Ines Rosales

As a frequent visitor to Spain and primarily Andalusia, I love to explore the exciting produce and unfamiliar foods that I see. Andalusia is especially interesting as it’s past Islamic, Christian and Jewish histories have influenced it’s cuisine and culture. When I travel, I’m a food tourist. Other people buy ornaments and trinkets, whereas I look for interesting food to bring home with me to relive my adventures. When I visit Sevilla, some of my tried and tested, regular food souvenirs are hot chocolate mix and mantecados de aceite de oliva from La Despensa de Palacio and tortas from the Ines Rosales shop on Plaza de San Francisco.

Until I first visited Sevilla, I had never heard of tortas. However, on my first visit several years ago, while exploring the city’s charming streets, I randomly discovered a shop with royal blue signage bearing the name ‘Ines Rosales’, flanked by posters displaying pastries and indicating that the business had been established since 1910. Naturally, the curious foodie in me had to taste their wares – I was smitten and have loved tortas ever since.

So, what are tortas (also known as tortas de aceite)?

Traditional tortas are round cracker breads that are sweet and delicately flavoured with aniseed. They contain extra virgin olive oil which gives them their unique crisp texture.

At this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. I happily chanced on the Ines Rosales stand and realised that I knew very little about the story behind this iconic Spanish brand. I spoke to Lucía Conejo-Mir from Ines Rosales USA to learn more about how the company’s namesake, a woman from a small village on the outskirts of Sevilla, popularised an obscure local pastry and how it evolved into a much loved Spanish snack food. You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

 

Aiya Matcha Green Tea

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The practice of drinking green tea is a long standing tradition that dates back to ancient China.  As time has passed, its consumption has spread throughout the Far East and beyond.

Green tea first arrived in Japan in the 12th century, when Buddhist monk Eisai brought green tea seeds from China to Japan and started to cultivate tea plants.  He advocated green tea as being good for health and well-being, and it became a drink of the religious classes.  Fast forwarding to modern times, the popularity of green tea has risen in Japan and the Japanese have adopted it as a mainstream beverage which forms an integral part of their culture and cuisine.

Matcha, known as the ‘Mother of All Green Teas’, is a vibrantly coloured, powdered green tea that is famed for its use in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  What makes it unique is that it is made from the entire tea leaf.  Hence when prepared Matcha tea is drunk, a higher concentration of nutrients are consumed in comparison with steeped and infused green teas.  There are two main regions of Japan where Matcha is grown.  One area is Uji, Kyoto, and the other is Nishio, in the heart of Aichi-prefecture.

At this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, I discovered a company called Aiya that is one of Japan’s premier manufacturers of Matcha tea.  Founded in 1888, Aiya is a Nishio City-based, family-run company that works with 200 contracted local farmers to produce a range of high quality ceremonial and cooking grade Matchas.

At the show, I spoke to James Oliveira from Aiya America about his company and the products that they produce.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

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MIRA Extra Virgin Avocado Oil from Ecuador

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Avocados (Persea Americana) are smooth-fleshed, subtly-flavoured fruits that are native to Mexico and Central America.  Avocado trees thrive in warm, frost-free climates, and are also grown in locations such as South Africa, California and Australia.  In recent years, the popularity and consumption of avocados has risen around the world.  They are most commonly used in guacamole, salads, desserts and smoothies.

As well as being versatile and delicious, avocados are also nutrient dense and are considered by many people to be super-fruits.  They contain high levels of monounsaturated fats; omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids; soluble and insoluble dietary fibre; antioxidants; potassium; beta-sitosterol; and key vitamins and minerals.

While exploring the Ecuador pavilion (Pro Ecuador) at the Summer Fancy Food Show at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center, I discovered an Ecuadorean family farm and producer of avocado-derived products called Uyama Farms.  The farm is based in the Carchi province of Northern Ecuador at an altitude of 1900 metres above sea level. Climatically, the region has an equatorial micro-climate of a single season of spring-like weather and long hours of sunshine. Hence, Uyama Farms is well-suited to the year-round cultivation and harvest of avocados.

Uyama Farms

Uyama Farms avocado fields

Avocado harvestUyama Farms use their avocados to produce several varieties of cold pressed, extra virgin avocado oils under the brand name MIRA. Produced via the process of centrifuging the flesh of ripened, peeled, and stoned Hass and Fuerte avocados, the resulting avocado oil retains the health benefits of its source fruits.  Also, having a high smoke point and clean, mild flavour, avocado oil works well both to cook with, and in salad dressings and pestos.

Uyama Farms General Manager, Maria Clara (Kaya) Dávalos, took time out of her busy schedule at the show and spoke to me about the farm and the oils that they produce.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

Great British Food at Summer Fancy Food Show 2014

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One of my favourite foodie activities at this time of the year is visiting and exploring the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City.  Last year, I attended the show for the first time and was amazed by the number of exhibitors and producers, and the quality and diverse range of produce being exhibited.

Being in the Big Apple again this summer, my trip would not have been complete if I had not visited this year’s event, which was held from 29th June to 1st July.  The show, once again, exceeded my expectations, and gave me a unique opportunity to learn about new products and observe trends in the American food industry.

As well as hosting a plethora of North American food and beverage companies, the show also featured international trade delegations and producers from a wide variety of countries.  Within this fascinating global food village, there was a strong British presence at the ‘Food is GREAT’ pavilion.

The show’s British contingent consisted of 58 food companies (either exhibiting or visiting the show) and was organised by a 3-way collaboration between PS8 Ltd, the Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).  It was great to see familiar, home-grown specialty food producers, such as Cornish Sea Salt, Chi Drinks, and Pukka Herbs, displaying their produce alongside other fine food producers from around the world.

I spoke to Karen Beston (Project Manager from PS8) and Lauren Dickerson (the Food and Drink Specialist from UKTI USA) about the British pavilion, and about the work that they do with British producers who are exploring the possibility of exporting their produce to the US market.

You can hear my interview with Karen and Lauren by clicking on the play button below.

Shanley Farms Finger Limes

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One of the most exciting things about being a food blogger and journalist is the thrill of finding new products and food heroes.  I had one such special moment at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show when I discovered some refreshing new fruits called Finger Limes that are grown by Californian specialty produce growing companyShanley Farms.

Finger limes are a member of the micro citrus genus and are indigenous to Australia, where they grow in the wild.  Measuring roughly an inch in length, these small green fruits have a unique taste and texture when compared with larger citrus fruits.   Continue reading