Category Archives: Tapas

Tapas in Barcelona

On my last trip to Barcelona a couple of months ago, My good friend Gabriella who is always in the mood for good food and wine, joined me for a self-guided tapas tour one warm Saturday evening. After we got sidetracked at some fun shops on the Rambla de Catalunya and the Passeig de Gracia, we stopped at Cerveceria Catalana. If you are new to the idea of tapas and don’t mind being with others who are too, this is a great place to start. Its big, there is plenty of seating (not always common in tapas places) and it has great food, menus in English, many traditional options some with a modern flair, and great service! I was skeptical as I knew this place might be touristy but I was pleasantly surprised by the food and won over by the friendly staff.

Ceveceria Catalana

anchovy tapa with peppers

Our next stop was pure fun. I had heard of Tapaç 24 as it is overseen by Chef Carles Abellan from Comerç 24 and I was looking forward to trying some of his inventive cuisine. Sitting on high stools, surrounded by colourful painted walls and fresh vegetables hanging between the bar and the glass through which we could watch the chefs at work, we were not disappointed. Practically everything on the menu is based on traditional Catalan dishes and ingredients, some with inventive twists, and everything made with the best fresh ingredients. We started with the Tapa D’Or – or Golden tapa for 2.50€ which was a plate of quality extra virgin olive oil with tomatoes served with crusty country bread. Next we ordered the restaurants version of Bombes called Bombes de La Barceloneta for 3.50€. Bombes are a type of croquette, always round. Our other tapa was the Tapas 24 version of the Catalan “Coca” which is like a pizza topped with fresh vegetable goodness with some caviar sprinkled on for fun. We of course enjoyed our tapas with some local sparkling cava and vowed to return someday soon!

La Tapa D'Or at Tapas 24

Bombes de la Barceloneta, Tapas ,24

Tapas 24

Soon we were off again. To reach our third destination we took a 10 or 15 minute stroll down to the Born area near the Picasso Museum and stopped in at a packed Basque pintxos bar called Euskal Etxea, or the Basque house. Not just a source of great pintxos the Euskal Etxea is also a sort of Basque cultural center which offers activities and basque language classes. We stood at the bar and as is the custom here, were offered a plate and allowed to take what we wanted from the heaping plates of pintxos and kept our toothpicks in good faith in order to pay at the end. A weeknight might be better to stop here as it gets pretty crowded but no one really seemed to mind, and since this is the norm here in Spain, we were quite happy to enjoy our txacoli and pintxos elbow to elbow with our fellow diners.

The details.
Cerveceria Catalana

C/ Mallorca, 236. Between Rambla de Catalunya and Balmes.

93 216 03 68

Tapaç 24

Carrer Diputacio, 269 (just east of Passeig de Gracia)

Euskal Etxea

C/ Montcada 1-3, Barcelona 08003 (next to the Picasso Museum)



Filed under Pintxos, Places, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars, Uncategorized

Tapas of the Week #17 – Percebes

Menu shot

Last month to celebrate my birthday, and that of a friend, we went to a modest Galician restaurant in our central-eastern neighborhood of Madrid which is locally popular for its low prices and great food. Their cider is brought directly from Galicia in barrels, and the tapas in this basement restaurant are generous, and delicious. However, this was not a day for only tapas, we were going to have a feast.
Among plates of octopus with potatoes, patatas bravas, morcilla with pimientos de padrón, we treated ourselves to what is considered a delicacy in
Spain, Percebes or “Gooseneck Barnacles”

An interesting and strange food, its said that before the 18th C its unlikely people actually ate these crustaceans, considering them as appetizing as rocks, or even imagining them to be small monsters with many, very ugly, feet. Some accounts state that they were thought to be the early form of Barnacle Geese, birds which to the medieval eye seemed to appear out of nowhere. The geese don’t of course, but in an age before mass transport, people had no idea that these birds migrated and therefore hatched their eggs elsewhere.

Percebes in Spain are found along the rugged coasts of Galicia, especially near the dangerous cliffs of the appropriately named “Costa da Morte,” or the Coast of Death. It’s a beautifully striking landscape, with jagged cliffs with the cold Atlantic waters pounding the huge rocks below. This creates the perfect habitat for these barnacles who attach themselves permanently to the rocks beaten by the surf and feed off the plankton and other small crustaceans that the waves bring them. Fisherman risk their lives as they swim to harvest the Percebes, thus explaining the high prices Spaniards will gladly pay to indulge in this delicacy.

Percebes, Goose Barnacles

Percebes are cooked for just a few minutes in salt or sea water. As the Galician saying goes, “auga a ferver, percebes botar” When water boils, take out Percebes. Nothing else is added to the water or the Percebes once they are cooked as to preserve this special, sought after flavor except maybe a bay leaf.

But how do you eat these strange looking critters? The head, well, I think it’s the head, is covered with a strong shell which is easy to twist off from the body, exposing the moist, soft and yet firm meat within the tube of the neck or body. With every bite its like getting a squirt of the delightfully salty sea.

Where to try Percebes? If not in Galicia they can be had in many Galician restaurants around Spain. Madrid, although landlocked, is an excellent spot as well because of the enormous amounts of fresh seafood arriving daily. Try a Galician restaurant such as Maceiras on Calle Huertas, 66.

Or if you want to try my neighborhood place, its called “De’Galicia” and located near Metro Manuel Becerra on Paseo Marqués de Zafra, 8. Tel 91 356 91 69.

For more formal dining, with higher prices try:

El Pescador: High quailty fish and seafood at a Madrid standard.

Combarro – bills itself as Galicia in Madrid.
Que Aproveche!


Filed under Food, Madrid, Restaurants, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Tapa of the Week #16 – Cogollos al ajillo

Lettuce hearts with garlic


A wonderfully simple tapa, Cogollos al Ajillo, or “garlicky lettuce hearts”, were something I discovered in Cordoba at a neighborhood restaurant outside the historic center which served fantastic pincho morunos for 60 cents each. We were also served cogollos al ajillo and I made a mental note to make them myself when I got back home in Madrid.  These lettuce hearts are so fast, easy, and delicious, I don’t know why I had not discovered them before! This dish makes a great side, tapas party anyone?, and its a big hit with garlic lovers.

Preparation for 3 to 4 people:

3 lettuce hearts

White wine vinegar

4 to 5 cloves garlic

olive oil


First carefully cut off a thin slice of the sometimes discolored stem, making sure to keep the stem intact so the lettuce layers do not seperate. Next cut the lettuce hearts into quarters or thirds, wash and pat dry. Arrange the pieces on a plate as above. Mince the garlic and heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a fryng pan and when hot add 4 or 5 cloves of minced garlic. Meanwhile, while watching the garlic so it does not burn, drizzle at least a tablespoon of white wine vineger over the lettuce hearts and then sprinkle on a pinch of salt. When the garlic is a golden toasted color, remove from heat and immediately pour over the lettuce hearts, with some of the olive oil that now has a wonderful garlic flavor infused in it. Drizzle on more extra virgin olive oil if needed and it’s ready to serve. I always make this dish last and serve immediately so the lettuce stays crisp. The lettuce can then be picked up by the stem, no utensils necessary. Enjoy!


Filed under Food, Spain, Tapa recipe, Tapas, Uncategorized

Tapa of the Week #15 – Brains

Brains, sesos

After a winter of little tapas activity, I am back with some more Spanish food to taste and places to visit. I thought I would share a tapa I had last weekend. I tried it more for the sake of a post for the blog than because I really wanted to. No, “miento,” that’s not true, I was curious as to what brains tasted like. We were in Cuidad Rodrigo, a beautiful walled in town full of renaissance palaces in Western Spain not far from Portugal. There is also a lovely Parador in a converted in a 14th century castle.

As luck would have it, on our walk through the city it suddenly it starts pouring down rain, and none of the six people in my group had thought of bringing an umbrella from the car. So we ducked into the first bar we came upon, which had only one patron, who I think was the grandfather of the girl working there. We ordered Cola Cao and tea and began to warm up. I notice that one of my friends is looking into the glass case on the bar, wondering to himself and all of us, just what kind of meat this was? “Sesos” replies the girl behind the counter in an uninterested voice.
Brains, sesos

So my friend Carl and I decided it was time we tried sesos, and with the slices of garlic we saw around them in the dish, I thought, at least they won’t taste too bad.

I have to say, I probably won’t be eating too many sesos again in the future. The taste was not bad, a fine meaty taste, but I didn’t enjoy the soft and slippery texture. Of course I would happily eat them if I had no other option, and many people really do enjoy them. Anyone like brains?


Filed under brains, Food, Places, Spain, Tapas, Uncategorized

Tapas in Lugo, Galicia

Concurso de tapas Lugo

Last month I was fortunate to be in Northern Spain for a weekend. We travelled to Lugo, in Galicia, for a wedding which was held in the beautiful Romanesque and Gothic-style cathedral nestled in the center of town inside one of western Europe’s best-preserved, intact Roman city walls. Storybook wedding aside, we also spent quite a bit of time in Lugo’s various tapas bars with thirty or so friends getting reacquainted, catching up on each others lives, and eating tapas. Lucky for us, Lugo was holding a tapas competition with thirty five bars participating. Each bar offered a special tapa for the occasion under one of two categories; traditional or creative. I was able to try three of the contending tapas, along with several others acompanied by excellent Galician wines.

bacallau con pure duas cores

At Taberna Daniel, among a tapas style dinner of octopus, squid and mushrooms we tried the “tapa creativa”- The name in Galician is: “bacallau con pure duas cores“. Served in a glass it was a puree of cod, sweet onion and a garlicky tomato sauce which tasted like salmorejo. It was tasty and interesting, but I think I prefer not to eat my tapas out of a glass with a spoon. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars though.

tortilla á mariñeira

At 101 Vinos, along with a beautifully tart Albariño we were served the “tapa tradicional” of “tortilla á mariñeira” which is a square slice of tortilla española, drenched in a marinera shrimp sauce. Very good. My favourite thing at this bar however were the pimientos de padrón. 4 out of 5 stars.

ameixas ó Antas

My favourite tapa was at Cafeteria Restaurante Antas de Ulla. Their own style of clams “ameixas ó Antas” included six clams for 2€ with a spicy vinaigrette sauce served with toastettes topped with a dried red pepper and gulas (imitation baby eels) and drizzled with olive oil. Our group ordered lots and lots of these. 5 stars!

 I can’t find information yet on the winners but I do know I didn’t participate in the contest the correct way. You are supposed to have the waiter stamp your card proving that you in fact did try their tapa. After you have visited at least twelve bars you can deposit your stamped map in one of the boxes provided at each establishment for a drawing. You could win something too! A case of wine from the local D.O. Ribeira Sacra or a night in a luxury hotel in Lugo.

So next year, mid-September for about two to three weeks there will be another tapas contest in Lugo, I highly recommend checking it out!


Filed under Food, Galicia, Places, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Tapa of the Week #13 – Lomo from Guijuelo, Salamanca

Lomo Embuchado

One my favorite “embutidos” or cured meats in Spain is Lomo Embuchado, or cured pork loin. Don’t tell anyone but I like lomo almost more than cured iberian ham, or jamon. If I have both sitting in front of me the lomo dissappears a bit faster.  A few months ago when I was with my boyfriend visiting his parents in northern Spain they served lomo along with an apertif before lunch. They announced that this “lomo” was from the Denominacion de Origin of Guijuelo, which is acclaimed around the world for its highest of quality Iberian hams. The lomo was exquisite, and as I enjoyed the compelx flavors of this beautifully marbled iberian lomo I soon managed to have everyone laughing at me when I attempted to pronounce Guijuelo. Its supposed to be “Gee-HWAY-low” but I forgot that and said something like “Gwee-hell-ow”. You try it!  I am constantly reminded of this slip and my good-natured Spanish family has now taken to prouncing it my way. They have made such a joke of it, now I sometimes forget which way was right. But least I know what to look for at the market!

Guijuelo, known locally as the “cradle of Iberian ham,” is a town of around 10,000 people, located in the southeast of the province of Salamanca, about 3 hours west of Madrid. It is the center of the Denminacion de Origen of Guijuelo and its producers are prize winners known for their excellent quality and the artisinal nature in which the hams are produced. At one thousand meters above sea level, the climate is optimal for the curing of hams during the cold winters and mild summers. Guijuelo’s most famous resident producer, Joselito, who has recieved nothing but the highest of worldwide critical acclaim, simply announces that their hams are “The Best Jamon in the World.” Try it and you will most likely agree. Austrialians can now rejoice for it has been announced that Joselito hams have received approval for import. I have not been able to find any information about the current status of if any Guijuelo hams are avaliable in the US. (might be a good time to make a trip to Spain!)

If you visit the town of Guijuelo one of my Madrileno friends highly recommends eating at an award-winning Guijuelo restaurant, La Barbacoa de la Amistad. The logo, a friendly pig with the body of a prawn, claims that you will be served the best “seafood” from the pigsty.

Barbacoa La Amistad / Calle Tedo de la Feria, 8 / Guijuelo (Salamanca) 37770/ Tel. 923580402 / GPS coordinates +40° 33′ 35.87″, -5° 39′ 59.69″


Filed under cured meats, Food, Guijuelo, Ham, jamon, lomo, Spain, Tapas

Tapa of the Week #12 – Morcilla de Burgos

Morcilla de Burgos

Since black pudding or blood sausage doesn’t sound appetizing to some people I usually don’t tell them what kind of sausage “morcilla” is until they have already discovered they love it. There are several types of morcilla in Spain and one of the most popular styles is the Morcilla from Burgos. You can see from the picture that the sausage is filled also with cooked rice. In the past it was a way of bulking up the sausage to make it more cheaply. Once again history wins and, in my opinion, actually improves it. Morcilla is made soon after the animal is butchered with pig’s blood and fat, rice, paprika, onion and salt. It’s a popular “racion” which is a plate to share, rather than a tapa. You can find morcilla at most traditional tapas bars in Madrid and around.

Morcilla is an important ingredient of Fabada, which is a stew from Austurias. And is often present in Madrid’s famous Cocido Madrileño.

If you are in Spain and have the opportunity to cook, you could buy a morcilla de burgos at the market (or even better, in the area around Burgos) also sells morcilla which is made in the US from a Spanish recipe.
To cook: Cut the morcilla into slices about 2 cm/1 inch thick, dip the sides in a bit of flour to help it hold together and fry in abundant very hot olive oil (about 1cm deep or so) on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with bread and enjoy!


Filed under Food, Spain, Tapas