Having recently returned from southern Spain where we enjoyed an other-wordly gastronomic experience, it was a treat back home to be able to dine at the nearby authentic Spanish restaurant, Vida & Comida (literal translation is Life and Food). Not long ago, our friends Paula and Mike Graham enjoyed a fantastic meal there and knew it would be right up our alley.
Chef/owner Manuel J. grew up on a big farm in Spain. He moved with his brother to Switzerland where they both attended culinary school and eventually became executive chefs; Manuel then moved to America in 1979. He opened Vida & Comida in the center of Ambler in the Spring of 2017, and recently announced a new executive chef, Chef Abde Dahrouch, above right. Both chefs integrated their expertise to create a menu that is modern, yet accented with classical style.
But before dining at V&C, we got the party started at the Graham’s lovely home. Russ just couldn’t fathom making anything other than an authentic Spanish appetizer—and it had to be transportable for the 20+ minute car ride. Therefore he made these super-simple, but none-the-less super-tasty Manchego Cheese Canapés with Olives and Piquillo Peppers (shown above with recipe at this link.) And Paula made a beautifully arranged platter of cheeses, olives, peppers and mini toasts.
Lucky for us Vida & Comida is a BYOB, and we just happened to have brought back a Viña Albali Gran Reserva—a red wine from Valdepeñas with the best tempranillo grapes of 2011—from our trip to the mother country. A tasteful segue to begin the meal.
V&C’s carefully planned menu contains 10 mouth-watering appetizers, a couple of soups, 4 salads, 7 seafood options, and 6 meat entrées that include chicken, beef, pork, lamb and veal; not to mention nightly specials. Surprisingly, they also offer a traditional seafood Paella to-go; which is, by far, their most popular, and most talked about, dish.
Not only did we have the same mindset when making our appetizers, both couples actually ordered the very same thing from our starters, to the entrées, and even dessert!
Gambas al Ajillo—Famous Spanish, tapas style wild, Gulf shrimp sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Russ has made this fantastic appetizer on occasion for company at home, on a much bigger scale of course. It is a hit every time, and you want to make sure to include crusty bread to mop up the leftover garlicky olive oil.
Corvina—Seared corvina with jumbo crab, corn ragout, grilled asparagus, and truffle oil. Paula and I were on the same page when it came to choosing this entrée. The perfectly cooked piece of fish came floating in a luscious pool of lump crab meat and sweet corn with just the right amount of truffle oil to pull it all together. The topping of grilled asparagus stalks added a nice pop of color and a pleasant toothy texture. Simply mahvelous dahling!
Interesting Tidbit: Corvina, a firm white fish similar to sea bass, is a general name for a bevy of fish found in many different parts of the world. They belong to the scaienidae family, which is better known as “drums or croakers.” Drum fish and croaker fish are differentiated by whether they produce a drumming sound or a croaking sound when they pop their heads above the water.
The men both went for the Medallones de Ternera Salteados con Jamón Serrano, Salvia y Vino Blanco, a riff on the Italian dish Veal Saltimboca. Three large sautéed veal medallions are suffused in a velvety white wine sauce with Serrano ham, sage and a medley of crisp-tender veggies, then topped with a bit of microgreens. Did they love it? You betcha!
Even though I’m not a dessert person, it didn’t stop the other three from indulging in some authentic Flan artfully plated in a large swath of melting caramel and topped with real whipped cream, fresh blueberries and a raspberry drizzle. Now totally satiated, not one of us had any leftovers this time around!
What a pleasant way to spend an evening which reminded us of our recent trip to Spain.