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No Spain, No Gain

All things Iberian are hot again—and we're not even talking about sangria.

The New Paella: 
The skinny, short noodles in Duende’s fideua ($17.50) are toasted, then baked in a paella pan of flavorful broth. Canales personalizes the Catalonian dish with Liberty Farms duck leg, sofrito, and olives. To finish, it’s layered with rare duck breast and balsamico. Duende, 468 19th St. (at Broadway), 510-893-0174

Gintónic: 
Outmoded happy hour swill? Hardly. Gin tónica bars are all the rage in Spain—and local spots are following suit. Bravas Bar de Tapas offers five takes, like the levante ($10; pictured), with gin and saffron. Coqueta will have its own tricked-out G&Ts. “We’ll elevate the drink, like they do in Spain, with sculpted ice and a round glass that brings out the gin’s herbaceous nose,” says Chiarello. Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St. (near North St.), Healdsburg, 707-433-7700

Star-Powered Beer: 
Made by superchef Ferran Adrià and his sommeliers at the now closed El Bulli, Estrella Damm Inedit ($11.59, 750 ml) is a surprisingly affordable, food-friendly Belgian white with a major cult following. New Star-Ell Liquor, 501 Divisadero St. (at Fell St.), 415-567-7900

Ferrari of Ham: S.F.’s only all-Spanish market, Nosa Ria sells cheeses, saffrons, and much more. The real prize? ibérico de bellota. Made from black pigs, the ham is rich, earthy, and—at $13 an ounce—pricey. Savor each bite. Nosa Ria, 500 Laguna St. (at Fell St.), 415-529-1506

Fried Goodness: 
With its new menu overhaul, Gitane axed its Moroccan tajines, making way for more Iberian inspiration. Try the Valencia rice a la plancha, as well as these croquetas ($8), stuffed with braised rabbit and melty manchego. Gitane, 6 Claude Lane (at Sutter St.), 415-788-6686

Cook by the Regions: José Pizarro, famed for his London restaurants, exposes Spain’s culinary diversity, from Moorish eggplant to sardine empanadas, in the new Spanish Flavours ($30, Kyle books). Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez St. (at Church St.), 415-282-4712

 

A new guard of Spanish-food zealots is shaking up the old tapas-and-sangria routine. Take Oakland’s Duende (and read Josh Sens's review here), where chef Paul Canales (Oliveto) introduces paella’s long-lost cousin, fideua (say it: FID-a-wah). There’s also the soon-to open Coqueta at Pier 5, where celeb chef Michael Chiarello (Bottega) will carry on the springtime tradition of calçotada: sweet, fire-licked Spanish leeks with peppery romesco. And the Spanish drink of the moment? Viva gintónic!

  

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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