Not sure if that headline is true because even though Spaniards are typically an angry lot, I don't believe the country of Spain has a bone to pick with gumbo.
The purpose of the title (and the following blog) is to show the aesthetic differences between two seafood dishes I recently had.
Last month, I sat down with Ben Mintz for a bowl of seafood gumbo at Gumbo Bros in Brooklyn.
In the blog I wrote afterward, I pointed out that if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me the differences between gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, chowder, bisque, bouillabaisse, mariscada, paella, and cioppino I probably couldn't answer other than to say that gumbo is by far the "ugliest" of all the seafood soups and stews.
And I stand by that... Gumbo (when made correctly) is fucking delicious, but even the best gumbos in the world look like "tasty mud".
So to pivot away from the ugly, I deiced that this week I would go for a prettier plate, which led me to Socarrat in Chelsea for some paella…
First off, let me talk about the restaurant… Socarrat has 3 locations in NYC, but I have only been to their Chelsea spot which used to be just one room with a communal table, but has since expanded next door to a full dining room, bar, and an outside patio with garden seating.
The bride and I sat at a high-top table next to the bar in an area where the ceiling was wallpapered with famous Spanish Christmas Lottery tickets…
Apparently the aforementioned angry people of Spain have a National Lottery that is drawn a couple of days before Christmas every year and the whole country has made it an integral part of their holiday season. I have never been to Spain, nor do I play the lottery much, so that little bit of history the wallpaper provided was a welcome addition to the meal.
Not much else to say about the place itself except the staff was wonderful and the place is immaculate. The walls are lined with a single high shelf that ran around the restaurant, and on that giant continuos shelf were dozens of porróns, which are glass wine decanters with a long neck at the top for filling and then a long thin spout at the side to enable pouring booze into the mouth from a distance.
(This would be an insanely easy picture to photoshop a dick onto.)
If used correctly, the porrón is contact-less, but the management at Socarrat has been less inclined to use them during the pandemic because of people who inevitably suck on them like a wine-filled teat.
Onto the food, and I will rundown everything I ordered because this is a food blog.
I like little fish, and Socarrat has both sardines and anchovies on the tapas menu, but I decided to choose only one and went with the BOQUERONES EN VINAGRE, which is just white anchovies and halved cherry tomatoes swimming in very good olive oil with some garlic and parsley.
People tend to stay away from anchovies and sardines because they have only had them packed in salt either out of a jar or can, but these little sonsofbitches were simple, perfectly sweet, and not salty at all.
We also had an appetizer they called CAMPERO, which was simply a charcuterie board made up of serrano ham, chorizo, salchichón ibérico, Manchego cheese, Marcona almonds, olives, membrillo (quince paste), and Idiazábal cheese
Along with the basket of bread, they throw a couple of slices of PAN CON TOMATE on the board, just for good measure.
I haven't met a charcuterie platter I didn't like, but I ordered some JAMÓN IBÉRICO on the side just so my wife could see the taste and texture differences between the Serrano (which comes from a Spanish white pig aged "only" 18 months) and the buttery Ibérico which comes from Spanish a black foot pig that is acorn-fed and aged 36 months.
Ibérico looks a lot like Proscuitto, but for people who avoid Proscuitto because of its tendency to turn into "uncooked bacon", the Ibérico does not have that problem, and at $75 per pound, it just melts in your mouth like the cured leg of a 36-month acorn-fed black foot pig should.
And if you are looking for a healthier reason to chose Ibérico over Proscuitto, then know that through the traditional period of heating and cooling, salting and drying of the Ibérico ham, the fats are broken down. And because of the natural antioxidants in the acorns and the unique curing process, the saturated fats are changed into healthy mono-unsaturated fats high in oleic acid… The only fat higher in oleic acid is olive oil.
Plus, it's fucking delicious.
Then on to the main course which was paella…
I ordered the house paella which contained free-range bone-in chicken, chorizo, head-on shrimp, white fish, squid, mussels, cockles, fava beans, peppers, and tomato sofrito. There were maybe 4 other types of paella on the menu plus the special of the day which was built around lamb and truffles.
The portion they gave us was perfect for two people (3, if you count me as 2), and the paella itself was exquisite…
My favorite part of any paella is also the name of the restaurant…The socarrat is the crusty crispy bottom of the paella that becomes caramelized and toasted on the bottom of the pan when it is cooking.
It comes from the Spanish verb socarrar (meaning to singe), and it is an intrinsic part of any authentic paella.
The servers at Socarrat offer to scrape the bottom of the pan for you as you start to chip away from the top later of the paella, but I was very content to do it myself…
… and that offsetting texture alone is more than enough reason to make your way to Chelsea to scrape your own socarrat at Socarrat.
And finally… Believe it or not, I am not a big dessert guy, but the owner insisted I try the TORRIJAS CARAMELLIZADAS which is essentially a Spanish-Style caramelized French Toast flanked by a scoop of strawberry ice cream sitting on some crushed pistachios on one side and a small smear of lemon curd with a simple halved strawberry on the other.
Again… It was just wonderful.
I don't give things ratings like "6 Balls" or a "7.265 out of 10", but I can say that I HIGHLY recommend this place as something that you should get inside of you ASAP (Attack Socarrat After Paella).
Later today (and every Friday), Clem, Coach Duggs, and I are once again hosting GRUBHOUSE at 2 PM.
Similar to last week, we will be hosting it on Twitter's new SPACES platform that you can access by clicking on our avatars after the discussion begins. From there you can request to speak, or just hang out in the audience as the three of us discuss Big Guy stuff.
For example… Would you?
Here is your WEEKLY FOOD CALENDAR
Today, Friday, April 2nd (Good Friday)- National PB&J Day
Saturday, April 3rd- National Chocolate Mousse Day
Sunday, April 4th- National Carrot Day
Monday, April 5th- National Deep Dish Pizza Day
Tuesday, April 6th- National Caramel Popcorn Day AND New Beer's Eve
Wednesday, April 7th- National Beer Day
Thursday, April 8th- National Empanada Day
Friday, April 9th- National Chinese Almond Cookie Day
And finally… If you can photoshop a dick on the porrón picture in the main part of the blog above, perhaps you can insert a moving member in this small video off of my Insta…