Tantalizing Tapas: A Barcelona Guide

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a sampling or two of tapas, one of the more popular gastronomic activities in Spain. What we know as snacks, canapes, appetizers or small plates, Spanish tapas can range from a variety of toppings and mixtures from crispy deep fried seafood and meat-filled pastries to a simple bowl of olives and nuts. The term tapas actually means “lid” and originated from the practicality of placing a piece of bread over a small plate to keep the flies at bay. Lore also has it that tapas were born in the thirteenth century when Castilian King Alfonso X had to eat small snacks with his wine between meals to keep up his strength.

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Typical Barcelona tapas might include chipirones (deep fried baby squids), croquetas (deep fried ham, fish or chicken topped with béchamel sauce), revuelto (scrambled eggs with an array of fillings), patatas bravas  (think Spanish French fries) and bacalao (breaded or fried salt cod). Jamón iberico (cured ham), solomillo al Whisky (pork tenderloin marinated in a tasty whisky and garlic sauce) and an accompaniment of pan con tomate (tomatoes with oil and salt) will not disappoint. For a lighter fare, try anchoas (salty anchovies in vinegar and parsley) or ensaladilla (potato salad that is often served with tuna or shrimp).

Served at bars and cafes pretty much anytime of the day, tapas are meant to be shared. For a true local experience, do as the Spanish do and “tapear,” i.e. hop from bar to bar sampling a variety of tasty tapas in the process. If you plan to sit at a table, it’s best to order a few raciones (larger plates) or platos combinados (combination plate similar to the “meat and two vegetables” concept in the U.S.) and only order a few at a time so as not to fill up. If you see pinchos on the menu (also known as montaditos), expect to receive bite size tapas on a piece of bread.

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Some of the best tapas restaurants in Barcelona includes Cal Pep (be prepared for long lines) that boasts authentic Mediterranean cuisine and an array of 70 tapas.  Known as a standing room only bar, Quimet & Quimet has been serving 30 different combinations of tapas for over a century to hungry locals and tourists alike. And if it’s small and cozy you are looking for, try La Cova Fumada and Tapas 24.

Sampling tapas is an experience not to be missed during an all-inclusive Mediterranean voyage; just be sure to bring your appetite!

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