I have a confession to make. When it comes to food, I have commitment issues. I’m defenceless before saucy aromas and exotic tastes. A restaurant menu represents exquisite pain. (It’s that either/or thing.) And, I’m ashamed to say, many an evening ends with me coveting my neighbour’s meal.
For a self-confessed voluptuary, tapas is like an illicit haven. Platters of spicy chorizo, slivers of salty cured jamon, pimento-stuffed olives, garlicky potatoes, the romance of manchego cheese, battered and fried baby squid all served up in company with citrus-infused sangria… So many flavours, so little obligation. Sampling is encouraged. And no one passes judgement when you go for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths – that’s the whole point! Heaven.
Visually enticing and fragrantly spiced, tapas feels like culinary artistry. With so many inviting plates of tastiness, it makes for impressive at-home entertaining. A buffet style set-up encourages conversation and it works equally well for a stand-up winter cocktail party. From straightforward to sophisticated, hearty to rustic, many dishes lend themselves to pre-preparation so you can relax and enjoy your guests’ company.
AND you can cater for all your gluten-free, low-glycaemic, high-protein, vegan, pro-alkaline, lactose-intolerant friends without condemning everyone to a meal of mashed chickpeas. (Ummm…)
The Mediterranean way of life has undeniable romance. Rise late, make a pass by work, indulge in rich foods for lunch, siesta, make a pass at work again and then bar-hop your way through the evening towards a late and lazy dinner. What’s not to love? This kind of relaxed makes for the ultimate dinner party ambience.
Historically, tapas was born in the Andalusian taverns where a slice of bread or a sliver of meat was used to thwart the kamikaze tendencies of fruit flies surfing the intoxicating aromas of sherry. The bread/meat was placed across the top of the glass to prevent those tipsy critters from plunging to a sweet, sweet death. Taverners fired up their patrons’ thirst with these salty morsels and increased their alcohol sales.
Today tapas means much more than a bite-sized tidbits to pique your liquor consumption. From calamari sautéed in red wine, fennel, rosemary and tomato to smoky paprika peppers, patatas bravas and flash fried prawns with chilli, lemon and parsley, the allure of this kind of entertaining is self-evident. And with a host of dinner sets and serving plates designed for entertaining tapas-style, you can create a very personal aesthetic.
Royal Doulton 1815 exploits a sophisticated old-school style pottery technique for chic elegance while Terra, Sante Fe and Pintado offer contemporary Mediterranean style. Or opt for classic rustic terracotta or sleek white serving dishes, paired with organic wood textures with a vintage cheese board to encourage irresistible decadence.
Traditionally chilled dry Fino sherry is paired with tapas in Spain, but any sort of Spanish wine works. Explore robust red wines like Rioja and the longer-aged (and more exxy) Rioja Reservas and Gran Reservas, especially if you’re working with a meat-heavy menu. Spanish reds from the Ribera del Duero and Navarra regions also work a treat.
If your menu errs on the seafood side, brisk, dry whites, particularly those made with the Verdejo grape, will be complimentary. Looking for something a little sweeter? Chardonnay-based wines from the Catalonia region are nothing short of divine.
And, of course, there is always sangria pitchers. Sangria is the perfect antidote for spicy food. There are as many variations of sangria as there are of wine itself, and the more fruit the better!
Now all you need is a little Spanish guitar as the backdrop to the hum of conversation and you’re living la vida loca, as they say.
Hero image source via kidspot.com.au and foodandspice.blogspot.com