Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Inside Spanish Pig, a new gourmet food shop on Roncesvalles that sells fancy ham, preserved seafood and made-to-order sandwiches

spanish pig

Jonathan Larrad, who grew up in Madrid and the Canary Islands, has a deep love of Spanish food. While working a corporate job seven or so years ago, he noticed that it was difficult to find good Spanish delicacies in Toronto. So he started a side hustle selling imported goodies online, with a focus on Iberico ham—the sublime variety from a particular acorn-fed breed of Iberian pig. When Covid hit and virtual grocery shopping went mainstream, sales increased enough for Larrad to quit his day job. This past December, craving more contact with his customers, he snatched up a storefront in his neighbourhood.

Related: A Q&A with the owner of the Spanish Pig, a specialty ham shop on Roncesvalles recently protested by animal rights activists

spanish pig

“I’m passionate about selling good-quality, free-range meats sourced from happy pigs,” he says. “People can sometimes find the high cost of really good ham confusing, but it all comes down to how it’s produced.” The Iberian pigs behind his store’s flagship product roam Spain’s mountain meadows looking for acorns, doubling in weight from October to May. Their almost-acorn-exclusive diet imbues the meat with a distinctively rich, nutty, subtly sweet flavour; the best stuff is cured for four years and hand-carved into paper thin slices. It literally melts in the mouth, and though it’s far from cheap, it’s so flavourful that you don’t need much to get your money’s worth.

Larrad stocks packages of Iberico ham as well as the less rarefied but still plenty delicious Serrano (which comes from a breed of pig that isn’t as fatty). The charcuterie section features a variety of Spanish cheeses, including a stellar black garlic Manchego. But it’s not just on the shelves—you can also get Serrano or Iberico ham in a bocadillo, which is an excellent ham sandwich on a Blackbird baguette with a bit of grated tomato and olive oil. There’s usually a vegetarian, cheese-based option available too.

There’s also an impressive selection of canned seafood as well as upmarket pantry tidbits like crackers, bomba rice (perfect for paella), preserved vegetables, and a gorgeous selection of Spanish olives and olive oil. There are prepackaged gift sets on offer and a monthly subscription box of ham, luxury preserves and snacks.

This is the Iberico ham sandwich, pre-dressing. That deep colour is a consequence of the pig’s abundant intramuscular marbling, which yields a richer, deeper-flavoured meat. It gets dressed to order with grated tomato and extra virgin olive oil. There’s not much to it, and there doesn’t need to be—frills would only get in the way. $22

 

This is the Serrano ham sandwich, also dressed with grated tomato and extra virgin olive oil. It’s technically a lower-grade ham, but we’re talking different cuts of diamond here. $15

 

The day’s feature vegetarian bocadillo, with aged Manchego cheese and roasted piquillo peppers. The ingredients are everything here—sharp, nutty cheese and gorgeously confited piquillos. $19

 

Freshly squeezed orange juice is a glorious accompaniment to a deceptively simple bocadillo. $7

 

A selection of ham and cured sausage from the charcuterie section, including hand-carved Iberico and 16-month-aged Serrano

 

For anyone who’s been meaning to venture beyond canned tuna, look no further—this is just a small subsection of what’s on offer, including baby eels, mussels, grilled sardines and barnacles. On the left is a very special olive oil from millennial (yes, 1,000-year-old) trees. It’s packed in semidarkness, which means the first time it sees light is when you open the box

 

A pantry is significantly more exciting when it’s stocked with things like confit pimento peppers, canned sweet leeks that taste freshly cooked and buttery Marcona almonds

 

Haters of olives and/or anchovies may become instant converts when they try anchovy-stuffed Andalusian olives. On the right, Vichy water from naturally sparkling springs

Remember that scene in Gremlins where the hapless inventor dad nearly destroys the kitchen with an exploding orange juice machine? He was probably going for the one Spanish Pig has—a nifty, fun-to-watch contraption that needs nothing more than a few whole oranges tossed into the top to produce a perfect freshly squeezed juice. Besides orange juice, there’s Vichy Catalan—a mineral-rich sparkling water from Spanish springs.

The space itself is sunny and tidy, with bright-yellow paint and geometric tiles. The walls are lined with attractively arranged conservas (perusing the well-designed labels of which is half the fun). Near the front, there’s a refrigerated charcuterie section jammed with jamón. And at the counter, you’ll find baguettes and your daily selection of bocadillos, finished to order with tomato and olive oil.

Spanish Pig, 77 Roncesvalles Ave., spanishpig.ca, @spanishpig.ca

spanish pig

spanish pig


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