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Paella Pleases Palates at Goucho Gourmet


Paella Gaucho dirty rice cropped

A gumbo-themed paella, with shrimp, chicken and chicken livers and vegetables, was something different for the crowd of paella lovers at Gaucho Gourmet Saturday.

The irresistible scents of steaming seafood, cooking rice, saffron and chorizo enticed a hungry crowd gathered at Gaucho Gourmet today for Viva Paella.

The event offered tastes for devotees of the famous rice dish who came and watched demonstrations by a chefs with the Chefs Cooperative, tasted everything — then shopped for paella cookware and ingredients, or whatever they had on their lists.

Paella Gaucho Crowd with John croppedThe warehouse setting of Gaucho Gourmet, at 935 Isom Road, draws chefs, cooks and serious foodies and shoppers every Saturday. But this week, Viva Paella offered an especially appealing draw judging by dozens of folks who squeezed into the store’s back room.

The participating chefs included Steven Paprocki, Chris Cook, Jeff White, Issac Cantu, James Canter and Tyler Horstmann. Leslie Horne, owner of Aurelia’s Chorizo, fried up samples of her spicy Spanish sausage, as well.

Link here for the Texas Quail, Chorizo and Mushroom Paella recipe from Aurelia’s Chorizo owner Leslie Horne.

Chef and paella champ James Canter

Chef and paella champ James Canter

Canter is a three-time winner of the San Antonio Corona Paella Challenge at the Pearl and demonstrated a seafood paella packed with gleaming mussels in the shells and finished off with squid ink and green peas. Visit here for more information on the Pearl paella challenge.

The chefs also prepared a traditional paella, showing the vibrant yellow color of the its characteristic spice, saffron. A less traditional paella, a gumbo paella, packed in shrimp as well as chicken and chicken livers, giving it a bit of a Cajun dirty rice flavor and texture.

Luciano Ciorciari and helpers at the warehouse, warehouse, also supplied a long table with everything a cook might need for making the dish, including paella in a multitude of sizes, small glass jars holding envelopes of saffron, cooking utensils, terracotta dishes and more.

In the main room of the store, a cheese demonstration was another crowded station. Cheese will be in the spotlight at another warehouse tasting soon, Ciorciari said. Special imports are on their way from Italy for that, but freshly made burratta was available, as always, in a basket next to the deli area — selling out fast. Coffee samples were also available from Susan Jaime’s Ferra Coffee.

GauchoGourmet’s regular warehouse opening hours during the week are Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. On Saturdays, they are going to be open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch is served 10.30 a.m. -2 p.m. and the deli will close at 2.30 p.m. For more information go to the website here or phone 210-277-7930

Paella chefs Issac Cantu, Steven Paprocki and Tyler Horstman at Gaucho Gourmet.

Paella chefs Issac Cantu, Steven Paprocki and Tyler Horstman at Gaucho Gourmet.

Photographs by Bonnie Walker and John Griffin

Chris Cook, left, and Jeff White, serve up a traditional paella.

Chris Cook, left, and Jeff White, serve up a traditional paella.

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Paella and Prizes Fill a Sunday at the Pearl


Students from Memorial High School accept the first place award for their paella.

Students from Memorial High School accept the first place award for their paella.

The storm clouds rolled past during the middle of the night, leaving Sunday with a healthy glow of light and a steady breeze for more than 1,000 to enjoy the 4th annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

Brian West (right) of the Culinary Institute of America makes paella.

Brian West (right) of the Culinary Institute of America makes paella.

The annual cook-off, created by chef Johnny Hernandez as a fundraiser for culinary scholarships, brought an array of chefs from across town as well as around the country and Mexico to participate.

The lineup included a number of long-time participants, such as Rene Fernandez of Azuca, Zach Lutton of Zedric’s and Jason and Jake Dady, while newcomers, including Mark Bliss of Bliss and Angie Bridges of Copa Wine Bar, dished up their best. Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen served up a seafood paella with fideo as the base, and Susana Trilling went with a traditional take that featured bright amounts of saffron and garlic in the base. Brian West and a team from the Culinary Institute of America weren’t in competition but they did serve up six different pans of paella to the hungry crowds.

Serving up Susana Trilling's paella.

Serving up Susana Trilling’s paella.

A fairly constant breeze made it hard for some of the chefs to keep their burners working steadily. Some used baking sheets to prevent the wind from extinguishing their burners. Others found that the fire would burn so hot that it had to be turned off to prevent the paella from burning.

The crowds didn’t seem to mind, as they waited patiently for dishes from Jeff White of Boiler House Texas Grill, Jeffrey Balfour of Citrus and Steven McHugh. One of the visiting chefs, Jehangir Mehta, known from his appearances on “Iron Chef,” looked out over the huge get-together and marveled at how well-run and fun the day turned out to be.

In the end, Hernandez announced the winners of this year’s high school division, which went to Memorial High School, followed by John Jay High School and Sam Houston. The winners earned a trip to New York, where they’ll visit the CIA’s main campus in Hyde Park and be able to shadow chefs in action.

The crowd listens to the winners being announced.

The crowd listens to the winners being announced.

This year’s judging was slightly different in that three top awards were handed out.

Clint Connaway of Max’s Wine Dive walked off with the people’s choice award, while Flor Vergara of Hernandez’s True Flavors took home the award for best contemporary paella.

The award for best classical paella went to James Canter, who won the top honor last year as well. Canter also was in charge of making the paella for Ben Ford’s team, which won the top award during the first Paella Challenge.

Canter, who is now chef at the Victoria Country Club, was in tears when he took the stage with his team to accept.

Given his track record, you can expect Canter to return for the fifth Paella Challenge next March.

The winners: Flor Vergara (right), host Johnny Hernandez, Clint Connaway and James Canter.

The winners: Flor Vergara (left), host Johnny Hernandez, Clint Connaway and James Canter.

 

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Paella and Perfect Weather, Just as Johnny Hernandez Ordered It


Zach Lutton of Zedric's makes his paella, which won second place in the challenge.

Ty-Lor Boring uses his burner to cook lobster.

Saturday did not end on a pretty note, in terms of weather. Cold, miserable rain left the ground saturated and spirits low. Luminaria had to be postponed, and hopes were not high for the third annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

"Top Chef" favorite Lindsay Autry

Yet on Sunday morning, the clouds fled the scene, leaving a healing sun in its wake that dried out the amphitheater and made for a perfect afternoon that drew hundreds of people who wanted to sample paella made by many of the city’s best chefs as well as several out-of-town visitors, including several chefs from the recent “Top Chef” Texas season.

Credit for the success of the event goes to organizer Johnny Hernandez, said David Kellaway, managing director of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, which is also at the brewery.

The event is a fundraiser for the culinary school as well as the educational arm of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“The energy and passion (Hernandez displays) towards educating our youth in the culinary arts cannot be quantified,” Kellaway said.

The student team from Lanier placed second in the new high school challenge.

Hernandez, who owns La Gloria Ice House and True Flavors Catering, had wanted the lot power washed before the event, and it seems as if God obliged, the school official joked.

The styles of paella varied greatly. Jason Dady and his crew presented a version blackened with squid ink yet brightened with fresh green herbs. The folks from Max’s Wine Dive offered a Texas paella with game meats and a chipotle butter. Visiting chef Tim McCarty from Minnesota offered three P’s: pork, prawns and popcorn, with ribs and pork belly in the mix.

Mustachioed chef  Ty-Lor Boring from “Top Chef” added a dramatic touch by firing his lobster directly in the flames of his burner. Last year’s champion, Jeff Balfour of Citrus at the Hotel Valencia, offered a paella that featured chicken and arrived topped with egg, which was meant to leave you wondering which came first.

Winning chef James Canter celebrates with his son.

In the end only three of more than two dozen entries would be honored. They were, in order, James Canter of Alhambra in McAllen; Zach Lutton of Zedric’s: Healthy Gourmet to Go, 9873 I-1o W.; and Peter Holt of Lupe Tortilla, which has a San Antonio location at 21103 U.S. 281 N.

Canter arrived at the winner’s table with his son perched high on one shoulder, prompting Kellaway to remark that he had already been given the best award of all.

This year, for the first time, San Antonio high schools were eligible to complete in their own division. Six schools showed up, including Burbank, John Jay, Lanier, McCollum, Memorial and Roosevelt. There was a lot riding on a terrific paella from the students, because the winning team will receive a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the CIA’s main campus in Hyde Park.

The winners, in order, were John Jay, Lanier and Memorial.

McCarty, who works for Sodexo, participated last year and was certainly enjoying himself once more. “As long as I make a great paella, I’m already a winner,” he said, while spooning up plates and handing them to the crowds that waited in line.

It's paella for all, with many of the chefs, including Steven McHugh of Luke, making multiple trays.

It's paella for all, with many of the chefs, including Steven McHugh of Luke, making multiple trays.

 

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