If you’ve been noticing the smiles on the faces of snowbirds and Florida residents while outdoors, it’s probably the palate’s afterglow of saffron, the legendary spice that is featured in the paella dishes of Fire & Rice.
Saffron is one of the key ingredients to the delicious and uniquely creative paella dishes from Fire & Rice, now available at three outdoor market locations and at catered parties and events throughout the Naples and Southwest Florida area.
What makes saffron so special? In addition to its aromatic and mouthwatering flavor, this key ingredient gives their paella dishes their iconic ruby color.
WHERE DOES THE SPICE SAFFRON COME FROM?
Saffron originates from a flower called crocus sativus — commonly known as the "saffron crocus". Legend has it that saffron originated and was first cultivated in Greece, but today the spice is primarily grown in Iran, Afghanistan, Spain, Greece, Morocco and India. As production of saffron is minimal in the United States today, most saffron found and used here is imported.
WHAT DOES THE SPICE SAFFRON TASTE LIKE?
Raw saffron threads are slightly bitter in taste but when combined as an ingredient it offers a luxurious taste which is virtually inexplicable. And the amusing thing is, as difficult as it may be to describe the taste, it is instantly recognizable in Fire & Rice paella creations.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR ME TO USE SAFFRON?
At Fire & Rice we “bloom” our saffron in stock pot with our stock. This will allow the saffron to “bloom” and allow us to extract all of wonderful flavour and aroma from all of the saffron threads. To “bloom” your saffron add your saffron to stock pot, add your stock and bring it to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer you can remove the stock pot and your saffron infused broth is ready to use.
Here is another method if you are going to make a saffron liquid for desserts or a saffron tea. Grind two teaspoons of saffron’s crimson threads, along with a sugar cube or a pinch of coarse salt, to a powder with a mortar and pestle or a spice mill. This will bring out the most flavor and color. Next, add ¼ cup of warm water to the mixture; let cool. Once cooled, it is ready to add to baked goods or desserts like saffron-rose water brittle.
HOW MUCH SAFFRON DOES FIRE & RICE USE IN ITS PAELLA DISHES?
According to Fire & Rice founder and head chef Paul Schmidgall, Fire & Rice uses a huge amount of saffron each year.
Just to give you an example, Paul goes through 10 kilos of saffron annually at a value of $3,500 per kilo. That equates to almost $35,000 in saffron alone.
3 grams of saffron
So, in layman’s terms, exactly how much is that?
To put his use of saffron in perspective, global spice manufacturer McCormick Spice Company’s annual saffron import to Canada is usually around 50 kilos per year; whereas, Fire & Rice imported 10 kilos to support their locations in Naples, FL; Lansing & Ann Arbor, MI; Twin Cities, MN; and in Hilton Head, SC.
Paul smiles broadly as he shares that this highly valued and treasured saffron spice has been cherished for generations.
WHAT ELSE IS A KEY INGREDIENT IN THE PAELLA THAT FIRE & RICE CREATES?
In addition to these large amounts of saffron, Paul uses a great deal of chicken stock to create his award-winning paella. During a normal year, he uses 20 pallets, which equals 3,000 boxes of chicken stock, valued at $30,000.
He purchases all of his chicken stock through Costco, as do many of the other Fire & Rice franchise locations such as our Lansing and Ann Arbor, Michigan along with our South Carolina Low Country location.
Paul’s dependability on Costco for his chicken stock supply is key as he has been a frequent purchaser for more than five years.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF FIRE & RICE?
Paul started Fire & Rice in 2011 in Naples, Florida. His culinary training began while he apprenticed in a commercial kitchen in Germany when he was serving in the Air Force. He later attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he earned his degree in Culinary Arts and Food Marketing.
In a world where cooking and chefs are ever present on streaming television shows, Paul’s cooking gods remain Alain Ducasse, Thierry Rautureau, Carrie Nahabedian and David Chang.
WHERE CAN I ENJOY FIRE & RICE PAELLA AND DISCOVER THE UNIQUE TASTE OF SAFFRON FOR MYSELF?
You can discover and enjoy Paul’s culinary creativity at select farmers markets throughout the Naples area and Southwest Florida and especially at catered parties.
You are invited to discover the delectable joys of saffron for yourself and enjoy our original paella at these local Farmer’s Market locations: Our Vanderbilt location opens at Saturdays at 8:00 am and closes at 1:00 pm. It is located at the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Vanderbilt Beach Road, across from Naples Family Fitness, in the middle of the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt. The Marco Island Market is held Wednesdays from 7:30 am until 1:00 pm at Mackel Park. Our Third Street Market location opens a tad earlier Saturdays at 7:30 am and closes at 11:30 am Downton Naples on Third Street in front of Tommy Bahamas.
You can also experience Fire & Rice, the original paella by booking your paella party today!
The past two years have been tough, for a host of reasons.
But as we get older, we realize more and more how important it is to enjoy ourselves and reconnect with people we love. With reports about COVID and Omicron still present in the news, it is important to get take precautions, but it is just as important to enjoy your life.
A great way to do that is by hosting a driveway party catered by Fire & Rice!
Fire & Rice catered driveways parties harken back to the good old days of going to drive-ins, where fresh air was the foundation for entertainment and enjoyment.
Remember those drive in days?
With a Fire & Rice paella driveway party, you can host your family, friends and neighbors outside you home while chef Paul Schmidgall and his staff sizzle up some great eats for all to enjoy.
It’s so easy to host a Fire & Rice driveway paella party. And it’s a great way to say “Welcome Back” to your friends who are returning to escape winter’s chill in the north.
Your guests can gather around the large shallow pans used for paella and smell the tantalizing, mouthwatering whiffs of seasoning in the air and then enjoy an outdoor feast with a selection of tapas, as well as a paella main course.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR FIRE & RICE DRIVEWAY PAELLA PARTY TO FIT YOUR TASTE
Our famous classic paella incorporates chicken, handmade sausage, fresh veggies, imported saffron and Bomba rice.
In addition, Fire & Rice offers several multiple varieties in our menu to include seafood like white fish, clams and jumbo shrimp. And for your vegan guests, scrumptious vegetarian options are also available.
HOST THE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR PARTY THEY’LL TALK ABOUT FOR YEARS
Your guests will enjoy the time of their lives at your great outdoors paella party. With award-winning paella catering as the edible star of the event, as soon as your guests arrive, they’ll know they’re in for a treat as they watch our chefs enthusiastically preparing amazing eats outdoors in front for everyone to see.
As is our tradition, our chefs combine authentic paella ingredients in large shallow pans during the preparation process and gentle aromas fill the air, tempting the senses.
And that’s when the magic happens as your outdoor guests gather around the pans, and we entertain them with the paella preparation.
For a glimpse of what to expect, watch this.
BOOK YOUR OUTDOOR DRIVEWAY PAELLA PARTY RIGHT HERE – RIGHT NOW
Just click here and let’s REALLY get the party started.
If you happened to watch NFL football this past Sunday, you saw snow – lots of it. And I don’t mean the TV static interference that happens on occasion. For example, thousands of Buffalo Bills fans weathered through non-stop falling frosty flakes from kickoff well into the evening hours.
As I write this, the temperature there is 17º F at 11:50 in the morning on January 3, 2022, the day after the Bills beat the Atlanta Falcons 29-15.
But if you’re not a football fan, and if you’re not a winter weather fan, you have better things on your mind now that you’ve landed in Florida for the winter.
Lucky, lucky you.
Once you’ve wiped that smile off your face, grab a pen or pencil and get your snowbird vacation home ready for some fulfilled, easy no-snow-zone living.
Here’s the Fire & Rice Welcome to Florida Snowbirds checklist.
FIRE & RICE WELCOMES SNOWBIRDS TO FLORIDA FOR THE WINTER
√ Now that you have arrived in the Sunshine State, if you drove here from the north, head to the nearest car wash and get rid of the road salt and winter gunk that is most likely all over your vehicle.
√ Once you’re at your snowbird house or home for the season, open up your screened windows and doors and let the fresh air welcome you naturally.
√ As the fresh air is circulating, grab your vacuum cleaner and Swiffer dust mops and kiss those dust bunnies goodbye. Your vacation space deserves to be as free of dust and dust mites as it does of snow.
√ Now it’s time to get back in the car and head to your nearest supermarket. Be sure to stock up on the essentials so you don’t have to be schlepping all over the place. One and done, that’s the snowbird survival motto.
√ On the way home, be sure to stop at your nearby farmers market to stock up on those fruits and vegetables that were most likely picked that very morning. You’re sure to find avocado, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collards, grapefruit, lettuce/greens, kale, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes.
√ And remember to add some color to your vacation home while at the farmers market and grab a bouquet or two of fresh flowers to set a calming and beautiful mood for yourself and visitors to come. Birds of Paradise easily say “Welcome back to Florida” with their fiery orange mane.
√ While visiting the Vanderbilt Market, Marco Island and/or Third Street Market, be sure to stop by and see us at the Fire & Rice tent and food truck. Our Vanderbilt location opens at Saturdays at 8:00 am and closes at 1:00 pm. It is located at the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Vanderbilt Beach Road, across from Naples Family Fitness, in the middle of the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt. The Marco Island Market is held Wednesdays from 7:30 am until 1:00 pm at Mackel Park. Our Third Street Market location opens a tad earlier Saturdays at 7:30 am and closes at 11:30 am in the Neapolitan parking lot between Third Street South and Gordon Drive.
PAELLA PARTIES ARE THE BOMB DIGGETY SO BOOK YOURS NOW
In addition to visiting us when you’re out and about in Naples and Fort Myers, be sure to contact us to book your next Fire & Rice paella party. Both of our Florida locations will bring the best paella to guests in Naples and Southwest Florida. As an alternative to your typical catered affair, Fire & rice creates magnificent, aromatic, authentic paella on site with only the finest ingredients. Many of our clients have traveled all over the world and rave about our very own paella, saying it’s the best they’ve ever tasted!
For a look at our catering menu, click here. Our Fire & Rice Mixta Paella features sizzling chicken, sausage, saffron, Calasparra rice, roasted peppers, white fish, clams, mussels, jumbo shrimp, peas and is finished sublimely with fresh lemon.
Our world famous Fire & Rice Paella Valenciana pleases the most discriminating foodies with our blend of Calasparra rice, vegetables, chicken, handmade sausage and seasonings.
And for seafood lovers, be sure to try our Fire & Rice Paella de Marisco. It’s our classic seafood paella where we replace the meat with an assortment of white fish, clams, mussels and jumbo shrimp. A total YUM!
Should you be hosting a cocktail party where lighter fare is desired, we can be your go-to solution, too. Our Tapas menu features selections like Roasted Dates with Pineapple and Bacon, Tortilla Española and Jamon Serrano.
HERE’S HOW TO FIND FIRE & RICE IN FLORIDA
Our local telephone number is 239-269-8857. To connect with us online while you’re here, click here and complete the event form and book your Fire & Rice paella party. You and your guests will be incredibly happy that you did.
Feliz Año Nuevo and welcome back to Florida!