- Photo Essays
“One cannot think well, sleep well, love well if one has not dined well”. Virginia Woolf
So we all know that secretly the only reason we travel is to try all the fabulous food and wine of a country. (It’s okay, your secret is totally safe with me) But, if you haven’t done so already, may I suggest you make your next culinary adventure a tapas crawl in Spain. I guarantee it will not disappoint.
Tapas is by far one of the finest creations ever! Tiny bite sized pieces of heaven, tapas can be enjoyed in moderation as an appetizer, or en masse as a meal in itself. Portion size and style vary depending on which part of Spain you have landed yourself in. A traditional tapas crawl will involve moving from bar to bar and having a drink and couple of tapas between you at each place.
Expect to pay around €1-2 for one tapas and a little more for raciones, a slightly larger portion. In some cities, Leon for example, many bars will offer complimentary tapas with your drink. Even better! You won’t have to wander long before you find a bar offering these delights. In the city of Logrono in the Navarra region there are over 50 tapas bars in one street alone (Calle Laurel), many of which with their own specialty.
© Pulpo a la Gallega
I’m told that for the most exceptional Tapas in Spain you need to head to San Sebastian on the north coast in the heart of Basque country. The tapas you will find in San Sebastian is of a higher calibre and being a coastal city will incorporate more seafood. The Basque word for tapas is Pintxos (pinchos) literally meaning ‘toothpick’ which is what most of the smaller tapas portions are served on. In many of the northern areas of Spain (Navarra, Cantabria, Basque Country) tapas will be advertised as ‘pinchos’. Visit Patre Vieja (the old town) in San Sebastian for some of the best haute cuisine tapas/pinchos bars in the country.
So now that you can barely contain you excitement and are madly packing your bags destined for northern Spain, here are few of my personal favourites and recommendations:
Pulpo a la Gallega: Galicia’s signature dish is octopus cooked in a large cauldron, chopped into large chunks, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and rock salt. (see image above)
Chopitos: Pretty standard but delicious just the same, Chopitos is baby squid battered and fried.
|Empanada. Photo by Archival Clothing|
Empanadas: A simple pastry casing filled with meat (chorizo/pork/chicken) or seafood (tuna/sardines/cod/mussels) in a tasty tomato and garlic sauce.
Patatas Bravas: A very traditional tapas which you will come across in most bars, Patatas Bravas are cubes of fried potatoes drizzled with a hot and spicy tomato-based sauce and sometimes topped with aioli.
Tortilla de Patatas: A classic! And if you can find a bar in Spain without a big slab of tortilla on their counter, well…you’re probably not in Spain any more. Tortilla de Patatas is simply an inch-thick omelet made with egg, onion, oil, salt and fried potatoes.
© Patatas Bravas
Jamon Serrano: Many tapas bars will have a leg of jamon serrano perched on their counter. Similar to prosciutto but slightly stronger this ‘mountain’ ham is usually cured for about a year and served as paper thin slices. It is delicious with cheese and olives and, in particular, manchego cheese (see below)
Manchego: a firm but crumbly sheep’s milk cheese with an intense flavour. True Manchego is made from the milk of sheep raised in the La Mancha region south east of Madrid. Excellent with a glass of Rioja red….more on the Rioja wine region to come!