This is a test, this is only a test... But a delicious test indeed... 

When the chef from our local Italian restaurant invited us to try his new menu ideas, we jumped at the chance. Pizza Fino has been a Kenton neighborhood staple for years. Chef Eric Ongtooguk lives in our building and asked for our opinions on his paella menu.

Oh... hell yeah!

Paella's a long time favorite. The best recipes always seem to be "farmhouse recipes," and the best of those run along the lines of "Stone Soup," where everybody brings what they have and adds it in. Eric added everything but the kitchen sink--spicy sausage, fish, clams, mussels, guineafowl, and some of the most intriguing vegetables I'd never heard of.

tapas plate

Appetizers while the paella is cooking: Tortilla española (I knew it by tortilla de patatas, or torta), puttanesca tapenade,  salt cod fritters, anchovies and heirloom tomatoes. What more could you want? Goat cheese and cherry compote, of course (obscured by frisée). 

paella

Stir, stir, stir and stir some more. Paella preparation is not for the effete.

Fresh smelts. Not as pungent as a sardine or the preserved anchovies we started with--but still a strong flavor.

For many, paella is all about the sausage. For me, it's shellfish.

sea beans add the right touch of ocean saltiness

Sea beans--a fascinating twist. They drift from place to place in the sea and sprout after they wash onshore. Eric under-salted food, then added salty ingredients like this for balance. Well played.

paella is a beautiful thing

All this was created on a charcoal grill, so yes, you could do it at home. (It's just better when someone does it for you.)

mouth watering paella with local ingredients

Sea beans on top. They look like pine needles. We brought a bottle of Txakolina and turned the staff on to it. An awesome pairing with paella, anywhere you are.

custard infused with peach leaves

Aaaand dessert. Local stone fruits and cherries. Peach tree leaves taste like almonds. Who knew?

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