Tuesday, March 07, 2006

despana

my most recent trip to spain, about two years ago, was primarily a gastronomic tour. if forced to get more specific, it was primarily "un viaje de jamon" which for you non spanish speakers translates roughly as "vacation of ham." i had chorizo, serrano, butifarra, etc.

when i arrived there, i was a struggling vegetarian, but after worshipping at the tapas altar (a pilgrim on a journey seeking taste), i left as a meat sinner, a fallen vegetarian, having taken a bite not of an apple, but of the pig, roasting slowly, with an apple in its mouth. for me, spain is synonymous with sausage, and god bless.

this past weekend i popped into despana, a small gourmet spanish food shop, newly opened at broome between lafayette and centre street. the first thing to mention is the abundance of samples. small spanish clay dishes proffer sausage bites, olives, tapenades, excellent cheeses, sauteed marcona almonds (flat and soft), and various olive oils. a girl could fill up on these alone and there seems to be no taboo against rolling up sleeves and digging in.

if you still have room after all that madness, order a bocadillo at the back counter. for $8, four of us shared a chorizo, manchego, and honey sandwich, while standing at the marble slabbed free-standing counter. the guy even cut it into quarters for us, and it was excellent.

unexpectedly, the highlight for me was a fried morsel of morcilla. it was a dark, rich purple which i suspected signalled "blood sausage." blood sausage is made by boiling blood until it gelatinizes, then mixing it with ground pork parts, cereal of some kind, and spices. i knew i would not try it if i was certain of its identity, so i popped it blindly in my mouth and was pleased by its mellow, deep richness. "is that blood sausage?" i asked tentatively, as i licked my lips. the counter guy smiled slyly and nodded, pleased with making yet another new convert.

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