I left my heart in Barttttttthhhhhhhelona so I ate tapas on my lap in my living room
I’d like to begin this post with a pretentious opening line, so here we go. My first visit to Europe was an outstanding trip to Barcelona in the late summer of 2011. The weather was perfect and every morning I toasted crusty European bread until the edges charred, then I slathered it with fine Spanish olive oil, sea salt and freshly shaved Manchego. Vin and I made a plan to go, then I mentioned the trip to my aunt, who shortly after started looking for tickets for her and my uncle. Next thing I knew, dad and his wife were on-board too. It was an amazing family vacation.
Barcelona is spectacular but it must be noted up front that the real stars of the show on that trip were my teeth. I’d just completed a 7-month course of Invisalign followed by an intense whitening treatment, and was completely feeling myself dental-wise. I’d always been a “Mona Lisa” tight-lipped smiler pre-braces, and this trip was extra special as it served as my full-frontal smile debut. I was so excited to show off my new chompers I would literally jump in front of the camera any chance I got. I even experimented with bold lip color for the first time, just to give those babies the attention they’d always avoided.
Not only did my teeth shine in photos, they also served me well as I ate the entire bounty of traditional Spanish nummies. I have this thing about only traveling to places with really good cuisine, and Spain obviously fits the bill in that capacity. Fresh fish with lemon and enormous langostines and saffron-soaked paella… sign me up! I haven’t found anything that doesn’t benefit from a shake of paprika or a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, and if there’s a cheese that rivals Manchego I’m not even sure I’m ready for that transformative an experience. I love, love, love Spanish cuisine (and architecture, and people and music. And ceramics).
Anyway, for my first official “Friday Night dinner party”, I decided to serve up some tapas to our very worldly friend Zach and his new gf Diana, who he met while traveling briefly through Colombia two months ago. Diana speaks three languages, has a dry sense of humor and looks exactly like a Colombian Giada DeLaurentis, so if things don’t work out between her and Zach I will likely try to court her.
Here is the menu I decided on. Please read the whole thing before rolling your eyes and calling me extra.
* Dates stuffed with blue cheese and smoked almonds
* Roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese & herbs
*Mushrooms filled with chorizo, breadcrumbs and Manchego
*Shrimp with garlic-oil and parsley
*Cast-iron paprika potatoes with chorizo rounds
*Mussels in saffron-sherry-cream broth with bread
*Sangria with cognac, green apple and citrus
*Mallorcan almond cake with vanilla ice cream and toasted honey almonds
I know. It’s a lot of food for four people. That’s the thing about tapas. I’m like, “Hey guys, real casual, come on over, I’m just making tiny portions of a bunch of different things.” Then I remember that making small portions of many things is actually far more work than just roasting a chicken, sautéing some veggies and making a nice potato mash.
But I love to cook so this was actually fun for me. And our guests weren’t able to come over till 10pm so I had plenty of time to cook slowly, and it really was like eating in Spain.