One of the hottest trends in foodie world right now are “conservas”. To me and you – fancy tinned fish. Everything from clams and mackerel through to tuna and my all time favorite – sardines.
It might make you recoil in horror (as it does more people than not) but tinned sardines have been a beloved staple for me for as long as I can recall. I love the funky, umami power punch of these little fish. My traditional goto is the Crown Prince brand. In particular I love the boneless and skinless version packed in olive oil, which makes a snack or sandwich fuss free.
Back to that foodie fad then. In some my local gourmet import stores, conservas have been all the rage of late – and at huge prices too – many over ten dollars. So much so, I didn’t dare deviate from my trusty Crown Prince. And then I saw this can on the shelves of my regular grocery store; priced $6.99 (still far less than the fancy gourmet store) I just had to see what all the fuss was about.
The Portuguese based Jose Gourmet promises this of the product, “Our small sardines are fished in the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans and bring alone all the quality of fresh fish. After that, a refined and carefully prepared mixture is added, they go through the smoking chamber, and premium quality olive oil is added as well.”
Initial impressions were great. Everything from the stylish packaging (the artwork from Luís Mendonça is quite stunning) to the obviously quality olive oil and fish inside the can. There’s no doubting this is a quality, more boutique product line.
In the tasting I found them less ‘funky’ in taste compared to the Crown Prince; which not to be too indelicate about it, can have the problem of repeating for a while. None of that here, the Jose Gourmet line certainly has a cleaner taste. That said, Crown Prince usually retails for less than two dollars, and with the best will in the world, these sardines were not 3X tastier. There’s also the small interior bones and skin which I personally don’t mind, some might.
I don’t doubt that this product is of higher quality than my familiar favorite, but for now, I probably won’t be switching over; unless I’m hosting some foodie friends or I come to find out one brand fishes far more sustainably than the other – I’m not sure I can justify the extra expense for a routine item.
Jose Gourmet Smoked Small Sardines packaging
Hi I’m Stuart, professional food writer and long time eater. You can find my writing at places like Gastronomic SLC, Visit Salt Lake, The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Stories, Utah Now Online and many others.
As well as writing extensively about restaurants for more than fifteen years, I’m endlessly curious about that product on the shelf. Is it any good I wonder? If you’re like me, wonder no more. Follow along on Instagram too!