Heavy on Old World charm with the added bonus of New World central air, Despaña, the new specialty foods store downtown, offers a welcome retreat from the hordes of shoppers flip flopping through SOHO on the weekends.
Expanding from an original outpost in Queens, the purveyors import and make all manners of goods typical of a well-stocked Spanish pantry. The store is slim, well edited, and immediately accessible with varied samples of olive oils, chorizos and other cured meats, a wide array of cheese, and even a Spanish potato omelet which must be ordered a day in advance.
You'll be sure to find something to your taste. I liked a spicy garlic aioli and a tangy soft cheese flavored with pimento peppers that brought to mind a sophisticated version of Southern pimento cheese - as well as something interesting enough to offend your palette - a very intense blue cheese and a likewise intense, air-dried tuna that tasted like fish jerky to me.
The people behind the counter smile when you wince, but they also smile when you select anything to bring home, even as modest as their reasonably priced house olive oil. Another good way to sample their goods is to get a sandwich or "bocadillo," featuring star items such as Serrano ham with goat cheese or fluffy tuna paired with marinated white anchovies and a mild aioli spread.
[Julie, who we're trying out for the writing position at The Kitchen, joins us again today for a store review... comment away! Welcome back, Julie. To read yesterday's post about tenderizing meat with kiwi, scroll down or click here.]