The Yummy Bull had the opportunity to host a Mediterranean dinner last Friday for Euro Seattle Startup Weekend, as I was representing Spain in the Organization Committee.
Startup Weekend is a global movement of active entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. Anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. The top ideas will work during the whole weekend creating a business model as a beginning of a new venture.
I´d never prepared food for 100 people but this is what life is all about, about pushing your own boundaries. Right?
Luckily I counted with the sponsorship of Culinary Collective, one the most important and respected Spanish gourmet importers in the US who donated all the Spanish food for the meal. Making good food with amazing ingredients is always easy…
I was alone and tight in time to prepare the catering, so I conceptualized a realistic, diverse and healthy menu. I chose to prepare a “bonito del Norte”, a variety of tuna from the Cantabrian sea, and piquillo peppers salad (see recipe below).
I wanted to feature an array of Mediterranean countries in my dinner so I decided to showcase French endives too. I love their bitter flavor, not so common in the Pacific NW, because fits perfectly with smoked salmon and blue cheese. I couldn´t find best dressing that salt, Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pedro Ximénez Reserva vinegar.
Brie and blue cheese combined with grapes and Spanish Marcona almonds, the “Ferrari of the almonds” in experts opinion, and Italian delis rounded the meal for meat and cheese lovers. More veggies and hummus, coming from the other side from the Mediterranean, made things easy for the vegetarians.
I wanted to add a light, colorful and healthy dessert so I decided to bring Greece to the table too adding yogurt with berries and pomegranate to the ecuation. And for the sweet tooth authentic Seville tortas de aceite and catalonian milk and dark chocolate.
A diverse Mediterranean dinner for a diverse and energetic bunch of entrepreneurs who worked hard all weekend long to bring their best ideas into life.
I`m proud to say that we received a lot of compliments about all the meals that we served during the weekend. You know we, Europeans, take food business really seriously.
Where You can find Culinary Collective products in the Seattle area:
Bonito del Norte and Piquillo Peppers salad
1 can of Piquillo Peppers or Roasted Peppers
17 oz Bonito del Norte
1 sweet onion
5 Extra Virgin olive oil tablespoons
For the dressing
5 Extra Virgin Olive Oil tablespoons
2 Sherry Vinegar tablespoons
Grounded black pepper
Slice the onion and poach it at slow heat for 10 minutes in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Drain it and put into a flat tray with the sliced peppers. Pour the dressing and add the bonito and parsley as decoration.
Elena F. Guiral
Catalonians have always been great traders thanks to their geographical position in the NE of Spain in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. From one coast to another Pere Selles arrived to the Pacific NW more than 15 years ago to bring a piece from Spain to the US.
He began his company, today Culinary Collective, as many things happen in life, in an informal and adventurouos way. “A friend asked me if I could sell his olive oil here in Seattle so I began to see chefs all around the city with all my warehouse in the trunk of the car,” remembers.
One of his first clients was Tom Douglas, who loved his olive oil and his romantic way of working with a high dedication to an artisanal and high quality product. Soon the chefs asked for more products for their restaurants and Pere decided to incorporate more gourmet foods to his portfolio and to rent his first warehouse.
Today Culinary Collective is the most important Spanish gourmet food importer, with more than 150 references, and they deliver delicacies all around the US. Here in Seattle you can find their products at PCC, Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, The Spanish Table and De Laurenti in Pike Place Market. But La Tienda.com, the most important on line Spanish food seller make them available to every corner in the country too.
When Pere looks for new products his criteria is clear: small-scale production of flavorful heritage food using traditional and environmentally friendly techniques and high quality.
That´s why wandering through his Lynwood warehouse was something similar to walking in heaven for a Spaniard food lover like me: piles of paella rice bags, chicken broth, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, chocolate, canned vegetables and fish, Sherry Vinegar… and anchovies stuffed olives from L´Escala, one of the most beautiful towns in Catalonia, a flavor really difficult to find here in the US. And It´s fun to realize how The Culinary Collective is based in Seattle, the paradise of local, fresh and sustainable ingredients in the US.
Some of the products keep the original brand as in Spain, others are gathered by the brand “Matiz” created by the company. “We wanted not only to offer high quality but a beautiful package customized for the US consumers”.
A few years ago the company began to work with the Andean Region to bring diferent flavors mainly grains and flours know for being healthy, flavorful and gluten free, offering an amazing carbs alternative to people with gluten intolerance. These products are reunited under the label Zocalo.
One of the new brands that Culinary Collective are working with is Aneto 100% natural, a Spanish Company who is specialized in offering chicken and paella artisanal broths. They participated as sponsors in the International Food Bloggers Conference celebrated in Seattle last September to show how to prepare a tasty paella saving time and effort.
In fact, this is the main challenge for Pere Selles, co-founder of the company. “Our main clients are US citizens who have visited Spain and love our food and our traditions, but sometimes they don´t have the knowledge or experience to take full advantage of our products because there is nobody in the aisle of the supermarket to help them,”, explains.
The lack or Spaniard´s restaurants in the city, compared to French and Italian ones, don´t help to make seattlelites feel more familiar with our country´s cuisine too. “As I have experience working in restaurants in Chicago, sometimes I think I should go on that direction one day”, concludes Pere with a mysterious smile. I have to say It wouldn´t be a bad idea at all.
In the maremagnum of blog, bloggers, and food bloggers It´s always a luck and a pleasure to meet somebody like Ronald Holden, author of Cornichon.org and Home Grown Seattle: 101 true tales of local food & drink.
Not only for his decades of experience and his gigantic knowledge about Seattle´s food scene, but for his beautiful, refined, fun and ironic prose. As a journalist, and as a foreigner I enjoy to read and to learn from really good written articles. Call me classic.
Holder´s book resumes 101 local profiles related with food in some way or another. But you won´t find only chefs and restaurateurs. “You will find farmers, suppliers, wine makers, restaurant builders and even lawyers,” explains Holden, because I wanted to show a whole picture.
As a “Spanish transplant” in the Pacific NW, this books gives me an amazing opportunity to understand why Seattle is becoming more representative in the US food American scene. And I´ve always thought that the best way to fall in love when I place that you should call home for a while is to truly understand it. That´s why you need to really know the people who made Seattle a foodies locavore like Gordon Bowker, creator of Starbucks and Red Hook Brewery, or the Canlis family, as a beginning.
Home Grown Seattle: 101 true tales of local food & drinkis not only written for local foodies. “I would like to create interest in other kind of public too,” says Holder. “American people only spend 10% of their monthly budget in food, much less compared to Europeans, so a book like mine could help them to think more about food and enjoying food”.
Holden is his own publisher, as he can track easier his baby born. Now his book is available on line and on paperback version at Amazon.com but he´ll keep on working with bookshops that believe in independent publishers.
Talking about Seattle restaurants scene, I couldn´t help asking him why Spanish restaurants usually have a failure story in the Emerald city. A few years ago La Taberna del Alabardero closed and now Jason Stratton´s Aragona has been reconverted in Italian after a bumpy road since last January.
“I think they are two reasons. First, people think that Spanish food is like Mexican food, so there is a lot of confusion about that. Second, Spanish food is expensive, and seattlelites prefer spending their money in Italian food, something mucho more familiar for them,” explains the author.
When I ask him about which kind of restaurant are going to be more successful in the near future, he has no doubts “Fish and seafood. And I would love more tapas restaurant. I do really think that tapas concept is really cool so I wish I could see more Spanish restaurants openings soon”.
If we combine the concept of Mediterranean Diet with star summer dish in Spain, results can not be more clear: Andalusian gazpacho. This “liquid salad” or cold vegetable soup, whatever you want to call, gathers some of the healthier market ingredients: tomato, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic, as well, of course, the irreplaceable olive oil. Its ingredients provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and oleic acid.
Recent studies support its many properties. For example, a study conducted recently over a year by the Center for Biomedical Research in Red-Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn) claimed that eating gazpacho regularly can help reduce blood pressure. 25% of the adult population suffers from high blood pressure and is one of the main risk factors for heart diseases. Its high content of carotenoids, vitamin C and polyphenols are responsible for the product to be heart healthy.
But it has not been the only other study conducted a while back in the U.S., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), claimed that consumption of gazpacho increases significantly amount of vitamin C in the blood and reduces the molecules associated with stress.
Gazpacho brings a lot of fiber, from the pepper, cucumber and onion, mostly. This large amount of fiber is responsible according to some scientific studies, their benefits in preventing certain types of cancer, including colon cancer. In addition, lycopene, a carotenoid responsible for the red color of tomatoes, protects against oxidative stress, or what is the same, from the harmful effects exerted by free radicals in the body. The lycopene content is greater the red, ripe tomatoes are, as in the case of those used in the preparation of gazpacho. Cucumber sterols are excellent in reducing cholesterol and vitamins A, B and C help the immune system. If we add the diuretic and purifying action of the onion, which is able to regulate blood sugar levels and strengthen the defenses, and the resulting anti-inflammatory properties of garlic, couldn´t be better. Last but not least, the contribution of monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil regulate cholesterol levels too.
Picking ripen full flavor tomates is really important to be successful when we prepare gazpacho because tomato is the main ingredient of the dish. Summer farmers markets offer a great opportunity to find the perfect tomato for our dish. Extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar will guarantee a perfect gazpacho too.
Therefore, today I want to bring the typical gazpacho recipe that is the summer parties star in Spain
• 1 kilo of ripe tomatoes and very red
• 500 g green pepper
• 500 g of cucumber
• 200 g Onion
• 1-2 cloves of garlic
• Olive oil
• Sherry Vinegar
• Hard Pan
• Cold water
The amount of ingredients is very relative and depends a little taste of the consumer. There who likes stronger, and prefer to use more amount of garlic and onion, and others prefer more predominant flavor of cucumber or pepper.
The preparation is simple: cucumbers and other vegetables all washed and chopped and passed through the blender until pureed peeled. Hard bread a bit is soaked and added to the mash. Water is added to taste (as you like it more or less thick) and season with salt, oil and vinegar (also to taste).
You can serve garnished with chopped vegetables like more tomato, cucumber, green pepper, onion or bits of bread.
A few months ago I was lucky enough to be invited as a speaker to the University of Washington Public Health School to talk about The Yummy Bull project. My mini talk was part of another conference, Marketing the Mediterranean Diet, presented by Ana María Gómez Bravo, a UW teacher specialized in historical aspects of cooking.
This travel to the past was quite interesting, and a path full of discoveries for the audience.
In fact, until the 16th century, European diet was a lot more similar among the different countries than it is today. However, drastic changes in the English diet as a result of new parceling of the land in the form of enclosures, a loss of access to farming and gardening in cities during the Industrial Revolution and a negative view of food and pleasure as a result of new Protestant views, created a culinary barrier between the North and the South of Europe that It´s being smoothed in the last decades.
The most interesting carachteristic of Mediterranean Diet is that its origin comes from a crossroads of cultures including citrus and rice from Asia brought by Muslim traders and tomatoes, chilies and potatoes from the New World.
Another key factor is that Mediterranean meals are made to enjoy food, better if It´s in great company as this pyramid shows:
Ironically the Mediterranean Diet was the diet of the poor, who couldn´t afford buying read meat and sugar, a pricy spice in that time. Today challenges are totally different, In fact red meat consumption is so common, much more that It should be in a healthy way. Today processed foods and loss of quality to make food more profitable are the challegenes to face. Food should be healthy, tasty and minimally processed whenever possible.
The pillars of Mediterranean Diet
- Food should be free of harmful contaminants.
- Methods of food preparation should be simple and practical. You should not have to be a gourmet chef to prepare a healthy and delicious meal.
- Sources of food should be sustainable. This includes consideration of the environmental consequences of food choices including energy use, water use, waste production, soil conservation and preservation of open space.
- Traditional food flavors and food ways and diversity of ingredients are a part of our cultural heritage and should be preserved in that way.
- A shared meal, with consciously chosen food, in the company of friends or family, is one of the foundations of civilization and one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Apart from the pillars from the Mediterranean Diet that Dr. Bravo explained I would like to add some false myths that we want to “erase” through our Yummy Bull project.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil is a luxurious product.
- You can´t cook with Olive Oil, only toss your salad
- Wine is unaffordable. Young people don´t drink wine.
- Wine will make you gain weight.
- Mediterranean traditional plates are long/ difficult to prepare
- Cooking from scratch is more expensive than visiting the Frozen products aisle.
- Eating fish and seafood is expensive and boring
Almudena de Llaguno is not only another Spanish wines importer. She was the aunthentic pioneer when she founded Classical Wines from Spain, 30 years ago.
She moved from Spain to Seattle to build a common dream with her partner Steve, who had been graduated at UW and loved the Pacific Northwest. Three decades later, Almudena has found in this city her second home altought “I miss the bright light of Spain,” she smiles.
At first, not everybody believed in their adventure. “People asked if I think I could make money selling Spanish wines in the US. But we were young, adventurous and we had nothing to lose, so we followed our heart,”, says.
Every succesful company arrives sooner or later to the tipping point, and for Almudena was the collaboration with Bodegas Pesquera from DO Ribera de Duero, one of the flagships of this wine region.
“Spanish wines were totally unknown in the 80s. That´s why we decided to include the map of Spain in our business cards” Almudena explains. “All of this changed afte the 1992 Olympic Games and other Spanish wines importers began to work in the US”. She discovered soon that all this buzz was not a threat but a big push to her business. “Spaniard wines moved from a hidden corner in the stores to a more relevant space”.
Today Classical Wines from Spain works all around the country but the biggest markets are New York, Chicago and Florida, where the latin american population is really faithful to great value classic wines.
California, Washington and Oregon are good markets too altough they´re the first wine producers in the country. “Consumers breath the wine culture and they become more receptive to new varieties too,” explains Almudena.
Many things have changed since Almudena founded Classical Wines from Spain 30 years ago. Spain produces today more wine than ever, but “It´s more difficult to find now an unique and authentic wine, the market is really even, following the directions of some gurus like Robert Parker,” explains. “Finding these special wines is our work and It´s the work that we enjoy the most”.
Since the beginning of Classical Wines from Spain, Almudena have always promoted the original grape varieties of each area, like moristel in Somontano, a region situated in the NE of Spain. Luckily, Spanish local varieties are more appreciated now than ever.
The wine culture is blooming in the U.S., where a more healthy lifestyle and mediterranean diet is gaining supporters day by day. “The influence of the media in the american society is huge , with publications as Wine Spectator , Wine Enthusiast , and the weekly column of Asimov in The New York Times,” says de Llaguno. “And luckily the influencers love Spanish wines”.