Paella by Ludovic Lefebvre
6801 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 12/11/11
I’ve been to DomaineLA a few times, a wine shop located in Mid-City/Hollywood. It’s a smallish shop but there’s enough variety to indecisively look at bottles for hours. I’ve found the wines to be both interesting and rather reasonably priced. Ask for help; Jill can always point you in the right direction.
The wine store often offers tastings and pairings with select foods (oysters is a recurring one) and food trucks. I’ve been to one long ago, when the LudoTruck’s fried chicken was paired with a variety of sparkling wines. I’m not sure why it took me so long to return to one of the tastings, but interestingly it was again for Ludo’s food. This time, it was for something rather unexpected: Spanish paella. I love paella. For me, there’s just something about dishes where the rice cooks with the meat, sopping up all the good flavors. Arroz con pollo, jambalaya, biryani, paella. All favorites.
At $40 a ticket, the setup was thus: 5 Spanish wines were available for tasting while Ludo cooked up paella on the spot all evening (two varieties: a saffron-based Valencian paella as well as a squid ink paella negra). He brought with him a couple paella pans, a heat source, a bunch of seafood and meats (mussels, clams, shrimp, squid, dark meat chicken, chorizo) and a box of spices. Peering into the box, I noticed a little bit of his French influence: piment d’Espelette.
While Ludo was cooking, we tasted a couple of wines.
2010 Urki Txakolina
2007 Pecina Blanco
I particularly enjoyed the Urki Txakolina. Dry and crisp with some citrus notes, this definitely whet the appetite.
The event gave an up-close and personal view of the cooking. Ludo started by browning the meats and adding the seafood.
Then added the rice.
Then clam juice and chicken stock.
Lastly, saffron gave it the characteristic vibrant yellow color.
Once the broth was absorbed, the rice was left to crisp up a bit on the bottom. Voila! It was ready to serve.
I thought this was a very good paella. Slightly on the oily side (though I’m sure that gave it a lot of flavor), the rice was al dente with a little bit of a textural crust where it was in contact with the pan. Both the meats and seafood were cooked quite well, something that I know is hard to do consistently.
On his second pan, Ludo made another variation including chicken and shrimp. I was perplexed how the seafood was perfectly cooked even though he added it before the rice and broth. I guess that’s why he’s a chef and I’m not.
NV Mendall Poc a Poc
2010 Tajinaste Traditional
2009 Clos de Noi Samso
We tasted the rest of the wines. My favorite of these was probably the last one, with its rather bold, fruity flavors coming through. It paired especially well with the chicken thighs in the paella.
Ludo alternated the saffron-based paella with this squid ink one featuring calamari and a lemon zest.
Just like the first paella, I thought it was executed quite well. The squid ink was clearly the dominating flavor, while a last-minute touch of lemon zest really brightened everything up. Again, he was able to achieve a little bit of a crust on the rice.
While the butterscotch budino down the block at Mozza would’ve been a delicious end to the meal, there was another alternative available right inside the wine shop.
Carmela’s salted caramel ice cream! Seriously, almost as exciting as the paella itself. Almost. DomaineLA carries a selection of the Pasadena ice creamery’s flavors.
I thought this was a very cool event. It was my first opportunity to actually watch Ludo cook and prepare something from start to finish (there was no yelling/expressing himself to be heard all evening). As much as I enjoyed eating the food, I was equally enthralled by the preparation of it.
During the LudoBites popups, Ludo is often trying to create unique flavor combinations, offering something diners have never tasted before. However, it was nice to see him preparing some homey, comfortable food here with this Spanish classic. I really like paella and his version definitely met my expectations, especially considering it was a temporary setup. I feel like there aren’t really many restaurants in LA that do a good paella so this was a treat. Oh, and I got to taste some great wines to boot.
Like all good chefs, Ludo tastes his cooking throughout the process. I can prove it.