Being of Spanish decent, I’m always looking for places that serve traditional Spanish meals from Spain. I came across Despana Fine Foods & Tapas Café in SoHo, which has everything you need to transport yourself to Spain. The store is part cafe and part market, with a dining section in the back that serves all types of tapas. The shop specializes in Spanish food and ingredients and imports, and has a wine shop, Vinas y Mas, right next door.
The Despana Brand Foods was established in 1971 as the first manufacturer of Spanish-style chorizos based in New York serving the Tri-State region. Their chorizo factory and original small retail store front remains located in Jackson Heights, Queens, with the corporate headquarters and warehouse facility for distribution located in Woodside, Queens. The company’s original focus was in the specialty food division, and in the late 80s began gradually incorporating a wide line of imported specialty foods to service restaurant and gourmet retail market accounts. Despana Brand Foods continues to be a family-run operation that has earned a very strong presence as a recognized leading importer of authentic, high quality, brand name food products exclusively from Spain.
Despana – Fine Foods and Tapas Cafe
The company opened in 2006 the first, and is still currently the only, NYC specialty food boutique offering authentic products from Spain.
When I entered the store, the first thing that caught my eye was the legs of ham hanging from the wall displayed in stands and all types of selections of different hams and cheeses on the counters.
At the cheese counter you can taste and select from a variety of 50 or more specialty cheeses and at their dry-cured meats section you can order hand sliced Iberico ham, Serrano ham, and taste among other pantry items and meats, some of the favorites being Despana Brand cooking chorizos, christorra and morcillas.
The store has shelves stocked up of all types of products from Spain like olive oils, vinegar, paella rice, sauces & condiments, honey, rice, sweets, seafood preserves, vegetable preserves, and fruit preserves.
Several of the counters have products out on display allowing the customers to try out some samples before they purchase. Everything is presented clearly, and labelled with descriptions. I found myself noshing on the samples that were on the counters, looking at the many offerings of canned fish in Spanish olive oil, and thinking of what tapas I wanted to eat.
As I walked toward the back of the store, customers were lined up ordering traditional Spanish tapas, like bocadillos (Spanish type of sandwich), tortillas (Spanish omelette, made with eggs and potatoes), and Flan (my personal favorite) for dessert. They are all made fresh daily. The “Chorizo Picante” is their most popular bocadillo, which consists of chorizo picante, Mahon cheese (a cow’s milk cheese from the island of Menorca), spicy Guindilla peppers, and alioli on ciabatta bread.
Next to the counter they have a dining area with tables allowing you to sit and enjoy your meal with a nice glass of wine or Spanish beer.
The store manager was nice enough to prepare me a special sampler plate of cured meats and fine cheeses with all types of hams (jamones) and cheeses (quesos). The Manchego cheese has always been one of my favorite cheeses. The older the cheese the better it tastes. I also got to sample a slice of tortilla. I sat down at one of the tables and devoured my sampler plate. It was delicious!
Most people don’t realize that carving jamón (ham) is an art , which takes practice and patience. It’s not as easy as most of us think. At Despaña, they offer private carving classes with their Master Carver. The 1.5 hour class is held after hours and includes a brief history about jamón with a full hour of hands on carving instructions. An entire bone in Serrano Jamón (Ibérico or Bellota are available at additional cost), Jamonera (Ham Stand), Recipe Booklet, and Jamón Carry Bag.
In 2011, Despaña Vinos Y Mas wine shop opened right next door, it features hundreds upon hundreds of Spanish wines and liquors. You can buy a bottle there, bring it into the taperia/grocery, and they’ll uncork for you. The workers are very helpful in picking a wine, and will make recommendations based on what you like. They have wine tastings every Thursday and Saturday and they also give cheese samples from the other part of the store. You can go to the wine store, get a bottle and enjoy it at the “cafe”, since there is no cork fee and the price per bottle is exceptionally low.
Entertaining at home or the office? No worries, they offer a list of catering platter options of meats and cheese specialties as well as office lunch platters of their famous bocadillos, salads, and more for you to choose from.
They also offer an after-hour event menu making the entire store available to customers for parties for a fee, where you can host birthday parties, small gatherings, book signings, and holiday events. The after hour event menu consists of a buffet table of meats and cheese platters, four pass-around appetizers, staff included, and you select whatever wine and beer to be served for the evening.
At Despaña you’ll find tons of authentic Spanish products that are hard to find outside of specialty stores such as this one.
Give the gift of Spanish flavor to your friends and family this holiday season with a perfect gift basket of delicious assortments of some of the finest products from Spain. They offer pre-assembled gift baskets that you can view on their online brochure, but they would be happy to customize a gift basket for you with any products from the Fine Foods shop and Vinos y Mas. They can also ship your gift basket through UPS (United States only), and hand-deliver the baskets within Manhattan.
Spaniards know how to live the good life. I highly recommend visiting Despaña for a taste of Spain and also if you are entertaining. This is a great place to pick up some goodies for you and your friends. If you live in NJ, you can travel to Despaña Princeton store for a piece of Spain in NJ.
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Disclosure: I was a guest of Despaña Soho but all opinions are my own.