Dec 19 2022

Give Spanish 'Sabor' for the Holidays

Food writer Marti Buckley writes your letter to Santa for you, and it’s plenty of Spanish delicacies.

Marti Buckley

by Marti Buckley - @martibuckley

If you’re like most of us, this time of year you’re busy making your list and checking it twice. It’s not always easy to surprise that same old rolodex of loved ones with great gifts. But in 2022, you have the entire internet at your fingers, making global gifting a reality—so, let’s be honest, it’s time to go off the beaten track.

We’ve consulted our experts in Spanish food and wine to prepare a holiday gift guide for the real people on your list, from that family member who is basically impossible to shop for to the annoying friend who won’t stop raving about their trip to Spain. You’ll find the perfect gift for everyone on this list, products that are not only delicious but redolent of wanderlust and Mediterranean breezes. This guide is designed to spark a genuine smile— and get stomachs rumbling.

For the…home chef

Arroz de Valencia, saffron and a paella pan

For that family member or friend that loves to cook, it can be tempting to go in for the latest kitchen gadget. However, any real home chef will tell you that they much prefer classic, quality kitchen goods.  Enter—the paellera, or paella pan. These wide, flat round pans are specially designed for making paella with the perfect proportion of crusty socarrat to rice. Polished steel pans are the most authentic, although high-quality stainless steel pans give great results as well and are much easier to maintain. A 14” paella pan is a great size for daily use, while a 20-24” pan is more suited to those who plan to make paella for entertaining. Load up the pan with a bag of Arroz de Valencia PDO, the short-grain rice grown traditionally in the Júcar river basin and in the natural Albufera wetlands in Valencia, and Spanish saffron for that gorgeous yellow color.

For the…wine lover

Sherry, make it 'palo cortado'

Gifting wine can be a sticky situation—unless are deeply knowledgeable about both wines and the giftee’s sensibilities, it can be difficult to hit the mark. There is a Spanish wine, however, that will both surprise and enthrall any wine lover: sherry. Perhaps the most underrated wine in all of Europe, sherry is far from that sweet, granny drink with a dusty reputation. Steer away from cream sherry and PX, the sweeter variations, and gift instead a quality bottle of dry sherry. The most delicious style of sherry is widely considered to be palo cortado, so named after the tradition of marking the barrels that showed the special evolution characteristic of this style. This fortified wine is made in Andalucía and has a delicious characteristic nuttiness. Even better, it stays fresh for a couple of weeks once open, making it the wine gift that keeps giving.

For the…person who is impossible to shop for

The nicest bottle of extra virgin olive oil they’ll ever have

We all know that one person who has it all, and the best approach in these cases is to get them something that they can actually use daily yet is nicer than what they may purchase themselves. The perfect gift? Extra virgin olive oil. Spain’s  extra virgin olive oil is second to none in the world, thanks to a geography and climate especially suited to olive cultivation with its extensive mountain slopes, mild to cold winters, and long, hot summers. Splurge on a quality bottle and give them the gift of permission to use it on the daily, whether for dipping with bread, dressing salads, or cooking. Want to really impress? Try a gourmet cold-smoked olive oil, made with organic oak smoke to replicate the rich flavor of the asador.

For the … one who won’t stop raving about San Sebastián

Anchovies, guindillas de Ibarra, and Spanish olives

Yes, you know San Sebastián is the hottest destination right now for food lovers in Spain. Yes, you were told about the amazing pintxo scene. Yes, you have FOMO, ok? We all have that one friend who won’t stop talking about how they fell in love with San Sebastián and the incredible food there. Instead of fighting it, give them what they want and impress them with your insider knowledge along the way.  Wrap them up a trio of delicious conserves—salt-cured Cantabrian anchovies, pickled guindilla peppers (from Ibarra, if possible), and some manzanilla olives, pits and all. They will open the gift and shout “Gilda!” like a little kid on Christmas, guaranteed.

For the…health fanatic

Tinned fish

They don’t call it the Mediterranean diet for nothing…for the health and wellness-obsessed person in your life, look no further than Spain’s hottest commodity in 2022—tinned fish. Trendier than ever, they come in gorgeously collectable little tins, but the real draw is their health benefits.  Tinned fish contain as many heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fresh fish—sometimes even more. These help prevent heart problems and inflammation, as well as the formation of blood clots inside arteries. The healthiest tinned fish include mackerel, sardines, and tuna, all of which are specialties in Spain and come in a wide variety of colors and flavors—or you can even gift a monthly subscription box!

For the…hipster

Lomo curado and a bottle of vermouth

For that person on your list that loves to be into things before they’re mainstream, there is plenty of delicious food and drink from Spain waiting to be discovered.  This holiday season, get them the underground version of jamónlomo curado. This cured pork loin has nowhere near the reach of the famed Spanish ham, but that’s not because it is any less delicious. A whole Iberian pork loin is trimmed, marinated, and left to cure in the same style as jamón, resulting in a chewier, nuttier product with great marbling. Top it off with a bottle of obscure artisan Spanish vermouth, and yours will be the coolest gift under the tree.

For the…neighbor you don’t know that well

Lesser-known Spanish cheeses

What better gift for that neighbor you see all the time but don’t actually know than some cheeses that not many people know either? It doesn’t take an in-depth personality test to guess that your neighbor is likely a cheese lover, considering 96% of Americans eat cheese and the average European eats 20 kilos a year. Spanish cheese is world famous, but it goes far beyond Manchego, the most well-traveled of the national cheeses. In fact, over 100 types of cheese are recognized by official protections in Spain. Some of these lesser-known cheeses are true discoveries, which any cheese lover would be thrilled to make. Gift your neighbor a board covering the entire country: start with Valdeón from the north, a blue from the Picos de Europa. Continue with the lovely mild Mahón from the Balearic Islands to the east; Ibores from the west, made from Retinta goats in Extremadura, and Payoya from the south Andalucía.

For the … sweet tooth

Spanish gourmet chocolate

Chocolate came to Europe through Spain, so it’s no wonder that Spanish chocolate today has reached some tasty gourmet frontiers. For the sweet tooth on your list, dig into the lively world of Spanish artisan chocolates. You’ll find complex bites featuring a caramelized layer between the nut and the chocolate, dusted with savory cocoa powder, like those from Amatller. Or explore the extensive line of flavors from white chocolate with raspberries to milk chocolate with Spanish wafer from Pancracio—they’re all certain to be devoured.