My love of Spanish cuisine began back when I was in high school. My Spanish teacher was from Spain and often talked about authentic Spanish cuisine during class. Born and raised in Madrid, he spoke of his favorite dishes such as Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes covered in tomato sauce), Gambas al Ajillo (prawns with garlic) and of course, Paella I will never forget the first time I had Paella at Iberia restaurant in Palo Alto. I was a young girl of 18 and just beginning to expand my palate to more exotic flavors. Paella reminded me of seafood risotto and it was that evening that I began to really explore authentic Spanish cuisine.
Last month I was invited to Café Olé in New Tampa to try some of their menu items. I was excited, as I had never been and I love taking mini road trips outside of my South Tampa comfort zone. The drive was quicker than I thought and as I arrived at this quaint little place, I was immediately drawn to the warm decor and mouthwatering scents of garlic and herbs.
Located at 10020 Cross Creek Boulevard, Café Olé is nestled in a cozy shopping center and easily accessible from Interstate 75. I walked in and was impressed with their beautiful decor with Spanish flair. I started off with a refreshing Red Sangria made with fresh fruit. It was the perfect way to begin my meal.
My first dish wound up being my favorite of the day. Beautifully plated, Setas con Chorizo is a nice blend of Spanish sausage and mushrooms that are sautéed in olive and garlic and then served in a sherry wine sauce. The sherry wine sauce simply fantastic and I loved taking my bread and dipping into the sauce and then topping it with chorizo and mushrooms.
SETAS CON CHORIZO
The next dish I tried was Tortilla de Patatas, which is a classic Spanish potato omelet. Similar to a quiche, it is drizzled with their homemade alioli sauce. I really enjoyed this and loved the combination of flavors. As I was enjoying this dish, I could not help but think how fantastic this would be for brunch. Since I could not finish it all, I took the rest home and enjoyed it the next day with a cup of French roast.
TORTILLA DE PATATAS
I could live on potatoes. I love them in every form and the next dish was right up my ally. Patatas Alioi o Bravas are deep fried diced potatoes finished in a light spicy tomato sauce or alioli sauce. I tried the version with alioli and it was fantastic. As I nibbled on these I was thinking back to my high school days when my Spanish teacher would talk about some of the dishes he ate while growing up in Spain. I distinctly remember him talking about this dish and was delighted to be enjoying it.
PATATAS ALIOLI O BRAVAS
I was now ready for the main event….a duo of paella. The first was visually stunning and I could not take my eyes off the gorgeous dish of beautiful seafood and rice. It was Paella Negra which consisted of sautéed pulpo, shrimp, calamari, fish, and scallops baked with Valencia rice and squid ink. Served in a traditional paella pan, it was beyond delicious! I enjoyed this exquisite version of paella and savored every last bite.
The second version was Paella Valenciana which really reminded me of the first time I tried paella when I was in high school. This classic dish was a delicious blend of shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels, fish, chicken and chorizo baked with Valencia rice in their home made saffron sauce and served in a traditional paella pan. I thoroughly enjoyed this and have to say it was some of the best paella I had had while living in Tampa.
My meal came to a sweet end with a dessert I am still thinking about to this day. Move over crème brûlée and say hello to Crema Catalana! Their chef’s own recipe, this luscious dessert is a sweet mixture of vanilla citrus pudding topped with raw sugar and then burned to make a hard candy shell. I have to say I like this better than crème brûlée and had no problem finishing every sweet bite. The vanilla citrus pudding was sweet and creamy and there were traces of fresh orange inside. The top was much softer than a traditional crème brûlée and I never thought I would say this, but I prefer the way the Crema Catalana is prepared.