Monday, May 3, 2010

Tapas Style

Spain has been on my mind a lot lately. Mainly Barcelona. My boyfriend wants to move there, and a friend of mine was travelling around Europe recently and was there. Their food culture is apparently very advanced. The weather seems great. And what could be better than packing your bags and starting a new life in a new country? Even if only for a year.

So I've been on a bit of a Barcelona bender lately. There was a new tapas place that opened up in downtown called Cafe Barcelona. They do traditional tapas along with a small wine list that features some Canadian and Spanish wines. So my boyfriend and I had to go.

Tapas is a selection of hot or cold appetizers shared among a group of people. Anything goes from battered calamari, to olives, pickled sardines, and even meatballs in tomato sauce. There is a section called pintxos. They are called that because of garnishes that are held together with a toothpick on a slice of bread. We ordered the potato omelette, a generous wedge of perfectly cooked potato just set in a bit of egg that was pan seared then placed on top of a slice of bread. The spicy chorizo was just simply seared and speared onto a slice of bread that has been rubbed with a juicy tomato.

One thing on the menu intrigued me. Croquetas. What was that? It apparently was a battered bechamel sauce with bits of ham in it. The bechamel sauce that I knew was the stuff that was used to make macaroni and cheese. So how can this creamy sauce be deep fried? Well it was. Pretty good too. Quite rich, so one piece was enough for me. It was lightly breaded with a crust just thick enough to hold in the creamy filling and the ham.

Our "dinner" night went good, all washed down with some refreshing Cava and Rioja. There should be more places like Cafe Barcelona in the city. Little bites shared among people. So I did. I invited a group of my friends over to share this new found way of dining. A dinner party, "tapas style" I called it. Everyone brought over something and we had lots of conversation. A few people trickled in as our "dinner" progressed. But that's ok, unlike a sit down dinner, there's no akward, "Shit, sorry I'm late," moment. I made a sparkly Sangria to accompany the food. Its too bad I don't have a patio, but coming this summer, I will gladly bring my Sangria to anyone having a patio party.

Bubbly Sangria

 Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Spain.  It is easily found in well stocked liquor stores.

1 bottle of an inexpensive Spanish red wine (well chilled)
1 small orange
1 lemon
2 handfuls of blueberries
1 handful of fresh strawberries
1/4 cup Brandy (I used Grand Marnier)
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup sugar
1 bottle of Cava (well chilled)

Slice the orange and lemon in half and each half into slices about 1/4" thick. Toss in a big pitcher with the blueberries.

Trim off the tops of the strawberries and slice them and add them to the pitcher as well. Pour in the Brandy and sugar to taste and stir the fruit with a spoon to gently dissolve it.

Pour in the Spanish red wine and chill the whole pitcher of Sangria in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Right before serving, pour in the Cava, gently stir the sangria to combine and serve.

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