Cooking, Deli, Good Food, Zingerman's Events

Paella Parties at Zingerman’s Deli

Paella (py•ay•a) is arguably Spain’s most well known dish. It’s a satisfying one pot meal of densely flavored rice, but what else gets added in beyond that is up for debate. Like many foods worthy of being passed down through generations, the history can get skewed over time. The original Paella Valencia was believed to be made with rabbit, snails, beans and that signature pinch of precious golden saffron. Kind of like pizza in a way, paella additions can be specific to the region or the season, and have evolved to the point nearly anything goes and everyone has their own version.


Zingerman’s Delicatessen will offer three versions: shrimp and mussels, chicken and chorizo, and vegetarian. The vegetables selected are whatever is in season at the market, but often includes green beans, carrots, yellow squash and lots of fresh herbs. Hungry yet? First, there’s more to the story. 

It’s important to know these colorful pans of this tasty dish only appear at the deli a few days each year. So, you might want to mark your food calendar. You have one of those, don’t you? September 2019 brings the 34th annual Paella Party at Zingerman’s Deli, also known as the Fiesta de Espana. It started back in 1985, just a few years after the gourmet food retailer opened its doors. Other than adding more dates to meet demand, nothing has changed about this high energy experience on the deli’s patio in more than three decades. That means it’s gotta be worth a visit.

So what makes a good paella? According to Deli cooks it’s all about the pan and the rice. First, they choose a quality broad and shallow pan made specifically for cooking paella. Next, they opt for Calasparra rice, a spanish medium grain also known as Bomba or Valencia rice. It’s a very absorbent variety that will soak up large amounts of the saffron broth during cooking, another key to paella success. The rice is available for sale at the Deli grocery and

paella bomba rice

On paella party weekends at the Deli, cooks start at 7 am preparing the ingredients and firing up the outdoor grills with mesquite charcoal. They get pretty skilled at the technique when making as many as nine pans of paella at a time, and anywhere from 30 to 50 pans of paella each weekend. You’re invited to watch the action at a live cooking demonstration on the Deli patio at noon on paella party days.

Zingerman's Deli paella contest

You can also win a chance to be paella cook for a day. The lucky winner will take their place at the grill alongside Deli chef and managing partner Rodger Bowser and learn to make their own custom paella creation on September 22nd. Stay tuned to the Deli’s Facebook and Instagram for announcements on how to enter. share your paella disaster story for a chance to win a spot at the grill learning alongside the experts, along with a paella kit.


Deli chef and managing partner Rodger Bowser has been cooking paella for more than twenty years. So, what does he look forward to most about the annual Paella Party? 

“I love working with staff outside over the grill teaching them the techniques, meeting the guests who stop by for a plate, and eventually sitting down to eat a pan with my wife. Even after cooking it all day, I still like eating it.”

Are you ready to party? We recommend you save the date to get your plate. Paella Parties are happening at Zingerman’s Delicatessen on September 8th, 15th and 22nd. Stop by and buy a plate hot off the grill. You can RSVP here. Or you can have your own party at home! Order a whole pan to take home, either already cooked or a kit to cook your own (expert instructions and proper pan included).

Zingerman's Deli paella kit

While you’re at the Deli don’t miss the other specials including Valencian horchata, a chilled spiced drink made with tiger nuts and Spanish desserts from Zingerman’s Bakehouse. There’s the Torta di Santiago, a little toasted almond cake and chocolate Miguelitos, a puff pastry and chocolate cinnamon cream sandwich, both are event exclusives.

spanish desserts

Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this fun with food Ann Arbor tradition! See you on the patio!

Zingerman's Deli Paella Party