August 29, 2007

Tapas for Papa

This one is for Dad, since he is always asking what we're eating in Spain.

As mentioned in an earlier post, on day two in Barcelona, between the spectacular church Santa Maria del Mar and Palau de la Música, we were hungry! Luckily for us, just around the corner from the church is a place called Taller de Tapas, or Tapa Workshop.

Tapas are small servings of food, usually just enough of whatever you have ordered for a couple of bites for one or two people. Tapas began as covers (the verb, to cover, in Castellano is tapar) for glasses of sherry. Sherry drinkers used a small piece of bread to cover their glass so that flies would not get into their drinks between sips. It is said that bartenders and pub owners began adding a small bit of meat, most likely jamón, to the bread to make it a snack. This grew from being a free snack with your drink to what is in some restaurants today a whole meal.

I am sure that you can tell from the above photograph of our steamed mussels that this particular restaurant serves tapas for a meal; otherwise we would certainly not have so many. Seafood is excellent in southern Spain and this fact held true for the northeastern coast.

One of the great aspects of eating at Taller de Tapas is that the menu is in Castellano, Catalán and English. This fact certainly makes it easier to know what you are ordering. We wanted to be sure that we were full after our meal, so we ordered something we knew we would both enjoy: pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken).

Another of our seafood treats, and my favorite, is the calamari a la plancha (grilled squid). Yes, those are entire squid hoods cooked in olive oil. Mmm. We also ordered patatas bravas, potato wedges with a pepper sauce. They were okey dokey; a little too much like fast-food potatoes to me.

Speaking of fast, our service was just that. This is difficult to find anywhere in Europe, really, as the culture does not demand it. I do not mean that it was fast like home - I imagine that will seem very strange to me if we ever move back there - but it was fast for Spain.

Our meal was accompanied by a Catalán must: pa amb tomàquet (pan con tomate; bread with tomato). This scrumptious item is easy to make. You can have garlic on it or not; that is your choice. You use very ripe summer tomatoes, cut them in half, give them a little squeeze to get the juices going (and to get rid of them - we don't want soggy tomato bread - eww) and then rub your bread with them. When I say bread I of course mean the stiffer European bread, not your American loaf. Next comes a sprinkling of salt and then at the end you drizzle a little olive oil on there. Yummy indeed!

I have also read here that there is a so-called cheating method. Apparently you can make a batch of the stuff by cutting your lot of tomatoes, grating them into a bowl, adding the salt and olive oil and then serving the bowl with the bread. This way people can spread the stuff onto their bread as they want it and nothing gets soggy by sitting around. Of course, it tastes so good that I find it hard to believe that it ever sits long enough to get soggy!

I will mention that we ordered a pitcher of sangría to go with our meal. This is something I do not recommend because the sangría at Taller de Tapas is not exactly...authentic. It was a whole lot like drinking colored and slightly sweetened rum from a glass. Oh yeah, nothing like straight liquor with your tapas.

Next time, we'll stick with cerveza...or better yet, when traveling, agua sin gas for lunch all the way.

Hasta pronto,
~ CC

Where, Oh Where?

Let's see...where have I been?

Nowhere, really. Here, but not blogging.

A monthly wrap-up for your perusal:

We attended a show at the bullring that included a fabulous piano player, singers, band (complete with Kenny G-esque sax player), flamenco dancers and dancing andalucian horses.

I then spent my time finalizing our plans for a visit to Dublin, Ireland and environs. We were there from the tenth until the fourteenth. Mostly it went off without a hitch.

I've been to castellano classes once a week.

The car is in the shop and every time we call we are told "I think it will be finished the car at the end of this week or the beginning of next week." That is what we get for having a car in the shop in Spain in August...when everyone is on vacation.

On the twenty-fourth we attended a team-building (excuse for a party - ha!) extravaganza at a chiringuito here in Sotogrande. What is that, you ask? Why, a chiringuito is a beach bar that serves tasty treats in addition to copious amounts of alcohol. Karen has a post that deftly describes the evening complete with a photograph. Yes, we did eat the fish cooking on stakes on the sand-filled boat fire.

Cooper has had some interesting developments this month as well. For starters, he has a new bed. It is big and floppy and he appears to like it (now that he has accepted that it is the norm). Secondly, the vet who owns the kennel where he stays when we leave town declared him "un perrito bueno" and told me that he is so good with other dogs now. Any of you who know Cooper at all...or have heard our doggy meets doggy tales...know that this is an improvement indeed. We were going to have a doggy play-date with two seventy-pound-plus golden retrievers this past weekend, but it fell through. Good times are guaranteed when that occurs - we'll try to videotape it. Lastly, today he was groomed and although he still was so excited to arrive there that he was a bit loud, today was the first time that when I arrived to pick him up he was calm and collected...and of course he did not want to leave. Go figure.

So. There you have my month more or less. Yes, I did participate in 12 of 12. I have not posted it yet for whatever reason. It will come soon enough, along with more info on most of what I have written about here. All will have photographs, of course. I can't seem to do much posting without the photographs. They are my favorite part.

Hasta pronto,
~ CC