For the past few years, various ethnic groups in Europe have been taking the center stage, both on the political and cultural scenes. According to renowned author of European travel guides Rick Steves, the Catalans are one such group and their home of Catalunya (also spelled as Catalonia) in Barcelona, Spain is currently one of the most exciting places to be right now. This description is especially true when it comes to the food, specifically tapas:
“In Barcelona, as in many places, vermouth bars are all the rage these days. And as this photo shows, a refreshing glass of vermouth is complemented by a plate of local taste treats. Especially in Spain, this “tapas” style of eating and drinking makes for fun meals.”
Outside of Spain, a glass of vermouth wine on one side and a plate of tapas on the other would be seen as exotic and unique. However, those who frequent restaurants and bars that serve the best tapas in Barcelona would say that such servings aren’t anything out of the ordinary. To spice things up a bit, these establishments instead introduce new mixes and twists to Catalunya’s tapas recipes. For example, Ziryab Fusion Wine and Tapas Bar offers “Tapas-Mezze” which combines Spain’s most renowned finger food with Arabian mezze or small foods eaten with dips like hummus and muhammara. According to Steves, Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter is a great place for a crash course in enjoying tapas.
First-timers may want to bring a tour guide or a local friend along with them, however, since ordering tapas en Barcelona is a rather different experience. For starters, tapas come in various flavors and styles, depending on the region where they come from. Catalunya takes pride in its pan con tomate: white bread that is seasoned with tomato, salt, and oil. While it is possible to eat pan con tomate as is, the dish is best served in conjunction with other tapas like patatas bravas. Aside from that, it’s typical for tapas to be eaten in crowded bars and counters whilst standing up. Based on experience, Steves also says that the best time to eat tapas is at about 9 PM, the unofficial start of nightlife in Barcelona.
Foreigners who may have eaten tapas before in some restaurant or bar in their home country shouldn’t miss out on real, authentic Spanish cuisine. If it’s exotic food and vibrant culture that they want, tourists should heed Steves’ advice and fly to Catalunya as soon as possible.
(Source: Back in Barcelona, Where There’s Always Something New, Huffington Post, April 30, 2014)