Foods & Wines from Spain interviewed Angélica Intriago during her recent visit to Spain to attend Madrid Fusión. The co-founder of Despaña in New York shares her opinion on growing interest in Spanish foods and wines in the US
How has American consumers' perception of Spanish foods changed?
I would say that, in the last seven years, US consumers of Spanish products have learned how to value quality. Spain has positioned itself as a producer of proven quality. I'm referring to products like canned asparagus from Navarre, Piquillo peppers with origin labeling, etc. US consumers are looking for products with roots, history and quality and they don't mind paying if they're going to get an outstanding product with ties to a certain place and excellent flavor.
Which products were successful first in Despaña and what are the latest products to reach your SoHo neighborhood store?
Indubitably, chorizo was our first product—a chorizo that we make ourselves and which made us famous. As for imported products at Despaña, we started with delicacies such as Piquillo pepper and pimentón from La Vera, and recently we started to offer a food that's an overall excellent product: Güeyu Mar, canned foods, made at the restaurant of the same name in Asturias by chef Abel Álvarez. They're canned, grilled fish and seafood—a true wonder, and they've become a real hit among consumers.
Is it difficult to explain to consumers why Ibérico ham is of superior quality compared with other cured hams from different countries?
It has been complicated because of the changes in regulation. There are many types of Ibérico ham and it may be confusing for people who are just becoming interested in this product. Explaining a product that is so specific, of such high quality and so expensive is very important, but little by little we're gaining ground. Now fewer people mistake Ibérico ham for prosciutto, which was very common years ago, which is also a sign that knowledge about our product has grown a lot.
What's the situation with canned products? It seems like there's growing interest in the US for them...
The canned products from Spain that have become most popular in recent years contain fish. US consumers don't usually eat much fish, and for them to be able to buy quality canned goods allows them to change that habit. Foodies believe that canned fish are a trend, so it's safe to say that this Spanish product has a lot of potential in this market. There are two more aspects that support this trend: an increasing number of chefs in New York are using canned fish from Spain in their dishes, and the packaging has improved considerably, which helps attract the most discerning consumers to this product when they shop at specialized stores.
Lastly, what dinner would you prepare on a Saturday night using Spanish products?
I like to drink a glass of wine and snack while I cook. I would love some Bonilla a la Vista potato chips and a can of Gama Oro Cano Peñas canned fish in brine. For dinner I'd serve canned white asparagus from La Catedral de Navarra with a drizzle of Masía El Altet or Finca La Torre extra virgin olive oil. For the main entrée, I'd prepare fillets of grilled presa Ibérica with confitted Piquillo peppers. And for dessert, I would serve El Artesano pears in wine from El Bierzo with vanilla ice cream and I would top it all off with a glass of Pedro Ximénez and some Cabrales cheese.
Text: Rodrigo García / @ICEX