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People don’t get it! We are a wine nation. Actually I believe we are THE wine nation. Yes we have great beers. Worldwide famous and ubiquous “San Miguel” or increasingly trendy Barcelona beer icon “Estrella” to name a few. But its beer!
Can you imagine two brits coming to spain and ordering (nevermind an eventually perfect accent) “dos platos de pescado empanado frito y patatas fritas con vinagre” (which would be “fish’n’chips’n’vinegar”)? Or two Germans ordering “codillo de cerdo al horno con albondigas gigantes de patata y miga de pan y zucrut” (that would be “Schweinshaxe mit Knoedel und Sauerkraut”. Sorry for the last one, there is no true translation for “Sauerkraut”).
I guess you get my point. There is a famous saying that reads: “in Rome do as the Romans and in Spain drink wine” (few people know this second part of it…)
So today we go for a simple Spanish lesson. Erease the beer from your hard disk and repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor” (notice I made it quite easy through replacement).
How much do you have to know about wine or Spanish wine before drinking it? Nothing! Wine knowledge is anyways overrated. People talk too much about it and drink too little.
Once again, repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor”. See? already much better.
Come to Spain and practice. If you can’t right now, have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and practice with friends.
O “Que aproveche”. Music to my ears! It is Spanish for “enjoy your meal”, or “bon appetit”, which has turned out to be the almost universal expresion.
When we don’t laugh or sing in Spain, it is often for one reason: our mouth is full. Which take us to
Reason Nr 3 for loving Spain: FOOD
A couple of our dishes have definetly made the round. “Paella” is probably the most famous one. No, it is not our national dish. As you probably know by now, Spain is a country full of nuances and differences. There is not one Spain, there are infinite Spains with lots in common.
But back to the kitchen. We have “Cocido Madrileño” in Madrid: heavy but delicious. “Fideua” in Cataluña: similar to paella, but with noodles and of course alioli. “Gazpacho” in Sevilla: a refreshing and actually quite light cold vegetable soup. “Rabas” in north Spain: one of the tastiest ways to prepare octopus.
We might have exported less dishes than the Italians (they managed to steal pasta from China and pizza from north Africa, but no one beats them at selling that stuff).
We might have less sophisticated dishes than the French (or at least less sophisticated sounding, since I believe one of the keys of success is to make a fish soup and call it “Vichisoise” or similar).
But Spain is the only country I can think of that has succesfully exported an eating philosphy: Tapas. You can read about it in an earlier post. Before you do so, I suggest you treat yourself to a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and enjoy the reading.
The other day I promised to get back to our beloved “tapas” experience. As you have learned, Tapas were tasty small bites you got for free to accompany your drink.
Unfortunately we have lost the authentic tradition of Tapas in many places. Restaurants in most cities have moved on to charge you for Tapas.
How come? Probably one day tourists started showing up and asking at the end how much it was for the bite. Or eventually pushed the Tapa back saying “I have not ordered that and I am not going to pay for it”. After a while of such visitors, owners certainly realized, that they could charge money for it. And they started doing so.
Good news: it is not everywhere like this. My favourite city in Spain for Tapas is Granada. I said it… They still keep up the tradition there.
A truly authentic and worthwhile experience: go “de tapeo” in Granada. Enter a bar, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa. Notice: if you order a second drink, you will get a second, but different tapa. Go to the next place, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa… That is to have a real “tapas” dinner. It usually takes many hours of walking, meeting people, trying new things and -of course – enjoying food, wine and talking.
A great place where you get some of the best Tapas in Granada is in the “barrio de la Chana” (the Chana quarter). Tons of bars with authentic Spanish people. Tasty! My overall favourite Tapas bar is somewhere else, close to the univeristy area. It is called “la Papa”. All tapas are made out of potatos. Simple, tasty and very creative.
At this stage I would like to invite everyone to PLEASE submit your favourite cities for Tapas and your favourite Tapas bars.
And don’t forget to enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.
Tapas are becoming more and more popular. I am amazed, happy and proud when I see more and more tapas bars popping up all over the world. In most cases they are actually quite good.
What very few people know, is where the name and the tradition come from.
First you need to know, that the word “tapa” means “lid” in Spanish.
Then, you need to grasp a bit of our culture: Spaniards love to talk, discuss, joke and sing together. We love also to go out. A perfect evening has often been to leave home and go “de tapeo”. Could be translated in “go tapa-ing”.
This has always been like this, also in times where higenic laws were more easy going, and bars -specially in the summer- were full of flies. We don’t drink quick. Steadily and during hours, but not quickly. To avoid flies getting into your glass of vino tinto (red wine), you got your glass served with a lid. That lid was a sliece of bread or a tiny plate with something on top. It could be a slice of jamon serrano (the best ham in the world, which deserves an own post), cheese or any other tasty something.
And as you might have guessed, this bite literally served as “lid”, which in spanish is “tapa”. That’s all the mistery.
Some things have changed with the time: bars are clean, have few/no flies etc. We still love to talk and drink and eat at the same time. And we love the tradition of offering a tasty bite.
Unfortunately you get charged for your tapas in more and more places every time. But not everywhere! I will soon get back to you with more about this though
Till then: enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.
There is a species in danger of extinction. Authentic Spanish bars. They are dying out leaving room for the two big phenomenae in Spains gastronomy: restaurant chains and design bars. They are difficult to tell appart, but they are both missing one little -heck no!- BIG characteristic: they are not authentic.
Nothing against them: they are clean, they are professional… But I guess that is my point: those are characteristics that are key for a hospital. But a bar?
Good news is: there are still many out there. How to recognize them? Simple and surprising: the floor is dirty and it is very loud. Menus are handwritten and still always wrong. “We run out of that, but we got excellent pulpo a la gallega” they might tell you. No-one will speak english, but dont worry, it will be to loud to notice anyways.
Am I recommending you to go to restaurants with dirty floors? Yes I am, but only if they are packed. My reco: if you see a restaurant full of people and the floor is dirty: they serve good and authentic food. Note: if its empty and dirty, the owner is just a lazy bastard. We got some of that too.
Look out for them: a species in danger that we might tell our kids about one day. Enjoy your tapas and don’t worry about throwing anything on the floor when finished: it will increase their revenues.
Today we talk about the meat. Let’s put some flesh to the bones of our little global culinary village.
I want to bring you a bit closer the king of all kings and non plus ultra of delicatessen. Yes: we are talking about Spanish ham. The one and only Jamon Iberico.
I like to think: It is not the pork, its what you make of it. Means: Of course all countries have their way of honoring the beatiful combination of hunger, talent, creativity and pork meat. But you can not beat Jamon Iberico (excusi cari amici Italiani).
Let’s revise briefly:
GERMANY: the most efficient. True. Kuddos to them: No other country in the world has more different variety of sausages and ways to prepare pork meat. They got it fully engeneered… Deserves recognition, sure. But non of their multiple creations can beat Jamon Iberico…
FRANCE: The most glamorous. Of course. Ces’t clair. Le France ces’t le France. Le grande nation. Sauchichonne, jambon, saucisse, boudin… Bonne. Sorry… You can not beat Jamon Iberico.
ENGLAND: you all knew this was going to be a short one…
ITALY: the best salesman. This is the toughest one. “Why Italians are better at selling” deserves an own post. Let me know if you are interested and I will do my best. But now in a nutshell: their parma ham is not bad. Sure: salchiche picante con pomodoro e pasta… Not bad. Mortadella… It all tastes great. And they know how to cut it, celebrate it, pack it (and -for God sake- how to price it. BUT: if you catch them in an honest moment they will recognize pressing between hard bitten teeth… “You-e can-e not-e beat-e Jamon-e Iberico”. (By the way: if you care and ask, I will be happy to explain-e why-e Italians-e hav-e to speak-e with-e an “-e” at the end of each word…e)
This one deserves an own post.
Easy. Think about it, enjoy global pork creations and come back soon. Or drop a question! You might get an answer mañana… While you wait, enjoy a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet Tempranillo or your favourite Spanish wine.