Best Paella - 2004
The first paella was cooked up near the town of Valencia on the east coast of Spain, where the rice, saffron, and olive oil come from. That initial attempt featured snails and eels as well, but you can add anything you like to the basic triad; the trick is balancing the different ingredients with cooking time and temperature and not letting the whole thing dry out. Fina Estampa specializes in Peruvian cuisine, but its version of the Spanish classic is as richly flavored and lusciously textured as anything out of the old country. The rice is pillowy and moist, sweet with tomato, pungent with saffron, and briny with sea spray. Ribboned throughout is a bounty of juicy prawns and tiny bay shrimp, mussels and clams dripping with liquid, tender rings of squid, chunks of meaty whitefish, and a sprinkling of green peas for vitamins. Good Spanish rioja is available by the glass or bottle to complement this time-honored Iberian feast.