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The setting is Bunol spain in the heart of Valencia. It is early morning on the last Wednesday in August and the streets of Bunol are clean, quiet and deserted. But that won’t last for long because today is the festival of La Tomatina. When the shot from a starting pistol pierces the air at 11:00 a.m. mayhem will reign and the streets will begin to run red with the flesh and juices of ripe tomatoes being hurled at anyone who finds himself on the street.

For 60 years, the town of Buñol has been home to La Tomatina which started in the forties when some friends started a tomato fight in the main square for reasons no longer known. Over the years La Tomatina has evolved into a weeklong celebration that culminates in a battle where the townspeople (and over 20 thousand tourists from around the world) pelt each other with ripe tomatoes brought in by the truck loads specifically for this event.  The days leading up to the short but epic battle are filled with parades, fireworks, food and street parties.

la tomatina bunol spainGood, Messy Fun

Then, early Wednesday morning, shopkeepers and business owners along the Plaza start covering windows and doors in preparation for the messy battle. Large trucks rumble up the cobblestone streets, arriving in the crowd-filled square and, from the back of these huge trucks, official instigators begin the tomato tirade by pelting the awaiting warriors with their vegetable cargo: sloppy, squishy tomatoes from the four corners of Spain. The revelers take up the battle call and about a half an hour and 150,000 tomatoes later everyone reconciles with their former targets and heads to the river to clean up.

tomato bread from CataloniaTake Tomatina to You

We’re not suggesting that you wage your own tomato war, but La Tomatina is so much fun. Why not host a Tomatina themed party or dinner during the month of August?  The cuisine of Spain offers so many recipes that are perfect for your Tomatina fun.  Start out with a Catalonian Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread) and Gazpacho or Salmorejo.  Serve Paella Valenciana, typical of the region where Buñol is located, and traditionally served during the Tomatina street parties. The tomato is a key ingredient in so many Spanish dishes you’ll have not difficulty putting together an appropriate menu. Just be careful if your guests arrive with bags of overripe tomatoes and a mischievous gleam in their eyes.  You might just have a messy Tomato fight on your hands.

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Rice Fields Valencia Spain

Rice Fields in Valencia, Spain

Valencia and Rice Go Way Back!

To many people, Valencia is synonymous with rice and with Paella… and for good reason. After all, the Moors brought rice to Valencia from the Far East way back in the 8th century. Without doing the math, I can tell you that is a very long time ago!

A Rice Dish for Every Day of the Week
Rice is good and wholesome and everything, but what I really love is the transformation rice can make into something more than just the sum of its parts.  In the right hands, these humble ingredients become delicious dishes from seafood or vegetable Paella to Arroz Abanda, Arroz Negro, Fideua and more. You could eat a different rice dish each day of the week and never get tired of the stuff.

Bomba is the Bomb!

paella with wine

Paella Valenciana

Let’s take the classic Paella as an example. The best Paella is made with Bomba rice, a rice that can absorb up to three times its volume in broth.  Just imagine that mighty little grain of rice sucking in all of that rich broth and transforming itself into a tasty morsel just for you. And it still maintains its granular shape, never getting sticky like Chinese rice or mushy like Arborio rice.  Bomba rice has been bred over the centuries to be the perfect rice for Paella. What a destiny.  

What makes Paella and other rice dishes so special? It may be the low shallow pan in which the dish is cooked, allowing for slow simmering and caramelized flavor. Or it could be the Socarrat, the crispy bits that appear like magic at the bottom and along the sides of the pan. Some Valencianos believe that a perfect paella cannot be made without water from Valencia, so they take it with them wherever they go, kind of like Hindus with water from the Ganges.  

Perfect for Families, Friends and Celebrations

Paella is perfect for the coming holidays. In Spain, families and friends will gather to enjoy each other’s company and share stories over a dish of Paella. Why not start a new tradition of Paella with your family and friends this year?

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City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia by Santiago Calatrava

City of Arts and Sciences by Santiago Calatrava

Old City by the Sea

Valencia. It’s not the first city we think of when someone mentions Spain. But it is quickly becoming a destination. The third largest city in Spain, Valencia is located in a region called the “Valencian Community” and is scenically located on the Eastern coast of Spain adjacent to the gulf of Valencia and the Balearic Islands. In the past, the Visigoths, Arabs and Romans have all left their mark on the city of Valencia, but today creative geniuses like architect Santiago Calatrava and Chef Raul Aleixandre (a disciple of culinary superstar Ferran Adria) are shaping the city and its culture. Today, Valencia offers more than oranges, paella and the Tomatina. With its innovative restaurants, hip enclaves and unique boutiques it is no longer just an old city by the sea.

Chef Raul Aleixandre of Ca' Sento Restaurant in Valencia

Chef Raul Aleixandre of Ca' Sento Restaurant in Valencia

Taste Valencia!

During the month of November, Solex Partners is celebrating the culinary contributions of Valencia with “Valencia in Chicago“. The region is known primarily for paella and citrus, but it has so much more to offer. The delicious products that have made their way to us for this celebration of Valencia include Bomba rice, a rice that explodes with flavor; cheeses from organic producer Quesos de Cati; the Spanish classic Serrano ham; flavored oils from Oleum Vitae; savory Rosquilletas (bite sized bread sticks) that are the ideal cheese accessory ; rich chocolate from Valor and Piquillo pepper jam from Jalancina.

 If you are lucky enough to live in Chicago, you can visit the many innovative restaurants that will feature foods from Valencia on their menus for “Valencia in Chicago”. Or you can visit the many gourmet food stores that offer artisanal Valencian foods.  But even if you are miles away from both Chicago and Valencia, you can experience Valencia for yourself. During the month of November, this blog will feature stories about the foods of Valencia along with ideas for how to share a little of Valencia with your friends and loved ones.

Paella Valenciana

Yum! Paella Valenciana

Rice Transformed

Stay tuned for the next blog which will be on Paella, one of the most significant culinary gifts Valencia brings to Spain and the world. And be sure to register to receive or newsletter. The November issue will feature a Paella recipe that you will want to try for yourself.

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