04.20.11: tapas (quince paste, manchego anejo and the Copa del Rey)

Copa del Rey tapas spread

It’s probably a good thing that I don’t work in the city, especially near SoHo, because I’d be far too tempted to sneak a trip to Despaña on my lunch hour in order to pick up a few goodies either for dinner or the weekend on a regular basis. I say this because I’ve managed to make a trip there any time I’ve had time off or at least time to myself in the last few months despite it being somewhat of a haul to get down there from our apartment. I blame the draw of the Union Square Greenmarket and the fact that it’s really easy to go both to Despaña and Eataly once you’re in that general vicinity.

Well, as long as you don’t have a cranky husband to tote around with you. I kiiiiiiiiid.

This was a special trip, however, as my plan for the day was as follows: get up, work out early, get down to the Greenmarket to buy more ramps, hit up a few thrift stores in Chelsea, and then take myself out to lunch at Eataly so I could finally say I ate there. Finding myself with a little extra time than I had anticipated, I also squeezed in a trip to Despaña prior to lunch, as I realized that some tapas would be absolutely lovely to have while watching the Copa del Rey final in the afternoon. (It turned out they were rather essential but we’ll get to that later.) Knowing the store carries quince paste (aka dulce de membrillo), my plan of action was simple: get a block of the stuff, ask for a recommendation on what cheese to pair it with, and then splurge on a nice baguette from Eataly after lunch. An aged manchego was readily suggested, and my intrigue was further piqued when the cheesemonger mentioned how she liked to eat it with fresh pineapple. A container of that was quickly added to my mental shopping list.

Lunch was lovely: my Neapolitan-style pizza was quite tasty, and the crust so delicate that I had to eat it with a knife and fork–a task made even more difficult when a well-appointed Belgian gentleman sat down next to me at the bar and I was trying to eat the pizza with a modicum of grace in an effort to not look like some American stereotype. We ended up having a friendly conversation about the store, I shocked him by getting my pizza wrapped up (“We are in America, I suppose” he mused) and I went on my merry way to pick up a few provisions for dinner as well as a baguette for afternoon tapas, making it home in time to watch pre-match coverage on ESPN Deportes and fix up a plate of snacks.

So, about that quince paste, or dulce de membrillo: made from the quince fruit, it’s like a jelly or marmalade but much more solid compared to either, but is rather easy to spread once you scoop out a lump with your knife. While it’s sweet, it is not overly so; it doesn’t have that overwhelming sugary sweetness that you see in American jams and jellies so it really pairs nicely with savory foods, such as the cheese and toast or the sweetbreads we enjoyed a few weeks ago at the James Beard house. I threw on some slices of jamón serrano that we had in the fridge (and to be frank I’m kind of shocked we had any as usually one of us will devour it in one sitting) which made it even more delicious, and when the toasts were gone I tried the manchego-pineapple combination and loved it.

It was wise on my part to have this little spread, because the game was incredibly intense and a good glass of wine (or two) was absolutely essential in getting through the game and had I not nibbled on something it would have gone immediately to my head–though the insanity of the first Champion’s League semifinals leg neatly trumped this match, and tomorrow’s return will only up the crazy. It’s probably for the best that I won’t be home to watch that, as I fear glasses would get broken from slamming them onto the coffee table.

I’ll be so happy when these Clásicos are over. I have a feeling that both Barca and Real Madrid will be too.

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4 comments
  1. Marta said:

    I absolutely love membrillo. Yum yum YUM. Also lovely with other savoury but not overwhelming cheeses (such as a good, mature Cheddar!) and in panellets.

    Also, the football thing is getting crazy here. Sport journalists are having a field day. ><

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