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Paris-Madrid Grocery

French and Spanish culinary must-haves

Thinking back on trips you've taken; every trip opened your eyes to the food and beverage of the area. Smelling a certain spice, tasting your favorite vacation dish, sipping on the "official cocktail of the trip," all brings back the specific wonder of that time.

That's where most of us leave it: great memories. But not Sharon Baden and Steve Winston. They met in 1979 when he worked with the US Customs Service and she for a custom house broker. In 1985, a friend of Steve's said he was going to Spain, did they want to come? You know the answer. They loved the food, wine, lifestyle, and continued to return each year. Eventually they hosted Spanish exchange students, then visited them in Spain.

When Steve turned 50 in 1995, he jumped at the chance for early retirement to do something different. Sharon owned a logistics company which she sold in 2006. They looked at several business ideas, like a tapas bar (no to the hours), then decided on a store where they'd sell food and wine from Spain and Portugal. To long-time Seattle-ites, you know it: The Spanish Table just below Pike Place Market. "It was a struggle for the first few years. Back then, people equated Spanish food with Mexican food. Then Saveur Magazine featured the store in their Top 100 issue. We began receiving mail orders for Spanish ingredients, plus more Americans were traveling to Spain and understood what we were doing. Business slowly took off."

In 2001, they opened a store in Berkeley, CA. A few years later, Andy Booth started working there. Later, they set up a California corporation with Andy and Tanya Booth as their partners. A Mill Valley, California, store opened as part of that partnership. In 2009, Steve and Sharon opened the Paris Grocery in Seattle, offering French specialties. When the Seattle Spanish Table's lease was up in 2016 and Steve retired, they sold the Berkeley store and their shares of the partnership to the Booths. Transfer of The Spanish Table trademark and website was part of the sale. Sharon combined the two Seattle stores into one shop at the former Paris Grocery location and called it Paris-Madrid Grocery to reflect the mix of products from France and Spain. "We wanted less square footage," explains Sharon. "But I didn't want to lose access to all this great stuff! We eat this food almost every day." Sharon now has about 2200 square feet, and it is full. "We have shelves almost up to the ceiling, with less room for wine. We can special order items, and rotate stock frequently. We have port and Madeira. Procuring is easier now with more products available from different vendors. There seem to be new importers every day, offering a broader range, especially in canned fish products, like mackerel from Les Mouettes d'Arvor. The one in mustard sauce is our biggest seller. We have octopus, cured tuna, white anchovies, sardines in olive oil, fish rillettes with different herbs."

As a serious cheese lover, Sharon offers many choices. Lots of Manchego from Spain, of course. One of her favorite French cheeses is the Cremeux de Bourgogne, a triple cream cow's milk cheese, very rich. "We took a walking trip through the Loire Valley last year and ate a lot of Buche de Chevre, so I love offering that. It's a goat cheese coated in ash. Because France has a cooler climate and more grass, I think their cheese tends to be more unctuous and buttery. Spain is drier so cheese is more herbaceous. We have Monte Enebro, another goat cheese covered in ash that is from northern Spain."

What makes cheese even better? Charcuterie. All kinds of salamis, some made in Spain, a few from California and Washington. "It's hard to import meat. However, we are now getting whole jamons from Spain. We have lots of products from Ibérico pigs, including chorizo. We have Cinco Jotas (5J) 100% Ibérico de Bellota ham. It's the most famous brand of Ibérico de Bellota and a favorite of the Spanish people. The company was the first to feed pigs acorns in 1879. This meat comes from the black-footed pig, fed a diet of acorns for the final 3-4 months. We also have Fermin brand frozen uncured meat, also made from Ibérico de Bellota pigs; the best is solomillo, the tenderloin is very rich."

The list of food products seems endless: jam, honey, Ines Rosales tortas (handmade in Spain since 1910), coolers with whole sausages, pre-sliced and packaged charcuterie, cured meats, squid ink, French truffle butter. Shelves of pasta, rice, olives, duck confit, duck fat, shallots confit, bottled tomatoes/soup/sauce/beans, olive oil, tapenade, salts, mustards. Padrón peppers from Galicia in northwestern Spain are awaited eagerly each year. Sometimes hard to find, Paris-Madrid will sell you the plant in spring so you can grow your own. Later they sell the actual peppers. "There's a lot of rain in Galicia, too, so they grow well here," says Sharon. Looking for something delicious and easy? They'll put together an assortment of meats and cheese for you to pick up.

They have all kinds of cookware and ceramics for home and commercial use. Paella pans have always been available, from sizes that feed 1-85. They also have paella burners for outdoor cooking. You can put grills on the burners if you're making something besides paella. Naturally, they carry all the ingredients you need to make paella.

How to end a shopping spree or meal? Chocolate and sweets, of course. Both French nougat and Spanish turron made with Marcona almonds, chocolate from Barcelona, cookies all the time, but lots around the holidays, hot chocolate, macarons.

"I continue to do this because of the products and customers. In my logistics company, it was a good day if there were no complaints. In the store, people are happy, sharing details about their trips, foods they've eaten, and wines they've enjoyed. The area has new living spaces and Airbnbs, so we have regulars and new people to talk with. I love it!"

Connie Adams/July 2019

Paris-Madrid Grocery
1418 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

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