Archive for August, 2010

Out of the paella pan, into the fire

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

So why Alicante?

First off, I loved Alicante during our visit for the ICEX scholarship. Alicante is home to the queen of saffron, Maria Jose San Roman (her restaurants are really good), as well as some outstanding rice cookery.

I guess that the proximity to the growing fields of the famous Bomba rice of Spain makes this place a haven for great rice dishes– dishes like arroz meloso (think: risotto), arroz cremoso (think: soupy rice), and the quintessentially Spanish dish, paella.

Second, as it turns out one of my friends from Calima is the son of one of the most famous paella makers in Spain. Thank you very much, Karma.

So, just 30 minutes and 3 Red Bulls after work we headed out on the 6-hour drive to his family’ s restaurant– Casa Juan— leaving at 2am.

Of course, this was my first time driving a manual transmission in over 6 years (not that I “drove” one before that… I just tried it a few times, as Kristen can attest to her grounded down gears on the BMer!) But I was determined, nonetheless, to get in that car, get to Alicante (in one piece), and eat some truly righteous paella.

Let the vacation begin!!! Sorta.

Eventually we arrived unscathed around 7am– with only a handful of stalls along the way and perhaps in need of a chiropractor due to my compulsion for popping the clutch.

Which was when we met up with Emilio’s parents– on their way to open their beachfront restaurant and prepare for a grueling service. Not that I knew any of this at the time…

Sweating through a surprise service

Because if I knew what was in for me, I would maybe not have mentioned how I would–ohsurewhynot— love to tag along.

Or that I would–ohsurewhynot— love to see the prep of sauces and stocks. Or–ohsurewhynot— I’ll try on your pretty blue apron. Or–ohsurewhynot–I’ll chop that onion.

Or–ohsurewhynotwaitwhatthehellishappening?!–I’ll stir your paella. And your second. And so on, and so on…

Until suddenly, after working my final service at Calima, driving through the night, and arriving only to go to another restaurant– I found myself working the line making paellas at one of the bussiest, most well-known paella restaurants in Spain on one of their busiest days of the week.

I was, in fact, cooking and sweating more now on my first day of vacation than I had in over a year– that is, we (meaning me and the main paella cook) turned out over 80 paellas, often working 6 or more at a time.

This, my friends, was what we call a trial by fire. I seriously hadn’t done this much volume since my Jaleo days– which is ironic since Sr. Guillén helped to shape Jaleo’s paella recipe.

My paella heros: Sr. y Sra. Guillén

Not that I am complaining at all– this family, the Guilléns, are hands-down some of the nicest, hardest working people I have met. Emilio’s “momma” and “poppa” can cook circles around many of the professional chefs I have met… seriously, these guys are amazing to see and I am so humbled to have been trusted enough to be allowed to help out and learn in their kitchen.

Plus… the paella ROCKS. They are so deservedly famous for their recipe and technique.

So, in conclusion:

Dear Diary– Paella is yummy, and I now understand it better than I ever have.

I understand the soccarat (that fabulously crunchy layer that develops and is the mark of a paella maestro) even if I can’t get it perfect every time (Jeff=student, not maestro).

And I am now ready for some Flamenco. Off to Granada and the famous cuevas de los gitanos!


The Fat Lady’s song

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

With the sending off of my last 2 plates of almendrado (an ajo blanco-based speciality of Dani Garcia) Saturday night, I served my last official tables of the 2010-2011 ICEX Scholarship. Joder,what an experience it has been…

WIth Dani & David

And while I was working that final service, a thought hit me:

“I have a week left here to play! It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, and the only fat ladies singing in the south of Spain are doing so to the wails and beats of a flamenco guitar.”

For me, nothing is as quintessentially southern Spanish than flamenco and paella–and maybe Dani Garcia (beside the point, but gotta give the guy props!).

And so a plan formed… ROADTRIP!!!!

I decided, in that moment, that this week is going to be all about Andalucia: I am going to travel the south of Spain–seeking out and enjoying two of my favorite things in the world, and trying not to get arrested along the way.

And to start it all off, I am going back to one of my favorite cities from our tour, which is also the home of some of the best rice (and rice dishes) in the world: Alicante.

Yes, Alicante… Valencia may be known for Paella Valenciana, but for my money Alicante is where it’s at.

Take notes, kids… this will be on the final.


The Final Countdown

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

HOLY CRAP— 1 week of work left in this little adventure (and a week of play to come!!). Where has it all gone???!!!

In honor of these waning 2 weeks here in the land of soccer/bicycle champions, toros, spherifications, and all things great about the pig, here’s a little countdown of the greatest hits from my 2009-2010 ICEX scholarship experience:

# of technological items broken: 11 (x2 headphones, x3 usb drives, x1 computer hard drive, x2 bricks for plugging-in computer,  x1 electric razor, x1 cell phone, x1 Ipod)

# of people pickpocketed: 1 (sorry, Saurabh!)

# of punk-ass crooks who tried to take my computer bag: 1

# of roundhouse kicks that punk-ass crook took to the face: 1 (shame he ran, I had a few more for him!)

# of bouts of food poisoning: only 1… let’s keep it that way!

# of drunken fights I missed my fellow cooks getting into: 1 major

# of teeth lost during those fights: 1 (lo siento, Dani!)

# of times Paras got coaxed into doing the Rerun dance: 1 that I know of…

# of carabineros Paras and I cumulatively consumed at Mercado San Miguel at 9 euro a pop: 7ish (MANY more to come during competition weekend!!!)

# of new groupies for Simon: at least the 12 of us, if not more!

# of MILFs certain team members from European countries got acquainted with: um… no comment… but you know who you are!

# of Iberico piggies I got to help meet their maker: 6

# of kilos of Iberico piggy consumed: Don’t know, don’t care… damn they are tasty.

# of posts I deleted after getting an ass-chewing from JP and Paras: 1

# of times I’m going to be given crap from JP for said post: More than I can count…

# of times we said “I wish Saul was here” during our “so-called matanza/cheese tour” (Dude BETTER show up at the competition in September!!!): 10 and then some!

Celebrities cooked for : Princess of Spain, Antonio Banderas, Janet Napolitano, Prez. Zapatero, some dude they claim was the Spanish equivalent of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Jose Andres, Ferran Adria, Paco Torreblanca… and maybe some more before the week is out!

# of liquid nitrogen burns I have sustained: 8 minor, 2 more-than-minor

# of bottles of Pacharan consumed alongside the best morcilla iberica EVER at La Soberbia: A lot. ‘Nuff said.

Liquid nitro playtime

# of drinks to be consumed when we come back for the competition in September: Don’t even want to think about it…

# of places I now plan to visit: (China, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, India, Mexico, Brazil… and Queens!)


# of new families I am proud to be a part of and better call me when you are in the USA(!): 4 (ICEX, Adolfo, Calima, Rocamador)

I’m sure my ICEX amigos have more, so post ’em if you got ’em!

“See you tomorrow!”