Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Patatas Bravas and Why I Hate Tapas

Patatas Bravas

I want to go on record. I will be blunt. Do not take this the wrong way, but I hate tapas. Just so you understand, it is not that I hate the actual tapa, it is just that I hate tapas restaurants. Do you want me to tell you why? If you don’t, stop reading NOW. While traveling between graduations we ate at several well regarded restaurants. I did not realize they were tapas restaurants when I made the reservations, though I looked at the menu beforehand. The food  sounded good and when I looked at the prices I wrongly assumed they were for entrees. My mistake, but the truth is I think the tapas trend is overdone. I wish it was kaput. I don’t eat dinner at like they do in Spain. If I’m eating late I think having tapas would be a wonderful treat, but I don’t want it for my dinner. I mean now they even have Israeli tapas places. Give me a break or some mezze, please.

Tapas is a Spanish word that means to cover. I’m not going to give you the history; you can go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapas for that. But it is a Spanish thing folks. In China it is a dim sum thing, and I like that much better. In the US I always thought of it as appetizers. And I love appetizers. I like to order a few before dinner so that the table can share. But, I don’t like to make a meal of appetizers, unless of course I order an appetizer for myself and then maybe a salad and I make that my dinner.

My reasons for hating tapas:
1.       I don’t like being interrupted every time a waiter drops off a 4 bite appetizer for 6 people. Then they have to tell me every minute ingredient in it, whereby then it has already become cold when I get my only bite.
2.     I don’t like sharing if I want something and it turns out really good.
3.      Do you ever notice how someone always takes control over the ordering and then you feel guilty because you suggest something else?
4.      Or what about the waiter that says “We recommend ordering three to four tapas per person” and then makes you feel bad if you don’t order that many or if you order to much he looks at you like you’re a chuzzer (Yiddish for pig).
5.     And God forbid, what if you want to see how hungry you really are and you only order a few to start? The waiter then wants the menu back, so you have to start all over again, if you want more. I mean isn’t the whole concept of tapas to linger, relax and stay awhile? If that is the case then why do I always feel like they are trying to pad their bill by having you order too much, too fast, just so they can turn a table.
6.     Then when the food comes out at once, all conversation stops while you have to listen to the waiter again, and then everyone devours their bite quickly so they are assured of getting their bite. Then it’s over.

Tapas have their place. In a bar is a perfect place, which is where they started. But when I go out and expect to spend a fair sum of money I want a dish that I can truly savor, where I don’t have to be bothered by a waiter every minute. Not one that is gobbled up in 4 bites by 6 people. I don’t want to spend $8 for a basket of what is really just potatoes or $12 for a couple of lamb skewers. I love dim sum carts where I can point and the waiter politely puts it on my table. And I can order as it comes around, at my leisure.

I could go on and on. But the truth is- I’m just not liking this tapas concept for dinner. Maybe I’m old and not fun anymore, though I don’t believe that to be the case. I mean, fly me to Spain and I’ll happily partake. I’ll even stay up to for dinner. Plus, I’ll get up early the next morning for breakfast. I happen to be a great tourist.

Actually, I think a new trend could be started. What about tapas dessert carts? That is one course where everyone sticks their fork in even if they didn’t want dessert. Yeah, now that I think about it-little bites of dessert from a cart. My fork is ready.

Patatas Bravas (There are a zillion recipes for this and this one is pretty good. Potatoes are comfort food for me and I can eat these morning, , or night!)

4 c Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large cubes
4T olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1T chopped parsley
1& 1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 & 1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Use a 10x17 sheet that you have oiled well. Remember that it is the space between the potatoes that causes your potatoes to brown. The air must circulate! If you crowd, they don’t brown! Toss potatoes with all of the above.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. Turn at least once during baking to allow for browning.

They are good by themselves or with eggs for breakfast or hamburgers for dinner. For a true tapa serve with a sauce such as this:

Lemon Caper Garlic Aioli
1 c mayo
2T capers
1 T liquid from capers jar
1/2t Cracked Black Pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 white onion diced
2 garlic cloves put through a press

Mix all together or you can put it in a food processor and blend well. If you want it thicker add more mayo. This dressing will keep. You can also make a great potato salad by pouring this over the cooled potatoes. In which case you could add a touch of Dijon mustard to the mayo.

I love garlic and I love potatoes. I hate tapas as dinner unless I am in Spain. If you come to my house for dinner I will serve you tapas appetizers before the main course. And if you want to go out I will not  reserve a tapas restaurant unless you come for happy hour.
 P.S. These potatoes make me happy any time!

Spanish tapas should be served with olives!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Party Cocktails, Graduation, and an Apology


I never said good bye. I’ve broken the main rule of the blogger code. You know -   the stay in touch, keep your readers informed or you will lose them rule. What can I say? Sorry doesn’t always help. What about temporary insanity? Yes, I can definitely claim that. I last wrote about Pad Thai and since then my life has been upside down. The most important thing I can tell you is that when you have a child graduate from college- well, it hits you.

 When you have two graduate from college, it is more like a double punch when you lose your breath and your knees are on the ground. Thank goodness it wasn’t triplets. It has taken me a long time to collect my thoughts as they have been scattered all over Pennsylvania in five different hotels, two cars, countless restaurants and among lots of people, including one set of grandparents. And as quickly as we all came together as a family we are all quickly scattering apart. I can now honestly say that we don’t know when or where the four of us will be together again. That is a hard concept for me to grasp. Ok, all you pragmatics out there. I know that is life. It just didn’t hit me until recently. I know this is what we prepared our kids for, but no one prepared ME. It will take awhile to fill you in on all that transpired since April 27th but I won’t bombard you with the nitty gritty in just one post.  I plan on savoring the memories- slowly, but with gusto. Like eating a dark chocolate hazlenut truffle in 4 bites, instead of two.

The truth is that it took 21 years to get to this point. Many good years, lots of tough times and struggles, but yes, the kids are OK. And I am soooo proud of them. Not only do they now have degrees the best part is seeing what they have become. Yes, I know they are still BE coming but that won’t change their drive and their kindness and their pride in who they are. They have all the tools of what I think success is and they have the tenacity to see it through. One speaks Chinese and charms people, in addition to being an accomplished guitarist and outdoorsman. The other conquers numbers and solves problems and never takes no for an answer. She also is an avid runner and tennis player. They are both excellent skiers. And thank goodness, they both can cook!  Both are BIG thinkers and both believe in this crazy world. And though they are both sooo different, they made it their own way, on separate paths and they did it without killing each other. I think they are even starting to like each other again. Sigh. They are both trying to do what makes them happy in this world and that makes me happy. I forgot to mention that they are both beautiful and perfect.  Well, most of the time. One must always have something to aspire to.

So our wonderful weekend at Bryn Mawr started with  dinner at Minella’s Diner, a place I wish we had in Denver. It has everything you could want in a diner and it satisfied after  a long day of travel. One had days of travel, but that is because South Africa is far, far, away. Friday brought convocation and Saturday was the BIG day that began with a lovely brunch,

 the making of a balloon owl (Bryn Mawr's mascot),
 a decorated car,

lots of waiting and then the bagpipers and drummers led the way.

 Very exciting. Graduation was, well, graduation,

 and then it was on to the garden parties.

 Bryn Mawr has a great tradition where the girls gather on the lawn as their personal garden party girl gives them a tea party.
 Caty (dressed in light pink) knows how to party!

She planned a delightful tea complete with tea sandwiches, 

fruit and cheese,

  homemade cake pops

 and superb cocktails.

She even decorated the table with Zoe’s favorite flowers (gerber daisies) and little metallic zoe’s scattered all over. I think if medicine or tennis wasn’t calling her name she would be a perfect party planner. And so the weekend continued. Perfect weather, fantastic occasion, wonderful family, great friends, good food, and refreshing cocktails. The perfect recipe to make anyone happy. And I want you to be happy, too. I want your afternoon to be glorious and refreshing.  So...Maybe after you make this garden party cocktail you will accept my apology and realize even bloggers lose their minds!

The Princess Graduate
Notes: St Germain has been a favorite of mine for several years now. It is an elderflower liquor and has a very subtle, flowery taste.You can mix it into anything and I do! In this case we started with using wine or champagne as a base and added a splash of chambord. You can tone it down and add club soda. But we morphed it into Arnold Palmer’s and that really made our garden party sing.

Garden Party Cocktails

 1 and 1/2 shots Iced Tea (I make sun tea by using 4 bags of black tea to 1 1/2quarts of water.) I then squeeze the juice of half a lemon and two packets of sweetner into it.
1/2 shot Lemonade
1/2 shot St Germain
Splash of Chambord or raspberry liquor –

This makes one cocktail in a champagne flute. Feel free to adjust your measurements. And Chambord can be optional. It is the St Germain that makes it sing.You could also add ice cubes but we didn't have any.