Review: Paella at Your Place

I love to throw parties. I love to cook, I love to decorate. I love seeing friends enjoy themselves! Sometimes, though, I want to skip the cooking-and-cleanup part. I’m often really over involved (aren’t we all?) and want the party without the prep and cleanup. That’s where Paella at Your Place comes in.

Paella At Your Place/Michelle's BirthdayHector Esteves, a native of Puerto Rico with a background in science, started doing paella parties a few years ago. Now, he travels around the city with his giant paellera, a propane burner, and all of the ingredients to make paella and its accompaniments. You provide appetizers, beverages, at least 10 guests and a place to cook.

What is paella? It’s a dish of rice, vegetables, meat and seafood, cooked in a giant pan until the bottom has a nice crust (soccarat) and tinted yellow with saffron. Hector has several choices of meats and seafood, including everything from chicken and chorizo to shrimp and scallops. If you ask nicely, he’ll prepare some of your dish without meat or fish for any vegetarians at your party. Prices range from $10 to $17 per person, and you need a minimum of 10 guests for a party. He’ll bring salad and bread as well.

I got to experience a Paella party at my friend Michelle’s birthday party. Hector made a great host, very affable and eager to talk about paella with anyone who wanted to chat. The kitchen, where the paellera was set up, became the hub of the party. It took about two hours, all told, to prepare the paella, which starts with browning the meat (chicken and chorizo in this case) and ends with a splash of sherry.

Hector’s paella is easily the best in the city. It’s very authentic, incorporating all of the traditional ingredients of Spanish paella. It is not edgy, but it shouldn’t be. This is Spanish comfort food at its very best. The flavors are rich without being overwhelming, and the soccarat is well formed. I’m a sucker for the crPaella At Your Place/Michelle's Birthdayispy bits of things – the cheese on the edge of a lasagna, the crispy edges of a brownie – so I just love a properly prepared paella It is, by far, the best paella in town.

What’s interesting, to me, is that paella is so commonplace in Puerto Rico.  I think of it as a Spanish food, but Terry (who spent, at one time, some extended time in PR– man, sometimes he sounds like quite the world traveler, doesn’t he?) says that giant parties featuring paella are pretty common, and that Hector’s paella in particular was spot on the paella he had in PR.  I forget that Puerto Rico was controlled by the Spanish for a good portion of its history– until 1898!

Paella At Your Place/Michelle's Birthday For your next shower, or rehearsal dinner, or birthday party, or any other occasion where you want an excellent meal but don’t necessarily want to leave the house, call Hector. You can find out more information about Paella At Your Place at paellaatyourplace.com, or email Hector at hfesteve@fuse.net. He’ll be glad to help you plan a meal, or let you know where he will be appearing around town so you try his paella at one of the many wine tastings he frequents.