Chef Paul Canales holding his finished squid ink paella at Duende.
Last week, I got a lesson in paella-making from the source: Chef-Owner Paul Canales of the Duende in Oakland.
And what a delicious and inspired one it was.
After all, the Uptown restaurant is all about Spanish and Basque food spotlighting the best of Northern California’s bounty. Duende features four paellas on the menu, including the very popular Arroz Negro, made with squid ink for an unmistakable bold color.
Along with a handful of other food writers, I crowded into the restaurant kitchen to watch Canales demonstrate that dish. The Moors brought rice to Spain, he explained, and paellas first gained popularity in the 1840s in and around Valencia. Canales’ father is of Basque heritage, a region that didn’t necessarily specialize in risotto. But it’s a specialty Canales has long loved, and studied, having traveled throughout Spain.
Paella can be made with various Spanish rices, as well as short or broken Spanish pasta.
Saffron from northern Iran.
Like Italian risotto, it’s a dish that’s really all about the rice, with the toppings accentuating it, but not smothering it.
The bar at Hopscotch.
Hopscotch in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood has all the accoutrements of a diner.
There is the worn checkerboard floor, the red bar stools, and the requisite burger and sundae.
Only here, the burger comes with griddled beef tongue and sesame aioli, and the sundae comes with a scoop of green tea ice cream.
Not to mention the the aged NY strip loin is finished with ginko nut herb oil and the daily benedict at brunch is napped with miso hollandaise.
That’s because Hopscotch is a decidedly upscale version of a diner — with a Japanese slant.
It reflects Chef-Owner Kyle Itani’s heritages, which are Italian and Japanese.
The food is fun and eclectic, as evidenced by the dinner my husband and I treated ourselves to recently.
The Black Tea Birdie cocktail.
Cocktails are imaginative. Try the Black Tea Birdie ($9), made with lemon, honey, ginger and vodka that’s been steeped with black tea. The tannin comes through and is tempered by the tickle of the ginger and sweetness of the honey. It’s a drink with the hue of iced tea that goes down just as easily.