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.

IN CONCLUSION:
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!




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3 comments:

  1. Good rant! I like tapas the concept, but agree with you on tapa restaurants. Funny thing, in many restaurants I find the appetizers the tastiest and most interesting things on the menu - to the point where I'll often order 2 or 3 and skip the main course. Kind of making a normal restaurant into a tapas place! But the sort of overbearing, too cutesy places that you describe (and which are way too common)? No way! BTW, nice recipe for Patatas Bravas. I'll take my potatoes roasted any day of the week! Good post - thanks.

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  2. Thanks, Mr. Kitchen Riffs. Hopefully restaurants will take note. I too, love appetizers but not this way!

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  3. Had dinner this evening in Spain. Heard something about tapas as a must eat food while in Spain. As a dumb tourist who just visiting short I didn't know what really is tapas. So for 30€ we have got two small plates of food bites two glasses of vine. And I'm still hungry. It even wasn't extraordinary tasteful. It just were some kind of snack we serve in friend company while drinking wine or beer.. When they brought those two plates I thought it's appetizers and then still was expecting some main food which of course never came. In my country I could feed 4 people with traditional food at that price. Our two people with really good stakes. Disappointed about tapas. It's too much of a compromise: price, sharing, hunger, taste. In the morning I ate really delicious sandwich for 3,5€ and it was big enough to feel full for a few hours. Same crispy bread, olive oil, salads, goat cheese. Really good.

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