods.

In this NPR report, Chef Carrie Nahabedian from Naha explains very well her motivation and approach as a chef to the use of sustainable ingredients.  These points are exactly the reason for the long and wonderful relationship between Chef Carrie and Solex. (She was one of the first in the US to use Jamon Iberico in her menu. Jamon Iberico is not only the most delicate ham, but the animals are treated and raised in a way that it supports to maintain the landscape of “La Dehesa“,  but also the craft and sophisticated food culture of small villages in Spain.)

One of the producers that Solex is very proud to have a close relationship with is Ortiz, a family business with the highest reputation for Anchovies and White Tuna from the Cantabrian Sea. Since 1891, the company is committed to sustainable fishing methods and has never deviated from it.

ortiz sustainable sea food

Ortiz guarantees only to catch tuna by pole, anchovies with net, and sets standards on its fishing quota higher than required. The company’s long-term commitment already sets no interest in overfishing the Cantabrian Sea. Finally, the artisan methods of manual labor intense processing of the anchovies and tunas guarantees the unbeatable quality and flavor, as well as the employment of local families since several generations.
When you enjoy for example the intense aroma of a white anchovy in vinegar from Ortiz, you literally can feel taste this happiness that results of  all the values and commitment put into this little filet.  That is what Solex products from Spain are all about!

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mayor daley 3

Solex JDY Team with Mayor Daley: Ana, Karrie, Eva, Isabel, Richard Daley, Rocio, Guillermo

Eva Trias with Richard Daley

Eva Trias with Richard Daley

Guillermo Trias, Mayor Daley, Eva Trias and Alberto Solis from Fermin

Guillermo Trias, Mayor Daley, Eva Trias and Alberto Solis from Fermin

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In the last few days, we had one of the most exciting shows ever!
We showcased and sampled many newly available authentic foods from Spain.

SOLEX TEAM NRA 2009

SOLEX TEAM NRA 2009

Lining up for Jamon Serrano and Iberico!

Lining up for Jamon Serrano and Iberico!

Kerry presenting the Ortiz Bonito del Norte and Anchovies

Karrie presenting the Ortiz Bonito del Norte and Anchovies

David samples Gold Medal Winner "Senorio de Montelarreina"

David samples Gold Medal Winner "Senorio de Montelarreina"Isabel sampling Chorizo

Guillermo sampling the new "First Early Royal" Olive Juice

Guillermo sampling the new "First Early Royal" Olive Juice

Isabel samples Chorizo

Isabel samples Chorizo

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The new Tapas Omelette has its debut and we created this fun little consumer page for it! Do you like it? Let us know! VISIT www.solextapas.com 

new consumer website

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