Despana – a Lunchtime Trip to Spain

In the heart of Soho, amidst trendy shops and people who treat yoga studios like church, is Despana.

This shop is decidedly Spanish, meaning that it is devoted to all things ham, wine, and bread.

Not exactly yoga-riffic, but it’s so delightful that the neighborhood has kept it around.

The shelves are filled with imported olives, tomatoes, pickles, and even whole pheasants roasted with truffles.

The deli cases are loaded with every kind of pork product known to man, including the remarkably fatty, incredibly expensive, and totally sublime Iberico ham.


They also have lots of samples out,  and if you have even half a brain…you will try them.
Like this chorizo, which is peppery, robustly flavored with paprika, and soft without being greasy. I may have eaten more than my fair share of this.

These canned olives are so juicy and fruity that it’s hard to believe that they aren’t home cured.

These baby eels…may have been tasty. I don’t know because I wimped out and didn’t try them.

I know I should have but…they look kinda like snot strings, right?

The real treat to this shop is in the back, where you can order form a long menu of tasty sandwiches, hot food, and Spanish snacks.

Eat them at long communal tables, where the flatware is plastic, but the sherry vinegar is thick and syrupy and the olive oil is spicy and fragrant.

 Though the dishes in the display case change daily, here are some favorites:

Beans with Iberco ham and onions.

Absolutely fresh, tasting grassy and of the earth. The ham is salty and meaty, providing depth and punch. The onions are caramelized and sweet, and the dish cries out only for olive oil to echo the ham’s fattiness and bring out the lusher side of the rather spare beans. This gets better as you eat it.

That’s what she said.

Sauteed Summer Vegetables

So simple and so tasty. Peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, olive oil…how does this  taste so much like summer when the temperature outside is in the 20s? The only answer can be that they have an incredible source that makes the peppers taste sweet and the zucchini tender and juicy even through the depth of winter. There are no overt spices, no big zip of flavor. It is just a dish that comes together beautifully. Mop up the dish with some of the excellent, never ending supply of freshly baked bread that you receive with your order.

Blood sausage with tomatoes

Don’t let the name deter you. This is now one of my favorite sausage dishes in NYC. The sausage is tender and porky and tastes really rich and iron-y (thanks, blood!) It is soft but not mushy, rich but not greasy, and an ideal counterpart to the sweet and tart tomatoes cooked with it. If you like spaghetti with pork ragu, you will love this.

 And if you don’t like spaghetti with pork ragu…what do you do to feel joy?

Despana is a true find. The wine shop attached to the food store has a wonderful selection of Spanish wines and all the goods are fairly priced in both shops. The food is also delicious and well priced, and – best of all – it’s a vacation to Spain with the yoga studio across the street still in sight.

You go do some downward facing dog. As for me, I’ll take another slice of that chorizo, please

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