Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Making paella pals at La Espanola Meats

They look a little lost. Maybe even disoriented – like they aren’t quite sure they are supposed to be here – or even want to be here.

I can tell right away that they must be at La Espanola Meats in Harbor City for the same reason my friend Erin and I are there on a humid Saturday afternoon – for Tony C of Sino Soul’s paella/blogger feast/love fest. The man has an inexplicable ability to get his friends and semi-loved ones to drive exorbitant distances for food. He also has an inexplicable ability for arriving at said gatherings late (I suspect to force the random individuals he invites to become friendly with one another without his assistance as the tie that binds everyone in the Twitterverse together).

Plus, I secretly think he enjoys making an entrance.

“Are you part of Tony’s group?” I ask the couple (who I later learn are not a couple at all).

They nod eagerly at my opening, introductions are made, and as we begin perusing the small space of the charcuterie/specialty Spanish storefront, I feel a fledging affection for them. Ben and Sylvia seem like good folk, I think.

While I am busy knocking bottles of artichoke mousse onto the floor and nibbling on the stinky (ie. delicious) cheese samples near the cash register, Erin picks out a pleasant 2001 Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva for us to enjoy with our lunch. She’s excited because it’s a Tempranillo, and I’m excited because I don’t have to make the decision.

Soon thereafter Tony arrives with his beautiful new bride Hayon, and informs us that he has requested 16 orders of paella – one for every two people. He also informs us that the paella is not what we’ve driven 30 miles for – La Espanola’s premium cured meats are the real draw. I ignore the voice in my head that is screaming, “You’re wrong, Tony C! Wrong!” and join Erin in the long line that is forming to order individual meat and cheese tapas plates. Both Erin and I are more interested in the paella (and our bottle of wine), but decide we can handle the slight charge of $4.99 for some fatty pork, as well.

It is at this critical juncture that the aforementioned Ben of B-Side Blog does something that completely eradicates the possibility that Erin and I will forget his and Sylvia’s names and remember them as “the couple who is not really a couple.” He starts to talk to us as we wait in line. One thing leads to another and Erin asks if they want to share our bottle of wine. Ben agrees and ups the ante with the proposition for a shared plate of tapas as well ($7.99 for 4 people). In mere moments, Ben, Sylvia, Erin, and I have become paella pals.

As we sit on the patio, sipping wine and demolishing our seafood paella cartons that are more noteworthy for the fluffy texture of the fragrant rice and the sweet strips of roasted red pepper than for the slightly overcooked seafood, we become bonded over our mutual appreciation for the food.

Tearing through the meat plate (whilst carefully avoiding the salami-esque pieces that Ben describes as “fine” – ie. not fine enough for me), I start wondering if this is Tony’s intent with all his gatherings. That maybe he doesn’t just care about getting everyone sauced and stuffed on a hot summer afternoon. Maybe he wants to bring kindred spirits together like he’s a Foodie Cupid. Maybe he’s the Great Asian Hope for Los Angeles – the man who can bridge a thousand personality, demographic, ethnic, and geographic gaps. Or maybe Tony’s just a guy who really really likes being in control.

Any which way, it works.

Especially when he brings along containers of homemade Honey Lavender and Coffee ice cream.

La Española Meats, Inc.

25020 Doble Avenue

Harbor City, California 90710

Phone: (310) 539-0455

Fax: (310) 539-5989

E-mail: info@laespanolameats.com

Note: Paella only available on Saturdays for lunch.


Ben said...

Paella pals indeed. I had a great time chowing down with you guys. Many more bottles of wine to be had, I'm sure.

Jenn said...

Nice. I'll have to check the place out. The food looks great! Plus I like paella.

Gastronomer said...

B-SIDE is a walking riot. I met him at a Sino Soul gathering as well! Love that boy!

Esi said...

Wait, do you have an aversion to salami??? What a great afternoon though...you can't go wrong with paella, cheese, and wine!

weezermonkey said...

I am dead at the term "Foodie Cupid."


Diana said...

Ben - I'll bring the wine, you bring another bottle, and let's go to town!

Jenn - The paella was reaaally good. And dirt cheap!

Cathy - Agreed. I think we should all hang out in some capacity in the future!

Esi - Yes, it's true. Salami scares me. It just looks so... wrong.

Sharon - :)

Cinnamon Girl aka Reeni♥ said...

There is definitely something wrong with me because I've never had paella!! Must do something about that. Love the sound of that ice cream!

TonyC said...

@terila & My Last Bite used to call me "International Man of Mystery". Now I will proudly wear: "Great Asian Hope" and "Foodie Cupid". Btw, I just purchased that host.

Btw D, there is no "salami" in La Espanola's product line. Just cuz it LOOKED like salami (and heck, tasted a bit like salami), it ain't salami. I swear: La Espanola product line. =D

yutjangsah said...

maybe tony is santa claus? the slim one.

Diana said...

Reeni - Are you serious?? Paella is amazing!! You must try it immediately and report back!

Tony - Haha, I'm glad you like your new nicknames. Note: I referred to the item in question as "salami-esque" not actually "salami." Either way, not my bag. But you are welcome to my share anytime, Sir Cupid!

Sook - Ohh I like that too!

Elra said...

Miammm, love that good looking paella!