Festival as simmered down as the food

Olive oil, garlic, bell peppers, saffron and tons of yellow rice. Chicken, pork, sausage, ham, seafood, lobster, crab or vegetables, take your pick. These are the ingredients that comprise paella. Mixed in a frying pan that gives the dish its name, paella, a typical Hispanic dish, is infused with great tastes and great cultural significance. Last weekend, Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, (ironically an Austrian-German-Bavarian Restaurant) hosted Coral Gables’ First Annual Paella Fest.

Various white tents penetrated the Miami night sky while the smells of seafood paella and “Valencia” paella wafted up through the air from two massive platters underneath the tarps. Long wooden tables that held at least 20 people apiece were crammed next to each other in the small area outside of the restaurant located a block off of Miracle Mile. A portable stage stood a foot above the sidewalk with a live Flamenco band.

Unfortunately, since this was the first year of the event, Paella Fest still needs some work in order to become a huge success. Poor advertising probably hindered the festival the most. Flyers said that there was no entrance fee but they failed to mention that a single paella cost $15. Also, the event drew a predominately older Hispanic crowd, though the nature of the food and culture has the potential to attract a young and vibrant audience. And of course, the cramped corner outside Fritz & Franz Bierhaus was not nearly big enough to host an event with such potential.

At least the food itself looked delectable. Originally from Valencia, Spain, natives cooked paellas for special occasions and religious holidays.

“It’s kind of like a party plate. They do it for festivals and it’s the main dish,” Kat Kuscevic, a freshman at UM said. “With different Hispanic cultures, it has sprung out and they’ve made it their own.”

Each locale, whether in North America, South America or Europe, has created its own variations on the dish, such as including different types of meats.

“It’s almost like different dialects, but with food!” Kuscevic said. “It’s really enjoyable. It’s something to share with the family.”

Hilary Saunders can be reached at h.saunders@umiami.edu.