I am often asked where you can buy good food from reliable producers, sometimes even specialist growers and butchers. In Valencia there are several places where you can buy gourmet foods without having to visit the supermarkets or pay El Corte Ingles prices. In the past I have written about Las Añadas de España but this is a specialist store and delicatessan. Many of those asking were about to cater for friends and wanted to know where they could find a good range of meat, fish, fresh vegetables and cheeses, all under one roof.
Now of course the easy answer is to visit the Central market where you can buy just about anything under the sun….the problem is parking nearby is not easy and these days no-one actually wants to carry heavy bags of shopping!
There are however a number of other markets, just as good as that in the centre of the tourist district of the city.
One such is barely a kilometre away in Ruzafa, just a stones throw behind the bull-ring and with its own underground parking which you can even get discounted!
To illustrate the point, this week we hosted a meal, a wedding anniversary celebration, for some friends. So we drove directly into the city and into the car-park at Ruzafa taking the lift to the market hall itself.
This hall holds a wealth of different stalls, many of them generations old, with butchers, grocers, fishmongers, bakers, cheese specialists, jamons and all manner of spices etc allowing you a reasonable choice and and access to the finest of fresh, quality produce.
One example is Carnes Filo, a fifth generation specialist butcher with a philosophy for providing quality at reasonable prices.
Ernesto Vilar Puig is the current generation working still with his father at a stall the family have held in Ruzafa for about 50 years, having also a modern premises in Pobla de Valbona, where the bulk of the work and distribution to commercial clients is done. Whilst I talked to Ernesto over a plate of sausages in the market cafe, a steady stream of clients were buying high quality meat. Ernesto explained that they worked directly with farmers and knew the direct provenence of each individual animal. These animals are carefully reared and the meat is drug and chemical free.
The farms are all over Spain ( Laon, Asturias and Galicia ) and some in central Europe which allows in particular for the best beef to selected……not supermarket ternera but beef which is richly marbled with fine vein fat to ensure the best results when cooking. This is a centre for fine beef and Ernesto stocks two types of Kobe beef one directly imported from Japan and the other kobe `style´. This beef sells for around 2oo pounds a pound in the UK, here you can buy it for about 180€ a kilo. If you want rib of beef on the bone for slow roasting in the English manner this is the place to come.
Carnes Filo select the variety of pig, a Duroc, which is a cross between the Iberico and a white pig from Teruel. They also have the young lamb, Cordero Lechal, sobrasada with pumpkin, goat and much, much more including some own brand specialities.
Under a distinctly Germanic looking lable they produce four würsst style sausages, in fact from top quality meat, which are ideal for barbecuing and which were full of flavour and had a good texture….unlike the horrible rusk and rice flour varieties offered by many of the supermarkets none of which have seen an animal.
And if you are a burger aficionado then you must beat a path to this butcher immediately. They produce around 130 varieties from different meats, including some exotic varieties such as kudu, venison, wild boar or ostrich, which you can have mixed with herbs, cheese etc, to create your own style. For the record we tried wild boar, ostrich and a pork with cheese which respectively were meaty with a good flavour, delicate with a fine texture and the cheese mix was subtle. They sell around 50kg daily of these burgers!
In future when the town hall gets its act into gear they hope to expand into the next door stall and set up a outlet where you can taste the burgers and sausages before you buy, accompanied by a glass of cava perhaps. Cava do I hear you say?
Over the last eight years, as I have learn´t about Valencian Cava (D.O. Cava) I have come to appreciate that many are better to drink with food than as aperitifs. The reasons for this are not difficult to understand but you have to put cava from Valencia……or more correctly from Requena… into its proper context.
Catalan cava is largely made from Parellada and Xarel-Lo, grapes which to my mind tend towards acidic wines than those wines from Chardonnay. By contrast good Cava from Requena is almost exclusively Chardonnay and Macabeo, grapes which whilst complementing each other well also have other properties.
These properties are enhanced by a determination amongst almost all Requenense Cava makers to produce wines with some age, long contact with the lees and a balance which complements food rather than simply producing a cheap , sparkling wine for quaffing.
But a Cava to go with meat, especially quality beef?
The wine of course is not made around the centre of Valencia even if that is where the market is! The wine is made in Requena, by UVE, the cava bodega set up specifically when Requena won the famous court case challenging the then hegemony of Cataluña.
The grapes are all from parcels in the Requena area. The deposits at UVE contain wines from many different parcels, of different ages and when Ernesto met with winemaker Pepe Hidalgo and discussed the project, it did not take long to commence a process which started with a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Macabeo with around 15 months on the lees which led to the first wine. In fact , over several tastings, this blend changed and the first wine to wear the Filo label is a blend of 50% each of Chardonnay and Macabeo, but still with 15 months ageing.
At its recent launch , Cava Filo was received with acclamation from the invited guests and I can confirm that it goes very well with Kobe beef!
More info from facebook, carnes filo.
Another specialist stall is Solo Queso, brainchild of a Frenchman , Bertrand, who imports cheese from across Spain. He has a wide range of goat cheeses as well as sheep and cows milk varieties, some creamy, some harder and some aged giving the purchaser a hard choice. We picked a Peral sheeps cheese from Vallodolid and a Blau de L´Avixton, a goats cheese from Lleida. Both were creamy and relatively mild, an excellent choice for the end of a meal! More information from facebook Bertrand SoloQueso.
There is much more to Ruzafa than space allows time for and the market will remain a quieter and effective alternative for catering for special occasions!