One morning, we strolled through the coastal city of Vigo, on the western coast of Spain. Most little towns in Galicia are not particularly exciting for the tourist’s eye, architecturally speaking, though they seem like nice places to live, bustling with people outdoors, children, playgrounds, shops, and cafés. But Vigo, the largest city in Galicia, had some structural eye candy. Major renovation has swept through this place, sometimes pressed right up to a ruin of a building.
If you run across this tiny shop full of vacuum-packed saucisson and hams you will probably rub your hands together with a zing of a smile at the doorway before stepping inside like a kid in a candy shop.
The beaches of Vigo are lovely places to sink your feet into the sand. The water was clean and blue, and quite cold! Without planning ahead, we ended up passing a few hours soaking up the sun on these rocks. What a beautiful day in a beautiful place!
Heading back inland, we stopped in the town of Ourense for an espresso which ended up having milk in it… Bastien was sure that he had just said coffee. You can’t be too picky when you are in unknown territory!
We ran across this shop and were drawn in like two fish to a lure. Given our level of understanding in the world of cured hams, we just asked for a tasting plate.
They brought over this little treat for our wait. Delicious! Like a closed pizza with spiced chicken inside. I think they are called empanadas.
People stopped by for empanadas and a beer.
When they set this plate on the table our lives were about to change forever. The chorizo was great, the saucisson was great, but the jamón ibérico de bellota… holy moly! Tender and flavorful. It’s not easy to describe the flavor of well-aged meat, but it has a complexity and depth that you can’t find any other way. Maybe it’s a little like roasted hazelnuts and butter with just the right dose of salt? The word “ham” seems unable to capture the essence of this stuff. In any case, Bastien had been wanting to buy a whole “jamón” for a long time, so I gave him a little nudge and said, “It’s now or never.” After a succulent little pastry that they gave us for dessert, we went for it.
The jamón vendor chose and inspected a few hams, tapped, listened, stuck a skewer into them to smell the level of aging and finally, proposed one. We had a few other bags, so Bastien passed me the jamón… whew! 10 pounds! And this was one of the smallest ones!