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!