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Hillsdale Paella vs La Pepica Paella

Portland Oregon or Valencia Spain?

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The Paella Masters From Seasons and Regions

With any luck Baby Boomers outgrow their bad food childhoods.

Learning a new name for those food memories helps.

One tortuous dish on the kid menu was called Spanish Rice. It was minute rice, tomato sauce, hamburger, and huge chunks of kryptonite green pepper.

No one called it paella. No one called it Rice-a Roni, either. But it did set me on the path to find something good in Spanish Rice.

Where do you find great Spanish Rice? If you guessed Spain, you’re doing well. If you guessed The Hillsdale Paella Dinner, you were probably there Saturday night.

But first, Spain.

La Pepica

La Pepica

Every trip needs a planner. My wife is the planner. Part of the plan on our Spanish trip was stopping in Valencia for dinner at La Pepica.

Ernest Hemingway made if famous. He’s a writer, I’m a writer, it made sense.

Did Hemingway drive to Valencia, or did he have a car and driver? Since he’s a manly man, let’s say he drove himself.

Did Papa meet the same angry woman screaming at cars in the parking lot? Or the same man blocking cars and demanding money for free parking spaces?

If he did, he probably waved them away and drove on. No one wants to be car jacked in a foreign nation.

La Pepica was near a luxury hotel named Octopus where we had a room. Me, my wife, and my mother in law on the Mediterranean beach.

You know you’re in a fancy hotel when they install water faucets that come with instructions to turn off and on. Once we figured that out we took a swim, then headed for dinner.

All I wanted to know was whether or not the famous paella was better than my mom’s Spanish Rice.rice 2

The plate showed up with crawdads on top of a tricky rice plate. It was called paella, but if it had some heat it could have been a dish from New Orleans.

It’s not fair comparing Old World food made by Old World experts to a skillet of grub made from boxes and cans, but my mom’s Spanish Rice was the winner.

One side effect of La Pepica paella was getting back home and going on a paella binge. Even the experiments were tasty.

A big pan made for fun cooking, but the size was nothing close to the five foot diameter of the traditional paella pan.

Eventually the paella craze ran it’s course. Been there, done that, ate it all. When my wife mentioned the Hillsdale Paella Dinner, I was luke warm. We were done with paella. But she’s active in the Hillsdale community.

Dr. Elaine Gillaspie, founder of the Portland Wellness Center, is also a force for good at the Hillsdale Blue Berry Pancake Breakfast. She said the paella would be outstanding. My paella thermostat moved a few degrees up from luke warm.

The night started better than it did in Valencia. No one tried to jack my car outside the Multnomah Arts Center.

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Vegan Paella

Once inside I found a glass of Spanish wine and followed my nose to the paella pans.

The big pan was for traditional, the smaller for vegan. There’s something special when chefs cook huge amounts of food and use paddles to stir.

I stayed for the stories and the aroma before heading back inside. The ingredients were captivating enough to give flashbacks. Another paella binge could be coming but for one problem.

This was the paella to end all paella.

If you have a benefit dinner for three hundred guests, paella is the way to go.

The benefit Saturday night was for Hillsdale Main Street and the Neighborhood House Food Box Program. When the right cause joins the right food, good things happen. It’s the opposite of an immoveable object meeting an irresistible force.

You know it’s happening the right way when sponsors like A-BoyWyse Kadish LLP, Food FrontBaker and Spice Bakery, and Salvador Molly’s make the party.SAM_0353

With tapas and Rose and music from Scott Head, all that’s missing is a bull fight.

Instead of a bull ring in Multnomah, a center raffle table carried baskets donated by local businesses. The feel of the room was fun with more expected.

You could buy tickets and drop one or more into any glass near the basket of choice. The winners were drawn during dinner.

The room of polite Portlanders eyeing the prizes could have been a setting for Portlandia. It had the feel of community that so many other cities brag about.

People come together for every reason imaginable, but the Hillsdale Paella Dinner covered all the bases. Local support, helping kids, and the anticipation of great food filled in the air.

rice6Once the call for dinner rang out everyone hurried to use the rest of their raffle tickets.

The packed center table offered something for everyone.

A gift basket from Sasquatch Brewing?

A huge basket from Gifford Family Dentistry?

Goods and services lined both sides of the table. If you couldn’t find something you needed then you’re life is complete.

Except for the paella.

You’ve heard the word, but have you seen paella?

From the looks of the huge pans, the cooking smells in the air, and the room full of good will, they could have served my mom’s Spanish Rice and gone over big. The walk to the dining room gave notice to the finishing touches.

In the hallway I found containers filled with ice and bottles of Ninkasi beers. If that’s not going the extra mile you need to check your pedometer. It may not be Spanish beer, but it’s better than any beer I found there.

If the paella matched the rest of the night on the same scale as Ninkasi, it would be irresistible.

And it was.

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About David Gillaspie
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