Cured Spanish ham is edible alchemy developed over the centuries. Whole hams in sacks are found dangling in the front window of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra. The small restaurant in a condo is named after the purebred Iberian pigs with black hooves used to make jamon. Wood racks hold bottles of wine and there is a small counter where one can enjoy a few tapas with a glass of vino. Sit at a table to share a big pan of paella, roast suckling pig with garlic aioli or sea bass in lemon caper sauce.
Spanish chef-owner Felipe Perez is from Avila in Castile-Leon province. He trained as a chef in Madrid and cooked in restaurants and hotels in the Spanish capital before working on cruise ships, where he met his Caribbean-born wife. They landed in Miami in 1975 and Felipe worked at the helm of several Spanish restaurants. A few years ago he opened Jamon, Jamon, Jamon. He recently reopened in the same spot with a new name and menu.
In their habitat, Iberian pigs roam free and gorge on acorns in the dehesa (oak pastures) of several regions, all denomination-controlled. Their salted hindquarters and shoulders are matured in cool caves for several years. The resulting Jamon Iberia bellota is considered the best in the world. The burgundy-colored meat streaked with white fat has a silky texture and slightly sweet, nutty, mineral taste. Try the 5J brand produced in Andalusia, thinly sliced and fanned out on a plate here or with broken eggs (soft scrambled with chunks of fried potato). Shrimp and scallop paella is made with Valencia pearl rice and topped with a thin layer of omelet. Game includes rabbit with chocolate sauce and gin, pheasant with sherry and deer chops with whiskey and figs.
Torta de Orujo brings a slice of airy cake infused with the anise- and herb-flavored digestive liqueur, needed after a feast here.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.