Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paella Festival

Croqueta Cuadrada de Jamón con Fideos Crujientes - Iberian Ham Croquettes with Crispy Rice Noodles

After last weekend's okay attempt at paella, Gigi's email about the paella festival going on at Taberna del Alabardero in DC both scared and excited me. Excited about the possibilities, I was also a bit apprehensive to be shown where we made our critical mistakes.

But, since I was going to be in DC anyway, we decided to meet up and give the paella a try. So many variations available that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to try them all. After some debate, we settled on the squid ink paella and the one with the lechon (being the simple, Filipino creatures that we truly are).

Patatas Alli-Olli con Caviar de Arenque y Gelatina Rota de Perejil - Fried Golden Potatoes with Lightly Garlic Maionessa, Mackerel Caviar and Parsley Gelatin

Being from Spain, our server presented me with one of the few times I get to use my busted Spanish in America. Luckily for me, she could speak English and Camilo speaks better Spanish, so whatever I missed or whatever I got wrong, we could easily set correct.

Take, for example, eggs. One does not ask: "tienes huevos" - even though that would be perfectly acceptable in English. In Spanish, it's rude to ask someone if they have balls. I had to get clarification from Camilo as to why one would use "hay" instead of "tienes" - I'm still not sure if it makes sense and has stuck in my brain.

Meanwhile, Tengo Huevos....

Gazpacho Andaluz con su Pan Crujiente - Tomato and Vegetable Soup with Crispy Bread

There is a 2 person minimum per paella, meaning that with our table of four, we could order two paella. And it would take 15 minutes. For CapitolSwell, that was a problem that needed a ready solution: tapas.

To be honest, fifteen minutes isn't that long to wait for the paella. I presumed they were going to be big and that a little while of hunger would easily be supplanted by the paella. However, my resolve was not strong enough to combat jamon iberico croquetas and stuffed piquillo peppers. The real battle was not ordering more tapas.

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Rabo de Toro - Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Braised Oxtail

Finally, the two hot paellas emerged and were carefully spooned out onto individual plates and served formally.

Our group is a down home lot. We grew up together so there's very little formality between us. It would have been perfectly acceptable (and preferable) for them to slap down both paellas on the table, give us a few spoons and keep the drinks flowing.

Paella de Cochinillo - Suckling pig, artichokes, and fresh vegetable rice

The paellas were good. The cochinillo had nice flavor but my favorite was the squid ink, reminding me of my mom's Tinta, a Filipino dish of squid in ink sauce. A familiar flavor that touches on my youth.

One thing that we noticed was the lack of socarrat, that layer of slightly burnt and crispy rice at the bottom of the paella pan. I don't know why it wasn't there but it sure was missed.

Arroz Negro de Calamar, Majillon y Gambas - Squid Ink Rice with Mussels and Shrimp

Sopa Helada de Espárragos a la Plancha con Limón y Aceite Caramelizado - Grilled Asparagus Sorbet with Lemon juice and Caramelized Olive Oil

Arroz con Leche Caramelizado con Sorbete de Naranja - Caramelized Home Made Rice Pudding topped with Orange Sorbet

A little chocolate mousse to send us on our way.

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