Treasures of the Spanish Main
June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
The list of unlikely locations for dining in Los Angeles is a long one. The banal landscape of the Valley hides a wealth of interesting food experiences, despite weathered strip-mall exteriors. And any street corner might be hiding the city’s most distinguished al pastor specialist or the freshest Baja-style fish tacos sold by a diminutive man in a Panama hat.
The latest case in point? Some 20 miles south of downtown, in a dull, one-story industrial park, is the city’s most unexpected celebration of Spanish cuisine. La Española Meats is one of a handful of Spanish meat producers in the country, making chorizo for Spanish expatriates seeking chorizo Bilbao style, rather than the Mexican variety that many of us probably grew up with. In addition to curing their sausages Spanish style, La Española also imports Spanish products, some of which are available in the retail front of the company’s headquarters and plant in a quiet cul-de-sac in Harbor City. As well as regional chorizo, La Española sells the much-celebrated Serrano ham (frequently compared with Italian prosciutto, it’s domestic pork cured for 18 months ), salchichón de vic (Catalan-style salami that’s a staple in Barcelona tapas bars), lomo embuchado (cured pork loin), and more. Olive oil, Spanish olives, rice, a healthy variety of regional artisanal cheese (don’t miss the delicious selection of cabrales), saffron, spices, candy, chocolates, and paella pans are also available in the front room that acts as a convivial Saturday morning meeting spots for expats longing for a taste of the homeland and Spanish cuisine aficionados.
However, the chief reason to make the trip down the 110 on a Saturday afternoon is for the store’s paella. A famous Valencian specialty and long-lost cousin to Persian polo and Hyderabadi biryani, paella was originally a picnic dish, cooked over an open flame in a gigantic pan. The version offered at La Española is a delightful and fragrant experience. The light, fluffy rice, tinted yellow by saffron, is sprinkled with tangy morsels of chicken, sausage, mussels, and shrimp and topped with strips of fresh-roasted red pepper. Along with the paella, an order comes with a small selection of Spanish meats, cheeses, and olives. Served in a modest Styrofoam plates, the dish is simple and fresh, hardly the mushy glop that’s been carted out at the other Iberian joints in the city’s rather paltry Spanish dining scene. Perhaps best of all is the small, trellised garden area outside the deli that offers shaded picnic tables to savor the flavors of the paella and maybe even a bottle of rioja or tempranillo, also conveniently available from the store. Ringed by the red flowers of bougainvillea vines, the tables buzz with the castellano accents of frustrated Real Madrid fans and the comfortable sighs of sated diners enjoyed a postprandial espresso before returning home. Were it not for the lone big rig parked in the cul-de-sac, it might even be possible to picture yourself in an Andalusian idyll. But despite the bleak industrial park vibe, the deli delights and paella are worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. Keep in mind that the paella is only on offer for lunch on Saturdays and requires a phone call in advance. ¡Que aproveche!
La Española Meats
25020 Doble Ave.
Harbor City, CA 90710