All photos by Clarissa Villondo, words by Maddie Clybourn
Is it just me or is José Andrés everywhere this summer? This will be the third review of one of his projects in the last two weeks here at BYT and frankly, I would like to keep this Spanish infused gravy train rolling. Last night we got a chance to preview the 13th annual Paella Festival, running July 13th-26th at all three DC-area Jaleo locations. During these two weeks, you and your friends – and you will need many– can work your way through new and classic recipes from Andrés’ team and visiting guest chef Quim Marqués. Lesson learned from my last Andrés adventure, I planned accordingly with my finest elastic waistband dress (pro-tip), Instagram filters set, and umbrella in tow. I walked in a little late but apparently at the height of all the action as a parade of enthusiastic servers and chefs poured sangria and held out huge pans of paella for all of us very excited and hungry press people to admire.
We started the tasting with a fairly standard paella catalana. A mix of rice, seafood, vegetables, chicken and pork; this is something I would probably serve to anyone who wasn’t already familiar with Valencian cuisine. It was definitely a good jumping off point for the rest of the night. The veggies provided a pop of texture, and as typical of Andrès’ restaurants, were sourced from the local farmers market around the corner.
The caldero de arroz flamenco was a soupy blend of clams, cockles, cuttlefish, and shrimp. This was also fairly standard, but none the less delicious.
Most paellas includes a protein, but for those who are meat-averse, the arroz meloso de setas y verduras substituted seasonal mushrooms. The mushrooms worked well to soak up all of the flavor from the creamy vegan rice and vegetables. I’m definitely an omnivore, but really enjoyed the blend of textures and earthy flavors provided by the wild mushrooms.
Of course the most non-traditional dish is my favorite! When the chefs brought paella costilla de cerdo barbacoa, a sweet barbeque smell wafted throughout the entire restaurant. Guest chef Marqués explained that this ‘4th of July’ paella has been predicted to be one of the most popular during the festival. This dish included smoked pork ribs, bellota sausage and a sweet-tangy barbeque sauce.
A close second was the arroz de algas, sepia y gambas. This paella is for die hard seafood fanatics with head on shrimp, cuttlefish and seaweed rice.
The arroz con calamar y alioli de membrillo was a fine dish featuring black rice, fresh calamari and quince alioli.
Finally, we finished off the meal with Jaleo’s signature grapefruit olive oil ice cream (which is basically crack for foodies) and flan. In total, it was a beautiful evening filled with amazing Spanish cuisine. The paella festival starts July 13th and goes until the 26th at all DC-are Jaleo locations. If you do no food things this summer, you need to do this food thing.