La Tienda has built its reputation selling gourmet foods, wines and kitchen accessories imported from Spain.
Many customers order from the online website. But those living in the Greater Williamsburg area can enjoy first-hand the tastes of this Mediterranean country. Every weekend, La Tienda offers free wine tastings at its retail store and serves a variety of tapas and paella in its adjacent La Barra bistro.
The festivities begin with a Spanish-style happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays in La Barra, the Spanish word for bar or bistro. The menu includes beer, wine, sangria and tapas from 4 to 6 p.m. followed by tapas and paella from 6 to 8 p.m.
"We offer half-priced glasses of wine and pitches of beer as well as half-prices on the sangria we make," says manager Karen Kamm. "We have the regular tapas and paella menu and drink menu that has all the wines we are featuring. People can also select wines from our wine room and bring a bottle to the table."
Tapas, or small plates, include Datiles con Tacino (dates stuffed with Manchego cheese and wrapped in bacon), Boquerones en Vinagre (mild white anchovies served with Galacian bread) and Berenjenas con Miel (fried eggplant drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sea salt and thyme).
"Folks enjoy coming out for a glass of wine," says owner Don Harris. "It's fulfilling a need and seems to be popular with the young professionals in town."
La Barra takes reservations or walk-ins until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but stays open later in the Spanish tradition of late dining. "My goal is to have the place packed at 10 or 11 p.m.," says Kamm.
Many groups or families gather for dinner to share a paella, the popular Spanish rice dish made with saffron, vegetables, and chicken and sausage or seafood cooked and served in a large shallow pan. Another choice would be a sampler of Spanish hams, said Kamm.
"Spain is known for its hams, and they're very different from Virginia hams," she said. "So people can sample the difference."
The eating and drinking continues with a free wine tasting paired with different foods that takes place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays in the store, said Harris. La Barra also serves paella and tapas from noon to 9 p.m. that day in the bistro. Families or groups who want a fresh paella can call in their order ahead of time.
In many ways, La Tienda is Harris's homage to the country he has been visiting for 50 years. An alumnus at the College of William and Mary, he got his first taste of Spain in the mid-1960s while serving in the U.S. Navy. He fell in love with the country and its people.
After retiring as a Navy chaplain and moving to Williamsburg, Harris and his oldest son, Tim, began importing Spanish serrano ham through the Internet in 1996. They discovered a need for Spanish products, and their online and catalog business grew. In 2009, the company expanded its small showroom into the large retail space on Jamestown Road.
"Today we sell more than 1,000 products, and virtually all of them come from small families," says Harris. The inventory includes fancy Iberico hams, olive oils, sherries, Galician bread and Manchego cheeses.
Harris and his family make frequent trips to Spain to visit the families that make the products they sell.
"My first attraction is to the Spanish people — their whole lives revolve around socializing and eating," says Harris. "When you go into a restaurant there, no one is talking about politics. They're all talking about food."
David Nicholson can be reached at 757-247-4794.
The people of Spain have found a way to take a blazing hot day and turn it into a relaxing occasion with friends and family, according to La Tienda's website. One of their secret weapons is sangría, the cool, refreshing wine cocktail.
Makes 6 servings.
1 bottle Spanish red wine
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 piece of your favorite fruit, sliced (oranges and apples are great)
2 cups lemon lime soda (chilled)
Combine chilled ingredients (except the soda) at least an hour before serving, but best prepared and stored overnight in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, add the chilled lemon lime soda and ice and stir gently. If you would like pieces of fruit and ice in your glass, you can pour out of the side of the pitcher.
Pan con Tomate (Toasted Bread with Tomato and Serrano Ham)
This is a typical snack in Spain, especially good when using ripe summer tomatoes.
1 fresh loaf of crusty bread
1 ripe tomato
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Sliced Serrano ham
Cut the freshly baked bread in half lengthwise and toast under a broiler or in a toaster oven.
Cut the garlic clove in half and gently rub on the toasted surface of the bread.
Drizzle on a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Cut the tomato in half and rub it against the surface of the bread until it is coated but not soggy.
Add room temperature slices of jamón and serve.
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce)
A delicious garlic shrimp recipe with a touch of spice, a typical tapa.
6 shrimp per person
8 cloves unpeeled garlic, slightly crushed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 1/2 ounces butter
Freshly chopped parsley
Crushed red pepper
1/4 cup brandy
Place a frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add the oil and fry the shrimp until they start to change color.
Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic and sauté with the shrimp until shrimp are fully cooked. Remove the shrimp and garlic and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with the brandy.
Add butter and heat until sizzling. Add the freshly chopped parsley and a pinch of red pepper flakes and pour the sauce over the shrimp and garlic.
Serve very hot in individual ramekins or cazuelas with crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
Tortilla Española (Potato Omelet with Serrano Ham)
This is the comfort food of Spain, and everyone thinks their mother makes the best version. We learned this from an old friend in Andalusía.
4 good sized potatoes
2 cups olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons diced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
1/2 cup chopped jamón serrano ham
In a large bowl beat together eggs, peppers, garlic, parsley, jamón, paprika and salt. Set aside.
Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, mix with chopped onion.
In a 10-inch non-stick frying pan, fry the potatoes and onions in sufficient oil to almost cover them.
When potatoes are just cooked, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place into egg mixture, mixing well.
Pour out oil from the pan and clean well. Coat the surface of the pan with fresh olive oil.
Place combined potato egg mixture into the hot frying pan, then continuously shake the pan for a few minutes so that the tortilla does not stick on the bottom. Shape with a spatula to flatten and push away from the sides.
Turn tortilla by inverting it onto a flat plate and slide back into the pan. Continue to shake pan to prevent sticking.
When browned, remove the tortilla to a plate. Cut into wedges to serve.
Easy Paella with Chicken and Chorizo
Makes 4 servings.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
2 cubes fish bouillon
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
5 cups water
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 /2 tomato, chopped
1/2 pound cooking chorizo sausage, in 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
6 ounces roasted piquillo peppers
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups Bomba rice
4 boneless chicken thighs
Extra virgin olive oil for cooking
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Fill a saucepan with the water and place on medium high heat. Add all four bouillon cubes, the saffron and the paprika.
With a cleaver, chop the chicken into small pieces. Salt the chicken and rub with a small amount of paprika.
On medium-high heat, brown the chicken and chorizo in olive oil in a 13-inch paella pan for about 5-10 minutes. Remove to a platter. Add the onion, bell pepper, chopped garlic and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the rice to the pan with the vegetables, along with the tomato and piquillo peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the rice starts to brown.
Pour the broth into the paella pan. Stir until it boils. Add the chicken and chorizo pieces, burying them in the paella. Scatter the garlic cloves around the top.
Place in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the rice to see whether it is done. You can leave a little broth in the paella, or cook until the broth is fully absorbed, to your taste.
Want to go?
La Tienda retail store at 1325 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg.
Store hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
La Barra hours: Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. for happy hour, 6 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner
Information: 757-253-1925. Latienda.com.