Fourteen. That is the number of savory empanadas available at Panas, the recently opened healthy "fast-food" Dupont Circle eatery. I want to try them all. And I will – eventually.
Each crescent shaped empanada is about 3 to 4 bites of a light flaky shell, stuffed with fresh ingredients and served with one of four dipping sauces: salsa verde, a spicy mayo "aji," cilantro and tomato sauce, or roasted red pepper sauce. They are served with addictive "thank goodness they're baked" plantain chips.
I had lunch there recently with two friends. Between the three of us, we ate 10 empanadas, ordering six different types.
Here's my take:
- CubaNovo: Tender flavorful roasted pork with onions, cilantro, lime. One of my favorites.
- Jamón y Queso: Ham, reggiano parmesano, mozzarella cheese, and herbs. This was good, but was a little too reminiscent of the hot pockets I gorged on in the college cafeteria.
- Smoked Eggplant: I love eggplant, but for some reason this empanada didn't make my skirt twirl. It was so-so.
- Tamal: Yes, this empanada, filled with corn, onions, cheese, scallions, and jalapenos, tasted like a tamal and I loved it.
- BrieArt: The brie cheese overpowered the mushrooms and artichokes hearts. If you love brie, you will love this empanada.
- Samba Shrimp: Brazilian style, shrimp cooked with coconut, cilantro, onions, red and green peppers. MY FAVORITE, easily.
The next time I have lunch at Panas, I'm ordering the Popeye (spinach, onions, golden raisins, cream and goat cheese) and the Fiesta Cheese (Swiss, mozzarella and reggiano Parmesan cheeses with caramelized onions.). Oh, and about five more Samba Shrimp empanadas.
AND NOW THE CONTEST....
Introducing the "Duponada," an empanada made by...YOU.
Panas is holding a contest to create a locally sourced empanada. Entrants may submit a recipe or simply a list of no more than four favored ingredients that can be found at the FRESHFARM Market. Panas owner Federico Garcia Lopez will develop empanadas from the suggestions and on Sunday October 3 a panel of judges, including FRESHFARM Market executives along with food writers and bloggers (including me!), will be at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market to select the top three finalists. Those finalist recipes will be on sale at Panas Gourmet Empanadas for one week where customers may vote for their favorite. The winning recipe, to be named the Duponada, will be introduced on Sunday, October 10, and proceeds from the sale will go to the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.
Drop off your recipe at Panas or email order@panasgourmet with the subject line "Duponada." The deadline for entries is September 24th.