Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paella Rules in Spain!

I promised a bit of my honeymoon adventures so here goes--a rant about paella. On the 4th day of our Canarian journey, we found ourselves in Gran Canaria, located southeast of Tenerife, our home base.

Another volcanic island, this one seemed slightly more lush than Tenerife, also boasting some beautiful--and very calm beaches. Just like in Tenerife and like in most Canary Islands, the food is influenced by two cultures--Spanish and Moroccan. And although the restaurant that we dined at last Tuesday night was Moroccan, ironically it served up the best paella I've ever had.

The restaurant, Les Molines was located right on the waterfront at Canteras Beach. The atmosphere was super relaxed, as we sat on wicker lounge chairs, which were protected from the wind by large canvas umbrellas. It was like our own little private hideaway.

What we ordered:
After the incredible sticker shock that we experienced at Playa de las Americas, we were surprised to see how affordable paella was in Gran Canaria. Compare 30 Euro (approximately $40) for a plate of paella at Playa de las Americas to only about 16 Euro ($21) in Gran Canaria. We were hoping that the quality of the food wouldn't suffer but luckily, we had the best meal of our entire trip here. In addition to the paella we also ordered ham and cheese croquettes (or croquetas) and here's a bit more about each:

Ham and Cheese Croquettes - We ordered these as an appetizer and were astonished at how many came on a long olive plate--eight in total! Initially we thought that we wouldn't finish them but they were perfect bite-sized poppers. Crispy on the outside and savory and stringy on the inside, they were a great way to start our meal. While I thought they were fantastic and much better than in the States, they didn't even stand a chance next to the ham and cheese croquettes that we later got in Madrid (more on that later).

Paella - When the beautiful round--and very rustic--metal serving plate came out, it was piping hot and oozing with wonderful seafood aroma. We immediately caught sight of the fresh prawns, excited to pile them on our plates. Our gracious waiter scooped a generous amount of paella on our plates and the second helping was up to us.

And while the look of this dish was spectacular, its taste was even better. The shrimp were fresh and perfectly cooked--the only (expected) annoyance was taking the little heads off and de-veining them. We didn't mind because they tasted so great. The scallops were miniature and also fresh along with baby shrimp that we didn't have to clean. But the best part was the fragrant saffron rice that was the binding factor for all this seafood goodness. It wasn't overcooked in the least and was a little crunchy. While I couldn't eat all of it because it started to expand in my belly, it was truly the best part.

Needless to say, we cleaned our plates (see above picture) and strolled down the boardwalk to work off some of those calories--each one of them was worth it.

Les Molines Cafe - Playa de Las Canteras
Gran Canaria, Spain

3 Mmmms

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