Miami's Top Spanish Restaurants to Go Mano a Mano at Paella Showdown

In collaboration with the Miami International Film Festival, El Coto de Rioja Paella Parade will march into Miami Beach Botanical Garden next Wednesday, March 9. Following a screening of Fernando Leon de Aranoa's Amador, chefs from ten of our local Spanish restaurants will gather to prepare their own signature paellas in a competition to see who can do it best.

Participants will be Por FinXixonEl Carajo International Tapas and WinesGarcia's Seafood, Casa Juancho, Delicias de EspañaAndalusHappy WineEl Rincón Asturiano, and, rounding out the top ten, Toy Story 3 -- I mean Whole Foods.

"We're thrilled to continue our tradition of celebrating the food and wine of Spain with this year's El Coto de Rioja Paella Parade," says Caterina Hausmann, brand manager of El Coto de Rioja. "The public has embraced Spanish culture, and these events have brought out the enthusiasm of local chefs for Spain's traditional flavors."

Categories are Best Use of Ingredients, Most Creative, Prettiest, and, the top prize, Paella Parade Pleaser. Guests will sample each chef's rendition while enjoying free-flowing wines from El Coto de Rioja (Rosado, Blanco, and Crianza).

My guess it that it comes down to Por Fin, Xixon, Delicias de España, and Andalus. Why? Because these places are headed by chefs experienced in paellas and more serious Spanish cooking. God knows I love Garcia's and Happy Wine, but these and some of the rest of the participants are focused on less formal (and less Spanish) cuisine. In the case of Casa Juancho and El Rincón, under chefs it says "TBD." I'll put my money with Jon Gonzalez (Xixon), Luis Quant (Por Fin), and Florian Thomas and Pepe Torrens (Andalus) over TBD any day. And if Whole Foods wins, somebody will have to double-check the alcoholic content of El Coto's Riojas.

But the main point is that the Paella Parade has the potential to be one of those really outstanding events -- talented chefs, tasty food and wine, a film/food crowd, and a lovely botanical setting. The price, $45, looks pretty good just a few days removed from the $300 tastings at the SBWFF.

When: Wednesday, March 9, 8:30 to 11 p.m.
Where: Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Dr.; 248-334-4600.
Price: Paella Parade: $45 or two for $80. With movie: $55 or two for $100.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein