Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let's Talk Tapas

We have been in Spain for a couple of weeks now, and I must tell you, I am in love with the whole tapas deal.  Scrumptious little bites, delicious recipes (some of which have been handed down for generations), easy on the wallet, and served up with a healthy portion of social interaction.  We have a pretty hoppin' tapas bar just outside of our hotel here in Seville, and it is overflowing every time of day ~ late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, late evening, and late-late-late night.  I absolutely love it, it reminds me of a gigantic dinner party ~ that just goes on & on.

The Spanish people are very social.  Many times they are not hanging out because they are hungry, they are just hanging out to be with people they enjoy.  They linger.  They laugh.  They savor.  They sip a little.  And they laugh and talk some more.  Then they order another little something to share.  It is a very interactive setting.  Then about the time they are thinking about making a departure, another couple shows up and it's "Hola!" and the double kiss on the cheeks, and it starts all over again.

So I read that the term "tapas" actually means "small plate", and it comes from the time when bar-keepers would give you a little plate to set on top of your drink to keep the bugs out.  Then, as competition would warrant, they started to put a little bite of something on the plate, hoping to entice you to return to their establishment as opposed to the guy two doors down, and they did not charge for the food, just for the drinks.

That is no longer the practice, but the true tapas bars are serving 
very inexpensive plates today, usually between 2 and 4 euro each.

And tapas bars have evolved, most are not "bars" as we would think of a bar or tavern back home, but are instead just small (very small) restaurants with a local owner who makes his living by serving up Grandma's rabbit stew (I actually saw this on a menu somewhere!)  and a Spanish omelet (which is mostly potatoes, not mostly eggs).  They are Cafe's and Bistro's and small restaurants, for the most part.  But lest I discourage those of you who are party-ers ~ don't despair ~ there are still tapas bars that are actual bars, who's specialty is alcohol, not the food that accompanies the alcohol. 

I am impressed with the concept from a financial standpoint, too.  Each tapas bar is known for one or two of his best dishes, although they serve something like 10.  (The bigger, more commercialized restaurants can have 3 times that number on their menu.)  These are all made ahead and waiting for you to order, so it's just a matter of dipping into the pot for a serving of the veal stew or slicing off a portion of the pork loin in whiskey sauce (one of my fav's so far!).  Food costs are kept to a minimum, service time is also at a minimum ~ everybody wins!

Here's what a few of favorite our tapas meals have looked like
 ~ in Barcelona ~

Catalan Tomato Bread (See recipe on this blog site under "recipes")

Vegetable Risotto

Grilled baby squid

~And in Cordoba ~

They usually serve bread here ~ which is handy 
for sopping up all the gravy goodness
that is inherent in some of these tapas dishes

Like this one ~ Rabo de Toro ~ Tail of the bull.  
Yup.  It's a new checkmark for me.
Same concept as oxtail stew in Italy.  Equally delicious.

These mushroom croquettes were delicious, too.

And finally, a regional specialty that is potatoes with green peppers, chorizo,and cured ham with a fried egg on top.

~And here in Seville~

Lunch was pork meatballs in a delicious sauce, calamari in tomatoes, and pork cheek in gravy. Yup, that's another new check mark for me.  It's actually pork cheek (I checked!)  Sometimes it's great "peasant food" or "farm cooking", usually served in little clay dishes to keep them warm.

And sometimes, it's very fine dining, each dish is exquisite and unique and quite special, as was this dish ~ scallops over cauliflower puree'.  
We want to go back to have this again!

But, as I stated in the beginning of this post ~ here's what we love most about the tapas deal.  It's the little restaurants spilling into the little cobbled streets, it's the neighbors meeting up for a bite and a drink together, it's the couples hanging out with friends until the wee hours.  We love the social aspect of these little tapas places!

And sometimes it's blocks and blocks of tapa bars ~ everyone enjoying the evening and the food and each other's company.  For those of you who used to attend my dinner parties ~ Spain has made me miss them and all of you!

1 comment:

  1. Such a great variety! All of them look pretty good! Wonder where they get all those tails of the bull. Hmmm... The scallop one looks right up J's liking! I love your photos of the outdoor cafes'! I would love those! Tapas seem to be such a great way to try so many fun things to eat there. Leaving room of course to sample those wonderful desserts!


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