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.

Strada-ling DC

Scott and The Boys latest album cover art.

I'm in DC for the day to hang with friends and take the La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine technicians course, ostensibly one of the final hurdles before La Marzocco will allow me to have one of the new machines for Spro Hampden.

For as advanced and high-tech as the Strada EP really is, it's actually quite simple, and seemingly easy, to service. Pump rebuilds, firmware updates, potentiometer replacements all seem so much simpler than the Linea or GB5 series of machines. It's also vastly different than its sister MP version, with the MP being closer to a GB5 than the EP.

Inside the Strada EP paddle.

After an afternoon with Chris and the rest of the guys jockeying for a new Strada EP, I headed over with Rashid to check out his place, Filter. I had heard quite a lot about Filter from other baristas and chef Mark Furstenburg. Actually, it was really Mark's recommendation that made Filter the first on my list of coffee shops to visit in Washington DC and it just so happened that Rashid was taking the tech class as well.

Breaking away from the typical coffee supplier of the area, Rashid has decided to go with Annapolis' Pronto Coffee, who just so happens to buy some coffees from the same source I buy coffees - meaning they've got great coffees and I was interested to see their interpretation of the Ardi Ethiopia. Fruity, round and lovely. Paired that with a Hawthorne Bakery blueberry muffin and it was indeed a treat.

A little Ethiopian Ardi at Filter.

Filter itself is a smaller shop with seating for about 13 on the inside and a few more chairs (and lots of stoops) outside. At 4pm on a Wednesday, the place was full and humming along - one of the better reasons to investigate opening a shop in DC. Filled with colors of orange and brown, the space gives off a warm feeling and everyone seemed happily running along drinking coffee, eating pastries and surfing the internet on the free wi-fi.

For drink making, there's a La Marzocco GB5, a row of pourover brewers, a large hot water tower and a bunch of french presses for making coffee during the "busy morning rush".

Frisee Salad and Frites at Bistrot du Coin.

After departing Filter and not having eaten since my breakfast at Chick-Fil-A many hours before, I headed over to Bistrot du Coin for a little mid-afternoon meal. I've been to du Coin before and found it to be decent, in spite of some of my friends constantly raving about it.

I had the frisee salad and a side of frites. The salad was good but was a bit light on the acidity which would have popped it and really make it stand out. The frites were decent enough but slightly limp and didn't have that crisp that I really enjoy in a well-made frite. Numerous menu offerings such as blanquette du veau, curry mussels, steak tartare and the onglet made me wish for a phalanx of friends to order en masse for a sampling, which just means I will have to return at a later date.

It's Julie's last week as a District resident.

From there it was back to the La Marzocco event, this time it was for anyone interested in learning more about the Strada EP. I got to hang a bit with Samuel Demisse and see Julie Housh before she left DC and moves to the West Coast. Otherwise, I only hung out for less than an hour before heading off to dinner.