To get this blog started, I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to it’s name, The Steamy Paella, by posting my top three favorite Spanish tapas. In October of 2009, my dad and I flew out to Spain and drove through some of its most famous towns and cities starting in Madrid, down through Portugal, and back along the southern coast of Spain. Although this was my second trip to Spain, I think I fell in love with the country all over again. Also it has been my best culinary adventure thus far. I’ll talk about my other adventures through European food, (or lack therefore, ahem, Scandinavia), but I think Spain will always be my first culinary love.
October 5-7 - Madrid, Spain
October 8 - Toledo and Segovia, Spain
October 9 - Segovia and Salamanca, Spain - Porto, Portugal
October 10 - Porto and Lisbon, Portugal
October 11 - Lisbon, Portugal
October 12 - Sintra and Lisbon, Portugal
October 13 - Evora and Sevilla, Spain
October 14 - Sevilla and Cordoba, Spain
October 15 - Cordoba and Torremolinos, Spain
October 16 - Torremolinos, Spain
October 17 - Torremolinos and Malaga, Spain
October 18 - Granada, Spain
October 19 - Malaga, Spain to Newark, NJ
Here is a quick Google Maps snapshot of our 2 week drive.
Before I get to the good part, let me preface my photos by saying that although I’ve chosen my “top 3,” I honestly haven’t had any tapas in Spain that I haven’t liked or loved. Also, even though I list the locations of where I ate these tapas, they’re irrelevant to the ranking.
#1 - coquinas (at Eslava in Sevilla, Spain)
These little clams are honestly the most addictive little dish. They come in a light olive oil and garlic coating and taste like little pieces of heaven. Each shell contains a very small piece of meat, but it’s full of so much flavor that you don’t even mind having to go through so many shells to be satisfied. Although with these, I could have four plates and still want more. However, I’ve noticed they only seem to appear on tapas boards closer to the southern coast of Spain (I could be wrong about that). Either way, there’s nothing better than sitting at a restaurant on the beach, a cold tinto de verano in your hand (see below), and a huge coquinas tapas in front of you. I hope this will encompass many of my future vacations, and if I’m lucky, retirement.
# 2 -jamon iberico (at Casa Botin in Madrid, Spain)
As you can see, I couldn’t even wait the 30 seconds it takes to a picture, before I was already eating a slice. In my defense, this was my first real meal after our flight from NJ (and it turned out to be one of the best of the trip). We happened to go to Casa Botin (famous for its suckling pig) after watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Casa Botin deserves its own blog post (and probably every culinary award known to man), and it shall have it soon enough.
But I digress. Jamon Iberico. I’m guessing “jamon” is the most common word in the Spanish language (okay, so I’d like to believe that). Even though every jamon is a delicious little sliver of salty and robust flavor, Jamon Iberico still trumps the others as my favorite (and rightfully so). This cured ham is from the black Iberian pig, which roams free and eats acorns, roots, and herbs, which shine through in the overall flavor. I believe it tends to be more expensive than other jamons, but its honestly worth every penny.
#3 - Gambas Pil Pil (at a restaurant on the beach in Torremolinos, Spain)
This little cazuela filled with shrimpy joy, seems simple enough, but somehow combines with so much flavor. This little dish is nothing more than shrimp, olive oil, garlic, hot chilies, and spices, but it will have you dipping your bread to finish up the leftover oil - all 10,000 calories of it. But that’s what vacation is all about, right?
I couldn’t end my first post before throwing in my favorite drink in Spain, the Tinto De Verano, or “Summer Hue.” I’m typically not a huge lover of sweet drinks (other than pina coladas and margaritas), but this one in particular somehow ends up being more refreshing than sugary. It’s made with wine and “gaseosa,” a slightly less sweet lemonade. It can also be mixed with seltzer and 7-Up, or served with a bottle of 7-Up on the side. This may sound unappealing, but don’t knock it until you try it. I thought the same of the Berliner Weisse in Germany, a beer flavored with sweet syrup, and then I was pleasantly surprised.
Tinto De Verano - (at Eslava in Sevilla, Spain)