Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, December 2, 2009
The Damage: £24 plus an extra glass of wine = £30.
The Victim: Mainly, @leeturnerconn (Regular readers might also know her as the mysterious "Feathers.") But keep reading.
The Background: @leeturnerconn saw this tweet from @aforkful and before I knew it, we were booked in for a trip to Balham for some paella. I'd never been to Balham before. @leeturnerconn had sold it to me as a cooking class, so imagine my surprise when we walk into the venue–The Fat Delicatessen–and it's a delicatessen (surprise!), not a cooking school.
We're miserably early–we had this idea in our heads that Balham was MILES away (Sorry, South Londoners!)–so we settled in and ordered some wine while we waited for @aforkful and @R_McCormack.
At some point, we're handed a menu and I'm SURPRISED. Super-surprised. Firstly, because there IS a menu, and secondly, because we're only paying £24 quid for this. This is a nice amount of food–and wine–for just £24.
The event kicks off and the first arrival–lardo on olive crostini–is that perfect little snack. Simple. Served with a great Fino, it's that right combo of flavors and textures…the saltiness and the creaminess of the lardo, the crispness of the crostini, and dryness of the sherry all melded beautifully together. It was one of those things where you say, "Ah, now I understand wine and food matching."
Next up are unbelievably even cuts of manchego and quince, served on plain water biscuits. If I ever host a cocktail party, I'm going to serve these. Again, super-simple, but the flavor combination was outstanding. The salty, slightly-nutty and firm manchego with the sweet soft quince. Heaven, really. And I could not get over how perfectly all the pieces were cut. What did they use? A wire? A knife? Our chef just looked at me funny and said, "It's called being a chef for 20 years." Ahhh.
As we're enjoying all these nibbles, we're watching the guys behind the counter do all the heavy lifting. This is a cooking class by observation, not by doing. I'm not sad about this, because if I've already dropped the mackerel and egg mayo, you know what I could do with a whole pan of paella.
And then finally, the paella is done and we sit down and tuck in. It is–to my mind–an unusual sort of paella. They've used snails. I like snails. But I just have never experienced snails in my paella before. It's a comforting dish with some good textures, although part of me wants to add some sriracha to it. Or a splash of tabasco. All that being said, I still manage to clean my plate and make room for seconds. The seconds have the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan. Heaven.
The Verdict: This was a great night out. Firstly, a new postcode. Secondly, the chance to meet some people from the "Internets." Thirdly, I have some new ideas for appetizers for that dinner party I'm going to have some day. And thirdly, I now have a vague idea as to how to go about making my own paella. If I ever buy one of those pans, of course.
Hint: If you visit The Fat Delicatessen for one of their classes–check their Web site regularly for class updates—they aren't allowed to sell alcohol later in the evening. If you'd like some more wine to accompany your meal, it might be wise to buy some upfront and have it opened then and there.