Monday night, I headed over to Jaleo in Crystal City for the kick-off of Jaleo’s annual Paella Festival. While Jose Andres and company were spotted at the Dupont Farmer’s Market last weekend cookin’ up a big old pot of the stuff, Monday marked the first day of the official festival. This year, Jose’s cooking buddy, Chef Quim Marques of El Suquet de L’Almirall, Barcelona, Spain, joins him to help Jose whip up tasty rice creations. So this year’s festival features paellas based on Marques’ recipes.
So how was it? There were some I loved, and some I wouldn’t care to try again. I’ll tell you what’s what.
My very favorite choice was the ARROZ de BARCA, a soupy rice mixing cuttlefish, cockle clams, littleneck clams, head on shrimp, mussels, and fresh squid. The broth was a cream color, and very flavorful. So soupy, though, that they served this paella in a little bowl. I heard the ARROZ COSTA BRAVA, a soupy rice with Maine lobster and organic chicken was very similar to the BARCA, so I’d bet good things from that one as well.
My second favorite was the traditional ARROZ MEDITERRANEO, a rice made with shrimp, mixed vegetables, green and black olives, and thyme. I really liked the olives in this particular dish, they gave it a bright bite it would otherwise lack.
The vegetable paella was fine, nothing to run home and tell Mom about, but it was sweet and the veggies were done nicely.
Marques taught Jaleo staff and Jose a ‘dirty rice’ paella version that I just don’t care for very much. Darker in color, almost black, I didn’t find it particularly interesting to eat. I had high hopes, but just wound up feeling pretty ‘meh’ about it. Called ARROZ BRUT, the rice had porcini mushrooms, cuttlefish, squid, and artichokes, which sounds like it could be good, but the taste I had was bland.
So, paella lovers, stick to the soupy paellas, or the more traditional MEDITERANEO, and you’ll be set. These dishes will run you from $32 to $42, and are available at all Jaleo locations through June 21st.