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Photos By Armando Gallardo, Words By Brandon Wetherbee

José Andrés’ Jaleo are in the midst of their 14th Annual Paella Festival. If you needed a reason to visit Penn Quarter, Crystal City or Bethesda, Chef’s Andrés and Juanjo López of Spain are provided a very good one until July 3.

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We write and rave about Andrés on this site quite a bit. So let’s focus on guest chef López, whose La Tasquita de Enfrente is a 6 table restaurant in Madrid. It’s much, much easier to get a table at Jaleo than La Tasquita de Enfrente.

Our meal began with what Andrés described as the ultimate tapas, ensaladilla rusa ‘la tasquita de enfrente. The traditional potato and preserved tuna salad was light but filling, great if you’re in air conditioning and something to be approached with caution if you’re eating outside in late June.

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The yema, vieira y caviar de langosta con salsa de PX was one of the best things we’ve eaten in 2016. The opposite of a tradional potato salad, this organic eff yolk, live scallop and lobster caviar with Pedro Ximenez sauce was consumed quickly. Bread was used to sop up the remaining sauce. Order this dish. Yes, we’re writing about a paella festival and this isn’t paella but just order it. You are not going to make this at home. Ever.

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Back to classic, the tortilla de patata con callos ‘gaona’ is, according to the chefs, a Madrid thing. It’s a rich potato omelette with beef tripe stew that might turn off some less adventurous eaters. It would make an excellent breakfast if you’re not watching your cholesterol.

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The star of the show, the arroz escabechado con aceitunas negras y coliflor encurtida, pleased our photographer. He hates olives. The entire dish is escabeche pickled rice with black olives and cauliflower. We cover a lot of restaurants and he knows what he doesn’t like. He hates olives. He liked this dish.

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We closed the meal with Andrés Ibérico meatballs, flan and olive oil ice cream over grapefruit sorbet. All of these staples are staples for a good reason.

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As a casual wine drinker, I’ll enjoy pretty much anything Master Sommelier Andy Myers recommends. The highlight of this meal was the Tumba del Rey Moro. Paired with the paella or alone, it was the stand out and should be sought.

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Go to Paella Festival for the opportunity to eat one of Andrés friends’ food. Or go for the meatballs. Or the wine. It’s hard to go wrong eating or drinking what these three men put in front of you.

The 14th Annual Paella Festival runs through July 3 at all Jaleo locations.

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