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La Tienda in the Press

Daily Press - July 19, 2015
Daily Press

La Tienda serves up the tastes and foods of Spain in Williamsburg

David Nicholson

La Tienda has built its reputation selling gourmet foods, wines and kitchen accessories imported from Spain.

Many customers order from the online website. But those living in the Greater Williamsburg area can enjoy first-hand the tastes of this Mediterranean country. Every weekend, La Tienda offers free wine tastings at its retail store and serves a variety of tapas and paella in its adjacent La Barra bistro.

The festivities begin with a Spanish-style happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays in La Barra, the Spanish word for bar or bistro. The menu includes beer, wine, sangria and tapas from 4 to 6 p.m. followed by tapas and paella from 6 to 8 p.m.

"We offer half-priced glasses of wine and pitches of beer as well as half-prices on the sangria we make," says manager Karen Kamm. "We have the regular tapas and paella menu and drink menu that has all the wines we are featuring. People can also select wines from our wine room and bring a bottle to the table."

Tapas, or small plates, include Datiles con Tacino (dates stuffed with Manchego cheese and wrapped in bacon), Boquerones en Vinagre (mild white anchovies served with Galacian bread) and Berenjenas con Miel (fried eggplant drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sea salt and thyme).

"Folks enjoy coming out for a glass of wine," says owner Don Harris. "It's fulfilling a need and seems to be popular with the young professionals in town."

La Barra takes reservations or walk-ins until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but stays open later in the Spanish tradition of late dining. "My goal is to have the place packed at 10 or 11 p.m.," says Kamm.

Many groups or families gather for dinner to share a paella, the popular Spanish rice dish made with saffron, vegetables, and chicken and sausage or seafood cooked and served in a large shallow pan. Another choice would be a sampler of Spanish hams, said Kamm.

"Spain is known for its hams, and they're very different from Virginia hams," she said. "So people can sample the difference."

The eating and drinking continues with a free wine tasting paired with different foods that takes place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays in the store, said Harris. La Barra also serves paella and tapas from noon to 9 p.m. that day in the bistro. Families or groups who want a fresh paella can call in their order ahead of time.

In many ways, La Tienda is Harris's homage to the country he has been visiting for 50 years. An alumnus at the College of William and Mary, he got his first taste of Spain in the mid-1960s while serving in the U.S. Navy. He fell in love with the country and its people.

After retiring as a Navy chaplain and moving to Williamsburg, Harris and his oldest son, Tim, began importing Spanish serrano ham through the Internet in 1996. They discovered a need for Spanish products, and their online and catalog business grew. In 2009, the company expanded its small showroom into the large retail space on Jamestown Road.

"Today we sell more than 1,000 products, and virtually all of them come from small families," says Harris. The inventory includes fancy Iberico hams, olive oils, sherries, Galician bread and Manchego cheeses.

Harris and his family make frequent trips to Spain to visit the families that make the products they sell.

"My first attraction is to the Spanish people — their whole lives revolve around socializing and eating," says Harris. "When you go into a restaurant there, no one is talking about politics. They're all talking about food."

David Nicholson can be reached at 757-247-4794.

Want to go?

La Tienda retail store at 1325 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg.

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

La Barra hours: Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. for happy hour, 6 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner

Information: 757-253-1925. tienda.com.

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