When Spain was a colonial power,between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries, the products from its American and Asian colonies were transported to Spain by the fleet system. Fearing piracy by competing European powers, the ships (galeones) sailed together. There were several fleet routes with overland transport to carry items from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast or to the Gulf of Mexico, linking important port cities like Lima, Peru and Cartagena de Indias in today's Colombia, Manila, in the Philippines, and Acapulco in Mexico. Havana was the central hub of this vast trade network, where the fleets met before sailing together for the port of Cádiz in Spain, the central depot for the riches coming from the New World and Asia.
Cuban sugar, Colombian coffee, Venezuelan chocolate and myriad other foods, often considered exotic, were sold in Spain by specialty stores called Ultramarinos (OOL-TRAH-MAH-REE-NOS), a beautiful word which literally means "from beyond the sea." Some of tiendas de ultramarinos have endured the ravage of time. If you travel to Madrid or Seville, you can still see some of these old stores with their old tile work and wooden display cases, where you can buy dry goods or eat a serrano ham sandwich leaning on a worm-out counter. They are full of character and history and they are the inspiration for the Hoboken-based gourmet and houseware store Ultramarinos run by Maricel E. Presilla and Clara Chaumont.
Ultramarinos is a logical extension of both Zafra and Cucharamama, two Latin American restaurants in the heart of charming Hoboken, NJ. This Latin American food emporium sells Latin American and Spanish ingredients as well as prepared foods like tamales and traditional Latin American desserts. Adjacent to Zafra, it also serves as a catering headquarter to the tiny restaurant and its neighboring sibling, Cucharamama.
At Ultramarinos you can find Latin staples like queso blanco, the fresh cow's milk cheese that Latins love so much and a wide selection of Spanish cheeses like Manchego and Torta del Casar, as well as harder-to-find specialties like Andean dried hot peppers and Peruvian chicha de jora,a seasoning made from fermented corn. A showcase to the popular arts of Latin America, Ultramarinos is also the place to find unique artisanal decorative objects and housewares from the Americas, from rustic earthenware plates and pots to delicately embroidered tablecloths.
The store sells fine chocolates from various manufactures made with premium Latin American cacao, primarily from Venezuela, and terrific hot chocolate flavored with a heady blends of spices. The prepared foods of Ultramarinos--sandwiches, delicious hot soups, tamales, marinated roast chicken and pork, fresh salads, and more --will bring the vivid flavors of Latin America and Spain to your table with no effort.
A catering expert is always on premise to help you design your next event or party. The store also offers periodic cooking classes and demos by Chef Maricel E. Presilla and visiting food experts and chefs.