Archive for Andalusia

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!

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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.

ohsurewhynot

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!)

and…

# 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!”

The Royal Blessing

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Last week we were visited by Spanish culinary royalty… here’s the picture:

In the kitchen with Ferran Adria, Dani Garcia, and the Calima crew

Campeones del Mundo

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Not that I’m the first to say it lately, but here goes:

¡VIVA ESPAÑA!

Ok… let me be clear about something: Coming here I couldn’t care LESS about soccer– or I guess we should call it fúbol in deference to mis hermanos y mis hermanas.

The Robin William's view of an American soccer player

I called it a sorta-sport, even though the entire world plays the game (even, to some extent, the United States– sidenote: Robin Williams explains our proclivity for soccer best in his Live From New York show).

After living through the World Cup Fever that took over the people of this country– and will continue for, hopefully, a very long time– I have changed my tune:

Soccer is a valid sport, and can even be moderately enjoyable… as long as you are in a great tapas bar, with great friends, and all of the annoying horns and buzzers are kept out of arms reach of little children and drunken adults. But I digress…

It was one of those “you had to be there” moments:

The final minutes of the World Cup match between Holland and Spain, The Goal, The Aftermath.

This was something I have never seen in my entire life, and I am so happy that I was here to witness it:

Everyone in the entire country had red and yellow somewhere on their bodies–and some had bodies that were painted entirely red and yellow (or, at least, the parts that I saw!).

Most people draped themselves in their national flag (in the hypersensitive US something tantamount to disrespect for the cloth), and everyone… EVERYONE…. was hugging, chanting about their national pride and heritage, and displaying the kind of affection normally reserved for close relatives or lovers.

It’s pandemonium over here, people… but not in a “Lakers-winning-come riot in the streets with looting and upside-down cop cars” kinda way. This is all about love and national pride.

To understand it, you gotta see it through the eyes of a Spaniard: These are a people who have shouldered the worst impact of the global financial recession in Europe. Unemployment in their country is in the high double digits, and some people say it’s only getting worse.

In the restaurant business, things are especially ugly– you can walk down major streets in Madrid, Barcelona, and Marbella and hear the ghosts of restaurants-past in shuttered storefronts. My friends, it is ugly.

And then Spain got their asses kicked by Switzerland in the first game of the World Cup… in their national sport. To the average Spaniard, their national pride got bitch-slapped by a bunch of chocolate-eating neutrality lovers.

Everyone was hating on their luck, but they didn’t give up on their team. They hoped for a miracle– even against the odds that no team has ever lost in the first round and won the World Cup.

And then they won… and again… and again. And World Cup fever was on…

Next thing you know they beat Germany and are in the final. Flags are flying from windows and rooftops, people are arguing in bars and cafeterias over the prophecies of an octopus… and that Spanish machismo–that national pride– came back for better and for worse!

So there I was at my local bar watching the masses go absolutely ape-shit over their win, and it was like watching a country collectively let out a sigh of relief.  All of those financial woes, years and years of exasperation over their economy, their political problems, the 2004 train bombings… all of it was exhaled last night.

And to that I say let’s continue the run!

Let’s hope that this World Cup win is the catalyst that turns everything for this beleaguered nation around. It’s fun having a bunch of machismo-driven Spaniards around, so again I say:

¡VIVA ESPAÑA!


Southern Comfort: An Andalusian birthday

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Another birthday, another year older– but this time I am celebrating in Granada in the south of Spain!

This weekend is also the Festival of the Cross or something religious-ie like that, so lots of theatrics are the haps.

Playing dress up Andalusian style

Specifically, everywhere you go are men, women, boys, and girls in colorful costumes to celebrate the holiday. What’s more  lots of flamenco and cultural goodies abound = a very happy birthday boy.

Una “muchisimas gracias” grande y un abrazo fuerte a mis amigos de Restaurante Calima para un fin de semana muy especial. Sois cabrones y tambien sois mi familia andaluz.                                                                               

Here’s the links…

Photos from Granada- Statue abuse, liver abuse, and a costume malfunction

Video #1- Impromptu flamenco

Video #2- At the club

Toledo to Marbella via Ithaca

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

2 quick words about HEC 85:

Best Ever.

Shucking favas... a LOT of favas. **Photo courtesy of Zach "The King of Kvetch" Reuben **

For those who were living under a rock at the SHA last week, I made a little surprise side-trip to Ithaca, NY to take part in HEC (Hotel Ezra Cornell) 85.

I was given the honor of cooking a couple of event for this student-run event over the past few years (HEC 83- Power Lunch photos, HEC 84- Gala photos) so when this year’s HEC fell at a perfect time during my ICEX scholarship I figured I would take the opportunity to help out where I could. And off to Ithaca I went on a little surprise visit…

That said, it was a total joy to take part in a very small way with the event. Great food, great people, a little drama– but what would HEC be without a little drama?

Thanks to C Popp and the HEC crew for letting me come peel potatoes. See (most of) you guys in August!

And now onto Marbella and one of the most exciting restaurants in Spain: Calima. My new chef, Dani Garcia, is one of the widely-acknowledged initiators of the usage of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen… should make for a very (everyone groan together now) COOL experience. Yuk yuk yuk…

Espetos: skewered sardines roasted on the beach

Here’s some homework, kids– next post will be from Andalucia: the south of Spain and the home of flamenco, gazpacho, espetos (sardines grilled over live flame in beach-made fire pits), and me for the next 5ish months:

YouTube video of Dani Garcia

Calima article

And just in case you missed the Cornell Daily Sun article…