Tapas, exquisite flavours to suit every taste
A day spent sampling tapas is an unbeatable way to experience Spanish culture and savour the charms of its bars and taverns. Tapas are an exquisite, varied and choice example of popular gastronomy which allows you to share a variety of dishes and try a wide range of different products. All the tastes of Spain in a single meal, and generally at very reasonable prices.
Forerunners of the long, multi-course menus which are at the vanguard of modern western cuisine, tapas contain a host of products, prepared in any number of styles. This culinary speciality was first enjoyed in the 17th century, and today can include delicacies such as the very finest and juiciest acorn-fed Iberian cured ham, the traditional potato omelette, or exquisite seafood, and even miniature haute cuisine specialities prepared in tiny quantities in the form of tapas.
In every town and city in Spain there are bars and taverns –sometimes even whole neighbourhoods– specialising in tapas. The fare available in these privileged establishments may include chorizo sausage, black pudding, delicacies in escabeche marinade, assorted smoked foods, cheeses, fish in brine, anchovies, croquettes, fried breadcrumbs and a wide range of specialities, at times with over a hundred varieties to choose from.
Another advantage of eating tapas is that they enable you to sample a different selection of local dishes in each region of Spain. These delicious combinations of miniature culinary delights cater to all tastes and budgets.
Typical dishes and avant-garde cuisine
Tapas are also served in a wide variety of presentations. Pinchos (individual portions), banderillas (brochettes), montaditos (canapés), cazuelitas (mini-casseroles) are just a few of the different names given to the various ways of serving tapas, ranging from the most basic –simply served on a cocktail stick– through to the most sophisticated presentations in individual dishes with several garnishes and sauces to give character. This last method is the usual way of offering customers samples of the typical dishes from the different Spanish regions, and is a chance to sample such famous dishes as the Valencian paella, the bean stew known as fabada from Asturias, tripe à la madrileña, and an assortment of delicious fish prepared in a range of different ways.
Even modern cuisine has borrowed from this gastronomic trend, and offers tapas which still conserve their traditional origins, but are reinterpreted with an innovative twist. Sorbet of potato omelette, casserole with goose liver, chickpeas with langoustines, and gazpacho with lobster are just a few examples of the tapas created by great cooks which have subsequently found popularity with a wider public.
To accompany your tapas, the ideal drinks are beer, soft drinks and vermouth, white and red wines, as well as special wines such as cavas, and fino and manzanilla sherries. And in any tavern or bar in Spain, you're always assured of the friendly advice of the waiter to recommend the best way to enjoy the flavour of each tapa to the maximum and to make the most of this gastronomic treat.