Tantalizing Tapas

¡Hola readers!

In my last post oh-so-many weeks ago, I included a rough outline of the places I’d be visiting in Spain and Italy on my summer holiday.  Now I’m back, and my travels most certainly did not disappoint! The Frazzled Chef is also an enthusiastic eater, so I have a funny feeling that much of my reporting on Spain will have to do with what I ate and drank. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Obviously you saw the title of this post. So what the heck are tapas, you ask, and why do I think they’re so tantalizing? Tapas are small portions of food that, when many of them are ordered, make a great lunch, dinner or snack. Apparently the word “tapas” comes from the Spanish verb “tapar“, which means “to cover“. (The language-lover in me guessed that little linguistic tidbit before anyone ever confirmed it for me. Turns out, I was right!) Back in the day, pubs and taverns used to serve their goblets of wine with slices of cured meat on top to keep pesky insects from swimming around in your drink. Thus, the custom of serving these small portions of food with drinks was born. The idea is slightly akin to the Italian Aperitivo, but the two should be in no way confused.

Spain’s capital was where I had my first brush with tapas, and taking a 14-euro Sandeman’s New Europe Tapas Experience tour in Madrid was certainly the way to go. Our guide Erik was young, knowledgeable and engaging. He lead us to some very unique tapas bars, and made many welcome suggestions as to what to eat and drink at each place. My big culinary adventure of the evening? I indulged in a plate of – wait for it!- pig’s ears. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yours truly chowed down on a plate the cartilagious (my amalgamation of cartilage + delicious) Spanish delicacy and has lived to tell about it.

Pig’s Ears and Tomato Sauce – Orejas

And you know, the things were actually kinda good! Below is proof for all you sceptics that I actually did eat them:

Indulging in some pig’s ear tapas in Madrid.

Of course, drinks go hand in hand with tapas, because as we learned before, if it weren’t for drinks that needed protecting, the tapas tradition might not exist.

At the first tapas bar we visited, Erik suggested we all grab glasses of Tinto de Verano Limon. Translation? A refreshing concoction of  red wine and lemon soda goodness. The stuff goes down dangerously easily and quickly became our (my friend Jordan’s and my) go-to Spanish summer drink. At approximately 9-10 euros per litre at the places we ate, it’s also pretty affordable in the grand scheme of things.

Tinto de Verano

What are some other tapas I tried in Spain? Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), Cod Croquettes (fried cod balls), Razor Clams, Patatas Bravas (roasted/fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce), Chorizo (sausage) with oil, and Spanish Omelette (omelette with potatoes), to name a few. I would definitely recommend experimenting with tapas and taking a tapas tour to anyone who is planning to visit Spain. But diners beware! A problem that we often had with eating tapas was judging how many we would actually need to fill our travel-weary stomachs. We’d guess 3 or 4 and budget accordingly, while the reality was that we actually needed up ordering 5 or 6!

As a side note, Jamon Iberico, it seems, is Spain’s national meat. Forget chicken or beef, Jamon is what you’re going to get. The stuff is everywhere, and it’s delicious:

A little ham, anyone?

Don’t forget to check back soon for more posts on my travels to Spain!

The Travel Bug Bites Again

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”                   — Martin Buber.

Martin Buber, although I don’t know who you are, I think you’re one smart guy. I mean, on one of my trips, I ended up in Hell! (Well, that’s what the restaurant was called, anyways.)

Directions to Hell, a German restaurant!

Anyways readers, I’m off again!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be hitting up un sacco (a bunch) of new travel destinations and a couple of familiar ones as well:

Madrid – Toledo – Valencia – Barcelona – Trieste – Siena – Rome.

I’m in for 16 days of tapas, Sangria, trains, beaches, castles, churches, museums, airplanes and a host of other wonderful things – and I can’t wait! This will be my first time to Spain, so pray that my one lonely university course in Spanish pays off! And as for Italy, well… Any of you seasoned readers know that I shouldn’t have any trouble bumbling around in The Boot.

As I won’t be taking my computer with me, please excuse my absence from blogging, Tweeting and updating Facebook over the next little while. I’m not saying that I’ll be totally disconnected, but I won’t be plugged in all the time either. This trip, in addition to being a research mission for my blog (obviously), will also be filled with reunions with friends, too much wonderful food (yes, I know that already), hundreds of snapshots and a pinch of beach time to work on my Mediterranean tan.

I hope you’re all enjoying l’estate (the summer) and that in your own travels you embrace those “secret destinations” that our friend Martin was talking about.

Buone vacanze!