My Most Surprisingly Good Meal of 2011

I don’t go someplace to eat because I expect it to be bad, but expectations for some meals are higher than others. In the United States I have become accustomed to viewing roadside rest stop food to be nothing more than the other major commodity sold at these locations – fuel. So when my wife and I stopped at a roadside Autogrill on our way down to visit the Restaurant Paco Morales at The Hotel Ferrero in Valencia last April, we were both happily stunned to find a paella that wasn’t just decent, but actually really good – perhaps not as good as the best Valencian paellas I’ve had, but better than most that I’ve had elsewhere. The paella had been freshly made right in front of us and we arrived just as they started to serve it. It was full of flavor, good ingredients and even included some socarrat. It was so good, that we stopped back in the same Autogrill on our return trip to Barcelona the following day. While our timing on the following day wasn’t quite as perfect, the paella was still good. From this and subsequent roadside stops elsewhere in Spain, I learned that the roadside food there is worlds better than what is generally available in similar locations in the US. Next time, I won’t be so surprised.

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