Paella at Scott's with Marisa Cuomo, Bandol, and Marqués de Murrieta Rioja

These days with baby Evan, I find less time to get out for fancy dinners, much less document them. Fortunately, I found a few minutes to sit down and rave about my friend Scott's mouth-watering paella feast from Friday night.

The dinner started with tapas, which paired well with one of Italia's top white wines - Marisa Cuomo "Fiorduva" 2006 - a supreme expression of three (unheard-of) indigenous grapes (30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra and 40% Ripoli) from Furore on the Amalfi Coast of Campania. A fitting description from K&L website: "Fresh, like the sea, the wine envelops with lemony zip on the nose and notes of apricot and tropical fruit with hints of ocean air that continue from the bouquet onto the honeyed and floral palate." There is plenty of acidity and body. Italy's answer to white Burgundy? (How dare I?!!!) The 2006 is drinking with elegance, matching well the gorgeous tapas - padrons, red peppers with fried garlic vinaigrette, shrimps with lemon and garlic, and the intriguing toast with melted mozzarella, prosciutto and butter-fried sage - an unexpectedly flavorful and harmonious combination! Scott tells me that the secret of the garlic is to fry slivers just enough that they brown but don't turn bitter - a few seconds over, and you might as well throw them into trash! The time between golden brown and burnt / bitter garlic is very short. This step usually takes some practice with the timing.

And then onto the main course - paella with chorizo sausage, shrimp, and peppers. Finished on a grill! A couple of key steps to making the successful paella are building flavor into the the rice and using warmed chicken stock that has been infused with the saffron threads. Scott starts the paella on the stove top. Once all ingredients are in, he stops stirring the dish and finishes it on the grill over mesquite lump charcoal. On the grill he no longer stirs the paella but turns the pan to insure even cooking. As soon as the chicken stock is absorbed by the rice, a crust should start to form and the the paella is ready to serve.

The paella was perfect with 2001 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial - a wonderfully deep, mid-weight Rioja that has entered into its adolescence with a complex combination of primary and secondary fruit flavors and hints of leather of aged tempranillo. The classical 2010 Tempier Bandol Rosé was a lighter, zingier alternative to the more robust Rioja.


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