Josper Charcoal Oven Stand at Alimentaria 2016, International Food and Drink Fair

Josper Charcoal Oven Stand at Alimentaria 2016, International Food and Drink Fair

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Barcelona Alimentaria International Food and Drink Fair 2016

Alimentaria 2016 - Italian Meat Cutting Stand

Alimentaria 2016 – Traditional Meat Cutting Machine

Alimentaria – International Food and Drink Fair held at the Barcelona Fira Conference Center came and went last week with over 1000 stands sprawling across an 80.000 square meter space.  This year, 140.000 visitors came from 60 countries to celebrate the Alimentaria fortieth years as a platform to showcase Spanish food products to the international market.

I stopped by the final day of the exhibition, and sat down with representatives of several food companies to discuss the local culinary culture and – specifically – Barcelona as the Barbecue Capital of Europe.

The first impression while walking around the exhibition center was, of course, the overwhelming amount of food suppliers from every corner of Iberia. I started at the olive oil tasting area with fifty or more varieties to compare.  My nose filled with the scent of my favorite olives; Arbequina, Hjiblanca and Frantoio.

Alimentaria 2016 - meat displays

Alimentaria 2016 – Meat Displays

I grabbed a few cups of coffee and entered the display of succulent meat products stretching half a kilometer that got me dreaming about firing up a barbecue at 10:30am. The aromas of the hundreds of stands filled with rice, pasta and noodle dishes.  Followed by the stands of fresh cut ham, grilled pork and steak. Just row-after-row of every type of food products you could imagine.

I approached the industry magazine stand, Eurocarne, to ask them more about the local meat industry.    They informed me that 2015 was a good year, for the first time over 6 million tons of meat was produced in Spain, an increase of 5.8% compared to 2014.

Catalunya was the largest registered meat producing region with over 2 million tons or 35% of the total in Spain.  

Production of meat in Spain over 10 years (Source: Euro Carne Digital)

Production of meat in Spain over 10 years (Source: Euro Carne Digital)

I stopped to meet with the Salt & More company and their founder, Manolo.  I´ve written before about their Persian salt blocks for the barbecue that they let me sample last year. The stand drew a big crowd curious to taste the vegetables and meats which were grilled on large slabs of salt. The public sampling this with me replied that they had never seen this way of grilling before and were surprised that the food did not taste salty, but in fact had a nice balance of savory flavor.

Salt & More Stand at Alimentaria 2016

Salt & More: Barbecue Area at Alimentaria 2016

Salt & More Salt Block at Alimentaria 2016

Salt & More: Salt Block at Alimentaria 2016


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Cadillac of Barbecues

Josper Charcoal Oven Stand at Alimentaria Food and Drink Fair

Josper Charcoal Oven Stand at Alimentaria Food and Drink Fair

My next stop was the stand for Josper Charcoal Ovens, which are the Cadillacs of charcoal barbecues.  The highlight of the day was talking about gastronomic barbecuing with David González, while sampling their perfectly grilled Porterhouse steak (entrecot), pork loin (lomo de cerdo), paella rice, mussels and skirt steak(entraña).

Josper has been producing ovens, just outside of Barcelona, since 1969, and is the preferred charcoal barbecue for top chefs in over 90 countries.

While talking with David, I told him my affirmation that Barcelona is the Barbecue Capital of Europe and he could not disagree.  He concurred what I have been saying, that the Barcelona barbecue experience is a gastronomic exploration in preparing food.  Rooted in the availability of quality fresh products and passion for creativity in local cuisine.

We discussed why barbecuing is not considered as a traditional style of preparing food here. He believed that people do not label this as traditional because it is not discussed as much as in other places in the world.  Moreover, locally, to grill or barbecue meats and vegetables is simply cooking to them. But he believes that the tradition of grilling on charcoal and wood in Barcelona is comparable to any well-identified barbecue city in the world.

Josper Charcoal Ovens

Josper Charcoal Ovens

Josper Charcoal Ovens - Rotisserie

Josper Charcoal Ovens – Rotisserie


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Time for a cold beverage

Puerto de Indias Premium Classic and Strawberry Gin with Original Tonic

Puerto de Indias Premium Classic and Strawberry Gin with Original Tonic

After roaming the halls for hours, I grabbed a cold beer at the Estrella Damm stand and then finished the day with a Gin and Tonic at the stand for Puerto de Indias, a new and rapidly growing Premium Gin company from Seville.  Distributed throughout Spain, they hit 5 million in sales in 2015.  I tried the classic gin, but they told me they are more known for their strawberry flavored gin.

As I sat slowly downing the spirit mixed with the great tasting Original Tonic from Barcelona, I imagined drinking many more of these with some homemade ribs during the summer. It had a crisp,  smooth flavor with subtle aromatic scents.

After seven hours of walking these halls, my conclusion was the Spanish food and drink industry was convincingly strong and would continue to grow as a leader in international markets.  I reconfirmed to myself that Barcelona deserves to be celebrated for its culinary tradition, where barbecuing is a large part of it.

Bon Profit.

 

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