Paella is comfort food, not only for those who eat it but for those that prepare it. My first memory of paella was in college on a trip home for Thanksgiving. I admitted to my parents that turkey was not my favorite, so my parents suggested paella.
We lived in Old Town Alexandria in Virginia and found a little Spanish shop in D.C. where we could purchase the Bomba rice and chorizo. Then we headed to the fish market for all the incredible seafood. Paella for the holidays became our thing.
Years later, my father bought me a fantastic paella rig that allowed me to cook paella outside over an open flame. This setup was transformative. I have used this burner and some of my well-loved paella pans for nearly 20 years.
I wrote an article during the pandemic titled A taste of Seaside Spain. Something in that story struck a chord with readers.
The isolation of being quarantined and the communal nature of the dish made some people put paella on their shortlist of things to do when restrictions lightened.
Last summer was like a holiday in Spain; I entertained many people with the story and experience of paella, and I have continued to do so ever since.
The smell of chorizo sizzling in the pan lets the guests know the show is starting. As people gather around to watch, the sofrito joins the party. Soon the aroma of onions, garlic, and peppers cooking fills the air. When it comes time to add the bomba rice, I usually have a few volunteers to help stir as I add the fragrant and flavorful fish stock. I love entertaining people while cooking; it offers everyone a sense of community. Few things compare to food when it comes time to bring people together.
The more things change, the more they stay the same; I still love shopping for paella as the stores involved are happy places for me. Seafood at Catalina Offshore and Pata Negra for all things Spanish.
Pata Negra, located in Pacific Beach, provides all the Spanish goodies you need for an authentic paella. Bomba rice is grown in Spain for paella, and they sell a few different brands. Stock is a primary component and can be time-consuming to make. Have no fear; they carry various kinds of stock for whatever paella you are constructing. Saffron colors the rice and adds flavor, as does the paprika; Pata Negra has an excellent selection of both. Roasted Spanish peppers and good chorizo, no problem, they have that too.
Pata Negra’s deli case contains Spanish meats, sausages, cheeses, and Ibreico Hams. I have assembled more than one outstanding charcuterie board using the items in this case.
Need something fun to wash all this down? Pata Negra also carries an impressive selection of Spanish wines.
If you are new to the paella game, they have everything you need to cook one at home. They carry paella pans in a wide variety of sizes, and they sell portable burners as well. I feel like a kid at Disneyland when I shop there.
Pata Negra sits right next to Costa Brava, a well-loved Spanish restaurant. Don’t want to cook paella at home? Try Costa Brava; it’s like being on vacation in Spain.