When September starts so do the Paella competitions in Valencia after the Summer break for fiestas and holidays.
The first major competition is the Paella de la Valldigna which this year was held on 9 September in the town of Simat de la Valldigna in the immediate surroundings of the Gothic style Cistercian Real Monasterio de Santa Maria, an iconic site with a chequered history. Originally founded by Jaime II in 1298 it was destroyed twice by earthquakes in 1396 and 1644 before being dissolved in 1835 so that oranges could be grown on its lands. The current chapel is in the Barroque style popular in the 17th and 18th Centuries and was to be the location for the prize givings of which more later.
The Concurso is actually a super competition, rolling up three other concursos and starts at 9.30 in the morning.
The first of these is for Desserts made with Valencian Oranges or Mandarine. The variety displayed was impressive as the following photographs show.
The winners were:-
1st Prize, Restaurant Bonestar de Valencia; 400€
2nd Prize, Hotel San Luis, Playa de Gandia, Trophy,
3rd Prize, Restaurante Picanterra, Cullera, Trophy.
The next competition is for the Coca de Mestall, a focaccia base with Pancetta and local sausages and sardines, a winter favourite of the agricultural workers for its high calory content!
The winners were;
1st Prize Horno Sepell de Barx, 150kg of flour from the Moli de Picó.
2nd Prize, Pepe Cotaina from Oliva, 100kg.
The third competition is for the Figatell, a proto hamburger made with pork including liver and kidney with spices.
This years winner was Carniceria Erika from Benefiaó de la Valldigna.
Following these three competitons it is time for the judges, press and competitors to enjoy the traditional almuerzo. it is here the genuine friendship and cooperation between the chefs displays itself. Apart from the local sausages and figatells, there were cocas and artesan sobrasada with ‘encurtidos’ (vegetables preserved in salmuera or brine) all accompanied by local breads.
Then there is an opportunity to visit the stands of some of the sponsors and even do some shopping! Amongst them were Azafran Desbrin with Juan Carlos Galbis who is now an ambassador for DOP Azafran de la Mancha, the premier saffron producers.
Arroz de Sueca had a display of rice varieties and were selling boxes and bags of them. Next to them were Unipro, where you could order the latest style of chefs jacket and who have an outlet in central Valencia. Pepe Cotaina was displaying a range of artesan breads typical of La Safor,and there were home made encurtidos to buy as well. The bar was provided by Amstel and the wines by Vegamar with somelliers Eli Bravo and Pere Mercador on hand to dispense ‘Valencia Gin City’ and Casalla Cervero as well. The major competition for the Paella de la Valldigna is by now underway. 45 competitors took part and the smell of the first ‘turn’ paellas was drifting across the square where the marquee tightly held the cooks in close proximity!
The paella de la Valldigna differs from Paella Valenciana simply by the addition of red peppers and small meatballs made from beef flavoured with rabbits blood and uses a stock rather than building the flavours and using water. It is a variant like that of the Paella de la Ribera and reflects the local gastronomy.
The restaurants participating came from the Valencian Community as well as Holland, France, Chile, Venezuela,China and Argentina:-
1.-Restaurante Casa Macario, Playa Tabernes Valldigna
2.-Arrels Racó Gastronòmic, Gata de Gorgos
3.-Restaurante Bonaire, El Palmar
4.-Hotel San Luis, Playa de Gandía
5.-Restaurante Bonestar, Valencia
6.-Casablanca, Playa de Tavernes
7.-La Garrofera, Serra
8.-El Racó de Meliana
9.-Catering la Despensa, Burjasot
10.-Tabick Lounge, Llombai
11.-Chef Amadeo, Playa de Gandía
12.-La Visteta, Barx
13.-Asador L’Alfàbega, Alginet
14.-Casa Picanterra, Cullera
15.-Cancela Eventos, Sueca
16.-La Bresca, Els Poblets
17.-Avenida 2.0, Masamagrell
18.-Restaurante Amadeus, Playa de Jaraco
19.-Restaurante Nou Racó, El Palmar
20.-Hotel les Rotes, Denia
22.-Team Bomba Lliga Dacsa 2019
23.-Restaurant Ca Eladio, Llombai
24.-Restaurant Arrocería La Pepa Bluespace, Alboraya
25.-Restaurant la Alquería de Montealegre, La Eliana
26.-Pilar Restaurant, Artana
27.-Restaurant Pizzeria Tropical, Tabernes Valldigna
28.-Evenser Restauració, Paterna
29.-Mesón los Molinos, Valencia
30.-Restaurante Polideportivo Fuente de la Higuera
31.-Mesón Pepe Quiles, Granada
32.-Hotel del Prado, Puigcerdà
33.-Restaurante Como Siempre, Mérida
34.-Aquería del Pou, Valencia
35.-La Mar Salà, Cullera
36.-Ca Agustí, Sueca
38.-Restaurant Casa Colom, Vergel
39.-La Granja, Sueca
40.-Kampeerbosje Leerdam, Holanda
41.-Paelleros de Huergo, Argentina
42.-kthira, Venezuela y Paiporta
43.-Hotel Restaurante Le Llaret, Les Angles, Francia
44.-Puerta 20, China
45.-Centro Español Chile, Chillan, Región del Bio Bio
The winners of this third edition were:-
1st Prize, Casablanca de la playa de Tavernes de la Valldigna,1000€.
2nd Prize, Catering La Despensa de Burjassot, 500€.
3rd Prize Casa Macario of Playa de Tavernes de la Valldigna, 300€.
The prizes were awarded in the Chapel of the monastery with representatives from the Cultural and Gastronomic Association, Diputación de Turismo Valencia with the ‘Del Tros al Plat’ project, Simat Tourism and others. As always the competiton was in the able hands of Carmen Ferrando and Sergi Fem Terret.
‘Lunch followed with the obligatory paellas being cooked by Pepe Fortea´s Escuela de Arroces (who had given a showcooking earlier during the competiton with assistance from Jose Zafra) .