A few months ago we were in Paris at a large delicatessen fair, where we met old and new business customers and producers and found out about new products. Two of the most important meetings had to do with our passion, the sardines:
That's how we got to know the two owners and managing directors Jacques and Valérie Gonidec from the Conserverie Gonidec, which was founded in 1959 in Concarneau, Brittany and is today the only conservatory in the city that still produces its canned fish in the traditional way. All fish are caught on the Breton coast, carefully selected, transported to the factory overnight and processed immediately. They are then cleaned by hand and sorted by size before being fried in oil and placed in the tins by hand. This traditional production gives the fish an incredible aroma and firm flesh. With the exquisite combination of quality, taste and tradition, the canned goods "Les Mouettes d'Arvor", the premium brand from Gonidec, have enjoyed a high reputation for 50 years. Each year, the company releases several specially designed vintage sardine tins that are coveted by collectors.
During the trade fair we managed to negotiate attractive conditions for a direct import and so we are very pleased that we can now present you with even more excellent sardines from this traditional brand. From now on we not only carry the new vintage sardines 2014 with fresh designs in the collector's edition , but also a wide selection of new flavors .
Also on the tasting table were the sardines in spicy olive oil from “Rios” , a brand of the family company Pinhais & Co. Ltd. from near Porto. This is also a result of our trip to Paris, where we managed to meet the owner and managing director Dr. to meet Antonio Pinhal. After almost a year of persuasion, we finally managed to personally convince the grey-haired patriarch at his stand.
The Conserveira "Pinhais" was founded in 1920 in the small fishing village of Matosinhos near Porto and is now one of the most renowned manufacturers of canned fish in the country. True to the company motto "Quality over quantity", only freshly caught fish and fresh, natural raw materials are processed at Pinhais. In addition, Pinhais & Co. Ltd. still worked according to traditional methods, where only the sealing and sterilizing of the cans is done by machines - all other work steps are done by hand, which is a rarity today.
Our tasting started with four of the new sardines from “Les Mouettes d'Arvor”:
The sardine in olive oil with truffle , a very noble combination, tasted very subtle and not dominant. The truffles underline the tender sardine, the flesh of which convinced with a perfect consistency: supple but not too fatty, firm but not dry.
Theresa had tried them on New Year's Eve on toasted slices of bread and was able to report that the warmth made the truffle aromas even more apparent.
You can certainly store this tin for a while - it will develop more intense aromas over time.
The sardine with candied lemon and chilli opens with a delicate note of lemon, which beautifully emphasizes the sardine without dominating it. The chili peppers complement the composition in a subtly spicy (not hot) way, resulting in a very balanced, fresh combination.
We also liked the sardines with sun-dried tomatoes because of the spicy-sweet notes of the sun-dried tomatoes, which add an interesting twist to the rather classic tomato combination.
The "Sardine à l'Andalouse" with chorizo and tomato is also very interesting. It tastes smoky, spicy, rustic and, as Jens aptly observed, could actually be "a meal" instead of an appetizer. The combination of fish, meat and tomato We liked it and that's why we also opened the "Sardine à la Luzienne" from Belle-Iloise for a direct comparison, a combination of sardine, Bayonne ham, tomato and Piment d'Espelette. Again we were enthusiastic: this recipe tastes fresh, hot, fruity-sour, deep, complex, smoky... in one word: umami.
From that point on, we kind of fell into a kind of frenzy: instead of the planned 4 cans, we ended up opening and tasting a total of 11... we really wanted to know and were ready to make any necessary sacrifices ;)
The "Sardine aux 2 piments" (sardine with two chili peppers) did very well, which is characterized by a subtly spicy but beautifully fruity note of paprika.
The "Sardine piquante" took off our shoes, again from Les Mouettes d'Arvor, which we unanimously voted the "hottest sardine in the range" and literally brought tears to our eyes ... This recipe surprises with a immediate and long-lasting beautiful chili heat, with a simultaneous elegant note of spices with cloves, gherkins, etc.
The Portuguese “Rios” in spicy olive oil then offered our irritated palate real relaxation, as they came up with a very pleasant and comparatively subtle spiciness. In the pretty sunny yellow tin with the charming young waitress in the look of bygone times, there were 3 large silver shimmering sardines, together with a cute little chili pepper and nicely arranged pieces of cucumber and carrot.
In a direct comparison between the Breton and the Portuguese sardines, it is noticeable that the Portuguese sardines are a bit more rustic than their French brothers and sisters.
The Portuguese cans usually contain three slightly larger, i.e. fatter, sardines (the larger the sardine, the higher its fat content, which plays a major role as a flavor carrier) in lighter oil. These sardines take you right to the harbor and you have the feeling of eating something very natural and genuine, a piece of tradition...
The Breton cans usually contain four to five sardines in very high quality, cold-pressed olive oil with an intense golden colour, which immediately invites you to dip it with bread. From a purely visual point of view, they therefore appear a bit more elegant. More than once we were tempted to make euphoric, enthusiastic comments: For us, the sardines are "pure elegance", "pure silver", "a piece of jewellery" or even "a can of luxury"!
Another finding is that the Belle-Iloise adds a dash of vinegar to all recipes, which makes the oil taste less greasy and runs down the throat a little more easily.
After this tasting we were stuffed and very satisfied: all the sardines were convincing and we found out more about the differences.
If you are curious or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us - it will be our pleasure to advise you and help you choose the right sardines!