Paella: Try It or Buy It

It’s a question we have all asked ourselves. Are we gonna put our heads down and work for a couple of hours trying to cook a new dish, or do we just go out, spend the money and buy it. Home Vs. Restaurant, it really is an eternal question, but today we will see who comes out on top. Today we will be testing our guesses with a classic Valencian dish, Paella. Who doesn’t love Paella, its flavorful rice with a variety of fresh meat and seafood.

On one hand we have an authentic paella from Teleréfic, a Barcelonian restaurant in Palo Alto, on the other hand we have homemade paella that has perfected over multiple years of experimentation. Lets see who comes out on top.

Tasting Notes and First Impressions:

Homemade (This dish is made by a family friend, and not me):

  • Heavy flavor of garlic
  • Chicken was well salted and cooked well
  • Heavily spiced and lots of herbs
  • Perfectly cooked rice
  • Spicy pork sausage, perfectly cooked with right balance of spiciness and herbs
  • Tomato base with deep flavors and hint of acidity

Teleferic:

  • Garlic aioli that was creamy, but overly rich
  • Very flavorful, lots of herbs
  • Some sort of rub on this chicken that was delicious
  • Pork is off the bone, not sausage
  • Beans are cooked perfectly and also have flavor
  • On the saltier side, but no too salty
  • Meat is not as tender, but more use of dark meat which meant flavor
  • Too much fat on the meat
  • Not enough contrast,  or enough acidity or spice

Pros and Cons of Homemade:

There is honestly not much you can go wrong with a good homemade recipe. The ability to adapt the flavors of the dish to your liking is sometimes the greatest power when it comes to food, but homemade is not always perfect, Although the homemade dish this time came very close to perfect. The highlights of the dish were the strong bold flavor from the rice and that spicy pork sausage. The rice base/socarrat was absolutely incredible. There was so much flavor achieved by a simple combination of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Alongside this was the chicken broth that achieved a nice depth of flavor and complemented the chicken and pork chunks. The pork sausage as well was just awesome. It had a combination of spice and light Chorizo like tang that complimented the savor nature of the rest of the dish. It also had a contrasting texture to the rest of the plate which is always something to be desired.

The most underrated aspect of the homemade dish was the classic socarrat. Soccarat is the crispy crust achieved in a paella pan. In this homemade dish, the socarrat was just perfect without being burnt but still being crispy. The few things I would have improved were quite minimal. One thing I noticed was that the chicken was a little on the dry side. I wished the chicken had been a little more moist and tender which could have been achieved by under cooking the meat, or choosing a different cut of meat. The other thing that I would have added for my personal preference would be a little more saffron. As an Indian, saffron is quite present in my food and I would have loved to see a stronger saffron presence in the rice. 

Pros and Cons of Teleferic (Restaurant):

I want to preface my analysis by saying this was an amazing experience. There was so much flavor from the rice, fresh herbs, and fresh high quality meat. The highlights in this dish came in the form of the little things. For example, there were beans in this dish which were salty and flavorful. Normally, beans are dry, chalky and bland but Telerfeic absolutely nailed them. The other thing I loved was the wild mushrooms. As somebody who grew up eating mushrooms a lot as a substitute of meat, seeing the mushrooms paired with meat was an absolute delight. Mushrooms are naturally flavorful with a deep earthy taste and a bouncy texture which is unlike anything else. On the side came a garlic aioli which was creamy, with a hint of species and strong garlic flavor. As you may know by now, I love garlic and to see a strong garlic presence in the dish is always welcomed.

Alongside paying attention to the small details, Telerefic in general delivered a great dish that had flavorful rice, well cooked meat and contrasting ingredients, although some of the shortcomings of the dish accompanied came hand in hand with the pros. My biggest gripe with the meal was the fat content of the dish. To begin with, the rice was very creamy and soft, but on top of that, I believe teleferic did not cut enough fat off the meat. The choice of having sauteed chicken and pork instead of sausages was completely fine, but I often found myself eating chunks of pure fat which was overwhelming. This over presence of fat combined with an extremely fatty and creamy garlic aioli was oftentimes much too rich. One thing I would have loved to see more of in this paella was contrasting flavors. There were a ton of fatty components and salty components, but I was missing a squeeze of lime, or a dash of cayenne or paprika. Overall, the dish was a fulfilling experience and was everything I was looking for in a paella. 

In the end, it’s just up to how you are feeling. If you are feeling adventurous and want to venture out into the abyss that is cooking, by all means try to make your own paella. If you want a more refined experience and a relaxing evening with equally good food, definitely go to Teleferic

Teleferic is located in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto in California, and Barcelona and Sant Cugat in Spain.

Vegetarian Alternative:

If you want to try your hand at paella, find a recipe from a friend who has experience in the paella world, or try this recipe. If you want a veggie alternative, green beans, peppers and mushrooms are a great combination to replicate the meaty experience with bites of freshness. Down below is a version of veggie paella my mom and I experimented on, and it came out great. One tip if you are trying it at home, undercook the rice ever so slightly so you can crisp it up at the end and create the coveted soccarat.

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