Chef Danny Lledó knows a thing or two about paella – and he’s got the hardware to prove it.
Lledó, who serves as chef and sommelier for Slate Wine Bar in upper Georgetown, recently earned first place in the United States bracket at the International Paella Wine & Beer Festival. His take on the traditional Paella Valenciana – made with rabbit, green beans, peas, and most importantly, bomba rice, all cooked over several hours in a paella pan – was the standout dish in its category this year, and fortunately for us, Slate Wine Bar is offering limited servings every Wednesday from July 11 through August 29, as Chef Lledó prepares to compete in the finals of the Paella Valenciana de Sueca International Competition on September 16, 2018.
Most importantly for you and me, Lledó’s dish lives up to its reputation, as do his other interpretations of the famous Spanish staple – we tried four other paellas last night, each one a slightly different version of the same delicious song: a Farmer’s Paella, a vegetable paella, a seafood paella, and finally, the decadently rich and gamey Hunter’s Paella. This exercise in variety was both a showcase for Chef Lledó’s mastery of the category as well as an informal focus group – he’ll also be submitting the best received of these recipes into the more modern “freestyle” category at September’s competition.
The twenty or so guests present last night were also treated to wine pairings, each selected by the team at Slate Wine Bar to perfectly complement the paella served. This flight of wines echoed the dishes, going from lighter to heavier, fuller-bodied as the evening progressed. The vegetable paella, pictured above, was paired with a beautifully refreshing and crisp rosé cava from Spain. The Hunter’s Paella, with duck, asparagus, wild mushrooms, and seared foie gras, was accompanied by a glass of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – a juicy red with hints of berries and pomegranate that cut through the richness of the meat. All in all, it was a wonderful flourish that showed the team’s attention to detail and thoughtfulness.
Paella is one of those dishes that isn’t too difficult to make, but is incredibly hard to master. Although it is seen as an iconic “Spanish” dish, people from Valencia and Alicante (a neighboring coastal town in the region with its own take on paella) take deep pride in serving the best possible paella to their guests. It is by default a meal intended to bring people together and create a sense of community, and it was wonderful to see a room full of strangers share in the brief moment of silent satisfaction as they took their first bite of each dish. Chef Lledó and the team at Slate Wine Bar are offering DC audiences a chance to join in on that experience on a weekly basis, for about $25 – $30 per person – but make sure to call ahead to let them know you’ll be joining, as prep time for each paella can take up to several hours. On last night’s experience, you’ll definitely want to make that call.