A Meal of the Land
aella – what many outsiders consider the national dish of Spain, is in fact, a culinary treasure of the province of Valencia on the Mediterranean coast, though you would be hard pressed to find any Spanish city without the delectable short grain rice dish. In its original form, it was made with familiar ingredients like chicken, green beans, and saffron for seasoning, in addition to some extra peculiar elements, like rabbit, white beans and even snails. It is truly a meal of the land; there are now numerous different styles of cooking paella across Spain and the entire world, each heavily influenced by the available meat and vegetables.
In the spirit of both experimentation and tradition, the Paella Wine & Beer Festival is bringing the flavor of España to Southern California, thanks to world-class chef and Valencian native, Armando Rodiel. On August 26th, the OC Fairgrounds will host this celebration of food, drink and culture, with art vendors, flamenco dancers, and more than 50 local chefs and schools participating with their own special paella recipes. Don’t worry, a general admission ticket not only gets you unlimited beer and wine, but also the chance to sample paellas to your heart’s desire (or stomach’s limit).
Villa Roma restaurant of Laguna Hills have their hopeful champion in Executive Chef Leo Razo, who will look to wow the judges and take the crown in this year’s competition. The winner will walk away with serious bragging rights and the honor of representing the U.S. at the Paella World Championship in Sueca, Spain. Chef Razo has his eye on the prize, but there is also history to be made that day.
Imagine a Jacuzzi. Now picture it brimming with paella – enough to feed 3,000 people in fact. For all the foodie thrill seekers out there, this is the moment you have to see. At the festival, Chef Razo will attempt to shatter the record for the nation’s largest paella, a feat that will require one enormous pan, five propane tanks and 17 coils to evenly distribute the heat, as well as a dedicated crew to stir in the ingredients.
Recently, Villa Roma and Chef Razo provided a taste of the excitement to come by serving his recipe, albeit on a much smaller scale, along with some delicious hors d’oeuvres like jamón ibérico and kalamata olives. But his paella stole the show, even before the guests took a bite; watching each stage of the process, pouring in the veggies, then the chorizo, rice and seafood, was a spectacle by itself.
Without giving too much away, Chef Razo’s concoction was a perfectly cooked masterpiece, an exciting melting pot of the sea and the land that both melted in your mouth and flaunted those coveted crunchy bits from the bottom of the saucepan – all the more reason to experience it in person at the festivities.
For some, paella is even more than a just delicious tradition; it can provide hope. A portion of all ticket sales to the Paella Wine & Beer Festival will benefit Canica USA, a non-profit that grants wishes for children living with cancer from impoverished areas of Mexico and South America. Teresa Razo, the president of the organization and Chef Razo’s wife, says, “It’s an opportunity for them to visualize themselves outside of the world that they live in, outside of the hospital and the situation where they’re fighting for their lives. It really motivates them. We’ve had miracles happen.”
Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased online at www.eventslanding.com.