Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spanish Tapas

In about 2005, I hosted a big tapas party for my friends in my Capitol Hill apartment in Washington, D.C. At the time, my understanding of tapas was largely as small, sauce-based dishes which presented meats, fish, and vegetables with unique flavor combinations. Over the course of the dinner-party, I proudly whipped up about 12 different individual dishes, from garlic shrimp to meat brochettes. At the end of it, however, I was exhausted, and had too much sangria over a hot stove when I was only taking small tastes of my creations!!

On a recent trip to Spain, however, I discovered a new variant of tapas - those that are more simple and easily put together. My friend Karen and I visited a few tapas places, our favorites being the well-known Quimet & Quimet and the largely unknown Bar Ramon, which we stumbled upon when the restaurant we wanted to visit for dinner was closed until later. All of these tapas were whipped together right in front of us, and were not about the sauce, but about the substance. Delicious!

Here's my friend's blog with description and pictures of Quimet & Quimet:

Here's a few favorites of mine:

Goat Cheese Platter
Goat Cheese Platter at Set de Gothic
This platter at Set de Gothic in the Barre Gothic in Barcelona was served warm and included a circular arrangement of different delicacies which blended together perfectly. The platter was put together like rings around a planet with each item pre-prepared, and baked with the large piece of goat cheese in the center topped with an olive, then surrounded by a ring of caramelized onions. The next ring is soft roasted eggplant, followed by a ring of roasted red peppers. Serve with bread!
acorn-fed Iberico ham at Set de Gothic

Bar Ramon tapas counter
Bar Ramon tapas counter

Bar Ramon mushroom with prosciutto and cheese
  On the left is one of my favorite tapas - simple, and delicious - it is a large mushroom, stuffed with fresh soft cheese, like a chevre, and then topped with bits of prosciutto. When we asked for one, he simply microwaved it to melt the cheese a bit, and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. Delicious! At the far right, eggplant stuffed with ground beef and cheese.

Meat Stall from Barcelona Market off La Rambla
Meat Stall from Barcelona Market off La Rambla

 Quimet & Quimet was really the mother of tapas. Recommended by my friend Karen's friend (and by guidebooks as well apparently), this was absolutely worth it! We had an awkward entry to the packed room, but eventually we got a spot right along the window where they make everything and we could just point and order whatever we saw that looked good! Karen and I agreed that the best one had a bit of round toast, a dollop of creme fraiche, a large mussel marinated in the most amazing oil I have ever tasted, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar and parsley flakes. I wish I had bought the tin to bring some home, and ever since I keep scouring gourmet market shelves hoping to stumble upon them.

Shrimp Tapas from
Quimet & Quimet 
Shrimp Tapas from
Quimet & Quimet
This shrimp tapas was almost as good as the mussel one - again on the little toast, but this one topped with roasted red pepper, a large shrimp, a dollop of creme fraiche, a spoonful of black caviar, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Incredible. And, even though there is a fork in the picture, this is a hands-only dish.

Clam and Cheese Tapas from Quimet & Quimet

Cheese Platter at Quimet and Quimet, with one of the servers making more tapas in the background!

Cheese and Meat Platters from Quimet & Quimet.
Delicious, but next time I'd skip these to get more of the little tapas

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